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    The Silver Wolf-Behind The Mask: Beyond The Grave
    Posted on Wed, August 24, 2022 by LordCeb
    CruelSummerLord writes "The companions’ sadness didn’t keep them from being wary, and they stopped short when they came upon a particularly bloody scene. The dwarven and orcish bodies had more flesh on them than any of the other corpses the companions encountered, and they weren’t surprised when the corpses suddenly sprang to life. Leaping to their feet, the corpses slowly advanced on the companions, their eyes glowing with a malevolent light. Their flesh was a sickly rotten greenish gray, and their teeth and nails were both sharpened to a knife’s edge.

    Chapter Two

    Beyond The Grave

    “You said the main doorway was framed by a stand of white pines, right?” Weimar said, glancing around dubiously as he led his friends through the conifer wood. The companions left Flinthold four days ago, and they’d finally reached the area where the Glimmering Hall was supposed to be.

    “Yes, but that was over seven decades ago,” Airk said. “The dwarves would have kept most of the land around their entrance clear. Without them, the woods came back and expanded.”

    “The information we got back in Flinthold wasn’t entirely consistent,” Seline said. “Some of the Kutuanchke said one thing, the Flintholders another, some of the visiting dwarven nobles something else…”

    “They probably forgot some details and got mistaken about others,” Airk said, frowning. “The Hateful Wars were almost total chaos-most lands had all they could handle just trying to stay alive.”

    “It seems like we’re in the right place, though,” Revafour said. “Aren’t those white pines further up and to the right?” he said, pointing slightly off to the side from where the companions were walking.

    “Next to that line of hemlocks?” Weimar said. Reaching into his pack, he took out his spyglass and focused it for a closer look at the trees’ heights, needles and cones. “More than a hundred feet tall…finely serrated needles in fascicles of five…small checkered bark units…long and slender cones…praise Ehlonna, I think they are!”

    Eagerly, the companions raced to the stand of white pines. They were gathered on a wide ledge in front of one of the broadest sides of the mountain, a side that could have easily held the doors to a dwarven city. Weimar and Revafour noted how some of the pines were much less mature than others, as if they’d only taken root in the last few decades. As they traveled through the pines, the companions noticed signs of the dwarven civilization that once thrived here. They saw broken sections of a stone road, the rusted and broken remains of a mine cart and the crumbled remains of a dwarven waystation, among other things.

    Finally, they came to the mountainside itself. Airk noticed immediately how straight and symmetrical the stone immediately in front of the companions was. He smiled to his friends to confirm they’d found the entrance to the Glimmering Halls. Looking back at the doors, he tried to find some manner of opening mechanism. All he found was a single hole, carved in a perfect circle into the rock.

    “Let me see,” Amyalla said as she came up to join Airk. Lifting her skirt, she revealed the lockpicks and other thieving tools she carried on her garters. Drawing out a thin metal rod, which she extended to several inches long, she used it to carefully probe inside the hole. Nodding to herself, she turned back to Airk.

    “Drive your pick in there,” she said, gesturing to the hole.

    The rest of the companions stared blankly back at Amyalla.

    “This isn’t a typical lock,” Amyalla said, shaking her head. “You need the right kind of weapon or tool to open it. Once you do that, you need to turn it around in the right sequence.”

    “Why would that be?” Luna said, rubbing her chin in puzzlement.

    “Because the dwarves would want their doors to be easily opened by friends of their clan, but hard for anyone else to get past,” Airk said, shaking his head as he pulled his military pick from his belt.

    “And we’ll be able to open these doors once you get the lock open?” Revafour said in surprise, glancing up dubiously at the size of the doors.

    “Easily,” Airk said as he drove his pick into the hole. “Whatever else dwarves are good at, they’re good at carving and crafting stone. The doors would still be standing if we came here seven centuries later instead of just seven decades,” he finished, a distinctly sour look on his face.

    Taking a deep breath, Amyalla grabbed Airk’s pick. She turned clockwise so its handle pointed left, then back counterclockwise until it was upside down, clockwise until it was right-side up, counterclockwise until its handle was to the right, and then clockwise until it did a complete circle and was then right-side up again. As she pulled Airk’s pick out of the hole, the companions heard a loud clicking sound as the lock opened. A vertical line appeared in the mountainside, showing exactly where the doors were.

    Amyalla grinned at her friends, taking a bow as some of them applauded her.

    “How’d you even do that?” Airk asked in surprise. “Only the most talented gnomes could design a lock like that. It must’ve cost the dwarves a fortune.”  

    “Remember what I said about picking locks being Greyhawk’s natural pastime?” Amyalla said, smirking. “I learned about these kinds of locks from a gnome locksmith named Gundri Garraldson. He could be a nasty old codger if you tried to flatter him for a discount, but if you actually respected him he could teach you more in a month than most thieves could teach in a year.”

    Still smiling, Amyalla turned and started pushing on the doors. They swung open easily, especially when Amyalla’s friends came to help her.

    The Glimmering Hall beckoned.

