Year 26435 A.B.
I hardly know where to begin. I find myself in awe, perhaps even a little in shock. -I – no, we have just had the most amazing experience of our lives. Even now, as I write this, I find it hard to think. I can only hope that my thoughts will become clearer as my ink fills this parchment, that I may articulate what happened. I fear, however, that whatever it is I write will never be adequate enough…
I suppose the best place to begin would be where I left off, in the room on the lower level of the temple where we spent the night. We all awoke at about the same time, prepared ourselves, and set off further into the temple.
The room behind the Hall of the Dead, as I have come to think of it, contained more undead. Another thing I’m not accustomed to – waking up angry. After a a short, brutal fight, we cleared the room and found ourselves faced with several places to go. One room seemed simply to be a bedchamber. The next, a mausoleum. Five graves, old ones, with unintelligible language on the headstones, dug into the floor of the room. As we were about to move through it, I noticed something peculiar: fingers of bone were sticking out of one of the walls. I mentioned this to the others, and we pondered on it for a moment. There were seams in the wall, roughly in the shape of a door. I was about to suggest to Das(I asked the proper spelling of his name as we were making ready after waking) that we try prying at it with our swords when Elliphany noticed that the gravestones gave off a magical aura. I should have known that it wasn’t as simple as prying at a stone. I’ve come to find out that things like that never are. She threw her scorching burst at the one grave stone that she said felt different to her, and it sank into the ground. At the same time, the wall opened, spilling out a skeleton clad in rather expensive looking leather armor. He was carrying a Bag of Holding containing several magical items, along with some pouches, rings, and a magical leather belt. A strange ticking sound was also heard at this point. I entered the small room beyond to find an unlocked chest, which I opened to find only this note:
“This treasure chest has been looted by the Great Dovin Stall. So long suckers!”
And so we found the missing Dovin Stall. Around ten seconds after I left the room, pulling the skeleton along with me so we could loot it, the door to the room slammed shut, and the ticking stopped. I gave the note to Elliphany, who had pledged to bring back some sign of the late would-be temple raider to his widow, we looted the corpse, and we moved on.
The next room was a rather peculiar one. It contained nothing but a circular pit and some spikes on the walls. Noticing something shiny in the pit, we sent Elliphany down to investigate. It was then that a ten foot tall drum, covered on the sides with blades and spikes, began to spin very fast and rise up out of the hole with the Genasi still atop it.
After a short period of panic from all of us, I was able to find the release lever, but not before the bladed drum had backed Eisenheim into a corner and begun to shred him. Had I known what was to come later, I would have let the drum spin a bit longer and turn him into pulp, but I digress, I’ve begun to get off track already.
After a brief struggle to heal Eisenheim some and extricate him from the interlocking spikes between drum and wall, we moved on. There were more undead in the next room, quickly vanquished. The room itself was filled with rusty weapons, and an equally rusty and pitted set of plate armor set apart from the weapons on a pedestal.
Das approached the suit, and a booming voice spoke out, posing us a riddle.
“A wondrous treasure, valued by all, sought by many, found in both victory and defeat, yet never in the bottom of a treasure chest. It marches before you like a herald, and lives long after you are gone. Of what do I speak?”
Das guessed wisdom, and the voice spoke again.
“You try my patience! Offer me the answer soon or the treasure I guard will forever be denied to you!”
Elliphany was the one to come up with the answer. Legend. Upon the utterance of the word from her lips, the armor changed. The illusion of a rusted, pitted hulk vanished, revealing black iron plate armor, masterwork, as new looking as it must have been the day it was made. As I am the only one of our group that wears plate armor, it was offered to me, and I accepted it. Das helped me to remove the armor I had been wearing, which we placed into the Bag of Holding. I plan to return it to the Temple of the Raven Queen on Sharda should I ever return there. I was a little surprised, once Das helped me into the new armor, that it seemed to fit me perfectly. Mayhaps I shouldn’t have been?
I feel it prudent to mention that I was not myself at this point. Being around so many undead had affected me greatly. I felt…twitchy. I was constantly looking around, angry and I must admit, a little paranoid.
