A Rise of the Runelords campaign journal that turned into a book

7. The evil lies beneath

25th of Rova – Toilday

Beneath the Glassworks, Sandpoint

Drops of blood fell to the stone floor. “He deserves to die”, Frank stated to Harsk. He was still holding the half-elf’s ears in his grip, one in each hand. Harsk stepped closer to the barbarian. Easily two feet shorter in height, he responded to the half-orc’s intensive gaze in kind. He had no fear. Rather, he addressed Frank like the brute was a juvenile in need of fatherly scolding.

“Frank, we should not stoop to his level”, he started, pointing at the half-elf  without taking his eyes from the brute. Positive, godly energy emanated from his fingertips, and the rush of blood stopped from Tsuto’s head where his ears had been. Wounds closed and the man woke again, eyes wide open and gasping for air. He was still in considerable pain. “He has done terrible things, but I will not tolerate it if you execute a helpless man.”

Frank snorted. Ilori shook her head. “No, Frank is right. He almost killed his sister. He killed his father. He cannot be redeemed. He’s beyond that. He’s beyond justice.” The fire in her eyes still burned brightly.

Blah blah, right, wrong, black, white, I thought to myself. “We need to be pragmatic here”, I intervened. “Tsuto might have information that might prove valuable to us. Especially about the possible second attack.” The barbarian turned to me, growingly irritated. “Pointy-ears, he’s not talking and I have doubts in your skill as an interrogator.” I shrugged, oblivious to his insult. “Like I said, every man breaks eventually. We just need time. Killing him now denies us the chance to learn more.”

“Bah”, Frank dismissed me. “Too much talk. I say we finish him.”

Vidarok hadn’t said anything yet, but he didn’t look happy. Harsk shook his head and turned to leave. “Well, if you want to kill this man in cold blood, then I won’t be present to witness it.” At that moment, we heard a weak voice from Ameiko’s cell.

“..Master Harsk”, she called the cleric, “please.. you must stop my brother.” Harsk hurried to the cell and to Ameiko who was lying on a thin, hard mattress. She was still delirious. Harsk kneeled so he could hear her. I stepped to the cell door.

“Tsuto is going to burn the town..” Her consciousness was ebbing and flowing. “Master Harsk.. save my father..” Harsk took her hand but was unsure what to say. “Ameiko, my dear.. your father..” I didn’t allow him to finish his sentence as I approached Ameiko as soothingly as my cold and stern character allowed. “Ameiko, we have your father. He’s alive. Rest now, don’t worry.” I lied gently. Tsuto had talked to her and if Frank and Ilori were to kill him, we needed Ameiko mentally stable and above all, alive.

“Yes..” She was able to mutter before falling unconscious again. Harsk rose and walked past me, clearly displeased of my lies. I turned, and noted Ilori had come to the door as well. The raging flames had dissipated somewhat. Good.

“It’s obvious Tsuto knows more”, I said. “He told something to Ameiko, maybe to spite her, or to recruit her to his cause.” I drew a breath. “Nevertheless, killing him doesn’t help us, it only sates our appetite for death.” Harsk nodded sagely to my words. Ilori was looking more and more uncertain. “She might want to see him one more time”, she considered quietly. I looked at her and allowed myself a thin smile.

Vidarok did not have a definitive opinion, so ultimately only Frank was after Tsuto’s life. Finally he also yielded, and  we decided to spare the half-elf and take him to the town barracks for detainment. I picked up our sleeping hostess while Frank whipped Tsuto on his feet and forward.

Outside, people had gathered around the Glassworks. A murmur of surprise rolled over the crowd as they saw me carrying wounded Ameiko, but their surprise was twice as big when Frank and leashed Tsuto emerged outside. We didn’t stay to explain ourselves. Ilori came with me to the cathedral, while Frank, Harsk and Vidarok went to the barracks.

I carried Ameiko in my arms. Bruised, torn but sleeping peacefully, she looked so vulnerable, and a feeling of pity sparked somewhere within me. Ilori was keeping an eye on her as well and I could see she was still very much worried of her. “How are you doing?” I asked, referring to the beating she had endured while fighting Tsuto. “I’ll be fine”, she answered absentmindedly. Her wounds, bruises and swelling had healed nicely already thanks to Harsk’s magic, but some visible marks remained. “It’ll hurt tomorrow”, I told her simply. “I guess so”, she answered, equally briefly. She was not keen on making conversation and I could understand her.

When we arrived to the cathedral, high priest Zantus was already waiting for us. Word had travelled quickly across town. Seeing us, he hurried us to the cathedral entrance and motioned me to set her down to a cot. I did work as asked.

