They came from Zelkor's Ferry

Garamond's story

“My companions and I set out from Zelkor’s Ferry and traveled to the
cesspit of evil they call the Mouth of Doom,” Garamond begins. “The
entrance is designed to be frightening, and it is successful; several in our
group had to nerve themselves a few moments before they could bear
to step in. Once inside, our exploration progressed well. We were not as
careful as we could have been – if you go there, watch your step; you can’t
afford to assume things are as they seem.
“We found access down to the second level, which turned out to be
more confusing. Several rooms were similar and we made errors in
scribing our map. It was a maze of doors, with one room leading directly
into another and then sudden dead ends. We eventually found our way out
and to the third level down, but that was even more confusing.” Garamond
shakes his head, and brushes his hair out of his eyes again. “I swear there
was some type of magic interfering with our ability to keep track of where
we were.
“We went down, and down again, and there at the bottom of the
dungeon we found a pathway to Rappan Athuk, the great dungeon. It was
wide enough to drive a wagon in it, or march an army through. There were
a few foul creatures of the dark traveling it; we managed to avoid some
and kill the others quietly.
“Following the path was straightforward, but not easy.” Garamond
rocks back and forth a little as he speaks, and his eyes seem to be looking
at something far away. “We traveled for days in the dark, until the echoes
of our own movements nearly drove us crazy. Once Bregenz (the bard
in our group) tried a brave song to stir us on but the walls threw back
dissonance, distorting his voice so that it sounded as if a horde was
shouting, rushing down the tunnel toward us. We hushed him after only a
few lines but I swear it took an hour for the echoes to fade.
“Our eyes played tricks on us, seeing things at the corners of our vision.
Janda, an elf, lost a score of arrows, loosing them at things he thought
he saw, so that we refused to let him fill his quiver again. Huge caverns
threatened to make us lose our way until the others were frantic at the
thought we might never find a way out. When we finally reached the
cursed dungeon itself, where the foes were deadly but things we could
face with weapon or spell, battle-hardened men nearly wept for joy.” The
man stares into the distance for another moment, then coughs and turns
his gaze back to you.
“We had a few good fights after we were finally into the great dungeon.
One incredible battle was when the ten of us fought a gigantic armored
worm the color of a ripe plum. It actually swallowed Sir Albertus De
Vinne whole, but thanks to the protection from his magic armor, and that
incredible magical sword of his, he was able to cut his way out from the
inside as we finished it off from the outside. There were also the usual
giant rats and skeletons, but they were just an annoyance.
“We discovered a river running through the dungeon and were very
curious to see where it led.” Garamond gives a half-smile. “The wizardess
Euphemia of Rieven had a magical boat in her equipment but it would
not hold everyone so we decided against that. When we came across the
river again later, though, and found a boat someone had hidden nearby,
we agreed we would try it. On the river the current was fast, the ceiling
low, and we had a difficult time keeping the boats from crashing into the
walls and into each other. It seemed that it was going to go on forever, but
at last we came to a shore. Euphemia (who is a gnome) and Dark Nakki,
a dwarf, agreed that we were deep beneath the surface, much deeper than
we had been previously.
“We fought some powerful creatures in the cavern where we beached
our boats, but after that it seemed the foes we discovered offered little
challenge. Several of our people grew uneasy, and Sir Albertus was almost
ill from his intense feeling of foreboding evil. It was not long before we
discovered the source of that evil: we crept down a long, wide hallway and
discovered the high temple of the degenerate being whose worshippers
built the complex in the first place.
“Somehow the priests had discerned that we were approaching, and they
were ready.” The man’s husky voice is tense. “They hurled magic at us,
and summoned demons to attack. We had not been searching for a temple
and so we were wretchedly unprepared. Before we could disengage, many
of us were wounded by spell or by claw. Rather than a gradual retreat, we
simply turned and ran. The gnomes couldn’t keep up with the taller ones,
so Father Baris carried Euphemia, and I myself picked up the other cleric,
Vianta of Briem. Both the gallant ladies were able to shoot magic over our
shoulders, forcing the pursuing demons to fall back a bit.
Garamond shakes his head, and pushes his hair out of his eyes again.
“Some of the rest of this I learned later; at the time there was only
confusion. Janda of High Tower was our scout and he was in front as we
ran. He came to a room of doors and the first one he opened contained a
narrow staircase spiraling down. Thinking the demons might not be able
to fit in the stairway he started down, the others right behind him. Sir
Albertus stayed at the door until the last of us arrived, then he and I held it
as the others hurried down. Cerin D’Avola also backed us up with her twin
crossbows; small bows had seemed useless to me but they were excellent
in such close quarters. Finally the demons ceased their attack. The three
