24 Barrakas, 998 YK
Zol, 9:15 PM
It seemed to Relic that the sounds of pickaxes striking glass sounded loudest somewhere to the east. He waited in the shadows of the large red-marble building with Rickard while Bex and Arturo scouted the glass-coated street to the south. They had decided to investigate this refinery – as the tiefling had called it – both because it seemed to be one of the more intact structures remaining in Rose Quarry and because there seemed to be light coming from within. The wizard’s gaze strayed up the thirty foot wall, and he wondered if they would sufficiently block the sounds of combat should a fight erupt within the building – as it often did for the Cyrans.
His ponderings were interrupted when Rickard nodded and turned to him with a grim expression. “More zombies,” he said softly, relaying the message from the scouts. Relic acknowledged him and stepped around the corner cautiously. He saw Arturo in the shadows of the building across the “street”, and Bex lurked near the hole in the wall of the red-stone building. The front of the refinery had a keystone above the arched doorway carved with an anvil and gorgon – the symbol of House Cannith. While the outer walls were intact, little else was left of the structure. The roof, doors, and upper floors had been reduced to cinders and rubble. Faint light spilled out of the empty doorway, its source somewhere deeper within the building.
The changeling stepped into the refinery and out of sight as the wizard drew near. Relic stopped short when he peered within and saw her frozen just inside the entrance. The reason was readily apparent: a glass zombie was slowly lurching away from their position, apparently having left the nearby side chamber. It appeared to be bound for a larger chamber, from which the light emanated. Once there, it turned the corner and Relic heard Bex release a held breath.
With a gesture and a muttered phrase, the wizard decided to take a chance and evoked light in the side chamber, revealing that the alcove was partially filled with broken glass and rocky debris. He swiftly repeated the cantrip on the opposite chamber, which held similar contents. “Careful,” Bex whispered, “They might see it.” A veiled curse from the large chamber farther within alerted the Cyrans that the changeling’s warning had been spot on.
Before Relic could offer a suggestion, she darted forward, raising her carver’s claw to throw. A grunt of surprise and pain answered the attack, and the wizard quickly looked over his shoulder to call out a warning to his other companions. He was gratified to see them already on the move, weapons and implements ready for trouble. Bex meanwhile had started a desperate melee against a pair of soldiers in heavy plate armor, one of which was a woman whose armor was covered by a surcoat emblazoned with the symbol of the Emerald Claw – a mark of rank among the order. The marshal barked orders at her fellow and smashed the changeling in the side with a heavy flail.
The zombie joined the fray against the Bex, wrapping its jagged arms around her body. The glass spikes dug into her flesh as it pulled her close. Seeing the rogue’s situation deteriorate so rapidly, Relic cast a powerful evocation in the midst of the chaos. A fountain of flames erupted to scorch the soldiers and their undead lackey, spewing fiery jets at the Cyrans’ foes and continuing to burn. Heedless of the flames, the remaining soldier likewise charged the brave if foolhardy changeling with a vicious chop of his broadsword.
Bex tore free from the zombie’s clutches, losing some flesh in the bargain, but evading the down-slash that was intended for her head. She stepped away from the melee and took a deep and ragged breath, apparently steeling herself against the pain of her sudden collection of injuries.
A flaming crossbow bolt whizzed past Relic to embed itself in the marshal’s side, eliciting a growl of pain from the woman. “Ach, eat hot steel, ya bitch!” the tiefling growled, reloading as he strolled casually down the hallway toward the fighting. He trilled a quick rhyme that seemed to ease Bex’s pain, then fired another bolt, which the marshal deflected with the haft of her flail. The same defense could not save her from Rickard’s shard of darkness, and she fell to the cluttered floor dead. With a whispered curse, a shadowy hand rose to crush the nearer of the two remaining Emerald Claw soldiers. This prevented the man from advancing, but it did not stop him from howling angrily for aid. Relic did not think the walls would prevent his shouts from reaching someone, or something. They needed to end this – quickly.
The zombie lumbered forward out of the flames and bashed her with a spiky arm. Shards of glass broke off in the wounds. Relic replaced the flames with electricity, his shock sphere striking out at the zombie and the uncursed soldier. The latter leapt forward at the changeling, but she rolled back down the corridor behind her companions before burying her thrown carver’s claw in the man’s shoulder. He howled in frustration and fresh pain. Arturo and Rickard both struck out at the soldier’s mind, though Relic thought he heard the warlock gasp in pain from the effort. The formerly restrained soldier charged forward and slashed Rickard across the chest. At the same moment, the self-styled Inquisitive hissed a harsh syllable which caused him to vanish into the shadows and reappear a short distance away.
Relic summoned his familiar and bid the dragonling to rain fire down upon their enemies. When the flames died down, all that remained of the soldiers were charred husks. Though the zombie still stood, it looked the worse for wear, and Jester gave a tiny roar in triumph. Then the first of the reinforcements rounded the corner. Bex retreated farther into the refinery and put the scorched zombie down, pausing only to retrieve a healing potion from a pouch. “More on the way!” Bex shouted, glancing meaningfully at the entrance. A moment later, more glass zombies shuffled into the refinery out of the night. The warlock stepped back and uttered a curse that blasted the jagged undead into motionlessness. Two more lumbered at Relic, and one bashed him, breaking off bits of glass that stuck into Relic’s wooden parts.
