Serpent's Skull

My Travels with the Slayer Volume 6 – The Deep Jungles Entry 15

Things got off to a very rough start with our journey but in the end we chose to go with the Mantis Assassins as they offered the most reward for our help. After fleeing the city was it was seemingly engulfed in civil war which Kalypso assured us was the actions of our employers we headed south a bit to meet up with a seer who was to join our group. When we found the man I was not surprised he was as crazy as everyone else we have met, he sent us on several tasks that were very easily solved and then demanded that Azura take his life. I was shocked with the Slayer agreed that this is what had to be done, but then why should I be? He seeks his own death in combat so why should he not wish to help another have the same?

In the end it appears that this is all part of some great destiny that Azura is being led to by his father and makes me wonder if he is indeed some sort of demi-god himself. I tried not to dwell on that disturbing thought for long and we set off once more when we discovered that in our path was an old mining town abandoned nearly fifteen years ago to mysterious happenings. We learned from our employers that the mine apparently lead under the mountain that we would have to travel around, with a quick look at some maps Snorri and Kev both announced that we could shave off at last two days by taking the mine and both assured the group it would be more than wide enough to take the wagons. We also learned that our contact would be a dwarf which didn’t sit well with the Slayer, but then meeting his own people never does with him. I have seen that it runs to either great relief in seeing a Slayer or great disgusts and never anything in between or mild, but then as I have heard before Dwarfs never do anything in half measures. As we set off the next morning we encounter a band of Slavers heading for the city and I knew there would be trouble, and Kev along with Von started it. In the end the Slayer threw into the fight only because they threatened his wagon full of ale he has insisted upon hauling with us.

I have learned in my time with the Slayer that there are two things he is good at, drinking and fighting and not always in that order. When he wasn’t doing the one he was engaged in the other. But then perhaps both are simply forms of forgetting for him; what little I know of Slayers in general , and Snorri in particular, suggests that whatever shame forced him to assume the orange crest and tattoos of the Slayer-cult was no minor point of personal pride as it was for some such as Leatherbeard but had to be something of great criminal offence. Over the last five years I managed to get small things from him and that night as we camped I was to get a bit more of his history. As he put away mug after mug of ale he paused to lean into close to the fire we shared and in a loud whisper told me a story about one of his ancestors. The mine were two be entering on the marrow was a salt mine and all the people who worked there one night simply vanished. Well something similar happened long, long ago to ancestor of his apparently. The story went that a clanless miner had found a massive deposit of salt and in a drunken moment shared it with a member of Snorri’s clan. The dwarf convinced the miner to show him where it was and when he did, greed over took the man and he killed the miner hiding his body deep in the salt deposit. He figured that no one would look to deep into the death as he had no clan and he could simply claim he and his own mining crew found the salt load themselves. But things didn’t work out so well, when the claim was announced and a group of some twenty miners sent to work the area they all vanished in a single night. Others who were sent to investigate vanished as well, when the King himself ordered it looked into a large band of armed warriors and priests traveled to the mine. There they ran afoul of Salt Wraiths, these undead could drain the very moisture from living being in moments withering their body and dooming them to rise as one of them.

In a fierce battle which saw the creature’s destroyed and the bodies of the slain found the clerics used magic to speak with the dead. That is how they learned of the crime his ancestor had committed in an act of utter greed. And so it was that Snorri’s ancestor swore the oaths and took the crest himself, he vanished into the deep depths where it was later confirmed by the High Priest of Kol’s that he found a worthy doom. As he finished his tale he became more melancholy and I knew from experience he would say no more that night. The next day found us reaching the village which was empty and the mine itself which as we approached the Slayer pointed to it and said “Manling work for sure. You can see how the main beams sag and only after two decades. Had it been dwari work it would stand as if new for another four thousand years at least and then only if the engineer had been sloppy. “ Water had long began to pull in the entrance and as we tried to make our way though it some strange clear ooze like creatures attached us, the battle was quickly ended and the Slayer spit on one of the bodies. “Foul scavenger’s of the deeper darks they are, a nuisance but little more manling.” With that we set off inside and as we walked the Slayer started to chant something, a song of sorts, his voice was rich and deep and as he sang I could feel the greatness of his people and the sad decline they have since entered in the last few centuries.

Beneath a lonely mountain hold

There lay a wealth worth more than gold

In a land with no joy nor mirth

Far from welcome of the hearth

In the dark beneath the world

A place never before beheld

The wealth of kings awaited there

Only found by those that dared

Deep we dug and far we dove

Diggings silver by the drove

No light of start, no light of sun

Hard we toiled, sparing none

But came upon us, green-skinned foes

Our joys were ended, came our woes

No axe nor hammer turned them back

Their blood-stained lake and turned it black

King and thanes, a war we spoke

Upon our fists, their broke

But from the deep, a fear unspoken

Our fighting had now loudly woken

Up from the darkness, our coming fall

A terror beneath us, killing all

With heavy hearts we left our dead

Our hope now broken, turned to dread

Driven from our halls and homes

Force upon the hills to roam

Forever gone, a loss so dear

Left in the dark of fell Crag Mere

As the song came to end I felt as if I could feel what the dwarven people must have felt that endured what the song sang of. When I asked the slayer what it was about he looked deep into the darkness ahead of us. “Folly manling, and proof that even we dwari make grave mistakes and suffer from poor choices. Crag Mere wasn’t the only place lost is such ways, there been many, many more. Even my own home once boasted hundreds of thousands of dwari but now we number but in the tens of thousands and miles upon miles of our home lie empty or held by dark things.”



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