“What happened to her?” He asked us. “Tsuto lured her to the Glassworks, beat her up, had his goblins abuse her and let her to rot in a cell beneath the building. When we found her, she was barely alive”, Ilori replied dryly. I could see her hands balled into fists as she recalled Ameiko’s fate. Zantus regarded us baffled, but began checking up on Ameiko’s health, feeling her temperature and pulse. “Tsuto? We haven’t seen him in years.. He is in Sandpoint?”

I nodded. “Yes, we apprehended him. The rest of our group is taking him to the town barracks for questioning and detainment. We believe he was behind the attack to Sandpoint.” Zantus couldn’t believe his ears. “We knew Tsuto was unstable, and vengeful, but organizing the attack.. but if you say so, and he did this to his sister, then it must be so.”

“Can you take care of Ameiko here in the cathedral”, I asked, unwilling to move her unnecessarily should it weaken her already fragile condition. “Yes yes, of course, we’ll find her a place in the cathedral so she can rest and recuperate”, the old priest replied. Ilori added: “We found bodies of the workers slain in the Glassworks. You should also send someone to take care of them.” Zantus agreed. “Of course, I’ll send some of my cult followers there immediately.”

Content with the situation, we bade farewell to Zantus and Ameiko and left for the town barracks.

**

The others had left Tsuto to the hands of the surprised town guards. Harsk was positive that Tsuto’s dungeon was enough to hold him in, so we headed to the town hall to see the mayor.

Mayor Deverin was as surprised to hear of Tsuto’s actions as Zantus was. She happily took responsibility of Tsuto’s inprisonment, but surprised us by telling he’d eventually be sent to Magnemar for trial, as Sandpoint had no means to try and judge prisoners. Frank was furious. He was close to breaking into the barracks and slaying Tsuto right there and then, but we cooled him down. None of us were happy – not even Harsk, who realized there was a good chance Tsuto might escape during the transit – or even be rescued by his allies. We managed however to postpone his transfer until all valuable information could be… beaten out of him.

Deverin shed some light on the mysterious tunnel we had seen under the Glassworks. It turned out that it was an old smuggling route used by robbers and criminals during the old days of Sandpoint. The mayor felt it was no longer in use – a misconception considering that a group of goblins with Tsuto at their head had entered the town unharmed and unnoticed using the same route. Deverin urged us to close the tunnel for good, so we decided to return there immediately and investigate.

We walked back to the Glassworks. Zantus’ followers had already arrived, and were sanctifying the dead and loading them to carts. Harsk exchanged some words with them, and we headed back into the darkness beneath the building, our dark-visioned cleric at the fore.

**

“Shh, I can hear something”, Frank stopped us when we had travelled a good mile, walking first northeast before making a sharp turn west. We had come to a crossroads, where the dug earthy tunnel had changed into a corridor with stone floors, walls and ceilings. I guessed we had arrived under another, unknown building.  The path diverted into two routes, one going forward, and one turning right. Me, Vidarok and Ilori took some steps forward, her dancing fires lighting our way. Frank hesitated, gripped his earthbreaker tighter and went right, alone.

Something roared in the darkness where Frank had gone. Instead of going back, I sprinted forward, seeing another crossroad with a path going right, expecting to use it to flank whatever Frank had met. I heard a bestial roar and Frank’s warcry. Ilori and Vidarok didn’t follow me, but one of the fire sorceress’ dancing lights floated behind me. I kept running, but didn’t find a route back to Frank – instead, I found a door. I stopped in my tracks.

Boom. A soft bang echoed in the tunnels, and I could feel the ground tremble once, very lightly. Dust fell from the ceiling.

“Got it”, Frank’s yelled at us, his laughter audible.

“I found a door in”, I replied, calling the others to me. The heavy looking stone door was in an entry hall of some kind. Harsk examined the structure, awed by its antiquity and marvelling its craftsmanship. We gathered around, and carefully entered the door into a yet another dark stony corridor.

The place was dead. We walked a few minutes, unhindered and not hearing nor seeing anything, before we reached a room that lead to four directions. In the middle of it stood a beautiful, ornate statue of a woman. We were drawn to it, fascinated, but closer inspection revealed its darker side. It was a statue of a demonic mistress, perhaps a succubus.

“What a beautiful weapon it has”, Harsk noted with a whisper, pointing at a ranseur with ivory hand-holds the statue was carrying in its arms. I frowned. I had no means to detect magic but the statue smelled of evil and bad omens.

