Too little time has passed to be stopping for breath, yet here we are resting after a fight with a room full of Dueragar. Based on my recollection of the last time we ventured into Sacred Stone Monastery and below, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised by this. I hope to not repeat the failures of our past, but this place is grim and I dread what we might find ahead. The memory of that return still burns in my mind. We disappointed ourselves, burdened Kline and Bronzehammer. Traelle speaks as we sit together, her words refracting my worry into a degree of hope. We must persevere, the only way through is forward. And so we continue on, myself in the lead scouting down the dim hall to another door. Gripping the metal handle of the stone door, I find a single man standing across a ring of wet earth. Tall, misshapen statues of armed men line the walls. Their blank stares pointed to the circle at the room’s center. Perhaps this is touched by magic, a portal? I dare not walk into it, and so I step to the side to let my companions in behind me. The man claims to be the second in command and urges us to leave while we can. “Go attack the Fire cult,” he waves us off like flies batted by the tails of cattle. I look to the others, thinking how to do this. We will fight this robed man, but not in here. They too look wearily at the strange muddy floor unlike the other rooms we have seen.
The captain speaks up in agreement and leads us all out the way we had entered. What is he planning? That wide passage before the chasm maybe? That could be a better place to draw blades than the room had been. The man follows us as if to escorts us out, or kill us. There is no way to be sure, but we cannot trust anyone we find beneath the damned keeps. Drak’thal changes pace and enters a room already explored. As we all enter the doorway and turn, the door seals itself with a hiss. We are a bunch of fools once more. I let out a sigh and stare at Drak. I exchange a glance with Thirin and Elurin before Traelle rolls her eyes at me. This was a bad idea. Always willing to make himself useful in a rough spot, the goliath attempts to ram the door with all his strength. Another bad idea. He looks pained by the impact while the door stands unaffected. Pacing now, I flex my hands around the handles of my scythes. Elurin seems to have the same idea as I go check the arrow slit at the north end of the room. We each peek through the narrow space. My raven wouldn’t fit to fly through and out to get help. Patience was never a commandment of my queen, nor was I good at it in situations like this. Stuck. We’re stuck.
We both look back to the others by the doorway. Traelle and Thirin sit together watching the halfling run his hands over the stone walls. I’ve never seen him do anything like this so I watch too. After a minute or so, they resume quiet conversation over what to do. I have no ideas so I keep watching Drak’thal fumble his hands over the wall, then suddenly…. Did he just crawl into the stone? Did anyone else see this? I turn to the others, mouth agape. Before I can say anything, the halfling reemerges from the wall looking defeated. “Drak’thal, did you just crawl out of the wall?” He nods and paces in thought. I see his hands holding something, perhaps the item that Adeline gave him at the start.
He whispers into it, presumably for help. The rest of us listen for a reply from the diviner somewhere outside the temple. Adeline’s voice comes from the runed object he holds, “Drak’thal? It has only been seven hours.” His answer is mumbled, seemingly embarrassed to ask her to come free us from this predicament. This is not a decision he made without exhausting other options. This space holds no other doors or windows, without the ability to break down the door or find whatever Drak searched for in the stone walls, this is a makeshift prison where we would likely starve. Adeline will come for us soon. Patience again.
The clash of blades and crash of stones breaks the silence on the other side of the sealed door. Suppose we pray as we wait then. I turn to the others, restless. Back to pacing and listening to the battle outside the walls that hold us back. Shortly after silence settles once again, a small voice can be heard, “Please move away from the door!” We oblige, all backing away just before the door blasts into the room and crumbles. The blonde diviner barely stands in the archway, she looks tired. Stepping out, the bloody bodies of legionnaires lay beside the mysterious man who had trapped us. I say a silent prayer as we pass their corpses. Near the robed man is a half crumbled stone creature larger than Thirin. It must have been tough on Adeline with only the five men she brought in with her. She looks visibly spent as she stumbles away to return to her post. Drak’thal mumbled a thanks and perhaps an ‘I love you’ but I can’t be sure. They argued in Glassmoor without regard for our ears, yet he could not be affectionate in front of us? The captain does not need to hold back his words for her near us after everything we have already heard day and night aboard the ship. No matter now, it’s time to move on after collecting some odd black crystals. A green potion, and gold from the fallen enemy.
We return to the muddy room that the dead man had occupied for the night. This quickly becomes a problem as Thirin catches enemies coming in during his watch. We wake for battle, dispatching cultists and deciding to abandon the room for another. We all go to the bunk room to seek a place to rest, but this too is a mistake. It’s late now and our tired minds should have known better than to walk into a barracks after midnight. Another fight to finish and flee towards the mud room. The morning comes and we all look as bad as I feel. At least Elurin looks somewhat rested, lucky elf. Traelle encourages us once more to try to push past our tired minds. I resolve to keep moving, another long hall and another chasm comes into view.
Large pillars stand in this cavernous area before dropping off to a giant rift in the ground, two bulettes are held back by heavy chains. The beasts strain against the hold of the pillars as they sense us entering their domain. A third appears unbound and roaming right in front of me. It barrels at me and I narrowly dodge its charge. The next closest bulette bursts the chain links as it thrashes and rears toward Elurin. He is soon cornered by the beast though Traelle tries to stop its assault. Thirin’s axe finds purchase on the heavy-hided beast in front of me after I slash at its face. Drak’thal stays at a safe distance, darting in and out of the way of our attacks so that he can lend us strength to stay upright. The paladin aids Elurin to draw the beast from crushing him, striking hard with her dragonbone sword. I glance quickly at the gladiator fighting beside me and smile, he is doing far better than the last temple. Perhaps it was simply a bad start with the sickness that struck him. We fell both free bulettes before running back to the hall again. Better to leave the chained creature where it was and keep searching.
Further to the west, I come to a crossroads and ask Drak’thal to take a look at the stonework of a statue. It stands on a pedestal with fist held to the sky, or well, the earthen ceiling. He tells me that it is recently carved, different from the old ruins and ancient statues that we have seen in the other cultist strongholds. Traelle looks over the statue as if to commit it to memory and the goliath urges us forward. And so, forward we go to the south corridor. There is another chasm here but this one has a narrow edge that could be walked, if we were all careful, that leads to the east. With how tired we are, I decide to turn back and follow the hall until we find another room. A doorway soon comes into view at my left, and I quietly open it. The other Keepers follow me in to see an odd sight. A stone woman works over a fire with large tools, and two duergar standing near.
She hardly gives us a look before dismissing us as pests to her work, “My fight is not with you, I am to make elemental weapons for Marlos. He has not paid me for more.” The duergar soldiers attack regardless of her words as she continues to work at the forge. Both are quickly felled by our blades, bodies strewn about the floor. It seems that the stone woman is unbothered by their deaths and once again asks us to leave. I have never seen a being like her and gesture the others to the exit. Continuing to the hall might be better use of our time, and they agree as we all make haste to leave her in peace.