Cleric Journal Book Seven: Day Fifty-Six

 

 

You would think that having a god with you would allow you to circumvent silly things like traps and hidden doors.  And when the god is a dwarf, it is just plain embarrassing when they can’t find the trigger to open a door.  I didn’t say anything.  It would just be mean at this point.  Raucous, Bob, and Old One-Eye were all searching for a trigger to open the wall in the chamber above, or find a way out of the rooms on the temple level.  I had already examined each room with the green sight with no luck, and decided to go to the top chamber and pray over the two bodies while they searched.  I was feeling fairly useless, to tell the truth.  I could summon food and water, so we wouldn’t die anytime soon.  There was plenty of air coming through the vents at the second level.  My previously humorous effort to relieve myself into the skull of an ogre suddenly didn’t seem so funny.

The light began to fade when the others returned to where I held my vigil.  They were each frustrated, which I could understand.  Bob seemed particularly chagrinned as he had a knack for finding hidden levers and doors.

I told him that it was my belief that the way to open the door had been buried in the rock slide on the third level down, and he shrugged, reluctant to agree.  The doubt in his eyes spoke volumes.   We convened for another meal and to talk quietly as the final light faded and night fell the across this portion of the world.

“Why do you think these two came here to die?” Raucous asked when she had eaten her fill.  She stood over the body that reminded me so strongly of Sparkle.  I could see the way her eyes tracked back and forth that she found the whole thing disturbing.  “Look, these were powerful individuals.  Were they doppelgangers?”

We had run through this discussion before Old One-Eye and Bob arrived.  “No,” I said.  “I think they are ancestors, long lost relations.”

Old One-Eye barked a laugh and we all turned to see him sitting near the stairs down.  “This temple was attacked not long after the world was broken.”  He counted on his fingers, staring into space.  “Six,” he tapped his nose, “no, seven hundred years.”  He paused, scratching his right ear.  “No, that’s not right.”  He got up and traipsed down the stairs where he remained out of sight for long enough that I thought to go look for him.  Then he climbed the stairs, a torch in one hand.

“This temple was built fifty years after the fall of the old emperor.  These two,” he pointed to the bodies laid out so peacefully.  “They found this place seven hundred years ago, long after the fall of the Nine and Sixty, long after the Hand swept through the ruins and slaughtered any who worshiped anyone other than their usurping bastard.”

His eyes glinted red when he said it.  There was great hatred there.  “They slaughtered my people wherever they found them.  Bob’s people, the Iron Bones clan fled to the place you call the Forsaken isle, to dig into the mountains there, and hide from the world.”

“We are a secretive society,” Bob agreed. “Insular and afraid.”

While there was no outward animosity between them, I could see that Bob was embarrassed by his people’s action and One-Eye seemed to hold them in contempt.

“I should be thankful they survived,” One-Eye said, letting his shoulders sag.  “The Rock Grinder clan built this temple and died out long ago.  Slaughtered and enslaved.  Now, those that remain work in the mines far to the north, generation upon generation of slaves ignorant of their culture and their gods.  Any who knew the old ways was sorted out.”

Shadows played across all our faces as the single torch flickered.  The reddish light it cast turning my companions into demonic caricatures like those in a mummer’s show.

I sought to draw their attention elsewhere.  “And these two?” I asked when they fell silent.

Old One-Eye walked over and knelt between the two.  “This one,” he said, pointing to the halfling, “was a woman named Lisbeth.  She was a warrior and a scout.”  He screwed up his face, trying to glean something that seemed to be elusive.  “She bore great enmity toward the Hand, and came with this woman,” he pointed to the second body, “in hopes of recovering an artifact that would defeat them.”

“Woman?” I asked, glancing at the second body, the skeleton I had assumed was a version of myself.

Old One-Eye nodded.  “Lost three children to plague.  Took up the sword when the Hand burned her village.  Lead a group of rebels against the mighty Hand empire for nearly seventeen years until she died on her mad quest.”

“Did she die here?” Raucous asked.

Old One-Eye shook his head.  “No.  They died far away.  Someone spirited them here, a safe place for their final rest.”

“Who would do that?” I asked.

“I did.”  We all turned at the new voice.  A head appeared at the stair, followed by the squat body of a dwarf I recognized.

“Thunder Jack!” I exclaimed.

Old One-Eye growled and took a step toward the newcomer, but Bob jumped up intervening between the two.

“Upstart,” One-Eye growled.

Instead of reacting in anger or defensiveness Thunder Jack bowed his head.  “I am sorry, grandfather.  I did not realize the harm I caused you in my early days as a god.  Like many, I thought that to grow great, I would have to outstrip those that came before.”  He looked up, his eyes filled with madness and tears.  “I paid for my hubris over a lake of fire.”  He turned, pointing at me and smiled.  “It was this boy who rescued me from my torment.  It is he who showed me the path of compassion.”  He went to one knee and bowed his head.  “Can you forgive me, grandfather?”

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