The 1st Day of Tarsakh in the Year of the Sudden Journey
This appendix details the overall map and locations the party have discovered in the chambers below the “mouth”.
The 1st Day of Tarsakh in the Year of the Sudden Journey
This appendix details the overall map and locations the party have discovered in the chambers below the “mouth”.
The shards of stone had spread out to reveal a circular chamber probably a hundred feet across, the whole construct likely some form of dome with the “mouth” at its peak. Glittering with the shining dust of broken stone were hundreds of sharp spikes in the centre of the floor, stabbing up into the air with longing for the sky. They were arranged in a circle, matching the size of the “mouth”, forming the white of a huge eye shape carved in the floor.
Near the centre of the eye was a humanoid shape, twisted and broken in a grotesque pose as though it had fallen some distance. Extending from the eye shape were three strangely angled channels, one going north, the others southeast and southwest, running away towards the edges of the chamber, still muffled in the dim light.
A balcony surrounded the wide circular room, some dozen or so feet up from the bottom and about ten feet wide, cloaking the area below in gloom. A wide stone banister at the edge gleamed from the light of the stones. Tied to the banister were the ropes stretching down from the grapples hooked at the edges of the “mouth”.
The warlord and mage advanced down a gloomy passage that resembled the others they’d traversed. The pair had barely gone half a dozen paces before the passage turned abruptly to their left.
Peering cautiously round the corner the pair saw the coast was clear and proceeded on. Some twenty feet beyond they came to a spiral staircase, the stone steps bending down.
The only assault was one of the stench of unwashed bodies and the remnants of a cooked meal. Beyond the doors was a long corridor, perhaps fifty feet in length, several doors lining the southern wall and a solitary one to the north. At the end of the corridor the room opened out into something larger, dimly lit by firelight from around the corner and a guttering lamp on a table surrounded by benches.
It was indeed a bedchamber — a rough bedroll stretched out on the floor of a small cell, maybe ten feet by ten feet. It stank a little, but not too badly, but wasn’t lit. When Tradden thrust his torch into the room it illuminated all of the corners. Nothing jumped out at him and no insects scurried away. The only other contents of the room were a rough leather pack and a rickety chair to one side.
A tiny flame of a small candle on the far wall spluttered as he pushed against the door. It was about a couple of dozen feet away and gave off a soft yellow glow. As his eyes adjusted to the gloom he could make out a number of stalls on either side of the room. At first they reminded him of stables, until he realised to his amusement it was a privy. One meant for many men, perhaps, with eight stalls as far as he could tell. There was no foul smell, though.
The room was fairly large and housed a couple of large tables surrounded by stools. In the southeastern corner were stacked barrels and crates of various shapes and sizes, mostly wooden he could see in the guttering light of two lanterns, one on each of the tables.
The tables themselves were strewn with dirty plates covered with half-eaten food as though everyone had left in a hurry. A set of white dice in the middle of one of the tables abandoned halfway through a game. A fireplace or oven squatted in the southwestern corner, coals dying slowly due to lack of tending.
Three doors, all closed, lined the western wall and another one stood ajar on the northern wall. Behind him, next to the corridor was another closed door on the eastern wall.
The room before the young fighter was dark but there was enough light from the common room to illuminate its disappointing content. Perhaps the first dozen feet of the room were fairly clear, empty weapon racks lining the stone walls, only a pair of rusting javelins and a dull short sword remained in their banks. Within the space were a couple of stools and a low table, perhaps used for fletching arrows judging by the scattered arrowheads and shafts nearby.
The far dozen feet of the room appeared to be some sort of dumping ground — a jumbled tangle of shattered wooden struts, rotting tapestries, iron bed frames and other detritus.
The swim of dim light from within let him know the room was lit, but it was only as he got closer he could tell it was from a few oil lamps hung around the room in a scattered pattern, hung to the stone of the roof on rusting hooks.
There was no movement, nor any large objects for anyone to hide behind, although the rogue was careful about what might be lurking behind the door itself. With a quick sidestep he rounded the frame and slipped inside. To his relief the room was devoid of threat.
