Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of
Cuana Chapter 2 Entry 2
Session date 7-8-2017
Cuana's Journal - chapter 2, entry 2
Having released the girl, we turned our attention to what lay ahead. The darkness was oppressive, seeming to almost smother the flickering light that sputtered from unseen torches further on down the passageway. We decided to each take a torch from the wall to carry with us, with the intent to throw them to the ground should we need to bring our weapons to bear. The darkness was unusually intense, obviously enhanced by sorcery. It was so dark in fact, that Uhthred tripped and stumbled to the floor, cursing as he fell. That earned us a challenge from some unseen guards a short way ahead, who called out for us to identify ourselves or die. Helping the Vanir to his feet, we strode forward to cut the dogs down.
We passed through a small chamber, torches mounted in sconces on the walls to the left and right which were the source of the weakened light. They did nothing to illuminate the continuing passageway, and as I approached it I was struck by spear-points thrust from the darkness, each tearing a serious gash in my hide. Bellowing in anger, I struck blindly into the darkened passage, and was rewarded with a satisfying scream and the crunch of bone shattering. Uhthred had taken down one of the torches and tossed it ahead into the passage, revealing four more healthy soldiers bearing spears, and one dying on the floor where he had fallen.
I was struck again, receiving another grievous wound. I sheared his head of at the neck and seriously hurt another, but I slipped on my own blood as I tried to back away from the melee. Uhthred moved in and covered me as I took a moment to collect myself and catch my breath. The dour Nordheimer hacked another of the soldiers, who died trying to hold his innards from spilling out onto the floor. Seeing all his comrades either dead or dying, the last soldier broke and ran, fleeing deeper into the catacombs.
Before continuing any further, the Vanir took a few moments to administer to my wounds, doing an expert job at stitching me up. Once finished, he helped me to my feet and we were once again moving into the unnaturally oppressive darkness. I took a torch from the wall sconce and he picked up the one on the floor, and we continued to cautiously make our way along the corridor.
The walls and floor began to take on strange characteristics – oddly twisted cracks began to appear in the stonework, and the same geometric symbol from my stolen gem was engraved in the blocks of the walls. In addition, a mucous-like slime began ot appear on the walls and ceiling, thin at first but gradually growing thicker the further we went. Stringy globs of the stuff slid down the walls and dripped down from above. It was sickening, like we were inside some great, loathsome creature. We began to feel a growing fear of being hopelessly lost, forcing ourselves onward with great effort, determined to gut the pig that called himself Aumag-Bel.
After what seemed to be hours of wandering through the vile passageway, I notice a faint light in the distance ahead. Dropping our torches with an audible hiss onto the slimey floor, we crept cautiously along toward the source of the light, a portal which opened into a brilliantly lit chamber.
After the nearly impenetrable darkness of the corridors, the light of the chamber was literally dazzling, taking several moments for our eyes to adjust. Torches blazed from large chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, and there were two columns of statues that ran lengthwise down the room, each carved in the likeness of an oddly serpentine humanoid shape. As Uhthred and I entered the room, welcome to be out of the darkness of the passageway, we were beset by six grotesquely human-like creatures that emerged from alcoves, each with misshapen limbs, heads sunken nearly down into their chests, and blotched by pus and ulcerous lesions. They moved slowly, but with purpose, cutting off our path through the chamber as they attacked.
The creatures looked as if they might have been people at one time, but if so they had undergone some kind of terrible metamorphosis, but we had no time to worry about any of that. One swung at me but missed, while a second struck me in the torso, my armor protecting me from any damage. I split one's skull, dropping him on the spot, but two more crowded in to take it's place. One attempted to grapple me, but I was able to repel it's advance while dodging attacks from the other two. A howl of triumph burst from Uhthred's throat as he killed one of the beasts, and I followed up by killing a second one. The rest of the creatures crowded in on us, but one by one they all fell as our blades tore through their boil-infested flesh. No more entered the chamber, so we took a moment to catch our breath before moving on.
