Tales of Lost Omens: The Idol and the Scythe

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Legends say only a single man survived the doom that befell Fog Peak Hold. The Pathfinder sages will tell you that’s wrong: five made it out alive, though only three were still sane. The little matter of the collapse of the eastern pass had made the hold irrelevant by that point, and I guess the Taldans have been busy with other matters for the last few hundred years, so the place was never reoccupied.

That didn’t mean no one was interested in it, though, even knowing the last master of the hold had taken up strange habits. Venture-captain Kerivik Stormhand had been eager to get his hands–maybe I should say eyes–on a cache of old maps housed in the hold’s library and a few others, like me, had grown curious about the last master’s reputed interest in golden figurines. Ilvana, well, she was Kerivik’s favorite blade woman. She pretty much went wherever he did, even if that was halfway up a forbidding peak in the Taldan wilderness.

A switchback staircase led part of the way, and then a rockslide had taken out everything but the three stairs short of the old brass gate. Still, Kerivik was an old hand with mountains and got the three of us up safely. That’s when I took over. I won’t bore you with the harrowing details of disarming the trapped entry–I’m certain you’re well aware of my splendid facility with locks. Pretty soon the three of us were making our way down the main hall.

The wind can get pretty wicked up there in the Fog Peaks, and it made free play through the hold, owing to the way the old wooden shutters had rotted off the high windows. I could hear it moaning a lot more clearly than I could hear Kerivik’s grumbling to be careful. Every now and then it gusted so violently it rattled the suits of armor standing along the hall. A couple of them had succumbed to gravity over the years, but most stood as they’d been left long years before, ready for their long-vanished owners to don and wade into battle.

Kerivik stopped to inspect a sealed portal. Me, I headed on toward a distinctive warm gleam I spotted shining on a pedestal just a few paces away. Gold, as sure as the scars on my face. It was a kneeling figurine of a slim horned man with a snarl, draped in spiderwebs. I’d heard the old master had an interest in demonic lore, and this would likely be quite the boon for the Society’s Grand Archive—if not Eando Kline and the Vigilant Seal.

As I reached for the thing the wind picked up once more and I heard a heavy whoosh from our rear, a shout of surprise from Ilvana, and a rattle of armor from the nearest suit.

Turning toward the commotion while keeping an eye on the likely evil relic, my notoriously keen senses and Cayden’s own luck alerted me that the armor had rattled a little too loudly to be from the wind. Sure enough, the suit over my shoulder had lifted a long sword over its helm in preparation to lop off my head. Kerivik shouted something from behind as I leapt back, the blade missing me by a handspan.

At the end of a dark hallway lined with imposing statues of armored knights, a rogueish-looking half-elf extends one hand toward a small golden figurine while his two companions in the background narrowly avoid being struck by a pair of bladed pendulums.

Illustration by Tomasz Chistowski

Busy as I was dodging head blows, caught my first glimpse of what my partners were up to. Blades had started swinging down from either side of the hall, one of them so razor sharp it had sliced a few feet of deep green fabric off her cloak. Seeing our means of escape quickly cut off by the swinging scythes, Kerivik redoubled his efforts to pry the stone doorway open. I didn’t have the time to really assess the situation, though, with the idol’s defender still upon me.

The armor stepped forward, pivoted with military precision, and swung for me again. I’ve been a Pathfinder long enough to know that only magic or a spirit was likely to be making that thing move, and the odds of me hurting either with my blade, fine as it was, were slim to none. But there are other ways to stop a rampaging suit of plate mail, and I slid left of its next strike then threw myself forward. It’s counterintuitive, I know, but rather brave, as you probably noticed.

I caught the armor about its waist, smashing my chin into its waist chain, and sent it off balance. It reeled backward, slammed into the pedestal, and fell in pieces. I dropped with it and rolled. The figurine fell too, of course, and plummeted right past my face. I’d forgotten I was holding my sword and it rattled off along the ancient stones.

It’s a good thing I was already low, because damned if the big scythes didn’t choose that moment to start swinging down across my side of the hallway. I heard Kelivik shout that the weapons were getting lower and snagged the haft of my blade. That snarling figurine was just out of reach.

Not so one of the steel gauntlets from that vanquished suit of armor. I swear the fingers were pulling it back toward a steel arm right when a blade struck the wrist and dragged it along the floor with a deafening screech of wounded metal. If I’d been a moment later that would have been my own hand.

“Stop staring at the gold, Nerian!” Kelivik shouted at me. “Get back!”

Now I was perfectly capable of losing myself in contemplation of especially fine gold, but I swear at that instant I was still stunned a little by how close that blade had come, and I was watching in awe as sparks flew from the wriggling armored fingers as the gleaming scythe pulled it across the rough stone floor. Proving Kelivik’s assessment of my motivations wrong, I turned from the idol and scrambled back through the stone portal just as he and Irvana disappeared into the darkness beyond.

