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.