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Shiver Down the Spine

Theona’s Journal

Kythorn 30, 1373, Ancient Dwarven Stronghold

It seemed there was no end the undead attacking us. We walked a few paces, into an area filled with stone crypts, and were attacked again. I’ve discovered that, in spite of our great aim, Areon and I don’t do too much damage to the shambling corpses we shoot— Deitricha seems to be able to use her divine power to disintegrate them, and Rosorc and Tassar are quite fond of walking right up to undead and hacking them in half. Of course, that only works if they are corporeal. William is fairly sensible for a mage, and doesn’t run right up and poke at them, using ranged spells instead.

Even though there was only one black rose amongst us, and we were constrained for time, our group immediately split up when we discovered that some of the empty tombs contained coin. Tassar ran off one way, Rosorc ran off another way, Deitricha and William stayed in the larger chamber where we’d just fought. Moments later, I could hear what sounded like looting coming from the direction Tassar had gone— he’d apparently found a rather nifty-looking dagger and some coin. Areon walked about 20’ away from where that skirmish had been and called me over, apparently to check out some open sarcophagi in a side chamber. I walked in and began to dig around without saying anything, finding a few coins, when I realized Areon was just standing there looking at me like he had something to say. In fact, he got as far as, “Theona, I need to tell you…” when we heard a shriek from (or because of) the halfling, as Tassar engaged some manner of creature in a far section of the catacombs. With a promise to talk later, Areon ran to Tassar’s aid. I was about to follow him when I heard a cry from Rosorc— without thinking, I ran headlong into the dark— Areon was holding the torch! I am lucky that I carry a moon mote with me, and used that for enough light to get to the dwarf, who was now fighting for his life against two shadowy things. William arrived just a few seconds after I did, with a better light source, in time for us to see Rosorc’s weapon pass right through a shadow, and then the shadow pass right through Rosorc’s armor, weakening him. I shouted for Deitricha as loudly as I could.

Right at that moment, I had the most horrible, sickening feeling pass through me and I knew Areon was in trouble. Just as Deitricha arrived, I shouted “undead” and turned to run off towards where I sensed Areon was. As I did so, Rosorc grabbed my arm and handed me a scroll— I stuffed it into my pack, planning to look at it later, and ran faster than I ever have.

I found Tassar and Areon in the doorway of a room that contained what looked like several bat-winged, severed heads, each with a long tongue, flying back and forth just out of reach. Areon seemed to be frozen in place with his eyes wide open, with Tassar beating the creatures away from him. Luckily Tassar outguessed the grisly creatures’ moves and hacked them down before they could do more damage to Areon. I quickly told Tassar of the situation further into the catacombs, and that I’d keep Areon safe until he snapped out of the paralyzing affects of the flying creatures. Oddly, Tassar winked at me as he sped off.

Well, Areon and I were alone again, but he wasn’t moving. While I was trying to decide whether to drag him somewhere slightly safer (if there was such a place here!), I heard Tassar yelling at some more undead creatures that he’d disturbed. I could look down the hall far enough to see that zombies where shuffling towards him from a few directions. I tried to prevent one from getting behind him with a well-placed bolt, but only succeeded in redirecting its attention to me. I walked backwards, continuing to shoot bolts into the undead thing, always keeping my own body between Areon and the zombie. After five or six bolts, it was beginning to succumb to the damage, but by then I had backed right into Areon’s chest. Luckily, his immobility had just worn off, and he was able to reach past me and finish it off with his sword. As the corpse landed at our feet, Deitricha ran up behind it, and we learned that Rosorc had found the portal using the black rose (and, apparently, our comrades had finished off the remaining undead). My only regret now was that no one wanted to stay and finish checking the now-empty sepulchers for valuables that zombies don’t need. Areon must have sensed my hesitation, as he grabbed my hand and pulled me through the shimmering portal with him.

We found ourselves standing in a long, dusty, stone corridor about 30’ wide. Areon (still holding my hand, I noticed) and I wanted to try the double doors that were within a few feet of where the portal had dropped us, in case they led outside, but Tassar was already running in the opposite direction. We studied the walls, which were carved with a mountain motif, until curiosity got the better of us and we followed the halfling.

The dwarven stonework, which is what we determined we were looking at, must be several millennia old— at least 3000 years. With Deitricha’s knowledge of history and Rosorc’s of, well, dwarves, we determined that we were in a hold of the Delzoun dwarves that had been lost to history, and that we were somewhere in the Spine of the World. We weren’t terribly far from where we’d hoped the portal would lead to, though our arrival in this place was somewhat surprising— the few footprints in the dust led me to believe that we’d taken a portal that wasn’t all that popular.