The next room contained one of the items that we had been searching for, the staff itself, though it was missing the headpiece.
Forgive me if I skip some things here. I wish that I could tell the story in more detail, but I fear that if I dally too long on the getting there, I will never be able to fully recall the end, at least not as it should be.
To make a very long story short, we avoided some very nasty traps, fought some equally nasty bug creatures, plus a few Goblins, and obtained the staff and headpiece.
A slightly funny note that I cannot resist including in here. The room with a headpiece was a bit odd. The headpiece was on a platform in a corner of the room. In front of the platform was a deep pit where the bug creatures had come out of. Elliphany had the idea that she should fly over to the platform to get the headpiece. When she got there, landing to get the round object, she realized that she couldn’t get back. When I asked her about it a little later, she said that if she hadn’t landed, she would have been able to make it back to us on the other side of the pit just fine. She was embarrassed that she made the mistake, and I tried my best to offer her some comfort, though it did make for a funny situation.
So Elliphany was stuck on a platform across a wide pit. Das had the bright idea that he would jump the pit and rescue her. He stripped off his armor, shield and pack to lighten his load, had me tie my rope around his waist, and made a jump for it. He failed. I had braced myself around a corner to make it easier to bear his weight if that happened, but I was told that he missed the platform by inches, swung down, and smacked against the wall of the pit. Eisenheim told me to pull him up from the pit, so I did. When I felt his weight leave the rope, I came back over to them to see what was going on, and found Das making ready to jump again. Eisenheim and I tried to suggest to him that we attempt something else, but no avail, I had to rush back around the corner and brace myself again just as he jumped.
He made it this time, however, and got to our stranded Wizardess on the platform. Giving her a bit of jumping help, she made it back to us. Das told me to bring the rope taut, and when he yelled, pull as hard and fast as I could. He never yelled, because apparently he tripped, swinging down and hitting his head on the wall below yet again. I pulled him up, he re-donned his armor, pack, and shield, and we left the room.
Everyone except for Eisenheim agreed at this point that we should all sleep and regain our strength, as we were all pretty beat up and tired, and wanted to be fully there when the staff was assembled and utilized. I believe that Eisenheim may have stood and paced the room the whole of the time we slept. Perhaps if he had known what was to come, he wouldn’t have been so eager.
Now begins the part that I was most anxious to write about. I can only hope that the image I portray of it does the actual events justice.
Eisenheim was extremely nervous. He was shaking and sweating heavily. We were back up in the sanctuary. I had already sat on one of the pews to watch. The tiefling fit the head to the staff, and I heard it click into place. He then took a bag from his hip and untied it, pulling out the ruby that was the center, the piece he had acquired before we ventured to the temple. I found it a little odd that there was no click when he set it in the staff, and the reason was soon shown. Eisenheim picked the staff up and the ruby fell out. I know that I’m going to laugh at his stupidity in the matter later on. He should have known better, especially after the click the head had made. He had placed the ruby in upside down. This time, when he set it in, it clicked sharply.
I began an odd feeling in the air, something similar to the feeling of the air right before a large summer storm, the feeling of electricity wanting to crawl over my scales. I shivered a little at the feeling. It wasn’t pleasant. I looked, and the staff seemed to be glowing as Eisenheim carefully fit the staff into its place in the altar. The staff, it seemed, needed no guidance. When Eisenheim got it close to the hole, it seemed to jump from his hands and into the hole, as if pulled there by some unseen force.
A bright blue light suddenly filled the room. The rune-filled circle pressed into the wall behind the pulpit had seemingly opened up into a vortex of light. I felt drawn to it, both physically and mentally, though I cannot say why. I felt like I wanted to go through it, jump into the light and be taken away forever…I think if I had, I wouldn’t be writing this now. I noticed Eisenheim drop his cloak to the floor out of the corner of my eye.