This of course didn’t slow Frank down. He walked past us and with a sharp jerk, removed the weapon from the statue’s arms. I inhaled, expecting him to trip an ambush, a trap, anything, but nothing happened. I exhaled in irritation. Frank was merrily inspecting the weapon.

With four different paths to take, we had to make our first choice. One, we realized, led back to where we had come from, so three routes remained. One, leading north, was closed by a stone door. Other led into a long passageway. And the third, the one we chose to investigate first, had stairs that led up a floor.

We carefully traversed the straight steps forward, me and Vidarok at the fore. At the top of the stairs, we entered a narrow, circular room, which looked like a silo. Light flooded us from above and I couldn’t see how far up the room continued. I covered my eyes to see better, and spotted movement somewhere above.

The world paused and my head was filled with utter, devastating agony.

A horrible scream thundered in the silo and my head felt like someone was tearing my brains out through my skull. I fell on my knees, trying to cover my ears in vain. Tears flowed from my eyes and I was completely lost in pain for ten seconds or so, but later heard what had occurred during those moments.

Vidarok had not succumbed to the painful scream. I probably paid a heavy price there for my slightly better hearing. Instead, he had challenged the beast that had brought me low – a hovering, tentacled monster with only a head for a body. It had approached me hungrily, its flailing tentacles trying to reach my trembling body. Vidarok had struck it once with his staff, but it was the carmine lady who had saved me by storming into the room and burning the beast into ash with a single, powerful fire spell.

As I regained my composure, Vidarok and Ilori helped me on my feet. My head still swam, but I urged us to continue further. The pain subsided quickly – above all I was disappointed in my inability to spot the monster before it had jumped on us. I chastised myself for being too rash and unmindful of risks. Frank was obviously having an effect on my normal behaviour.

The route ended in with a staircase leading up which was blockaded by tons of rubble and stones. Harsk estimated that the passage collapse was not recent – it had occurred decades, even hundreds of years ago. We turned back and returned to the room with the demon statue.

We had two routes remaining to be searched – one behind a solid-looking door and one leading down a long passageway. We decided to have a look at what lied behind the door.

We found ourselves in a dungeon faintly lighted by everburning torches and with a dozen or so cells arranged neatly side by side at two sides of the room. All the cells looked empty. The dungeon had two levels – we stood on a wooden platform, and the cells were at a lower level. As we made our way forward in the platform, two more aberrations launched themselves at us from hiding. Vidarok, at the front, bore the brunt of the attack – the other aberration landed a blow on the druid, drawing blood and his ire. Frank charged past me and quickly pounded one aberration into bits. Vidarok switfly took care of the second with his staff, breaking its skull.

Excluding the hiding aberrations, nothing inhabited the dungeon. We walked over the platform to a door and into an old torture chamber. I shivered slightly, remembering Horryn’s torture chambers in Canorate. The chamber was still full of different instruments, and ages old blood stains covered the walls and the floor. I faintly noted some scribbling on one wall before it disappeared right before my eyes. Harsk saw it too, and commented seeing other disappearing texts in other rooms of this subterranean structure. We were truly walking within something ancient and malevolent. I readied myself yet again for unknown horrors that surely awaited us.

The torture chamber forced us again to make a choice – go forward or turn right. We proceeded forward. I led us through a narrow passage to an opening. We had arrived to another large dungeon. There I heard multitude of low voices and, in the low light, saw a single three-armed goblin monstrosity minding something. I crouched, signalling the others behind me to wait quietly. I weighed my options. Like the previous dungeon, the room housed cells of sorts, several pits covered with rotten planks nailed together. There was no cover in the room, and the monster could’ve turned at any second, so I decided to use my advantage of surprise to my benefit. I drew my bow, aimed and let loose an arrow.

My arrow hit it squarely in the back, but failed to kill it outright. The goblin screamed at me in anger and surprisingly quickly bolted forward. In the heat of the moment I took note that it steered clear of the rotten planks covering the pits. I guess they didn’t hold much weight, I thought to myself as I drew another arrow from my vine.

Viradok was anticipating my move so he rushed past me to engage the goblin in close quarters combat. His first strike missed as the goblin parried his staff, but its response, a sideways cut from a silver dagger, didn’t connect either. It did however fly an inch across my face, ruining my concentration so well that I dropped my arrow as I shielded my face with my free hand.

Frank and Harsk joined us in melee. The goblin miraculously, probably thanks to its three hands, was able to deflect and parry their blows. Realizing it was painfully outnumbered, it resorted to dirty tricks and spat a large gobbet of poisonous phlegm at me and Harsk. The dwarf ducked, making himself even smaller, and I pivoted, evading the poison.

