3rd day of the 3rd ride, month 6 , 1262
When the noxious fumes had cleared and Lord Markus’ injuries been seen to, we could come to terms with the carnage before us. Lord Markus was quick to find a trail of blood. It appears that we have injured the albino sufficiently for it to leave a trail. Luca and I were particularly eager to follow that trail.
We followed the trail of blood and found a large dark puddle of it at a crossroads. This creature is certainly dying. We kept on the trail.
We found the wretch in a larger room. This one was lit by torchlight from several sconces. The room was spacious and high-ceilinged and was divided into three aisles by two rows of columns. In the center of the room stood a bench of sorts made out of a distinctly different stone. Not the regular slate-like stone, but more like a hard limestone or even marble. Against this bench, the wretched albino was struggling.
Luca and I approached the creature while Lord Markus and Astrid secured our perimeter. Emrys guarded our rear. We disarmed it and I asked Luca to converse with it if able.
The exchange started slowly with the albino showing signs of resistance. I noticed that Luca issued a supernatural or spiritual command and much to its own shock and surprise, the albino complied with a gushing of guttural noises and hisses. I later found out that it revealed that it was seeking the Artifact, the Prison of the Sorcerers, the 144 Senhadrim. And that these gnomish rats refer to themselves as the Skaven.
Then the exchange takes a turn.
While Luca seemed to want to coax the creature to reveal even more, the creature resumed resisting and at some point even seemed to mock Luca. Without warning Luca strikes and kills the albino with one of those dreadful burst of energy he produces.
Neither Lord Markus nor I are fully convinced this was strictly necessary. Though Luca claims that he would not have been able to extract more from the creature. I fear that Luca has shown a significant weakness of spirit and was compelled by pride to act rashly and perhaps even wickedly.
This one keeps confusing me.
Just before we wanted to further explore the room we heard the rolling of metal on stone behind us. A cylinder of sorts, perhaps a barrel, rolled into the opening and exploding in a burst of fire and smoke. The entrance from which we had entered this room then collapsed!
We all automatically looked across the room to our one remaining exit. From there emerged a huge misshapen figure. A true abomination. An unholy marriage of flesh and metal. The body was that of a giant, but the head that of an overgrown rat. One of its arms was replaced for a large part with a crude and vicious looking blade. It was wearing a harness of sorts, which secured some kind of saddle on its back. In that saddle was seated a creature that looked like the gnomish rat we had found in the strange room and which we had tentatively called a taskmaster. This one was urging the brutish one forward with the crack of his whip.
I was ready. From behind the bench, I urged the others to concentrate on the rider and marked it for death with a guiding bolt. Lord Markus and Astrid positioned themselves on our flanks, while Emrys and Luca also attacked the rider. Emrys propelled the albino’s scythe at it to great effect, while Luca let fly another of his sickening bursts of energy.
The brute went for Astrid, Lord Markus then came into its rear. A little later I took position at Astrid’s side and tried to help as best I could. I have no illusions about my effectiveness, but I was keen to help and to keep urging the others forward. Lord Markus put an end to the rider, but was then distracted by new arrivals of gnomish rats. When the rider fell, a foul vapor emanated from the brute’s torso that singed my lungs rather badly.
While Lord Markus fended off the new arrival, Emrys and Luca had their hands full with two more arrivals. Meanwhile, Astrid and I barely held our own, and I had to ask for Sedna’s intercession to prevent Astrid from falling to its fierce attacks. But when the new arrivals were dealt with and we could concentrate our efforts on the brute, the brute was quick to fall.
When it fell, it burst open and exploded into a mist of the same foul, burning vapor. Again, I felt my lungs heave with flames and agony.
The struggle was brief but intense. We were all thoroughly exhausted and could barely remain standing. Emrys first hoped to capitalize on the burst of adrenaline from the skirmish, but was also compelled by his body to rest. Although he did quite usefully create a sheet of ice in front of our one remaining exit. We rested, amid the carnage.
After about an hour we had regained some of our strength and started examining the bodies and the strange bench. I took the whip. I don’t like this thing, but it might be useful if we ever encounter another one of these brutes. It seemed trained by the whip, so perhaps it can be coaxed away from us in the same way.
I examined the bench, especially the hole it had in its center and from which I could hear and smell water. I replenished my water-supply.
We also found some more relief-sculpture on the columns here. The theme was not warlike, but seemed to be communal in nature, perhaps even worshipful. The central theme appeared to be around creating a sanctuary safe from the daemonic horrors that besieged our ancestors.
