This. Has been a long, frustrating journey. From the recovery of a book, to the recovery of stolen children we have traipsed back and forth between the Dawn Caves and Naru, ventured into the camps of the Hill Folk for answers and back again to Naru. We missed the arrival of supply ships and The Lord General of the Armies. We weathered some severe storms and nursed each other back to health. Druson and I have become fast friends, shield mates, lovers. We were slaves ourselves for a very brief breath of time. We have grown, we have learned, we have seen ghosts and manticore, giants mining rocks and Lamass sunning themselves on top of huge rock formations. We have traipsed through mountains on ancient Dwarven roads beautifully carved in the living rock, scrambled down scree slopes even a goat would think twice about… even seen a sailing ship grounded in a small inland creej…. all of that, on the hunt of slavers and their mysterious, robed buyer… has lead us to where we are now. In the belly of the Iron Halls, wounded, weary, unprovisioned and lost.
And here we sit. In a room full of oil barrels, entrances leading to other store rooms and the mining tunnels themselves, battered, bruised, weary and I say again… lost. Oh, the trail here was rather straight forward. In the slaver’s camp, after I killed all that stood and fought, we found tools of their trade, the poison they were using to control their charges and a map. A much better map than the scrap of rice paper we found in the debris of their camp within the Dawn Caves that had lead us to their next camp. This one showed the route we followed to get to the large holding camp, and then a trail continuing on along the base of the mountains. Still a bit vague and more of a strip map than anything, but with very distinct landmarks for charting one’s path… which ended at a drawn pair of doors labeled Iron Halls. Which we followed with relative ease. Sometimes we found evidence of the slave train passing, but mostly we just found the landmarks… and wound up facing huge doors set into the side of a cliff face, wide, short steps leading up to the landing, magical lights casting a golden glow over them during the night hours. There was no evidence of the passage of feet, but, no dust or dirt for a track to be left in. There was nowhere else the map could have lead to. No other choice but to go in.
That is where the “lost” part happens.
The main entrance chamber is interesting and very empty. We have a slight scare from three dwarven skeletons set to guard what appears to be a caved in hallway…. they don’t move. After an entire winter of fighting undead things and skeletons such as these we all breathe a sigh of relief and leave them to their vigilance. Stashing most of our goods inside the doors as it is too much to carry and loosely tethering the mule outside we adopt the proven Dwarven method for underground delving…. left hand on the wall. We find ourselves in a corridor that actually gives us reason to believe it has been traveled by numerous feet relatively recently, but then, the rule of left hand on the wall takes us into a small side room, and finds us twisting the handle of a lovely wooden door. Our second mistake. Our first being not preparing and carrying more supplies, but, we don’t realize that is a mistake until the floor tilts beneath our feet, dropping us onto an oiled slide. Down into the darkness we go, all in a tumble. It might have been fun if I hadn’t been thinking about some of the adventurer’s stories my father had told me about traps such as this with spikes at the bottom waiting to impale us… and then… my lantern broke as I fell, igniting the oil. So I look down past my feet into the dark, waiting for the first feel of sharp death, and then back up, above my head to the fire traveling down the slide behind us… gaining… To my relief we splash down into some pungent liquid instead of being speared by imagined spikes, until I realize that the liquid is actually several inches of the same oil that coats the slide. Scrambling I gather my party, getting them out of the room, through a narrow opening and into a short hallway, Christiana, Ushishiga, Masiyasu, Druson… safe… I send Taki through, who is not happy in the slightest about the whole thing but get caught in the whumpf of flame as the lake of oil ignites before I can follow. Covered in oil, I am now burning. All I can think is to get out of the oil and drop to the ground to roll. Shouting I push past everyone and dive… only to discover the hallway ends in a fifteen foot drop… into water. I’m drowning now…. I had no warning, took no air into my lungs. I am wearing a chain shirt, a sword and a mattock across my back… I flounder and struggle for air, but I am happy that I am no longer on fire. At the point where I was certain I would give in and breathe water my foot touched bottom. Planting it firmly I pushed off the bottom with all my might… only to stand up in chest deep water. I cannot help but laugh. I’m sure it was a bit hysterical, but I didn’t care. I was not drowned and I was not on fire. Brushing my hair back out of my face, I looked up and could see everyone standing at the top of the cliff, a silhouette against the orange glow of the fire behind them… Druson’s voice carrying down to me, concerned. After many assurances and a brief investigation everyone joined me on the beach of this cold, dark subterranean lake.
There was nothing to do but move forward. A crevasse twisted and turned its way along, eventually opening up into a large natural cavern. In the center of the floor was a hole several feet across, upon inspection we found hand holds carved into the side of the hole. As there were no other exits from the cavern, we opted for down, even though a lowered light showed us scurrying figures in the receding darkness below. No sooner than we were all down than we were set upon by a pack of troglodytes. Six of them there were. Four of good size with makeshift clubs but two of them were huge and had actual weapons. It wasn’t an easy fight, but it was a fun one, and served to warm our muscles enough to remove the chill that had set in from the water above. However, Ushishiga had a bone in her leg broken so we opted to barricade a corner of the large, irregular chamber we now found ourselves in and rest so that Masiyasu could heal her.
From that chamber led four different exits. One was the hole the last two trogs ran down, another, almost directly across the room was ragged and natural and curved away into the darkness. The last two were the hopeful ones and were side by side. Several feet into the passageways the living rock gave way to worked stone. In our minds, worked stone was good. We all desperately wanted to find out way back into the Dwarven dwelling and back out to our supplies. Exploring both of those brought us to rubble piles that had once been walls, blocking off these natural caverns from worked hallways. Worked hallways are good. Discovering that both passageways let out onto the same hallway we stopped for a moment to take stock and figure out which direction we needed to go. Surmising which way the main doors were…. up and behind us… we headed down the corridor to the left, which, after several turns has brought us here. To a store room full of barrels of oil… injured by strange, giant mosquito things whose probosces can poke through chain mail and Masiyasu calls Steig. There is one more door to check before we turn around and head back down the corridor the other way because I honestly don’t think that going into an abandoned mine is really a smart thing that will lead us to the “out” we desire.
Everyone rests. Taki and I keep watch. Hopefully we heal. I cannot feel the sun from where I sit, but I KNOW that the Sun Rider still drives his fiery chariot across the sky whether I can see it or not. I have faith that with perseverance and discipline (perhaps a little luck thrown in as well) I will survive to honor the Sun as He makes His inevitable journey across the sky once again.
What I wouldn’t give to get this oil out of my hair….