|Daeorian Campaign Log — Session #15|
|Emmeline's Diary Entry|
Nearly two months have passed since I was set upon the Shaded Way and brought to the world of Daeoria. Of those two months, it feels to me to be only one: a strange creature - unlike any earthly being I have ever seen and yet not a spirit either - set upon us and altered time somehow, accelerating us a month into the future, or slowing us down. I am not sure which.
Four days ago, by my reckoning (though it seems a month passed in one of those days), my companions and I arrived at a small mining village whose men had disappeared. We discovered it was because minotaurs had enslaved them and were forcing them to mine for gold in the caverns beyond the mine. Freeing the captives, we returned to the village and spent the night there before going back to clear out the minotaurs the next morning. We did not succeed; though we slew six minotaurs, the leader defeated all save three of us, and I was among those who fell against him. Luckily, we have a good amount of healing magics. Then he left, and we returned to the entrance of the mine to rest and heal. It was there that the strange metal being altered our time.
When we emerged from the mine the sun and moon were chasing frantically across the sky and three or four days went by in seconds before time resumed its normal flow and we saw the villagers approaching us. They seemed nervous, glancing up at the sky, and conversation revealed that dragons had been sighted flying frequently overhead. This was worrying, as we had slain a dragon some weeks previous to our arrival. Meltara - the other holy woman in our party - counseled them to silence. We learned also that a month had passed in what I had perceived as being only minutes. The others did not wish to tell the villagers of our encounter with the being, saying only that the caverns had been larger than we anticipated. I went along as best I could, which was not very well; this instinct towards secrecy does not sit well with me. A lie is a web that snares the spider, so my mother taught me.
After some brief debate, we went into the mines once more and checked the tunnels; continuing to the minotaurs' caverns, we found deep axe marks on the other side of the fissure dividing the mine from the caverns, as though someone had attacked it in a rage. We traveled down one of the tunnels were the minotaurs had worked the slaves and were attacked by four monstrous creatures: two with the appearance of minotaurs, but strange shaggy heads resembling no beasts I have ever seen, and two horned ogres. I do not know what they were, but their presence along sapped strength from me. I went to summon a creature to aid us, but before I could cast my magics, one of the ogre knocked me down and into blackness.
Pain was all I knew upon waking, at first. When sense returned, I found that we had been strung up like so many pigs for slaughter over a wooden sluice that flowed into a golden bowl held by a gold statue of the demon-lord Baphomet, whom minotaurs have been known to worship. Something seared my side and when the red haze cleared I saw that I and my companions had been stripped of our armor and weapons, and were being alternately burned and cut by hooded minotaurs. Then I understood that we were to be sacrificed, payment for some great boon.
I have known pain; I sat vigil for seven days and seven night upon the rocks, waiting for the spirits to accept me as their daughter. Pain of the body can be endured; pain of the heart, somewhat less. To die imprisoned, a sacrificed, far from my home and people - if that was what the spirits had willed for me, I could only accept it and prepare myself for death, but it is a terrible thing to face oblivion without assurance of an honored place among your ancestors in the lands beyond.
I am not sure how long the torture lasted, but eventually it ceased and the leader - the one we had fought earlier - stepped out of the shadows with a sacrificial knife and cut across our throats, not killing us, but allowing our heart's blood to flow down the sluice and trickle into the bowl. I tried to spit on him as he passed (a childish act, but considering what I'd called his mother earlier it seemed only consistent); however, I had little strength left, and missed. The statue's eyes began to glow, and the face became animated, forming a grinning leer as the minotaur leader stood before it and invoked the favor of his dark god. I admit with shame that I was glad it would be over soon - and then the statue frowned and the voice of the god echoed out, displeased. It seemed we were not sufficient for the boon the minotaur leader had asked; the god sneered, once, and then left the statue frozen in an expression of distaste.
The leader roared and nearly killed us in his rage; stopping himself, he ordered his followers to cut us down and stop our bleeding, and then to go and capture the villagers for sacrifice. Our cut throats were healed, and more torture ensued until finally I lost consciousness.
When I came to, we were lying in a single cramped cell, bound hand and foot. I remember little of the time that followed; the paladin Throm got free somehow, and untied us, and Woldruf picked the lock. I know we searched for our equipment, and I remember vividly the wild despair that grew in me as I came to understand that we had lost everything - that I had lost my father's sword. My father had given it me when I set off from our farm, following the strange yearning in my blood, and from that day it had never left my side; my father had been given it by his mother, when he first left to make his way in the world, as she had been given it by her father and so on back to the beginning of our line. It has been broken and reforged many times, changed shape and size as needed but never before had it been lost – for that dishonor to be mine seemed almost unbearable. I remember spending my last magics on healing, and I dimly recall a long, strained journey through darkness. I think I was of some use, but my mind was elsewhere and anything I did, I did out of instinct.
My first clear memory is of standing in the cave where we had fought the minotaur leader what felt like a lifetime ago as the mage Tomber told us his familiar knew where our possessions were; exactly where we had fallen to the bizarre monsters when all this had begun. They had not thought to hide or destroy anything, only stripped us and taken us to the statue. My mind cleared then, and as we raced to our equipment I gave thanks to my ancestors, who must have been guarding our family's honor, and to the spirits that guide our quest.
We had fallen to the monsters in a cavern with a ledge, which had a tunnel on it. We heard minotaurs' voices from within it, complaining that there were too few of them to keep all the villagers from escaping; to prevent detection while we retrieved our belongings, only Woldruf and Keldorn went out to gather what they could find, being the most silent of us all. It was the monk who returned my sword to me; I thanked him as best I could at the time.
Throm's sword had been thrown thirty feet in the air and lodged in the wall, so Tombar – who had been reunited with his magical staff - cast spells of flight and invisibility, allowing him to retrieve his blade. It took some time and involved a great deal of grunting and cursing, but I was occupied with donning my armor and pack, and there was little enough to see.
Before we could make good our escape, however, the minotaurs on the ledge above us jumped down, intending to leave, until one turned and saw us. A battle ensued and I fought with gladder heart than I had in many days. The monk Keldorn was killed; however, a kindly elf had given us a charm some days before that could raise the dead, and as soon as the minotaurs were slain, Meltara used it. Some elder shamans are said to have the power to call the recently dead from the shadowlands between this world and the next, should their soul be willing, but they are rare, and before coming to Daeoria I had never witnessed such a feat. It is a fascinating process.
Afterwards, she asked that we join her in a prayer of thanksgiving to the god whose symbol the charm wore. It seemed an odd request to me, since I am neither dedicated to nor recognized by Pelor, but it seemed disrespectful to say nothing. I knelt and prayed, briefly, then rose; I saw some of the others act similarly.
We returned to the mine's entrance and rested, debating our next course of action. It was decided that alerting the village carried too much risk; the mass evacuation of the inhabitants would arouse suspicion, and we were not yet strong enough to challenge Xox. Tomber suggested we return and simply destroy the statue, which seems the best plan yet, though there is the question of the minotaurs' anger should we succeed.
Also during our period of rest, Meltarra told me she felt I was not showing enough respect for those gods not my own. I am unsure what she means; while I have not worshiped them, neither have I disrespected them, and since they have no investment in my people I wonder why it should matter, so long as I do not defile a holy place or something of that kind.