The Threat From the Deep

Blingdenstone
Significantly less pimpin' than one might expect

Note: We agreed that it would be best to post adventure logs as they are completed, rather than putting them off forever until we get the older ones finished. We can rearrange them later by deleting and re-posting them.

Rhovanion’s exceedingly long account of his arrival into the city with Lucien and Francis

We arrived at the dwarven city of Blingdenstone after days of travel. I was starting to think those guys were just as lost as we were, but then we reached this giant door and Ulfgar told us that we would be interrogated. If we turned out to be spies, we would be executed. Charming. Though really, were we supposed to expect a warm welcome in the Underdark? I wondered how the others were doing. We’d gotten separated in the labyrinthine tunnels before running into these somewhat friendly dwarves. Hopefully the rest of the group hadn’t run into anything especially big and bitey while we’d been enjoying a nice stroll. Will we see them again? Will we see the light of day again? This place is hardly a five-star resort, you know. Not that I’ve been to one. I could definitely use a spa though, and maybe something resembling a mattress. I don’t suppose they’d treat us to any of that while we’re awaiting trial.

Blingdenstone was a sight all right. Glowing with torchlight and reaching high above our heads, its multi-storied expanse making it seem far more city-like than I thought was possible underground. Does that make me a racist? Ah well, at least I’ve been able to keep myself from calling Ulfgar “Captain Stumpy”. I have the feeling that he wouldn’t hesitate to clock me in the jaw. It would be a shame to ruin such a fine jaw, really, so I’ve tried to keep my less-than-flattering comments to myself. Not that I’ve been keeping much of anything else to myself. Someone’s got to make this endless walk more entertaining.

Their king is a scary dude. Almost as tall as me, and twice as wide if not more. He’s not very friendly, though I figured he couldn’t be too lenient with potential spies. But we’re innocent, so there was nothing to worry about. Or so I thought. Turns out that we lit up like holiday trees on a magic scan, and my medallion was especially intriguing to them. Normally I can explain away these things, but the clever little buggers had some truth spell on us, and I’m not exactly good with the truth. I tried to sidestep with a half-truth, but they weren’t satisfied. I did my best to look harmless and ease the King’s suspicions, but I stumbled into a lie in the process. Crap.

I could feel Francis’s stare boring into me, knew there would be another interrogation when we got out of here. Still, I was doing a decent enough job of looking like I wasn’t scared as hell to be backed into a corner like this. Cause, well, it’s me, right? Nothing bothers me, ‘cept maybe getting stabbed. And I had a sneaking suspicion that with Lucien silently freaking out at my side, very few people in the room were going to remain stab-free. Not if someone didn’t do something to defuse the situation. I thought surely there had to be something I could say to get off the hook, but my throat closed up and I could only stare blankly back. This wasn’t happening. Couldn’t be, because I had always been able to lie myself out of a situation before. Well, most situations. Then I saw a flash of movement in front of me, felt a tug, and the familiar, reassuring weight of the medallion was gone.

I felt as though my stomach had been dropped down a mineshaft. There was pale hair sitting on my shoulder where it had been black before. I snatched it in my fist like I could possibly gather it all up and hide it in the palm of my hand. My gaze dropped to the ground, as if looking away might hide those eerie soulless eyes. But there I stood, exposed and unnatural and wrong. I heard Francis ask if it was really me, and I can’t answer for a few moments. I know what the answer is, but I don’t like it. Yes, this is me. But I refuse to accept this as the “real” me. This is not a part of who I am. Not if I sweep it under the carpet.

I heard the sound of steel and flinched sideways, only to see Lucien drawing his sickle. I saw the king start to raise his axe and – oh no you don’t – threw myself at him and tried to pin his arms. It was a stupid move, but the only one I could make quickly enough. Did I really think that I could hold down a man exponentially larger than me? No. But I hoped to keep him busy for a while. Maybe I would figure something out while getting the stuffing pounded out of me. Always a great moment for clarity, that.

