Journal of Miyara Kyosuke (58)

    We have dispatched this set of ghouls.  The dagger has dispatched most of them, but the dwarf-like largest one in plate seems to be unaffected by it.  While Pireseri is pondering this, Alex comes over.  He pulls off his own helmet, then tries to pull the helmet off the body, now obviously a chaos dwarf.  Alex checks something on the neck, then gets down on his knees and quietly prays over the body.
    Rabena tends to Miyara, while I wait until she is finished before I would let the small woman work on me.  As she's doing that, both Pireseri and I notice that the signs of haos on the dwarf ghoul seem to be fading away slowly.  Slowly I realise that the face that is clearing is that of a very aged King Gadrik.  All is clear -- Gadrik sold his soul to Chaos to save his son.
    Alex finishes his prayers by taking something small from a pouch on his belt and eating it.  He stands up, takes out his axe and tosses it on the ground, shrugs off his pack and other items.  The axe hits the ground with a clash, and the others look around too.
    I start retching violently.
    Alex waits until I finish, or at least until I'm quiet again.  He then says in Nipponese, "My name is Alex.  I am a servant of his lordship Kind Mendri of the Dwarves of the Black Mountains.  Mendri sends you his compliments, thanks you from the bottom of his heart for previous services you have rendered unto him, and begs you that you might render him one more service for the good of his father, himself, and the dwarves of this world."  Although he spoke in Nipponese, everyone else seems to have understood him perfectly in their own language too.
    Miyara stands, and equally formally says, "What is this one more service you require?"
    "As I think is clear to you, this is Gadrik, Mendri's father, who has for the past 23 years been affected by the chaos gods.  It would be disasterous for Gadrik's name and Mendri's reign and indeed the whole of dwarfdom if it was obvious that Gadrik was a victim of Chaos.  What Medri asks of you is that you allow Gadrik's body to be discovered, allow it to be known that you were his killers, and never tell anyone of his Chaos affliction.  As I hope you can imagine, this would be disasterous for your own reputations.  You would be hunted by every right-thinking dwarf.  Of course, Mendri would be forever in your debt, as would all dwarves, although they would not know it.  This is a lot to ask, but my lord would not ask it if it was not of the utmost importance."
    Miyara asks why it would be us who killed him.
    He replies that it would not be plausible that Gadrik, king of all the dwarves, would be the victim of ghouls.
    I say, "I cannot tell a lie of such magnitude."
    Miyara says there are others who could be blamed for his death, and she doesn't agree to the stain on our family's honor.
    I ask, "Tell me, how did Gadrik restore Mendri to life?"
    "He traded his life for Mendri's."
    "Thank you," I say politely.  I was right after all, although I say nothing.
    Miyara tries to reason with Alex.  Alex says that Mendri is camped a few miles from here, and has come to negotiate with the dwarves that have inhabited this ancient hold.  The negotiations will be tense and possibly violent, but Mendri hopes to solve this peacebly if that is possible.
    I am starting to dislike Mendri.  In my opinion, the ogres killed the correct dwarf.
    Alex says, "If you wish, you can accompany me back to Mendri's camp, and once negotiations are completed, you can explore this ancient hold under more peaceful circumstances with Mendri's help and blessing."
    Miyara says we should continue on and make sure this cave is free of ghouls now, and that he can return to Mendri and we will join him when we're done.  Alex tries to talk her around, but eventually agrees.
    They wish each other good luck, and Alex picks up his stuff and leaves.
    As soon as he leaves,  I say quietly to Miyara that I would rather fight ghouls than be subject to Mendri's duplicitous political whims.  I tell her I believe Alex is already on his way to blame us for the death of the King.  She agrees completely.
    Gadrik's body now looks like a dead dwarf.  The signs of Chaos have entirely evaporated.  It looks like he died of wounds in combat.
    I ask Goru what all that about dumping his gear was about, and the eating.  Goru doesn't know about the eating, but Hosei says it was probably the tongue of some animal for the spell to speak with us.  Goru thinks Alex was trying to express as well as he could his own and perhaps Mendri's desperation.
    After a little discussion, Miyara points out that there have been rumors that Mendri killed him to take the throne, since there was no body,
    I add that I'm not convinced that Mendri isn't a Chaos Dwarf himself.  Goru does not think he is.  He does say that Mendri is in a struggle to hold on to his own kingdom, and the principal group of dwarves opposing him -- the Royalists - would like to see Mendri replaced with one of their own.  It's the Royalists who are upstairs right now, and I must admit I sympathize with them.
    Goru adds that something about this place has drawn both sides.  Both sides what to keep us out, so that they have it in their possession.  It would be a major feather in either side's cap, and could be the deciding factor of who would be king of the dwarves.
    Miyara points out that Mendri is the rightful king.  His father gave his life to pass on the succession.  If Mendri does not frame us for Gadrik's murder, then she would like to try to find a way to help him fix this mess.  If he does blame us for Gadrik's death, then the Miyaras have to go to war against him.  I nod my emphatic support.  She continues, saying that in either case we need to keep control of Gadrik's body in some way.
    I mention that we are to be involved in a dwarvish civil war, then, on one side or another.  Miyara rightfully corrects me, saying that we are always on our own side.
    I say that we can block the way we came in -- with an elemental -- and drive out the Royalists, holding this place until the matter of our honor is resolved.
    Miyara says that holding this place against them may not accomplish anything.  It would still be us against the dwarves out there, and their numbers would just grow.  She points out that we should move on to find the sogin roku of water, and we need to do something with the body.  We will carry the body with us at least until we can find a respectful place to conceal it.  We must keep control of the body.
    I still feel sick, really bad, and weak from the spasms.  Rabena has resumed working on the wounded, and me in particular, and after a few minutes I feel fine again.  I am a little worried about whether Chaos has infected me, but there are no signs and I put it aside.
    Goru respectfully wraps up the body of the King, and carries him.  He wants to be in the middle, so he would not crudely have to drop the body to fight.

