Session 7 - Shrine of the Oracle, part 1
I am weary; we have fought many battles this day, and our rest this evening is well earned. It is chilling to think that we will be facing the same dangers that conquered those adventurers, yet their bodies served as a beacon of warning to tread carefully, much to our benefit. As I sit on the steps of the oracle’s temple and reflect on this day, I thank Morradin that my companions and I yet live.
The murderer was brought to justice and hung, though her accomplice disappeared without a trace. I suppose it is good that we were able to assist this town in discovering the foul plot that lead to her demise. Still, these human settlements interest me little; there is no history; every inch of ground has been trodden, leaving no stone unturned. I long for the darkness of the cavern, to feel stone beneath my boots. When a messenger arrived from the priestess of the oracle, however, I was intrigued. The line of the oracles descends many generations deep, past the breaking of the world. The messenger said the summons was to thank us for our good deeds, yet I knew that some deeper purpose called us thence. After gathering our supplies, we departed. An uneventful journey of two days’ time brought us to her doorstep.
My hunch was right. Though she did indeed thank us for braving the perils of that foul place, she had news of an adventuring party that had left not long ago to clear out a nearby cavern of monsters. Her concern was that they should have returned by then, but they had not. Her offer of 250 gold for the party was paltry, but when she offered to divine the future for each member, my heart leapt within me; such a gift might give me the opportunity to predict where I might find more ancient artifacts! There was some deliberation amongst the party, but we resolved to search for the missing adventurers. She also asked us to continue their mission of clearing out the cavern, should we fail to find them... alive.
We traveled through a dense forest, following her directions, strange though they were (I am so uncomfortable with these wooded lands! How refreshing it was to set foot in the cavern when we arrived), and came to a hatch in the ground hewn of wood. Already my heart beat faster and my feet longed to tread those stony corridors! Though my dislike of the elf never wanes, I admit that Garsan’s ability to track a quarry is unmatched. He found the former party’s footsteps in the dust and grime of the first hallway and followed them all the way to their end with little trouble. Unfortunately, their trail led only a few rooms deep before we found their corpses all in a pile. There were five—three humans, a dwarf and a half-orc—trapped under a large net, their bodies half-eaten. Several of the cords were frayed and cut, and it seems they struggled to free themselves before being killed. Upon further inspection, we found bite marks of different sizes and shapes; any number of foul creatures could dwell in those caverns. I remember uncontrollable chills running up my spine (though I’d not admit it to the elves), knowing that certain death could lie in wait around any corner of this dungeon. We decided to drag the bodies to the entrance, but not before… acquiring any goods that might be of use. They had a few interesting items worth looking into, some magical. I also checked the dwarven body; his face and the mark of his clan were none that I recognized, but I mourned his passing still.
This task complete, we began searching the rest of the cavern. A shield we recovered turned out to be a shield of light, with the ability to illuminate dark places. I have no need of its light, nor does most of the party save Ignatius; however, I was chosen to lead the way. I was not surprised, as my stalwart defenses proved to be formidable against most of the creatures we faced.
Upon entering, I was caught off guard when a rock floated off the ground and hurled itself at me! Thinking it might be some kind of rock elemental, I turned to watch the rock, but it didn’t move. Then, when another rock lifted off the ground, I leapt into action. Apparently, the others had the same revelation after me, for we began to attack around the rock. It seemed we were getting nowhere, as several minutes later, rocks were still being lifted and tossed at us. Fortunately, someone had the brains to splash the creature with holy water, revealing a formerly invisible figure. Garsen’s next swing cut straight through the creature, but someone shouted that magic weapons should work on it. Zorintino, whose rope had become enchanted by Dasred’s dweomer from the other day, managed to entangle the creature, and we proceeded to beat it down. The poltergeist disintegrated after the killing blow. It seemed the caverns held a greater variety of creatures then only those that could kill with a bite.
