As the last drow fell, I turned to Aedric and shouted in victory.
“We prevail again my friend! If only we had whiskey to celebrate …”
Aedric grinned, but his face soon fell. I turned and saw the fallen kobold on the floor, his body cut through by drow steel. Dvallin fell to his knees next to his fallen squire, and gave me a look that chilled me to the bone.
“This is on you Strogg … if not for your avarice my squire would still live.”
I looked down in shame. The dwarf’s words were true; if not for my jewel-lust, fate might have gone a different way.
We covered Skurg with a shroud and I said a few words on his behalf. I know not what I said, so clouded was my mind from grief and guilt. Never had I met a squire so loyal and bold. Truly, he was the only squire I had ever met, but still … he seemed a good one. Perhaps I spoke too long; when my speech was finished, Rivyett had dozed off and Aedric had retreated to a corner to sharpen his blade. Only the other dwarf — the square one — stood by, and gave me a comforting pat on the shoulder (which nearly knocked me down).
We made camp, as best we could in this wretched place, but were soon disturbed by scratching noises from one of the dark hallways that extended from the drow alter room. We soon saw the source of the noise — disembodied hands scratching their way across the floor. What horrors this place holds! Dvallin blasted the first wave to oblivion. We built a crude barricade to stave off the rest, and slept in shifts.
I dreamt of Lady Myrna and awoke feeling renewed (though I do wonder if she will recognize — covered as I am in black fur — I must find a wizard who can fix my condition). Rivyett complained of a nightmare — something about diseased skin. I nodded politely as I always do, in accordance with my policy of staying on the good side of a lady who can explode heads at will. Aedric, too, had dreamed poorly, and seemed truly shaken at a vision of dark helm and a darker voice. Aedric is a good man, but his bloodlust worries me, and now I wonder if it worries him as well. Dvallin also muttered darkly after awakening, though I could not tell if he had also nightmared, or those were his regular dark mutterings.
Resuming our search for the Citadel of the Bloody Hand (but not before I gathered the gemstones I had pried from the spider statue’s eyes), we wandered through a number of hallways. Aedric purports to be keeping a map, but I fear we will never again see the light of day. Even the dwarven ranger was lost when we came upon him. Kelgar has taken some spidery leather from the drow and stretched it around his sturdy frame. It looks quite uncomfortable. Both Kelgar and I took dark cloaks from the drow. The magical material makes me feel as if I could disappear into the wall, but the dark stuff is cold against my skin.
We stumbled across a secret door secured with the most infernal lock — I broke two picks trying to crack it! Aedric and Kelgar tried the brute force approach, but that failed as well, and the three of us ended in a bruised heap. Rivyett laughed heartily, and it was the first time I had seen Dvallin smile since Skurg fell.
As I checked my flask to see if it had, by any chance, magically refilled with whiskey, Kelgar called out from ahead. The hallway had opened up into a massive cavern with rough walls covered in fine ash. Aedric cracked a sunrod, revealing a massive, headless statue in the center of the room.
Does my curiosity sometimes get the better of me? Perhaps it does. I admit I thought this statue of red stone might be the very Citadel we were searching for (Dvallin reminded me later that a magical staircase would take us to the Citadel). In any case, perhaps I should not have attempted to climb the statue. The moment I touched it my body was struck by a powerful blast of electricity, which had the effect of singeing off a good deal of my newly acquired fur. I screamed in pain and ran, as magical bolts shot from the statues hands, attacking us all. Finding myself some small protection in an alcove, I reached into my Bag of Tricks, hoping to find a useful flying animal to investigate the statue. Alas, I drew a scorpion. Kelgar found me and reunited the party, and we crept out of the vast cavern (via the alcove I had inadvertently discovered), closely hugging the wall.
We next came to a wide room containing four pillars. Above each was a hovering object; a golden sceptre, a fine crossbow, a closed plate helm, and a long blade. I chose caution this time, and approached the second pillar carefully. Kelgar was not so wise, and grabbed at the crossbow. To my horror, the crossbow dissolved before the square dwarf could touch it, and in its place stood a dark armored wraith wielding a fearsome greatsword. I spun just in time to see another helmed wraith leap down from the pillar behind me, but I did not dodge in time. His sharp blade bit deep into my arm, and an electric shock coursed through my flesh (yet again!). The wraith moved with blinding swiftness, and had cut me again before I could properly react. My vision narrowed and bile rose in my throat. I wondered if I even deserved to live — what am I but a greedy old thief with no sense, no savings, and a powerful taste for whiskey?
A hand touched my shoulder and life flowed back into me. “Make this one count,” said a gruff voice. It was the thin dwarf, Dvallin, rending his own flesh to heal mine. I cried out and leapt at the armored appiration, tearing into him with my Subtle blade. A ghostly cry emitted from his helmet.
“Your sword is sharp, but you fight without soul!” I yelled, and stabbed him in the face.
Around me, the battle raged. I thanked Dvallin, awkwardly (I cannot look him in the eye), and joined the fray. Aedric’s wicked longsword tore into the wraiths, and Kelgar wildly spun a weapon in each hand and demonstrated a vigorous maneuver he later told me was named “two dog pounce” or some such. The Lady Rivyett hurled her fearsome magic at the wraiths, and soon we were victorious.
Unfortunately, the helmed wraiths left us no treasure. Just another trap set by a mad wizard!
We took a short rest, and continued down a hallway, relying on Aedric’s crude “map.” What a maze we are in. One would not be surprised to turn a corner and see a huge man with the head of a bull, wielding a great axe.