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The Power of Darkness

Sprocket’s Journal

Uktar 20, 1373 DR, near Barak’s Tomb

Roscoe was coming around, Nosila was preparing to take Bryrgar’s body outside to bury near the barn, and Widget was sporting a bright gold coat (and I see that, as usual, my hair’s own color has adjusted to match). I was attempting to find anything in the farmhouse that could help us in our not-yet-completed task, when we all saw an elf in dark clothes appear in the doorway of the kitchen. Apparently he’d just been passed by an old woman on the road who was terrified and fleeing from the “bandits” in her house! We attempted to explain to this elf, who goes by the name Maiyr, that we were the victims (I had to assume that he thought Bryrgar had died defending the old woman), and that the cultists’ robes we were all wearing were borrowed. Maiyr was not easily convinced, and in fact had visited this farm many times in his wanderings, always welcomed with hospitality and fresh apple pie.

We were in no mood or condition to let things get ugly, and it occurred to me that, since he clearly wasn’t from Thornhold, we could, and should, show him the shrine under the barn to convince him. Nosila went back to the task of burying our dwarven cleric while Roscoe and I took Maiyr down to see the altar room. Roscoe was incensed that the altar was still pulsating with his blood in it; our chained assailants were claiming complete innocence. I think it was only the fact that there was an evil altar under the farmhouse that convinced Maiyr of our situation, as the cultist/farmhands were acting the part of the victims! While this was going on, Roscoe asked if he could see the Silver Rod and I absentmindedly handed it over to him for inspection.

Seconds later I saw a pulsating light, followed by the sound of an explosion, as Roscoe touched the holy artifact to the altar! Maiyr and I ran for all we were worth, up the ladder and out of the barn (too afraid to slow down, I used a mage hand spell on the way past the two penned in mules to release their latches ; they quickly bolted out of the barn and out of sight), grabbing Nosila on the way past. We had to keep running, until we were almost 200 feet away from the barn, as a sinkhole was forming in our wake. As we watched a lake of magma some 300 feet across form where the sunken remains of the farmhouse and barn had been, we knew that Roscoe did not survive— most likely he didn’t survive the initial explosion. At least there is no chance of Bryrgar or Roscoe ever being raised as zombies. This reminded me, we still have to eliminate the Maiden, and Nedrezzar. Without the Silver Rod. It is of some small comfort that the demon prince will not be released from the Abyss by use of that altar!

Maiyr pointed out that Nosila and I looked like we hadn’t rested for quite some time and offered to keep watch for us if we wanted to rest in a nearby copse of trees— we are not sure how well we’d be received in Thornhold, even though the destruction of the farm thwarted the Maiden. We agreed and wandered off a few hundred feet further into some vegetation, just as Lord Taricz and about a dozen guardsmen appeared on the scene— the explosion had been clearly heard in the town.

I’m not entirely sure what Maiyr said (Widget could hear him talking to the gathering crowd, but couldn’t make out what was discussed) but apparently he explained it well enough to the guards and other onlookers. Widget did hear someone yell, “Ankhegs did it!”

Apparently one of the passersby decided this whole situation was too interesting to ignore, and Maiyr figured since this armored guy on a large horse was coming from a direction other than Thornhold, he was probably safe enough to bring into his confidence— plus the tall human had actually seen the “old woman” heading north. Both Maiyr, and this human, who calls himself Darvin, came to find Nosila and I after the crowd had dispersed. I have no problems with humans, though I suspect some of the tallest ones have trouble with critical thinking— perhaps the air is thinner up there, or it takes a while for new information to make it up the steep climb to their brains. Thankfully Nosila doesn’t suffer from this, but I suspect Darvin might.

As we got ourselves ready to head north through rolling plains, I let it be known that Widget had the scent of the half-fiend and would attempt to track her. Darvin just kept saying, “I can’t believe we’re following a rat!” (Widget told me later that he couldn’t believe he had to lead that tall guy around, but I’m sure they’ll eventually get along.) Darvin also seemed concerned that I was carrying such a dangerous weapon (the pistol, not Widget). I was wondering if someone covered from head to toe in steel plate could be a pacifist. The sun was setting as we continued north, and Darvin lit a lantern. I had no problem with this— I realize human eyes are not accustomed to lower light levels. I just grabbed Nosila’s hand as we continued forward, as I easily adjusted to the fading light.

Suddenly, the air was filled with slingstones as six diminutive silhouettes appeared in the dimness in front of us. I swear one of our new companions yelled “halflings!” but gnomes have no such problems identifying the reptilian humanoid marauders— kobolds!

I was getting ready to aim my pistol at one of the vile creatures when a lantern was thrust at me— Darvin expected me to wander around as a beacon for an enemy of all gnomish-kind! Talented though I may be, I can’t hold a lantern and protect the party. I tried to tell him this while casting an armor spell, but he dropped the lantern at my feet and raced off into the darkness. Luckily, Nosila had a use for it and snatched it up!

Nosila took on three on one side of our path and Maiyr sliced into the other three. I created the illusion of an ankheg, which frightened off a few of the spineless kobolds that were already backing away from the attacks of Nosila and Maiyr. Or maybe it was Darvin yelling, “I can’t see! Where’s my lantern?” that scared them off. I almost was run over by one kobold attempting to flee my illusion— unfortunately I couldn’t aim my pistol quickly enough and it got away. I’m sure these creatures will think twice before attacking any other groups with a gnome in them!

As Maiyr raced around looting the bodies (for a total of five copper pieces), Nosila returned the lantern to Darvin. He tried to insinuate that I was not fit for much more than a lantern bearer, but then, he doesn’t know me, so I will forgive him this one time. Widget thinks he may just discriminate against small things— this may be true— he’s got a very large two-bladed weapon, and his horse is as big as my kitchen was back home.

We continued our trek north; the rest of the night was uneventful.

Shortly after sunrise, we heard a rumble echoing across the plains but headed in our general direction— a bison stampede! They were aimed in the general direction of southeast, so we let them pass and headed northwest, where we saw two hunters skinning a dead bison. Maiyr was diplomatic and walked up to them, voiced a few pleasantries and then asked them if an old woman had passed them recently? They replied in the affirmative, and wondered why were had asked, so I added that there had been trouble back on her farm and she needed to be found and directed homeward. They seemed a bit friendlier and added that she’d been headed right towards Barak’s Tomb, and even gave us a bit of local lore. Seems Barak had been a warlord some 100 to 115 years ago, and after his army defeated a neighboring realm, had died of a mortal wound incurred in battle. His troops buried him in a stone cairn where he died.

We thanked the hunters and continued north, and arrived at a stone cairn a few hours later.

Posted by Kristin on February 17, 2005, 00:15 | Sprocket’s Journal