To the south, a small cavern with a mine track that ends abruptly. Ink checks for magic, but his vision is overwhelmed: by the preponderance of lazurite, the necromantic mineral which invigorates undead but has a deleterious effect o the living. It radiates magic in excess, downing out all other minor magics.
“The Derro, they have lived among this mineral for an age,” said inkakahd absently. “It has driven them quite insane…”
“But there is an aura,” Ink said, pointing one mossy finger. “There is something moving in the darkness, something attracted to our noise.” Ink’s arcane book whirls around him, pages flipping madly in a non-existent wind. “There is something here… yes. These skeletons, collected together in a gigantic form, twenty to thirty feet tall, called a gashadokuro.” Ink read more for the fantastical book that floated in front of him. “It is formed in a place where people have starved. Many people.”
Ink yelled into the darkness: “We have no quarrel with you! Let us pass and no harm will come to you.”
The gashadokuro said nothing, but a hideous voice giggled out of the darkness. “Offer accepted! Please feel free to pass.” Behind a pile of bodies hunched a dwarven ghoul, munching away on some horrible hunk of flesh. His eyes glowed redly as he ordered the gashadokuro to attack. It stagged forward and accepted a sonic bolt from Ink. That didn’t stop it from beathing a cloud of fast-moving shards of bone at Ty, slashing at the man’s arms and face. The ghoul continued eating and it was clear the grisly meals revitalized it.
Ink lashed the creature with more sonic blasts, scorching the air between him and the gashadokuro and kicking sparks of static electricity. Bones crushed under the assault, but it was Castiel who dispatched the creature, his arrows severing the tendons and cartilage at key places, with the last arrow splitting the creature’s skull. The dwarven ghoul’s face showed a frisson of fear as Baelfir and Ty attacked it. The leader of the Hungered fell before their onslaught, a look of surprise on his face.
The whole area reeked of sulfur, and the bodies were rotted, more piles of limbs and viscera than complete corpses. Beneath them, soaked in blood, was a small depression containing a twine-wrapped bundle – a cloth, with old runic script on it, a letter of sorts to Falrok the ghoul:
Vestramurix welcome you to his Kingdom.
Use this key to join us at the Atrium of the Temple of All Gods.
Wrapped in the cloth was a large, ornate iron key.
Outside the mine, the great column that (presumably) held the Temple of All Gods, and Vestramurix itself, was surrounded near the top by the Bound, incorporeal undead. Presumably, King Harald’s robe of office would keep them at bay. Ink seemed confident that it would. But the column was far.
Before them in the street, the Harald’s Wraith stood. He beckoned, and the party followed it to a broken but empty cottage near the edge of the subterranean city.
“Rest here,” it intoned. “It is safe.” It paused, weirdly uncomfortable for a long dead dwarf. “I want to thank you again for your service to King Harald. As I’ve said, Harald was my liege, and the goodness within him was what drew me into his service. My oaths bound be to him… even after my death.”
The wraith straightened. “I sincerely hope that your actions bring my King the peace he deserves.” At that, it disappeared.
Ink climbed to the roof of the cottage and looked out over the city. In the distance, the Temple of All Gods extended outward from the base of the immense column. The dragon was in there, thought Ink.
The rest of the night passed uneventfully, broken only but the furtive, occasional movement of some confused and disoriented undead. The spiders piped unearthly soliloquies into the dark alleys. In the morning, the party made their way toward the column. Once in a while, a ghoul skittered up a wall or into a crevasse, they reflective eyes watching, then vanishing.
At the pillar, a black cloud of the Bound swooped and shuddered, flying towards the approaching party but retreating upon sight of Harald’s robe. Unchallenged, the small group approached the wide, stained steps that led into the abandoned temple. The temple was carved in the dwarven style, festooned with faces thirty feet high flanking each of the doors.
The party approached confidently, but slowed as they neared the steps: a new sound filled the air, at first like a wave lapping at a shore. The truth, however, was more dangerous than any wave: from under the steps slithered an enormous centipede, each of it’s three heads radiating a feral energy. It uncoiled smoothly and charged, trampling everyone and throwing them aside in all directions.
Ink’s book whirled around him, pages flipping, finally settling on a page entitled “Makrudi.”
Legend has it that a sleeping god had a nightmare, and makrudi was the result. It is resistant to acid, electricity, and fire, but no other weakness. It can be clumsy, and it lacks cleverness; readers are advised to capitalize on these.
The book slammed shut, and Ink called for phantasms to bedevil the creature’s mind – it worked, and the beast became erratic, indecisive. That was all the rest needed to press their attacks. It was Baelfir that finished it, tearing out the throat of the last remaining head, and preluding the creature’s breath weapon. It fell clatteringly to the stone plaza.