War of Fire and Ice

Hunger of the Earth

Gramercy: 500xp apiece, the Coat of Eyes, crystal residuum(200gp), 50 gold coins apiece in payment from the merchant of Minoki.

Hunger, lord of seven hells
Wherein the single Serpent dwells,
With volumes drawn from pit to pit
Through fire and darkness infinite —
Hunger, sun of nether skies,
Thine ancient evil never dies,
For aye thy somber fulgors flame
On sunken worlds that have no name,
Man’s heart enthrones thee, still supreme,
Though the false sorcerers blaspheme.

Stepping carefully, Hours Len Braidpath, Driemz Darkblade, Ares, and Geth Corvine entered the fanged cave, muttering amongst themselves at the sudden inexcusable absence of Igby the Bard, whose attention had been diverted by a passing sparrow. The explorers’ steps were echoed by the faint droning chant that seemed to drift upon the night air. Ahead, red light could be seen, a light that upon investigation of the twisting passage proved to be a hall of eerie glyphs that scrawled across the walls as in constant uncertain movement.

A swirling mass of burning crimson lines covered the floor. The patterns slithered and shifted like a nest of vipers, and as they gazed upon this eldritch sight, they could hear strange whispers in the backs of their minds, voices cajoling, pleadings, warning… all manner of emotion intense and disconnected. It required a certain amount of concentration and self possession to sort through this psychic chaff, even to prevent it from overwhelming an overwrought brain, and Ares was unable to do so, for his religious mind was too vulnerable to the horrid implications of this place. For indeed, these glyphs represented all that remained of hundreds of people who had fallen victim to the insatiable Hunger that plagued this land, not even left with souls but mere echoes of an existence that was now nearly as if it had never been.

Further, the natural, unworked stone suddenly gave way to a chamber crudely hewn into regular dimensions. Here was another glyph, a swirling mass of burning crimson lines covered the floor. The patterns slithered and shifted like a nest of vipers, and as they gazed upon this eldritch sight, they could hear strange whispers in the backs of their minds, voices cajoling, pleadings, warning… all manner of emotion intense and disconnected. The red glyph guarded an alcove wherein lurked shadowy winged figures. The elf Driemz attempted to obscure the power of the glowing shapes with his powers of darkness, but as he stepped forward he was overcome by the crush of voices and he raised a weapon against his will and aimed at Geth Corvine! The fighter easily avoided the attack and Driemz soon came to his senses, but all were now convinced of some worthy treasure hiding beyond, so the fighter, the seeker and the sorcerer all leaped across the accursed space and found old worn statues of dragons with crystal shards embedded in their dorsal spines.
Finally, the four brave delvers came to what sounded like the source of the mad deep chanting, for the noise grew louder still. The tunnel opened into a wide cavern chamber whose walls were painted with pictures of eyes and savage acts of sacrifice. However, far more horrific than these images was the massive living eye embedded in the wall directly across the pit like, column filled room. A great golden orb set with twin pupils and a cold, alien gaze like a dragon that had lost its mind. The cavern floor beneath this monstrous apparition was a mottled patch of rough stone. Beneath the living idol, a foul orcish cleric lead a group of human and orc villagers in a dark rite. Glowing red sigils flowed across its gray skin—a match to the markings on the walls of the hall of living words.

Where the kneeling villagers’ clothes have been stripped off, all bear extra inhuman eyes embedded in their flesh. As the cultists moan and chant, each waves a curved, glittering blade chipped from volcanic glass.

A vicious battle ensued, ending with [[:geth]making a flying leap into the ichor bleeding baleful eye and burying his full blade within it, showering himself with gore. A narrow and sheer passage like a gullet was discovered within the stone socket of the baleful eye.

Clambering along the rough, narrow passage seemed unpleasantly akin to climbing down the throat of some great beast. The walls were studded with glowing crystal shards. The intruders were forced to walk single file, and in some places to squeeze through narrow gaps. The shaft twisted and turned, but always it descended—and the farther they went, the stranger it became. There was felt a terrible chill, although breath dis not freeze in the air. Whispers twisted —mad voices that faded as soon as the words were heard. The stone of walls and floor grew soft and spongy. This narrow twisting path was lit by pale lumps of glowing crystal. The floor became a strange thing, mottled and soft, sticky even, more flesh than stone. Then, as Geth stepped too closely, the treacherous floor suddenly gaped wide, a maw filled with crystalline teeth snapped at his legs! It was only after some brave leaping that the delvers came to a sudden opening of stone.

There, Torraash, Reeve of Blackroot awaited his foes, flanked by minions, holding the helpless form of Dorik the Mad as hostage, and guarded by a floating orb: one large eye over a gaping slavering maw, framed by tentacles each with its own blinking eye. A small beholder!

The battle was joined! The eyes of the beholder were as terrifying as legend had told, even this stunted specimen, for Geth and Driemz were driven to attack their friends and sent fleeing in terror, back across the crystalline maws in the corridor behind. The beholder slavered cruelly as it did its work, protected by the mighty iron fists of Torraash, who was protected by the Coat of Eyes. The brave explorers of an hour before became desperate fighters, praying for survival.
And then it was over. The wounded monk Dorik the Mad was revived, wild bearded and glassy eyed, he raved of prophecy and vision, but soon calmed under the stern administration of Ares’ clerical skills.

Emerging from the mountain of madness to face a lightening sky, the party wasted no time in heading south, avoiding the village and making their way by most direct route to Gate Pass. Unfortunately, an early frost and icy slowed their travel, and it was a long four weeks later, in the month of Winter’s Finding that the road weary group straggled into Gate Pass. The travelers felt lucky to be home, for tidings of war rode swift upon the wings of rumor.

...the story continues on the occasion of the Festival of Dreams a midwinter celebration that marks the beginning of the Free City’s independence.

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