Monthly Archives: May 2007

The Temple on Gray Mountain

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Feldard nodded to Nicolai and peered at the map provided for a moment before setting off towards the temple at a brisk pace—well, as brisk as possible given the armor he wore. “Nicolai, think you that the Rahib will have the road watched? I’m thinking that the roadside shrine might be an appropriate place to hold the ambush. The woods are near enough and can hide the rest of us while Saeth plays the part of the devoted Rahasia. That said, it is also an ideal spot for us to be taken by surprise ourselves if the Rahib is a suspicious sort.”

Feldard kept his eyes roving the woods on either side of the trail. When Nicolai suggested moving into the woods he didn’t complain. He made sure he kept his breast plate and helm covered by cloak and hood as they inched their way nearer the edge to view the shrine area and the temple beyond—no need to be raising suspicions by allowing a telltale glint of sunlight to reflect off the metal.

Where the trail reached the clearing, they were approximately 600 feet away from the courtyard. Approximately 100 feet in front of them was a small roadside shrine to Elyas that sat along the path to the mountain.

They moved along the treeline to get a closer look at the temple. The treeline was about 200 feet away from the temple at its closes point. They peaked through the trees into the clearing.

The Temple at Gray Mountain was a beautiful site to behold. The dwarf instantly recognized that dwarven hands had been involved in its construction. It was unlike any other architecture he had ever studied, a hybrid of dwarven engineering and elven artfulness. The gates at the entrance to the courtyard were large silver double doors. They were ornately carved with forest scenes and stood silently shut. There were no guards. The outer walls of the courtyard and the temple itself were vine-covered stone. At the corners of the south wall, delicate domes rose 10 feet above the walls. The courtyard walls were about 20 feet high and blocked viewing of anything within the courtyard itself, save for some stairs that could be seen rising at the northernmost side of the courtyard. The stairs led to the main doors of the temple itself, which was embedded into the side of the mountain.

The dwarf looked for signs of watchmen along the courtyard wall, along the mountainside and within the wood itself. There was no movement to be seen. “What think you, Nicolai?” the dwarf whispered to Nicolai.

The rogue had been quiet on the mission thus far, even for him. He was out of his comfort zone here in the elven wood, a vastly different environment than the dark alleyways and narrow, winding streets of the city. Nicolai looked for anyway he could climb down into the courtyard from up on the mountain, feeling that this might be a backup option to Saeth’s plan. He saw two options. First, to simply pick a spot and climb over the courtyard wall, or to scale the mountain itself and drop down on the other side of the wall.

* * * * *

While Maruc and Miklos did their mystic preparations. Saeth had chatted with Rahasia to get more of a feel for her voice and took her cloak.

Maruc gazed and the westering sun and hefted his armour on. It rubbed in all sorts of places but he didn’t grumble. He slung his shield on his back and joined the others gathering at the pathway. “Thats looks surprisingly convincing, Saeth. I am impressed. It would be common sense for Nicolai to carry your sword, he the best person to get it to you should the need arise.”

Just as they were about to depart, Rahasia approached them with some of the other villagers. “The Elyan owe you many thanks for coming to our aid in our time of need. Please, take these potions. Should you be wounded on your mission, they may bring you back to health,” the elfmaid handed Saeth two vials. “May Ilsundal guide you on your mission.”

* * * * *

 The group met up on the outskirts of the clearing, still hidden from view by the thick forest. Nicolai described what they had discovered thus far. They would have to prepare their ambush quickly for dusk was fast approaching.

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Bantering

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Maruc’s gaze swept the frightened villages and made up his mind. “Then we have little choice. I don’t think the Rahib would be easily fooled, at least not for long. It would also be dangerous to try. It would split us up and expose people to unnecessary harm. I think we should employ a straightforward robust approach, much like we tried at Caldwell’s castle. Once we have located the temple, we perform a thorough investigation of the area and choose the best way in. Then we will have to think on our feet. It’s not ideal, but we have little choice and less time. I shall pray for guidance for a while, we might need Halav’s help before the day is out.”

