Ahris

Another one bites the dust

"That's two!"

That which you accomplished:

  • Killed eight imps on the hillside to the east of the cave; had Tenshea head back to Errlay to get more men
  • Sought to draw off the imps to enable Blass and Turkel to ride by the cave and alert Last Home; resulted in Turkel’s death by blast of fire and the dispersal of a number of imps over a wider area
  • Attacked the cave head-on, with Flasch helping, resulting in injuries to the party before the decision was made to bolt for Last Home
  • Alerted Last Home to the threat; bolstered personal reputations as local heroes; helped organize the town for a combination of protection and attack
  • Scouted the cave area at dawn; attacked with some townies; drew out the Tall Man and, with the timely arrival of Tenshea and a team of his Regulators, killed the Tall man and the remaining imps.

The cave entrance, at dawn, looked dark as one would expect – at first. After peering inside, however, a green glow was evident, but seemingly only to Kane and Corwyn. Tenshea and his team have scouted the area around the cave, in search of scattered imps or other threats, and some have gone back with the folks from Last Home to restore normalcy to the town.

The staff that Kane is proudly carrying around is about 5 feet long and about 2" in diameter, and carved from a strong, dark wood. Perhaps the stain over it has obscured the type of wood, because you don’t recognize it. It has some dull metal inlay, twisted around the upper foot of it, and has what look like runes carved into the entire length. Similar runes are also carved into the tunnel walls, no visible as if an upper layer or coating has been cleaned away. The etched line representing mountains is still there, unchanged, but now bands of runes are above and below the line, heading into the mountain as far as you can see from outside the cave.

The others can see the runes, too, and they recognize them as such. (The idea of runic writing is widely known, but it’s comparable to our sense of hieroglyphics.) The difference here is that Kane and Corwyn can read them, whereas it’s clear that the other cannot. Would the two make it known that they could read the writing? Would the two enter the tunnel? What’s the plan of action?

From outside the cave, with the green glow from within, the runes read as if they are declaring a warning against entering the tunnel without proper preparation and without good reason.

Comments

“I think we don’t have much choice but to go back in. Tenshea and his boys can watch the entrance and make sure nothing comes out, and the townsfolk might be able to fortify it a bit.”

Corwyn looks speculatively up above the entrance of the cave.

“We might could put some rocks up there and roll them down onto anyone trying to come out.”

Another one bites the dust
 

Hell, yeah we’re going in. After all, there’s a story written in the walls. We’ll need torches, oil, a lantern, spikes, rope. I’ll proudly display the Tall Man’s stick of truth.

The guys out here can handle the runts that may come out. We may want to get in there before they wake up the other baddies.

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Some of the Regulators aren’t interested in staying outside when there are clearly interesting things to be seen and possibly had inside the mountain. Tenshea is okay with some of them going inside, with or without you two.

Remember: this group is almost completely democratic in nature, with Tenshea as the titular leader, but without having any formal power other than influence. And, they’re basically outlaws now in the eyes of the law. You don’t expect much in the way of orderly behavior if things get rough.

While Tenshea shows a reasonable amount of respect for Corwyn and Kane, some of the others – especially some of the older men – do not, and while they aren’t rude, they are somewhat dismissive of the two “kids” who seem to act like they have all the answer or, worse, that think they’re in charge.

As the two of you prepare to re-enter the mountain, several others step alongside and join you, with one guy, Dunnel, taking the lead before any of you.

“Right! Let’s see what this hill’s got to share with us!” he barks, a wicked smile on his face as he motions to his men and eyes the two of you, seemingly as a challenge. He is about 20 years your senior, and you’ve heard of him. He’s tough, has fought monstrous humanoids in these parts for years, and has run afoul of the law a few times, too.

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“All right.”

Corwyn shrugs and walks over to pick up his pack and shoulder it with a grunt. “I’m right behind you.”

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Dunnel chuckles and smiles, clapping Corwyn on the shoulder lightly.

“Naaah, you guys know the way, right? We’ll follow your lead,” he says, perhaps a little too graciously, and then motions a little too formally with his other hand toward the opening, a wide smile bisecting his face.

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Goody, potential traitors rolling with us. ’Scool.

Another one bites the dust
 

Meta
They seem legitimate regarding their dislike of the elves and their stooges, and the group seems fired up to be doing something about it, at last. Their interest in your issue, on the other hand, seems secondary. That it involves Last Home and the protection of regular folks gives it value, but you simply don’t know how they’ll react once inside the mountain, and what they’ll do with what they might find there.

Another one bites the dust
 

Corwyn grins at him and walks into the tunnel.

Another one bites the dust
 

By the time the seven of you (Kane, Corwyn, Dunnel, and four other guys) have gone about 50 or 60 feet into the mountain, a few things are apparent:

  1. Both of you can read the runes, but the others cannot.
  2. The tunnel is dimly-lit in a dull glow that sometimes seems hazel, sometimes more purple. It’s playing tricks on your depth perception, and is not expunged by torch light.
  3. Dunnel is a jerk, and doesn’t think much of either of you, or he has a strange way of showing mutual respect. It’s less in his words than his demeanor, through which he demonstrates a swagger and general dismissiveness towards others. He’s the Alpha, his guys know it and support him, and he’s applying constant, subtle pressure to get you two to fall in line, too.
  4. Chattering, murmuring, and the sounds of shuffling can be heard echoing from the distance – sounds like more imps.

The runes are a warning, describing the mountain as the prison for the Four Heralds of the Iron Fist, trapped here by the Orthnay Wardens. You’re not sure how long, since the calendar system they’re citing is unfamiliar to you. In a nutshell, it seems like the Wardens held the secret city as a sacred site, and used the magic there – the latent magic accessible through some kind of portal – to construct adequate shackles for these four high-level henchmen of the Iron Fist, who seems to be a very powerful enemy. They admit that their gambit will seal them off from the rest of the world, and will siphon off a great deal of the magic in it, but they defend their decision to do so on the grounds of the threat that the Fist and his armies present. You can infer that there are probably other, similar sites elsewhere that were used in a similar manner, in an attempt to drain the Fist of powerful followers and drain him of actual power.

The message reads in part like an epitaph, partially like a defense of actions taken, and finally as a warning to stay away in order that the seals that keep the Heralds trapped are not broken, releasing them.

Another one bites the dust
Sean7

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