A Mountainous Exploration part 5
Seldan staggers backwards half a step as the shadow demon-thing explodes into misty shadow-stuff, coating him head to toe in dim-black gossamer threads from sweat-soaked hair, to cloak, to crimson-stained clothing, clinging to the stains spreading visibly beneath shirt and robes. He wobbles, then steadies himself by the expedient of planting the tip of his sword into the stone at his feet. He then leans on the hilt, breathing heavily and passing a hand over his eyes.
His eyes open after a moment of this, still breathing heavily, and he levels a testy _stare_ at Rhar and Gurr. "What, precisely, were you in aid of, dashing off alone in a cave of living stone?" he snaps out. "We could all of us have been slain, and if we are separated in this place, we doubtless will be. Evil walks in this place, evil strong enough that its stench nearly overwhelmed me, and I do not doubt that there is more like it about. Pray, do not repeat such a move." The paladin/sorcerer's Myrrish accent is thick with both pain and anger.
Malik looks ready to release another arrow into the thing, when suddenly it dissolves into -- whatever it is that it just dissolved into, watching the smaller shadows flee back into the darkness from which they were presumably summoned. The archer's breathing comes fast, but he's already assessing those around him, especially the paladin at his side, who managed to take the brunt of the thing's claws. "Are you injured?" he asks, voice a bit exasperated, already starting to shake a bit now that the adrenaline is starting to wear down a bit and the reality of the dire situation they were almost in starting to catch up to his brain for processing.
Olek calls back to Malik, "I am fine, but the others need help, I think." He's sunk to one knee as he catches his breath, deep fatigue overtaking him for a moment as his rage peters out, leaving him drained. He smirks as Seldan scolds Rhar, shaking his head. "You may as well tell the wind not to blow," he says to Seldan. "It's a thing that is. The smaller they are, the more fearless. Gnomes will charge in where Giantborn are wary."
"Gnomes can bring down giants by stabbing them in the ankles," Kore replies to Olek's statement absently. Rather than panicking or rushing off it seems the Monk is taking a moment to center herself. She closes her eyes for a second, taking afew carefully measured breaths. Then she nods once. "We should keep moving," the half-Mul announces then, with a brief nod. "..Whatever that actually means for us now."
Erendriel shakes her head. "That was weird. Not even sure what those were. I'm glad they could be burned. Once I could get going. Good work whoever it was in the dark made the dark go away. That was great. We should probably consdier trying to rest up as soon as we have some reasonably you know, safeish time to do it. But until then, yeah, keep moving."
Garak already gave Rhar his version of a lecture - or more accurately Gurr since he felt it more likely the wolf would get the point. He lets his lance disappear and begins to examine the area more carefully. "Was this another trap of sorts? An enemy that was posted here to wait for us?" he muses. "Or just the normal sort of dangers to be found in this place?" He completes his survey and then begins to look over the party for any that need healing. "We should have time to attend to our wounds, but resting in a place like this would be a last resort."
"Shadow demons," Seldan absently answers Erendriel, but most of his attention is on Malik. "Whatever spell that was, it was a mighty one indeed, and you have my thanks for that. I might well have been slain without it." Although his clothing is undamaged, the bloodstains on them are clearly visible, and he frees one hand to lay it on his own shoulder, a silvery glow appearing beneath it as he begins to heal himself.
GAME: Seldan rolls 3d6: (9): 9
GAME: Seldan spends ONE use of LAY ON HANDS.
GAME: Garak used a Wand of cure light wounds.
GAME: Garak used a Wand of cure light wounds.
GAME: Garak used a Wand of cure light wounds.
GAME: Garak rolls 1d8+5: (2)+5: 7
GAME: Garak rolls 1d8+5: (6)+5: 11
GAME: Garak rolls 1d8+5: (5)+5: 10
Malik simply nods, pulling out a vial from his pocket and passing it over to the bloodied man at his side. "Drink that," he instructs simply, listening to what the others have to say on the matter. "It will help, though I'm not sure how much." He still has his bow in his hands, scanning the darkness. "If that was the advanced guard, do we wish to know what it was guarding?" He glances back at the others, bloodied and breathless alike. "Are we prepared for this?"