Miklos yawned. “Oh well I suppose this is not a race and another couple of hours wouldn’t bring the Dread Night that much closer. I shall take the chance for a rest before we tackle the grey mountain.” He went over to a tree and leant against it and rested his eyes for a while.

“Obviously, priest, it would be safest for me to have you and the others close by,” Saeth agreed. “And I sincerely hope you are. But would it not be ideal if the Rahib could be lured out and dealt with quickly and cleanly?” The swordswoman couldn’t see a big difference between the plans, not if the others could back her up quickly. “Pass me your cloak, will you, Rahasia?”

As it seemed that Saeth was indeed intent on going ahead with her plan the dwarf grumbled to himself about the stubborness of women but he didn’t try talking her out of it – for at least outside the temple he was pretty sure of no traps…within who knew what might be there? Feldard looked to Rahasia. “While Saeth prepares and WAITS for Maruc and Miklos to finish their resting and praying, can you show Nicolas and I the area around the temple. We can scout the ideal place for the ambush.”

“Feldard, I think first we should check to see if any ambushes have been prepared for us.”

As Maruc retreated from the conversation to prepare for his rituals he smiled at Feldards impatience and noted that he had not requested that Maruc change his mind. The priest was starting to enjoy this light banter because he knew the dwarf wasn’t truly serious.

Miklos tried to picture Feldard sneeking through the undergrowth, and noted Maruc’s smile, totally misreading it, assuming that they had had the same thought.

So, while Rahasia provided Saeth with a suitable disguise and Maruc performed his intonations, the elves provided Nicolai and Feldard with a map to the Temple on Gray Mountain. There were only a few short hours before nightfall, when the Rahib had stated that Rahasia would be taken.

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Elven Village Talk

“Interesting. I have acquired a book that details a particular resentment and defensive posturing against elves in particular. Well it gives me at least one provable fact that my source isn’t some madman’s fiction.”

Miklos’s worry crossed his face during Rahasia’s story. “I fear that even if we defeat the Rahib, his guardian and all his twisted elven army we too shall be powerless to resist the lure of the eye. As in the case of the great Elyas himself even if he did not wholy succumb to the power of the jewel, others did to his undoing.”

“Rahasia, you say that no one can speak of the guardian and this is wise. For if the nature of the beast goes forth an means of defeating it can be devised and prepared for. However this secrecy is now a nonscense if as you say the Rahib is the master of the beast and the tower then you are only aiding them by remaining quiet. You say the guardian was created?”

“It is common knowledge that guardians may take many forms. It might even be a trap rather than a creature and non necesarily magical despite being devised by a wizard.” Miklos tried to recall his lectures of conjuration, animation and summoning, he tried to explain it in simple terms. “In my studies guardian creatures are more commonly summoned and bound into service. These can be the most powerful but also the least trustworth as they are placed under duress. They can take any form from a man to a foul demon of the nether worlds. Animations are simple compared to conjured constructs, commonly corpses are used as they are easier to work with. Constructs are devilishly difficult, time consuming and expensive to make. They last forever are absolutely loyal, magically resistant, extremely strong and powerful. Some are possesed of strange powers. If we face one of these I would suggest the use of ranged weapons! But knowing our luck so far whatever we face Seath’s Sword and Feldard’s Axe will be our only defense.”

Miklos sighed, “All this is wild conjecture. Rahasia, if we have any chance to defeat the Rahib we must know the nature of the guardian. Take me to your father that I might prevail upon him to give up his secret.”

Feldard listened with only half attention to the ramblings of the mage. Then chuckled at Miklos’ question to Rahasia. “Obviously you were too lost in your own musings when reading the messenger’s letter. Her father is captured by Rahib.”

The mage reddened at being caught out by the dwarf, but decided to let it drop added, “I’m sorry Rahasia I shall be more attentive in future.”

