The heavy footfalls of Ug’s half-orc feet contrasted sharply with the soft pad of Derek’s measured tread. A full day’s march from Bridgekeep, they had tried to keep a quick pace to get back to Rudik’s Pass so that they could report that they had delivered the message and deliver the ranger’s response. It pained Ug to leave the rest of the group, but felt it best to accompany his friend back to the mountains. He really enjoyed the company of the kobold Jack, and the amusing wizard Elik, along with his new half-orc friend Threz. It gave Ug immense joy to know that there were others like him in the world, those who had shaken off the weight of their heritage and found places as constructive members of society.
The road through the Endrel Woods was not difficult to travel, well worn and cut through the forest to speed merchants along their way to whatever business they had. The trees were tall and thick, the sun shining its way down upon their branches, every once in a while piercing the canopy and sending a brilliant ray of light to the forest floor. Unlike the Old Forest which had a stillness about it that bespoke of ancient things and sacred places, the Endrel Woods was one of the most alive places Ug had ever had the pleasure of going. Birds sang merry tunes in the branches while squirrels chased each other around the trunks of the trees, and the ever present slight breeze that rustled the leaves in a manner in which it seemed the trees were talking.
Starting himself out of his revery, Ug berated himself for letting his mind wander and not staying focused on the here and now as his master had continuously tried to “drill into his thick skull.” Derek on the other hand, had his eyes peeled for any threat, determined not to be surprised. It saddened Ug that the man was so suspicious and kept others at a distance. He knew that it was a result of the two forces that pulled upon his mind as a result of his upbringing but Ug truly believed that if the man did not come to terms with this he would have a sad and lonely life.
Apparently sensing that he was being scrutinized, Derek glanced over and said, “You’re doing it again.”
Knowing exactly what he meant Ug averted his staring eyes and replied simply, “My apologies Derek.”
Snorting, Derek replied, “what is it you see when you look at me like that? What mysteries do the eyes of the wise Ug see?”
Ug smiled his broken grin and said, “Only you my friend, only you.”
They traveled for a while longer and reached the crossroads to the path up to Rudik’s Pass at around dusk on the fourth day. While debating whether to make camp or push on up the trail, Derek signaled silence and listened. After a moment, Ug could hear the sound of galloping hooves coming from up the path. Coming around the bend on a white charger, Vivianne came hurtling towards them, reigning in her horse to a stop a few feet away.
“Excellent, you’ve returned.” She said a bit brusquely, “where are the others?”
Before Ug got a chance to open his mouth, Derek interjected, “We’ll get to that in a minute. Where are you going at such speed? What’s happened?”
“We heard of rumor of another temple on a small farm near here,” she said quickly “and I’ve come to investigate it. You’re help would be appreciated.”
“I would be honored to assist you as always,” Ug said with a slight bow.
Derek rolled his eyes at Ug and said “Fine but we get equal share of whatever we find as usual.”
This time it was Vivianne’s turn to roll her eyes, “agreed, although if we find another evil artifact it will be taken to be destroyed.”
Seeming to have agreed the three of them headed west for a few miles and then turned back south off the road onto a small path cut through the forest. It had turned to night at this point and Derek had revealed his ring so that he could see. The blue glow cast an eerie light upon the trees as they approached what looked to be an abandoned farm.
The farm sat in the middle of a clearing in the woods lit by the moon above. The whole place had fallen into disrepair and looked to have been abandoned for years. The thatch roof on the main house had caved in and the shutters on the windows hung from their hinges, making a disturbing creaking sound that carried throughout the place. Weeds and grass had overgrown everything making traversing the clearing difficult as they occasionally tripped on some farming instrument, or the remains of a fence.
“The entrance is supposedly at the bottom of the well,” Vivanne said pointing to a stone well near the house.
Approaching the well, the group looked over the rim…and was startled when a group of bats flew past their faces screeching into the night. The tension having broken by the bats the group looked into the well again and saw their destination. Lit by the light from Derek’s ring, the group could see a caved in section of wall at the bottom of the well thirty feet down.
Offering to go first, Ug jumped into the well and slowed himself on the walls, landing heavily upon the sand at the bottom. Looking up into Derek’s irritated face he said, “it’s definitely a structure of some kind. It opens into an empty chamber and there is a door on the other side.”
Tying a rope to the top of the well, Derek and Vivanne made their way down as Ug moved into the chamber. The chamber itself was not very well made and seemed to be almost like what one would expect to see in a mine, with timbers bracing the walls and ceiling of the twenty foot circular room.
Immediately upon entering the room Vivanne got a look of disgust upon her face as if she smelled something bad and said, “be on your guard, there is evil in this place.”
As they approached the door, they could see runes written upon it. None of them could read it but they didn’t need to. They could tell immediately that it was the same as they found scribed upon the evil flail.
