Buried History

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Deldin and Borin were called immediately as soon as news arrived. Yesterday, they witnessed the worst earthquakes so far reaching the region, along with extremely abnormal weather: snow (in the summer), hurricane winds and the sun permanently setting for hours on end. But then everything passed and all of the disasters they had been struggling with for the last 3 months suddenly went away… apart from the abnormal movement of the sun.

A carrier pidgeon had come in, from Simid, asking for aid: they were badly injured. The two fennids were explained the importance of the cargo their fellows were sent for, and given relief supplies.

The two dvergr then sped off on horseback as fast as they could towards Omhain.

The ground gave in under them, and Sylrah, Thelgar, Corvus and Valgerd plunged towards a dark pit in the earth.

Thelgar, quick on his feet, managed to maintain his balance enough not to hurtle down uncontrollably, and could see that there were walls, stone walls in this pit! And he saw the glint of water on the bottom.

They all plunged deep into the dark waters, with tons of dirt and rocks following on top of them. Thelgar managed to pull free of the debris before it dragged him to the bottom, and reached the surface.

He swam to the nearest dry place, a small hillock on one of the side of the deep fissure. He studied the waters, worried for his companions. Corvus’ head comes out of the water, gasping for air, and looks around.

“hey! Over here!” shouts Thelgar. Corvus gestures towards the bottom of the water. Thelgar dives again. Together they find a dim glow underwater: Sylrah was pinned, but she had lit a small dvergr alchemical lampbar. The two manage to get her out and to the surface just as she was about to suffocate.

The fall was not without its price: Corvus had one leg and possibly a few ribs broken, and Sylrah had two legs broken. Falling flat onto water from that high has its price.

“No sign of Valgerd…” commented Sylrah. “I didn’t find him anywhere.” Thelgar responded. Corvus shrugged.

“Well, I guess we wait… where the hell are we?” Thelgar whispered, as he studied his surroundings.

It was at least a thousand feet deep, and he could see the opening up there… around him, the walls were not dirt or rock: they were dark, worked stone, polished to a point it reflected the faint light in the water. Arches and windows, some of the fallen and ruined, studded the high walls of the buried building, which ran all the way almost to the top. Sme of them spilled waterfalls into the lake on the bottom. “Titan ruins… wonder if I can find a way out… Guys, stay here.”

With that he dived in to explore. There was a large arch at water-level, through which he could enter the edifice. He swam into a large division, most of it submerged, and felt a slight current pulling him down and towards the far wall.

It seemed empty, so he risked and dived. The current led to a crack in the lower wall, from which very faint light came through. He risked on and was spewed on the other side, in a much larger cavern, so big he couldn’t see the whole thing. Apparently he was on a stream rushing rapidly along one of the side of this cavern, and into a waterfall.

Frantically, he reached the shore, and looked at his surroundings. Streching for at least a mile, the large cavern was being held together without collapsing by the support of several tall edifices, all of strange architecture, and made of the same polished stone and glass. Some part of the cavern ceiling had collapsed, and shafts of light bathed the center of the cavern, lighting a sort of central square amid the buildings.

As his wounds opened again due to the effort, Thelgar decides to return to his fellow fennids, and recover his strength.

Upon his return, he sees Simid on the top of the fissure, shouting something they couldn’t understand. He quit after a while, but remained there.

“Well, we’ll wait. Let’s rest, and then we’ll see.”

Borin and Deldin reached the hillfort in the afternoon of the following day, and upon approach they see the abandoned cart smashed into a tree. After inspecting it, they realize that the wheel artifact is there, along with most of the gear, except food. And, of course, their fellow fennids.

Carefully, they approach the ruined town. Horrible rents in the ground went up the hill, revealing dark gaps in the earth. After searching for a while, they see Simid sitting, wounds bandaged, leaned against a stone wall. The food was strewn all around him, as if he was having a picnic.

“Oi! Everything OK?” they greet him.

Simid mouthed something silently that they couldn’t understand, and it was too late for them to notice he was tied up. Deldin the felt a blade tip on his back.

“Now, do not struggle and you will meet no grisly end.” said the unknown figure.

“Who are you? What do you want?” Deldin looks at Borin, as if asking who is his attacker.

Borin, confused, answers “There’s… no one there.”

Then a shape shows up near Simid. It was a small humanoid, dressed in a strange style, with a pointed hood falling backwards on his back. He had pointed ears and a wide, wicked grin. His movements were lightning-fast, which blurred his forms somewhat. But when he stood still, he completely disappeared! He was drinking from a small flask they knew was Simid’s personal drink, which he always carried with him (and drank at all times). His other hand held a bone knife pointed at Simid’s throat. The disdain in Simid’s eyes was clear to everyone.

The one threatening Deldin from the back comes into view, stepping alongside the dvergr.

“We desire parley. And choice in the matter you have little.” said the little man. “Your friend is at swordpoint, the others are down there in the pit.”