The room was as wide as the common room, but a little longer. Lined along each walls were rows of bedrolls, most filthy and worn, most topped with a pack or sack. The room smelt of sweat and worse.
The door gave way to a short hallway walled with the same stone as the common room stretching out for a couple of dozen yards to the east until it became lost in gloom, opening up into a chamber.
In the centre of the chamber Tradden could spy the base of a black statue, dimly luminescent against the darkness that threatened to obscure it. Leading into the chamber were dark chains along the sides of the walls, starting from the door where Tradden stood and running around the chamber to the far side where another pair of stone doors stood closed. The chains were at hand height, loose and slack, hanging from iron rings set into the stone at intervals. At the bottom of each slack area appeared a heavy ball between links of the chain.
Edging carefully forward the combination of light from the staff and the oil lamps in the common room behind them revealed what was a small room, similar to the others they had opened, perhaps ten feet square.
The door suddenly stopped opening inwards without warning, making Tradden jump until he realised it had stopped up against a bed nestled in the corner. The room was really quite dry — Tradden’s mouth could attest to that. It made sense considering there was an oven at this corner of the common room.
The room was still — no occupants. Good. As with some of the other rooms there was a desk and chair, these both in good condition, in situ and both up against the western wall. Tradden could just make out a large vial of ink, probably half full, on the top of the desk next to a few discarded pens. As his eyes improved to the semi-darkness, and he and Kireth moved forward inch by inch, he could also make out ink stains across the desk here and there.
As torch and candlelight alike filled the room it was immediately apparent that this was another of the sleeping cells they had encountered before. However, Zero’s disappointment was tempered with the fact that this cell appeared to be more opulent than the others.
Instead of a shabby bedroll upon the stone floor there was a wooden bed in the far corner, rickety, but at least looked more comfortable than a cold floor. Opposite the door was a wooden chair and desk — a polished metal sheet acting as a mirror atop it. A shaving razor and comb were left upon the top of the desk along with a metal goblet and pipe.
Piquing Zero’s interest more, however, was a solid-looking wooden chest nestled under the desk.
A spluttering candle burned with a poor yellow flame upon a wax-strewn desk in front of the rogue and as he peered around the door he could see a familiar bedroll, although this was defintely more unkempt than the other pair of adjacent cells.
The room smelt of stale sweat and had an orcish-odour, although whether that came from the bedroll or the oiled leather pack in the corner of the room he couldn’t tell. A rough wooden crate, without a lid stood against the far wall, three or four rusted and wicked looking blades standing upright within it.
They were, as Khalin had surmised, at the bottom of the dome, underneath the “mouth” and the balcony circling above. Snow slowly fell through the gaping hole in the ceiling, whipped and thrown around by a chilling breeze that circled around the chamber.
Above the balcony the carvings could be seen in relief, some areas almost aglow with the lustrous black stone. Pinpricks of golden light reflected from the torches cast down from the top of the dome to reveal the tapestry of the stars, set in stone rather than the sky, the black void normally seen in the southern skies flecked with the golden light of a spiral. Zero shivered once more.
The snows did not seem to be settling within the base of the dome, the flakes melting once they hit the stone floor. In amongst a few shards of white rubble the group saw the spikes, arranged in an eye from what they could remember from the balcony above, an orc still and lifeless at its centre, its blood still dripping into the channels that extended outwards at three points.
Khalin quickly strode further towards the centre of the chamber, surveying the exits. The balcony was at least a dozen feet above him, too high to grab and climb up, but there were a pair of open doors to the south and another pair, these closed, to the west.
Not far from the doors the corridor stopped at an intersection and Zero crept up one side and stuck his head around the corner briefly. Looking to the east he could just about make out the shape of a spiral stair heading upwards, probably to the balcony. Back to the west he could just about make out the rubble of a collapsed roof, the corridor blocked and impassible.
The torch flames danced about, the flame brightening a little as the dwarf held it into the chamber. The room was a mess, to say the least, yellowing straw and rotting evergreen boughs lay across the floor, interspersed with mounds of some creature’s deposits. The stink was intense, as though the room had been closed for a while, with nowhere for the smell to go.
