Shieldbashers

Tale of the Old Man

While the rhythm of the Three Wishes thumps through the heavy stone walls, the old man you rescued from the chambers below the Iron Nail tavern stares into his drink and tells you his tale:

“I used to be a farmer, I had a wife and four children and a donkey. I was never rich and many seasons were simply a struggle, but I was happy. The memory is so far away from me now, I only see it like a faded shadow.”

“When the gnolls came, my wife died, my children died. I survived, and I wish I hadn’t.”

“They took me deep into the mountains and with grunts and gutturals and the clashing of coins, they sold me to dark-skinned dwarves. The dwarves branded me.”

Gen takes down the sleeve of his tunic and shows a wicked burned half-circle with an eye in the center of it on his left shoulder-blade.

“I can’t remember how many times I changed hands or how long I had been on the move. I was taken with hundreds of others through one portal and another. So many died. Some died simply because they forgot to feed us for three weeks. We ended up in those cells where you found me, but we weren’t there for long. They took us through a stone portal of swirling red. Many never made it through. They fell out with all their skin removed, or in a pile of dismembered limbs, or turned inside out. Yet I survived.”

“When we arrived, the pit was already very deep. Given the amount of time it took us to make progress, they must have been digging it for hundreds years.”

“There was a beam of brilliant light that pierced from the blue-gray sky into the center of the pit. We could hear it in our minds as we dug and in our dreams as we tried to sleep. It was the sound of thousands of people screaming.”

“I would see him, the old man, standing on the edge of the pit staring down into the pit. ‘Elder Arantham’ some would call him, but most called him ‘father’.”

“One day I awoke and he was sitting over me. I thought I would die for sure, cut apart like so many of his sacrifices. He didn’t cut me open and spill my innards into a brazier, however. He spoke to me.”

”’You have lost loved ones,’ he said to me. ‘You know the injustice of Her hand. It is for this that we dig. Who is She to decide who lives and who dies? Who is She to take our loved ones from us when we have done nothing wrong? Who is she to fill our wives with cancer when we have barely begun our lives together? Who is she to make us decide in the dead of a year-long winter which child we feed and which child we let starve so one might live at all? She shall soon decide this for no one. We dig for a great purpose, my friend.’”

“Arantam put his hand on me and the cold chilled me down to the bone. I’ve lost feeling in that shoulder and it has never come back.”

“One day the beam stopped. I looked up and saw Elder Arantham looking up to the empty hole in the sky where the beam of radiant light had come from. He looked disappointed. We were forced to dig faster. Those that didn’t dig fast enough were taken to him and, without ever losing that kind look on his face, he opened them up and poured their blood into the center of the pit. He would draw the souls of his sacrifices out of their mutilated bodies and send them spiraling into the pit. One night he killed four hundred of us this way. I took all night and by the end he was covered head to toe in blood.”

“The next day we found it. Our picks and shovels found hard stone under the dirt and ash into which we dug. We uncovered it and found sigils and runes. Elder Arantham read the runes and demanded that we break into it. As we dug, we heard something scratching from inside.” The old man shivers but continues. “When we breached it, air of five hundred thousand years blew out of the chamber below.”

“Expeditions were sent into the chamber below, the Reliquary it was called. Many came out screaming with insanity or torn apart, but Arantham seemed pleased.”

“Fate would seem to find me again. Arantham handed myself and the others to the demon, Shonruvvu. I thought she was going to devour us as she had so many others. But she did not. She opened the gate once again and took us back to the chambers. That was nearly two weeks ago.”

The old man looks to you. “I would rather die than see that place again.”

As the old man tells his tale, you scratch down the following things into your small notebook:

- Old man was a slave transferred hand to hand. - He was sold to the Ashen Covenant who used him to dig in Death’s Reach. - The dig has been going on for hundreds of years. - The re-routed soulstream has been flowing into the pit. - Arantham wants to destroy the Raven Queen. He holds her responsible for the deaths of loved ones. - When the soulstream stopped, Arantham sacrificed his slaves to keep the souls flowing. - They found a Reliquary at the bottom of the pit. It’s about 500,000 years old. Something is moving in there. - When the Reliquary was breached, the old man was sent back to Sigil.

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