Verrater felt a little out of his depth approaching the Dragonewt, but as the Empire’s representative, he felt it was his duty to initiate contact. It would be better, after all, to avoid facing twelve of the creatures when one had almost killed him.
“My name is Verrater Bealdor, representative of the Lunar Empire on a quest of great importance. We are not looking for trouble, but wish to pass through this cavern.”
The Dragonewt glanced briefly at him before making a bizarre breathy throat sound and walking by to feed one of the birds with chunks of rodent. Shrugging, Verrater waved his companions along with him.
They bundled carefully down the cave, discovering a collection of remains. For the most part, these appeared to be human, though Grogar was disturbed by the presence of troll bones as well. Other figures were clearly dragonewts.
Scrooge paused by the ancient skeleton of a troll. His shamanic sight detected a powerful aura within it.
“Hey, guys,” he murmured, “there’s a spirit in those bones.”
Then all hell broke loose.
The bones leapt to their feet, screaming in an ethereal voice, “You shall not hold me!” Other skeletons began to stand, and soon the group was surrounded in the narrow corridor. The troll bones took off down the passage, but in the chaos none of the companions considered it. Instead, their focus was held on the once-dead figures now approaching, swinging their weapons menacingly.
The group were faced with even greater fear when Grogar crashed his mace mightily though the spine of one of the bodies. Its legs collapsed, but the bones continued to drag themselves onwards. In the tight quarters, Grogar found himself pummelled on multiple fronts, and the scrapes and hits gradually took their unpleasant toll.
Stern also found himself in trouble. Not one for frontline fighting, he had been surprised when the bones began to rise from within the group’s midst. It took only one hit before he was laid out, grievously injured and requiring immediate medical assistance, which fortunately Scrooge was close enough to administer.
Calvin, high on his success in the battle with the bird earlier, leapt into the fray excitedly, but a violent swing from one of the skeletons removed his right leg. Ouch.
It seemed hopeless. As soon as Grogar managed to knock down one skeleton, another would jump to its feet and go on the attack. Verrater was close to acknowledging that this venture was likely to be a one-way ticket to hell when the skeletons suddenly collapsed.
The gang licked their wounds, and Verrater used the Chalana Arroy gift of Regrow Limb on Calvin. He had come to, and his leg began to shape into a stump, though it would be a week before it returned fully. Calvin took a spear from one of the bodies to support himself, and the group, after healing and resting briefly, made its way deeper into the cavern.
It was only at this point that Verrater, with time to think more clearly, realised that the very object of his desire, the spirit itself, had been within his grasp, yet he had missed his opportunity. The troll bones were gone, and they would have to find them again, assuming the spirit remained within them.
It seemed that Stern had realised this as well.
“When we come across that creature again, we must use this dagger on it,” he claimed, revealing an ornate, engraved dagger that he had been carrying out of sight. Verrater frowned. This hadn’t been mentioned to him before. He glanced at Calvin, who was still getting used to his temporary replacement leg.
They spent some time exploring the complex. The walls consisted of an overlapping shale design, and between the tiles a dull red glow pulsed. It was not enough to light their way, however, and they found themselves relying on Calvin’s hooded lantern and various light spells to see by.
The complex was vast and empty. There were signs of some ancient combat, dragon-worship, kitchens, sleeping quarters and dining halls. The group almost walked in on some dragonewts who were standing by a wall screeching unmovingly.
Yet there was no sign of the troll skeleton until the group heard a crashing and scaping sound coming from a passageway. Travelling along it, they discovered a collapsed section of floor, which revealed a 10-metre drop into blackness. Scrooge cast light on a stone and dropped it down to reveal a black ooze at the bottom of the pit.
Marks indicated that the troll bones had fallen into the ooze and dragged itself out. The gang was beginning to discuss possible approaches to getting down (they didn’t much fancy a swim in the ooze) when two broos appeared below them, attracted by the light.
TO BE CONTINUED.