Chaos. I wasn’t sure which way was up but – ow – never mind, I just found the floor. The floor and I are no longer on speaking terms. It’s going to take more than a bottle of tequila to reconcile us, you bastard. Oh, better get up. Maybe take on someone who’s not the biggest guy in the room. Run. Francis is trying to stop Lucien from attacking. Good luck with that, you’re going to need it. I knew I should go over there and try to talk Lucien into backing the fuck off but the king was right there and I definitely couldn’t stay on my feet if he clocked me in the head again. Then I took it all in, how many of them there were, how few of us. We couldn’t win this. I wasn’t even sure that we wanted to be fighting the only civilized people down here for who knows how far. Francis had made his position clear. This was my fault. Damn conscience. I had to fix this, somehow.

We surrendered, or, well, I surrendered for us, and we were dragged back into line before the king. I stared straight ahead. There was nothing I could do, nothing that wouldn’t get me killed even faster. If I got lucky, maybe they would throw me in prison. I couldn’t think about the alternative. I couldn’t look at Lucien either. He was still struggling, the sound grating in the back of my head. Stop. Just stop. I opened my mouth and closed it again. What was I going to say? I felt so blank. I barely flinched at all when I heard the king smack Lucien. He didn’t deserve to be treated like that, even if he was asking for it a little. He just didn’t understand. Not that I deserved any of this either. It wasn’t like I chose to be this way. And Francis, well, he was just confused and a little hurt to be left out of the loop.

A few questions later, and we were put in a cell. Francis took the opportunity to grill me and insist that it would be better for everyone if we didn’t keep secrets. Right. Because I was totally going to mention that I’m half something evil while we were chilling around the campfire. Like Saskia wouldn’t have filleted me in an instant and Brynhilde wouldn’t have held me down while she did it. I’m used to it. Well, I haven’t died before, but you get the idea. It’s not exactly the kind of revelation that is met with calm. How Francis could shrug it off like it was nothing, I had no idea. Maybe he’s keeping his real thoughts to himself because we outnumber him. Maybe he’s afraid of what Lucien would do. Maybe he’s studied so much that it’s all just data to him, that this is just information and does not have consequences.

Stop. Stop thinking about it. I sounded almost angry when I told Francis that most people will and have judged me more for what I am than who I am. But I couldn’t be angry, because it’s me and I don’t get bothered by things. Not even people trivializing issues they know nothing about. Except that Francis does know something about this word the dwarves keep calling me. I feel like this should make me feel better, to know what I am. I’m not just some nameless demonic half-breed now, I’m half Drow and there’s a city full of them in the Underdark. Great. Let’s go party with my evil rapist father, shall we? No thanks.

Shit, I’m being childish. Maybe it does help to have words for things. But what if it’s a thing I’d rather just cover up and forget? It’s not a part of me, not if I don’t let it be. I’m not evil, I’m not a spy, and I’m not ready to die in this awful place. I want out. Sure, maybe half of me ought to feel at home here, but it doesn’t work that way. My eyes don’t hurt much down here, since the lights aren’t so bright, but it still feels wrong. I’m pretty sure something’s wrong with one of my eyes too. I can distinguish light and dark, but nothing else. I’ll have to get it checked out sometime. Maybe it was one of those blows to the head? I’ve noticed it getting worse over the past couple days. Will I be completely blind in that eye? Is it reversible? Am I rubbing at it too much? Will I ever get used to having such a large gap in my vision? You know, a person less laid-back than I might start spooking every time someone appears out of nowhere, but I’m getting used to it. I’ve noticed that I’ve started to stand with Lucien in my blind spot. Not that I’d rather not look at him, but I know him. He’s got my back. Better to face anything unexpected with my good eye.

