Unrequited Oath before the Giant's Gate

Ducroh picked up the skull and stared into it’s eyes, believing that The Bringer of Dawn would bestow him with energy as the sermon foretold. Staring deeply into the skull, only his curiosity for the ancient hero grew stronger. He put the skull with the rest of his belongings and pondered on top of the glowing alter, feeling as though something was missing. Pascal had detected earlier that this altar resonated with the reading of the sermon, but doing such by itself came to no effect; there was indeed likely more to be discovered in these ruins.

The White Rabbit with his keen senses had seen something along a wall when they approached. Choosing to dismount the inquisitor, he moved to get a better look, there was a secret passage along the side of the altar ruins. Tapping it lightly after subtle inspection resounded the hollow chamber that lay behind, exhuming layers of dust which had accumulated over time. The White Rabbit opened the door and revealed a ladder which descended into the darkness, he beckoned for Pascal—the blessed Vaukojkas—to see into the dark. Pascal could see the ladder descend about forty feet, improvising an illuminated glow-stone to provide his companions with some sense of security given their recent fall.

Pascal, Terra, Schrödinger, Ducroh with The White Rabbit on his shoulder, and the decadent little girl all proceeded one after the other down the ladder and into a narrow corridor. They had gone too far to turn back now, and they proceeded for some time, step after step until hundreds had past, seeming to continue forward forever until they came to a bend. Terra had thought this was an interesting change in the path of the corridor, and her intuition payed off. Straight above their heads a trap door. After pulling it down, a ladder drew from the trapdoor and they found it similar to the first, leading about forty feet up to the backside of a secret door.

They opened the secret door to find themselves in a dark room with a hole looking out. The fifteen by fifteen foot ruined structure’s corner wall had crumbled over time. Outside they noticed the faint lights they had seen to the east and west, indicating they had traveled west for some time, placing them now somewhere in the middle of the two lights, on top of the rise which lined the wall of the pit where they fell. More troubling however were the shadows walking within the faint darkness outside the ruins, ghostly figures dancing at the edge of their vision, shuffling back and forth to avoid their sight. The group also took to the shadows, hoping their entrance was unseen. After looking around for anything of use, they found several gems and scrolls in old boxes which lined the back walls of the ruined structure, and a purse of coins that lay wrapped in the clothes of another man who lay desiccated on the floor as a pile of bones yet strangely his beard still remained.

As they walked outside of the collapsed structure, the shaded figures scurried back as if they were frightened. The forms began to take shape as the adventurers advanced , but this clarity would dissipate as the beings shuffled back out of sight. Soon they realized that the beings which lurked in the dark were Bočunai, though their color had turned to a bruised purple-brown, their limbs pocket-marked with wounds, and their bodies erratically animated. Almost all of the Bočunai seemed as though they were undead, but emit faint auras of conjuration that bordered on the schools of necromancy. This sight while frightening reminded Terra of the troubles she had seen the Bočunai put through in her time at the keep. She called out to tell they they need not be afraid, that she could help them. The Vluna seemed to only scare them further as she forward and begged them to accept her aid. Only with her last attempt had she cried out, and one slowly came forward, trembling and shaking as it stood in awe before Terra.

It’s wounds were now quiet clear, it’s flesh and organs decayed to a soggy mulch, though somehow it supported it’s own weight. Terra attempted to converse with the Bočunas further, it’s anxious contractions of decayed flesh only becoming more pronounced. The muscles around it’s throat vibrated as air hissed between the remaining chords, emitting a raspy moan which echoed through the cavern. Once more the Bočunas cried out, this time more loudly as the coarse screech cracked with the breaking of his throats tissues. Terra’s ears averted from the being’s pale cries to several pairs of footsteps approaching hastily from all around. A pack of the surrounding Bočunai were charging towards them. Ducroh reacted swiftly after determining a threat and fired an arrow into the dark, his eyes attempting to trace the shaded figures, then hearing the arrow strike but not knowing where precisely. Pascal whispered words of the old and conjured a pool of glistening oil which spread out below the Bočunai, immediately throwing their feet out from under them. The head of one ruptured like spoiled cabbage, leaving the other to stumble back on it’s crunching limbs.

