Monthly Archives: March 2012

The High Bridge

Ludo looked over the edge of the cliffs. It was indeed a long way down. Over the sound of the wind which was swirling around them he yelled “we still have a few hours of daylight; lets get across this bridge and go on for a few more miles before camping for the night. Keep away from the edge where the bridge is weakest, stay in the middle”. He carefully started walking across the bridge.

“This bridge is ancient, even to me,” Hasan said. “It looks frail. We must proceed with caution. Let’s cross one at a time. Walk light, Ludo!” The elf turned to watch the thief’s progress. “Walk ahead, each of you. I will wait and watch. I can, I think, arrest one person’s fall with my magic.”

Feldard studied the crumbling stonework of the bridge warily before setting foot to it and nodded in agreement at the warnings of his friends. “Hold up there Ludo! Not that I doubt your abilities Hasan, but I’d feel better if we had rope in hand. Between us all, we may have enough to span the distance.”

With the ropes all tied together, Feldard handed one end to Ludo asthe rogue was the first to set out onto the bridge. Feldard held onto the other end, watching and waiting should the bridge fail.

When it came to his turn, Feldard was more than a little hesitant. His fingers were tight on the rope as he walked hand over hand across the bridge. The only way he could manage was that he remained in the center of the bridge and could not see down on either side of him. He kept his gaze firmly on Ludo waiting on the opposite side of the bridge. Unfortunately, because of that fact he failed to notice a weak spot in the stonework. His heavy tread crumbled the weak stone beneath him opening a hole in the bridge beneath his feet. Feldard stumbled, yanking on the rope and threw himself nearer to the side in his alarm.

“No!”, Stephan muttered in alarm seeing bits of the bridge fall beneath Feldard. He breathed a temporary sigh of relief when he saw the dwarf keep a good grip on the rope and make it to the other side.

Next the woodsman’s turn came, he held tightly to the rope and tried to step as lightly as possible. The blustery day and strong winds on the bridge added to the anxiety. Near the center, approaching the hole formed when Feldard crossed, he paused to steel his nerves. He purposefully avoided looking down the hole as he crossed but some additional crumbling made him look out of instinct.

It was dizzying scene of stone and water and…..sheer height. He quickly looked up to the sky. Wispy clouds hastened northeast. They looked like the tails of a hundred horses. This thought helped. Stephan kept his eyes up for the most part and continued across the bridge.

Maruc walked forward onto the stony bridge. He tried not to look down, left, right or anywhere but at the walkway straight ahead. It wasn’t easy. The cleric clutched the rope and whispered a soft prayer the trees it was tied to would hold if the time came. The cleric knew Halav’s blessing lay deep on all the Duke’s own Traladaran land, but the thought flickered through his brain, “Ilsundal’s way with trees is deep. Would that we are favored.” Maruc wasn’t sure if that such a fleeting thought was disloyalty or prudence. But the next step demanded his attention, and so he took it carefully. And the next and the next, as the cleric made his way across the span–never once looking down, left or right; safely contained within his god-strewn reverie.

Miklos helped his companions’ careful preparations as well as he could. The tough skin of the local pine roughed his hands as they drew the knots close. He felt sure the rope was strong enough.

By Hasan’s side, the young mage watched Maruc make his way deliberately across the abyss. Miklos looked at Hasan and opened his spellbook, “I will not walk this way, Hasan. It was clever to think that ‘levantum nostrum’ would support our friends. But surely you know its limits and have studied the “Volanum Nostrum” incantation we found in Golthar’s spellbook. It worked well, did it not? I will try it now.”

The elf watched as the mage summoned magical energies that Hasan could see and sense but could not yet control himself. Miklos expertly guided the energies–which looked as fibers of fire threading through the air to the two mages, but would be unseen by any magically insensitive–into a tapestry as complex as the talisman they carried through the watchtower. The elf then watched Miklos step onto the invisible tapestry and rise into the air. The mage moved slowly above the roadway and then, gingerly, out above the chasm below. Nothing changed. “You have grown, my friend,” Hasan called out. Miklos grinned and sped away alongside the great bridge.

When the group was halfway across, loud screeching noises echoed across the mountains. Two large creatures swooped out from behind the side of the gorge, about two hundred yards away. With the head, wings and front claws of an eagle and the body and hindquarters of a lion, they were simultaneously frightening and beautiful. Miklos recognized them from his studies. Stephan and Maruc too knew of them, for they were the symbol and namesake of the elite military wing of the Church of Karameikos, the Order of the Griffon.