Olek nods at what Kore says. "I /did/ say they were brave," he says sourly. "Sometimes ankles are all you can reach," he grumbles, his own height not as great as all that. He nods to what Garak says about moving on. "I agree. But where?" As far as being prepared, he says, "I will face what comes, regardless."
Erendriel looks to the others. "I have a good number of spells left for today. I've burned a bunch but I probably have one more good fight in me before I start running out of things to do. I can go once everyone's healed if that's what we wnat to do. Just keep going ahead the direction we were going?"
"There is not much else to be done," Kore opines, nodding. She rushes off her dark clothes with her palms and then simply begins to wlk forward, those blue eyes scanning the way ahead as she walks. The diminutive young woman doesn't show any hesitation whatsoever. Or sense of self-preservation, for that matter. "At least with demons attacking we know we are likely heading the right way."
GAME: Kore casts Follow Aura. Caster Level: 7 DC: 15
GAME: Kore rolls Perception+2: (1)+17+2: 20 (EPIC FAIL)
Garak produces his wand and begins healing himself. "Is anyone else hurt?" To Malik's question he permits himself a wintry smile. "We'll soon find out," he turns to watch Kore and then begins to follow her. "It looks like we're on the move again," he says for the benefit of anyone who hadn't seen.
Obediently, Seldan takes the potion and downs it, trusting the archer implicitly, and breathes a little more deeply as it takes effect. He stands upright, and frowns in puzzlement at the blade as he releases the pressure on it from the stone. Threads of shadow fall from his hair as he rubs at his face, then sheathes the blade. "I can continue."
So saying, he finally looks up and around, determining what options lie open to them.
GAME: Seldan used a Chocolate Spider (Wriggles Slightly).
GAME: Seldan rolls 2d8+3: (9)+3: 12
Olek will move on along wit the others. Shield on his arm, but axe on his back, he walks along, relying on his darkvision, as much as it works here, to avoid pitfalls.
Malik watches as the others seem to make up their minds, just giving a tiny shrug as he moves to follow along behind the others, the archer mostly keeping the counsel of his own thoughts as they move along -- though the deepening frown on his face is probably plenty expressive of his feelings on the matter.
Kore reaches for the silver harp she wears on a chain about her neck and lifts it up from her shirt, hodling it out ahead of them. She actually closes her eyes as she presents the holy symbol. it begins to glow with a gentle lighht, the glow of it illuminating the half elf, if not her surroundings. Kore lets that glow guide her steps. "...We're surrounded by ghastly auras," Kore murmurs as she walks. "Pools of malevolence, burrowing things in the walls, and the tunnels themselves-"
Kore pauses in midstride, azure eyes snapping open as she glances back over her shoulder at the party. "The tunnels were dug by some burrowing monstrous creature. A horror or a demon of some sort. It could likely come through the walls at any time." She continues to walk.
Erendriel is floating along, following with the others, when Kore makes his comment. Her own head snaps. "Um.. come again? Um. Well. Let's move quickly then..."
Kore says, "p whirlpool=Kore is pretty much unflappable. Mostly because she's too mild-mannere to inconvenience the others by doing something as gauche as /panicking/..."
Kore says, "OOC Dang it autosay"
Seldan, having taken up the rear of the group, frowns and straightens further as the words float back to him. "That explains what I sensed. We must be wary." He still rubs at his temple occasionally as he walks, but pauses for just a moment. "_Alacha._" The word seems to summon the armor he'd put away earlier, and it unfolds from the cloak clasp at his neck with a loud clatter to form armor around him.
Malik's steps slow a bit as Kore makes her announcement, glancing back over his shoulder at the paladin, and then back to the rest of the party. "As compared to the -one- that almost tore us to pieces back there?" Malik thumbs over his shoulder. "What are we pressing on -towards-, then?" he asks the rest of the party. "IF this isn't an ambush, but a hive -- should we not be asking for reinforcements?"
GAME: Seldan rolls knowledge/arcana: (15)+11: 26
GAME: Kore rolls knowledge/arcana: (19)+9: 28
GAME: Malik rolls Knowledge/Arcana: (8)+18: 26
Garak flicks his gaze towards the walls and ceiling. "This would be ideal terrain for a creature that burrows. The walls and tunnels will hamper our own mobility but it could move virtually at will."