Maruc had listened intently to the mage, his own mind turning over the facts. “This new name ‘Teriak’ fills me with foreboding. What a cruel twist of Fate it would be that this Rahib was the self-same man, and that in defeating the guardian we inadvertantly deliver the Opal into his hands? Miklos you said yourself if the guardian was a powerful construct it would be impossible to subvert. Perhaps it has not been then?”

“If Teriak is indeed the Rahib it would explain many things, including his ability to apparently charm elves.”

The priest turned to Saeth. “Do not put yourself in unnecesary danger, this man has a proven ability to defeat wills as strong as yours. You night get close enough to plunge a dagger into him but will you want to when the time comes?”

“Its a shame we could not dress Feldard up as an elf maid! He I think would make short work of any enchanter.” He grinned.

The dwarf balked at the mere mention of being dressed up as a elfmaid. “I’ll face the Guardian barehanded before that is even an option! But you are right in your concern about Saeth’s plan. I don’t envy having her skills against us should the Rahib ensorcel her, but there are few other options unless one of the kids know of a secret way into the temple?”

The dwarfs grumpy gaze looked over the crowd of young elves still about. He knew that if there was ever any tunnel or cavern that was deemed off limits, that was where dwarven youth would sneak off to when the elders weren’t looking. Perhaps elven children were the same? Unfortunately, none stepped forward.

Saeth scanned the crowd, waiting for any of the villagers to declare that they knew their way about the temple. She had to admit, she rather preferred the idea of going in completely unseen. “Anyone? Any of you at least able to sketch a map of the temple interior?” Saeth picked up a twig and offered it to the group of villagers.

“Only the Siswa may enter the temple, I’m afraid. It has been this way since the time of Elyas.” said Rahasia.

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The Story of Elyas

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Saeth had just opened her mouth to speak her plan, when the discussion of the situation turned to the former guardian of the temple. She looked on, rapt, waiting for Rahasia’s explanation.

Feldard who had been silently scowling throughout the priests musing aloud, now looked to Rahasia. “Guardian, you say. What manner of guardian? It is possible that the Rahib has some how managed to ensorcel it as well. What can you tell us of it?”

“Years ago, Elyas, the founder of the Quiet Way and leader of the Siswa, created the guardian to protect the treasures of his people.” answered the elven beauty. “I cannot tell you the nature of the guardian, for only the leader of the clan, my father, may speak with it. And, in keeping with custom, he does not reveal its nature to anyone, even myself.”

“To save us some time in our dealings here, I will be frank with you. To our knowledge the Rahib is here to retrieve the Black Opal Eye that is rumoured to be somewhere within the village. Possibly the temple. What do you know of it?”

“Black Opal? After all these years, could that be the cause of our tragedy once again?” she asked rhetorically. She collected her thoughts and then continued. “Generations ago, Elyas, a great elven wizard led our clan to confront an evil wizard who had built a tower in the vicinity of their home. This wizard, named Landryn Teriak, was a necromancer of great power, and an enemy to the elves. He was master to a small cult of evil mages. In the end, it took all the elves of our clan to overcome them. All the necromancers were killed save for Teriak, who used his magicks to teleport away. He was never heard from again.”

“The elves of our clan took over Teriak’s tower and cleansed it and the surrounding forest of the dark enchantments and settled here to protect against evil’s return. However, one artifact of the vile cabal remained. The Black Opal Eye. The eye enhanced Elyas’s power, and he was inclined to keep it for its powers of seduction were great. Among Elyas’ apprentices were three sisters. Among the clan, they were the most gifted in the arcane. Over time, The Black Opal Eye warped their minds to evil. Eventually, they turned on Elyas and attacked him. Elyas’ last act was to bind their spirits. He was determined to destroy the eye, but the tower collapsed before he could do so, burying him and the eye in Grey Mountain.”

