The Ruins of Evil, Part III
Upon these pages will you find the sixth chapter of a grand legend of good against evil. Of selfless acts of heroism and valour in the face of dire adversity, all recounted with amazing accuracy by the remarkable Belkas Silverquill, realm renowned scholar, historian and author.
Standing in the middle of the great chamber in the shadow of the massive obelisk, the frustration felt by the group could be felt as strongly as the intense cold of the chamber itself. Driven by this frustration, Gol’kosh raises his greataxe into the air and smashes it into one of the glyphs carved into the ground. As he struck, there was a blinding flash and ear shattering crack – the axe shattered and Gol’kosh was flung backwards, stunned.
Once all could see that Gol’kosh was uninjuried, the others in the group tried their best to hold back their laughter. Paradox climbed to the top of the pillar, where the obelisk was balanced on a massive gem. Closing his eyes and concentrating, Paradox could feel the different magics emanating from around the chamber – from the archway, the carved symbols, the obelisk and the pool of water.
Climbing down from the pillar, Paradox summons a ferret and sends it through the archway carved into the wall. As the animal disappears, two grells suddenly appear and attack. After a fierce battle, the grells are defeated. Paradox can sense nothing of the fate of the ferret. With the belief of finding no further answers set firmly in their minds, our heroes make the long journey back to the outside world.
As they come out of the ruins into the courtyard, they are somewhat surprised to find five horses heavily laden with supplies. They quickly come to the realization that these must belong to the shape-changer and his henchmen who attacked them earlier. Not being the sort to look a gift horse in the mouth, they group make the easy decision that to the victor goes the spoils. Before setting off, Silas searches the horses and finds a locked trunk. Deftly picking the lock, he opens the trunk – inadvertently setting off an acid trap! Not seriously injured, and undaunted by the presence of a trap, he rifles through the contents of the trunk. Of interest, he finds an ochre robe, a mechanical bird apparatus and a disguise kit. With these new found goods safely stowed away, our heroes make their way back to Homlett.
On returning to Homlett, the group make their way to Spugnoir’s shop, where they find he has found his way back safely. They recount for him all that happened after he left to return. Though disturned by the events, he is thankful for the information. Unable to answer any of their questions, he promises to let them know if he comes up with anything of interest.
Leaving Spugnoir, they head back to the inn, where they find Elmo and again explain all that has occurred in the ruins, including the encounter with the shape changer with the appearance of Elmo. Long conversation follows, in which many questions are asked by all, but very few answers are found. Elmo speaks of a cleric by the name of Larenth. A handesome man and favoured of Lloth, he tells of his eventual downfall when the Temple of Elemental Evil was toppled. Witnessed by Elmo himself, he was felled by a cruel blow to the head by a mace. Checking the body afterwards, Elmo described how Larenths handsome face had been devastated by the blow, with half his face destroyed by the blow. He mentions this as rumours have reached him… unbelievable rumours that the cleric yet lives! Shown drawings of the symbols found in the chamber below the ruins, Elmo shakes his head and informs them that he does not recognize them. Shortly afterwards, the gathering breaks up and each goes their separate ways.
Silas makes his way to an establishment where gambling is permitted. After winning himself a small fortune from a group of hapless local merchants, he finds himself talking to rough looking warrior well into his cups. Introducing himself as Xoad, he described himself as a warrior for good. Plagued by visions of great devastation by fire, he had come to Homlett in search of the evil behind these visions. Silas presses him for details of his conquests, and he eventually has to admit that he has failed in his quest, as he has found no sign of evil in his time in town. Silas briefly tells of his groups adventures since arriving in town, but in a very casual, offhand manner – as if it were all in a normal days happenings. Even though the warrior is quite drunk, Silas can see that he has pulled the right strings with this one… the lure has been cast and the bait taken. By the end of the evening, the warrior is all but begging to be a part of this group of heroes.
Meanwhile, Arnisil makes his way to the local temple – the Temple of St Cuthbert, when he is able to gain an audience with the abbot. Here he has more success with the strange symbols. They are identified as being the Triforce symbol for the cult of the Elder Elemental Eye, and the obex symbolizing Tharizdun, the imprisoned god. He learns that the Goddess Lloth was believed to be the power behind the Temple of Elemental Evil, and that the Catherdral still stands, near the ruins of Nulb. Arnisil in turn tells of the groups discoveries at the ruins. Another area of interest is discussed – the township of Rastor. Arnisil is shown where it is located, and learns that there is an Orc village nearby. But instead of being a source of concern to the people of Rastor, there is instead a long standing harmony between the two settlements. He learns that Rastor is mostly inhabited by humans and dwarves… and of course, many half orcs as well.