GAME: Garak rolls knowledge/arcana: (20)+9: 29
GAME: Erendriel rolls knowledge/arcana: (4)+10: 14
Olek shrugs as everyone speculates what we'll be facing and what might happen. He simply keeps his shield ready and his eyes on a swivel, looking around and back in case they come from behind. He doesn't have the special detector powers or magic spells, just raw grit and determination not to be defeated.
Erendriel nods to Malik. "I agree, at least that it's worth consdiering, but... do we know the way out? We found no way to go back where we came, right?"
Seldan had fallen quiet as the group stumps along, but out of nowhere, he looks up. "Burrowing ... and the bugs that lurk above. I think that a purple worm made this place." He reaches up to his forehead, and drops his hand. "It lives, since living spawn exist, and may strike us at any time. We must decide, are we equal to such a foe, or do we find a place to rest?"
"If a purple worm comes out beneath us while we rest..." Kore pauses here. "I am not sure we have much of a choice unless we find an exit." She continues to clutch her harp as she looks around.
Malik seems to realize it at roughly the same time that Seldan says it, some of the color draining from his face as his lips purse into a thin line, the archer drawing in a deep breath through his nostrils. "Even should we rest," he says, "the spawn could swarm us if they get hungry enough. Chances are that very little keeps them in that pit but convenience. Writhing meals all around you, and a few more morsels that fall in. And every step we take has a chance of attracting the attention of any of them." He just takes a moment, leaning against a wall and closing his eyes. "Every option is a bad option."
"A purple worm," Garak nods slowly as he recalls what he knows of the (in)famous monster. "I don't know where we could safely rest here under the mountain." He hesitates and glances back over his shoulder in the direction they came from. "If we even are under the mountain at this point. If there is a way to fortify our position that might be for the best. Structures of stone might stop them. Serriel allows me to shape or tesh stone, if we can find enough
Erendriel shakes her head. "Let's stick together, and move as quickly as we can, avoiding any fights we can, to get out as soon as possible."
Olek grumbles as everyone keeps yammering about what could eat us. "Unless you actually see or sense what's out there, the speculation is pointless. We can keep going, or we can camp here til something eats us. Let's just keep moving?" He's such a smooth talker. He nods at what Erendriel says, "Stick together, press on, and we'll see what happens. Unless one of you finger-wigglers can get us home?"
"Not just one." Seldan suddenly stands straighter as the others around him quail. "Where there be one, and there be spawn ... if it be living, there may yet be a second as well. I yet have fight left in me, should they strike. Let us return whence we came, if we can. We were sent to learn what is here, and that have we done, and when we have rested, we shall return prepared."
"But on our way perhaps we should set fire to the pit of spawn lest we return to an entire mountain of these things," Kore suggests. She stops walking finally, and turns on her heel to look back at the rest of the group. "It seems sensible. We can likely handle a purple worm on our way out if need be... But not two."
Garak purses his lips. "We haven't learned all there is here," he corrects. "Someone - or some thing - interfered with our magic. Placed that abomination outside the entrance as a guardian. Then there were the demons - the shadows," he clarifies. "A purple worm doesn't explain all of that. There must be something else."
Erendriel nods. "Then I hope we find what it is, on the way out. Because we need to come back with a larger team, better prepared specifically for purple worms. If such a thing is possible. It's just smart."
Malik just keeps silent, letting the others talk it out. The party will move by consensus, one way or another, but there's no point in generating more vibrations for the beast to track until a decision has been reached. But he seems on high alert, the knuckles on the bow-hand stark white as the small ball of fire orbits his head.
"After we've secured our way out I could scout the tunnels. I can track the worms, so I can stake out the burrows and report back. If we lay out a marked path a subsequent party may be able to avoid the worms entirely," Kore suggests, as one might suggest that it's a bit rainy out while on a walk. "I do think the group as a whole should retreat for now, we are far too visible as a unit. At least find a defensible position."
Edinaz has left.
Stjepan arrives, singing as he steps into the high grasses. Bluebirds sing.
Stjepan has arrived.
"He is right." Seldan speaks up again from the back, drawing a deep breath. "There is more here, and our return is blocked. This place lives, and we have not yet learned all of its secrets. Even do we find a way out ... how do we return, and will it stay if we do? No, the Vanguard is quite right. There is fight yet left in us, and there is more to learn. I would not return empty-handed."
