Beyond the Veil
Grief Chapter Four
“Oh the gods must be laughing!” Grief murmured low to himself as he crouched before two trees. He and the party was just barely on the “good side” of Three Points’ graveyard. They’d been here before and this time though felt more prepared. Grief could still feel those spider bites on his right leg and arm. Damn things nearly killed me with one bite… His old wounds ached a little at this thought and he forced himself to his task but remarked at how odd it was a dense fog would be settled here on such a nice afternoon.
Through the fog just a dozen meters or so away a low barrow rose from the ground alongside a heavily rutted dirt road. The barrow was not much more than an eroded mound of dirt succumbing to the seaside climate of Three Points, and it seemed the headstones hadn’t fared much better. Most are missing their high arches and a bright green moss invaded their once polished surfaces. Nothing yet…
“Ah,” Grief spoke softly and he took his index finger from his chin and pointed to a pale figure standing motionless atop the barrow. “There you are, Jerry, and looks like you’re alone this time. Good news for me.” Grief began to turn back to his companions when shadowy movement to the left of the mound gave him the shivers.
“Ok, so there are a couple of ghouls…” However, he hadn’t yet spied what he feared most, again, good news for him. Another turn of the head though, and movement came through sunlit branches. The trees he thought had been swaying in the light breeze, but with the fog there had been no breeze. The trees were crawling…crawling! He fought the instinct to jump up and run and instead backed slowly away.
The gods must be laughing. Above me the entire time! Thought turned into words.
“Spiders, why spiders. The desert didn’t even have spiders.” Grief only spoke to himself as he walked up to the group, but Woo managed a chuckle and seemed way too confident about this little engagement, in fact ‘smug’ was the word that came to mind.
Myth began quickly after Grief’s report. “It seems we have no choice, we’ll have to attack the spiders first.” The group looked all in agreement and there was simply no way around it. “Sorry, Grief, but you should’ve known better than to run ahead of Samus last time.” “Aye,” spouted the dwarf through a thick spray of spit, “ya’ should’a!”
- * * * * * *
As the battle began Helena gripped her wand tightly and muttered something to herself. Soon, as the spiders came down the tree another threat crawled up around them. The grass was awash with tiny spiders, millions of them. They ran over feet, up legs and into and out of gear causing great annoyance and preventing most of the party from concentrating on their targets. Yet, despite the distance from the barrow, Jarod and his ghouls came running to join the fight. Sgt. Baker succumbed to ghoulish wounds and fell to the ground dying. Myth saved the guard’s life, but he was only able to stabilize him and the battle was left to the veterans. As the spiders and the ghouls kept most of the party busy with melee, the casters took advantage of the ghost’s apparent unwillingness to engage in melee and began assaulting him with their colorful array of magical spells. POW, BANG, BOOM, SIZZLE, and one critical from Helena’s Flames of Phlegethos did it. A few rounds later, the battle came to an end leaving a not so healthy party behind, but it was nothing a short rest couldn’t take care of.
- * * * *
Most everyone sat resting under the trees, save Grief who sat on a rock by himself away from the memory of that crawling bark, but he still chimed in his deep gutterings to the rest of the party. “I must hand it to you, Samus. You can sure tie up some folks with your axe, but what happened to your ghoul skills? I thought they had me for sure. If it hadn’t been for Myth…”
Samus interrupted, “I don’t see an ale in my hand, so shut yer Poof trap!”
Helena walked to her brother’s now wounded pride and held out her hand offering a bundle of cloth to help clean his wounds, his physical ones anyway. “I am getting the hang of this wand and pact blade, don’t ya’ think,” she said with a giant grin.
Grief noticed how her eyes glowed brighter than usual when she was excited and wondered if his did too, but he could sense in her tone that she longed for his approval. The whole relationship was too new for him to accept wholly. Too many threads in his life were flailing about in the coastal winds for him to consider moving on to mending his past, but the thought of some deeper connection with her felt right so he maintained his status and called her “his sister”, for now.
“Yes, sister,” he congratulated, “Jerry will not be haunting this barrow anymore. I just hope it means his house is cleansed.”
“Why would not it be so?”
“The spiders’ will was not of our ‘friend’, Jarod. They retreated when he and the ghouls fell, but they didn’t die with him nor was he the one buried in that barrow.” He broke off his attention from her face and looked toward the barrow lifting his arm and index finger together. “They filed in as if they were heading home for dinner.”
“But, if Jarod was not controlling the spiders, then someone or something was controlling Jarod too and so his spirit may not be out of my hair.” She obliviously maintained her pride despite the use of language and sat awaiting Grief’s response.
Grief opened his mouth to speak but the words coming out sounded like Mythoric. “I believe we should get going, yes?” It was Mythoric. The weird accent that nobody uses anymore was hanging thick like the fog.
“What about the barrow,” asked Helena pointing her finger to toward the barrow.
Grief looked quickly back at her and whispered, “what are you doing?”