Borin walks up to the edge of the crevasse, and shouts. He receives response, and faintly sees three people down in the bottom, on of them flailing their arms.

“So what is it you want?”

The little men come fully into view, there are three of them, and they all dress in a similar fashion. They explain they are here to retrieve an heirloom of great import, but fear the perils of such a journey might be great. They have to descend into the depths of the ruins, and find the old aelfen city that lay beneath the hill. “So we believe you could assist. We can help rescue your friends from down there, we have the means… but you must provide recompense. You must go into the ruins and retrieve us our objects.” Deldin and Borin look at each other, and at Simid. “Do we have a choice?”

“Not, not really, no…” to which the little man grins. Simid nods in agreement as well.

They then explain they are after the regalia of Nuada, the great Patre of the aelfen. When he died, he left his circlet and a silver arm, a prosthetic he once used which became an heirloom of their royal family. The dvergr recall the old tale, when great Thane Sreng met the alfen king in battle and cut off his arm, only for him to return with one made of silver.

“They were taken away after his death and hidden, moved from place to place. Now finally the Man-folk are no longer here, so we were sent to search for it. We have a guide: a compass, it points to the destination where you will find them.” They hand them a glass sphere, with a rotating silver needle inside. “To help in the quest, we give you also this magic rope and the tunneller. The rope extends, shortens and coils on command. The tunneller is in this bag.” and they hand them a small cloth bag. “Exert care with it, the beast must be returned safe. Just point it in the direction you wish to dig and say ‘Nurigo!’ and it will come out. Don’t let it get away! To stop it and retrieve it point the bag in its direction and say ‘Nurigo morrabang!’.”

The two proceed to use the magic rope to hoist their fellows up to the surface, where they tend to their wounds. Then the little men wait eagerly for them to descend.

“We must make arrangements to be assured you won’t attempt escape, abandoning your friends. You’ll have to come back up, and all of them involve you passing through the aelfen ruins.”

Steeling themselves, Borin, Deldin and Thelgar descend into the pit, and proceed to follow the compass. It pointed upwards and northwards. Following Thelgar’s advice, they swim through the crack in the wall and reach the large cavern. There they sneak through the rubble, amid the wreckage of several devices and constructs of a bygone age.

Several buildings arched around them, not all of them intact nor reaching to the top. One of them, though, reached almost right to the top of the cavern, where they could see shafts of light coming in. Maybe from the top of the building they could find another way around. Indeed, the compass pointed roughly in that direction.

The edifice had a huge entrance arch, with the stone doors cracked open and strewn across the ground. Hundreds of windows adorned the polished stone of the tall tower, and a sort of cylindrical shaft could be seen on the outside, like a very tall tower adjacent to it.

Braving the giant-sized building, they quietly explore the lower room. They find it mostly empty, with a few broken statues and devices, and what could pass for a giant-sized desk. In one corner, a set of stairs, each step almost waist-high, led to the upper levels.

Trying to outsmart their fate, they try out this tunneller, and Borin holds the bag and says the magic word. A furry mass shoots out of the bag, and grows to an immense size, resembling a giant mole, which charges forwards in an attempt to dig. It succeeds in breaking a part of the first and second steps, but starts moaning and squealing, obviously because it was getting hurt. Borin quickly recovers it, before it made any more noise.

Worrying they had made too much noise, they start their difficult ascent up the stairs. When they reach the first floor, they see a room much similar to the one downstairs, with doors and corridors leading further in.

But then they hear commotion outside. They look through the window, and notice a huge humanoid slowly walking into the square, coming from one of the side ‘streets’. It was dressed in rags, had a wild mane of hair, and dragged its knuckles along the ground. They quickly try to jump off the high window back into the room, but the giant spotted them before they could hide, so they notice in horror that the thing was coming inside the building. Given the circumstances, they decide they’ll use the magic rope with a grappling hook, and pull themselves upward from window to window on the outside of the building. Sadly, the rope didn’t have enough strength to reel in while carrying a person, so they had frantically to climb up by themselves.

They could hear the giant in the room below them while they were reaching the next floor. When they arrive at the window, they jump in, and hear only the giant pacing in the room below. After a while, the sounds seem to move farther away.

Still cautious, they peek through the window to see if he was gone, but no, he was still down there. Borin decides to make a run for it and climb faster, so they’ll create more distance and the beast would lose its interest. Instead, the giant decides to pick up bits of debris (each the size of a hog) and use Borin as target practice. Twice he misses him, the rocks shattering against the building wall. He then decides to quit and moves closer to the building wall. To their horror, the giant starts walking up the wall as if it were an insect. Panicked, they climb as fast as they could into the next upper floor.

Once there, they see an alcove in a corner filled with huge jars, producing a somewhat alchemical smell. They hide behind the jars, hoping the brute won’t find them.

The giant steps into the room, smelling the air. It wanders around the room, and spots the jars’ alcove. He moves towards them, standing now very near their hiding spot. Trying harder to hide behind a jar, Thelgar accidentally knocks it over.

