Our write-up jumps a bit because I didn't have time to write an entry after each week's game, but here's one last entry from a few sessions further on. The party was trying to help reconsecrate a lost chapel, in the course of which quest we were supposed to get absolution for our own sins. We'd had pretty fierce opposition from some antler-headed elves (...goblins, fairies, what-you-will) and my character, Gaius of Tamrac, was also being pulled in another direction by his former mentor, Cynewulf, who had the power to send Gaius's wife's soul down to hell each night. In this sequence, we had gone down into a pit out of Weirdstone of Brisingamen and Gaius had volunteered to squeeze down the narrow tunnel to try and find a way out... It still gives me a shudder.
As recounted by Gaius of Tamrac
When I speak of the horror, I do not mean the drumbeats above us in the darkness, or the slow trickle of black kobold-oil down the subterranean tunnel. I do not refer to the pit into which Escher nearly stumbled, and which we had to cross on a narrow, creaking plank.
I do not even use that term to describe the moment when Lucan lost his balance crossing the plank and, roped to him, I was dragged to the lip of darkness. We were both within a hair’s breadth of oblivion then.
But that was not the horror.
It came when we reached a narrow drain in the floor and I, as the most limber, entered first. I had to remove my armour and crawl along a passage that soon grew tight around me. It dropped then, doubling back on itself so that I now squirmed on my back. It grew tighter. I had only a firefly summoned by Lucan’s magic to light the way. Each breath became harder to take, hot foul-tasting air sucked into taut lungs.
A rope around my ankle was my sole link to the others waiting above. As the rope – some fifty yards in length – went taut, the dwarf Gork began to tug hard on it. I was pulled back sharply and would have broken my legs or my spine when he dragged me up the recurve, but by luck the rope snagged and snapped.
I waited, wondering whether to go back. Wondering whether it was possible to go back. A scuffling in the passage then, and I heard Escher’s voice. We decided to press on together. I first managed to twist around onto my front, and by dint of extreme contortions cut myself out of my clothing. Naked, armed only with a dagger, I resumed the crawl forward. Around us, the rough stone closed tighter.
And then without warning I came upon the horror. It was there in the tunnel ahead. A face fixed with a skinless grimace. A hand of tendons and white bone closed around the firefly. Utter darkness fell upon us like a rockfall.
I could hear that damned thing slithering towards me. No way to go back. Choking darkness. The scrape and tap of its dagger on the rock. The clatter of bones.
With my eye of night I looked for its aura – the only way I could hope to discern anything of it. The aura showed as a deeper absence against the indelible dark, a hole in the heart of a shadow. And then I felt its dead fingers brush my lips and in gasping silence I stabbed with my knife.
There was no way to parry; barely was it possible to aim blows. We lay stretched out at arms’ length, chopping at each other. I struck with my dagger in a chisel grip and felt the tendons of its forearm give way. Still it came crawling forward. I let go the dagger and pounded blindly, in panic, feeling my fists sink into gristle and soft bone.
Eventually it stopped moving. I noticed the pain of several deep cuts that I had not realized I’d taken. Sobbing with disgust, I crawled past the damned thing – the bits of it, I should say; like the evidence of an appalling murder that is no longer a body, but now only strips and patches of gore and skin.
As I squeezed past, my hands closed on a cold thin shaft. On the point of flinging it away from me, I realized it was not one of the creature’s fingers but the key we had come seeking. The cold iron key of the Black Cauldron.
Escher and I pushed on, feeling the weight of a million tons of earth and stone pressing down above us. The soul can be crushed by fear more certainly than rocks may break the body. You cannot banish fear; only the insane do not feel it. But you must hold your fear pent inside a tiny cage at the very back of the mind. If you allow it out, even for an instant, then the horror will come leaping at you like a great unseen beast in the blackness. And then you are lost.