The two griffons flew towards the bridge.

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The High Road

Ludo had watched the scene unfold in front of him. “Well that was quicker than even I anticipated”. He finished his meal, gulped some water down from his canteen and settled down for the first watch. He was tired, but for the first time in it seemed like ages he felt safe. He was confident the gnolls would not return, and they could all get some time to prepare for the next stage of their journey.

He mulled over what he had seen. The weapons that had struck the Golems had been absorbed, which was something he had never seen or heard of before. He was glad that they they didn’t have to fight them. He wondered if they could get them to come with us. He would mention it to Miklos in the morning. A dwarf, an elf, four humans and two golems defeating the “Sons of Night” – a smile creapt across his youthful face.

When the moon was at its highest, he nudged Feldard to take over the watch, and then gratefully fell into a deep slumber.

Feldard woke, alert, at Ludo’s nudge and rose to take his turn at watch. It was a quiet night and now that there were no sounds of drums pursuing them Feldard felt quite at ease within the mountain pass.

The dwarf was grateful the night passed without incident. He kept watch until the moon had long dropped behind the mountains, and the sun’s glow was in the eastern sky. He knew the elf would be upset that Feldard had not woken him for his watch but even the dwarf could see that Hasan needed all the rest he could get. So instead he would Stephen when dawn was on the verge. “It’s morning. You people won’t eat what I cook so you’d best make breakfast.”

Stephan stirred grumpily from a deep sleep banished by the dwarf’s unceremonious nudge this his boot. Despite the rude awakening, it had been a good sleep.

“‘You people’?” Stephan eyed Feldard. “And what could you even cook up here?” He looked around at the dusty, pebbly roof of the bridge tower. “There’s no wood for a fire. We’ll have to descend if we want something other than the iron rations and jerky.” At the words, his stomach groaned loudly. He fished out a few good mouthfuls of rations.

Hasan woke. The crisp air delight the elf, but the sun looked down wanly over the high mountain walls. The elf’s nose wrinkled a bit, as he contemplated their path deeper into the highlands. “Well, at least these hills are still forested,” he told his companions. The elf rose and cringed. His side was still very sore. “Thank you, Maruc,” the elf exclaimed gratefully, as the healer washed the now-bound wound from yesterday’s spear. “It still pains me, very badly. Do you have more willow bark? That tea calmed the pain greatly.”

Dark rings haunted Maruc’s eye. he slumped gratefully back as he prepared further healing for the party. He knew it would take at least another day for the friends to be fit enough to face the mountains and its secrets.

He slept fitfully though this cycle of healing and meditations but eventually his friends were healed and the recalled his old list of blessings for the onward journey.

Miklos enjoyed the enforced rest after the breathless run up the mountain. He spent his time studying the tome of the Sons of Night to determine any clues for the secrets of the mountain. He came back once again to the central passage, The Dread Prophecy.

The Breach of the Lost Temple.
The Awakening of the Grand Darker.
The Ascension of the Shadow Lord.
The Disappearance of the Elvenstar.
The Return of the Blackstick.
The Dread Night Attained.

As the mage studied the Book of Night, the others prepared to depart. It was morning and the party was once again at full strength. Above the waterfall, the Hutaakan’s ancient path climbed steeply, cutting into the mountain.

They left the bridge and ascended the narrow mountain pass. Rising above them was a sheer rock wall, and on the other side, a drop of hundreds of feet to the Foamfire River below.

The road was in a poor state of repair, overgrown in places, but clearly visible snaking out ahead of them. Occasional streams crossed the road. Some spanned by small bridges while others have eroded channels across the road’s surface. In places, sections of the road had fallen away, leaving rough rocky areas to be crossed above a drop of hundreds of feet.

After nearly a full day’s travel, they came to a high, 20-foot-wide, arching bridge which spanned a 200-foot-wide gorge. Although it had a parapet running along either side, the bridge was crumbling in places.

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You Almost Feel Sorry For Them

Ludo sat back and watched the small party of gnolls advance with obvious trepidation etched onto their faces. They kept looking back at the safety of the tunnel mouth behind them and were almost shaking as they advanced towards the tower. He commented to no one in particular, “You almost feel sorry for them. If those golems made short work of the ogres, how do you think those gnolls will fair?” He chuckled, “I think we could stay here all day and hold off those gnolls while the spellcasters rest and prepare their spells. I don’t fancy advancing into the Black Peaks until we are fully prepared.” Feeling hungry he fished in his pack for some dried beef and munched on it until the gnolls got a little closer.

