Solving the Riddles of High Pass Keep

7th Day, 2nd Ride, 9th Month, 1374th Year

After we vanquished the guardian a silence fell over the basement of the High Pass keep. The rush of adrenaline subsided and I could feel my the knot in my stomach coming undone. I started trembling as I felt the pain from the shrapnel come on but I pushed it to the back of my mind as I focused on the sphere hovering in the center of the room.

I approached it carefully, observing it in detail. The surface seemed to be made of a dull ferrous material. Occasionally a ripple crossed its surface at which sent arcs of lightning licking dangerously along its edges. The whole thing was throbbing with arcane potentiality. I was in awe, not just by the sphere, but also by the animated door and by what must have happened there in order for the keep to fall to ruin.

David decided to inspect each of the alcoves in the walls and concluded that they were doors of some kind. The back wall of the alcove had a hole in them and there was clearly a space behind it. Jago inspected the pedestals found throughout the room. The pedestals seemed to line up with the doors in such a way as to not be a coincidence. The first door had one pedestal in front of it, the second door two pedestals, each lined up towards the sphere, and the third door had three pedestals. In the top of the pedestals was a hole which seemed perfectly shaped for the ankh the guardian had been holding. I remarked that the eye of the ankh once placed on the pedestal, the hole in the door, and the sphere were neatly aligned and we formed a plan to place the ankh we had in the pedestal in front of the first door.

Before that, however, David asked me to accept the Broken One’s healing touch. I declined, but I was keen for him to clean out my wounds so as not to have them fester at a later time. He did a wonderful job. It’s remarkable that a strong man like himself, with a such capacity to violence, is capable of such tender care and nourishment.

Because we were incapable of predicting what would happen when we placed the ankh on the pedestal, or what would happen once the door did open, we decided to be cautious. Jago would place the ankh and the soldiers would take their places around the door, just in case a fiend would come charging out at us. David and I decided to stand well back near the staircase leading up.

Jago placed the ankh and there was a loud crack of thunder as a lightning bolt erupted from the sphere, arced through the eye of the ankh and hit the hole in the door. Some of the others got hit by peripheral arcs of lightning, but nobody got seriously injured. A few seconds after the thunderclap subsided we heard a gentle grinding of stone upon stone, and the door slid out of the way to reveal a short, dark corridor.

At the end of the corridor, we once again found a room, slightly smaller than the original one. The room was empty except for four braziers in each of the corners, and a small alcove at the far end. Once Ser Fosco had taken the time to light the braziers we had enough light to explore the room properly. Quickly we all noticed that the room had an illusionary ceiling which showed a lifelike mirror image of the room below. There were two exceptions, in the mirror image, it showed a large, golden summoning circle on the floor which was not there in the original, and the alcove showed to hold an ankh.

I studied the pattern of the summoning circle and quickly deduced that it wasn’t an abjuration but a conjuration circle meant to conjure a tiny outsider, probably an Imp or Quasit. I started using a gold coin to scrape along the floor to follow the pattern I saw in the mirror image. Everywhere I left gold dust behind from the coin the mirror image showed the pattern disappearing. I quickly handed out all of my remaining gold coins to anyone who was willing to help and together we managed to recreate the summoning circle. To our delight, we noticed that the alcove in the back of the room opened up and revealed a second ankh, while the alcove in the mirror image closed.

We now had two ankhs, and we could move on to the next door, with the two pedestals in front of it. I retreated back to the main room while Quentyn retrieved the ankh. I was eager to solve the rest of the puzzles — too eager. Once Quentyn grabbed the ankh there was a sulfurous boom and a demon appeared. Most likely a Quasit, winged and lightning fast as it flew straight for David and started clawing at his clothing. It eventually managed to grab the bloodstone from underneath David’s clothing, just in time for Jago to grab it deftly by the neck and hold it in place. David immediately used that opportunity to snatch the bloodstone back from the demon.

The demon transformed in front of our very eyes into a large millipede with vicious mandibles and bit Jago on his arm. I shouted for him to throw the demon to the far corner of the room and as it landed not far away from one of the braziers, I unleashed the inferno of the end times. And with that, the demon was banished back to its abyssal plane.