The king came to interrogate us further. My voice sounds far away, weak, defensive. Shit. Shitshitshit. I’m losing my cool, aren’t I? I backed up and shut my mouth. The king was suggesting a test, but I couldn’t focus. There was all this white noise in my head. I kind of liked it that way, it was better than taking a walk down memory lane. It took all of my focus just to try and get a grasp of what was being discussed. Sure. Go ahead. Do anything. I’ll do whatever you want. Francis must’ve made some good decisions, because we were moved from our small cell to roomier quarters and told we could roam the city at will before our test. I couldn’t go out looking like this though, and Lucien wasn’t about to leave without me. Francis stayed behind too, though probably because he didn’t want to go out alone in this strange place. A pity, because he could have spent that time studying something other than me. I kept pulling my hair back so I wouldn’t have to look at it, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was being watched. Not being able to hide was uncomfortable, to say the least.

We slept to pass the time, and when we awoke next it was nearly time for whatever the king had in store for us. The others didn’t seem to know what was planned for us either, so I guess I hadn’t missed much when I spaced out. Waking up and remembering where we were was a little nauseating. I’m not used to being that nervous, but with no idea what’s ahead I couldn’t really prepare myself. I felt like I ought to say something to ease the tension a little, but my big mouth hadn’t exactly been serving me well so far in this place. My mind seemed to be running a mile a minute one moment, and sluggish the next. Which was usually right about when I was supposed to be doing something.

We were led out through the city and beyond, so far that the warmth of the fires was distant and we had only cold stone before us. I didn’t feel the cold much and tried not to think of why. There was a wide stone corridor ahead of us, with massive statues of dwarves at intervals along the length of it. The king and his guards halted, and he instructed us to go on alone. I didn’t mind one bit. Well, except for the fact that this was some gauntlet full of tests that we had to pass and it probably wasn’t going to be easy. As exceedingly talented as we were, there were only three of us. And we felt very small walking past those statues. I straightened my shoulders a little and made short work of getting far from the king. I happened to stumble across a pressure plate that activated some sort of electrical spell. What a way to wake up in the morning! If you could really call this morning.

I kept looking for traps, but my eyes aren’t really what they used to be. As in one instead of two. Lucien rushed past a plate that made two of the massive ancestor statues creak to life. Balls. After a moment of panic I noticed that the rough-hewn side passageway narrowed significantly. Unfortunately not enough to make running away a viable solution, but we could bottleneck them and take one at a time. I told the others this and bolted through. Lucien didn’t seem to want to listen; he just wanted to destroy everything. His sound burst seemed especially effective though, causing cracks to appear in the stone of one of the ancestors. Francis managed to stop one of the stone giants in its tracks by dispelling the magic that animated it. Then he made it through the passageway, and I yelled at Lucien to haul his ass over. Maybe he forgot the plan, but I got the impression that he thought he could take a lot more than he really could. Two ancestors? No. Those things hit hard.

It was an unusual and harrowing battle. I jumped back and forth between trying to wedge the cracks open with my spear from a safe distance and running around giving healing potions to Lucien and Francis. Luckily I had a decent stock for the purpose of looking out for number 1, so I was able to get the ones who were taking all the heat back on their feet. By the time the other ancestor regained the ability to move, we’d had time to do some pretty serious damage to the first. It crumbled into rubble. Heartened by our success, the second stone ancestor did not take long to fall. Then we followed the passageway until I found another pressure plate in the floor and managed to disable it so who-knows-what wouldn’t come to kick our asses.

Behind a locked door was an impressive pile of gold and enchanted items. Mighty tempting, I must admit. I was sure that we hadn’t been the first to come down here, so to think that people would’ve just left that stuff there was a little unusual. Suspicious. So as much as we could’ve used some extra swag, we left it alone. Then there was another locked door at the other end of the room, which led to a shrine littered with symbols of the dwarven god Moradin. There was a raised platform on which hovered a spirit, and when we climbed up it began to speak to us. We were illuminated from some unseen source, and then told that we had passed the test of greed as well as those of strength and wit. Can I have that in writing? Then the spirit swelled up and was replaced by what seemed to be Moradin himself. It was intimidating as hell, the way he looked through us, scrutinizing our moral fiber or whatever he was up to. Whatever it was, Francis must have been a hell of a lot easier to clear than Lucien and I. We’re a little anomalous when it comes to being good guys. But then afterwards there was this wash of something and everything felt a lot better. A smile reasserted itself over my previously blank expression.