“Da,” Stephan nodded at Ludo. “Up here it is warm and dry and…open. Much better place to rest.”

He, along with everyone else, watched the approaching gnolls with fascination. “There’s a connection, you know. The Hutaakan jackals, gnolls, dogs. Take away the makeshift armor and snarls and those gnolls might double as a larger, more muscled version of all the jackal statues we’ve seen.”

“Gods above, you have given me a scary thought, Stephan,” commented Hasan, whose animated voice was belied by a casual, exaggerated sip at the little water that remained in his wineskin. “What if our guardians recognize their kinsmen? What if the gnolls are released, to their surprise and ours?” The elf looked up. “We would be goners, for sure.” The elf stretched. “Miklos, this water is fine, but do you have a drop of the Rifflian wine left?”

Feldard nodded in agreement. Remaining was a far better option than forging on ahead in their current state. He felt safer however atop the tower rather than within it. Who knew if the protective magic of the map might wear off and the stone statues turn on them. Yes, atop was much better.

With his crossbow ready at hand beside him, the dwarf moved alongside the rogue and watched the gnolls advance. The smell Ludo’s dried meats reminded the dwarf of his own hunger and he too pulled out some meat to eat.

Stephan kept watching the gnolls and found himself crouching low under the tower battlements out of instinct. An eerie quiet settled on the scene despite the continued roar of the river.

The Traladaran whispered in response to Hasan, “I’m not so sure the guardians will allow them to pass. There are other gnoll skeletons scattered on the floor below. We shall see.”

Ludo commented, “I think it is unlikely that the gnolls have access to the tower, if they did why send in the ogres? I suspect the gnolls can’t get past this tower with its guardians. If they go inside that tower it will most certainly be the end of them. It should be quick at any rate and I think no matter how persuasive the Gnoll leader is, he won’t get anymore gnolls to enter that tower after this poor lot get chewed up by our two friends inside.”

Eventually, the gnolls cleared enough debris away that they could once again approach the tower on the bridge. They were tentative, all the vigor of their bloodthirsty pursuit was replaced with fear. They had all heard the stories about the tower. None who entered ever survived. But now, these accursed interlopers had somehow managed to pass through.

Their chieftain Gragszt had given the order to send a small squad through the tower. The ogres had not made it through, but Gragszt was determined. He ordered another squad to enter the ruin.

Stephan held his bow ready and kept adequate cover as the gnolls approached below.

A dozen gnolls opened the doors, and once again the adventurers could hear the sounds of battle as the steel statues battered the intruders mercilessly. A few of the gnolls escaped, retreating back out onto the bridge. The statues followed them. One of the gnolls struck the statue with his sword. It became stuck in the statues waist and was then absorbed by the golem, leaving the gnoll weaponless. The statue then reached down and crushed the gnoll’s head with its giant hand.

The other gnolls made it into the tunnel and the statues did not pursue further. They slowly walked back to the tower and shut the doors behind them.

The gnoll chieftain knew the situation was hopeless. After several minutes, he began to gather his clan and the Death’s Head Gnolls began to exit the valley.

* * * * *

Between mouthfuls of his dinner, Ludo asked “Feldard do you want to take first watch?”

“I can, though I think it best that the humans keep the first watches,” Feldard commented nodding towards Ludo and Stephan, “while there is still light for them to see by. You and I have the advantage of seeing better in the dark.” The dwarf did a quick check and rebandaging of his wounds then he set himself up into a good viewing point with his crossbow and settled in and watched to see that all the gnolls below had left.

Maruc gratefully slumped into meditation. With the gnolls no longer an imminent threat, he was easily able to commune with the spirit of Halav.

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Not To Worry

Ludo turned to Stephan and Hasan. “Well, this is a fine mess you have got us into.” Grabbing his rope and grapple, he swung it up and skillfully secured it to the top of the ruined tower. “Let’s get on top of this tower and slay these ogres when they get bow range. If we are lucky maybe the two golems will help us.”

While the dwarf had been the first to want to leave the tower, uncertain of the safe passage of the stone guardian, he now wondered at the wisdom of leaving their only defendable structure for an open path. “Miklos, if we leave the tower, do you believe the guardians will attack the gnolls and ogres? If so perhaps just moving to the other side of the bridge and awaiting the outcome is better than full flight. We are in no condition for another forced retreat.”

