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The Rod of Seven Parts, part 3

by Rick Aucoin

Report from Father Sorgia to Vicar-General Alister Paulin of the Order of the Griffin
Spring 999AC

I apologise for the lack of reports, the field being an unruly place to record events from, no paper nor pen on hand I must recall the journey as best I can.

Let me begin with a write up about the main creature that we encountered over and over again within this Desert of Lost Souls. It is a form of zombie that travels in packs of around six. Although much like a zombie in composition it seems to fight with more ferocity and sending one to its final peace only brings on more evil. (Alexander the Mage dubbed them "Desert Zombies") Once these beings are slain another form of undead rises up from the deceased's bones. I believe Aria called it a wraith. These are much more difficult to deal with and it almost cost our party our lives. In future interactions with these beings we found that when felled the beasts would take a good few minutes before their new incarnation rose from their bones, so we'd make haste to leave any combat scenes after our victory and soon we simply avoided conflict at all. The zombies being slow were easy to out manoeuvre in the gloomy environment of the underground cavern desert wasteland.

Not meaning to digress, I'll let you know that we travelled for some time, far more than we should have most likely, and all were heavy hearted. Finally I decided, even though the rituals granted to me by God should have been enough, to call on Gods directional aid to show us to our journeys end. God saw our cause righteous and gave our guide a vision of where we needed to be going. Our hearts bolstered by the news from Alexi we pressed on with great haste, only resting once on our new bearing. Our tenacity paid off, soon upon the horizon we saw Bleak Hill. This was the place that Alexi told us held the accursed item. God had led us to our quarry..

The entrance to the hill was blocked by five of the zombie like beings but Alexi volunteering soon distracted them away and the rest of the party entered. Alexi soon joined us having outrun the evil beasts. Within was evilly dark, unlike the outside which was illuminated by an eternal glow that seemed to come from the very air itself. The place stank of death. We moved forward slowly with our light gems that I had provided and were soon set upon by a wight. It caught us by surprise and was all over our lead members before we could react. We held it off as best as possible and organised ourselves as fast as we could, but not before Ilyana was struck a terrible blow by the evil creature, she later reported that its touch was as cold as the grave and seemed to draw her life-force from her body. Within these walls I could not call on Gods aid to vanquish the foul beast, so we set about bludgeoning it back to the hells that spawned it. Eventually we found there were two but we sent them both quickly off to join their evil brethren. Within the wights lair we found nothing of use, only a yellow topaz which I've sent to you, Vicar-General, as a memento of our conflict here.

Moving onward we proceeded deeper into the hill and encountered a deathly cold originating ahead. Alexi went forward to bravely investigate and came back blue in the face with frost rimming his brows. Quickly I tended him and he reported that there was odd moss growing on stalagmites in the next room and they seemed to emanate the cold. Aria informed us that they were brown moulds and that they could not harm us if we kept our distance from them. Her brother had merely crept too close. We would avoid the moulds and move through the cavern safely enough and Alexi plotted us a course. Moving through this area we found two scimitars, one initially and another on our way out leaving the hill. Alexi, our scout, took the first scimitar and marvelled at its speed and fluidness. He claimed to never have felt such a fine blade in his hands.

Entering what seemed to be the final chamber in the hill, there seemed to be little in here but rubble and debris fallen from the roof. Searching carefully we found that there indeed was nothing to be found in this chamber and moved back down the corridors to see what we had missed. Alexi soon found some symbols on a wall that he warned us not to look at, it seemed they held properties of harming and they also guarded a secret entrance that we soon had open. Alexi moved forward quietly to scout out what was ahead and came back telling us that he felt, after consulting with his sister and describing what he saw, that a Lich was awaiting within with some zombie minions. This was grave news indeed. We were at a loss. Aria started to recite all the deadly abilities at the disposal of such a foe but I stopped her. It did not matter what it could do. We needed to defeat it. Alexi volunteered to try to lure as many out of the area and back into the cold room as possible while we waited in the rubble room to move in behind them. That plan didn't work. The undead ignored Alexi completely, but the Lich did not and Alexi soon fled when he saw it moving towards him. It seemed we would face them all at once. Pooling what resources we had and formulating our strategy we all moved into the small space to vanquish the evil.

