A Swampy Refuge

The Mountain Pass

Ramir

(Translated from Hieratic Nithian)

The mountain trail was not particularly difficult to traverse. However, much to our surprise, at a narrow pass with sheer cliffs on either side, our path was blocked by a small group of bearded devils, mighty warriors from the infernal realms. Fearing the worst, we attacked them, hoping to reach the lost youths in time.

In the lands of the Traldar, a common compliment given to an aggressive warrior is to say that he “fights like a devil”, and I had never realized the gravity of such a statement until facing this infernal regiment. We Retrievers fought valiantly and bravely, using both muscle and magic, but the devils were very powerful, dealing grievous wounds to us all. Thalia, an honorable paladin of the northern realms, and myself, did our best to heal the party from the myriad infirmities that they suffered, but the longer we fought, the more suffering we were dealt, and devil reinforcements kept teleporting in, swarming and surrounding us. It was clear that we had lost the fight, but the devils, for one reason or another, were hesitant to finish us off. I chose to finally surrender, seeing that, if I did not, there was a chance none of us would see the rising of thy holy Sun, Lord Mitra.

Upon surrendering, the devils ceased their brutality immediately, which was fortunate, since one of our party members, the young and stalwart bolt-mistress* Bel, was very close to death. Their commanding officer then appeared, a mighty winged Erinyes, stunning and deadly, and we were teleported to a guarded section of their encampment. Surprisingly, we were treated with care and respect, showing a level of fairness and decorum that I would not expect from such regularly-maligned beings. The only one of us that they treated somewhat harshly was Thalia, who was bound and gagged, due to the paladin’s natural enmity and supernatural prowess in dealing with members of the infernal realms.

The Erinyes then entered our enclosure and explained that her regiment was embroiled in a conflict with denizens from another plane, who had taken control of a nearby cave, and that the missing youths had wandered into it. She explained that if her regiment were discovered by the nearby townspeople, it would be detrimental to their campaign, which would, ultimately, benefit the area. She subsequently posed a deal for us: she would free us to enter the cave and save the youths if we agreed to not tell the local townspeople, who would meddle in their affairs. It was a fair deal, especially considering the number of townspeople who would be slaughtered if they decided to assault the devilish regiment, and because we merely wished to free the youths and return them to safety. We agreed to the terms after a short debate, and were freed to make our way to the cave. Unaware were we, Lord Mitra, of the mind-twisting horrors that we would soon face.

(*There is no word for “sharp-shooter” in High Nithian. Purnanjabat uses instead a feminine form of the word huryanam, or “master of the crossbow”. -Ed.)

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