6th day of Eleasias. Underdark.
As the Companions enter into the darkened tunnels and the illusionary wall appears behind them, cutting them off from the passageway and the gnomes behind them, Ortho steps forward to speak to Druckner, "Hey Druck, these Diregund that Carmeneren spoke of, are they the Spongey's?"
"Have ya always been this dim-witted are do ye just not listen?" answers Druckner as he assists Ortho leading the mules Hannah and Noah into the passageway. "Our dark-skinned elven friend already pointed out what them Spongey things were like. The Diregund is just stinkin' dark dwarves. Either way, we'll hack 'em both up iff'n they stand in our way."
Gnore rests his hands on his sword's hilt as he listens to the disucssion. Once in a while he looks around the cavern walls taking comfort in being surrounded by the earth once again.
Talimar gazes at the tunnels before him and comments wryly, "Anybody have a three sided coin?"
Turning to the others, "Unless someone here has some divine inspiration, we may as well take the left hand tunnel and check it out."
Dain gazes at the rocky portals quizzically, "Talimar, I distinctly remember Carmeneren giving us a map of this place, did she not? I would not suggest we take the longest route to the city so as to learn the most from our mistakes on the way. Even though we have come a long way, we still have multitudes to learn." With that, Dain lights his pipe and sighs, waiting for a decision.
Druckner stratches at his red beard as he thinks over the matter. "Ortho! Yer a priest of Moradin are ye not? Wahl! Seems ta me that win me Pa Alizor had a hard decision ta make, an' he cood nat see ta issue clearly, he wood cohnsult me Auntie Gert, who's also a priest o' Moradin like ye. An' she wood consult ta Lord-Father ta know ta best way. Or mebbe ya wood be a better augur, kin-Garth?"
Taking off his helmet and rubbing his head, Garth replies, "I don't think I need to augur this one. Me head is fatigued from casting one o'me simplest spells. When I cast a more powerful one, I come night to passing out. As it stands, I won't be much use against one o'the squidheads till I am not so tired from a little spell casting." Looking about, Garth adds, "Is there one o'yoo who isn't just the might bit winded from a passel o'scrawny ogres? If there is, I'll follow you on the dangerous path. Otherwise, I'm thinking we would do well to hone our skills a mite bit more."
Ras steps forward with a jovial smile to cut off any further discussion for the moment, "Sounds like a plan to me. I'll stick to the back, it's warmer back here! I can also watch our backs from here. Kre's dying has been tough on me and I didn't know how to handle it but I realise he would want me to be strong and make him proud. So long live the Red Feather Company - I will be with you till death!"
The others seem quite taken aback by Ras' odd proclamation of faith and devotion. "Well let's hope that death doesn't come any time soon, for any of us," replies Kersath.
"If you think it will help then Ah'll give it a go," says Ortho to Druckner. With that Ortho hands the reins of his mules over to Druckner and seperates himself from the group a bit in order to enter the required meditation which allows one to experience the Augury.
The others shift about nervously as Ortho kneels several feet from the rest and prepares himself for deep prayer. Kersath and Ras take up a position of defense and awareness as they look out for any possible trouble from either of the tunnels. Gnore and Snagger join them in watch as they quickly lose interest in the prayers of Ortho. Beleg and Garth look on with interest as they gaze at the honored ceremony of their companion. For Dain and Rannigan, the interest they show has nothing to do with the workings of the divine, but the access of priestly magic, something denied to both of them.
"Oh, Soul-Forger, Dwarffather, Creator of the Stout Folk and all that they produce, yer servant seeks knowledge which only you can grant: which of the paths before us has the greatest chance of success in finding Jelenneth and returning her to the surface? Bearded-One, thou art always faithful to us and it is only with great humility that I dare ask your continued assistance. We are truly at a loss as to which way to proceed..."
Ortho rambles on for a bit. In fact, he's almost blathering. For all his prowess in combat and strength of spell, the poor dwarf is overwhelmed with the simple fact that he is approaching his god without a single clue as to what direction to proceed. Ortho knows full well that Moradin frowns mightily on indecisiveness and lack of focus.