Somehow, the stately halls of the long-departed dwarven clan are more oppressive to me than natural tunnels are, but at least we don’t have to walk single file here. We wandered past what looked like a garden of rocks, with ten chambers leading off from it, each one with a bit of story depicting a dwarven hero, or a dwarven god, such as Berronar Truesilver. I think Rosorc finished looking through a few more of them for the stories contained therein, but I gave up and found a spot to sit until my comrades where done exploring. We’d found a second set of double doors, but decided to wait until after we’d all rested to explore further. Areon had determined the few faint prints we’d noticed were from orcish war boots, but thankfully, we hadn’t seen any orcs.

I had offered to take third watch during our rest period, after Tassar and Rosorc had each taken one. I sat down to relieve Rosorc, and suddenly remembered I still hadn’t looked over that scroll he gave me. I waited until he was settled in and read it:

My Dearest Lady Theona,

Your every whim holds me bound in rapture. I am struck beyond return. From your dimples, to your wry upturned smile, your beautiful long flowing hair, your wit and intellect that seems to have no bounds, I am mesmerized and transfixed. Truly I don’t now what I can do. My waking moments are consumed with seeing you happy and just being there in your life.

My inner being cries for me to share the beauty and joy gifted to me by the mountains. To hold your hand, to stroke your cheek, to sing the sweet joys of life, to grow old in your arms. The well of this dwarf’s heart runs deep indeed. Strong and pure, undaunted and open, for all to see.

I have prayed long and hard to Clangeddin as to what I should do. He has sent me signs that the mountains do not lie. My heart is bound to you. It may not be probable that your feelings will ever change, but it is written in the great halls that I must and will be there, if or when they do.

Caring and loving from a distance, I will not hide my feelings. Nor shall I push too hard. I shall be there; your rock of security in life’s darkest storms.

My Lady, I ask you this one boon. I bid you always wear your chain as I shall always wear mine. Bound in destiny under the mountains, somewhere is written our love truly belongs.

Always Yours,


Oh. I am quite confused. I know very little of the dwarven ways, but I assumed when I put the chain around my neck, it meant no more or less than when I would use the silver mug given to me by Antonio, or food given to me by Tassar. I suppose each race is different, but then, that is one of the main points I had originally tried to make!

I just sat for a while, trying to absorb what I read. Either I was doing a very bad job of keeping watch, or Areon is very good at moving quietly— I nearly jumped as I felt a hand on my shoulder.

Areon sat down beside me, and, whispering in Sylvan, said, “I did not mean to be as callous as I was last night. You are one of the best friends I have ever had and I would gladly trudge through the Hells with you again. I did not see anyway that I would be able to deal with Rosorc better than you. You are the one who always is dealing with people. I just assumed that you would be able to deal with him just as everyone else. I am sorry that I brushed you off the way I did.”

I could tell that he was struggling with several other thoughts that he seemed unable to express, but I was actually relieved that he was as confused about the whole thing as I was. I still need and value his advice though, so I decided to show him the note Rosorc had given me, knowing he’d keep it to himself, and, if possible, help me deal with it without hurting the dwarf’s feelings.

He was quiet about that for a while, and then, finally suggested that I simply not wear the chain, for fear that it would lead Rosorc to think I returned his affection in any measure. As pretty as it is, I am inclined to agree with him. I wrapped the chain around the handle of the monogrammed silver tankard I carry, as a reminder of two of my favorite “drinking buddies” and placed them in my backpack.

Almost on queue, I heard a rumbling and Tassar stood up from his bedroll— the rumbling being his stomach reminding him it had been several hours since he’d eaten. It is a good thing his stomach is so reliable; since we can’t see the sun come up we have no other way of knowing what time it is!

After a bit of breakfast, we gathered up our gear and pushed through the nearest set of double doors. Tassar and Rosorc hurried on ahead, leaving me to see if they sprung a trap, apparently. We entered a great hall, 50’ wide, with 30’ high vaulted ceilings, surrounded by balconies still hanging with ancient tapestries— war banners, according to Rosorc. They appeared to be family crests of long-dead houses. Rosorc told us that this hall is much larger than the great hall of Citadel Adbar, but even in this grand space, I could still feel the weight of the mountain bearing down on us. Areon pointed out that the orc tracks in this area looked more recent.

There were even more doors leading out of the grand hall. The first few rooms we checked either stood empty or contained dilapidated furniture, but the fifth one we opened revealed a passage with a light at the far end. Tassar, with Rosorc right behind, ran ahead of us and burst in to the room at the end of the hall— a room filled with orcs.

Posted by Kristin on April 14, 2004, 16:54 | Theona’s Journal