For once we lucked out. We stumbled right into the master map room, where tube after tube of old parchment lay under a thick layer of dust in their honeycomb shelves, including all sorts of old records Kelivik didn’t even knew he needed until he started looking around. True, there was also a golden statue identical to the one that had lured me nearly to my death guarding the stacks. It was twice the height of a man, but the rumors about how deadly it was are exaggerated–the thing was so slow Irvana and I managed to keep it distracted while Kelivik grabbed up his goodies.

The darned thing was so large it couldn’t even get through the portal, so we ended up with quite a head start before it had bashed its way out. By the time it reached us we had already started down the ropes. It surged out of the fortress doors, took three steps, and then ran out of stair and abruptly plunged about six hundred feet down the mountainside. We had ample time to observe that none of its component pieces were moving as we climbed down to safety. It was too heavy to haul the whole thing with us, especially with Kelivik’s trusty haversack full to overflowing, but we did manage to drag one of its arms back to the lodge. And that was pretty nice. I might go back to get more of it soon—as long as adventure doesn’t call me off in another direction, of course.

About the Author

Howard Andrew Jones lives in a wind-swept tower with a wicked and beautiful sorceress. When not spending time with her or their talented children he can be found hunched over his laptop, mumbling about flashing swords and doom-haunted towers. St. Martin’s published his newest novel, For the Killing of Kings, this February, and its sequel, Upon the Flight of the Queen, will be published in November. Paizo has published four of his Pathfinder novels—Plague of Shadows, Stalking the Beast, Beyond the Pool of Stars, and Through the Gate in the Sea—and St. Martin’s his critically acclaimed historical fantasy novels. He edits Tales from the Magician’s Skull. He knows karate and wrote this in the third person while eating stale popcorn.

About Tales of Lost Omens

The Tales of Lost Omens series of web-based flash fiction provides an exciting glimpse into Pathfinder’s Age of Lost Omens setting. Written by some of the most celebrated authors in tie-in gaming fiction, including Paizo’s Pathfinder Tales line of novels and short fiction, the Tales of Lost Omens series promises to explore the characters, deities, history, locations, and organizations of the Pathfinder setting with engaging stories to inspire Game Masters and players alike.

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Tags: Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Tales of Lost Omens Web Fiction

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Hey! Looks like a great adventure hook. Can't wait to see more.
The only pity is that this story is so short. <g>


Very well written. In really enjoyed it. Next time I encounter a statue, I will consider my options.


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber

A fun story, and pleasantly Indiana Jones-ish. Needs an editorial pass, though; a couple of characters change names partway through, and "We stumbled right into the master map room, where tube after tube of old parchment lied under a thick layer of dust..." is wrong, plus a couple of other minor typos. Still good stuff--I could see this happening in an actual game. Love the subtlety of the attacking armor in the accompanying art, too.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Awesome!


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Birmy wrote:
A fun story, and pleasantly Indiana Jones-ish. Needs an editorial pass, though; a couple of characters change names partway through, and "We stumbled right into the master map room, where tube after tube of old parchment lied under a thick layer of dust..." is wrong, {. . .}

They must be political propaganda scrolls . . . .

I saw the same error in the other blog post of the same day, suggesting that they have undergone quantum entanglement -- better make sure that statue isn't a caypin . . . .


Once again, the art is fantastic.


will you create more novels ?

Contributor

5 people marked this as a favorite.
Treasure Crafter wrote:
will you create more novels ?

Are you asking me in particular, or Paizo in general?

I'm not sure what Paizo plans. I'd probably be up for writing more in the Pathfinder line. Certainly I had big plans for the characters from Beyond the Pool of Stars and Through the Gate in the Sea, and I bet I could come up with a few more Elyana novels as well.

My newest fantasy novel, the first in an action-packed fantasy trilogy from St. Martin's, was just released in March, and the second is coming out in November, and of course I have four Pathfinder novels and two historical fantasy books that are already available... and I'm always writing more. You can keep up to date with my doings at www.howardandrewjones.com

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Howard Andrew Jones wrote:
Treasure Crafter wrote:
will you create more novels ?

Are you asking me in particular, or Paizo in general?

I'm not sure what Paizo plans. I'd probably be up for writing more in the Pathfinder line. Certainly I had big plans for the characters from Beyond the Pool of Stars and Through the Gate in the Sea, and I bet I could come up with a few more Elyana novels as well.

My newest fantasy novel, the first in an action-packed fantasy trilogy from St. Martin's, was just released in March, and the second is coming out in November, and of course I have four Pathfinder novels and two historical fantasy books that are already available... and I'm always writing more. You can keep up to date with my doings at www.howardandrewjones.com

Yay!

Grand Lodge

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

More Pathfinder tales please!!!

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