Finally, some rest. I take an uneventful first watch, to be followed K’aryk k’Lyyy and then Rokka.
In the middle of my blissful shut-eye, I’m rudely awakened by a foot to the ribs. “The fuck, Rokka? !?” is what I was going to yell, but it would’ve been useless as I would’ve been drowned out by the sounds of an Athasian Giant running at us full tilt, yelling “KREEEEN KREEN! KREEEEEEEEN! KREEEEEEN! KREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEN!‘
We get it buddy, this is Thri-Kreen land, enough already. Except this is a full-on giant, not one of those half-giants that are used as guards in Dragon’s Bowl – which means he has about as much sense as a bowl of rock soup. I mean, a nice bowl of rock soup, like my mother used to make – or maybe a nice gravel gravy. Mmmm, gravely. Could go for some of that.
So, shit. Chef Boulder-dee here probably isn’t running from Thri-kreen, he’s probably running AT us, thinking we’re Thri-kreen. And I was having such a nice dream. We’re probably in for a fight, but I’ll give the big fella the benefit of the doubt. I love-tap K’aryk k’Lyyy in the ribs with my boot ( do unto others, amiright Rokka you bastard? ), post up behind my shield (with The Umbertaker™ more-or-less ready), and holler at the Chef that we’re friendly, and most definitely not Thri-kreen. Although, seeing as how we’re speaking in common, have two arms apiece, and aren’t 6′ tall bipedal praying mantises, it feels extremely fucking redundant to me.
Apparently, the Chef’s eyes are crap, and he still manages to mistake a 4′ dwarf for a giant fuck-off bug, and sends me flying with a swing of his club. Honestly, I don’t think he’s even trying to figure out that we’re not insects.
Well, I tried to be peaceful, tried to be rational. I drop my shield, clench my Umberhulk-mandible greatsword and close on him, dealing out about as much damage as he did unto me.
Ooooooh, did I mention ( I know I did, shutup ) that I named my new weapon! I was thinking about something ironic like The Umberachiever™ or something like that, but metal and therefore irony is scarce in this land. So, The Umbertaker™ it is (fantastic off-the-cuff suggestion there, Mike!).
Anyways, the fight. Rokka is starting to learn some strategery – his squishy self stayed in the back and summoned up a sort of dust cloud around us ( K’aryk had flown off to safety, I guess ), and I take an opportunity to hit the big guy and knock him prone, and just back into the dust like I’m some sort of goddamned Bat-Man or something. *poof*
Apparently Chef really does have crap eyes – he just kinda seems to give up. It’s not long before K’aryk and another person arrive and gentle this giant. Rokka just kinda dissipates the sand cloud, and it’s not long before I get this dirty look from what is apparently the giant’s friend. Look, lady. Don’t give ME the stink-eye because YOUR giant went all loopy and started attacking things that are definitely not insect people.
Her name’s Aerie, and apparently the Chef goes by the name of Hodge. Who gives big, seemingly dumb big guys a name with a prefix of “Hod”or am I just crazy? I mean, really. Aerie’s apparently an archaeologist – so she basically a weaker/nerdier miner. She, Hodge, and two others from Freedom are nearby at a camp. They discovered a pit and apparently their party’s dwarf (note to self for fallback career: party dwarf) is the worst and he fell down this deep pit, and he can’t get out.
Seriously. Crap dwarf.
The rest of our party seems to be missing, so why not. The three of us, with the pebble nerd and
Hodor the Chef head over to the camp.
It’s a short hike, and they’ve set up camp in what looks like an ancient ruins – freestanding columns that no longer hold up roofs, rubble, parts of walls, debris. And sure enough, there’s the slightly-bigger-than-a-dwarfs-wingspan hole. And 60′ down at the bottom? Thermataz the Broken™ just laying there like the crap dwarf he is. Don’t like that name? Don’t fall down pits, buddy. That bit of life-coaching is free.
The hole is too small for K’aryk to glide down, so I lend him my cape from Feathergale which lets him featherfall down. Now THAT was a weird sight, seeing a birdfolk use a cape to glide.
K makes it down, and secures a rope around Thermataz. The pit opens to a room, and while there’s a door, this seems to be the easiest way out so I start pulling him up. Things seem to be going well, until Hodge starts yelling KREEEEEEEEN! KREEN! KREEEEN! again. He probably saw a stone and got confused or something.
