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The Rod of Seven Parts, part 2by Rick Aucoin
Report #2 from Father Sorgia to Vicar-General Alister Culen of the Order of the Griffin
19 Felmont, 999AC
Travelling down into the hole we soon found that this was no animal burrow, the tunnel becoming more worked and smooth as we ventured further, with stone steps beneath our feet leading downward on a 45 degree angle. We were descending, into what we were unsure. Eventually after much travel the tunnel opened up into a great cavern who's limits we could not discern from our vantage point. Large indeed was this realm we had discovered. Venturing out into the cavern we came upon a well maintained road that seemed to traverse the cavern from one end to the other, leading off towards points unknown. God led us down the road to the right. Is there a reason that the elves have told nothing of the organised nature that the shadow elves seem to maintain? Will the elves of the surface be wary of our findings down here and try to silence us? Heedless of our dangers, we pressed on down the road in hopes of catching up with Fanuidol's abductors.
The road carried on for quite some time and it was quickly giving us a taste of its vastness. Up ahead we spied what seemed to be a wagon under attack by a chitinous, mandibled beast, which stood a good eleven feet tall. Quickly accessing the situation, I allowed our scout to loose an arrow to test the beasts mettle before I moved the others closer, using the merchants wagon for cover from the beasts sight. The wagon was being pulled by a giant slug which seemed tame enough and soon to be lunch for the great hulking attacking if we were not to intrude. A shadow elf had been trying to fend off the attack on his wagon and had been knocked wide of his vehicle as we approached. Ilyana charged the beast immediately. Taking the mages around the side, I ensured the shadow elf still lived and his wounds tended before leaving him in the care of the mages. I then went to aid Ilyana. Our scout was now moving in for a better angle on the beast as well. The battle went well, though all who participated were injured afterwards. A commendation may be in order for Ilyana for her stalwart charge to ensure the safety of the foreign civilian. Aria identified the monster as an umber hulk. After all had calmed down we found the merchants name to be Fernalin and he was more than eager to have guards to escort him the rest of the way on his journey to Noran, the largest town in the vicinity. We agreed we would escort him, but that he should rest up for an evening, as we needed a break as well and should look into any possible lair that this beast may have had. What we found did amaze us, after a good search our mage, more skilled in magical beasts ways, found its lair and we had quite a welcome surprise awaiting. An archaic suit of armour, a green gem tipped mace, a fancy long sword, gauntlets, a ring with a shield image impression, a beautiful red cape, a box of 14 gems and a chest filled with what appeared to be platinum and gold coins. Thousands of coins. A Kings ransom. Gladly we set about hauling the gains from the beasts lair and rested up for our travel the next day. (?)
Our journey to Noran, a town of two to three thousand, so Fernalin said, was uneventful passing through what he called star point forest, filled with giant mushrooms that loomed far above a man along the way and the arrival was spectacular. Noran had walls fifteen feet high, guards resplendent in fine chain and equally fine weapons walking about with a regal air. A strong hold among men easily. Fernalin casually remarked that it was necessary given their underworld attackers such as orcs, goblins and stray monsters such as the umber hulk we had fought. The guards gave us no grief entering and Fernalin dropped us and our treasure off at the closest inn. Along the way we noticed many slaves, humans, halflings, etc and Fernalin explained they were captives of the state, arrested as spies and attackers of their realm. Tired from our journey we enjoyed a meal and made preparations for rooms. It seemed these elves, along with Fernalin spoke none of our tongue. Alexi was able to communicate with them through an Elven dialect he knew and a bit of Darokinian. Without his language prowess we would have been in a sorry state. A recommendation for his service is definitely in order. During our meal I blessed the inn with a few words and the shadow elves not understanding our tongue looked at us strangely and then each of them seemed to weave a magic about themselves. Obviously these shadow elves were quite a magical peoples. We were not long finished our meal when three important elves entered the inn, two carrying staves, the other seeming to be a commander of sorts. They ordered us to relinquish our weapons and surrender to them for arrest. Apparently we had broken the law somehow and even though we had gone to great lengths to ensure this would not happen by consulting with Fernalin on our journey, it seemed to have been for naught. I was enraged that we were being so rudely abducted, without even an explanation of what we had done wrong or a warning of any sorts, but decided that the law is the law and that we would need to obey. God would see us through. After we surrendered our weapons, our treasure was confiscated and the elf, who introduced himself as Captain Harlok, led us unshackled to a tower, escorted by a troop of twelve shadow Elven warriors. Here we were imprisoned separately as we awaited to speak with the magistrate he had promised us.