The light intensified, finally exploding outward. By this time I was standing up, and I was thrown over the back of the pew by the blast. I believe that the podium passed quite close to my head as the blast cleared everything off of the raised part of the sanctuary except for the altar. I found myself almost unable to see, and felt as if I were in the middle of a thunderstorm. The blast had clouded my vision heavily, as if I had been brained with a large, blunt object. There seemed to be a huge wind blowing, though I felt nothing. There was the sound lightening strikes, nearly constant, and the very floor beneath me seemed to tremble with this new force.
My vision began to clear, and as it did, I saw that the light had become steady as it emanated out over the now clean platform, seeming to ripple a little in the center, like it was made of liquid. I was reminded of the room that I got the black iron plate armor from. To enter the room, we had to pass through a wall that looked like it was there, but wasn’t. It shimmered. The shimmering of the light looked kind of like that
Eisenheim stood up and approached it, as if he knew what was happening and planned on doing something. He started to laugh. I can still hear it in my head, not excited, not joyous. It sounded maniacal. It sounded evil. I shook violently at the sight of the Tiefling, his head thrown back, screaming out his mirth. What had we just done?
The light was changing. The center seemed to be turning black. I squinted into the brightness just as a huge black tentacle, seemingly made of swirling black smoke, shot out of what was now obviously a portal, and grabbed Eisenheim’s waist. Another thing became painfully apparent at this point as well. Eisenheim had no idea what he had been doing. His laughter turned to screams of utter terror as the thing began pulling him back towards the portal.
Das and I both jumped up at the same time, rushing up to the tentacle. Eisenheim had grabbed the altar with both hands and was hanging on for his precious, worthless life as the Eladrin Warlord and I began attacking the tentacle. Despite appearing to be made of smoke, it was solid, and we both connected with it. I invoked a prayer to the Raven Queen, among other things, and between us and Elliphany using her magic, we got the tentacle to loosen enough for Eisenheim to break free.
The Warlock made a break for it. What else could I have expected though, from a cowardly Tiefling like him, deceiving wretch…I ran after him and was about to tackle him when another explosion from the portal threw us to the ground. This time my vision cleared almost instantly, just in time to see the tentacle, which had extended quite far from the portal, hit me in the gut with such force that I was thrown against one of the walls of the sanctuary, wrap around Eisenheim, and take him back towards the portal. He attempted to grab at the altar again, but to no avail; he was dragged into the light.
I had stood up by now. Just as my stunned, frightened eyes took in the sight of Eisenheim‘s hand disappearing into the portal, I felt everything around me, including myself, come to a stop. I couldn’t move or breath, despite the fact that I was still thinking just fine. Tendrils of lightning from the portal had frozen in place, zig-zagging through the air. A few motes of dust appeared frozen in the air above my snout. I remember seeing everything in very sharp relief. The lightning and the light from the portal cast long, sharp shadows on everything, making the scene before me look like some kind of fantastic painting where everything is either light or dark, with no in-betweens. Aside from the physical, the feeling in the room had changed as well to that of something calm. I found myself no longer afraid, as I admit I had been.
The portal warped, the center seeming to press outwards. Still frozen in place, I could only watch as a pair of humanoids stepped out of the circle of light. They were very slender, gray-skinned things, with perfectly smooth skin. They had dark rings around their black eyes, and their features were…almost non-existent. If I could have, I would have drawn in a very slow, deep breath at the sight of these creatures.
A male and female walked out of the portal first. They split around the altar, stopping briefly to look at Elliphany, who had been frozen in place on her back in the center of the aisle. They stood up again, bowed to her, and moved on out of the room.
Now something amazing happened. From the portal came more of these things, in line three wide. They just kept coming. I cannot even begin to estimate how many came out of the portal, or how long we were frozen in place. Eventually though, the line ended, and all the creatures left the room. A few moments later, I felt myself slowly begin to move again, as did everything around me. It took about five seconds, by my estimation, but time regained it’s former pace once again. Just as it happened, the ground began to tremble again, this time more intensely than before, and I saw the portal getting brighter than ever, almost too bright to look at.
There were two subsequent explosions, each more powerful than the last. The last thing I remember before going unconscious was my feet lifting off the ground and a sensation of great speed as I was thrown through the air. After that, there is nothing but blackness…