The Dark Ages

An Unexpected Rescue

From Rhys' Journal

[January 27, 2011]

I have been abed with fever and . . . more unpleasant things . . . for the better part of a week. It is only now, my body finally clear of the contagion of the rat’s bite, that I can think clearly enough to write of the trek that landed me in this bed at the temple in Enonia.

Although Lars, Talos, and I, men of the wilderness all, were particularly interested in determining the truth or falsity of certain rumors about a druid burial mound in the forests north of what used to be the Wayfarers’ Inn, Mazlor, in his wisdom, and Shoeless Joe, in his greed, convinced the three of us it were better to make an expedition to the ancient dwarven mines to the south.

However, on the morn we were to start our trek, Shoeless Joe was not to be found. “Probably drunk in an alley somewhere,” muttered Mazlor. So to augment our numbers Mazlor hired three of the locals who have come to hold him in high regard—some quite high, as we were later to learn.

Chacci seemed a slight man, so we made him torch-bearer only. I was leary of arming Ralath with anything sharper than a club (the man drinks almost as much as Shoeless Joe, if that is possible) but he and Isty, a devout follower of the Light, we made our spearmen/bowmen.

The trip to the mines was uneventful. We entered from the south and soon uncovered the crevasse that leads into the deep mines. We brought enough spikes and rope to leave them there permanently, descended into the mines, and headed east down one of the major mining tunnels.

We made good time, and soon found ourselves in front of a massive spiked door, beyond which was a large room filled with iron tables and benches. There was another door in each of the four walls, and above each door was a strange circular crystal, sort of window-like, embedded with the three-fingered hand sign of the Dark Ones. While we were exploring this room, two rock-men emerged from the floor and accosted us, but they did not survive long under the scything of Lars’ blade or the crushing of Mazlor’s mace.

We continued east, and passing through another massive corridor, we came to another large room—this one with a tower in the middle of it, and a quarter-round tower in each corner. There were four doors in the center tower, one for each cardinal direction, and above each door another of those strange, window-like crystals embedded with an iron symbol of the Dark Ones. A similar door, and similar crystal, was in the center of each quarter-round tower, facing the tower in the middle. This all we determined after making a full circuit of the room. But we first had to deal with the room’s other strange occupant.

We heard the flat sound of metal against stone, like the regular stomp of one metal foot. It was out of sight but in front of us and drawing closer, so I tossed one of Chacci’s torches as far toward it as I could, and in the flicker of light we finally saw it: a metal sphere the size of a man’s head, bouncing in a graceful arch about waist high. As the torch passed over it, the strange sphere stopped and reversed direction, bouncing near the sputtering torch momentarily before coming back toward us.

We had all encountered the other spherical metal monsters of these passages before, so fearing we were about to be attacked, I nocked and loosed one of my cloth-yard shafts. The arrow struck true, but merely glanced off the smooth surface. The sphere came inexorably on, never wavering in rhythm, its pace almost casual. It came right at us—and bounded right through our group without so much as a casual touch. I shouted at it in elvish and then in orcish, but provoked no response. Had any of us known ancient dwarven, we would have tried that tongue. The sphere simply continued on in what we later determined was a regular circuit of the room.

The sphere, while odd, was apparently not a threat, so we turned our attention to the tower in the middle of the room. The door resisted both my attempts and Mazlor’s to open it, but Talos was successful—to his chagrin, as he was immediatley set upon by a swarm of human-faced worms. They shattered his shield, rended his flesh with their mouths, and knocked him down, unmoving, to the stone floor.

Mazlor shouted to Isty to toss oil on the things, and I followed with my torch. The scent of their burning flesh filled our noses as Mazlor and Lars hacked the remaining ones to pieces.

While Mazlor and Lars (and Isty, who was in awe of Mazlor’s healing powers—I’ve never heard anyone, not even Mazlor, chant “Praise be the Light!” so many times) tended to a comatose Talos, I attempted to capture the bouncing metal sphere in one of our large sacks. I fit the sack over the sphere easily enough, but immediately felt its strength. Rather than get dragged around the room, I let the sack and the sphere go. There would be other opportunities to learn more about these spheres later.

With Talos conscious at last, although pale and weakened, we made short work of examining the interior of the tower. A wrought-iron circular stair ran up the middle of the tower to the fifth—and top—floor. Small windows on that floor faced the quarter-round towers in the corners of the larger room. We found some gems in a chest in the top chamber, but—thankfully—no more worm-things. Judging the tower safe and secure, we spiked the doors shut and made camp for the night on the ground floor.

Had we not left the lantern burning, we might not have made our most significant find of the trip. Or, more accurately, we might not have been found.

It was Ralath’s ears that picked up the whispers during his watch, whispers in a musical tongue he did not understand. When he awakened me I, too, heard the whispers—and could not mistake the sound of native elven speech debating whether or not to knock on the door between us.

At this point, more than a week after my illness has passed, it is well-known in Enonia that we rescued two young elves, Avaren and Hiasur, from the dwarven mine. They were the remnants of a larger group who, many weeks or months ago, went into the mines to seal away the Dark Ones. Araven an Hiasur were sent with a contingent of six or so other elves to find the Dwarven Hall of Records. There was some kind of disaster, and this smaller group was separated from the rest of their party. They have been wandering the mines since, looking for a way out. They were weaponless and starving. How they have managed to survive boggles the mind, and they were surprised and relieved to hear that we knew a way out.

Later in the night, we heard one of the spherical, four-legged metal creatures enter the larger outside room, but we did not hear it leave. It came with another bouncing metal sphere. It was, of course, waiting for us in the morning. We prepared for it in the tower, hoping that when it attacked, it would not be able to fit through the door.

It fit through the door easily, attacking me instantly, but giving Mazlor and Lars the opportunity to flank it and attack until it, as usual, exploded with a rush of hot energy.

With almost all of us wounded in some way, and the elves weak and tired, we decided to head back.

In the large tunnel just before the way out, another guardian was waiting for us. It was accompanied by three more bouncing metal spheres. Again, it rushed us, and again we defeated it, taking more wounds, but none of us fell. The smaller spheres never attack, but since they apparently bring the guardians, they are just as dangerous.

The two giant rats waiting for us at the top of the crevasse were no challenge after the guardians, but the wounds they inflicted left me weak and feverish for days afterward.

I am not as fervent in my veneration of the Light as Isty or Mazlor, but I am grateful for the kind care I have received in the temple.

Talos and Teela, excited by the news that the elves were searching for the Hall of Records, have decided that on our next trip to the mines finding it again should be our focus. Teela has been there before, and mentioned many heavy stone tablets with dwarven writing. Talos believes whatever is written thereon could hold some key to vanquishing the Dark Ones. It will take many trips to get those tablets out of the mine, and a horse-drawn cart to get them back to Enonia. I would rather hunt goblins in the forests, but if Talos is right, then our expedition will be worthwhile.

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