And indeed we had reason to be afraid. Pursuing the filthy creature down a dimly lit corridor, I nearly had my feet removed by a blade scything from the wall. Luckily Anakat’s size allowed her to leap the trap, and Rook contrived to do something unsettling with shadows that put him on the far side as well. Dox, after a worrying number of false starts, managed to disarm the trap, and the party continued down the corridor. Reaching the end, I confronted a new horror! On a spiked and jagged throne sat an orc, dressed outlandishly and covered in vermin. Flies clustered thickly around a grisly necklace made from rotting eyes. I realized at once that it must be the orc shaman the dragon spoke of, and I determined to relieve him of his head. The necessary decapitation was delayed somewhat by an attack from some shambling horrors clearly raised from the grave. The party fought these horrible creatures through the thick dust covering the floor, and we overcame them—but not without losses. The shadowy Rook was wounded beyond help, and his soul was consigned to the Raven Queen. (The expression seems strangely apt, in this case; after his spirit fled, Rook’s body crumbled to nothing. I wonder if perhaps his relationship with the Lady was closer than most. In any case, he is gone, taking his secrets with him.) The shaman himself, stripped of his foul bodyguards, proved easy to subdue.
We were helped in our struggle by the efforts of a prisoner kept in the room. Upon release, she revealed herself to command powerful holy magics, gifts of a strange god. Her name was Nix, and she had been captured from a nearby city. We had saved her, it appears, from death (or worse!) at the hands of the Orcish shaman. After the threat had passed, she told us her story, and we agreed to journey together henceforth.
Searching the room, we found the rituals wanted by the dragon—copies of the ones we already possessed. Dox led an interrogation, seeking to learn more of the statue and the provenance of the rituals, but the shaman would not give up his secrets. He did reveal that the clinging dust was made from the bones of his conquered enemies. This disgusting revelation caused us both to quickly finish the task of beheading the evil creature, and also to quickly remove ourselves to the entrance chamber of the mound, brushing as much of the cursed dust from ourselves as possible. Yet it seems to me that I can still detect the smell of death, even over the stench of this place.