of us took the opportunity to flee, and their mocking laughter followed us
down the narrow stair.
“As we reached the bottom we could feel the heat, and by the time we
joined the others Sir Albertus and I were sweating in our armor. Janda was
scouting ahead, as was Decanus Ovalico who could move very quietly for
someone who appeared so clumsy. Decanus reported back a room with
burned bones – the remains of unholy sacrifices, no doubt. Janda gave
us the choice of going back up the stairs or trying one or another long
corridor. Not wishing to return the way we had just come, we opted to
search for another exit. We moved as quickly as we could, for the metal of
our armor was quickly becoming hot to the touch.
“After a few twists and turns, we discovered why the demons had been
laughing at us: in our flight from the evil temple, we had run to a rift
that opened up to Hell itself.” Garamond shudders. “Ahead of us demonic
lizardmen frolicked in a lake of liquid hellfire, as if in clear water. The
heat was incredible and I could hardly breathe; my lungs felt as if they
were on fire. I saw Euphemia faint, and Dark Nakki swore as his beard
began to smoke. The demons attacked immediately, with flaming spears
and their own fiery hands. Somehow I was closest to the lake of fire, and
one grabbed me and tried to drag me in. He nearly made it; my right
foot slipped in and began to burn and the pain was incredible, worse
than anything I had ever experienced before. Sir Albertus grabbed me at
that exact moment or I would have been gone. As it was I could not help
myself; I heard later than he hoisted me over his shoulder and carried me
as we fled again.
“They told me that the next passage they tried came to a dead end and
the group was about to despair when Janda discovered a hidden room
that was magically cold – a protection against the fire and demons of that
awful place. By that time, though, I was dead from the hellfire, as was
Euphemia and the beautiful Cerin D’Avola. My understanding is that one
of those remaining – Decanus, or perhaps Bregenz the bard – found a
scroll in Euphemia’s things and was able to puzzle out a spell or two to get
the group out of the dungeon.
“Ulman Dark was able to restore my life, to a degree.” The man’s
shoulders slump. “Sometimes I’ve wished my companions hadn’t been
quite so loyal after all; they got me out, but of course couldn’t help my leg.
I was such a bad case that when he got done, both Ulman Dark and I were
laid up for a month and I’ve never really gotten my strength back. Some
days it even hurts to breathe.
“If you’re truly thinking of heading down into that detestable tomb, let
me give you a few words of advice.
“One piece of equipment lots of groups neglect is a boat; it was only by
chance that we had one. There is a river in that dungeon that winds back
and forth from one area to another and could take you to many places
you might want to go – but also some that you don’t. A magic boat would
be best of course, to make it easier to transport, but I suppose there must
be ways to get normal ones down there. Do be certain there’s room for
everyone, though; sending only one part of a group off in a boat would be
a good way to get both parts killed.
“Iron spikes are very important. They’re key to being able to retreat
from any dungeon, but especially Rappan Athuk. You can spike a door
open, particularly if you had trouble finding it the first time and you need
to know for certain that it will be open still when you’re ready to leave.
You can also spike a door shut – very useful when you’re trying to leave
and someone’s getting close, trying to prevent you. Of course, even iron
spikes aren’t the solution to everything,” he adds sternly. “For one thing,
spiking a door is noisy – very noisy. Tends to attract attention. For another
thing, you can’t ever forget that everything that lives in that dungeon
knows its way around better than you do. While you’re busy spiking doors
over in one direction, something that wants to eat you is circling around
another way and you’re going to get a nasty surprise.
“Don’t forget your distance weapons, either. Most folks think of a
dungeon as being small rooms and a few corridors. The great dungeon has
many large room and huge caverns, and sometimes you really need to be
able to attack something without needing to get too close!
“It’s incredibly important to have a scout or two, make use of them to
gather information, and then act on it instead of just blundering ahead.
More scouting, and not getting cocky about our abilities, would both have
made things better for us. There are two thoughts that really haunt me,”
Garamond continues. “In my nightmares about that flaming lake I also see
a great golden bridge, gleaming in the flickering light of the fires of hell. I
don’t know if it is only part of my dream, or if it was something real that
at the time I barely saw. The other is the thought of that long underground
passageway. Since the time I traveled it, I’ve wondered when an army of
the dark will use it to come marching out of the Dungeon of Graves.
“Well, I need to get one more bale of furs from Pye and have it ready
before the boat arrives. The captain likes to make only a brief stop, and
I need to be sure all these goods get aboard. A pack animal is about all
I’m good for anymore.” The bronze-skinned man stretches slightly as he
straightens, then moves off again in his lumbering gait.

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