I have returned from my meal, and now that my companions are deep in their own slumber, I write to you, my dear confidant, once again in the hopes that what you learn from my ramblings might somehow aid you in your own escape from this accursed place. As I sit here, watching out for my companions and gazing into the darkness, my eyes play tricks upon me, imagining horrors worse than the nightmare woman of the 9 of Swords dare dream. Was that shadow on the wall my first clue to the approach of an Ouchre Jelly? Or was it just the flames of our fire dancing as they feast upon the last of the tinder?
Or is it you, dear friend, come to aid us in our quest?
Following our long months of digging, a task that, once I had started I dared not admit to the folly of, we were all exhausted. Yes, we need not sleep nor eat in this pyramid, but we do tire, especially, I learned, after spending the better part of a year digging a hole. As a result, we did not immediately venture forward towards another challenge. That would have been folly. Instead, we rested for a week.
Dear reader, I would tell you how long that week passed, and explain to you how I hungered to be once again vanquishing evil where it stood, were it the case. However, I confess, that week seemed to vanish in an instant, and almost as fast as a snap of the fingers we were back on our feet, ready to fight. I prayed the Gods would not look down on us unduly for the waste of time we had spent, nor that the Arborians we had pledged our lives for had forsaken us and sent some other champion in our place. But all of that was behind us, and what mistakes were made cannot be dwelled upon. The Five of Cups tells us not to dwell upon the mistakes made in the past, lest we forget about what we still have, and what is yet to come, and I am not one to forget the wisdom of the oracle. Instead, we trudged on, hoping that our next meeting with men would not be so disastrous as the meeting we just lived through.
To be completely honest, however, I was not worried that we had somehow angered the weaver’s of fate. For as we sat and rested that week, I had been informed of our impending victory. I saw in front of me, in a spread, The World gazing back at me, with it’s promised of assured success lighting my way as well as any flame. It had been a long time since I had been promised so clear a victory in my future, and it excited my imagination to wonder which god might be smiling down upon us.
It was all just as well that we had luck on our side, however, because what the pyramid had planned for us promised only an untimely end for a group weaker than our own. Finding another room through which we had not traveled, we met with some more mercenaries, like the ones that we had previously dispatched so many times. These were no sturdier than their comrades, and though I wished we could have simply talked them out of fighting us, they charged ahead without regard. With a quick flash from our weapon, four more souls departed this world, and we kept ahead, knowing that up ahead lay a more dangerous trial.
And, in the next room, my intuitions had proven correct. Twenty five mercenaries, some human, some goblin, and one I suspect was a troll, were all waiting for us as we ascended the stairs. They grinned as they saw us approach, the troll licking his lips while the others unsheathed their bloodstained blades. They were ready to for a fight, and I knew that no words would sway their intentions. It was a fight they wanted, and a fight that we must deliver to them.
However, our way was not so strewn with obstacles that we had no way out. For, upon our entrance, a large, seven foot tall man entered, clapping his hands together and laughing with mirth. He was not like any man I had seen before, at least, not outwardly. His skin seemed to crackle with heat, and I thought I could see the outline of scales across his face and neck. As he opened his mouth to talk, wisps of fire escaped his lips, and sparks seemed to drift from his nostrils.
Kor alerted me to what I should have seen as obvious: This man was the mercenary king. Kor knew the face, assuredly from some previous immoral dealing he had done with the man (though I dare not to judge). It was the face of one Garish Vesht (My memory fails me on his surname, but I think it likely to be something like this), a famous bandit warlord, and must assuredly the leader of this group of knaves. Kor signaled to me in all sorts of signs that I confess I could not understand in the slightest, but his blades spoke to his tactics, and I followed suit.
Immediately, before Garish had a chance to act, two knives had flown towards his face. Though Garish deflected one of those blades with his own short sword, the second cut his arm, forcing a blazing scream from his mouth, and distracting his gaze from the rest of us. Immediately, I sprung into action. I would never say that a man with a sword twice his size, running towards you is a sight that is easy to ignore, but in Garish’s case, for whatever reason, his wounds had blinded him with regards to that very situation. As I charged forward, I gained speed, and at the appropriate moment, thrust my sword at the ground, pole vaulting with my blade up into the sky above him. With all the power invoked by the weight of my body falling from the sky, The Tower cleaved through the distracted man as it fell to the ground.