“The guardian’s task is twofold. To protect the treasure of the Elyan buried in the ruins, and to prevent any from obtaining the Eye. The temple was built on top of the tower ruins to honor Elyas. In the ages since, we have returned to Elyas’ original teachings of the Quiet Way, and have vowed not to seek power, but to live in peace and harmony with the forest.”

Finally, as Rahasia finished, Saeth spoke, outlining the thoughts that bubbled within her. “It would, perhaps, not be impossible that I could pass for a hooded Rahasia at dusk.” Her mouth twisted in sly amusement at the comparison between her own shattered visage and the elfling’s innocent beauty. “I imagine some sort of an ambush could be made, particularly,” her voice suddenly changed to match the villager’s, “if this Rahib knows her personally.” She paused, thinking about how to finish the plan. “Do you suppose I could lure him out? Or would it be better to distract him long enough for you to sneak inside unseen?” Before anyone had a chance to respond, Saeth had a final thought, and turned to Nicolai. “I won’t have my blade, of course. Any chance you have something lethal to coat my daggers?” The swordswoman glanced around, her eye seeking opinions on her scheme in the faces of her companions.

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Guardian of the Temple

“We do have one advantage,” interjected the priest. “The Rahib, as far as we can tell, does not know we pursue him. Or if he does then he does not care.” Maruc tried to think around the problem aloud. “We can the assume he is arrogant or at the least incautious. He is turned by a comely maid, he has access to a powerful means of enchanting elves or at the least a persuasive form of blackmail. He was trusted by Thaddigren Dentiata, but that might be because he asks no questions and/or has no scruples.”

Maruc tried a different angle. “Put yourself in the Rahib’s shoes. What could he gain from his actions? And what does he know? He was an information gatherer to a secretive organisation. He is evil and driven by self agrandisment. Evil people seek power. He was employed and directed by Dentiata so it would be safe to assume that the Rahib is deep in the secrets of the Sons of Night. Perhaps he seeks to futher the aims of the Sons of Night in order to increase his power. But as Miklos has intimated you would have to be extremely-self deluding to think that the Dread Night could actually be attained.”

Maruc grinned his trademark grin at last, “The Rahib must be insane. This makes him unpredictable and dangerous, the longer we leave this man the harder it will be to undo his evil. I am with Feldard. We must strike now. This man has great powers of persuasion I will seek the aid of mighty Halav before we depart for a way to combat this.

“Rahasia, from where I am standing I would hazard a guess that of the remaining Elves of the village at least half are capable of some form of incantations? Am I wrong?” asked Miklos.

“I wish that it were so,” sighed the elfmaiden. “Only the Siswa were capable of such things, and they have all been taken under the Rahib’s spell.”

Rahasia cast her eyes downward. “I am afraid there is even more dire news that I must share with you. The temple is protected by a powerful guardian. The Rahib must be a formidable opponent for somehow he defeated this guardian in order to sieze control.”

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Assessing the Situation

“Well, Brenir may have left to find help, and in some way you could say he did.” Saeth meant to be consoling to the grieving maiden, but her one-eyed gaze and hardened tone took most of the comfort from it.

From there, she focused straight on the task at hand. “From the size of the village, I’d say you lost perhaps twenty to the clutches of this man? They remain imprisoned on the mount?” After a moments thought, her planning began, “And where were you to deliver yourself up to them, should you give in to this demand?”

“The Siswa are all inside the temple,” she replied. “I was to go to the temple surrender myself to the Rahib before nightfall. He said he would be waiting for me in the main chapel.”

The dwarf scowled deeper at hearing the villagers themselves were the culprits. That would make getting to the Rahib a bit more difficult. Feldard had no qualms about battling through orcs and hired mercanaries, ensorceled villagers however would require a bit more care and accuracy so as not to kill or maim them. It was so much easier when you didn’t need to worry about leaving your opponents alive.

As much as he distrusted magic he could see where the Mages’ spells might come in useful yet again. “Miklos, I hope you have that sleeping enchantment ready.”
He glanced towards Saeth at her questioning. She obviously had a plan. He waited arms still crossed for the elven warrior to state it plain.