Nothing moved inside and Khalin assumed the place had been empty for some time — the remains of what appeared to be stalls surrounded the room, perhaps once being a stable. The stench reminded him of the “stable” in the ruined keep, where the hobgoblins had kept their carrion crawlers that pulled their carts. They had fought one of the beasts and he had no compulsion to want to fight another.
The chamber was not what Zero had expected. Secret doors usually led to exciting secrets, but this pair of portals appeared to lead to nothing other than some sort of abandoned storeroom.
A musty smell dominated the room, a mixture of disuse and rot and the cabbage-like aroma of cheap lamp oil. The dim flames of lamps cast shadows all around the room, some fifty feet across, dancing within the alcoves where the remains of several wooden constructions lay under films of dust.
Just in front of the rogue was the remains of a wooden ballista, its struts and stanchions slumped and loose, its ropes frayed and broken, and its iron braces rusted and dull.
Directly across from Zero were another pair of double stone doors, closed against whatever lay beyond.
The stone staircase led the group around two and a half turns before spilling them out into short corridor, much like any of the other corridors. A couple of dozen feet in front of them was a junction, and Zero popped his head out briefly to look either way.
To the north was a faint glow of torchlight emanating from somewhere beyond a half opened door another couple of dozen feet away. To the south, just beyond the junction was a large black door, eerily familiar stone to that of the balcony carvings in what appeared to be another bas relief, unintelligible at this distance.
The torchlight gradually calmed to reveal a triangular room, with Tradden at the peak, a vaulted ceiling arching away from the doorway to its highest point some twenty feet up at the wide end of the room, some thirty or so feet away, dim in the gloom.
The statue was directly opposite the door he had just come through, but on the far side of the room. It appeared to be a man with his arms and face raised towards the sky, similar in style to the broken ones atop the hill near the “mouth”. Flanking it on either side were two stone doors, similar to the one Zero had just managed to open.
To the east and west, leading out of this chamber, were wide archways, perhaps into other rooms, lost in the gloom and darkness.
The young fighter was about to step forward, to usher the light into the archways, when he noticed the unusual markings upon the stone floor. It bore an artful pattern of raised black stones, a couple of feet across each, littering the floor of the chamber. To get to the other side of the room there seemed little option but to step on or between the stones. The nearest was only some inches from Tradden’s feet.
Lowering the torch he looked at the nearest by his feet to see that it was exquisitely carved, an eyeball looking out from the blackness, the channels of the carvings glowing ever so slightly. The others had eyeballs too, some looking up, some looking to the side, and some perhaps behind.
The door swung open silently revealing a small square room within, barely a dozen feet across. A thin film of dust rose into the air as the draught from the chamber of eyes spilled into the room, swirling around for a moment before starting to slowly settle once more upon the three large stone chests that dominated the centre of the room.
The chests appeared to be carved out of the stonework of the floor, but had neither the grace nor the workmanship of the carvings upon the door. They appeared plain at first, but as Khalin slowly entered the room he could make out notches in the stonework, as though someone had been using the outside of the chests to count.
The flickering light revealed another small chamber, similar in size to its neighbour, but this one appeared much more cramped, the walls lines with shelves upon which were stacked reams of parchment, neatly laid out and bound.
The alcove slowly came into view as Khalin moved forwards, the torchlight reaching around the walls and softly illuminating the small room beyond. It only went back a couple of dozen feet but the dwarf had to move all the way to the entrance to spill the light into the corners.
Black shapes loomed out of the side walls and Khalin drew back for a moment, raising his hammer, until he realised with relief that the shapes were little more than cloaks, hung up, a little dusty and spotted with small cobwebs.
The rest of the area appeared to be harmless — a wooden table butted up against the far wall seemed to be the only other furniture, its top covered with jars and pots arranged neatly and orderly.
‘Curious,’ uttered the mage as he approached the eastern alcove. His light lit up the room in stark glory, a similar size to the western alcove, but this one packed with a number of small wooden desks and nothing else. ‘Writing desks?’ Kireth mused with a raised eyebrow.