The force of my blade had slammed the man to the ground, and, with a renewed vigour, I was able to pull it out of the wound I made in the man’s side and swing again. This time, the blade cut straight through Garish’s neck, chopping him in two as though justice’s guillotine had finally taken its recompense for his sins. Without a head, his body erupted flame from somewhere deep in his belly, charring the rest of his mortal remains and leaving them unrecognisable on the ground. I looked down upon the sight, not relishing the destruction but content that I had been able to dispatch the man quickly and efficiently.
I imagine that the gods had not intended this encounter to have gone so far in our favour. I also imagine that in another life, we might have fought for our very lives against an onslaught of carefully trained mercenaries and the fiery breath of Garish Vesht. After the battle, Kor told me tales of Garish’s exploits, how he had himself killed the king of Moratia by summoning a dragon to distract his guard while he killed the king and tortured the man’s daughter. Or how Garish had defeated an entire adventuring party himself, by healing his own wounds faster than they could be dealt while he charred each of them to death, finally chasing down the last member and stomping on her face as he laughed. The man was truly a terror, and the stories left by his legacy were terrible to behold. I hope this story, the story of how Garish was slain in one fell swoop through the grace of Justice, is carried down in the ages as well, as a warning to all those as wicked as this man.
Sometimes, the best intentions of Gods are thwarted, and men who were meant for greatness, whether for good or ill, are slain in a moment. I only hope the same event does not strike me in my time of glory, and cut me down before I have gotten used to standing in the light.
The rest of the mercenary band had barely started to move towards us when they saw their leader destroying in front of their eyes. And, fortunately, this act of heroism on my part engendered an act of cowardice on theirs. Without more than a second thought, each one of the band immediately ran for the nearest exit, dropping any equipment they thought might encumber them unduly. I saw the troll, by far the largest of the band, trample a goblin on his way out, just to make sure he was as far as possible from me. I admit, it was a humbling experience to watch such a band cower in fear at my presence, but it was a welcome one, if it meant that less blood was shed.
However, we had barely time to gawk at the scene when the gods, in a desparate attempt to make us fear for our lives, presented us with more misfortune. As we stood in the room, looking around it for anything that might have been of use to us, one of the doors in the room made a loud clanging. We looked over, and Fenrir began to investigate. A second clanging erupted from behind the door, and third. The hinges on the door buckled, until finally, a monster burst forth into our vision. It was a seven foot werewolf, with bursting muscles and dripping teeth. As it turned towards us, it growled, baring fangs.
I noticed that it had the tatters of clothes hanging off of its arms, clothes that I recognised as the same as the bandits had worn. This werewolf was obviously one of their own, somehow poisoned with an unnatural blood thirst that they could not control, forced to endure its endless days behind a closed door. It was a troubled, tortured creature, and I felt no remorse ending its suffering.
And so we fought the wolf. It was not a glorious battle, but it was a competent one. All of our party did their job, and they did it well. The wolf was unable to move for much of the battle, due to the spells of our cleric and the immobilising bolts of Fenrir’s bow. It bit at us upon every strike, making me fear that I might also catch lycanthropy and succumb to the same hell as it had, but it’s bites still did not enough damage that our cleric could not erase the wounds. The battle seemed to go on forever, but each of us, protecting each other with our particular skills, eventually felled the large beast despite it’s own wounds healing nearly as fast as we dealt it damage. In it’s final moments, it took a bite out of my left arm just as I was thrusting towards the beast, forcing my sword to impale its body as it tried to bite me. I lifted its heft above my body, and pulled The Tower back towards the ground behind me, slamming the remains of the wolf onto the ground.
And so the battle was done. I was sure that we had cheated fate that day, but with the premonition of The World leading my way, I had known beforehand that our victory had been assured. Though the gods are powerful, and vengeful, and though we are mere, weak mortal, every once in a blue moon we are able to thwart their best laid plans, and defeat those that were meant to defeat us. And if that is not the definition of those that become heroes, than I do not know what is.
And so, I sit here, waiting in the darkness, hoping our cleric does not oversleep and leave me on watch all night. At the same time, I am cautiously worried for the future. The Moon will not leave my side, no matter what question I ask, and as a result I worry that we may never find our way out of this prison. What horrors lie in store for us next?
I pray, my dear friend, that you have not already met them.