We languished for an undetermined amount of time. An eerie glow permeated everything in this underworld and there was never any dark. Everything was lit, almost like it were a gloomy day. Soon we were brought out of our cells and brought together in a hall. Here we were introduced to a man by the name of Shilete. Again Alexi acted as our translator. Here we were informed that Noran was part of a territory called Saulia, which was ruled by Lord Madonna from his Citadel of Saulia down the Delnidor flow river. He avidly wished to meet with us, apparently knew we were coming and had sent this man to fetch us. Released into the care of Shilet, we were given back all our possessions except for our treasure, which the Captain conveniently misplaced, but promised it would be awaiting us when we returned.
Securing travel for us down the Delnidor river, Shilet soon had us under way. He explained that his lord had expected our arrival and was looking forward to meeting us. The travel was long and we got to see more of the vastness of this underground realm. Strongholds, forts and other fortifications were passed on our way down the river and I'm sure that waging war down here against these obvious veterans would be a hell in itself. When we arrived at the Citadel of Saulia we were pleasantly greeted and escorted to meet Lord Madonna. Upon meeting his lordship, Fanuidol was also found. It seemed that the elven sage was a 'guest' of his lordships. Lord Madonna let us know that he had abducted the Sage Fanuidol in hopes of luring down a group that would stand a chance of completing a quest that needed completion. Within the desert of lost souls in his lands there was an artifact known as the Crown of Corruption that lured his people to madness. He wished to have the crown retrieved and handed over to his priests of Rafiel to be dealt with. His people were unable to accomplish the task, as it would drive them insane. If we were able to bring it to him, he would hand Fanuidol over to us and allow us to go home. We conversed with ourselves and Lord Madonna allowed Fanuidol to confirm that what his lordship said of the artifact was true. After speaking among ourselves we decided to ask for slaves to be released as well and his lordship agreed to let us each take one to freedom with us. During the whole exchange is was found that Shilet was a mage of sorts, as he had cast a spell allowing him to understand our words in Thyatian. Having little choice but to agree we were given rooms to rest in for our upcoming journey to the desert of lost souls.
Heading down river again we passed more fortifications and strongholds, our hopes of fighting our way out was soon quelled. Eventually we arrived at a fishing community and disembarked from our boat. Past the village was the Elmglow forest and we were escorted that way by locales that had been arranged for us. Shilet left us here and gave us a 'calling crystal' which he said we could use to get the boat to return to pick us up. All we had to do was hold the crystal and concentrate on him. Easily understanding and realising that these were a magical people, we followed our guides off into the woods. We reached the edge of the desert of lost souls and our guides turned around and headed home, wanting to have nothing to do with this area.
Moving forward to investigate the wastelands we soon saw a group of what appeared to be zombies approaching. We awaited their approach, I secure in the fact that our lord God has never allowed such beasts near my person. When they approached close enough I called and there was no answer from God, my call having been muted by the evils of this land. Forced to fight the beasts hand to hand we soon had them defeated, slightly injured but victorious. Binding our wounds and not expecting more trouble immediately, shadowy forms rose up from the zombies bodies and began to encircle us where we stood. Again I called on the name of the Lord and he realised our plight. The shadowy forms shrieked and fled from the light of our Lord God but we were wiser this time and pulled back to the forest edge to recuperate and think out how we would approach. The desert of lost souls awaited ahead of us and within it the crown of corruption.