Ag ko faal toor do Dinoksetiid
Burn in the inferno of the end times

It turned out that both David and Jago were poisoned. Jago was worst off. He seemed sluggish and slow and his movements were clumsy and spastic. We decided to go back up to camp in the courtyard. It was getting late and we were all very worried about Jago. I made sure I cleared out my tent and made space for him and I gave him an extra blanket. I went to Gunnar and tried to convince him that Jago had many more battles to fight. It was a clumsy attempt at manipulating him, which he probably realised, but he said that if Jago would live throughout the night that he would implore Tempus to help Jago.

Of the three friends I’ve made since coming to Glister, I think I am probably the least close with Jago. He’s somewhat aloof and spends most of his time in the wilderness outside of Glister. But he also seems to be the least judgmental and the least filled with ideas of self-importance. Quentyn is all urges and ego, like all nobility, while David is filled with a sense of indignation that unmistakably marks him as part of the clergy. Jago has strong opinions, but he seems fair. He is a good friend, and I think that of the three of them he might prove to be the most likely to understand my subterfuge.

When Jago was stable and resting in my tent, I ventured back down into the keep’s basement. Quentyn followed. We were both curious at what we would find behind the second door. Using a minor conjuration, I placed both the ankhs in the pedestals in front of the second door. Both times a lightning bolt shot out and disrupted my spells, but when the second ankh slid in place the door opened with the satisfying grinding noise of dry stone.

Behind the second door was the same kind of dark corridor as behind the first. We immediately heard a multitude of whispers coming from inside the room beyond the corridor. A chill ran down my spine and I felt ill at ease. I illuminated a discarded piece of bone and tossed it into the room. For a brief moment I saw a flash of billowing cloth, like that of a curtain or a flag billowing in the wind. We were not at full strength, nor with a complete party, so we decided to go back to the courtyard and rest. We closed the second door behind us before we left by taking one of the ankhs out of the pedestal.

Kun faal krein
Light of the sun

8th Day, 2nd Ride, 9th Month, 1374th Year

The next morning David and I were one of the first to rise. We both have our particular morning rituals and they take roughly the same amount of time. He spends his time in prayer, communing with the Broken One, while I spend my time in study, charging my body with the arcane magic of my spells and endlessly repeating the incantations and somatic gestures needed for ignition, until execution comes without a second thought.

We had came into contact with quite a few undead creatures in the last few days and I decided to prepare one of the few necromantic spells in my repertoire. It is a spell specifically designed to disrupt and destroy the negative energy that binds those creatures to their undead nature. It is a spell of the minor circle for it allows novice wizards some protection against the undead if they ever work up the courage to explore that deranged (some say misunderstood) school.

I had rested well, despite having to sleep in the cramped confines of my tent with Jago. I hadn’t slept that closely to anyone since… well, the temple at Fulcester. It felt odd, not the least because Jago seemed to lay almost unmoving throughout most of the night. I don’t know whether that’s part of his training as a tracker, or because of his malady. Regardless, he made it through the night and seemed to be doing somewhat better when he emerged from the tent. Gunnar, as promised, came by to tend to him and Tempus’ grace fell over Jago and further alleviated his symptoms. It would take a few days, but if one evening could do that much, he was well on the path of recovery.

While we all broke our fast, I spent time divine the origin and nature of the brigandine armour the guardian had been wearing. I would not have time to go over both the armour and the club, but I was reasonably certain that considering the amount of people wielding the club since we stumbled into the guardian it wasn’t cursed or dangerous. The armour, however, was a mystery and since Quentyn lost his suit of chain mail, I thought it prudent to start there.

It turns out that the armour once belonged to a Lord Abaddon, a warrior priest in the service of Talos. Lord Abaddon had dedicated his life to the eradication and destruction of the undead under the control of the feared Zhengyi. It was a formidable suit, which offered considerable magical protection against lightning, which falls entirely in line with Lord Abaddon’s background as a servant of the Lightning Lord. Once I had shared the information with the others there was some debate about who would don the armour, David or Quentyn. Eventually the choice fell on Quentyn.

