Part 33: Quarhodron
The next morning I emerged from my bed and got my things together. I purchased some supplies from Chronos and set off to the west.
According to my map, I'd find the three remaining mansions to the southwest and northwest. The two in the valley would be my first destination.
Looking over the secluded valley, I could see what appeared to be a hut. It was definitely not something that the original builders had made. I could see no sign of the mansions, or Quarhodron's tomb, but I had no doubt they were here somewhere. I continued along the eastern most branch of the valley path.
A small pack of snappers ambushed me from behind some bushes, but fortunately they were easily dispatched by my arrows.
I reached the next fork in the road. It seemed as though it would connect one side of the valley to the other. I walked over to investigate it.
Damned. It seemed that if I was going to access the other side of the valley, it'd be by going the long way. A small group of Orc warriors guarded the ancient stone bridge that connected the two sections.
Ignoring the orcs, I resumed my trip to the south. A troll seemed to have taken up residence somewhere around the old wooden bridge, and a couple packs of snappers were hunting nearby.
I fought my way through the snappers. Thankfully the troll seemed intent on leaving me alone.
Finally I reached the end of the path and found the mansion. A swamp golem was situated nearby and attacked. Several dozen arrows later, it collapsed into a pile of rubble.
It seemed like the mansion wasn't yet clear, however. Inside was a large group of zombies.
Two of the zombies were clad in armor and were the most difficult to destroy. While slow, they were incredibly resilient to damage and hit like a troll. I eventually managed to defeat them by separating them from one another and pinning them against the wall, where I could cut them apart as they flailed about helpless.
After getting rid of the zombies, I searched the mansion for the next tablet. I eventually found it within one of the old chests. I took the purple tablet. Three down, two more to go.
On my way back up the path, I went to check out the ruins that were located across the ravine. Getting across would have required a leap of faith that I wasn't prepared to make. Perhaps I'd return another time. You need acrobatics skill to make this jump, and acrobatics to make it back across. I can't remember what's on the other side. .
Back at the Water Mages' camp, I sought out Riordian to tell him about the mansions I'd come across thus far.
"About the mansions: The mansion of the warriors is being used by Raven as a hide-out."
"He made a good choice. It is probably the most secure fortress still to be found in this region."
"The house of the guardians of the dead is dominated by the power of Evil. I think I have rarely seen so many zombies in one place."
"That is unfortunate. The guardians of the dead were obviously the victims of their special skills. Their connection to the world of the dead damaged them greatly. I hope you were able to free them from their suffering."
The trip to the house of the dead cost me a lot of supplies. I decided to make a quick detour to the pirate camp and pick up some more potions and arrows. While I was here, however, I decided to explore the ruins within the canyon.
As I'd found out earlier, the lower portion of the canyon contained a camp of Orcs.
I skirted around the mass of Orcish warriors and spotted an Orcish shaman that I believed to be the leader of this camp.
Somehow I needed to take out the leader of this camp and clear it out enough that I could explore the ruins.
Suddenly, I had an idea. Back in the city of Khorinis I'd come across a scroll of dragon snapper transformation. I'd seen dragon snappers before. They were ferocious beasts with thick armor and sharp fangs. I withdrew the scroll and started to recite the words on it.
A wave of energy washed over me, my body contorted and twisted. Soon enough I found myself in the form of a dragon snapper.
In this form, I began a serious of hit and run attacks on the orcs of the camp. My first target was the camp's leader, who fell to my attacks before he could stand.
When he was dead, the rest of the camp was in disarray and were easy pickings.
Once I'd cleared the camp and returned to human form, I made my way up the mansion's stairs. Unlike the other mansions I'd found, this one seemed to contain several different floors.
Immediately upon entering, I was greeted by a fire devil: a being of fire that was similar in shape to a shadowbeast. Both my sword and my both were barely scratching it, but luckily I had several spells of ice and water that I'd collected throughout my travels. Using those, he fell pretty easily.
