8th Day of Meloramensis – Part II

Hogar’s Journal (Translated from Giant)

Year 781 of the founding of the City

8th Day of Meloramensis – Part II

Thunderspire Mountain – The Horned Hold, Slave Pits

Pitch darkness slowly gave way to a deep red glow cast by dying embers from an abandoned fireplace.  The dim light revealed a wooden door through which muffled voices could be heard.  Eligos pushed through the door and into an antechamber from which two further doors exited, one to the left and one straight ahead. 

The threshold ahead lay open to reveal a bedchamber.  The room was split into two levels by a small flight of stone steps and bathed in the orange light of two further fires, these were well tended and roared warmth into the room.  Their low illumination flickered over the sardonic countenances of several gargoyles adorning the walls.  The dance of light and shadow across their features gave them a somewhat mischievous expression, perhaps even the impression that they were laughing.

On the raised level was a grand bed and next to it stood a duergar who regarded us coolly.  He stood at over five feet; a giant for one of his people.  Kneeling before him was a ragged looking human, covered in grime and barely conscious.  The duergar had one hand around the man's shoulders and in the other, one of those poison quills from his beard, the point pressing uncomfortably at the human’s throat.

“Glen of Zaram.”  He said turning his crimson eyes upon the dwarf fighter.  “Your fame precedes you.  Turn around and leave immediately or I promise things will get very messy, starting with this unfortunate wretch.”  He violently jerked the head of his hostage who whimpered in fear.  I glanced at Glen.  Beads of sweat had formed on his brow and scattered the firelight in all directions as a look of non-recognition and confusion crossed his features.  The dwarf is unmistakeably suffering from some sort of affliction.
            “You must be Mirklemoor.”  Vic interjected.  “We’ve come for the humans you kidnapped.  If you just hand them over we will gladly leave you in peace”.

I suspect the old man was lying to Mirklemoor, there’s no way we were going to leave his operation in tact after all we have been through under this mountain.  Not that it mattered in the end, the duergar didn’t go for it anyway.  He snorted his derision at us.
            “Hah!  Those prisoners are going nowhere that doesn't bring me gold old timer and now neither are you.  You will fetch a good price from the mind flayers, despite the lack of brains for them to feast upon.”  With that he thrust the spine into the gullet of the human hostage.  His scream quickly turned into a gurgle as he collapsed in a fountain of blood at the slave-master's feet.  Before we could react two further duergar of more normal stature and a human priest of Orcus emerged from the shadows.

The two nameless duergar moved forward to peg us back in the doorway as the priest summoned hexes and Mirklemoor advanced towards us.  He was now wielding a massive maul sheathed in flames.  I have encountered the priests of Orcus on many an occasion in the past.  I knew therefore that their hexes caused such confusion in the midst of battle that the presence of even single one of them boded ill for us should he be allowed to dictate the terms of the struggle.

I wasted no time putting two arrows into the priest as the others rushed the duergar lackeys in an attempt to force our way into the chamber.  Under the force of my companion’s onslaught the duergar quickly moved back leaving an opening into the room, an opening that Rodney was quick to take advantage of.  He ran into the chamber to blast the priest and Mirklemoor with bolts of ice leaving both frozen on the spot.  Even frozen in place however a priest of Orcus is still a threat and exposed as he was Rodney quickly found himself transformed into a toad!

The priest also summoned a hex and made to cast it at Eligos.  I shot him again but although thrown off balance he still managed to hex the tiefling.  The others continued to press forward reigning blow after blow on the duergar blocking our path into the room until eventually one dropped to his knees.  As he did so he suddenly expanded to four times his original size and then stood to menace us once again by striking Eligos.

Despite this new threat I decided to focus on the priest, knowing full well how dangerous he could be if left unattended.  I muttered an enchantment at my nocked arrow that caused it to shatter shortly after impact and bury splinters in the flesh of my quarry.  Sadly my aim was not true and the arrow struck his shoulder rather than his heart.  Though not a fatal wound the priest was clearly in some discomfort, Vic promptly stepped in and finished him off with a burst of energy from his mind.  I'll have to have a word with him later about stealing my kills.

At the death of the priest Rodney returned to his human form, although he was clearly still befuddled by the ordeal.  To make matters worse for the mage Mirklemoor managed to free himself from his cocoon of ice.  He immediately turned his fury on Rodney, attacking the mage with his maul and knocking him into one of the fireplaces.

We redoubled our efforts to get into the room but met with little success against the duergar as the newly giant one blocked even more of our route in.  Eventually Vic dispatched him by summoning an equally giant fist of iron which grasped him about the middle and with a series of sickening pops and cracks crushed him to death.  The gap created was large enough for Minron and Glen to rush to Rodney's aid.  As usual the mage was far from helpless.  Upon entering the fire he had conjured a cloak of flame around him which shielded him from the worst of the fire.