Erendriel nods. "I'm fine with staying after we find a way out. But we can't return with information, if we don't return. On a scouting mission, survival and escape are part of the mission. It'd be different if we were on a mission of war."
Garak turns his gaze on Kore. "If you move slowly I can accompany you. I can change myself again to a vapor form." He looks at the rest of the party. "But we should also stick together. We will scout ahead, and then when it's clear the rest of you can move up." He looks around. "How many of tou can fly, or otherwise move without touching the ground? It may help to avoid detection."
Olek says to Garak, "I have a flying carpet, but it's only big enough for me." He's got no magical knowledge, so he's just waiting until our clever people work out a plan. He knows he is not clever. He hits things, that is his one task here, and when there's nothing to hit, he waits. He waits for things to hit. And when he sees them, well, they're going to get such a smacking.
Stjepan speaks up: "I can jump, but cannot fly on my own." He holds out giant arms, "as graceful as I am." He's not.
Erendriel points to her broom. "I get 8 hours a day of this, and we've been at it... a few. So I have 4 or 5 hours left of flying time. If we go longer than that I can no longer move without vibrations, unless we rest first."
"Then perhaps you should have saved your flying time for when it mattered, rather than when it was merely convenient." Malik glances over to Erendriel as she talks about the broom, but looks to the others. "Let's press on, then," he finally says, pushing off the wall. "If they're here, they already know where we are, no matter what it is we're walking into. Staying here only delays the inevitable, and probably hinders us more." The wizard seems to be in something of a bad mood, but that's not entirely unusual, pressing onward.
GAME: Malik rolls Perception: (6)+17: 23
GAME: Erendriel rolls perception: (12)+21: 33
GAME: Kore rolls Perception: (19)+17: 36
GAME: Seldan rolls perception: (2)+5: 7
GAME: Garak rolls perception: (20)+19: 39
GAME: Olek rolls perception: (8)+15: 23
GAME: Stjepan rolls perception: (16)+20: 36
GAME: Kore rolls will: (8)+11: 19
GAME: Seldan rolls will: (1)+20: 21 (EPIC FAIL)
GAME: Erendriel rolls will: (12)+8: 20
GAME: Malik rolls will: (18)+10: 28
As they pass by, Seldan kneels down by one of the pools and peers into it, without touching it. He draws a deep breath, and his eyes unfocus for perhaps the space of two breaths before he lets out a cry of anguish, both hands going to his head as he crumples to the floor of the stone tunnel, trembling like a leaf in a hurricane.
Indeed, passaing trhrough these tunnels is easily enough. You've been on the move for perhaps twenty minutes, feeling only the occasional vibration that's probably a bit more nerve-wracking than it was before you learned that you're in a tunnel with enormous and deadly worm monster that's live underground and their swarm of hungry, ravenous children.
It's all good, though, right? But then Seldan is left pale and shaking and crumpled, so you've had to stop for a moment, here in this tunnel, which spreads ahead into widening darkness, wider than the previous tunnels you've been in so far.
Malik turns as he hears Seldan's cry, running over to the man's side and dropping to his knees, hand moving to the paladin's shoulder. "Sel?!" There's concern on his face, and Malik is already digging through the bag that he carries with him, trying to find something that might be of use for whatever is happening to the paladin.
Olek peers at Seldan critically. "How bad -is- it?" So much tact. But he's got a bit of a tense relationship with paladins at the best of times. He looks around at the group, then says, "I'll carry him, and we can keep moving, eh? Unless one of you can do something for him?" He eyes Malik expectantly.
Garak drifts back and reforms into flesh and blood once more. He watches Malik and then turns away when it befomes clear he's going to treat Seldan. Garak examines the pool - from just at the edge of lance distance. "Did he see something?" he wonders.
Stjepan looks at Olek. "I can put him over one shoulder, and leave your hands free." A shrug. "He's little to me."
Erendriel looks around as people suggest things. "I have no way of... looking into his mind or anything like that, unfortunately. So I don't know what to suggest... but to carry him and keep moving."
It takes Seldan a minute, but his hands do drop from his head, and he pushes himself up to a sitting position, eyes closed, visibly shivering, grimacing. "I am all right," he manages breathily. "There is no ... need to carry me. The pool ... it is only ... a residue. The real evil ... surrounds us. It is ... chaos and evil given form. We are ... inside it." He seems to still be gathering his wits, forcing himself to speak.
