The day dawns like the previous, gray and threatening to rain, but as the sun rises, the gloom seems to dissipate and the sunlight breaks through as the barbarians finish their breakfast and prepare for another excursion to the pit.
The boy, Pol, finishes collecting wood and takes up his shield, girds himself with his sword belt and prepares to set off with the men. Drusilla looks at him askance, but says nothing.
The trio heads into the forest without much fuss. The day is surprisingly bright and warm after having been so miserable. Wolfgar hums to himself as he walks. Pol hops over fallen logs. Kel, as stoic as ever, glowers a little less.
The smell of smoke comes as the trio gets into the thinner parts of the forest, closer to the ruins. The barbarians are immediately wary, and Pol falls in behind them. When they come to the edge of the wood they can see the mound of the hill and a great plume of smoke rising near where their camp had been.
Kel sniffs the air, trying to determine the nature of the fire’s fuel.he smoke is acrid, and recalls burning hair and cooking meat and fat.
Wolfgar keeps pace with the younger barbarian and they make their way in a zig-zig pattern through the tall grass at the base of the hill. Kel glances back only once, to see Pol crouched behind a tree.
As they get closer to the hill, the barbarians can hear the sounds of wild chanting, incantations or prayers they cannot be certain, but it sends a chill down Kel’s spine, and with a glance at Wolfgar’s grim mask, he knows he is not alone in his sudden dread. As they reach the crest, they are careful to take cover behind the blocks of stone and debris that litter the hillside. The wind blows the smoke south, and lessens the awful stench a bit.
Kel leans his head around the stone block he’s crouched behind, and sees hellish figures dancing before a raised platform, piled with wood and other flammable debris, drenched in flames that roar and flail at the sky. Amidst the flames, he can see the hissing, popping figures of corpses, in a ritualistic repose atop the platform. They appear to be seated, backs together. As he watches the pyramid of bodies collapses, eliciting an even greater howl from the hellish figures, dressed in dark robes. One, who wears no robes but leather breeches, is stripped to the waist, revealing skin the color of lamb’s wool, painted a deep crimson that, in any less light, would appear black.
Both barbarians remain unseen amidst the roar of the fire and fury of the ceremony.
Kel’s sharp eyes dart back and forth, seeking a path to the dungeon entrance that does not pass too close to the unholy revelry.Pol moves quickly, head bent low to keep his profile as close to the horizontal plane of the grass as possible. He quickly reaches the entrance to the pit. The barbarians meet the boy there without any trouble, the beasts too caught up in their ritual to notice them flitting about the stones. Together the little party descends to the landing. The stairs are covered in old gore, and it looks as if the bodies have been removed, dragged to the surface for the dark ritual they observed.Kel waits for Pol to light a torch, then steps to the first dimly lit stair downward, leading to the west.
As they descend, Pol’s light reveals a skeleton sprawled at the bottom of the stairs. Weapons already drawn, the party moves slowly into the chamber the stairs end in. They are in a hall that runs north and south, the walls adorned with painted frescoes of humans riding, running along with, or chasing horses. A few ride winged horses high in the sky. There is a corridor heading further to the west, another to the southeast, and a door to the south.Keeping an eye out for movement down any of the dark hallways, Kel turns his attention to the door.Kel paces warily about the room looking for hidden dangers, ending his circuit at the central tube and peering inside.It appears that no matter what angle Kel looks through the tube at, he can’t see below the floor. While he’s busy looking around the tube, a mountain lion kitten trots into the room, mewling. Kel’s blade is quick, and he cleans the blood from the steel with a rag. Wolfgar leans against the tube. “I hope being in the service of the Goddess makes all our battle so simple,” he says. Pol toys with a loose stone he’s found in the wall. with a tweak, a section of the wall disappears into the floor.Kel’s head snaps around, and he growls, “Tell one of us before you go touching things, boy.” Blade at the ready, he examines this new exit from the room.