We walked back to the gauntlet’s entrance, tired and beaten up but feeling pretty good about ourselves. The high priestess confirmed that we had passed the tests, and we were led back to the city and to our quarters. We were to await our audience with the king, which would no doubt be friendlier now that their god had given us the thumbs-up. Some rest sounded like a mighty fine plan to me. I was too worn out to worry about much. I would ask for my medallion back, I would put away this unnatural, unsettling ensemble and Francis would keep his trap shut and everything would go back to normal. Everything would be all right.

I smirked at Lucien and gave him a nudge with my arm. “Hey, d’you think I stand a chance of scoring with that priestess?” I asked, more for the sake of making noise than out of interest. I brushed some blonde hair out of my peripheral vision casually and tried to pretend that things were all right already. Whether it was more for him or for me, I couldn’t tell. But even this small shred of normalcy was nice, a hundred times better than the silence and the wondering. I gestured enthusiastically with my hands as I launched into a rather comical analysis of what a priestess may or may not find appealing in a dashing scoundrel like me.

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Sutherport

The Voyage from Sutherport according to Lucien

Ashenport is empty when we return, so we leave for a town called Sutherport. We walk for days. Rhove is still unsteady. Something is wrong. He’s never taken this long to get better after a fight. When we get to Sutherport, we go to the temple to find out what’s wrong. The man there says Rhove was cursed. It probably happened when he was touched by the old man who lived under Ashenport. The one that made the crab-people. Does that mean Rhove will turn into crab-people? The man at the temple says he can lift the curse if Rhove spends the night in the temple. I’m glad. I don’t want Rhove to turn into crab-people. Rhove asks if there are any lady nurses.

We go to talk to a man in a lighthouse. He doesn’t know about crab people, but he tells us lots of other things and Francis writes them in a book. Then we go to the tavern. There is a sea captain who looks like he has been there for a very long time. He tells us he was attacked by sea dragons, but agrees to take us to Port Chancer anyway. We drink with the sea captain and Brynhilde plays her flute. She says she only knows one song, but she plays it very well so she plays it three more times. When the bar closes, Rhove goes to the temple to rest, but they won’t let me in. I sleep on the steps.

Rhove is looking better in the morning. We find the sea captain. He’s not as drunk as he was last night and the ship is bigger than the ferry we took to Ashenport. This is good. Especially if there are sea dragons. The voyage is good until someone points out that something very big is following us and the crew starts to get scared. We try to outrun the underwater thing, but it catches up with us anyway. Tentacles come out of the water. They are very big tentacles. The biggest tentacles I’ve ever seen. Rhove won’t like this. I look around, but I can’t find him anywhere. So I attack one of the tentacles. I don’t hurt it very much, but I’m sure I will if I keep attacking and Brynhilde seems to be having more luck with her axe. I hear Dandlebar telling the captain that this is an octopus, not a dragon. The captain doesn’t seem happy.

It gets warmer. I turn and see that Francis has set one of the tentacles on fire. The tentacles slowly go back into the water and the octopus swims away. Francis should set things on fire more often.

When we arrive in Port Chancer, we take our leave of the captain and some men from the watch come to bind our weapons. They call it peace-bonding. We leave the harbor and make our way into the city.

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From Clifftop to Sutherport
Cultists and fish-men and bears, oh my!