“Not to worry, Feldard,” interjected Stephan. “Miklos has the map and control over these guardians,” he gestured expansively toward the two massive steel statues. “Those ogres are no match for them. And the beasts looked frightened to boot.”

Stephan’s grin did not seem quite as cocksure as his words.

“Well my vote goes to blindly limping into unknown territory, wounded and completely unprepared.” Maruc grinned, “I wonder if we could ask one of the Hataakans to heal us went we get there, assuming they are kindly disposed toward us and alive after a thousand years. After all we have one of their maps. Let’s hope they don’t assume we stole it.”

The priest hefted his shield back on. “Lord Halav, grant us good fortune.” He climbed up the ruin and prepared the defenses with Ludo.

From his vantage point atop the tower next to Ludo, Miklos had good range and line of sight to the tunnel entrance. This place was clearly well designed for defense. “Everyone, get away from the tunnel mouth I shall attempt to bring the roof down on them.”

Miklos glanced nervously at the bridge and hoped his lightning bolt wouldn’t fracture the bridge instead of bringing the roof of the tunnel down. But they had little choice he had to delay them until they were well into the mountains, and whatever lay beyond. Two great forms of ogres emerged from the shadows and behind them the snarls and wolf cries from the tunnel. “Cover your ears!” shouted Miklos. With three swift cutting gestures with his hand he barked a word of power. A blinding flash and an ear-splitting crack silenced the gorge. The ground rumbled with the vibrations of falling rock. A cloud billowed out of the tunnel mouth. Shards of splintered rock spun out and scattered across the bridge.

The dust settled the two great ogres lay prostrate at the base of the rock fall. Miklos sighed with relief. and turned away. ”I think I caught a few in there, lets hope they don’t think of a way around it.” Miklos stopped when he saw Maruc’s face. “What is..?” he turned to the the ogres picking themselves up.

“Let them come,” chided Hasan. “Wound them now, but let our new friends hold them as we leave this place behind. These sots are no match for the magic here.” Hasan sent an indifferent pair of arrows into the hulking forms below, then went to bar the tower door with a centuries old spear. “This should slow them at least a little while,” the elf shrugged.

The ogres were wounded, but not severely. They seemed more angry than anything else. They charged through the bronze doors of the tower. No one could see inside, but they soon heard the ogres’ battle roars. Then, the sound of a struggle. It did not last long. There were sounds of bones cracking, and then silence.

Well, not quite. From the tunnel entrance to the bridge, there were sounds of rocks and gravel being moved as the gnolls worked to clear the way through to the bridge. Down below, the gnoll leader sent another small squad to investigate what had happened.

The door at the front of the tower, through which the ogres had charged, was closed once again, perhaps by the steel guardians, or perhaps on its own.

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Flee You Disgusting Mangy Currs!

At the movement of the statues, Feldard had quickly switched from crossbow to axe and made ready should they attack – but they didn’t. The dwarf frowned in confusion, til he noted the glowing threads of the tapestry. “The map. Seems you were right Miklos.. it is some form of key or pass.”

“Very good, then,” muttered Hasan, watching as the statues made way. “The blessings of Ilsundal,” the elf whispered, as he gently opened the skeletal fist and removed the scroll. “The Siswa are taught to respect the innocent dead, and bury them with their own treasure,” the elf intoned to nobody in particular, “but the Quiet Way never saw the Siswa in place like this, I don’t think.” The elf picked up the wand too.

Feldard glanced back towards the gnolls, wondering if they would charge up now, figuring it was safe since the party wasn’t fleeing for their lives. Just in case, he shut the door behind him.

Stephan shuttered at the sound of the closing doors. Feldard, he thought, did not seem affected by stony chamber.

The dwarf turned to regard the bowing statues. “As pleasant as they seem at the moment, let’s make this visit short. We don’t want to overstay our welcome.”

As the elf moved about the room to raid the corpses, Feldard kept close watch on the statues for any ill movement from them.

Ludo looked at the two giant statues in awe, they were quite like nothing he had ever seen. “No wonder the Gnolls stopped chasing us, they were hoping that these two brutes would make mincemeat of us.” Keeping an eye on them he quickly walked past them. “Miklos, do you think that it would be safe to doss here for the night, to rest and recuperate? We could have these guardians do something useful and protect us?”