Then one of the fallen zombies got back up.
As the animate wrapped its sharp-edged limbs around Arturo, Relic’s mind raced furiously. Tales of shambling undead getting back up after they have been “killed” by ordinary means put him in the mind of something known as Dread Zombies, which required holy energy to permanently destroy. He didn’t think that was quite the key for these peculiar specimens. He made a leap of logic and assumed that the reanimator used the resonance of the glass to aid in bringing the zombies back to. He formed a swift hypothesis that either thunder or force energy – both good for shattering glass – might be the sympathetic key to make an end of the zombies.
All that remained was to test it.
“I just thought of something!” he said. “I think I can stop them from getting back up!” With a gesture and a sharp command, he evoked a magic missile that streaked from his hand and impacted one of the weakened zombies center mass. Cracks spiderwebbed all across its desiccated body, and it fell to pieces as its glass shell shattered.
“Oh!” Arturo cried in surprise. “Heh!”
“Force damage!” the wizard explained. “Possibly also thunder. That will stop them!”
The fighting was no less intense after this revelation, but it at least gave the Cyrans hope. They fell back under the undead onslaught, stabbing, bashing, and blasting with all of their strength and magic, but still it seemed like it would not be enough.
The shadows surrounding Rickard continued to grow darker as the melee continued, and Relic thought it might be making him a little crazy. The warforged watched him try to headbutt one of the glass zombies in its face, which did not even faze the animate. The wizard’s concern grew when the dragonmarked heir lowered his rod and stared down one of the zombies with shadows blotting out his eyes. In a voice not quite his own, Rickard growled, “Leave here now, or I shall unmake thee!”
Relic saw no magic manifest, but the zombie fell apart all the same as Rickard’s darkness crushed whatever force had been animating it. The effort still cost the warlock and he found himself beset by the remaining zombies as they tried to tear him apart. The wizard bought him some breathing room with a well-timed beguiling strands spell. The same enchantment that had sent the previous zombies over the side of the cliff compelled them to – momentarily – walk away from the fight.
“Yea… You better run,” Rickard grunted as he slid to the floor with his back to a wall, semi-conscious. The Cyrans systematically struck at the zombies, giving the warlock time to catch his breath and regain his feet. They fought desperately until the last of the zombies finally lay still forever. In the silence that followed, Relic could hear the rhythmic clinking of pickaxes on glass continuing unabated from beyond the refinery doors.
“I…need…a minute…” Rickard said from the floor, the shadows beginning to fade from his eyes. Bex slumped down against the wall opposite of the warlock, smiling crookedly at him. Arturo walked over to minister to their injuries.
Relic’s mind was disquieted. “That was a close one,” he said. “I am sorry that I engaged too early, and I am thankful that I have such proficient friends.”
“Hey, nobody died. I’m happy,” Bex said.
“Aye. Thanks, my friend,” Rickard added. “I thought we were at our ends for a moment there.”
Arturo nodded. “Always hope, friend. Always hope. I ain’t gonna let you folks fall until I do.” He helped them to their feet, and the Cyrans entered the main chamber in the back of the refinery.
The large room had been cleared of most of the rubble and glass they’d seen throughout the rest of the village. The floor emerged from the shattered glass, formed from red marble and decorated with an embossed design. The floor of the chamber featured a detailed map of central Khorvaire, showing the borders of the Five Nations as they had existed before the start of the Last War. While cities, topographical features, and even major mines were shown in bas relief on the map, no text identified any of the locations.
The chamber contained a few enormous blocks of rough red stone, and Relic supposed that this was probably where the marble from the quarry had been shaped, polished, and prepared for shipping. Great fireplaces occupied the center of the north, south, and west walls, each made from a different color of stone: red for the north, white for the south, and black for the west. Six statues stood around the room, two to each side of one of the fireplaces. The statues depicted a dragon and a lion carved from red marble, a wolf and a falcon carved from white marble, and an armored knight and griffon carved from black marble.
The House Cannith seal was carved into the floor in black in front of the western fireplace. Glass and rubble covered the floor in front of the other two, preventing the Cyrans from seeing whether or not similar seals were carved there.
While Rickard and Arturo looted the bodies of the Emerald Claw soldiers, Relic looked around at the statues, trying to remember any significance they might hold. After a moment or so, he recalled that the Black Griffon was loosely associated with Aarren d’Cannith’s branch of the house. He moved over to inspect the statue more closely, memories of his “father” flowing unbidden through his mind. As he walked around the back of the statue, he found some words carved into the back:
Redhearth, Red Seal, SE 7
“Eh? ‘Sat you mutterin’ Rel?” Arturo’s voice came from across the chamber.
“This Griffon… It is the symbol of Aarren d’Cannith’s side of the Dragonmarked house. And there is something written here.” He read it aloud, and then his head jerked up in a eureka moment. “Everyone, look at the other statues. One might reference Whitehearth!”
And indeed, the search uncovered several other cryptic messages:
Black Knight: Kronu Hall, White Seal, N 6
White Wolf: Cabblen Hall, Red Seal, SW 15
White Falcon: Blackhearth, Black Seal, SE 12
Red Lion: Tallis, Black Seal, E 4
Red Dragon: Whitehearth, White Seal, NE 9