Cover image by …
B10 – NIGHT’S DARK TERROR
22-23 FYRMONT OF 1005 AC
HUTAAKA, THE LOST VALLEY.
“We can not think of resisting all night.” The voice of Thoragon, his face still contracted by the wrath of the battle, reminded us of the crude reality. “This second wave of walkers was more numerous than the first and there are other shadows moving in the mist” Dan said. “I have almost completely exhausted the healing power of the healing staff” said Marjana that had just finished to magically cure the injuries sustained by the party. “I too am weary and tired” I had to admit. “The clash with the wyvern before, just arrived to the Pool, and these repeated assaults dried up almost completely the force needed to tap into my magic” “We must seek a more sheltered and easy to defend place.” said Titus then. “And to hope to be able to hold out until dawn.”
“The ridge over there” Dan pointed to a spot in the rock wall on the left side of the mouth to the closed narrow basin that contained the Singing Pool.
Climbing up on the bare rock gave me quite a few bruises and effort but, with the help of Thoragon, in the end I managed to sit down in the rocky cleft. From there you could see and defend all the gorge entering in the Pool. Not that we could see much beyond the impenetrable fog, but at least it was an easier place to defend. So far we didn’t meet walkers who could even fly!
Dan was the first to see the blue glows that came from the north. At first we interpreted it as the first signs of the imminent dawn but observing them better both I and Glimreen could notice their rhythmic and unnatural character. With the first wind also came to our ears the songs. It was evident that there was someone there and that some strange form of ritual or ceremony was taking place. Even though the risk of moving was still high, we had not seen walkers near the Singing Pool and we decided unanimously to move closer to the source of the flares. And now we are here, hidden in the darkness that the sparse grove offers us. In front of us there are the ruins of an ancient temple in the open: the broken columns, the two opposing tiers and the altar indicate that once this area must have been a sacred place. Some statues, most of them damaged too by time and man’s violence, are placed at regular intervals. As far as I can realize they depict the usual jackal-headed humanoids: the hutaakans. The most surprising thing, however, is taking place at the center of the aisle, right under my astonished and fascinated gaze. Fifteen hutaakans, dressed in white candid habits, chanted a kind of slow litany. What appears in all respects to be a priestess, stands in front of them. They are humanoids I have never seen before but it is quite easy to distinguish males from females, the latter have a lighter coat and more graceful and slender features. The priestess who leads the ritual turns his back to the remaining acolytes and to us. She is pointing to the sky and the stars, holding an inlaid wooden rod in her right hand. A golden headdress with numerous gems adorns her head. She addresses her divinity with a fluid, delicate and somewhat musical language.
“What are they doing?” Marjana asked. The other exchange glances waiting that I speak. “It seems in all respect a protection ritual. Glimreen?” The gnome reciprocates my eyes watching me with his two large hazel eyes. “Mmm..mm”. Eventually he nods.
“They have to be the “dog-heads”of which the Traldar spoke.” Titus broke the silence. “Certainly I did not come all this way to sit in the dark. If we want to get to the bottom of what is really happening in the Valley we must also hear what the hutaakans have to say.”
Then, getting up from the hiding place, and shaking off the dust, I see the Thyatian noble coming forward in all his imperial arrogance. “Let me do the talking.” I hear him say before seeing him enter in the sacred area, with one hand raised as a sign of peace.
Thirty eyes full of suspicion are upon us. We are now grouped outside of the temple nave. The hutaakans are arrayed in a semicircle to protect their priestess. After the usual pleasantries, we learn that her name is Kforedz and she is the highest religious and political charge of her community: High Priestess of Pflaar.
“The Traldars have betrayed the old covenant of trust that bound them to us. They have abjured our guide and the faith in Pflaar, the only god. They have driven us from the temple dedicated to Him, preventing us to make the daily rituals that for centuries we have done to protect the Valley from its dangers. They thus allowed the “thing that lives in the pit” to emerge from the shaft of darkness in which it was relegated and contaminating our world with the darkness and shadows of its own. The undead that infest the valley are the work of the abomination that the Traldars have awakened with their betrayal. The Dark Terror of the Night cannot be defeated, until the order is reconstituted, and they will come back to submit to our law and the temple of Pflaar will be given back to his natural masters.”
“We want to help you” Titus says. His heart and his words are sincere and make its way into the cold and haughty Kforedz.
“Go, then, to the west of the Valley. There you will find a carved vault giving access to the mountain itself. The Vault of the Ancients: you can not go wrong. Go and retrieved the old .. “
Suddenly her words are interrupted by the death screams of her followers. A wave of walkers, silent as the death that animates them, came upon us and the hutaakans by surprise. Soon we surround the priestess. I throw my bolts of fire that fall with deadly accuracy on the undead. The walking corpses are too many though, even for us. The first hutaakans caught by surprise are overwhelmed by the dead and I watch helpless the carnage that ensues. “Pick up the ancient text, the Knowledge of the Ancients. Only with it in our possession we can stop the horror. Take this.” She gives us the wooden rod. “Now quick. Go!” I see Titus trying to say something but the undead wave pushes us away. Thoragon grabs him and drags him in the opposite direction. I, Marjana, Dan, Stephan follow them. As I watch the hutaakan priests and warriors throw themselves against the enemies, overwhelming in number and strength, I see a couple of warriors escorting the High Priestess away, in the direction opposite to ours. If we live, if we survive the horror, it will also be for the sacrifice of these brave men with a jackal head.