Start the tale with the Prologue
Adventure Log 3 : …but not for long
Yanew led the party up the path, on the lookout for anything suspicious. He wound his way up through the gentle slope and through the rocky outcroppings that became more numerous until finally the trail was all hard scrabble, and remnants of a stone path lined the sides. In a few places they had to divert from the ancient walkway due to slides, but the way was mostly clear. After a surprisingly short time out of camp, they came upon an opening in the side of the hill, partially hidden behind a large outcropping of rock that hid it from the slopes below. It looked like a natural cave, at least for the first few feet, but in the shadow they saw that a door had been mounted in a stone casement, the door was partially open. The door was thick, taller than a man, and banded with iron. The hinges appeared to be rusted solid.
“Well,” said Yanew, “this looks promising!”
“How so?” asked David. “An open door means any number of creatures could have made this their home!”
“Yes, but it also means it’s probably uninhabited by anything smarter than a bear. We could handle a bear between all of us, no?” Yanew grinned. He started to look more closely at the door and the surroundings, looking for any obvious signs of traps or creatures. David dropped his pack on the ground and rooted through it for his lamp, bringing it out and prepping it. Harrison sat on a stone and was drinking from his waterskin.
“Uh, guys…” Janko was looking down toward their camp at the base of the hill a half mile away. Two men with swords were poking through the remains of their fire while four others on horses stood nearby. “Who the hell are these guys?” Yanew jumped on a rock to get a better view, David squinted to see. They appeared to be soldiers, or at least well-outfitted mercenaries. They all had well-fitting armor and swords, at least five of them did. The sixth wore only dark robes and black gloves. He sat atop one of the horses, a full head taller than the rest, and was scanning the area.
“Maybe we shouldn’t be…” David started, but then the cloaked man on the horse pointed up at them and shouted to the rest. The two men on the ground jumped to their mounts, and the men started up the slope as fast as their horses would carry them. “This does not look promising. Perhaps we should move inside to a more defensible position?” David said. Janko and Harrison both voiced their agreement, and they looked down for Yanew, who was now nowhere to be seen. They quickly started to gather their gear as the horsemen reached the edge of the gentle slope and dismounted to start scrambling up the path.
Janko said, “I don’t know who these guys are, but they don’t seem the friendly type!” He notched an arrow to cover the rear while Harrison ducked through the doorway. “It has to be that goddamn thief’s fault.”
“I beg to differ!” said a voice from behind a rock. Yanew scrambled out and looked up at Janko. “I didn’t do anything to these idiots,” and scooted towards the door.
“YANEW!” came a loud yell from below. Janko turned back to see the man in the black cloak standing on top of a boulder about 50 feet away. “Surrender yourself and we may let you and your friends live!” David and Janko exchanged a glance just as Yanew’s voice, quite loud considering his size, shouted from behind them.
David and Janko leapt for the open door just as a giant ball of fire screamed past them and exploded just above them. They had made it past the casement, but the blast threw them inside the dark passageway as tons of rock came crashing down, collapsing the hill into the opening.
In the blackness, David felt around for his lamp so he could see if anyone else survived and just how bad things were. He found his lamp next to his hand, broken beyond repair. He reached into his pack and pulled out his only torch and lit it from the flint and steel in his belt pouch. The dim light showed everyone to be alive with only minor bruises. The doorway was gone, a pile of rubble in its place.
Behind them they could hear the men scrambling to clear the entrance, but considering the size of the boulders that blocked the passage, it was doubtful they’d make much progress. “Well," said Harrison, “there’s supposed to be a back exit to this place, albeit a well-hidden one.”
“What the hell, Yanew? Who were those guys?” asked David.
“I’ve no idea,” Yanew said. “Never seen them before.”
“Well, they seem to know you quite well. Better than most, in fact.”
Janko piped in, “Maybe they’ve come for something you stole? Say, a map?”
Yanew chuckled. “Well, if they did, they’re kinda fucked aren’t they?”
David stared down the dark passage. “I think we’re all kinda fucked.”
In front of them, the passage was of finished stonework. The walls were painted a drab color, just enough to make it different from natural stone, and they could see empty torch sconces just beyond the meager light thrown by their own. The floor was covered with a fine layer of dust, not all of which was from the collapsed doorway behind them. No footprints marred the smooth layer. They all looked down the passage, it ran straight as an arrow to the north and into deep black. The torch sputtered.