“Well, for a fire giant, he was a bit of a wimp!” exclaimed Theseus, kicking the body. I could see his point too. Compared to the ones I’d seen attacking the city in the past, this one was a lot smaller than normal. He did have a nice bag of giant sized metalworking tools with his name on it though.
More usefully, a big sack of gold pieces and a potion, which the mage declared was a potion of vitality.
Forging onwards* we passed through another set of double doors and entered a long corridor which seemed to connect back through to the various doors in the big hall at the bottom of the stairs and vanished into darkness along its length.
“Can you hear that?” asked Jasper.
“Ye gettin them wee voices in yer fighty brain? nay to worry, I get them a the time ye ken”
“No, I can hear pick axes off in the distance. Running water too..”
“Is that the same as you heard from the cell off the entrance hall Jasper?” I asked.
“Yes, 10lb iron pick axes hitting stone. One of them has a slightly bent tip and at least one of them has a dwarven cadence to his swing”
The surviving dwarves we had rescued from the smithy had mentioned other dwarves being used in slave gangs for mining, so this could be them.
Ahead of us, Vogue was listening at doors and randomly opening them. We follow her through into what appears to have been slave quarters in the distant past. Palettes of ancient and mouldy straw lay around the room and the smell was suitably described by Thames as he entered.
“Man, dat is rank!”
We decided fairly quickly that there could be nothing of value in the disgusting mess around the room, at least nothing worth catching a disease for. Besides, a huge hole in the back wall was a lot more interesting. Rough hewn, it looked like it might have been hacked through a while ago, but Jasper could hear his picks a little louder from the tunnel so we decided to investigate. Anything to get away from this stench.
The tunnel appeared to be quite large and part of some fairly old mine workings. A faint breath of fresh air told us there was at least one way out to the surface from these tunnels and the remains of old side tunnel collapses that were overgrown with typical dungeon gunk hinted at their age.
Two side tunnels got our attention though. The first had been more recently cleared and widened, the noise of picks and running water could be clearly heard from it, this would have been our obvious path except for Regdar noticing some religious mural on plastered walls at the end of the other.
Lots of horrible tentacled beings in a procession. Check.
Jasper’s fight brain having a strong sense of foreboding from that direction. Check
Malin automatically walking into the tunnel to see if there was anything worth fighting. Check.
The tunnel opened into a man (or tentacled being) made corridor of obvious religious design. Lots more tentacles and some other designs that generally hinted at this not being the sort of temple you’d want in a nice part of town.
“Elder Elemental Eye,” Regdar whispered to me, noticing my horror at a juicer part of the mural. “Nasty buggers. My order always thought they might have a nest around here.”
At least that meant it wasn’t a nameless evil we’d be going up against. Nameless evils are always the worst ones..
The corridor soon became a large temple hall, lined with purple veined green stone, alcoves along each side and four grand columns holding up the ceiling. There wasn’t a speck of dust to be seen either. An evil god with a neatness fetish.
Our eyes were drawn to the altar at the end of the room. Set in a larger rounded alcove, it was made of a solid block of translucent stone. It almost looked like a solid block of carved smoke. The wall behind was strangely painted, colours shifting and moving around in a creepy design.
Investigating the altar, Regdar wandered around it taking notes. As he walked behind the altar, the wall behind him became more like a pond and a terrible black tentacled form appeared in it. Regdar got a particularly funny expression as the form vanished back into the wall.
Ah, freaky supernatural portal to a far realm. That explains a lot.
Regdar was definitely looking a bit odd. Even more odd actually as a raised symbol burned onto his forehead. Staggering forwards a bit, he leaned on the altar and after a short while the symbol began to clear. However an amorphous blob was forming inside the alter and solidified itself into a purple gem, which rose up through the top of the altar until it sat upon its surface.
As Erevan started some subtle finger twiddling in an attempt to determine any magical effects, we hear an eerie sound from the corridor behind us and a ghostly voice says “The Fight Brain must cut off his beard in tribute”
“No bloody way!” shouted Jasper at the disembodied voice.
“We should take this gem with us” suggested Regdar, looking a bit less odd now.
“We should smash it!” Theseus slammed the gem with his hammer, but he only struck it a glancing blow. The gem flew off the side of the altar, bouncing off a wall and sustaining a small chip. The altar was unaffected by the blow.
Vogue picked up the chipped gem. It’s pretty badly damaged but she estimates it’s still worth a bit of gold. Not as much as an undamaged one though. She points out that ideally it should be undamaged and in the original box it came in for maximum value.
Trying to pull the cleric away from behind the altar, Theseus stepped up to the wall and symbols appeared on both his and Malin’s foreheads.
Both their faces changed as Regdar’s had, taking on a mean countenance. Well, ok, a more mean countenance in Malin’s case. He pretty much always looked angry and about to bite you, but instead of his normal happy go lucky pissed off look, Malin now had a concentrated look of nastiness on his face.
Theseus looked up angrily at the gnome mounted on his shoulders, but Malin stood up, grabbed his spear and rammed it downwards, skewering the minotaur down through his shoulder.
Attempting to get him to touch the altar, thinking it may have the same clearing effect that it had on Regdar, Thames yelled at Theseus, challenging him. The effect of this pulled Theseus forwards but he didn’t land on the altar. Thames was already charging though and grappled Theseus, struggling to immobilise him and drag him to to the slab.
Raging at Thames, Theseus goes beserk and hits him with his hammer. As he does this, the look on his face changes to a more puzzled one, just as an arrow from Barrett’s bow thuds into his foot and he falls to the floor unconscious with the loss of blood from this and his shoulder wound.
“yweahmginnasmashyerfightynogin!!!” screamed Malin as rushed at Jasper. Another shot from Barrett attempts to distract him, but he still gets a glancing blow in on the dwarf. As soon as he does this though, he looks puzzled too and looks around at the carnage.
“Whit th’ feck jist happened?”
Malin and Theseus had obviously both been under some sort of malign influence, but seemed to have shaken it off now. Theseus was a bit of a mess, but appologising profusely, or to be more accurate profanely, Malin helped him to his feet and they patch themselves up to the point where it’s almost impossible to tell that Theseus had nearly bled to death a moment ago.
“Hey, Regdar got a gem when he touched the altar didn’t he?” Theseus pointed out, with that dungeoneering glint in his eye.
“Yes, the altar appears to reward those who allow Therisden to mark and play with them” explained Erevan after consulting with Regdar. “Try and stay on this side of the altar though, the area behind it is showing all the signs of being some sort of magical trap”.
Touching the altar from the front, Theseus watches as another purple gem forms in the smoky rock and lifts to the surface. Simultaneously the mark on his forehead fades. Jumping onto the altar, Malin also exchanges his mark for another gem, both of which Vogue assesses as valuable, possibly around a thousand pieces of gold each.
“If it’s alright with the rest of you, I can use this broken gem to prove the existence of this temple to my order” Regdar asked, and with nods from the rest of us, he put the first gem in his pack.
“We don’t want anything coming through that portal and sneaking up behind us,” Barrett pointed out. So as we left the temple, he and Theseus smashed the columns and collapsed the tunnel behind us, heading for the other one that led to the sounds of mining.
*I’m sorry, I couldn’t help it)