Miklos looked at the map as its glow faded. “Now there’s a thing.” He glanced back at the tunnel mouth. “It seems these guardians have been holding the way quite successfully for some time. Dare I say millennia?” he looked doubtfully at Ludo. “I do not think the map bestows dominion over these golems. No, this map is a key, or proof that the wielder has right of passage.” He glanced at the corpses. “No wonder Golthar needed it so much. I suspect Maruc would like the opportunity to rest soon. We are none of us at the peak of health. I can think of no better place to rest. Perhaps I can take the time, if Hasan is willing, to identify the nature of the wand and the scroll.”

Miklos stalked over to the living statue. “Hmm, if only we had possessed the map when we faced the jackal headed silver statues in the gnome mine, perhaps they would have bowed to the presence of the map.” He spread his hands, “This gateway way built to keep people out. The Hutaakan race was powerful indeed. These guardians are still mighty and wield great fear their magic has not faded, it is a marvel. Even and entire clan of hundreds of gnolls have not ventured to the gates. There would be gnoll corpses amongst the ruins.”

Miklos wondered and said softly, “But the question still remains, what are they guarding? What is at the head of the valley that is so valuable the requires such guardians of terror? Who were the Hutaakan what caused their death all those years ago?”

Then he said out loud “What right have we to unearth the past? Perhaps we are about to disturb something best left to rest? Is what we are doing…right?”

“A little late for soul searching Miklos?” Maruc sat heavily on the ground. “We aren’t in a position to turn back right now. Remember we have clues as to the actions of the Sons of Night. Although we found no solid evidence that Golthar was a member, he rather fits the mould wouldn’t you say? He was onto something. Something big. Would you rather leave it to another Son of Night to discover? Our Lord Halav Re-Incarnate has lead us here. He does not lead to no purpose. Have no doubts that we are on the right path, Miklos.”

Hasan interrupted the two talkative friends, and passed over the wand and scroll. “Tell me what you can of these, Miklos.”

As the two spellcasters examined their new finds, Maruc eye’d his fellow travelers. “Feldard, we cannot risk another encounter without rest. We have been driven at spear point and Halav has granted us a place of peace. Let us use it to steal our selves for the onward journey. I for one do not think that a warband of marauding gnolls will be our worst challenge. I insist we rest here until we are healed and I have enough blessings to see us to whatever end this valley has.”

“Are you mad?” Stephan asked Miklos and Maruc after hearing them reason on spending not just one night but maybe more in the room. “You sure that old map will keep these….these…things,” he looked at the steel gollums with wide eyes, “from deciding to add our sorry carcasses to the collection they’ve got going here?” he gestured at the myriad skeletons laying about. “It seems they have not added to it in some time.”

“But Stephan, as you can clearly see, these magical constructs have been endowed with instructions by their enchanters, and clearly they have been told…”

“Nyet! Better we put distance between us and these gatekeepers.”

Stephan looked at his comrades and knew he would lose the argument.

“Paush luva kornnin,” he muttered in defeat. “This is a dark, windowless cell full of death. But full of comrades!” He tried to smile.

Seeing the far door to the bridge tower, Stephan carefully made his way to it, keeping an eye on the statues. He tried the door and found that it could easily open. Looking carefully at the statues, he pushed one door open enough for him to pass. Still with sword and shield in hand, he stepped out onto the other side of the bridge. The gnoll war party was still assembled below. Upon seeing him, there was a great commotion. Stephan could see the shock and terror even in their hideous faces.

Lifting his sword in triumph, he bellowed in goblin, hoping they’d pick up some of the words. “Your mighty foe is dead by our valiant swords and magic! Flee you puny gnolls before we bring death upon you too! Flee you disgusting, mangy currs! Or we shall bother to come down and bring you a large serving of pain and death!” He mixed in some common tongue that was generally understood by even gnoll types.

At his words, he could see that the gnolls were confused and frightened. A few of them, he noted, seemed to be translating bits of his speech. A great many in the front ranks began to push back. There began a great turmoil with much yipping and snarls as panic began to set in.

To help them along, Stephan slowly lowered his sword from the upraised position to point at the mass of gnolls. As he did, the panic mounted and several of the beasts tumbled or were pushed into the torrent of the river.

“Be gone! Death chases you! Flee!”

Miklos sighed, it might have been better to let them assume we were dead. Either way it was too late now. Perhaps it might help their cause? It probably would sew some fear amongst them that the party had power over the guardians of the bridge. He returned to his studies of the wand.