Ancient tomes and rotting wooden bookshelves lined the halls of this building. Unfortunately, none were in any shape to read.
The main room contained two entrances to two separate wings of the old structure. I ventured down the right side first.
I encountered yet another stone sentinel but I'd since grown accustomed to fight them so it posed no problem. The single room at the end of the passage contained two intact stone tablets. I looked them over.
I returned to the main chamber and found my way into the left wing of this ancient library. It was similar in design to the other wing. At the end of the hall I could see another fire devil. I dispatched it in the same way as the other and began to explore the room. I found two more stone lecterns and gave them a look over.
I found the yellow table covered in dust and laying in the room of the room. I took it and exited the building.
I took the canyon portal back to the Water Mage's camp. From here, I charted my course to the western side of the valley.
Like the eastern part, the western section contained a series of winding dirt paths. A campfire burned atop a large boulder. I assumed it belonged to whoever owned the cabin. I continued down.
A shadowbeast, one of the few nocturnal creatures on the island, ambushed me as I passed by. I sustained a few deep cuts from the fight but it was nothing that a potion or magic wouldn't fix.
I was now in front of the cabin. A fired burned outside of it, but I couldn't see anyone inside. However, at his hour I dared not approach in case the owner was not friendly.
I found a stone platform and the accompanying pedestal. Using the final focus, I reactivated it and returned to the camp.
I informed Merdarion of my successful activation of the fifth and final portal. He rewarded me with a pouch of coins.
From there, I left his hut and made my way to the set of ruins I used. The five portals, now activated, lit up the center of camp.
The next morning I returned to the valley and finally got the meet the owner of the cabin. I decided to change my clothes since wandering around in the armor of bandits might draw unwanted attention.
"What am I doing here?! What the hell are YOU doing here?!" the hermit screamed. "I came to the remotest spot on the island because I finally wanted some peace! Civil war, bandit raids, hordes of orcs outside my door. That just wasn't my thing. I've retired from that madness. There may be orcs here, but not very many. And other PEOPLE - thank Innos - never show up here. Until today."
"And? How's life as a drop-out?"
"I built everything myself. My weapons, my tools., my hut, everything. Came here with nothing but a good mood. Sometimes, though..."
"Sometimes I wish I had at least taken a few clothes with me. I don't know how to weave or tan hides and the nights aren't exactly warm in this part of the island."
"I'm searching for stone tablets. You wouldn't happen to have found any?"
"Yes, but I'm keeping them! They're the only thing there is to read around here. I may not understand all of it yet, but I've been able to decipher some of the texts. "
It just so happened that I had several sets of clothing I no longer wore. I handed him my set of pirate armor. "I have some clothes for you..."
"Really? Show me, let's see if they fit!"
He went inside and returned. "They do! Well, what do I do now? I gave all my gold to the pirates for the crossing. All I can give you is a couple of old stone tablets. Here, take them, by all means. I'll look for some new ones."
I took the tablets and looked them over. I'd hoped that he'd somehow come across one of the colored ones, but these were similar to the dark grey ones I'd come across many times before. At least the water mages needed these, too, and it wasn't a completely waste. I returned to the path.
The road continued on past the hermit's cabin. In the distance I could see my destination.
I passed a set of ruins on my way down to the mansion and was shocked to find that an Orcish shaman lay in ambush. I retreated to higher ground and began peppering him with arrows.
The Orc ran away and I think he may have fallen off the nearby cliff as I couldn't find him. I cautiously continued down the path.
Unlike the last few few builder mansions, these ruins were infested with a good twenty or so minecrawlers. I'd become quite adept on hunting them over the past few weeks so they didn't pose much trouble at all. The only danger they posed to me was when they were present in large numbers, something I was able to avoid by picking them off from a distance.
Inside the ruins I found the fifth and final stone tablet.
After looting the final stone tablet I returned to the middle of the valley. According to those in the mages' camp, the tomb of Quarhodron should have been around here. I found the highest point I could and scanned the horizon. Eventually, I found an area that looked as though it could have once been a tomb.