As looks of sheer terror are shared between them and Thelgar already knocking an arrow on his bow, the jar topples and several very large centipedes swarm out throughout the room, startling the giant, who tries to stomp them. After that, he shrugs and goes down the stairs.

When they make sure it is gone, they study their surroundings and notice for the first time that the shaft they saw from outside opens up to this room: they can see a faint outline of a door, and a few devices beside it on the wall.

“We don’t know what’s in there or even if it’s safe. Let’s keep going through the outside.” suggests Deldin. They do however spend some time studying some of the apparatuses left around, and managed to activate one of them: it projected an image into the air, like an illusion. They saw images of giants armed to the teeth, great explosions, dragons… and one bit with the top of a buidling with the ‘wheel’ attached to the very tip, glowing. Deldin made sure to take notes.

They continue their ascent, but two floors above they notice inside the room there are several creatures scurrying about. They decide to avoid it completely, and enter back into the building on the floor above, due to their exhaustion.

But the occupants of the lower floor must have heard them and are coming up the stairs. They prepare themselves, as three strange creatures, looking almost like mouths on legs, seemingly with a closed eye on top (which didn’t detract from them finding their way about the place). The creature open their dorsal eyes, which emit a blinding light, and move in to attack, screeching.

Thelgar becomes blinded, but Deldin rushes in to defend. Borin manages this time to summon his powers of storm and causes a tiny thunderstorm to appear over of of the creatures, striking it with tiny lightning bolts now and again. Thelgar then, still unable to see, but remembering where the creature was standing, looses an arrow which strikes it straight deep into his mouth, and the creature starts squealing.

Unfortunately, Deldin and Thelgar start suffering deep wounds from the creatures’ fangs, fortunately avoiding being trapped in their maws. When one of then wounds Borin, his innate powers trigger automatically, and the whole room fills with mist and static electricity. This causes the creatures to start running around as if crazed, giving them an opportunity to escape.

A couple more uneventful floors up they finally reach the top where the bulding has collapsed. The compass points in a much more horizontal direction, so they call on the tunneller to carve them a path.

Following the mole creature, who has to break through tile flooring at some point, they emerge into more normal-sized divisions, with a style of architecture Thelgar recognizes immediately as that of his people. The smell however, was unbearable: like a charnel house, because corpses were littered all around them. Some were men, others aelfen.

Following the compass they reach a barred and barricaded set of huge doors.

They proceed to remove a few of the barricades and use the tunneller to break through.

The place beyond the doors opens up to a series of large hall which all lead into a huge throne room. Everywhere there are decorations and art objects worthy of the highest courts. Roots of an ancient tree come out of the ceiling, running along the walls and surrounding the center of the hall where the throne is placed. What marrs the splendour of the place is that every inch of its surface was converted into cramped, wartime living quarters, and from its occupants only their bones remain. Everywhere, remains of people of all kinds, women, children… the only corpses in armor were the ones found by the doors.

The compass at this point was spinning wildly, so their best guess was that this should be the place. They start their search, checking every nook and cranny, to see if they could find some sort of hiding place for the heirlooms.

In the meantime, they grow increasingly uncomfortable, as the temperature drops frighteningly, and they feel like they are being watched, like movement in the corner of their eyes. Then the whispers start, and they think maybe it’s not a good idea to disturb the dead.

Then they find a hidden compartment in the throne podium. The remove the stones and find a chest, finely decorated with gold and silver. Thelgar notes the aelfen script reads “here lies the regalia of Nuada, shepherd of the children of Danu.”

“This is it! Let’s go!” Thelgar urges.

At this point, the walls start to bleed, and bloody tears also come from the corpses’ eye sockets. The group decides to make a run for it, and all sorts of objects, like furniture, cutlery and even weapons start flying around the room: the dead are not pleased. Their bodies begin to stir. Deldin is hit before he can get away, but shuts the doors after everyone has passed, and barricades them again.

“Quick, we have to get out of here!”

Running around the buried chambers, they finally find one where there is a tiny shaft of light. With the help of the tunneller, they get back to the surface, on the slope of the hill.

Meeting with their fellows and the treacherous little men, they deliver the chest and demand to be free of their service. They had been through enough.

“Very well, all our thanks be with you. Hum, the items please…”

They hand over the rope, the compass and the tunneller, not without a tinge of frustration. The strange folk comment to themselves “… and they even brought back the magicked stuff! I told you it would work!”

“Well, it has been most enjoyable, I hope you had a most exciting experience. Quite efficient I might say. Hmmm… might look you up again in case we any any more… ‘help’.” The man’s wide grin stood there for a second, before he blurred away and they all disappeared like the wind across the plain.

The group picks themselves up, and explains them what happened. They reach the cart again, where the Titan wheel was still there waiting for them to pick it up. They then finally proceeded to the rendez-vous with Gurne to deliver the relic. Deldin was sure the information he got from the images in the ruins would prove useful to him.

“Sons of bitches, they took my flask!”