Eligos took a swipe at the remaining duergar guarding the door and he also grew to four times his original size, once again blocking our path into the bedchamber.  Just as his guard succumbed to gigantism Mirklemoor shouted into one of the fireplaces.
            “What are you waiting for?  Get in here you idiots.”
As he finished speaking, the other door leading from the antechamber burst open and another two duergar entered to my left and attacked Minron.  Behind them there appeared a Theurge who raised a thick cloud of choking gas around me.  As I hacked and coughed my field of vision was reduced to no further than the end of my nose.  In my blindness I felt Rook's presence intensify in my mind.
            “These duergar are troublesome.”  He said and I experienced the sensation of intense energy radiating from my outstretched wings.  Except of course they weren't my wings, they were Rook's.

The sounds of battle continued to penetrate through the fog including what sounded very much like a clap of thunder and screams of pain, mostly from voices which I did not recognise.  Whatever magic was holding the cloud in place around me did not last long.  As my vision cleared I noticed that two of the duergar lay dead on the floor with only one further guard still standing.  Another cloud of gas, quite separate to the one which had blinded me lurked beyond the door to my left and Mirklemoor was nowhere to be seen. 

Rodney gestured at the cloud and at his command it moved away from the door and further into the room.  With the way clear Eligos transformed into a humanoid ram and charged through the open door and into the room beyond.  As she disappeared from view a cacophony of desperate wails sounded through the door.  In response five burning demons materialised in the centre of the room and moved off in the direction in which Eligos had disappeared.  The rest of us moved in to aid the tiefling lead by Minron and Glen who went in at at a dead run and disappeared in the direction of the fighting to the accompaniment of a loud crash.

Rook landed on my shoulder and I moved up to the door with my bow at the ready.  I entered a large chamber which was originally a reservoir for the fortress.  There were three large cisterns in the room though only one of them now held water.  The others were empty and had ladders placed in them allowing descent to the bottom.  One of them, to my right, had seven ragged and dishevelled humans crouched in it, each of them manacled to the floor.  Two spiny demons known to Eligos as spinagons hovered menacingly over the slaves whilst Eligos, Minron and Glen stood over the prone figure of Mirklemoor. 

I loosed an arrow into the chest of Mirklemoor and another into one of the spinagons, though this seemed to have little effect.  As the fire demons turned to regard the new threat Rodney once again gestured at the poison cloud commanding it to coalesce over the demons.  As one they began to hack and cough.  Very quickly all five of them fell to the ground in agonised death throes.

It was at this point that I became aware once again of the presence of the duergar Theurge.  I was alerted as he uttered some sort of arcane chant which precipitated a storm of molten hailstones falling from the ceiling directly above my head.  As the first stone struck me and singed my armour I felt Rook take flight from my shoulder as the impact sent me crashing to the ground.

As I struggled to dig myself out from underneath rapidly solidifying molten rock I noticed that Minron had also been brought down by the hailstorm.  Glen, Vic and Eligos continued to engage with the spinagons and Mirklemoor.  The spinagons tore spines from their flesh and hurled them at my companions.  As the spines streaked through the air they burst into flames.  Mirklemoor summoned a gout of flame which rather than attack anyone, flickered over him and caused his wounds to heal and his energy to return.  Rejuvenated as he was he turned to Eligos and struck her with two vicious swipes of his maul.

With a furious roar Minron erupted from the rubble which entombed us and hurled himself at the duergar slave-master.  His sword struck home with such vim that it rent Mirklemoor’s black armour and added a new wound to replace those recently healed.  Glen quickly moved in to back up the minotaur by swiping his axe at the duergar’s knees, hobbling him and then striking him again.  Rodney sensing that the slave-master was in a weakened state blasted him with a bolt of energy, killing him instantly.  Mirklemoor thus dispatched, the mage gestured once again at the poison cloud and it moved to envelop the Theurge.

The Theurge immediately moved out of the cloud in an attempt to cast spells at us.  In doing so he moved perilously close to Glen, Minron and Eligos.  A mistake which he paid dearly for as Minron charged into him and knocked him prone.  Glen followed this up with a vicious attack to his exposed neck before Eligos joined the two of them in hacking the helpless creature to pieces.  As this was happening Vic, Rodney and I sent attack after attack at the hovering spinagons.  For a long time the attacks seemed to have little effect.  Eventually one fell and the other was left severely injured and with little hope of getting out of the chamber alive.  As a last vindictive act it swooped into the occupied slave pit and executed one of the humans just before my arrow finished it off.

With all of the slavers dead we started to free the terrified looking humans from their prison.  There were six survivors.  Including the two executed by Mirklemoor and the spinagon respectively gave a total of eight accounted for leaving two prisoners at large.  Vic asked the survivors what had happened to their missing comrades.  Apparently they were taken away by a gnoll perhaps two days ago.  When asked which direction they had gone their leader pointed out a hidden tunnel which seems to head in the direction of the Seven Pillared Hall. 

We have decided to hole up here for the night to regain our strength, Glen especially looks as though he could use some sleep.  Vic and Rodney are going to loot the corpses of our fallen foes whilst Minron tends to Glen.  Eligos and I are going to fetch the other humans we left in the Great Hall back here to travel with the rest of us.  Tomorrow I will lead us all back to the Seven Pillared Hall where we will make preparations to track down the missing two.

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