It was located due north of the hermit's house. Unfortunately, it was crawling with all kinds of nasties: a troll, black goblins, and harpies.
I took care of the harpies first. Three arrows a piece and they'd fall helplessly to the ground. The goblins were even easier. Due to their small size, a single arrow in the midsection meant certain death.
The troll was going to be trickier, but luckily I'd prepared for such a possibility.
Just like I did all those weeks ago in the valley, I used the magic of a shrink monster scroll to greatly reduce the troll in size and, therefore, make it much easier to defeat. The single advantage trolls had, their immense strength, was rendered useless when reduced to the size of a goblin. A few arrows later and it was dead. I walked inside the aged tomb.
An enchanted crossbow and almost two dozen quarrels were sprawled around the room, which I gladly gathered up. If what Myxir said was true, I just had to recite the words on this scroll and the spirit of Quarhodron would present itself to me. I prepared myself for potential trouble and did just that.
The ghostly form of the ancient warrior slowly materialized before my eyes.
"Why do you disturb my rest, guardian," the spirit demanded, "Tell me, what do you desire?"
I got right to it. "Someone has forced his way into the temple of Adanos."
"Nonsense. I myself sealed the door. It is impossible to pass."
"Indeed? The land is plagued by earthquakes. We must do something or the entire island will sink into the sea."
"There is nothing left for us to do. The wrath of Adanos has fallen upon Jharkendar to punish the unbelievers. "
"What is there in the temple of Adanos?"
"My greatest sorrow, my greatest disappointment."
"The praised wisdom of the ancestors is truly overwhelming." I said sarcastically.
"A man of your standing does not speak to me thus. I cannot free myself of the impression that you re not the one you pretend to be. If you require my aid, you must first prove yourself to me. Answer my questions, so that I may be sure that I do not reveal myself to strangers."
I had no choice but to accept. It was imperative that I got inside. "Ask away."
"I am Quarhodron, the old warlord of Jharkendar. You have woken me. To which caste of Jharkendar do you belong?"
I thought back to his greeting. He'd referred to me as a Guardian. "The Guardians of the Dead." I responded.
"The abilities of a guardian of the dead would have allowed you to waken me, that is true. If you are truly the one you claim to be, you will be able to answer all of my questions... except for one."
The spirit continued with his quiz. "Who once protected the people of Jharkendar from enemy attacks?"
That was easy. "The warrior caste". Quarhodron did not indicate one way or the other if I was correct.
"Who can give me a direct order?"
I thought back to the library and the stone lecterns I'd found inside. "The priests."
"Who brought this Evil upon us?"
That I knew. "The warrior castle."
"Who has the final say in the council of five?"
I again thought back to the library. "The scholars."
"Who alleviates suffering and attends to the ill?"
"Who sealed the portal to guard the world from Evil?"
There was no way I could know that. By that time, there were few left who could even take records. "I don't know."
Quarhodron was satisfied. It seemed I'd answered correctly. It was a good thing, too, as I felt I'd already wasted enough time. "Good. I trust you and shall grant you my aid."
"Now listen here. A truly evil fellow has gained access to the temple of Adanos. If you don't let me into the temple right now, it will probably be too late and everything will go down the drain. "
"That cannot be! The high priest KHARDIMON and I are the only ones in Jharkendar who know how to open the gate to Adanos' temple."
"Then your pal Khardimon must have blabbed. I'm telling you, the gate was open. I saw it myself."
"Well. There is truth in your voice. I shall no longer doubt your words."
"I should hope so."
A stone tablet materialized in my hands. "Take, then, the password. It is written on this stone tablet. Speak the words at the sealed gate of the temple and it will open." Quarhodron's voice grew weak and faint. "My time is done. Alas, I can no longer help you but remember: beware the chambers of Adanos. Else your death is certain."
"Wait, what ABOUT the chambers?"
"My strength is failing. Farewell. We shall meet again in the realm of the dead."