    We move out.  I lead, having volunteered to do so, with Pireseri right behind me.  Ashu follows next, Hosei, Carimera, Rabena, Sun, Barake, Goru, with Miyara guarding the rear.
    The passage splits.  To the right is a very steep slope up.  To the left is relatively level, but quickly curves out of sight.  Miyara directs us to the level route first.
    The passage curves right and widens out into a more open area, but there seems to be nothing of importance here.
    We then arrive at a rectangular room.  Pireseri points out that there is a shaft in the ceiling that goes up about 20 feet.  This room is clearly cut rather than natural, as is the shaft. This is a dead end, so we need to go upwards.  We return to the steep slope.
    I climb up quickly, with a rope so the others can come up safely.  There are lots of loose rocks on the way, and occasionally post holes.  Some of the holes contain the burnt stub of the original post.  At the top is a large pile of rocks each about the size of a double fist.
    I tie down the rope, and the others come up one at a time.  Pireseri is first, but he slips and falls almost immediately and lands unhurt.  On his second attempt he manages to reach the top.  Rabena also falls, but lands acrobatically and safely.  We decide to tie her to the rope and pull her up.  No-one else has any trouble.

    This room was once a torture chamber, and is filled with the rotten remains of such tools.  The stench of barbarism is strong here.  Their methods were clearly very crude.  One way from the room is blocked by rubble, and it is in that direction that the rest of the floor continues.  The open way leads to a natural room, which contains rusted swords, axes, spears, armor, and a grisly collection of bones and skulls.  We will have to get through the rubble, which was clearly intentionally caved in.
    Aside from climbing up the shaft, clearing the rubble is the only way onwards.  Goru says it would take between two and four days, depending on the trouble it turns out to be.
    It seems that we must try the shaft.  I do ask Miyara why the barbarians have the rocks, since the sogin roku of earth would would be useful here.  She says that is because they are barbarian rocks.  I bow to her superior intellect.
    So we descend the slope again.  I easily walk down last, throwing down the rope before I come.  Pireseri has trouble again, landing heavily, but is not seriously hurt.
    At the base of the shaft, we pause again to work out the best way to ascend.