Olek peers as Seldan as he comes around, and he'll offer the man a hand up to get back to his feet. "Glad you're back with us," he says. "We were worried." He looks around, grumbles, and adds, "But I think we need to keep moving. Waiting here seems like a bad plan."
Stjepan nods slowly, "So we're inside the belly of evil and that is its stomach bile?"
...and then you're moving again.
There's really no choice, right? You've got to keep going somewhere. Waiting around seems like an inevitable death sentence. It's strange, though. On occasion, it does feel like something about the tunnels have shifted. It could bne the lighting or shadows playing tricks on your eyes. Then agaihn, it could be manifestations of the illusion magics you were warned conceal entrances and openings here and there.
Finally, you find yourself at a dead end. You're about to backtrack when you notice a passage that wasn't there before, as if you missed it on the way by. It's an opening, yes, but an opening into a pitch-black void. At first, you can't make out anything beyond, but then you can see that, by looking down, you can make out the contours of a spiral shaped slope below you.
A length of black spider silk rope precedes the half-Mul'niessa Monk as she descends toward the spiral slope. She hooks a leg into the rope and slides, holding up her holy symbol as she descends, staring into the darkness. Kore, of course, needs no ligh t. She does her best to move quietly, though visible stealth on such a descent is probaly impossible.
Garak peers at the opening. As soon as other begin preparations to descend, he begins the process of changing back into a vapor form. "We'll call you when it's safe to follow," he leaves with those staying behind, then floats down into the void. True to his words, he concentrates on the slope, looking for a place where it's flat or there are projections that the others could climb down without much risk.
Olek eyes the pit warily, but digs around in his pack for his flying carpet. This thing has already proven useful, and so it is again. He sits down on it, and with a command, it rises a couple inches off the floor, and he'll fly down into the maw ... er, into the hole in the floor. He, like Kore, needs no light to see, so he descends into the darkness, shield up, one hand on his axe.
Erendriel is flying the whole time, so she will carefully bring up the rear. Eyes wide open and looking very carefully.
Several of you descend into the pitch darkness, bringing your lights with you. You now stand on the lip of a spiral that descends into the earth, in a much larger cavern than before. Up above you, you can see natural stalactites and crystals that indicate that this is a more natural location than before, though the spiral you're now standing on here certainly isn't. There's a feeling here, a present... staticy feeling. Like an ambient energy is raising goosebumps on flesh and the hair on the arms, legs, and back of the neck for those that aren't elfy enough to have them.
GAME: Kore rolls knowledge/nature: (16)+6: 22
GAME: Kore rolls knowledge/arcana: (7)+9: 16
GAME: Stjepan rolls knowledge/arcana: (13)+2: 15
GAME: Erendriel rolls knowledge/arcana: (11)+10: 21
The hole below them invites the group downwards, but seeing those descend into the hole using flying techniques, Seldan with a quiet word dismisses the folding armor, leaving him in bloodied robes again instead. He waits for the others, rubbing at his temple and peering down towards the spiral, then pulls his cloak closer around him.
Stjepan pauses. "Oh shit, that's probably magicite." He sucks his cheeks, wracking his brain /before/ he jumps.
Erendriel points as well, nodding toward Stjepan. "Yes. And probably more than we can see." She remains on her broom, moving slowly and carefully on it. "So.. if there's any magic around, gotta be very careful."
GAME: Malik rolls Perception: (15)+17: 32
GAME: Seldan rolls perception: (5)+5: 10
Malik watches as first one, and then three, and then all but he and Seldan start to descend down the spiral, eyes widening. "What part of 'scout ahead' involves -all- of them?" he asks his remaining companion, looking at the paladin incredulously, watching their descent as he shakes his head, looking like he's preparing to move himself. But something catches his eye. He stares down into the void, squinting -- and then his eyes widen as he slides to the edge of the hole, cupping his mouth to his hands and shouting, "THE CRYSTALS!"
A moment later, you see it. Oh, yes. THose are magicite crystals, all right. Moving. PUlling together. Taking form.
And falling. FAlling towards the spiral.
A golem made of magicite.
It reaches for Kore...