Except, no. This is not the story of The Giant Who Cried Kreen. A sandstorm whips up from out of nowhere – I look over to Rokka so see if he somehow accidentally summoned a sandstorm by farting or something (look, I don’t know how magic works, okay?), and that’s where we hear the voice in our heads. At least, I’m assuming (hoping) it’s not just me, and looking at everyone else, it isn’t just me. Except, I can’t understand what it’s saying – I don’t recognize the language.
Doesn’t really matter though, since
THRI-KREEN ARE RISING OUT OF THE GODDAMNED SAND!
I didn’t think they worked like that. Doesn’t matter though, as it’s not just Thri-kreen – I see humans, dwarves, and creepy little pointy-toothed halflings rising out the sand, in various states of decay. I … I just don’t even know anymore, man. This is totally not how I saw today going.
I start lowering the still-attached dense mass of uselessness known as Thermataz back down to the bottom of the pit, and motion for the rest to follow as I anchor the rope – there’s not really anything to tie off to. Sand is so useless.
I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere.
And now? More of these bastards are popping up. Hodge is going on a tear nearby, basically playing Undead Wack-a-Mole with whatever comes up. A few rise by me, making it difficult to concentrate. One takes a swipe at me, so I basically curb-stomp it.
So now, it’s just me and Hodge (cue the Apocalyptica). He’s doing what he does best, yelling a single word over and over, while smashing things. I’m here to help his friends, and so must he. It’s, well, it’s not fair, but I think both he and I know how this story must end. I call out to him:
Hodge! Come here!
He starts making his way to me, club swinging to and fro, smashing everything unholy that rises from the ground. And now it’s not just humans, thri-kreen, and halflings, but elves and dwarves too. I don’t have long, and the other are almost down to safety. I throw the rope to Hodge, and yell over the roaring din:
Hodge! Protect your friends! Save them! Hold the rope!
HOLD THE ROPE!
I grab hold, and descend as fast as I can. It’s not easy – it jerks about as Hodge holds fast with one hand, while madly swinging his club with the other. And it’s getting slippery – something dark and slick is gliding down the rope, making it even harder to hold on to. I’m almost to the bottom – it’s only about 15 feet below me – when I suddenly plummet quickly.
Hodge has dropped the rope.
I focus as keenly as I can through the stars that are now swimming in my eyes from the fall. It seems quieter now, and I can make out a single large arm, hanging over the edge of the pit. And next to it – Hodge’s still head and his unmoving eyes, fixed on me. Blood drips down from him, and splashes on the floor of the pit, next to me.
The opening of the pit seems to be closing, but I know that’s not right. It’s getting smaller because these undead creatures are following us down. There’s no time to mourn – only the living can mourn the dead, and I intend to stay alive.
By the time I get up and into this room, Thermataz has been sort of bundled into a sling with K’aryk’s netting. Looks like it’s up to me to carry him – this isn’t exactly what I think about when I think of hot dwarf-on-dwarf action. I hand him my shield and a handaxe, and secure him back-to-back to me, so this legless wonder can at least fight off the oncoming undead.
By the time we get the door open to the next room, the undead are closing on us. I’m heading in last (or second-to-last), and I have a small amount of time process something about “stay on the earth stone” when I see Aerie step on a “wind” or “water” tile. It collapses underneath her, and since archaeologists aren’t exactly known for their speedy reflexes, the darkness of the pit below quickly envelops her as she falls to what is most likely a painful but hopefully quick death. There’s no ground here!
Shiiiiit. I have to make these jumps with a dwarf strapped to my back. I manage to dig deep though, and get a few tiles away from the door. Between the zombies blindly stumbling forward and some well placed crossbow bolts from K’aryk, the initial pressure of fighting off zombies AND safely navigating the room has been lessened. A bit.
I make my way across, but unfortunately, Canto can’t the same. At the far end, I’m standing on a tile, hanging on to a statue, hold on for our dear lives. Even with all that, I’m able to help Rokka by acting as an anchor – he’s apparently having trouble pulling some lever. That apparently gives him the boost he needed, and he’s able to open the door and get us the hell out of this room.
