Aventure journal: Travels of Olindar (Book 22)
Markus was looking bad, but considering he was dead, things could have been worse. By the graces of Olin the Preserver, blessed be His name, Markus was Preserved. But the magic would not last forever.
Having just left the disturbing lands of Sacha-ka, we were on a round-about route to Imardin, where the city might offer some succour. We chose this route because we knew that the Priory of White Stone lay along our path, and the restorative powers of that place needs no further documenting.
The narrow path winding through the Ariadaeus mountains was well maintained so we made good time. Before long, we reached the White Bridge, stretching over the yawning chasm on our right, to a flat-topped mesa some 1,275 rilles away. Lady Lyre and Haldane shrugged off their backpacks, while the taciturn Behaim and I examined the bridge.
Such stonecraft! A three-breasted span, with scalloped blade supports, sprang from the raw rock, curving upward and outward to form a series of spandrels and load supports that could easily carry a 100 battle-geared dwarves. No sign of stone-shaping or curlassing could be seen, which was as surprising as the bone-white stone the bridge was made from. Not a trace of moss or lichen between the hair-fine cracks sullied it's graceful but solid composition. I evoked a magic detection, but the entire structure was native. I chipped off a small sample from the step-stone and will take a closer look at it when we reach Imardin.
Behaim returned from his scouting, and we crossed the bridge, though I dearly would have lingered a while more. It wouldn't have made much of a difference to old Markus, strapped as he was to Behaim's bear, but the group was eager to get off the exposed bridge.
We entered a well-carved tunnel and took up our usual position, with myself, Haldane and Behaim using our dark vision, while the Lady surrounded herself with fairy lights.
With guidance from Olin the Preserver, and not too many side-twists, we came upon a false wall, leading off from the main corridor we were in. I discovered a wicked trap, set in the ground, with nothing less than a dead harpy impaled on it's spikes. My blessed vigilance saved my companions from a similar fate.
After negotiating the trap, I guided the rest of the group onward through the subterranean tunnels, until we emerged, of a sudden, into a regular corridor, as one would find in a building. I suggested that we announce our presence, and Haldane, in his strident voice, sang a spritely tune. I hummed "Olin the Daybreak" quietly, not wishing to give offence.
So singing, we went on down the passage and, not a long distance on, found the grisly remains of a monk, his pale robes stained with blood, a slender spear sticking from his lifeless body. I blessed him, noting with grim satisfaction that he was clasping his holy symbol in his dead hand. And also the particular calcinated stains on his fingers, such as what humans use when shaping stone. At length, we discussed the meaning of the dead monk, the whereabouts of his companions, and the likelihood of them being able to revive Markus.
Eventually the passage we were in opened out, and starlight lit the scene before us. In the distance, the dark outline of large buildings, with but a single feeble glow of light, showing that some inhabitants were at least alive. Immediately at our feet was a second, shorter bridge, leading to the first building of the complex. Ominously, high above the bridge, and around the building, the ugly sounds and mis-shapen bodies of harpies, like vultures circling the soon-to-be-dead. We ducked back into the passage, and discussed options.
The resourceful Lady Lyre shrouded us in invisibility, and I took caution to silence my armour, because the dwarven plate against the cold stone at night would have sounded an alarm even Igwulf the Deaf could have heard (the noise of the harpies notwithstanding). I was concerned about the great beast Behaim insisted on bringing along, fearing that its awful stench would attract the harpies.
With arrows and bolts set in our crossbows, we slowly moved over the bridge. If it wasn't for Olin's protection, we would not have safely crossed over into the first building without incident.
It was not long after that we came upon the only surviving humans in the Priory. At first, they would not let us enter their hall. Fortunately for my companions, I am well versed in various religious rituals, rites and passages, and I stood near and recanted "O Dagdah Jesu mentat ipsum". The immensely complex and convoluted phrases and intonations clearly identified the speaker as a Cleric, and this gained us their trust. We were admitted to a most strange place, emerging from a narrow trapdoor let into the floor.
The hall we were in was bare, some 118 rilles long, 62 wide, and with a gentle slope towards the east. Near the centre was a glowing pool, and in its ambient light stood a large hulking human in battle dress, a most unattractive slim young human in (dirty) clerical robes, and seated at his side, an old human, balding, nearly toothless, and skin the colour of crushed rubrick. Unfortunately Behaim's hairy beast could not enter the chamber, because I think the three would have eaten him, they looked so hungry. Noting the lean look in the young human's eye, I made sure that Markus was unmolested.
While Behaim secured the area, Lady Lyre and myself spoke at length with our hosts. The pool, not as impressive as I had suspected, had lost its restorative powers. Most of the Priory's members had left. Harpies had infested the area, and their brazen attacks killed off the remaining faithful, leaving only the three who we saw in front of us.