The desks were arranged in a couple of rows, a half-dozen of them, well-built and carved with a chair as part of the structure. Kireth traced the carvings of one of the desks with his fingers — the quality of the carving was particularly good, the top flat and smooth, but well worn around the corners as though it had seen much use. Carved into the desk was space for a number of ink wells as well as other small compartments complete with lids.
The group edged towards the west, Zero leading the way once more. Keeping as quiet as he could he nudged up towards the closest door on the southern side of the corridor.
He was about to put his ear to the door before he realised there was a small barred window at a comfortable head height. Cautiously, he peered through, before calling Tradden across to throw some light through the bars.
As the flame lit up the inside of the room it became obvious quickly that it was some form of cell. The room was barely half-a-dozen feet across, and the same wide, with the remains of rusting manacles attached to the far wall and detritus upon the floor that made the rogue shiver.
Past the cells in the corridor the route opened up into a large chamber, about the same size as the common room far above. Stunted black candles lined the edge of the room, quivering with a sickly light, throwing only just enough light for the warlord to see, despite his dwarven heritage.
Objects were only half-formed in the gloom, but Khalin’s stomach turned as he recognised the instruments of torture, quickly becoming a common yet unwanted occurance. However, it was the figure in the centre of the room that grasped the attention of all that looked.
Seated upon a short stool in the middle of the chamber was a bald man — probably a human — his back facing the door. Even in the dim light Khalin could see he was stripped to the waist, his back gleaming with a bloody mess of lacerations.
The man was rocking back and forth upon the chair, wordlessly babbling, his arms held limply by his side, caught by long chains stretching to the floor. In front of him stood some sort of lectern, bearing a large open book scrawled with messy writing.
The cells were tiny, almost too small for anyone to lie in them comfortably, with a locked set of bars forming a door. None of the cells, either on the northern or the southern side appeared to have more than old dried bones and the rusty remains of manacles within them.
The passageway came to an abrupt end before the rogue’s feet, Zero only just catching himself before he plunged his foot over what seemed like a precipice. The hallway ended suddenly at the edge of an enormous circular pit, vertigo making the rogue’s head spin as the poor light picked out a floor almost three storey’s below his toes.
As Tradden’s flame joined Khalin’s the rest of the chamber flickered into view. The other side of the pit could just be made out, fifty or so feet away, with another short corridor leading again into the darkness of a further chamber. Dominating the centre of this chamber, however, was a huge pillar rising from the depths of the pit, comfortably probably for two to stand abreast, the top level with the corridor.
Atop the pillar was some form of wooden or metal contraption — it was hard to tell in the spluttering light — that could only be described as a turnstile. Extending from three equidistant points around the pillar, perhaps five feet below its top, were titanic sickle-like blades, scraping the stone at the edges of the pit with their points.
From the cuts and gouges in the stone circling the pit it was fairly obvious that the blades must spin around, perhaps controlled by the turnstile at the centre.
The bolt clanked against stone after a bare few moments, tumbling to the ground in a cascade of light and shadow. The soft illumination outlined a circular domed chamber, dominated in the centre by a carving of a vast eye staring up from the floor from within the folds of eyelids in shining, black stone.
A chain from the ceiling stretched down to meet a stone orb, or at least half of one, perhaps meant to be the eye’s iris, nestled snugly within the eye. The chains connected to others in the domed roof and likely ran down through the walls to an array of winches and levers across the room, perhaps thirty feet away.
Pools of what Zero could only describe as black tar were spattered across the floor here and there, and it was in counting these that the rogue’s eyes finally spotted the body just beyond the eye, still and silent, prostate, it arms reaching out to the levers.
The others had followed Zero’s route up the stairs and came up and into the chamber, Kireth’s light spilling into even the darkest recesses. The statues, towards each corner of the square chamber, looked at first to be the most distinctive thing in the room, but lining the floor were a number of dead bodies, that held the attention somewhat.
Khalin managed to pry his eyes away from the bodies, looking for exits, but found none. The walls of the chamber were simply solid with stone, with no gaps nor doorways. The statues were tall, taller than a man, and with their arms outstretched almost reached the roof. The only other feature he spotted was a small stone block near to Zero, where a bundle of what appeared to be blood-stained rags sat.