Helena offered her brother a side-long mischievous smile and replied to him, “you’d be the last one of us to willingly chase spiders, but there is only way to find out. I know Myth and Woo will go along with it.” She lifted her head toward Myth. “Grief is worried about this strange spider problem.”
Mythoric helped the now conscious and mumbling Sgt. Baker to his feet and began his inquiry with a grunt. “You have some idea of what’s in there?”
Of course Helena didn’t know anything yet, but her studies in history recalled an ancient human king making use of such barrows. She shared this with the rest of the group and together they painted a better picture of this place. King Wren, the King of Easterall, single-handedly established his kingdom and overthrew the Dragonborn during some ancient socio-political conflagration. His capitol was here in Three Points, though at that time the city was named after him some how: Wrenville, Kingshome, Casa de Wren… anyway, as she expected and Grief hadn’t, the party was now inspecting the road-side wall of the barrow and found a vertical crack and a soil covered ring.
As if he’d been challenged to a duel Samus immediately grabbed the ring and began pulling with all his might. The dwarf, despite his stamina, strength and ale-blood level was soon breathing heavily and displayed glistening sweat in his bright orange beard while the door remained as it was, closed. Samus let go of the ring panting and the remaining party members, suppressing giggles, moved in to offer assistance. Grief positioned himself at the crack of the door, Woo and Myth both grabbed the ring along side Samus, and Helena grabbed Samus’ belt. Together they slid the stone door all the way open clearing years of soil and debris from its path. A musty air issued from the depths and the party now noticed the craftsmanship of the builders and realized this was the tomb of King Wren. It was also known that the king would have been buried with a number of guards to protect him in his after-life journeys.
So, with all this preparation and learning, Grief tossed a stone down the now visible ancient hallway and all watched in horror as spikes erupted from the floor panels and only stopped when they made tiny depressions in the stone ceiling. Woo smelled more of Samus then than ever before or after and Grief eeked out a suggestion in his best eeking voice ever, “later, then?”
It wasn’t half a flip of the coin later that the party was shoving the door back to its original position. Sgt. Baker looked up from his groggy near-death stupor and said, “I wouldn’t go in there if I were you. Oh, I see.”
- * * *
An hour’s journey brought the adventurers back into the loving arms of an unwelcoming city. Stares, glares and slamming shutters were among the greetings from the townspeople as the group passed, one gith’yanki even cleared his throat at them, but they pressed on straight to Jarod’s Blacksmith Shoppe. As they arrived Mythoric pressed his hand to the door and no feeling of dire-dread came over him as had before, but there was a coldness that swept his features. Unable to pinpoint the cause of the sensation, he motioned to open the door.
In retrospect, none of the party members actually remember opening the door but just inside the swing of the door and lying upon her face was a young woman. No wounds were visible but Myth felt her cold pale skin and he understood that she’d been dead for some time. Helena stood by and helped Myth with the woman while Woo began watching out the window for signs of any folk too curious for their own good. Samus remembered his last stash of ale under his beard and popped the cork. Grief hardly noticed the dead woman as he started up the stairs to look again at Nessa’s small bed recalling the awful vision he’d seen here written in blood so many days ago now.
Will there be an end to these slave runs and this unbridled suffering?
Grief remembered his days in the desert, in Belial’s slave pits, sweating, working, miserable and without any hope. People from Three Points came in by the wagon loads filled with children and adolescents. On cold desert nights he could hear them talking, even as quietly as they were they were still risking death, but they all spoke of their coastal city in despair and with anger he didn’t understand.
No one could sell their children. They must have been told that to keep the slaves from wanting to go home.
The rogue moved back downstairs and stood above a trapdoor in the front room. Without ceremony he pulled open the dust covered door. Seeing a dark length of hallway beneath the floor leading ‘who knows where’, Grief thought, How many of these passages exist? I must ask Thad.
Mythoric spoke in the silence. “There is work to do elsewhere.” His head turned to Grief. “We shall return and follow this passage, but for now we must figure out what happened to this woman and I believe our friends of Pelor will be glad to spread the word that two Tieflings personally raised a fellow citizen of Three Points.”
Without a word, Grief agreed, closed the trapdoor and reset the rug above it. He was also the first outside and down the street to the church but his thoughts were to the little girl with glowing eyes, Nessa, and her connection to all of this.
Nessa had lived here in this house with the blacksmith and his wife. The group has deduced that her ancestors live well beyond the western horizon amid fey-er lands, yet she found herself here in Three Points alone and seemingly helpless. The blacksmith and his wife took her and then her glowing eyes and powers of divination/prescience began to disrupt the peace leaving her new parents fighting the fears of an entire city. One awful night, the wife killed her husband, the blacksmith and Nessa was left without anyone in the entire city to care for her. Naturally, anyone with any kind of strangeness about them attracts adventurers, or is it the other way around?