Moss and slime covered everything – globs of the stuff dripped from the ceiling, and it ran in small rivulets down the walls. Something on one of the walls caught my eye, so I scraped a portion of the slime away and saw what looked like part of a design. A few more moments of scraping revealed several mosaics depicting disturbing scenes. Two armies were engaged in battle, neither of them human. One race was either ophidian or simian in appearance – it was impossible to tell. The other was, for lack of a better word, worm-like. Both sides battled back and forth, with the worm-people depicted mainly as defenders, protecting themselves from invasion. It was like a scene from the history of some nightmare world, some hellish place drawn from the fevered dreams of a madman. Uhthred roused me from my musings, pointing to a trail in the slimy floor leading out of the chamber – the booted footprints of several men, and they appeared to be half-dragging, half-carrying something.
We followed the trail in the slime-covered floor around a corner and continued on until the corridor opened into a vast chamber, a ziggurat built into the far wall. Atop the structure was Aumag-Bel; a cloaked, hooded figure bearing a long, obsidian dagger, moving about with an odd, shambling gait, his attention focused on the bound form of a female atop an altar. At the first sight of us in the doorway, the thing emitted a chilling sound, like a high-pitched keening or whistling. Guards rushed the doorway at the sound, and more of those lesion-covered creatures emerged from pits on either side of the steppes of the ziggurat. Leashed like dogs, they appeared to have limited mobility, holding them in place as guards against anyone trying to gain the top of the structure.
Blades clashed as Uthred and I met the guards at the doorway. Within seconds we had each killed one, the rest moving in to block our way. At first they fought to protect their master, but they were soon fighting for their lives. They were used to bullying locals, not standing against two seasoned swordsmen. We cut through them quickly, the wounds Uhthred suffered didn't slow him down at all. Before it was over I had killed five more guards and he killed the last.
The leashes that restrained the creatures on the ziggurat were short, keeping them held in an area of approximately a ten foot radius along the corner of their particular level, so the ones on the lower levels were unable to reach the center are of the steppes. Seeing this I called to the Vanir to join me in a charge up the middle, so up we went, finally meeting resistance from those creatures chained to the upper tiers of the structure. I tried to put myself into position to confront Aumag-Bel by leaping over the altar as I gained the summit, but my foot caught the edge of the altar and I flew head over heels, landing in a heap on the top of the ziggurat.
From the corner of my eye I saw Uhthred tearing into the pus-covered abominations while I regained my feet and attacked Aumag-Bel. I was satisfied to feel my blade tear through flesh, and he immediately halted his incantation, twisting with uncanny speed and wrapping around me in a distinctly inhuman manner, and burying his needle-like teeth into my throat. Prying the thing off of me, I struck again, and saw it stagger a few steps before it's head rolled backward, it's neck splitting open at the throat as it did, revealing the hideous thing that was Aumag-Bel.
The creature's real head emerged from the neck of the host body, a hideous black skull-like head on a slender, serpentine neck, also black. One large eye burned a lambent reddish-orange from a single socket, while scores of small, worm-like eye stalks, each ending in a smaller, similarly-colored eye writhed about from the thing's head and neck. Glaring at us with pure hatred, the creature suddenly shot from the dying host body straight for the prone form of the woman on the altar. Only the quick thinking of the Vanir saved her, as he thrust his shield forward to block the thing just in time. I killed Aumag-Bel as he slithered about on the floor, looking in vain for a new host to occupy.
After waking the woman on the altar, I searched the dead host body, finding my red gem and the keys to free her from her bonds. Scooping her up and quickly descending the ziggurat, we retraced our path through the extensive maze of passages until we found ourselves back in the lower passage of the Lotus den. She told us that her name was Dengar Sheev, that she had been kidnapped and taken to Aumag-Bel's hideous abode. She was very grateful to be free, and took us to meet her father, a wealthy and respected merchant named Merghen Sheev. Her father was very grateful as well, and he celebrated our rescue of his daughter with a feast, rewarding us generously and even suggesting that we might take employment with him on caravans or merchant ships.
I also made it a point to request he commission some greaves and a pair of gauntlets to be made for me.