The impromptu band of heroes set out from Clifftop at first light, taking the advice of the town’s elders and heading towards the tower of Wimrick the Sage, who undoubtedly could help them in their search for answers. Wimrick’s tower stood several days’ journey South from Clifftop, in the midst of the lowlands. The party made it there almost without incident, but encountered a fearsome beast in the woods near the tower: a dire bear. A ferocious opponent, the party supposed that it had been driven to such ferocity by the supernatural weather experienced on the coast in recent days. Brynhilde slew the beast after jumping onto its back, and the party arrived at Wimrick’s tower without further incident.

Wimrick was a most hospitable host, and gave the heroes much sagely advice, and gifted them each with an artifact sure to help them in their journey. He advised them to take the ferryboat south to the city of Port Chancer, on the southern coast of Gardania. There they might find the Keepers of the Cerulean sign, an order Wimrick thought might have insight into the odd events of the past week. Wimrick’s invitation for tea is a standing one extended to the intrepid band of heroes, and they were assured that they were always welcome to visit.

In the late afternoon the party left Wimrick’s tower and boarded the ferry to Port Chancer. Unfortunately, a wicked storm was brewing. It reached its height as the heroes were on the river that very night. After a harrowing night keeping the raft afloat, the party managed to disembark before it was swept away in the violent rapids. Sodden and soaked, standing in a torrential thunderstorm, the party headed for their only chance for shelter – the small coastal town of Ashenport.

At Ashenport the party quickly realized that everything was not as it seemed. Folk seemed friendly – and Francis and Brynhilde were suspicious. After a night’s sleep, the party questioned the town mayor and several other citizens – despite a cryptic warning from the Mayor, Alderman Ritter, nothing seemed out of the ordinary – until the following night, when a mournful call from beyond the sea compelled several guards and other visitors to fall into a waking trance, and walk themselves off of the pier into the roiling ocean, to drown. Shaken and confused by this, the heroes investigated further, and discovered evidence of a cult hidden in the town – a cult of what they were unable to discern. The Call again was uttered shortly after noon, and several more innocents found watery graves – but in rescuing some of the walkers, the heroes encountered alien creatures rising from the sea: squamous fish-men covered in shifting scales and slime. They battled the creatures and managed to save several men from drowning, but returned to the inn still perplexed. The elusive cult was yet to be found.

Their break came when they walked in on Peter, the innkeeper, attempting to poison their food with black ichor-like substance. When confronted, Peter told the heroes of a cult gathering in the Gleaming Dawn Church – and more disturbingly, that the whole town was part of it. Rushing to the church, the party found it empty – but Rhovanion found a secret door underneath one of the pews and the heroes descended beneath the church into a stony crypt. There they discovered the cult’s true place of worship. Dread carvings lined all the walls, and pools of black water lent the catacombs a disturbing air. The heroes fought through more fish-men and cultists, including Alderman Ritter and Sharallan, the false priestess of Pelor, before finding the leader of the dread cult – a man who called himself Althanis. He attempted to turn the heroes to the worship of his alien sea-god, but the party slew him, even as he transformed into a maddening mockery of human shape and cursed Rhovanion with dark magicks. With Althanis fallen, the party believed their trials in Ashenport to be done…but that was not the case.

A third Call sounded across the waves, even as the heroes emerged from the cult’s lair. The storm worsened, and more fish-men emerged from the waves to usher the innocents to their watery graves. The party fought them off, and found a trail leading to a cave system, hidden by the high tides. They climbed down the rain-slick cliffs, only to encounter a motley of hideous creatures as they fought tooth and nail through the wet caves. Swarms of sea-creatures given wriggling, clicking unlife chased the heroes deeper into the caves, where they encountered a creature that had no place on this earth. The Gibbering Mouther, an amorphous conglomeration of eyes and toothy mouths, born of some alien realm, dropped amongst them and the heroes battled it, even as it attempted to devour Francis with its many mouths, all the while babbling and cackling in alien tongues. The heroes slew the creature, and fought their way to the central chamber – where they encountered the mastermind of Ashenport’s demise. An Aboleth, a member of an ancient race bent on the enslavement of the surface world – a powerful psionic presence. It lured the party into the deep water, where it fought them fiercely with tentacle, maw, and magic. In the end several of the heroes nearly died that day, but the Aboleth was slain, and in the moment all life faded from it, a final mournful Call came from the sea, but one signaling madness and anger, rather than one of beckoning. The curse on Ashenport was broken. The heroes would have been overjoyed despite their brush with death, but they returned from the caves to a chilling scene: Ashenport was deserted, and there was no trace of the townsfolk save for hundreds of footprints in the mud, leading to the ocean. The sea had taken its price, even as the storm lifted and the sun shone once more. Disheartened but alive, the party left Ashenport behind and continued on their way to Sutherport, where they would catch a ship to Port Chancer and learn some answers.