The cheap shot enraged our barbarian, who took a better hold of his earthbreaker, roared incoherently and with an upwards strike slammed the poor monster into a wall behind it. Rubble and black blood flew and the beast croaked in agony, but it didn’t die. Frank’s mouth fell slightly open and he regarded the goblin with amazement.

Big mistake, I had the time to think as the goblin regained its wits and launched itself back at the barbarian, handaxe, dagger and longsword cutting and slashing madly. Frank, still stunned, couldn’t defend himself from all the attacks and the goblin managed to land a deadly blow with its longsword. I saw its tip rip out of Frank’s back with a shower of half-orc blood, and the barbarian grunted and fell on his knees. Seeing his comrade fall to the goblin’s lucky blow, Vidarok cried in fury and hammered his staff down on the beast, finally killing it.

Harsk went to work immediately, freeing his hands and quietly whispering prayers to his goddess Iomedae. In seconds, the deadly wounds started to close and Frank straightened himself.

“That’s nothing”, he declared, rubbing his stomach where the longsword had penetrated his flesh, “I’ve taken worse blows. Let’s move on.” And so we did.

**

Beyond the second dungeon, unbelievably, was a study room. And not a typical one either.

The room was charged with potent energy that made our skin prickle and the hair in our backs rise. Something supernatural had taken hold of the room – we saw various items floating in the air. It was like the laws of nature had been nullified. Lightning struck and buzzed at the walls. I remained back but the party members more inclined towards the elemental and magical approached the room in awe. Ilori summoned her telekinetic powers and drew one particular floating object, a scroll, to her hand.  Vidarok, similarly fascinated, lept into the room and was immediately floating like the items in the room. I think I heard him laugh in delight. Lightning sparked across the room but did not hit the half-orc. Neither was he really that caring of the flashing energies.

He gathered the floating items and with Ilori’s help, stepped back into the passageway. He was grinning widely.

Among the items were scrolls, a book, a full wine bottle, a dead raven and dead worms. I didn’t care less about them, so Harsk and Vidarok took the magical items. For some reason I didn’t want to even know, Frank wanted the dead raven and worms. Perhaps he thought about adding those to his gruesome collection of dead creatures outside Rusty Dragon. Hopefully not, for Ameiko’s business’ sake, I mused.

Having reached yet another dead-end, we backtracked to the ghastly torture chamber and searched the second door. I had a moment of deja vu when behind it we found another study room. This one however was free of supernatural powers. Instead, at the back wall there were three more doors. Without consulting each other, me, Vidarok and Frank stepped in and each of us chose a door. I went in first and found an empty closet – or a prayer or study booth – I didn’t know. With my keen eyes I did notice another scroll in a dark corner that I reached to, grabbed and handed out to Harsk.

Vidarok opened his door, shrugged, and closed the door. I guess he saw nothing of importance.

Frank opened his door the Frank way. By charging it with excessive violent force. But this time it actually served him well, as the door crashed into a skeleton warrior, that was immediately animated by the sudden disturbance. But Frank gave it no quarter. His first swing (that he later said was a miss because of his surprise) didn’t connect, but his second was accompanied by a mad scream of rage that simply obliterated the awakening skeleton into tiny bits of bone.

We all offered the brute spontaneous applause, gathered the items the skeleton had carried and continued our back-tracking to the room with the horrible, erotic demon statue. We had only one path unexplored, so we took it bravely with Vidarok at the helm.

The path led us to an atrium of sorts. It was well lid, with a number of everburning torches. This time, we all saw mystical texts written in some unknown language appear and vanish on the walls around us. At one side there was an altar, and on its top stood a single leering skull made of crystal, with a burning candle sitting on its forehead. I smelled trouble as Vidarok continued further, opening the last dungeon door we’d enter that day.

“I can see something”, he called to us, uncertainty in his voice. Then he cursed aloud. “It’s a demoness! A flying one!”

Ilori’s eyes sparked with fire as she conjured a mage armor around her figure. “What should we do?” Vidarok asked, a good question considering we almost had lost Frank in our previous fight. I took and nocked an arrow in anticipation. Frank and Harsk readied their weapons.

..And Vidarok propelled himself into the room, having made the decision himself and seemingly uninterested in our opinions on the matter.

