The High Forest

Defeat at the Halls of the Hunting Axe

Paladin Paste

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In the back of the mausoleum, Crith, Quaf, Tamael, Gora and Gurdis found a promising-looking crypt carved in the likeness of a dwarven king in full regalia clutching a stone scepter in one hand and pointing toward the floor with the other.

Inspecting the floor, they noticed that the section in front of the tomb was different from the smooth stone that covered the rest of the room. The twenty-foot square section was composed of one-foot wide slabs, and had a conspicuous hole near the corner. While the others inspected the floor, Tamael noticed that the scepter was a separate piece of stonework that could be removed.

Several awkward moments passed, as the group continued to study the statue in silence. Then, uncharacteristically anxious to move on, Crith grabbed the scepter and jammed it into the hole in the floor. The stone panels sunk into the ground, becoming the beginning of a hidden staircase.

The wide stairs opened into an odd-shaped room. Set into the wall next to the stairs was a stone lever in the “down” position. Braziers similar to the ones above eerily illuminated a pair of large dwarven statues set into alcoves at either side of the room. The statues stood at attention, saluting the beautifully engraved marble sarcophagus against the far wall. Dwarven runes covered its surface, but nobody was able to read them.

Crith and Gurdis positioned themselves at either end of the sarcophagus and prepared to remove the heavy lid. However, before they could even attempt to lift the stone cover, the statues stepped from their alcoves and attacked!

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The warriors fought hard, but barely managed to scratch the stone sentinels. Quaf was nearly felled by a single blow from the creatures, and yet he fought on.

Gurdis called upon the strength of Tyr, and his sword blazed with holy fire. He felt the blade bite into the stone, at last inflicting a modicum of damage.

The dwarven statues responded, one pounded Tamael to the ground while the other directed a glowing gaze at the paladin that had wounded it. Immediately, Gurdis’ limbs got heavy, and he found it impossible to move quickly.

Realizing that they were outmatched, everyone began retreating to the stairs. Gurdis watched with confusion as his friends ran away, but decided he should follow them. His legs, however, seemed to prefer staying where they were. With great effort, he trudged after his friends.

The monks moved quickly, carrying the wounded and unconscious Tamael between them up the stairs and back into the crypts above. Gora followed, a few paces behind them. Upon reaching the stairs she turned back to the room. Gurdis’ face was a mix of pain and determination as he moved in slow motion. The slow paladin was so focused on the exit that he did not notice that he had positioned himself right between the animated stone dwarves.

With mechanical efficiency, the statues repeatedly brought down their mallet-like fists onto the oblivious paladin. Gora watched the life leave his eyes as he fell to the cold stone. She closed her eyes and turned away as the mindless sentinel carried out their single mission, grinding the paladin into a lifeless paste. Gora cringed as she heard his skull pop, biting back the bile that rose in her throat.

Unable to just walk away, Gora pulled a rolled up parchment from her pack and read the arcane commands from it, intending on transmuting the stone ceiling to mud. This, at least, would give the paladin some sort of burial while simultaneously harming his killers.

But that’s not what happened.

Uncharacteristically overwhelmed by the emotion of the moment, Gora misread a few key phases. Combined with her visions of the man being literally pounded into a paste caused the mud to instead gush forth from her mouth and nose, pouring down the stairs. Horrified and infuriated, Gora covered her mouth, turned and ran up the stairs.

Gora met her companions concerned gazes with an icy stare as she wiped her mouth with the back of her arm.

“Gurdis?” Crith asked.

Gora took a breath, as much to set her composure as it was to make sure her airway was clear. “He held them off so I could escape.” The lie came easily. She wouldn’t admit that she was unable, and unwilling, to ensure his escape. Especially if it jeopardized her own.

Crith nodded solemnly. “He died a hero’s death.” Crith then reverently removed the stone scepter that had revealed the secret stairway and stowed it in his sack.

“And, hey,” Gora added lightly as she walked away, “He’s buried with a King. That’s not nothing.”

Still carrying the unconscious (but stable) priest, they made their way in silence. Coming to a camp fire, and hearing laughter, they decided it was worthwhile to investigate.

A few small rabbits were roasting over the low fire while two large barbarians laughed and made vulgar gestures and comments involving the rabbit entrails and one of their companion’s mothers.

fireandice-campfire.jpgYeah, something like that

The downtrodden heroes shared their story with the boisterous barbarians. As they told of their encounters with chaotic, fanatical worshippers of the elements, the barbarians became increasingly more interested and attentive. Once in awhile they would interrupt to correct a deity’s name with one from their own pantheon, or comment about a similar experience they had.

It all seemed to align. The barbarians had encountered an ancient evil enticing villagers to drown themselves, been attacked by fish-people and even a kraken. They had fought creatures made of air, those that commanded fire, and those that lived in the rock. And all of this after living their lives thus far without ever encountering anything quite so fantastical.

The barbarians from Folksung decided they should escort these clearly weak individuals to their destination. Hopefully there would be someone braver and stronger at this ‘Summit Hall’ that could help them. Though they cared little for these people and their lands, their experiences troubled the barbarians. It seemed these elemental cults would bring about Ragnarök, whether intentionally or not, this must be prevented if at all possible.

After arriving at Summit Hall and meeting the “warriors” there, they decided that, combined with the signs and visions they had all had, they must take up the quest to either prevent this catastrophe, or die honorably in the final battle.

Comments

Nice – enjoyed the barbs as well.

Rykus0

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