Luca became increasingly impatient and was itching to continue. We acquiesced.
We continued for a while into a tunnel that was decidedly sloping downwards, until we found another intersection. We could hear a rushing noise, almost like a receding wave some distance to the right and decided to investigate.
The tunnel ultimately opened into a circular gallery of which only a part of the full circuit survives. The gallery overlooks a lower level with a lot of rubble and collapsed material. One partially surviving staircase offers access to the lower floor.
In the middle of the lower floor stood a peculiar phenomenon. A disc-shaped flat surface of utter darkness surrounded by a halo of bluish-white electrostatic energy. From it, or rather towards it, there seemed to emanate a perpetual rushing of air or water, much like a receding wave. Only continual. Around this phenomenon are numerous crystalline accretions. Are these stones warped by the unholy energy of this … whatever it is?
Around the thing are numerous crates, barrels and other supplies. We then noticed a group of these gnomish rats, again with an albino horned one as their leader. They were leading captives and carrying boxes. When they notices us they were startled and one by one, jumped into the blackness. Is this a portal then?
I wanted to descend immediately to help the captives. The others were quick to follow. We found a dwarf, a human, four orcs, and James. Each one was bound and gagged. Only James was unconscious.
While the rest of us bothered with the captives, Luca was far more interested in the portal and starting investigating it and experimenting with it. When Emrys tried to scold him for not participating, Luca responded with venomous remarks. Lord Markus then scolded Luca for misbehavior. In the end we settled for letting Luca continue while we busied ourselves with the captives. The human turned out to be missing guardsman called Bartosz and the dwarf was one of the engineers that had gone missing and is a named Brandomir.
The orcs were of impressive size but nonetheless feared for their lives. I tried to calm them and simply asked if we could expect harm from them. The one that spoke halting common said we couldn’t, so I removed his restrains and lent him my knife to release the others. Their names are Korath, Kadan, Summi, and Garr, where Korath is the only one to know some common speech.
The orcs were very surprised and wary but were thankful enough to answer some questions. From the captives we learned that the rat-folk used the orcs as slaves for hard labor. Especially tunneling. And that the rats are looking for artefacts. The orcs come from beyond Lyria and came here by taking two portals. The first when they were abducted from their homeland, the second one brought them here. The land from which these portals originate is supposedly inhabited by these gnomish rats and by daemons. It also seems that the gnomish rats have limited control over how and where their portals will open up.
Just when we were finished talking the Lyrian Knights appeared from another corridor on the gallery. Five of them. Their leader wears a gilded plate armor with bright blue inlays and is called Sir Arman de Courtenay. Then there are two with gilded armor and who carry swords and shields, these are named Sir David Longstrider and Lady Julie Lewisham. Then there are two with silvered armor and who carry halberds, these are named Sir Guillaume de Sansegal and Lady Madeline of Ashenvale. After the pleasantries they joined us on the lower floor.
After some discussion it was decided that we needed to band together. We have also convinced the orcs to join us. I hope that they will help us and that we may find a way for them to return to their homeland. The knights have been wandering the tunnels for a few days now and are uncertain about the way back out and are hoping that we might know the way. Unfortunately, the way we came in has become blocked.
Regarding the portal we have come to agreement to try and collapse the room in which it stands, with the hope of closing it. Brandomir was enthusiastic about this plan but said he would require his blasting powder. I suggested that we might start the collapse by freezing water in certain cracks and fissures. Brandomir was less enthusiastic but said that this might be possible, provided we could get the water to freeze in awkward places in the ceiling. With the blessings of Sedna, and some help from Emrys, I’m sure we can manage just that.
We also opened the chests that the gnomish rats were smuggling out of the tunnels. These were a veritable treasure trove. They included a pot of gold coins and a pot of rubies. An elven-made slender sword. A set of simple but elegant shorter blades. A staff with obsidian chips and a disturbing gem at its tip, a gem that almost seems to be a diorama of the heavens by night. Finally, there was a trident with maritime markings. Luca informed us that these items were magical but potentially not stable. I laid claim to the trident.
We are poised to leave.
James is still unconscious. Korath explained that the ‘sneak-thief’ had tried to steal away the shorter blades but was captured by the gnomish-rats. I’m glad to see that he survived and that his recklessness was not punished more harshly. I am impressed by his ability to remain undetected for so long. The gnomish rats had only captured him a few hours earlier. I’m glad he will be spared from slavery. We will have to see what becomes of him now.