Jack Entry 4
15 Eleint (Continued)
It was a trial, even for the four of us, to bring Liberius’s body back to Barter’s Pass. When we arrived, I set about digging our fallen companion’s grave. While I worked, I couldn’t help but feel regret that I hadn’t known Liberius – Kalan – better. He’d always been jolly and quick to share anything he had with his fellow man. He’d taken joy in all aspects of his life, and I knew that it was more than just the Lliiran dogma. It was his own heart – his inherent goodness. The man took pains to spread the good feeling he must have experienced every day. It’s just who he was. As blisters formed on my hands and sweat poured out of my body, I could imagine him sitting off to the side, singing a song while offering me a pint and insisting that I take a break. Perhaps I’d known him well enough, after all. I smiled bitterly as I felt the tears begin to flow. The loss was sinking in.
I think it was Dara who pulled me away from my work and insisted that I go wash up and let someone else finish the grave. I saw a large farmer whose name escapes me behind her with an uncomfortable expression on his face. I handed him the shovel and saw the relief in his eyes given a task to do. I understood completely. I shall have to remember to find the man and thank him later. Dara walked me back to the inn, talking about the eulogy she’d prepared for the old friar. I remember nodding vaguely as she spoke, not really hearing her words, but using the cadence of her voice to keep my feet moving one in front of the other.
Fritz is downstairs making arrangements for a wake for the brave Lliiran. Kalan’s death, much like his life, will be about creating as much joy as possible for everyone around. I should put my pen down and go celebrate his life with the others. I will miss you, Kalan Liberius. Tonight, we do you honor, Joybringer.
16 Eleint, 1519 DR
This morning started with a hangover, as is only appropriate given the amount of celebrating we did last night. Onyx was nowhere to be seen, but Chipper and Tegalad seemed almost eager to get back to the hive regardless. I was less certain about that course, especially considering our lack of healing magic with the loss of our cleric friend. That concern was unexpectedly answered from below the breakfast table.
A wild-looking dwarf with twigs in his frizzy beard yawned loudly, and Chipper handed the man an ale. He smacked his lips and nodded his thanks before downing the mug in one gulp. This odd man introduced himself as Ixtab, and I recognized the name from one of Klaudius’s stories. He apparently knew Tegalad already, and the elf explained that our unkempt breakfast guest was a spirit-talker. I nodded vaguely as they informed Ixtab about the recent happenings in Barter’s Pass, and frowned as a thought occurred to me.
Where was Klaudius? I hadn’t seen him or any of his daughters at the funeral last night, and that had me concerned. I announced my intention to go check on the Harkness Family, and the others offered to accompany me. If there was trouble, as I strongly suspected, I would need the help.
The Harkness house was empty, the fireplace cold. Ixtab found the old farmer’s pipe sitting, fully loaded, on the front porch. I asked my keen-eyed companions to see if they could find any tracks leading away from the house, and they did not disappoint. We followed the trail of what the dwarf claimed was a single humanoid carrying a heavy load. Another abduction? Kuix – who had vanished, according to Fritz – had told us that his mistress Gennevive could assume different guises, and we already suspected that she’d taken the likeness of Trista Harkness...we hurried along the path, which led us back to the abandoned house.
We bypassed the former egg chamber – Chipper said he could see the queen surrounded by eggs in the large chamber below – and proceeded into the feeding cave that the dark elf had described to us yesterday. We swiftly exterminated the few kruthiks there, discovered a tunnel leading to a small chamber with a freshwater pool, and followed the last remaining path around to the lower floor of the queen’s new hatchery.
She was surrounded only by hatchlings, which we quickly dispatched before taking the fight to the larger kruthik. Our second encounter was no easier than had been the first, and I was almost gutted when I took a misstep in an effort to heal the dark elf. Fortunately, Ixtab was a competent healer, and he restored me to fighting fit before anyone else was killed. Soon after, the queen lay dead at our feet. I briefly wished bitterly that we’d been so blessed less than a day ago.
Searching the large chamber, we discovered no small number of gold coins and – more surprisingly – a secret door in the stone wall. It opened on a spiral staircase that led us down even deeper into the ground, depositing us in a small antechamber that looked like it belonged in a crypt…or a temple. Of more pressing concern, one patch of the darkness did not give way to the sunrod in my hands, and then it advanced on our position. Ixtab and I were drawn into the murk, and I could feel my vitality being drained away by the unholy cloud. I could not break free on my own, but I found that summoning the holy power of Ilmater into my sword before striking at the blackness seemed to work quite well.
We eventually managed to burn the cloud away completely, and set to examining the walls of this chamber, passing over the old iron-bound wooden doors. Doing so, we discovered a secret door on an otherwise bare wall. Chipper descended the spiral stairwell beyond, and a minute or so later he returned with none other than Trista Harkness! The girl had been kept captive alongside Thadius Markins, who kept being taken away by a strange-looking woman. She also mentioned concern for his sanity because he kept muttering something about a “rose that grows in darkness” or something like that. We knew we could not protect her among us, so we escorted her back to the surface then on to the Krundle Family farm. We gave her into Thrugg’s care, informing the old farmer that we’d eliminated the kruthiks, the true cause of the loss to his herd, and he was grateful. The girl taken care of, we returned to the buried temple.
We followed Chipper down the secret stairwell into a room lined with cells along one wall. He pointed out the cell that she’d been kept in, and then moved over to the door, the only remaining exit. It opened into a long hallway, that descended several steps after about fifty feet. The dark elf proceeded down the hallway, cursing after a clicking noise indicated a triggered trap. Spikes had sprung up from the floor impaling his foot before retracting again. He grumbled as we brought the light forward and the other two pointed out several more pressure plates in the hallway. Chipper set to work disabling the trapped sections of the floor.
The second one gave him more trouble than the first, and then a ghost-like form emerged from the ceiling and began to attack us. I rushed forward and struck at the ghost with a holy strike, searing its “body” with radiant energy. It howled in pain recoiling and then flinging me backwards and onto another trapped section of the floor. Fortunately, my armor protected me from the spikes. The malevolent spirit couldn’t (and didn’t) last long alone against us, and after it dissipated, one of my sharp-eyed companions spotted a hidden panel on the wall. Chipper tinkered with it for a few seconds, then declared the floor of the hallway safe.
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