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Hot Damn, a Lady.
Dear water, fuck you.

I just vomited up some water. Okay, a lot of water. Evil motherfucking water. It was sentient down there! Even grabbed me. I feel violated. Okay, not really. But I do feel like shit. Remind me never to retire to a lake or some easily-floodable hole in the ground. And please kick me next time I try to do anything heroic or altruistic. Hope you enjoyed it while it lasted, folks, because I do not plan to put my nimble ass on the line ever again. I nearly got left behind! Oh god, motherfucking water everywhere. Ahem, excuse my language. Nearly drowning is a harrowing experience. In fact, everything has been such a blur. I’ve hardly had time to collect my thoughts.

In the morning we went down to the lower level. I’m not so sure that I would’ve gone down had I known what waited for us there. I mean, it didn’t start out so bad. We fought some souped-up expanding prisonmaster in the hall. I made some less-than-patient decisions and got whacked around more than I would’ve liked, but it was one guy and even the narrow hallway didn’t restrict us much. I was starting to enjoy myself, despite the stabbing. We found some battleaxe with a ram-shaped pommel on the prisonmaster’s body. Then, in one of the cells we found a particularly tough-looking dame who introduced herself as Brynhilde the bardbarian. I was as welcoming as could be expected, but I guess the allure of freedom somewhat eclipsed my charm. She seemed much more focused on getting revenge on her captors. She quite liked the axe we gave her. Why didn’t I get to give her the axe? It’s not like stumpy ol’ Mandibles has a chance of scoring with her. Oh well. It’s not like I’m hard to notice. Keeping a low profile might be a useful skill for someone who would rather not shout to the world that he has some demonic blood in him, but silence is an uncommon state for me. Luckily my smile and exquisite bone structure often prove distracting enough to mask any suspicion of my illusion. That’s right folks, just black hair, brown eyes and dark skin here. Nothing to see. Nothing to worry about, at least. I would hardly say that I’m ordinary. I have a multitude of skills, and let it suffice to say that not all of them are combat-oriented.

Oh, I’m talking about myself again. But hey, can you blame me? When surrounded by so many others that are the best at what they do, it’s easy to feel like you’re going unnoticed. I mean, I know Lucien cares. He frets, he defends me, he puts up with my bullshit. But it’s certainly not the admiration I’m used to. He’s tougher than I am, as much as I hate to admit it, and sometimes faster too. It’s hard to feel very talented in his small, unassuming shadow. It’s the kind of thing I would hate anyone else for, but it’s Lucien. He doesn’t have a smug bone in his body. And he struggles so much with the little, ordinary things in life. It seems petty to begrudge him any affinity he does possess. Even when it makes me look inept.

Dungeon stuff. Right. So we went into this garbage disposal room and encountered a truly hideous tentacly creature with a great big mouth that looked like something I might imagine up. Except even my imagination isn’t this twisted. A lesser man might have crapped himself at the sight of something so ugly and, ugh, smelly. I’ll have to scrub myself for hours to get clean enough just from being in the same room as that thing. It was mighty gross. It bled freaking yellow. And the walls were all slimy. Just ew. Do I sound like a little girl freaking out about this shit? You had to be there. It smelled so bad. I need to go boil myself.