The old human, permanently confined to a chair because of a great illness, was the High Lord Akkarin, and Gol was his large, mute bodyguard, sworn to protection and silence. The unsightly slender male was administrator Lorlen. I was most civil and polite to him, above all, because I disliked him most intensely. The grace of Olin prevented me expressing what I truly wanted to do, but I will write none of that here.
The three humans were in a most tenuous position: when the harpies were about, flying over their place of safety, they would from time to time throw their wicked spears from slot-like openings in the roof, raining down certain death on the humans. Their only solace was the pool – it was inaccessible to the harpy bolts. However, the pool was venomous, and only protective envocations kept them safe while in its waters. Their dire position, however, was soon to be resolved. Using the robe I was gifted by the Lord Ulmo for saving his reputation, I easily climbed up the wall and ceiling, and sealed a section of the opening with stonecraft, providing sufficient cover for a good night's rest. Thus blessed and protected, we were able to formulate strategy.
Not only would the harpies have to be dispatched, but the source of the radiant pool's curse would have to be dealt with. Lady Lyre's counterspells proved useless in this respect, although she did try very hard.
Our first mission was to obliterate the harpy's lair. Armed with plans showing the layout of the surrounding buildings, we identified their dung-pile. It's destruction, a mere trifle with Olin's grace and guidance, gave the humans a new hope.
With the harpies resting place reduced to rubble, we tackled the remaining hurdle: the source of corruption that turned the pool into vileness. With holy prayers and sacred blessings I fortified my companions, enabling them to perform tasks that Rastaban the Quickxotic would have been proud of. The Lady Lyre also cast one or two of her arcane charms.
We struck out for the last challenge, and it was upon us all too soon. Following the map supplied by High Lord Akkarin, we finally ascended a stonecut staircase, which opened out into a small chamber, two massive doors set in the far side. The doors were flanked by what to the untrained eye looked like statues. It was immediately obvious to me, however, that these were creatures of some kind, not living stone [I have since learnt these were a kind of gargoil].
We closed for combat, the Lady Lyre guarding the rear so successfully that nothing attacked us from that avenue. With the bard and forestal's help I bested the creatures, and with the dwarven lafroig pumping through my veins, I bore down on the doors and with a battle cry loud enough to shatter Elven gems I burst through. On the other side was a half-Moon room, with another set of double doors. Cowering behind a row of narrow windows flanking the doors were our foe – the misbegotten harpy clan. A hail of arrows greeted me, barely denting my dwarven plate.
My companions then joined the battle, returning arrow-fire that pierced the harpies most satisfactorily. A flash of light that passed over my head came from Lady Lyre, as she sent a handful of glowing darts effectively wounding a harpy. Using the Voice of Olin I ordered the cowering harpies to surrender, but my spoken command was drowned by the cries of their wounded. I then summoned the Wind of Olin, which materialized to the dismay of the harpies, and then set about rending them apart.
Pre-empting my next move, the doors were flung open, and another gaggle of harpies came rushing out. The Wind of Olin set upon them, too, causing much pain and sorrow. I did note the occasional arrow from Behaim (he must have been keeping an eye on our rear, or otherwise his arrows were running low), and cheered on Haldane as he did the best he could to strike at the harpies.
In moments, the vile creatures lay dead at my feet. And just in time, because a most disturbing creature materialized out of the dark shadows at the end of the unexplored passageway infront of me. With renewed battle lust, most of us launched ourselves at the new enemy. Haldane sliced with his rapier as Lady Lyre's magicks provided a backdrop for my enspelled morning star's crushing blows. Calling again upon Olin, I used The Voice. Of a sudden, the creature was enraptured, unable to move. It did not live more than five heartbeats.
In the next breath, as if a moment frozen and stretched out in time, we saw the very air above it, ice cold like a cave in the Nahylor Peaks, shimmer and then congeal into the shape of a being of indescribable evil. Just seeing it, we were dumbstruck and recoiled, out of instinct and self-preservation. A fierce wave of power swept from it, sending us staggering back. A sound like bones being crushed came from the being, who reached out and grabbed for the creature we had just defeated.
With crystalic clarity, I knew exactly what to do. My hand folded comfortably and with utter confidence around the Symbol of Olin I wore around my neck. I closed my eyes and set my shoulders firmly. Holding up the Symbol, I recited the kanostrum id sancti deimus. The Symbol glowed and I felt as if it's heat would burn me up. When I opened my eyes, the passage was empty. Gone was the malice and sense of death that moment's before had threatened to overwhelm us. Olin be praised! I dropped to my knees, kissed the Symbol and performed the Rite of Providence Provided. Around me, my companions rejoiced.
Making sure the harpies were dead, we retraced out steps to the Priory. Sounds of jubilation greeted us and to our immense joy, the pool was now a light sky blue, peace radiating off it almost tangibly.
continued in book 23
nothing more to see. please move along.