Hollow's Last Hope

Zandu was thankful to get settled in a room at Jak’a’Napes. The three days in the forest had been rather long. But he was comforted to know their actions had saved many lives. After dinner and discussion with his companions Zandu returned to his room and washed up. He then washed his clothes to clean out the stain of sweat, oil, and blood that had caked his pocketed sashes and wraps that gave him unrestricted movement. He used some silk rope to make a drying line in his room. Before going to sleep, Zandu, knelt in his meditative pose to clear his mind and analyze how this part of his life fit in with his mission.

He had enjoyed his adventures into Darkmoon Vale. It had been what he was looking for…a little excitement. Those two wolves had been quite a fight. If they hadn’t run away it could have been bad for the group. But he was alive. And hadn’t Kieyanna exhibited many great qualities. This druid, Dhohar was an interesting fellow. Intelligent, quiet, and most intriguing with his animal companions. There was much to learn from them both. Adventurers were generally already an elite class of people. Watching adventurers was sure to be rewarding.

The next day brought sun and more heat. Zandu dressed and went down early for breakfast. The healthy serving of Jak’s famous FlapJacks were a treat in this small town. He returned with a bucket of water to clean his weapons and then dried them with a cloth. Returning each to its position on his body he tucked the temple sword in at his waist and draped the scarf around his shoulders twice. He left the crossbow and shortsword in a stongbox in his room with his backpack and the rest of his gear. Taking a minute to run through a Harrowing, Zandu lay out the cards in their three by three grid on his bed. His card was right in the middle, a true match. It was the Chronicler. Zandu was sure he would find answers today. He stacked his cards and returned them to their leather case and slipped them into a pocket. Before leaving Promise, his mother had given him this deck of Harrow cards. She was a gifted Harrower and had taught him the talent to not only interpret the cards but to entertain too.

Making sure to take the dwarven book, an elaborately illuminated tome, found in the library, The signet ring found on the bones in the prison cell, the prayer book found in the secret drawer in the study, and the silver light hammer from the body in the entry way with him and headed to the local church. Zandu had spotted it first upon entering town. It had a steady stream of people flowing in and out if it.

iomedae holy symbolThe moderately large rectangular building one road off the water was identified by its spire that rose above all other buildings in town. As he approached the symbol of Iomedae was prominently displayed. The sword and sunburst of the human woman turned goddess. Zandu thought of what he knew about Iomedae and her followers. He had studies the religions of Golorian and thought he would find help in this church. A warrior goddess whose weapon of choice was a longsword. He would find a full Cleric or perhaps a Paladin within those walls. They shared the domain of Law with his own chosen god, Irori. Most useful to his quest for knowledge was the fact that they were vehemently sworn to ridding Golorian of all things evil. No wonder they had taken up residence in Falcon’s Hollow.

As he entered the wooden doors to the whitewashed building Zandu found himself in a brightly magically-lit room with several rows of pews and an alter at the front. There was a shiny armor clad cleric with a bright red cape on her shoulders and close-cropped hair. Her dark eyes looked right at him as if to weigh his soul on a scale. She had the same sword and sunburst symbol on her breastplate and an ornate longsword hung from her hip. The armor alone could buy this whole town thought Zandu while taking in the Cleric before him.

“All are welcome to seek judgment before Iomedae.” She proclaimed before the silence became too awkward. “Where are you from, traveler?” This warrior priestess was striking and could sway many a man off track (or on to the right track, she would surely say) if given a chance. Zandu steeled himself to her extreme sense of power. Does she get that from her goddess? Zandu wondered.

“Varisia,” he answered in Chelaxian, testing the woman before him. Iomedae was originally Chelaxian before her ascension and the church was still strongest in the evil empire there. How much did this crusader know of her order? He gave a soft swish of his scarf to show its colors and substantiate his claim. The empire of Chelax was just south of Varisia.

“Indeed.” She responded switching flawlessly to Chelaxian. “You are a good ways from home. What brings you to this troubled town?” She ushered Zandu in and stood with him in the back of the church behind the pews.

Torag holy symbol“I am looking for some answers as to what symbols these are. They were recovered from an ancient dwarven monastery in at the food of the mountain on the far side of the Forest.” He had withdrawn the signet ring and illuminated manuscript that both bore the same symbol. He knew they were to Torag, the lawful good god of the forge, protection, and strategy. But he was not familiar with the next and this was to test the Cleric to see how much she knew.

“The Holy Symbol of Torag!” She blurted out a little too excitedly. “He is the most revered god by Dwarves.” Just then her eyes darted to the entrance where a tall dark and handsome man entered the church. She covered it well by asking, “Do you have something else?”

Droskar“I had suspected that was Torag. Which makes me wonder why I find this other symbol in the same place. Surely no two gods would be worshiped at one monastery?” Zandu held out the silver axe and the prayer book. He had been working on learning Dwarven but was not proficient enough in this old style to understand everything.