After a few more moments of quiet prayer, Ortho completes the ceremony and calls forth for the wisdom of Moradin. After a few brief moments of extreme quiet, a soft white radiance begins to take shape in the air before the kneeling Ortho. The radiance grows to a diameter of about three feet before moving slowly across the tunnel toward Druckner. The red-bearded dwarf takes a few hesitant steps back before the white radiance engulfs him fully. As soon as the presence enters the body of Druckner a change comes over him. His body appears to grow in height, a full foot and a half or so and his chest becomes even stockier. A myriad of colors begin to flow across and through his beard as it's usual deep red changes to silver, to grey, to blue, etc. Druckner's eyes appear contain little whisps of flame in them and an intensity burns from them like nothing the others have ever felt as he looks upon them.
Ortho and the other dwarves look up at the radiance of their Creator, a feeling of awe mixed with fear, strength and courage all at once washing over them. The dwarves fall to their knees in supplication, their weapons held before them in a show of respect.
In the minds of the Companions a loud bang, like that of a great hammer striking an anvil, echoes through their soul. With a deep and resonant voice, the presence of Moradin begins to speak through Druckner. "Ortho Pestkiller, of clan Pestkiller, son of Tarok, son of Mairgen, you have called forth the presence of the Dwarffather for what purpose?"
Ortho looks upon the visage of his Creator with awe as he marvels at the success of his augury. Never in his wildest dreams did he imagine truly speaking to the Soul-Forger. At least not while still alive! Realizing that his god awaits his reply, he quickly answers, "We seek knowledge. We seek a path, the path before us that will offer the greatest chance of success in finding Jelenneth and returning her to the surface?"
The radiance surrounding Druckner dims slightly and the dwarf that vaguely holds the visage of their friend frowns ever so faintly. A deep feeling of sorrow flows through each of the Companions momentarily. A feeling that appears to simply settle into them more than anything they see or hear from the image before them.
"Your question saddens me," replies the voice of Moradin through Druckner. "You know that I require greater strength from my people. You, who I consider one of my strongest surely knows this. There is much you do not know and much that depends upon you all, so I will answer you. Both paths lead to glory and both paths lead to death. It is for you to choose which you will find and the pace of that search. Remember your quest, Ortho Pestkiller, son of Tarok, son of Mairgen, and do not forget that there are others around who can help you..."
The words of Moradin echo through the tunnels around the Companions before quickly dying away. Druckner instantly drops to the floor returning to his normal size and color. Fatigued from his prayer and casting, Ortho still manages to make his way to his companion along with the others.
"Druck, Druck, ye thar friend?" asks Gnore as he splashes water from a skin to the face of his companion.
Cough, cough, "I'm fine, ye hairy-footed, goblin-lover," stammers Druckner as he wipes a hand across his wet face. "Wat are ye tryin' ta do, drown me? Wat're ye all standin' round gawkin' at me fer anyway?"
"Wahl the presence of the Soul-Forger didn' help his breath any," mutters Gnore as he smiles and steps away from his companion.
"Moradin spoke through you, friend Druckner," answers Garth as he looks upon his friend with wonder. "Do you not remember anything?"
"The Dwarffather spoke through me?" stammers Druckner in awe himself. "The last I remember was Ortho kneelin' and prayin', actin' all like Garth does mostly. Next thin' I know, this hammerhead here's splashing water in me face! What did I say?"
"Not much," answers Talimar with irritation. "I'm afraid that your Soul-Forger wasn't much help to us."
"Ye show proper respect, ye tree-hugging forrest-lover," replies Ortho as he weakly takes up his axe, his strength still not fully returned. The other dwarves also firmly grasp the hilts of their weapons as they look toward the elf.
"Easy there, friends, I meant no disrespect. I was just pointing out that we still aren't any closer to making a decision."
"Perhaps I could try," replies Beleg as he moves away from the others. Talimar frowns and starts to say something but thinks better of it and walks away to the edge of the split tunnels. Beleg slowly drops to his knees in prayer and supplication to Forseti.
"Mighty Lord of Law and Justice, share with us your wisdom." In a series of quick, yet deliberate movements, Beleg lays his helmet on the ground beside him and draws his sword. Grasping the blade of Troll's Bane of both hands just below the hilt, he begins praying in a tongue unknown to any of his companions.
