The echo of water flowing pricks my ears as the party migrates deeper into the bowels of the earth. The party of adventurers, brave souls all, line up a short distance behind me as I slide silently through the darkness, wary for the inevitable surprise that awaits us. The trickling sounds grow louder into a rushing noise as I come to the end of the tunnel, spilling into a large open room. An underground river nearly five times as long as I rushes through the damp under dark. The broken remains of a dock stand in solitary greeting as the group filters in behind me. Quickly we mobilize and I’m lead climbing along the eastern wall above the river inlet, a rope tied around my waist. Struggling at first on the moldy rock wall, I quickly compose myself and make effortless work of the climb. Deposited on the far shore, I tie off a rope to allow the others to cross. It goes well enough at first until Crythis slips, quickly being washed downstream. If it weren’t for Tirrigeth, he’d have been lost. Her strength and courage was all there was to save him. I appreciate that about her – her willingness to sacrifice for her comrades. Am I so different? I find it peculiar that I hesitate in similar situations… then again, who have I ever been able to trust? What real friends have I had that were worthy? If only they’d followed my lead and scaled the wall, I doubt the dunking would’ve occurred.
Our partly failed test of athletics completed, we continued onward through another dark tunnel. Taking the lead I was the first to approach the cavern mouth. Widening out like a great dragons maw, I stood with mouth agape at the sight of a lonely keep in the rocky floor below. The party catching up to me, we quickly strategized and I was off, scouting ahead. Darting from rock to rock, silently and swiftly approaching I notice an ogre has taken residence. Something about it is odd though, as though his movements aren’t quite natural or human. The simple sway and organic balance that is expected was lacking. As I slid closer it became apparent: he was undead. A small bridge crossed what appeared to be an empty moat, leading to a pair of decimated wooden doors that were bashed open and forgotten, unhinged on the ground. As the ogre shuffled back inside I crept closer, quickly examining the bridge and a strange, ominous lever that resided on the near side – misplaced and suspect. My bump of trouble tingled as I looked at it, and down into the darkness of the pit. What appeared to be refuse and death existed there in a most unholy peace. In double quick time I retraced my steps, careful as ever, to share this new information with the group. Another quick, tactical discussion passed and three of us were down at an ambush site I’d spotted on my initial journey to the black keep. The ogre stumbling back out to the fore caused us to hide rapidly. Slinking forward I let loose my shuriken, striking deep into the creature’s chest. The ensuing battle was not worthy of poetry, for it was horrific. From the pit rose swarms of bugs and carrion crawlers, intent to feast on us. The ogre engaged us and brought forth his comrades, all undead and festering. The battle was slow won, and my wounds were great. I could hardly stand as we rushed the keep, chasing down the remaining ogre – a boulder wielding fiend, intent to hurl rock at us from a distance. Knell and Tirrigeth closed in on the last and in a burst of fervent anger I chased it down striking deep into the creature with a fury I scarce knew I contained. My blow was the first tolling of a death bell for this creature as we surrounded and dispatched it. In my dreams I still am reviled by the corpse and spit on it.
Nursing our wounds, Kusanagi called on the power of Bahamut to still our weeping wounds and knit our flesh. Thoroughly worn, barely standing, we pushed on. This was no place for us to remain. A quick search of the keep uncovered its purpose: a place of offering to a dark God. Bane’s followers built a place of power, a place of evil. At the insistence of a few of our tribe, we ventured into the temple and found a pathway downward, deeper into the bowels of the beast. The heat and acrid tang of sulfur brought tears to our eyes as we moved from the stairs to a place out of nightmare. A fierce demon beckoned to us, welcoming to our doom. He dared us to enter his realm and feel the wrath of his blade, usurpers that we were, power hungry and naïve. His challenges forced my hand, for before I knew it I charged to him, bringing the fight in full measure to him – I am never one to wait idly for my destruction. Courting apocalypse, I lashed out at him. He was stronger than I anticipated as my blade missed, his alacrity sending a warning alarm through my nervous system. This would be no simple battle. Following my lead the party charged forward and engaged. Had we known the intensity of this creatures ire I wager we would have spent the time to recuperate beforehand, but as I am told, dwelling on hind sight is for the feckless. We were men and women of action this day and only through our prowess and pure dumb luck did we prevail. The creature, having nigh turned the battle by hamstringing Knell, was overcome. Praise to Avandra, and may she bless all my feral dealings with such vigor. The Fang of Kutrog was ours. Much of the treasure found by searching the demon’s lair was curiously well suited to our individual martial prowess, though I am not one to triple count a lucky die. I take what offerings are made and revel in furthering efficacy in my art – the art of the elusive.