Across from the other side a figure darted past The White Rabbit. Realizing that it was not headed for him, he took the moment and lunged his scalpel at the animated Bočunas; missing at first, after hopping a bit closer and lunging once more at it’s leg, rupturing the hollow stem which poured a thick black ooze. This liquid seemed to be the source of the conjuration aura which kept it upright. The Bočunas continued on it’s path towards the source of the desperate cry, barreling past Terra, sinking it’s mouth around the lone creature’s throat and tearing open it’s wounds further. Pascal darted forward but not in time to stop the creature, touching the enraged Bočunas with a corrosive hand that reduced the animate mulch to a bubbling pile of acidic foliage.

Climbing from the pool of oil the remaining plant gained footing and charged once more. Schrödinger slithered across the rise and swung himself as Ducroh nocked and released another arrow into the dark. Relentlessly diving past their defenses once more the Bočunas drove it’s mouth into the wounded outlier and continued it’s feast upon his flesh. They managed to impale him more easily with a blade once immobile and distracted in his feast but again it was too late. Schrödinger took the last of the enraged Bočunai in his maw and scattered his gnarled remains into the darkness. Terra collapsed on the remains of the lone Bočunas and choked down her tears, feeling his throat, desperately looking for a way to mend his wounds or grow him anew. “You can’t save them all,” Ducroh said attempting to console her. He angled his ears to the open rise and heard the faint cries of another Bočunai trying to speak up—abruptly followed by the crisp sound of it’s hollow peers crunching it back into silence. “They are… eating each other… we need to get out of here.”

They retreated back to the underground passage below the ruined structure, it was deemed the safest route to travel for the time being. After another long winding passageway the road forked, seeming to lead back to the entrance of the pit, and then continuing forward under where they had located the source of the western light. Continuing forward several hundred feet they found themselves at the back of yet another secret door, pressing it open to reveal a room with a winding staircase. Ducroh advised that they clear the lower levels first, leading them as they opened a door adjacent to the staircase into a wide hallway carved with intricate reliefs.

All along the hall were depictions of artwork identified to be stories of a creation myth, several aquatic beast heads, and at the end an altar with plant remains and an ancient Fjorðinn inscription that told of the seeds of gods once again recurring and coming to fruition. Schrödinger recognized the busts of his ancient Undine ancestors and called out to them, his melody resonating with them as they came to life and opened their jaws. Ducroh knew the first artwork on the walls to be the sky and earth before the were separated. Then followed by a wall with Tiamat, or Typhoeus of the Eldritch, the many-limbed serpentine beast who hid the oceans and earthquakes from all before creation was complete. The White Rabbit knew these also to be a representation of the creation myth, though to him the limbed beast known as Vrtra, who blocks the existence of primal seas and waves. Pascal knew this as not just one being, but many beings, the veles, who not only once hid the oceans and earthquakes, but also cattle and the light of dawn. Veles to him were also beings who consisted of the bodies of all men which returned to the soil. Collectively the adventurers came to an understanding that like the other architecture within the ruins, this was referring to planar collisions and birth.

Terra and Schrödinger washed the halls with the ancient speech-song of the Undine. The Vluna and The White Rabbit noticed that while the statues of the ancient Undine yawned in response to their calls, they did not resonate properly as the heads seemed to be the output of an instrument that went further inside the walls. Terra jumped at one wall while the rabbit and Schrödinger ascended the other, finding that they could squeeze inside the mouths to find themselves a chamber on each side. Their architecture surrounding a podium in such a way that the center of the rooms served as a focal point for the magical instruments. They continued to sing and while the heads of the Undine were now perfectly transmitting their voices, the magical instrument still would not trigger it’s harmonious component. Pascal recalled earlier that the sermon read which Ducroh had taken was keyed to the particular altar, resonating with it’s vocalized reading. Pascal and Ducroh quickly traversed the underground tunnel back to the altar of red light and Pascal signaled to the mind of her Eidolon to prepare their synchronization of the reading. Soon entire chamber in Hndherghthom began to resonate with the lamenting sermon of ancient Fjorðinn texts accented by the concordant Undine duet.