During the combat the only odd thing that happened was Ilyana rushing forward, against my orders and seemingly trying to distract some of the zombie minions away from the whole of the group, but it mattered little. I managed to take her place facing the supposed Lich head on and had little difficulty caving its skull in. The others covered my flank from being torn apart by the more ferocious zombie minions. Aria used her colour spray to put down some of the beasts while Alexander moved in to use his sturdy staff on some others. Alexi, having risked himself over and over again, was taking an easier role in the rear this time watching our backs for any surprise attacks. In quick time my mace crushed the skull of the Lich, which later Aria would inform me was a skeletal warrior, and toppled the crown of corruption from its brow. I quickly grabbed it up and kept it close to me to ensure no evils would befall the group. Other than the crown we found some other interesting items. A magical two handed sword, which has been added to the Orders armoury, a chest of platinum, a box of jewellery and a good amount of the shadow elves currency called Kalafi. We had victory and the remaining zombies had crumbled to dust. There was also what seemed to be the remains of an actual Lich within the room. The mages said it looked like a mighty Shadowelf warrior had defeated it, but then had fallen to the temptations of the crown and donned it rather than carrying it to its destruction. Not all can be as righteous as the followers of God I would suppose.

We soon found ourselves back within the safety of the Elmglow forest, calling the shadow elves with the gem they had supplied us with, only a mere two day journey back where as we had languished in there for what seemed over a week. The shadow elves welcomed us, almost with disbelief and were kind enough to cloth us and allow us to clean up as we awaited the ship to come pick us up to take us back to Lord Merdanial to deliver the crown. I could smell treachery in the air and it only got worse as we awaited but perhaps the crown affected even my judgements somewhat while in my possession.

The ship arrived and carried us as quickly upstream as it had gone down stream, we could only surmise that it was more of their magics at work. An odd race of beings indeed. We were escorted off the boat at the Citadel of Saulia and led to meet with the Lord. He briskly asked for us to hand over the crown to his priests but I was distressed to hear that the Sage Fanuidol was not present to advise me from here. He had apparently been sent ahead to Noran in case of treachery on our part. I was shocked and unsure whether these persons could be entrusted with this evil artifact and had been hoping that Fanuidol would counsel me on whether it was wise at this point. Unfortunately with him not present and my inability to speak their language, Alexi being unwilling to translate my distrust of them as they had spoken to me, there seemed to be little I could do but hand over the item and trust that God would not allow us to have the item if we weren't supposed to hand it over. Their priests of Rafael, some heathen god, took it away securely boxed up thankfully. The burden of carrying it had weighed on my conscience the whole trip and I was actually relieved to have it gone from me.

The shadow elves made good with their promises thankfully and took us up to Noran where Fanuidol and the slaves we had asked to have freed were awaiting. Shilet was also there to bid us farewell and thanked us for our bravery. He among the whole lot of those I'd met amongst these people seemed the only one sincere in his words and I felt that I'd actually miss this shadow elf who's manners were so very elegantly alien. Taken back to the entrance down into their world, the shadow elves who had escorted us informed us that the tunnel would be caved in quite quickly and that we should hurry our way upwards. We consented and rushed to the surface and the awaiting sun.

The slaves that we had managed to barter to freedom were Jasper and Fornod both Thyatians, Eorl Harladson a hearty northman, Bendo Hornblower and Poril both elderly halflings and they seemed very happy for their freedom. Though from speaking with them it seemed that each of them had deserved the fate of slave for a time. Nonetheless wishing to give them a new chance in life we supplied them with some coin and sent them on their way home.

The elves of the surface soon found us wandering towards Alfheim and rejoiced at our tale of bravery and the underworld. We were treated as heroes at Fanuidol's return and were soon in the lap of luxury soaking away the aches of long hard travels. Fanuidol explained what he knew about the Rod of seven parts and of the land in which the battles had been fought which was now buried beneath the seas. He stated that he had been witness to the battle and the sundering of the Rod and that he had in his possession one of the pieces and that he would give it over to us because of our bravery but that he felt his peoples were no longer one with law as they were in the olden days. We thanked him for his kindness and he set off to recover the Rod which he explained would take him a couple weeks to get but he would be quite safe on his journey and that we should rest. This we did and he soon returned with the seventh part of the Rod the smallest and bottom most part of that great relic that we sought in order to thwart the Queen of Chaos and keep Mishka imprisoned forever.

This is where I leave off, my hand shaking, I am so very tired. I look forward to the weeks of rest ahead. Even the travel home will seem a luxury after our hardships.

>>Thus ends the first part of the Quest of the Rod, The Alfheim Fragment.<<