Looking at each other, Derek moved up to the door and listened intently. Hearing nothing he moved back and drew his swords as Ug moved to open the door. Opening it quickly, Ug was shocked by a blast of cold air that came hurtling out, as if he had broken the seal on a chest full of ice. Peering inside the three were surprised to find that they again could not see past the doorway. Having seen the same effect before in the other temple, they readied themselves and rushed through the opening… where they immediately slipped and slid down a tunnel of ice. The three scrambled and clawed at the walls trying to stop their descent but they found no purchase with which to grab!
The tunnel opened and they shot across the floor of an immense chamber lit by thousands upon thousands of luminescent crystals adorning the walls. In the center of the chamber, was a large pillar of ice that the group was sliding towards. It looked to be about fifty feet tall and about the same diameter. The group slowed to a stop and were able to stand up about thirty feet from the base of the pillar.
Taking a look around they realized that they were standing upon a frozen lake, with black water swirling several feet below the thick ice. The pillar itself was solid ice that they could now see had steps carved around it leading up to the top. Not seeing any other exit from where they were, Ug proceeded first up the stairs followed by Derek and Vivianne. The stairs were covered in a fine carpet over the ice and so it was easy to ascend to the top.
Coming around the last bend, Ug could see an altar set in the middle of the pillar that looked disturbingly similar to the one they had seen before. As he stepped onto the ice platform, runes began to glow within the pillar, shedding a sickly green light upon the altar. Ug continued forward toward the altar when suddenly the runes flared red and began to spin rapidly beneath the ice. Looking back, Vivanne face was flushed with alarm and Ug saw her right foot resting upon the platform, apparently triggering the trap.
A flash of red light, and they were no longer alone on the platform. The twisted deformed shapes of three orcs appear materialize above a red rune. Their skin is a sickly maggoty grey color and their eyes gleam with a hellish red fire.
“Wights!” Vivianne screams in fury and attempts to charge the closest one to her. Springing herself off the carpeted steps she barrels into the Wight and in her exuberance take both her and the Wight off the edge of the platform. Vivanne’s screams and the Wight’s shrieks echoing off the crystal walls before they hit with a resounding crash.
Ug and Derek throw themselves into the two remaining Wights, hoping to destroy them quickly so that they can reach their friend. Derek fights like a man possessed, the mans hatred for undead washes over Ug in palpable waves as he battles his wight. Slashing and thrusting with intense fury. He neatly dodges all the creatures attacks while hitting every vulnerable spot on the Wight’s body, quickly bringing it down.
Ug on the other hand decides a different course of action is in order, calling upon his inner strength, he spins his staff in the air and brings it down with all his might upon his enemy’s shoulder breaking bone, rendering it’s arm useless. He pays for his attack though as the Wight brings its other arm around and strikes Ug a blow. The blow itself did not damage Ug overly much, but he can feel his life force being sapped by the Wight’s unholy body.
After this exchange, Derek moves over and attacks, this time his blade whistling through the air as the Wight deftly dodges his blow. Ug seeing the Wight off balance attempts a Ku’Ki’Lo throw and succeeds in sweeping the Wight off of its feet. Derek needs no more opportunity and stabs the Wight through the chest causing the red fire to fade from its eyes.
Upon the creatures demise, the altar begins to fall apart and disintegrate before Ug and Derek’s eyes leaving a small black dagger with fiery runes on it smoldering in the ice, steam wafting from it. Leaving Derek, to get the knife, Ug rushes down the stairs to see what happened to Vivanne. He can feel the energy that the creature sapped from him, causing his steps to be heavier and his breathing to come in ragged gasps.
Reaching the bottom of the stairs, he sees Vivanne, lying prone against the ice. As he runs to her he notices that her sword has been driven clean through the unmoving Wight and a full foot into the ice below. Turning her over, Vivianne opens her eyes and looks up at Ug.
“Well,” she said, “that was dumb.”
Smiling, Ug replies, “next time just push them over, do not go over with them.”
Helping her to her feet, they turn and see Derek, moving slowly down the stairs holding a steaming burlap sack out in front of him.
“Now,” he said, “how to get out of here?”
Looking around, they discover a hidden stairway that leads up into the barn of the farm above. Apparently the farm was just a cover for the dark rituals that were taking place here as the group found implements of torture in the barn, along with an assortment of humanoid bones.
The rest of the journey to Rudik’s Pass progressed uneventfully. Ug meditated the next day and was able to regain the spiritual energy he had lost battling the Wight. Vivanne’s injuries from the fall were recovering nicely, helped along by some healing potions that she had. Derek was his usual, cheerful then dour self, making sure that the bag the dagger was in was routinely packed with snow to keep the smoldering dagger from setting the bag on fire. They spoke of the events that had occurred and what was going on within the town.
The mayor and captain of the guard were still having their war of words.
Business as usual.