    As the companions made their way through the Glimmering Hall’s entrance tunnel, their way lit by the lanterns Amyalla and Seline carried, they saw that the floor’s dirt and dust was disturbed in several places. The companions realized that these were the traces of previous expeditions. All of them met gruesome ends at the hands of whatever was lurking in the darkness.

    The entrance hall was filled with wreckage. The companions saw guardhouses crumbled into rubble, siege defenses broken and rusted from decades of disuse, and dozens upon dozens of corpses. Some of the bodies belonged to the dwarves who’d died defending their home, while others were of the pig-faced orcs that invaded it. The companions traveled for an hour and a half, but they were the only things that moved in the entrance hall.

    Past the entrance hall, the companions came into a commercial area, where the Hall’s dwarven merchants would have met with visiting traders. They saw the bodies of more dwarves and orcs, but more of the dwarven bodies were those of women and children. Luna gazed sadly at the dwarven bodies, and she saw that her friends were just as downcast at the sight. In her mind, she thought a quiet prayer to Pelor for them, hoping that they’d found peace in the afterlife.

    The commercial district was just as dead and lifeless as the entrance hall, as was the residential district the companions came into after another hour of travel. They found just as much carnage as in the rest of the Hall, and Luna noticed how dismayed even Airk was at the dwarven deaths.

    The companions’ sadness didn’t keep them from being wary, and they stopped short when they came upon a particularly bloody scene. The dwarven and orcish bodies had more flesh on them than any of the other corpses the companions encountered, and they weren’t surprised when the corpses suddenly sprang to life. Leaping to their feet, the corpses slowly advanced on the companions, their eyes glowing with a malevolent light. Their flesh was a sickly rotten greenish gray, and their teeth and nails were both sharpened to a knife’s edge.

    The corpses had become wights, undead zombielike creatures that could drain the life force of any living entity they touched until it was as dead as them. There were nearly a dozen and a half of the foul creatures, their intentions for the companions all too clear on their faces.

    The companions were more than ready to fight back. Luna stepped in front of her friends as she grasped the pendant around her neck. It was carved in the image of Pelor, a kindly man’s face at the center of a sunburst, and was charged with his holy power. Luna called on that power, and many of the wights screamed in pain as they were driven back. Try as they might, they couldn’t get past Pelor’s divine energy.

    A few of the wights pushed through the holy power Luna channeled, but Seline was quickly chanted a spell. The spell caused Seline’s free hand to glow before she pointed it at the advancing wights. She shot a flurry of silvery-blue bolts from her fingers, blasting two of the wights and striking them dead. The third one staggered from Seline’s bolt, but it was still standing as Weimar attacked it. The creature lashed out at him, but he easily blocked its filthy claws on his shield. The blow Weimar struck with his axe was more effective, cleaving deep into the wight’s chest and killing it on the spot.

    Weimar smiled at that. Steel weapons were useless against wights unless they were imbued with magic. His enchanted axe, which he’d won from a hobgoblin treasure hoard in his days as a Keoish scout, was exactly what he needed.

    Silver weapons were just as effective against wights whether they were magical or not. The companions knew that abandoned underground ruins were often plagued by undead like wights. Revafour nocked his bow with one of the silver-tipped arrows he bought before he left Flinthold, while Amyalla filled her sling with one of her silver bullets. They fired relentlessly at the wights still held back by Luna’s holy power, striking several of them down.  

    There were only a couple of the wights left, and Weimar, Airk and Ma’non’go advanced to confront them. Airk’s and Ma’non’go’s weapons were treated with a special oil Seline brewed that made them magical for a short period of time and increased their cutting power. Ma’non’go skewered one of the wights before it ever got close to him, before raking his trident across the face of another.

    In contrast, Airk let the first wight he fought get in close, but it couldn’t get past his shield or armor before he struck it down with his pick. The second wight attacking Airk never even got a chance to attack, as he split its skull before it could even react to his attack. Weimar easily beheaded the last wight, whose hunger compelled it to attack despite the companions’ advantage.

    The wights’ bodies did not stir, the evil magic trapping their souls destroyed by the companions’ assault. For a few moments, the companions glanced around, wary of any other undead, but everything was quiet around them. Shaking her head sadly, Luna knelt down next to one of the wights’ bodies to say a few prayers to Pelor for them. Her eyes widened as she got a close look at the body and noticed something she hadn’t picked up on during the battle.

    “This body’s human!” she said in surprise. Looking at the rest of the dead wights, she saw that no less than five of them were the remains of dead human warriors. The humans’ presence was surprising enough, but what was even more puzzling was that the human wights’ equipment had emblems and heraldry similar to that of the orcs’.

    “Why would there be humans here?” Revafour said, rubbing his chin in confusion. “Did you hear of anything like this?” he asked Airk.

    “No,” Airk said, just as puzzled as the rest of the companions. “The humans might have tried to take the Glimmering Hall for themselves after the orcs conquered it.”

    The companions resumed their march after a brief rest. None of the rest of them noticed the look of smouldering rage in Ma’non’go’s eyes.

    Ma’non’go knew that Airk might be right about the humans’ presence in the Glimmering Hall, but he had darker suspicions.  

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