“…Again he’ll find himself in silence and solitude,
Again he’ll rise from land of sadness,
Again he’ll begin to shine for your eyes.
Tears shall bear his inner beauty and noble soul
And his body will come into flower by gorgeous aura.

His eyes shall fill you by energy,
His eyes shall permeate behind your walls
And your strongholds shall crash.
You will stand before him in your nakedness and
Maybe then for the first time you will see it yourself.

But do not be afraid,
His eyes shall purify you
And the iced hearts of yours shall suck the rays of his Sun.

And you’ll hear the beautiful voice
And the purest words – the unspoken ones
You will comprehend real love
And awakened you’ll weep…"

Carried by the last words of the sermon, a blinding light erupted from above sunken spire between the eastern and western lights. So luminous was the flash it pierced through the thickest dungeon walls, nauseating Terra momentarily, and leaving Ducroh shaken in thought. Ducroh had witnessed by all descriptive accounts, the horror and awe of laying his eyes upon a falsehood, the angels, profane beings foretold within texts long abandoned by the reformed worshiper of Ashtifer. Pascal believed this indeed to be the spawn of Ælfhæft himself, sons and daughters of the greatest Eldritch god. The White Rabbit did not avert his gaze, and he did not stare in awe, but out of morbid curiosity as the beings he knew as Vaejlcniht were for a moment opened to Hndherghthom. “Hell-knights,” he pronounced their arrival in the common tongue. Terra perhaps of all was fated. She had seen some shimmering wave beyond the radiant cascade of light that settled in her mind as the truest of all feelings. She knew that something beyond was peeking into their realms, and that had the instruments been aligned as they were intended, the consequences would be beyond any mortal beings comprehension.

Terra sniffed at the air and traced the walls with her tail, curious as to what had they had just enacted. Her eyes were still adjusting and the chambers were still draining a static light, so her nose had lead her back to the main hall of the western ruin. She followed a precarious scent, that of a fresh plant, which was only precarious because most of the plants down here were dead and rotting. When she laid her eyes upon the west altar there lay a living Bočunai. He crawled up off the slab, looking at Terra and the surrounding room confused. To Terra’s surprise, he did now know where he was, who he is, or what he was doing there. He only had the desire to join his family once again, and went about the only way he knew to achieve this. He asked the Vluna for the return of his shackles, and to inform her master that he would like to be taken back to him. Terra told him that if he wishes to go, that he is free. She realized that given his current memories, perhaps it would be easiest for him to emulate serving her until she could get him to safety and truly grant him freedom.

Ducroh struggled to stay upright and watched the flickering stars bleed from the periphery of his vision, still partially blinded by the light, he surveyed the chasm from the corner of his eye. From his possession lifted before his eyes the skull and scepter of Bē-tharmon lunged forward into the hands of a rising pile of bones. To his side stood Pascal illuminated among the unnaturally latent glow of the flash, behind him an army of Bočunai scoured to dust and trailing in the light storm’s flux, crawling up the steps of the altar and integrating with the apparated body of Bē-tharmon as his tissues were restored. Staring Ducroh in the eyes he gasped for air, only long enough to force words from his materializing lungs.

“Aš vėl gyventi, esate išpranašavo herojai. Aš kvėpuoju baimėje. Kaip tu nužudyti meiluže? Ne, jis negali būti, o ne vėl!”
“I live once more, you are foretold heroes. I breathe in awe, how did you slay the mistress outside? No, it cannot be, not again!”

He uttered in ancient Vaukojkas progressively losing his breath, his last words cut short as his flesh disintegrated once again to a pile of dust on top of the east altar. Ducroh did not understand the full meaning of what he said at first, having to take into context all that he had seen today before knowing most of what Bē-tharmon had wished to express. The mistress outside is a name that he has heard infrequently referenced among obscure practices. This was a goddess known as Nyl-Ehtos, The Traveler into Nothing; but why in Niflheim would Bē-tharmon insist in his fleeting moments that Ducroh had miraciously slayed this deity?



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