With a sense of growing dread that we were far behind in the race for the pieces of the Ashen Crown, our group pushed onward through the crumbling, disgusting passageways of Six Kings. Before long, in a chamber ahead we spied some dolgrims engaged in a losing battle against some ghostly apparitions. Our group, exhausted and dangerously low on stamina, briefly debated just letting them all kill each other, but we decided in the end that we would utilize the element of surprise to ambush both groups.
Romana and Tor successfully guided us stealthily into position, which surprised me a bit since every previous group effort to sneak had resulted in Maaka accidentally knocking over something loud. Romana let loose with a volley of arrows, and the rest of us jumped out of the tunnels and began cutting down everything in sight. We employed our usual tactics, although at one point I was simultaneously surprised and disgusted when one of our enemies knocked into a nearby crusty old hobgoblin tapestry, which exploded outward in a cloud of noxious dust. Fortunately I covered my mouth with my cape before it could get into my lungs, but I still can’t seem to get the last out of my hair.
Thanks to our ambush, the battle was leaning pretty heavily in our favor, but before long a dolgaunt appeared! Remembering the horrid brush of tentacles from last time we fought a dolgaunt, we immediately concentrated on him but not before another pair of fearsome aberrant beasts joined the fight. These vile beasties looked like bugbears put through a meat grinder and then left out to rot. They must have regarded Maaka as the most menacing member of our party, for they kept picking her up and throwing her at the rest of us. Fortunately, we were always able to dodge, but I suspect it will take a while for her bruises and scrapes to fully fade.
Eventually we prevailed, using some of what Douven taught us and some of what our harsh experiences on our own have taught us. I was all for pushing onwards, but the rest of the group looked like they couldn’t handle any more wounds. They seemed a bit surprised that I was in such a hurry to find a piece of the Ashen Crown. It was at this moment that I levelled my gaze at Tor and Maaka and said, “I think it’s time we told them the truth.” Romana and Steeple exchanged a confused glance.
They had already known that while they were gone on their little foray into the forest, the rest of us had been assaulted in town by Turlough Berwick, Corwin Gunders and three other Dark Lanterns. What they didn’t know was the Dark Lanterns’ goal: they had been sent by Captain Kalaes to recover Ashurta’s Blade— and they had succeeded. Our group had lost the artifact! Furthermore, there were at least two other parties headed to Six Kings— we were in a race to find the pieces of the Crown interred here.
Romana was a bit angry that we hadn’t been truthful with her, but Steeple just accepted that I must have had a reason to hold back that information. He was right; my reason was my own embarrassment at failure, at losing something we all worked so hard for to a joke of a group like Turlough’s. I shot back at Romana that we never would have lost Ashurta’s Blade if her and Steeple had not disappeared, a statement I feel a bit bad about now; Douven tried to teach me not to blame others for my own shortcomings, but it is so hard sometimes.
Still, even knowing that the stakes were high did not sway the rest of the group into pushing onward. I was outvoted, and after finding a tunnel to the surface we camped for the night and nursed our wounds. In an effort to be warned of anyone coming in or out of the dungeon, I placed my trusty silver bell on the doorjamb and laid my bedroll nearby where I could hear it’s ring. This was really just an excuse to sleep away from the rest of the party, whom I was still angry at for not pushing onward.
And here I lay, too anxious to get much rest… for tomorrow will either end with us being a major player again in the race for the crown, or will end with us shamed once again.