The cleric took one look at the strange symbols and glanced back at the new person in the church before making her apologies to Zandu. “I am sorry. You should really talk to Gellius. He is much more into the history than I am. I am what you could call a doer, not so much of the planner…If you beg my pardon, I should really see to this other gentlemen. Gellius is just through that door.” With that she walked off with a swish of her cape and said, “Deldrin, How may we serve you today?”

Zandu picked up his artifacts and carried them to the door. After a quick double knock there came a quick, “Enter” from beyond. Opening the door he went into the much more appropriately illuminated room. It was a simple room with several bookshelves, a large wooden desk with a ledger and ink bottle on it. Two square windows allowed natural light to filter into the space and half burnt candles decorated wall hangings and tabletops alike. A middle aged man verging on old with grey hair sat at the desk. He was not wearing armor but his shield with the sword and sun was slung over the back of the chair. The longsword of his chosen god was worn comfortably with years of practice at his side. Gellius looked up over his shoulder and upon noticing Zandu standing in the doorway rose to greet him. “I am Gellius Crispin, Paladin of Iomedea. How do you fare, traveler?”

Now this is what Zandu thinks of when he imagines a Priest. Perhaps he has spent too many years in Promise or perhaps he has familiarized himself too much with the way of Irorin monks. But this man, white hair, room full of books, a sense of peace, is what a priest should look like. “Justicar,” the customary greeting of a knight of Iomedea, “I am Zandu Khellendros, a monk of Irori and a seeker of Law and Knowledge.” He put Law first in a hopes of forming an allegiance. “I have come to seek your knowledge about a great evil in the world.” Zandu drew out the silver hammer with the unknown symbol on it and showed Gellius. “What do you make of this, Justicar?”

The grizzled old man with scars to merit his age ushers Young Zandu into the room and sits him in his very own chair. “Sit,” he insists. He goes over to a shelf on the wall and pours two cups of a hot liquid from a metal tankard sitting there. “Coffee for the brain. Works miracles early in the morning.” He gives a cup to Zandu and begins to pace the room with the other in hand. “Tell me, where did you get that?” he asks.

Zandu relates the story of how they found the hammer and prayer book and ring and illuminated tome while searching a dwarven ruin for mushrooms to cure the town. He showed the man the items from the place and asked why there would be two opposing gods represented at one monastery.

“Droskar, is the name of the god whose symbol this represents. He is a minor god now, but he was once a great and terrible master of toil. Originally one of the greatest student smiths of Torag, it was discovered that he had been copying his work from others whom he had enslaved. For this he was cursed by the Father of Creation to never be able to create an original work and cast from the pantheon. Rejected, he searched for followers of his own, promising them salvation in return for ceaseless work or simply enslaving them. None of these helped him, however, or inspired any originality within the god.” He took a long sip from his cup and thought about what he had said. "You have been to Droskar’s Crucible. Those ruins were once the monastery of Dwarves dedicated to Torag. Just prior to their withdrawal from the region to nearby dwarven holds, the dwarves of the Five Kings Mountains turned to the worship of the Dark Smith: Droskar, god of toil and labor. As the decades passed, fidelity to Droskar no longer inspired great works, only works, and the quality of dwarven craftsmanship plummeted as the stoutfolk attempted to ceaselessly churn out monuments, temples, and armories in his honor. Droskar’s Crucible is a hallmark of this decline in imagination and spirit. Its spartan interior is a testament to the joyless final days of the dwarves. Smooth halls, many of which are filled with ironblood mushrooms, stretch between cold-stoned chambers. Crudely hewn tunnels connect the underground monastery directly to dreary mines and the thundering forges that long ago hammered out steel day and night…That is the history of Droskar’s Crucible."

It took him nearly three full minutes before clearing his distant gaze and refocusing on Zandu. Zandu sipped the cup of coffee and already felt the jittery alertness from an unpracticed response. He was ready to jump out of his chair. The information Justicar Gellius had just given him was more than he had hoped. This history went back more than 1,000 years. He had studied every major and minor god and had not heard of Droskar. How old were those ruins, how old was this hammer?

After a few sips of coffee the Justicar continued. “I have sworn my life to riding the world of Evil like Droskar and his malevelent torturous deeds. The Crucible is a stain on the earth that should be wiped out. This church is a foothold in the wilderness. Evil has infested this land and the people are forced to endure. Just look at the den of thivery and debothary that exists in this town. The good people of Falcon’s Hollow need hope. They need something to trust in and know that there are good people in the world. That is why Korva and I have been stationed here. We are to be a foothold in the wilderness. I hope you never have the misfortune to journey into the depths of Droskar’s Crucible. But if you do, know that the Light of Iomedae goes with you.”

Zandu picked up his relics and bid the Justicar farewell. All that talk of blessings made Zandu uneasy. But the man’s intentions were clear and he was thankful for the well wishes. Zandu headed back to the Jak’a’Napes where he reflected on what he had learned and related it to Kieyanna and Dhohar.

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