We went back inside the keep and descended into the basement. Using the same trick we had used the day before, we put the second ankh back in place, and just like before the door slid open and we heard the deranged whispers coming from the room. We all approached the room through the corridor and Quentyn was the first one to enter the room. As he crossed the threshold I noticed something. Something brief, something that I cannot put into words. The magic that surrounded this place marked him somehow and I immediately felt a sense of dread.

I tried warning Quentyn and I advised caution but he stubbornly insisted in the most astonishing way that he felt that fate had somehow drawn him to be in that room, at that time. He said he never felt so certain about anything in his entire life. I started to wonder whether he might be under the influence of an enchantment filling his already impulsive heart with more courage. He illuminated the Sword of Hope and brandished it as he went inside.

A strange wraith-like figure, cloaked in a dark, tattered robe flew around the room like a moth around a lantern, ever whispering to itself. I briefly considered casting the mindoraan tinvaak divination in order to comprehend this wraith’s speech, but I realised that whatever it was, it wasn’t here to talk to us. It was whispering to itself long before we got there and it made no effort to direct any of its rambling at us. The moment we entered the room the wraith flew at Quentyn.

We managed to defeat it but not without some effort. Quentyn got especially wounded, but not in a way that couldn’t be healed through the Broken One’s divine grace. No, the price that was paid was much higher; it seemed as if Quentyn’s carelessness and impulsiveness only grew as the wraith fed upon his life force. He grew ever more reckless and impatient after the injuries.

Another problem we faced while fighting the wraith was that it wasn’t fully present. Sometimes it seemed as if attacks would strike true when otherwise they would pass through without hurting the wraith! As if it was shifting in and out of the material plane. I tried to use the spell that I had especially prepared to fight undead, but my ineptitude at necromancy probably weighed heavily on my attempts, for I couldn’t hit the creature with the positive energy that erupted from my fingertips.

Disrupt Undead
Kren faal dill, faal brendon ahrk faal gaaf
Break the undead, the spector and the ghost

Once we defeated the wraith, we found that, much like the previous room, this room had a closed alcove in the back wall. On the far-side, near the alcove, were three holes in the ground. On the near-side, near the door, stood three statuettes in holes of their own. One of a lion, one of a bull and one of a bushel of wheat or some such fodder. David guessed that we would have to bring the statues to the far side of the room and that somehow the order in which we placed the statues was of importance. The lion ate the bull, the bull ate the fodder, he reasoned.

Quentyn, emboldened after the wraith’s attack, picked the lion up and started to transport it across the room. It took a few seconds, but when he was halfway, we all heard the ghostly sound of a bull and suddenly the shadows seem to draw together and the wraith once again returned. After another fight in which I unleashed jets of flame and managed to damage the wraith, we managed to defeat it once again. To our surprise, we saw that the lion’s statuette had returned back to its initial position at the near-side of the room.

We contemplated the puzzle once again. Jago thought the bull must be the first to be moved, since we heard the sound of one after Quentyn moved the lion. David argued that it should be the fodder, since that’s the start of the food chain. Quentyn followed David’s advice, and I wish he hadn’t; seconds after lifting the fodder, we heard the sound of a lion’s roar and the wraith once again appeared!

Once more we defeated the wraith, but not without incurring more injuries. When David wanted to move the bull he found that he could not lift the statuette. It seemed that only Quentyn, the first through the door and marked as such, was allowed to move the statuettes. He successfully placed the statuette in the socket at the far-side of the room. We decided on the lion next, which he also moved across the room and placed in its socket. While walking over to the near-side of the room, we once again heard the sound of a lion’s roar and the two statuettes shot back to their original position and the wraith appeared for a fourth time!

A fourth time we defeated the wraith. Finally, we concluded that two statuettes could not be left with one another if one of them were to eat the other. We started with the bull and moved it to the far-side of the room, leaving the lion and the fodder at the near-side. Then we moved the lion to the far-side, leaving the fodder at the near-side. Then we took the bull back to the near-side of the room, and picked up the fodder and moved it to the far-side to be with the lion. Finally we moved the bull to the far-side of the room and we were rewarded with the satisfying sound of grinding stone as the alcove opened up and yielded its ankh.

Leave a Reply