In the next room, we discovered a corpse holding a scroll case, covered in mystical writing. I am filled with anticipation that the case is from the old world. I hope to learn its origins upon returning to town. We traveled on, finding another corpse, this time of a gnoll. The foul creature had nothing to offer us. Also in the room was a large reinforced door. We searched its exterior, but were confounded. I was unable to find any means of entry, and even Tytus was thwarted. We resolved to return later, in the hopes that something deeper in the bowels of the caverns would reveal its secret.
We continued our search, and entered a seemingly nondescript room. The search for ancient history ever in mind, I decided to search a pile of rubble in the corner (the quantity of priceless goods buried in obscure places has always amazed me).
However, I was blinded by my desire. Upon moving the first stone, a giant centipede leapt out and attacked! It was unable to pierce my armor, but it was followed by several more, and the others were waylaid by the insects. We managed to stave them off, but not before Zorintino was stricken with a poisonous bite. The poor gnome fell, and was rendered paralyzed. Knowing that we had little time to spare, I racked my mind for spells that could free him of this intangible snare. Fortunately, Garsen had obtained a magical ring from our previous adventure that allows its wearer to move more freely. Thinking quickly, he slipped it onto Zorintino’s finger, and he was freed from the poison’s clutches. Knowing that the poison still ran in his veins, he drank an antivenom and tried removing the ring. The potion was ineffective, however, so we put the ring back on his finger and decided to keep it on until the poison wore off.
The threat of such a deadly poison in other inhabitants of this cavern shook us all to the bone. We decided to return to the upper world and search for ingredients with which we could make further antivenoms (who knew that all those hours of studying herbalism at the monastery would ever prove useful!). Our search yielded fruit, as we were able to make a few more potions. While we were toiling to make these brews, Garsan was off traipsing in the forest. He returned with a rabbit in tow, claiming that he had made a new friend (the elf may be good for some things, but he’s spent a little too much time talking to trees and dancing with foxes, methinks).
We knew the day was wearing on, but we wanted to continue searching for a short while. We returned first to the room where we fought the centipedes, and undaunted by the previous results of searching in potentially dangerous places, I delved into thick moss that lined one wall. I was rewarded by a brick that gave way, revealing an earring, possibly magical or of ancient origins. When we continued exploring, we were attacked yet again. The creature we encountered in the next room was bizarre; a mushroom the size of an elf approached us, while making a sound like the creaking of a thousand rusted wagon wheels! The sound was unbearable; too long amidst that racket and I fear I would have gone mad! We fell upon the disgusting thing and summarily tore it to pieces. Someone—I believe it was Zorintino—had heard of such things, and informed us that its flesh was edible. Though I was disgusted with the thought, we set to cooking and eating its remains. It was… surprisingly good.
Upon opening the door to the next room, the light of my shield revealed a room full of giant rats. They caught us off guard and swarmed upon us, but as soon as they reached the place where we stood, Zorintino jumped in front and unleashed a wave of fire that burned every vermin in the room to a crisp (although gnomes might be nothing more than less-hardened cousins of the dwarves, Zorintino’s magic is very dependable. I’m beginning to trust my companions more and more each day).
By this time, we were exhausted. With several options still left to explore, and no telling how deep the caverns ran, we resolved to return to the oracle. We hoisted the bodies and hauled them back with us—the trip was only a few miles, but it was a harrowing one. Carrying a decaying body was not among my highest priorities for the day, and it was certainly a task my ancestors would have looked down upon, but being one of the more stalwart members of the party, I took it upon myself to carry one.
The oracle was glad to see us return safely just as dusk was settling. She was also glad to learn the fate of the former party, though of course sad to see their demise. We informed her that we could not guess the extent of the caverns, so we must return in the morning to continue clearing it. I am all too happy to continue with this quest, as the prospect of uncovering previously undiscovered artifacts for my monastery fills me with joy. Already we have encountered more types of monsters than in any of our previous adventures in these caves. It is a wonder that we still have our lives, and as I gaze out on the sunset from here on the steps, I only hope to return tomorrow with as much (and perhaps a few ancient relics).
~ Drolund, the Intransigent