Shani, my friend…
Of all the days that have passed since I left our woodland home, this was the darkest. While great heroism and bravery were demonstrated, great tragedy befell us as well.
I think… I think that once we… IF we ever escape this accursed mountain, I would like to meet with you. I need to see your face again. And Darak and Tsaah, as well. Today’s events have left me shaken, wishing once again to see those whom I care about.
After our battle with the shadow dragon, we took a brief rest before pushing on… we should have rested longer. We were not prepared for what we encountered next.
When we entered what I assume to be the final room within this Well of Demons, we found a great evil transpiring. One of the first things I noticed was the last few slaves we had been searching for – they were here! Alas, they were trapped within some rune-bound circle, unwilling elements in some dark spell being cast by a horrible gnoll mage or necromancer. He was guarded by a group of demons and a monstrously huge animated skeleton.
Déor bellowed an attack cry and rushed forward at the largest target, the skeleton. Perhaps he overextended himself, but he missed completely. It was but the first of countless errors on our part. Throughout this entire battle, our best-laid plans faltered and our previously-guaranteed attack methods failed. It was as if we were under some dire curse.
Things went from bad to worse. The gnoll imprisoned Greth in some type of spell that allowed the skeleton to knock him unconscious. We had all instinctively attacked the skeleton as the largest, most threatening enemy, but we were totally ineffective, and the demons swarmed down to attack us.
The gnoll continued his diabolical spell, killing the slaves one by one. One of Ferrin’s force orbs knocked one of the slaves out of the rune-ring, but inadvertently killed her, as well. Apparently, this was enough to end the gnoll’s spell, and he turned his full wrath against us.
Déor went down, but Aerizell managed to revive him. Then Ferrin fell. Greth had revived, only to fall again… only to revive one last time as we focused our attacks on the gnoll. I was moving all over the battlefield, running to keep out of the reach of the demons in a limited arena. Eventually, as Greth fell for a third time, I was forced to race back down the hallway and shoot arrows from there. Unfortunately, a demon soon pursued me and I fell. Déor and Aerizell stood alone against a horde of demons.
When I awoke, with Déor bandaging my wounds, the battle was over. I looked up and the half-elf shook his head, a dismayed look on his face. I looked around. Greth sat nearby, blinking and recovering slowly. Then I saw them.
Aerizell knelt, his helmet thrown to the side, cradling the unmoving body of his closest friend, Ferrin. The eladrin wizard was dead.
In that moment, Shani, I felt such an overwhelming sense of loss. I have not felt emotions of any kind that strong since that day we all lost so much. I have known Ferrin for less than a year, and his fey “otherness” at times annoyed me, but a truer comrade could not be found. And to lose him so soon after Vimak’s death and Baladov’s departure… only Aerizell and I remained of our original band. And as I looked at Aerizell’s face and the tears streaming down it, I wondered if it was all over – everything. Our quest to find Paldamar, our growth together as a team, my hope in gathering strong colleagues for the eventual battle I know must come some day… all of it seemed to have no more substance now than Ferrin’s limp body.
I think I shall never forget that sight. It is engraved upon my mind like nothing else in this long, dark quest.
Yet Aerizell had not fully given up. He blamed himself for failing to protect Ferrin, as a Paladin should (in his opinion). Déor told me, in whispered words as we searched the room, of the last desperate moments of the battle, where Aerizell took wounds that were meant for Déor and fought with the passion and fire of a warrior much greater than he had shown before today.
We found a pair of silver keys. Déor claims to have had a vision about how to use them – that they are the keys to finding this rogue wizard Paldamar, in his secure abode. I have no doubt that we will go there soon.
(By the way, I also found a fine elven cloak like the ones Chabar used to make. I don’t know how it came into the possession of that accursed gnoll, but I have claimed it as my own.)
Aerizell insisted on carrying Ferrin’s body alone as we made our way out of the Well of Demons. It was a silent journey back to the Seven-Pillared Hall. The newcomers, Déor and Greth, remained quiet out of respect for Aerizell’s grief. I remained quiet as it was my job to find our way back in these twisting tunnels.
Curse this darkness. I cannot wait to see open sky again. While my skills at navigating in the dark are growing, I hate it all the more.
Back in the Hall, Aerizell led us straight to the temple of Erathis in hopes of finding someone who could perform a ritual to raise Ferrin before his spirit slipped away forever. The priestess, Phaledra, welcomed us, but seemed most reluctant to resurrect Ferrin. She had the gall to ask for 1,000 gold pieces in return for her help! I know very well that ritual can be performed for half that in our homeland. And she insisted she was offering us a bargain!
In vain did Déor attempt to negotiate with her. Aerizell’s pleas fell on deaf ears. I even stepped forward and offered her my bracers (you know the ones), my most prized possessions, in exchange for her help. But she refused. 1,000 gold pieces or nothing, it seemed.
Aerizell stormed out of the temple, still carrying Ferrin’s body. He led us straight to the place where the wizards of this place could be found. With violent imprecations, he demanded they show themselves. A representative approached us calmly and listened to Aerizell’s recounting of how they owed their very freedom to our work (which is clearly true). The wizard seemed unmoved, but eventually presented Aerizell with two gems that he said would cover the price the priestess required, as well as their debt to us.
As we went back to the temple, we were joined again by that annoying halfling, Rendil. His constant babbling seemed to lift Aerizell’s spirits somewhat, and he was not even surprised when the priestess demanded both gems as her payment.
Tomorrow, we return to the temple. She says Ferrin will be back. I am eager to see if this is true, and whether he is changed by his encounter with death. Did he meet the unknown god? I asked Aerizell about this, but he was still dealing with his own guilt and anger, and said he had only hopes.
We will see if those come to fruition. And then, I think, we have an appointment with this Paldamar. He has much to answer for.
Till the waves consume us all.