Miklos laughed openly at Feldards comment. “Sorry my friend, but the chances of forcing elves into magical slumber are no better than one in ten. They renown for their resistance to these things.” Miklo’s face dropped when he added, “Which makes the Rahib’s ability to charm them with ease very worrying indeed. Fortunately I have two paralyzation charges left in the wand so we may be able to fell many without bloodshed.”

He turned back to the elfmaid, “Rahasia, I assume the Rahib was human?”

“Yes,” she nodded.

“Were the charmed elves extensively armed with bows? I don’t like the idea of approaching any encampment under fire.”

“Nay, the Siswa are primarily armed with their ceremonial scimitars,” said Rahasia.

The priest said in worried tones. “I see. Well, Brenir was slain in melee so perhaps they aren’t, assuming the attackers were sent by the Rahib. This might also explain the lack of theft from the body. Charmed elves would only follow instruction, not think independently.”

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Rahasia

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Feldard was more than a little awed by the grace and beauty of the elven maid. This was very disconcerting to the dwarf and he did his best to give the appearance of gruffness. He folded his arms and frowned deeply. “Aye, that we have. Where are your menfolk? Were they all taken by this ‘Rahib’?” Feldard spoke the name much like an insult. “How many in total are missing?”

The beautiful elf lit up with hope. She had started to think that all was lost, but now it appeared that there was a chance for the Elyan afterall.

“Thank you for coming to our aid. Illsundal’s blessings be upon you. Yes, all our men have been taken, nearly forty in all,” she answered.

At his first though when he saw the elf maid Miklos was somewhat relieved that his fears were proved unfounded. His second thought he dismissed as he felt his cheeks reddening he could not afford such distractions in his search of the arcane. Were he a lesser man he might have made a fool of himself.

“You were brave Mistress Rahasia to sent such a request and sign it. The Rahib by reputation is not a forgiving man. I am glad to see you alive. This meeting is indeed fortunate for we ourselves seek him and we are somewhat more robust in our dealings than most.” He left the details to her imagination. “Needless to say the the Rahib’s employer and denizen of the tower yonder,” he gestured toward Dentiata’s stronghold, “is no longer.”

More to himself he rambled, “The question remains; what are the the Rahib’s weaknesses and how can we exploit them to his undoing? Ahh but I am getting ahead of myself, I am Miklos a student of arcane arts. Feldard and Saeth you have met. Allow me to introduce the Halavist, Maruc and that chap on the horse is Nicolai whose talents are too numerous to mention. We are honorable folk who seek certain knowledge. With your experiences with the Rahib can you tell us if he has mentioned anything of the following.” Miklos withdrew his note paper. “Taymora, Nyx, Nithia, undeath, sacrifice, the Dread Night or the Sons of Night. Anything, however insignificant it may seem to you, may be useful.”

“I’m sorry, I have no knowledge of any of the matters you mention,” she said, shaking her head. “We Elyan are a reclusive and peaceful clan. We rarely travel far from our foresthome. So, you have been on the Rahib’s trail, then. I thought perhaps it was Brenir that had sent you. He left yesterday to seek help.”

At Rahasia’s mention of the young elf, Maruc shook his head sadly. “I am sorry to inform you that this young elf has been slain. Do you perhaps know his name or his family? He must be buried properly.” Maruc took a deep breath. “Please forgive this questioning at such short notice but time is of the essence. It has been revealed to me that the poor elf was pursued and slain by five individuals. These were chasing him from the direction of the village, but we have no proof that they came from the village. The attackers then fled toward the mountain.”

Tears fell down the elfmaiden’s cheek at the tragic news. She then saw the body that had been carried on the horse. “Oh Brenir!” She rushed to him. Two others joined her. They took the body off the horse and gently placed it upon the ground.

“As much as I dread the thought, I fear it was those of our own clan who did this to him,” she said tearfully. “They are under the Rahib’s spell. They know not what they do!”

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