The next day, as the group prepares to leave town, Rathidor informs the group of his decision to part company. Though he was seeking adventure, he explains that his short time with the group has shown that he is not an adventurer, and he fears that he would not survive the dangers the group must surely face in the future. So they say their farewells and set off, with Silas the last to wish Rathidor well – he shakes hands and gives him a farewell hug before turning to following the others. Unnoticed by the others, Silas seemed to have something in his hand that hadn’t been there a moment ago… which with a flick of his wrist seemed to disappear, whatever it was…
A hung over but mostly sober Xoad meets up with the group in the street, and they set off to find Elmo. He is found at the mill with a group of town militia, investigating the disappearance of the miller and his wife. Elmo informs them that there has still been no word from the miller or his wife, but that foul play would now seem to be the most likely reason. The lads that worked for the miller – the ones the group spoke to when they first arrived in town – had been found dead… in the cellar of the mill! They had been found on the same day the group left to investigate the moathouse ruins. Also, reports of another strange occurrence had reached Elmo. He tells them of a witnesses account of seeing the local druid, Jaru, leading a group on horseback east and out of town that same day.
Joined by Elmo, they make their way to the druid grove, but he can not be found anywhere. Elmo expresses his unease at this turn of events, as Jaru has never been absent from the grove in all the time he has known him. Standing at the threshold to the druids hut, Paradox has no trouble identifying that the occupant has been absent for about a week, by the lack of certain druidic rituals having been performed. With the use of his spells, Dinky is able to identify that the last person to have been in the hut was a doppelganger, and that being the morning before the death of the miller and his wife.
The group parts company with Elmo, who implores them to proceed with caution. Leaving town, with Xoad in company, they make their way back to the ruins of the moat house. Descending down into the vast chamber again, Xoad is overcome with the sensations of evil that assail his senses. His desire is to destroy all in the chamber, to which Gol’kosh agrees with, until he is reminded of what happened the last time he tried! In an attempt to learn more, the group burn the incense they found earlier. Thin tendrils of smoke snake out and wrap themselves around the stone column supporting the obelisk. Runes carved into the stone appear – “Speak my name, Tharizdun.” With the help of Xoad and his knowledge of evil cults, along with the knowledge Arnisil gained at the temple in town, the group realize that this massive edifice is connected with the dark god Tharizdun, and was likely created where it stands. They come to the belief that a follower of evil might be able to commune directly with Tharizdun. The huge gem at the top of the stone column supporting the obelisk is believed to have come from the elemental plane. As the smoke from the incense drifts out further, tendrils of dark magic can be seen emanating from the dark sun symbol carved in the rock floor of the cavern, reaching out in the direction of the party.
Climbing the column again, our heroes again investigate the otherworldly gem at the base of the obelisk. Despite his strongest desire to do so, Xoad can see no way of destroying it, but also can not abide the evil emanating from it. Dinky moves forward to study it closer. After a moment of intense scrutiny, he reaches out and touches the gem… and suddenly disappears! The others clamber down from the top of the stone column and look about in stunned silence. Suddenly, Dinky reappears in front of the archway carved in the wall. Dinky recounts his experience, clearly recalling a phrase that assailed his consciousness – “seek the heart”. What looked to be fruit then appeared before him. On taking a bite from it, he reappeared here in the chamber.
With nothing more to be learned, the group make their way back out of the chamber and seal it before leaving the moathouse.
Our hero’s now continue their journey to the deserted ruins of Nulb. After an eventless journey, the group approach Nulb. Despite the brightness of the day, as they near the town the sky darkens and gives the appearance of being stormy. As they enter the town, the buildings they pass are little more than rubble covering the ground. Making their way further into the town a voice booms out from the deepening gloom… “Welcome to Nulb!” Our heroes continue on in the direction the voice came from. The outline of a small building still standing can be seen before them. A lone, shadowy figure can be sitting on the front porch of the building, smoking a pipe. The glow from the pipe illuminates the strangers face. From side on his features appear quite handsome, until he turns to face the group… the other side of his face appears crushed, shattered, caved in. Our hero’s identify him immediately. This person should not be alive. Lareth!!!
As they approach him he stands and holds his arms out wide. “Welcome to Nulb” he again announces. Arnisil steps forwards and replies “Lareth, we were not expecting to meet you. We were of the belief that you were dead!”
Lareth laughs to himself “Aye, dead I was, well and truly dead… and content to be so.”
“How is it you come to be here? Who has given you life?” asked Arnisil.
Again Lareth laughed, but there was no amusement in his voice “Life!” he yelled, “You call this life!!” He stepped forward to the edge of the porch “I could tell you much about what you call life. And death. You all fear death, when you should be embracing it! And the Temple. I could tell you so much out the Temple. So very much, but it will cost you… oh, will it cost you!”
As Lareth continued his mad rant, Gol’kosh grumbled “I bored, you talk too much.” Axe raised, Gol’kosh rushed at Lareth, who pointed at him and softly spoke but a single word. Gol’kosh staggered just short of where Lareth stood, as if confused, then moved forwards again. As he did so, Paradox’s giant bear companion wrapped his massive arms around Gol’kosh, holding him in place. Gol’gosh thrashed and struggled in vain to escape the bear. Lareth swumg himself up onto the roof of the building and began laughing manically at our heroes, declaring loudly over and over again “I am the Lord of Nulb!”
As Gol’kosh struggled to break free, Silas moved forward in an attempt to calm his friend. As he did so, he caught sight of Gol’kosh’s face and stopped in his tracks. Silas then took a couple of nervous steps backwards, away from Gol’kosh and the bear. He has seen that look on his friends face before…