Sunday, 24 February 2019

THE CRYSTAL SEAS... Episode 3: Well, well, well...

It's not been an easy first foray into the unknown for our plucky band of heroes. Analicia has already come close to death on two occasions, and after the bruising encounter with the Giant Inferno Spider Horace , too had his own brush with death. Burzum's DEAD for chrissakes, and our previous installment concluded with our heroes awakening to the weeping of the Turquoise woman. So-

4th Sositi, continued...

WAIT. Before we jump straight back into the action. Let us rewind a little. Because Horace had a dream...

Before he was stabilised by Analicia, the dwarven cleric experienced a vision. At death's door, his spirit travelled into the ether, until he found himself alone in the void, but for an enormous, iridescent dragon. Horace knew that this was god: a gargantuan rainbow serpent, dancing across the void, dreaming reality into existence. It did not acknowledge him, yet he felt embraced - comforted, almost - by this awesome presence. Somewhere, on the very periphery of his conscious, he heard the voice of an elven maiden, and once again, all was black. 
When later Horace awoke he found himself back in the musty, burned-out cellar, listening to a woman weeping. Analicia watched the turquoise woman closely, who explained that she felt responsible for the loss of life. She proffered a limp hand in friendship, before finally introducing herself as Ursula. The elf was unimpressed, instead ordering Ursula to remove Burzum's body. Ursula complied with the instruction, apparently in some kind of post-traumatic delirium... of course, she was unable to move the 220 lbs dead barbarian. 

While the two ladies struggled with the hulking mass of Burzum's corpse, Horace had a look around the laboratory. The room had clearly been turned upside down by the giant spider. The ancient, mouldering remains of various codices were either rotten beyond use or had been burned more recently. However, amidst the ancient mess Horace was able to retrieve a thick papyrus codex, bound in leather or hide, surprisingly untainted by the passing years. Within its pages, a beautiful copperplate script had been printed by hand, in a language and alphabet unknown to the dwarf.

Horace ventured gingerly towards an unopened door on the far side of the room. He could hear a gentle scratching: either a giant rat, incredibly far away, or a normal-sized rat, adjacent to the door. Ursuala and Analicia re-appeared, propping Burzum up by the old alchemist's bench. Quizzing Horace as to whether he'd found anything, Horace's equivocations were interrupted by a terrifyingly loud pounding from the other side of the door. They decided it was best to recuperate before exploring further. 

After disabling the trap using some iron petons, Analicia and Urusula were able to hall Burzum down the corridor, and out of the cellar. The brewery's proprietor was distraught to see that one of his exterminators had been slain, and fetched his staff to tend to the body, which was taken out of sight. The remaining three adventurers tended to their wounds, drinking warm beer and eating black bread.

And then it was time to go back...
The party avoided the alchemist'slab on this occasion, instead opening the door onto a small room dimly lit by a crack in the ceiling, adorned with a dilapidated stone well in the centre of the room. Horace clanked over in his glistening scale mail, peering inside...


Momentarily shocked at the sight of not one but two giant centipedes, Horace decided not to warn his compatriots, although Analicia detected that something was up and readied her bow. The first centipede came into view, she sent an arrow sailing over its head. The ensuing melee was a little confusing, with Ursula launching a fire bolt, and Horace receiving a nasty bite and narrowly avoiding being poisoned, but the highlight was certainly Analicia's bold attempt to send one centipede back down the well. Though she attempted to leap on top of it, the giant arthropod managed to sidestep the elf, sending her plummeting fifty feet into the darkness of the well's shaft.

Fortunately, the wellspring had not yet run dry, and the ten feet or so of water at the bottom softened her landing, although she was now out of action.... she'd also dropped her shortsword!

Actual footage of Alicia at the bottom of a well
After slaying one of the centipedes, Horace and Ursula seemed to dance around a little bit, with the mage trying to pierce it with her dagger unsuccessfully. Horace landing a mighty blow with his warhammer, cracking the carapace about its head, yet still the creature fought on It delivered another stinging bite, this time to Ursula, who likewise shrugged off the effects of the poison. Analicia continued to splash around at the bottom of the well, unsuccessfully attempting to clamber out the steep shaft.

Finally, the centipede was dealt with and its corpse hurtled back whence it came, narrowly missing the elven rogue. Horace and Ursula were able to extricate her with their ropes, and a soggy Analicia thanked them before stealing a set of silver plates from the table. The room yielded little more.

Disheartened and demoralised, the group returned to the site of Burzum's death one final time. The strange sounds from beyond the far door had fallen silent, but as a precaution Analicia stealthily snuck across the room, and pressed her ear against the door. She heard that same scrabbling noise again, which erupted into a violent pounding after she called for her colleagues to join her. They opened the door on yet another giant rat, which was pierced by Analicia's rapier. As the giant rat quivered its last death rattle, they observed the room around them: it appeared the creature had imbibed liquid from a shattered glass vial on the floor. The torn label was in dwarven, the roughly translated fragment reading: "-tion of enlargement". Nearby, a similar shattered vial read: "Essence of fire elem-"

Indeed, it appeared that the whole room had once been a store for alchemical potions. As Ursula salvaged whatever glassware she could find, she happened upon two potions of healing, which she handed to her friends. Horace noticed her pocket two other potions as well, though he had no idea what they were.

The proprietor was delighted with the party and rewarded them each with 25 gold coins. He was clearly guilty about Burzum, and indicated that a share of the reward be provided for his family, too. A young boy capable of speaking the common tongue explained that they had wrapped the corpse, and that they could provide transportation to the next village via mule cart, but that they wouldn't be returning to Jehemen for at least a week, and that they should get back there before then. The adventurers gratefully acquiesced.

The return to Khuth was low key, and not how the villagers had expected. During their brief absence, the headman had acquired four fine horses for the party, and was proudly presenting them. His pride turned to sadness when he realised that he need only have acquired three.

Possibly Burzum.

The party had a lot to consider. they had gained some experience, picked up a few coins and been given noble horses upon which to ride, but a man was dead. The so-called "tower of the red mage" was little more than a basement lab, and whatever secrets it had held appeared to have bee lost to time or the flames of the spider. But the time had come to rest: after all the day's exertions the remaining party members were utterly drained. They ate solemnly with the villagers and then, a few hours after sun fall, all but Analicia fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.

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