I had the hardest time climbing down into the long abandoned hallway that ran into the side of the cliff from the once hidden door. I ended up falling at the last, whacking my head on the lintel and twisting my ankle. Nothing too severe, thank goodness. Just not very graceful. I overheard Rufus ask Bob if I was always this clumsy and Liz said yes, then smacked him on the shoulder. I don’t know that I’d go around smacking wizards without full intent to kill them, but her pseudo-defense of me was nice. We got our lanterns lit again (all for my behalf) and shut the hidden door. That took a bit of effort since part of the rubble and earth had collapsed into the door way when I fell.
Bob took care of it for me, which was nice. He didn’t even make fun of me. After all, he was the soldier to my priest. I still was not comfortable with that, but it sure sounded to me like he wanted us to revive the old order. Of course, the old order had been horribly destroyed with demons, fire, earthquakes, madness, chaos and things I had not even begun to ponder. Gods fell, Father. Of that I am sure. The Bountiful One whose symbol I brought back from the past hung heavy in my belt pouch as if the knowledge of it caused it to gain in mass. I’d have to examine it at some point, but I wanted to get moving here. My caution was not currently overwhelmed by my curiosity.
The tunnel ran due west in a perfectly straight line, according to Bob. We made our way forward and every now and again he would make some comment about the joinery, or the way the stone had been cut. No one really paid him much mind but Rufus, who had his own ruined city to study, and Bÿglar, funny enough.
The hob had begun to show some extraordinary interest in the dwarf’s skills, asking all kinds of questions. Turns out his father was a craftsman back in his village, having retired from the military. His questions surprised Bob as well, but he rolled with it and answered the young hob plainly and with a bit of growing excitement. Bob loved to talk about stone work, building, and definitely underground tunnels that ran behind secret doors.
We walked forward at a fairly slow pace. Cob webs filled the halls, older than time it seemed and they didn’t stick to us as we passed, but vanished in puffs of dust. The floor was thick with even more dust and it was readily apparent to even one as untrained as myself, that no creature had walked these halls in a very, very long time. Obviously the frogs had no idea these tunnels existed. That was hopefully good for us.
Liz stopped us with a barked command and Sparkle hunkered down to examine something. Apparently there was a trip wire strung across the hall. Could a trap centuries, if not millennia old still be functional? Well, I’ll tell you. If the craftsmen were ancient dwarves, then the answer is a resounding and echoing yes.
Fortunately we had both a trap expert and a dwarf with us and between the two (with a little advice from Rufus, or perhaps despite it) they were able to disarm the trap. It was not as easy as you would think. I thought they should cut the cord and let whatever bladed contraption spring forward and smash against the wall, well ahead of our folks.
Luckily I’m not in charge of disarming traps. This trap, strangely enough, was a fail safe for anyone escaping the fortress. There was not scything blades or sudden pit traps in store for us. There was nothing less than a full on tunnel collapse.
You see, if someone was to flee down this tunnel to the secret door, triggering that wire would cause giant stones to fall into the tunnel, effectively making it impassable. What impressed Bob the most was not the fact it could be done, and that something was being held in place by the tension of that wire, but that the collapse would run back up the tunnel for five rods or more. Seems the first one out, if they were not careful, would bury those behind them.
While Bob worked to see about disabling the trap, we speculated on how bad things had to be to want to bury everyone following behind, even if it included friends. What exactly was this place?
Sparkle and Bob worked on the trap so the rest of us went back up the tunnel a ways, turned the lamps down and huddled together to talk. Liz asked why we had left in such a hurry and I began to tell them about the ruined temple and what had happened to me in there. Bob and Sparkle seemed to be half listening and when I described making my way to the bottom of the temple, they had stopped completely and joined us, asking to have certain parts repeated.
By now all here knew Bob and I worshiped Kithri of the Closed Fist. Finding the last stronghold of her order of paladins had not been what I expected when I met the beautiful halfling goddess. Sparkle was particularly intrigued by my story and I described the Bountiful One several times. Rufus turned up the lamps and made a few notes on some scrap parchment he kept in his robes. He had never found any mention of a Bountiful One in Wind Spire. Turns out this may explain some things he and Johann had discovered. There were several murals and friezes that were partially intact, but they appeared to all be around a single deity. But Johann had insisted that they had come much later in the city’s existence and that the murals and friezes had originally shown other scenes.
So, it would appear that at some point in this region, what were obviously older gods, older ways, had been overtaken by newer gods, or god, if Rufus was correct. There had been a strong record of monotheism in his research. The fact I worshipped two gods had surprised him when he first understood.
Then Sparkle chimed in and said it was the same in her home village, and in the cities she had visited. A single god that was enforced by an iron fist. None of them had ever heard of Kithri, and Semaunzilla (may she learn to live with the disappointment that she was unknown to so many) was at best a heathen god only worshipped by semi-humans who knew no better.
Liz gave Rufus the stink eye, as if he was perpetuating the theology. I ignored her indignity, as I too worshipped there, and was amazed to discover that I had no idea who this single god was. Father, Sister Agnes may be indignant that I did not truly understand who we worshipped in the monastery, but no one, not even you, chastised me for my choices, no matter if they were different from the officially sanctioned deity of the monastery. Come to think of it, maybe that was the point, Father. Did we truly profess to only one god? Was that what I had inadvertently stumbled upon? I never once understood that we practiced monotheism.
I really needed to think about this. My head felt a little lighter from the realization.