3rd of Desnus, 4715 (continued)
Looking back, I like to think our ancestors would forgive our juvenile exuberance and bad tactics. But we were stuck in a bad situation. We tried to retreat into the , but ended up trying again to cross the bridge a second time. Torag gave us the willpower to finish the task, but unfortunately, we were badly hurt by the attempt. In the process of coating the bridge with our blood, we managed to kill one of the creatures. There was a cry of anguish in some foreign tongue. The invisible creature descends towards the forest floor and beneath the bridge, out of my site. The one that falls is fading in power. Shamus thinks the language of the cry was sylvin, but none of us know it.
We take the opportunity to cross the bridge. Beauxie and Shamus gather some of the beast’s glittering domains.
Across the bridge and through the doors, we come into a large chamber with a central dais and a raised throne. Standing just before the throne is a dwarven woman. She calls to us to enter quickly and close the door behind us.
She claims to have been under siege by the creatures that have overtaken the heart. She walks towards us using a crystal staff that she’s leaning on. She calls herself Ewigga, the last of the stone singers. She claims to have been here since the circle fell. She names this place the council chamber.
The 21 crystal panels around us depict a narrative of how the stone circle fell. The ghostlike images play within their interiors. They portray a hoard of orcs rampaging across the marsh until they meet a host of dwarves who are greatly unnumbered. The dwarves retreat to the standing stones, where many dwarves with earth and plant elementals march forth against the orcish hord. In the final scene many dwarves impale themselves with crystals. From these impaled bodies comes earth elementals who route the orcs and their slaughter sends the survivors fleeing in terror.
Ewigga seems distraught at the scene that plays over the crystals. She detects when Tova casts detect magic and whips her head around to see where it came from. Tova senses: minor divination (2), faint divination, minor transmutation (5). Ewigga’s staff has a strong no-school magic effect. There’s also an evocation item, a magical shirt (abjuration), and a ring (abjuration).
When asked why the earth does not remember Ewigga (prompted by Menhir), she tells us it is because she is in the heart of stone. Tira and Ewigga speak together for some time. We try to drop heavy hints that there is taint here, but she misses them and carries on as if nothing is amiss.
Methari (the leader of the stone singers at the time) lead the others in the sacrifice. She recognizes the name Asbera and says she was one of the last ones to leave after discovering a new doorway to a small town down south. As we spread out she accuses us of being false and she disappears.
Shamus fires his crossbow at her, and it pancakes midair and it falls to the ground. Beaxite runs in and starts snapping in the air and pancakes into something. We manage to corner her on the dias and hurt Ewigga quite badly. Shamus feels something breeze by him. He turns, backs up a safe distance and casts magic to coat the doorway with spider webs, catching Ewigga.
Ewigga’s magical armour stops most of our arrows and deters Beauxite’s bite. The little knot of webs distends and starts to tear. The door is being pulled open. We think Ewigga is changing her form. Shamus dispels the webs and Beaxite rushes in, slams into something, and goes into a death roll. Despite a set of near-desperate attacks, something pushes through the door. Menhir tries to grapple it, but gets pushed down.
Tira is frustrated and tired as Ewigga departs. She seethes at fighting the invisible beasts and says we are spinning our wheels with this. We have no direction or purpose and are ill prepared to deal with invisible creatures. She begrudgingly accepts the groups decision to at least look around before we leave.
We lock ourselves in the chamber, and spend some time looking around. There is not much to find. We open the door to the room Ewigga defined as the seed vault. Inside we find boxes and bags of seeds. Tiva gives us each a small bag of soil (to throw at the next invisible creature we find).
The door to the north opens to a stair down that goes below a layer of giant green and white dotted floating toadstool mushrooms. The floor below seems to be some kind of compost. The mushroom won’t take Tira’s weight, and we suspect the compost is infested with insects, or something. Shamus send Beaxite across. He finds a general arching stairwell leading down to the forest below.
Menhir goes off and searches the floor below, through a door we can’t see from above. He finds winding passages through mushrooms filled with spores.
Shamus decides that we’ll sleep in the seed vault, barricading the door with the boxes (on either side). We agree and pass the night there. It gives us time to heal our wounds and pray for guidance. I disagree with Tira over our directionless fight in this timeless space. We have a goal: to cleanse the heart of stone; but there’s more to it than that. Ewigga took over this long abandoned space but she is not of it nor from it. She is, instead, a sign of the corruption. We have to defeat her and find out how she got here. I admit to be strongly drawn by the idea of the Stone singers; more strongly than any other idea I’ve encountered, but I hate being on her wrong side. I feel like I’m dragging the party along a path they have not chosen to walk. And that they are injured by it has become such a burden, I am tempted to let it go, to leave this pace and head upriver to our next destination. If fates allow we could try to find this place on the way home. But fates are never kind to dwarves. That is why we are made of such stern stuff.
After sleeping for a time, we head back across the bridge. The timelessness of the place is odd. We rest and feel better for it, but is it morning? Tira and Shamus have renewed themselves, but there is no dawn here.
A third of the way across the bridge, I detect evil in the vicinity. Tova casts bless. Tira concentrates on trying to detect Ewigga’s magic. Shamus casts shield. Tira tells us that someone is evoking a water effect, some kind of wave?
Behind a rising wave of water is a hunched back decrepit thing. Ingridhill identifies the creature as the bitch that destroyed her party. The wave crashes into me and it carries me off the bridge. Shamus reaches out and casts a spell that turns my plummet into a feather-light descent. His magic coats everyone around him, just in case.
Those still up top close the distance with the witch and try to kill her quickly. Tira uses her magic and a handful of crystal-dust to outline Ewigga, lest she go invisible again. They fight valiantly, or so I must assume. The witch brought forth a pea-soup fog and I lost sight of the bridge and all above it.
Below, the ground is quite mossy, and I sink abit as I land. The blue and white spotted mushrooms tower overhead like trees. One of the mounds of detritus and lichen moves towards me, swinging its vines and trying to engulf me. Just like that I am grappled. I refuse, and bellow my defiance. My legs thicken and I am like stone, from the earth below I draw strength and my stance becomes stalwart. I defend myself as best I am able, but the creature still manages to rip me from the earth and swallow me whole. I cut myself out using my silver short sword, calling on the force of the stone at my feet.
As I work my way free from an almost comical amount of turf, Tova runs to the edge of the bridge and jumps off. Shamus sends Menhir to find me, and he wanders off, uncertain where to start. In the mean time, Shamus gets everyone down to the floor below.
I gather up my fallen lucern-hammer, and with Tova’s support, we hurt the beast of moss and tendrils. It keeps striking at me and we keep cutting at it, but it takes Tova’s magic to defeat it with fire. It dies as it falls against the spiked wall, impaling itself. I am badly hurt, but nothing Torag’s grace can’t resolve.
Together again, I learn the shapeshifter has become an eagle and flown away. Menhir is not with us, but I know he’ll find me, eventually. I am exhausted, and beg a quick respite from our adventure as my legs become less stony and the earth releases its grip on me.