“Curse you, druid!” Harsk spat and we ran after him. When we got in, there was no sign of the flying demoness. There was only a small chapel, probably 30 feet wide, with a high ceiling, almost 40 feet high. I frowned as I couldn’t make out the enemy and was starting to disbelieve what our unkept friend had said. But Vidarok seemed dead serious about the threat. I heard an empty glass potion smash into the floor and the druid groan deeply. The groan kept deepening and trembled and my mouth fell agape as I saw Vidarok grow in size in front of my very eyes. Veins in his back and arms pulsed and shook like ropes bound too tight as they struggled to support the enlargening beast. His muscles spasmed and his knuckles cracked as he took a better hold of his quarterstaff. Even his weapon was enlarging, from a stick of wood into a massive log. After his rapid transformation, Vidarok let out a deep snarl that reverberated in the chapel. Now ten feet tall, he made Frank look like a little boy at his side.

Then the demoness appeared from nowhere and attacked the least intimidating person in our group. A tiny dagger flew from her hand towards Ilori, but it was deflected by the carmine lady’s mage armor. To our astonishment, the dagger didn’t fall but it turned in midair like it had a mind of its own and flew back to the demon bitch’s hand. I had the time to take a shot at her before she disappeared again but I missed. The cursed creature was perhaps two feet tall, a very small target. Her flying ability or her invisibility didn’t help one bit. I notched another arrow.

The little demon appeared again, continuing to harass Ilori. But this time she was ready. As the winged creature was about to throw her dagger, Ilori made a quick gesture with her hand and the dagger was torn away from the demon’s grip. It clattered to the floor and the demon hissed at sneering sorceress before disappearing.

While we were concentrated on trying to find and kill the demon, an aberration pushed itself out of a pool of magical molten lava at the back of the chapel. My eyes widened – the demon was a challenge of its own but fighting a number of aberrations at the same time – this might prove too much for us. The others however welcomed the new enemy. This was something they could see and hurt. Frank, Harsk and massive Vidarok moved to flank the beast and slew it easily. But as the others beat the aberration, the flying demon saw its chance and hurled itself at Ilori. Reappearing from behind its shield of invisibility, it clawed and tried to bite her in the neck, but managed to score only minor scratches. Ilori yelled in disgust and fought her off. I took my chances as well, and loosed an arrow at the creature, but in my hesitation missed. Out of the others, Vidarok was closest to Ilori and he rolled his bulk and stepped towards us.

“It’s still right above her, Vidarok! Slam it to the walls!” I yelled at the druid, pointing to the air above the fire sorceress. Ilori took the hint and ducked as Vidarok swung his log-like staff over her head. I heard a faint crack and a shrill cry – he had hit something. But it was still miraculously alive.

For a moment, nothing happened. I readied my bow. Vidarok sniffed, and Harsk and Frank kept their eyes sharply in the air. Then the creature came to view close to Ilori and Vidarok and gestured something with its hands, pointing at the carmine lady. A light green pallor rose to Ilori’s face and she gagged, holding her stomach. Dark magic, I frowned in anger and quickly shot an arrow – too quickly, as its tip brushed the oversized druid’s arm as it tried to strike at the demon. The half-orc grunted in irritation and I offered curt apology. Harsk was equally disgusted by the dark magicks as I was and he bellowed warcries and oaths to his goddess. As he launched himself towards the demon, it turned its little head at the dwarf and cast yet another spell. It’s eyes turned completely black and Harsk skidded to an immediate halt. His mouth fell open and instead of attacking, he started to take careful steps back, as if he was afraid of attacking. Traako, I cursed inwardly, how can she have such an effect on the stout and bold cleric?

But this was the opening Frank had been waiting for. Remaining untypically silent, he leaped forward as the demon was attacking the mind of the cleric. The demon was still hovering in the air, but it was close to the ground. Close enough for Frank. The brute had a firm grip at the end of the earthbreaker’s shaft and with all his strength he swung at the demon. The hit connected with ground-shattering force and the demon barely remained in one piece. Its body was mangled and thrown into the air before it splatted to the floor good twenty feet away from Frank. The brute lifted his weapon in the air as a sign of victory, and I sighed in relief.

**

“Good job, Frank”, I applauded the half-orc as I made my way to the corpse of the demon. I made sure it was dead and with my kukri, cut its head off. This made the brute unhappy. “Hey, I wanted to stuff that one”, he complained. I shrugged. I wanted to present this to Tsuto, if this happened to be the demoness his journal described.

Vidarok returned to his normal self and went to soothe Harsk. The dwarf was still shaking, but was regaining his wits. The nauseating effect Ilori had endured had passed the moment Frank had struck the demon, and she signaled us she was all right. We collected the valuables the demon had carried and decided to call it a day.

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