The next room’s not much better – the walls and ceiling are made of glass, and I get the feeling it’s made to close off the hallway, permanently, it the right lever is thrown. Not like it matters now though, as the door to the room behind us seals shut. We take a breather to assess our situation. There’s a wooden door off a bit from a side hallway, and this main hallway ends in a large metal door. Metal! Something tells me we won’t like what it’s protecting – or perhaps what it’s protecting US from.
The three of us (and Captain Ballast the Wonderdwarf strapped to me) head down the side hallway, through the unlocked wooden door. It opens to an elven bedroom. It’s strange and ancient – the walls depict battles between dwarves and elves, but the dwarves have full beards and hair! In one corner, by three pillars, sit a pile of elven clothes, too. I set down Thermataz and go to take a closer look at the pillars when this goopy (both seemingly is speech patterns and ectoplasmic consistency) emerges. His name is Poluntides and he talks more than I care for, and is apparently the guard of the Tomb of Princess Diaphandra. So I’m guessing she’s what’s behind that heavy metal door.
We end up lighting an extinguished torch that was lying on the ground, and replace it in its sconce on the wall. Upon doing so, a secret door opens in the wall! On the floor I spy a few shiny coins, and go to pick them up.
Of all the time that I’ve been carrying Thermataz, why couldn’t have right then, when the trapdoor swung open below me, dropping me 20′ into an acid pit? Of all the luck…
Thankfully, K’aryk is a quick thinker and tossed down some rope and I was able to climb out relatively quickly. If I’d had a beard, I probably wouldn’t anymore. One thing we noticed though was a key, sitting on the bottom of the acid pit. Betcha I know what it opens.
So what do we do? We need the key, but maybe the answer to getting it lies with these pillars/altars. They each have a pair of cupped stone hands, filled with water. There must be some sort of spell on them, for they all appear to have something in their palms – something that’s not really there though. One has a metal eyeball, one a book, another a sword. The gabbing gloopy ghost says something about “An eye for an eye, a mind for a mind, a tooth for a tooth” and Rokka gets a crazed look in his eye.
Next thing we know, Rokka has knocked out one of his teeth and placed into the cupped hands with the sword. There’s a strange rumbling, and the altar opens, revealing what looks to be a sword. Except … it’s not made of metal. It’s a Green Dragon’s tooth, and it’s been fashioned into a weapon! Wait .. green dragons! Acid!
K’aryk knocks down the emptied pillar, and pushes it into the acid pit below. We affix this new weapon to my glaive, tie a rope around K’aryk, and lower him into the pit, standing (relatively) safely on an exposed part of the altar. On his first try, he’s able to recover the key without damaging the glaive or more importantly, Rokka’s new sword. As we take a quick breather, I see again the glint of those three coins, and quickly pocket them.
Well, seeing how Rokka got the sword, K’aryk turns to the altar with the book, and just stares it down. He seems to be concentrating very hard, and just when I think it won’t work, it rumbles open, revealing an ancient elvish book which he quickly picks up. He seems shaken though – I wonder just what that book cost him.
There’s but one left, an eye. We know what the cost will be, but what exactly the reward is, remains a mystery. I’ve been blessed with great dark-vision, and as I’m pondering the sacrifice required, Rokka starts to … change. He knows what is needed, and has apparently learned some things from Tylorre that are … less than savory. Almost without discussion, Rokka puts his new sword to use and ends Thermataz. Part of me is grateful that he’s no longer a burden for me to bear, and considering his crippled future it may have ultimately been a kindness, but it seems wrong.
Rokka removes an eye, and drops it into the hand, revealing a metal eye with a blue iris – the “Wizard Eye“. We decide to just hold onto it for know, and use the salvaged key to open the great metal door.
This is indeed Princess Diafronda’s burial chamber – tombs encircle the room and in the middle is an ornate sarcophagus with what I assume is the Princess, perfectly preserved atop it. And then suddenly, a spirit rises from below her, and that same terrible voice rings trhough my head, but this time I can understand it. She says:
The next handful of moments are a blur, between fighting off rising corpses and telling tales of battle and deception (which seems to pacify the spirit enough to attack her) when all of a sudden, the spirit is banished and the elven woman in the center of the room suddenly sits up and gasps. It’s Diaphandra, and she’s been asleep for a very, very long time.
Session Date: 06/09. Prior Journal XP: 250. Session XP: 950