And the elf went outside to add his greetings to the gnolls to Stephan’s. After two nearly lethal spears from the dogmen, the elf was ready to taunt from safety.

After some time, the gnoll clanhead and his bodyguards seemed to take control of the situation. After barking some orders, the gnolls rounded up the small group of ogres among them. At spear point and boar head, the gnolls forced the four enslaved ogres into the tunnel entrance. The four ogres, were followed by a dozen gnolls who held five large boars by their leashes, who were to ensure that the giants would not turn back. The ogres were clearly not happy about their predicament, but they had no choice in the matter. They climbed the stairs upwards toward the bridge.

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Guardians of the Passage

“Hold Miklos.” Maruc stopped the chanting mage. “They seem to fear the bridge.There must be something here that they fear. You might need your powerful magic’s ahead, rather than behind.”

Maruc lent closer, “Golthar was keen to get the tapestry from us. Perhaps it was for this reason? May be it is a key in more ways that one?”

“Well, Maruc I was about to have a look at the map anyway. After to rather pressing urgency of the warband. But they seem to not wish the climb up. That is good, we deserve so luck.” Miklos hunted for the map and look a look. ” See here the map clearly indicates the way into the mountains. This must be the path, See the ancient ruin on the bridge? Easily as old as this map.” Miklos offered to map up to the horizon. ” See? Yes it is quiet clear. Notice that rock spur? Yes this is the way.”

Clutching the map like a lit brand, Miklos lead the way across the bridge and toward the ruin.

As the party passed the three skeletons, the dwarf took a moment to look over them more carefully to determine how they might have been killed. Everything about the scene, gave the dwarf a chilling feel. There were no arrows or bolts as he first suspected there would be.

Whatever had killed them, it did not seem to have been any physical weapon that Feldard knew of. Likely it had been some sort of blunt force trauma judging by some of the broken bones. But what bothered him most was their positioning. What manner of men would crawl away, as if in fear, rather than face an oncoming death with honor and dignity? No. Whatever had happened here, gave the dwarf a sense of foreboding about the ancient tower. However, unlike the corpses, he would face whatever it was head on.

Ludo stooped by the skeletons and did a quick search however he could not find anything of value, “there is nothing of value on them, they must have been here a long time Master Dwarf”, he said to Feldard.

As he stood up, he glanced back half expecting to see the Gnolls to come charging across the bridge, but it seemed that they had paused their chase. He cheerfully said, “Oh well it looks like we have seen the back of those Gnolls. Feldard, maybe we could spend the night in yonder ruin to rest? I doubt those Gnolls are going to trouble us now.” Slinging his backpack, he confidently advanced towards the tower happy that they were now not being pursued and would have a chance to rest.

Feldard too glanced back to the gnoll war party watching from the gorge, waiting. Unlike the rogue, he found it disturbing. The fact that the gnolls seemed to know something about this place that his party did not. Nevertheless, Feldard put his apprehension aside and checked his weapons, ensuring they were at the ready – his crossbow still loaded, his axe but a swift release from use.

The tower was 20 foot square and spread the width of the bridge. It had once been larger, but now only the ground floor was intact.

The large bronze door on its front was closed. It was engraved with a geometric pattern not unlike that of the ancient tapestry.

“If we are unhurried,” Hasan cautioned, “let us not rush. Search for magic in that tower, Miklos, afore we return as these lads did.” The elf stepped gently past the three corpses, then paused. Stripping out his weathered spellbook, the elf drew a mysterious rune in the air and whispered softly to the whipping wind. He then smiled to his companions and advanced.

Stephan genuflected to Halav upon seeing the skeletons. The eerie halt and silence of the gnoll war party made the scene worse. He too eyed the skeletons as they passed. The obvious terror and agony still on the “faces” and in the body positions brought a welling terror to Stephan’s heart. He steeled himself to his duty and kept pace with his comrades.

He kept his shield up against the gnolls and other creatures watching them from below and proceeded with the party into the structure on the bridge.

Inside was a bare windowless room, occupied by two 10-foot-high steel statues depicting the same race of robed jackal men that the party had been encountering throughout the Duchy. Many more skeletons littered the ground. Quite a few gnolls and an ogre. And then there were some human warriors, and a couple others, likely mages judging by the robes. Near one of the robed corpses was a wand, and another clutched a scroll in his bone hand.

As soon as the door had been opened, the statues began to move, slowly at first. The golden threads on the tapestry began to glow in the mage’s hands. The statues did not attack. Instead, they stood to the side and bowed.

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