After several tense moments of prayer, without warning Beleg thrusts the blade of Troll's Bane in the ground before him, his hands cutting slightly as they slide along the blade. With the holy relic of his faith before him, he raises his arms palm up before him. His prayer ends with the raising of his hands and his head comes up as well. Opening his eyes, he takes in the presence of Forseti before him.
For the third time in their relatively short lives and the second time in mere moments, the Companions of the Red Feather Adventuring Company look upon the avatar of a Power of Faerun. For those that were present after the fall of the keep in the Thornwood, they easily recognize the physical presence of Forseti, God of Law and Justice for the people of Beleg's homeland far beyond the Savage North and the Spine of the World. Beleg bows his head in respect and supplication before his god as he awaits him to speak.
"Beleg Cuthalion, you have requested an audience with me. What is your purpose?" booms the awesome voice of the diety.
"My Lord, we seek knowledge that only you could impart upon us. Which of the paths before us will lead to missing girl Jelenneth? Our need is great and I cannot return to my people until completion of this quest," replies Beleg solemnly.
The ghostly image of Forseti shifts momentarily as it ponders its response, "I know of your quest, Beleg Cuthalion, and I understand the importance of it far beyond anything you could comprehend. All paths lead to the missing girl if you show great courage. But might and skill of arms alone will not be enough to complete this quest, you must use all the resources available to you. Choose the path you wish, my blessing will go with you." Before the last echo of his words pass through the tunnel, the image before Beleg vanishes completely. A wearied Beleg leans forward on the hilt of Troll's Bane before him as he catches his breath.
"Well at looks like it's a day for the god's to be cryptic," he says as he slowly stands to his feet.
"Ne'er heard o'anyone gettin' a straight answer from 'em meself," replies Snagger to no one in particular.
"They have a reason," answers Garth. "I do not have to tell you two that," he says with a look to Ortho and Beleg. "Search their words carefully and look for any hidden meaning." The dwarven priest and human Paladin nod their agreement as they both try and regain their strength.
"Well, in the meantime we have to pick a path," says Talimar to the rest. "What shall it be?"
"I say we go with the word of the locals," muses Kersath. "I trust Carmeneren and if she says we should take the longer path and gain strength then I think that is wise."
"As good a reason as any other we've heard," replies Rannigan.
"I don't c-care which path we choose," stumbles Ras a bit shaken, "I just hope we can get back to dealing with Ogres, Trolls, and other creatures of flesh instead of dealing with gods..."
Several others nod their heads at the well-spoken words of the little halfling. Stepping into their marching order and taking up the reins of the mules, the Companions step to the right and head off into the darkened tunnels once again.
7th day of Eleasias. Underdark.
After another night camping in the darkness of the caves, the group sets out for another day of marching. Only a few hours out of camp, Kersath returns from scouting ahead with a dark frown upon his face.
"Bad news. Another fork in the tunnel ahead. Looks like another choice to make."
"Please guys, no more praying," mumbles Ras softly to the others.
"Have no fear, little friend," replies Dain, "we'll make this decision on our own."
"Wasn't this fork mentioned on the map from the gnome priestess?" asked Rannigan.
"That is was," replies Druckner as he fishes the map out of his pack. Holding it under the light for all to see, they look at the crudge drawings of the gnomes and the words written beside each fork.
To the left fork is written a single word, "Grells!" while the right fork has a bit more information, "Dangerous passages - wormholes, razor rock" is scribbled next to it.
"What are 'Grells'?" asks Talimar with a puzzled look to Kersath.
"What do we have to fear from 'wormholes'" asks Rasmussen.
"Fallin down an' breakin' yer scrawny neck," grumbles Gnore in answer. "An' that's if'n yer lucky an' the giant worm in it don' come out and eat ya whole!"
"No thanks," replies Ras as he edges closer to Beleg.
"The 'Grell' are another race home to the Underdark," answers Kersath as he tries to search his memory. "I don't know much more about them other than they are a fierce and intelligent race. I've never seen one."
"Perhaps they'll let us pass," offers Rannigan. "If they are intelligent perhaps we can bargain with them."
"I doubt it, all I remember hearing of them is what viscious killers they are," answers Kersath.
"Well what will it be, do we take our chances with these Grells or do we chance it over the rocky terrain and wormholes?" asks Talimar once again.