- * * * * *
“She wants nothing of her belongings here. It’s almost as if she’s breaking her connection to this place…why?” Helena was standing with her arms folded at the chest listening to another one of Grief’s endless prattlings.
“I don’t know, brother. You always ask the strangest questions.” Helena turned and walked toward the little girl’s room. “You should ask her.”
The party had arrived shortly at the Church of Pelor and Grief turned after Helena’s departure to listen to Mythoric’s conversation with Thad.
“I know full-well the fee for the resurrection service, but what can you do for a cart, pony and six sleepy adventurers?”
Thad looked a bit ragged, thoughts of the other-worldly girl running around him shouting his funny little back at him left a smile on Grief’s face that he could not hide. “How’s the girl,” Grief interrupted.
Thad ignored the rogue’s jeering and returned his attention to the cleric. Mythoric finally managed a successful barter for room and board and everyone looked forward to a restful evening in the Church of Pelor.
Helena swept open the door to Nessa’s room and saw the young girl sitting on the monastery bed leaned up against the wall hugging her knees. Nessa’s head turned casually toward Helena and she dropped her knees and sat upright seemingly calm, but Helena saw fear hidden in the glow of Nessa’s eyes. As the young warlock stepped closer to the bed Nessa spoke and Helena stopped mid-stride.
“I can’t stay here anymore.” The child’s words filled Helena’s mind with images of darkness and she felt herself get angry, angry at the monks, angry at the blacksmith and his wife, and angry at the forces for allowing this little girl to suffer and fear for her life.
[the girl complains about not being safe in the church anymore]
[the party decides to keep a watch throughout the night]
[Mythoric and Woo first, Grief and Helena second and Samus and Sgt. Baker third]
Upon Grief and Hellena’s watch a noise and scuffling alerts them to an unwanted soul wandering about. Grief eagerly jumped up, flung open the door and seeing a body running down the hall dressed not as a monk, he immediately gave chase. The intruder ran straight down the hall and just before reaching the end it leapt into the air and through a stained glass window. Glass shattered into the dark of night but the rogue was compelled to follow by the thrill of the chase and easily cleared the sill and landed heavily onto the roof of the next building.
Glad that was there, Grief pushed himself back into a run up the slippery tiled roof. Another thought came to him as he crested the first roof top, damn he’s fast. The intruder was already passing the top of the second roof as Grief kept his feet pounding down one side and up the other until he came to a complete stop.
Standing right on the edge of a two story building with no where to jump or go except down, a pale-faced man stood staring at Grief’s panting form. Recognition alarmed Grief as he stood not 5 meters from Belial’s doppleganger assassin.
It spoke first, “I found you.”
“I knew you would,” Grief retorted spitting water from his lips as he spoke, “but if you want to kill me, then do it and leave them out of it.”
“I have no orders for them,” and the assassin smiled. “No guarantees either,” his mouth barely finished the words when his form spun and he fell a wide cloak trailing.
Grief ran to the edge hoping that he’d see where the assassin went, but there was nothing. Down below, Sgt. Baker ran around the corner of the building and looked up to see Grief standing high above.
“Did you see him?” Grief yelled down.
“See what,” replied Baker.
Grief worked his way down the side of the building to Sgt. Baker and began to tell him the story of his travels before they met. Together they walked back to the now very alive Church of Pelor and sought Mythoric.
[Mythoric speaks to Thad about some strange goings-on that would frighten Nessa, but he tells him of the mausoleum in the basement, that’s it. Mythoric finally talks Thad into letting him down into the crypt and Myth finds a couple of bodies that don’t look like they should be there. Thad denies any wrong doing and says that the church does good in the city for its people and that’s all that we need to know.]
[Elsa – young woman found dead at the blacksmith’s house, upon resurrection, said she saw lights inside house and as she opened the door, a chill came out and grabbed her and pulled her in.]
[Jarl bursts through the door, “Thank you so much…my daughter. What can I do to repay you?” He agrees to spread the word about our aid with his daughter’s life. He allows us to stay in his inn for free.]
[Thad leaves the room and Elsa says, “There was a face there, before I died. I saw his face. [Thad] Thad is kind here, but there he was cruel with an evil grin.]
[For their heroic actions, Jarl gave the party a horse, if we want it.]
[Nessa talks about the bad man, Thad, telling him stories while the party was gone, stories about an old god who was imprisoned for a long time and now that god wishes to come back. Nessa tells us that the name of the old god has too much power and cannot be spoken.]
[Mythoric spoke to one of the other priests and demanded to find out what was below the church in the mausoleum. Myth was denied until he asked where Thad was and nobody knew, so the head priest was called for. The head priest of the church spoke with him and together they entered the mausoleum and with a “holy light of uncovering” a secret passageway is revealed.]
[The adventurers begin a trek through the passageway and follow it past the point of seeing skeletons all around them until an opening reveals itself and a voice is heard. It’s Thad. He’s a very bad Thad and the adventurers must deal with very bad Thads from time to time.]
[A battle ensues]