It picked up Lucien and tried to squeeze the life outta him. By that time I was around the pit and behind the ugly smelly tentacly thing, and could only twist my spear into that vile creature’s flesh in protest. I know Lucien is normally the protective one, but I don’t like people fucking with my friends. Especially since I never seem to be able to hang on to any. Luckily the others were able to sever the tentacle before I either burst a blood vessel or abandoned my advantageous strategical position. He was free. But something wasn’t right. I braced my forward foot in front of me and threw my weight behind the spear as I let into it again. We had to finish this. Fast. I’m not sure why I felt such a hurry. Imagine my surprise when only moments later a ball of fire flew into its mouth and it exploded. Everywhere. Ew. It was not pretty. I tried to wipe it off and it just smeared. I need to go boil myself.

Lucien seemed to have contracted some sort of sickness from the filthy thing, but none of us were able to cure him or stop the progression of the disease. It didn’t seem to be progressing quickly, so I relaxed a little. He seemed fine to continue. In an empty room we found a troll gut rope that is enchanted to extend from 50ft to 350ft. Francis was overjoyed. There was also some bluish chainmail. Meh. That shit’s too heavy for me. I tend to survive by being a slippery sort. We went down some stairs and had to fight three other disturbing expanding man-creatures. They seemed to heal pretty quickly, it was hard to keep them down. Plus two of them got so big that they exploded into fire. I wonder if that helped sear some of the tentacle-monster-filth off my armour.

We had to navigate our way through a cavern where there had been a cave-in. Candlebar got a nasty maggot attached to his arm while he was searching in the shadows. Then we emerged into a room full of rubble, and I got distracted and fell into a pit trap. Or, well, almost did. I caught the lip and they pulled me out. I wasn’t even thinking about ladies this time! Well, maybe a little. I don’t mind following behind Brynhilde, if you know what I mean. We found some letters and a magic monocle. The chick got hit with a poison dart. I guess she won’t have the stamina for me tonight. Not that anyone’s likely to have a pleasant night after the horrors we’ve seen… and worn. I remain optimistic that our new lady friend will be more open to deepening our acquaintance when we are out of danger.

Then we came into a big room with no other exit, the last room of this creepy place. And only one dude in it! Awesome. He was a weird sort, caped and decidedly less pretty than some individuals you have come to know. He told us that it was his ugly motherfuckers that we’d killed, and that for honour’s sake he was giving us a chance to leave alive. Brynhilde grumbled. I said something clever. Lucien shot him. But still, it was one guy! I was starting to think we might be able to make it back to Clifftop in time for breakfast, giving me time to boil myself and talk to a healer about this awful sort of imploding feeling I’ve got inside. Something isn’t right. Then the guy with the cape called forth more of those awful bulging healy dudes, and we certainly had our hands full. I kept spearing the cape guy and avoiding most of his attacks (ha! bet you wish you could get your hands on this body, eh?), and Lucien and I teamed up on him for a while until Lucien went to help the others. I think I saw our friend the acid beetle doing a number on one of the juiced dudes near the back of the room. Finally, it seemed the tide of battle had turned in our favour. And that’s when the guy I was getting quite fond of skewering decided to leave us quite rudely. Not without triggering some sort of flooding mechanism in the pool at the back of the room, of course. Cowardly piece of shit!

Brynhilde was down. I was closest. To the rescue? You betcha. Here’s hoping she remembers this fondly. The water was rising. There was a cave-in blocking our exit, Cookiejar reported from up ahead. Momentary panic seized my chest, ribs compacting uncomfortably. A crash in the war room we had found the letters in drew my attention and I ran to it. Another cave-in had broken down a wall that led into the cavern section. I bellowed my finding, sick with relief. I couldn’t die yet. I hadn’t even tried to sleep with the innkeeper! Still, it was difficult climbing over the pile of rubble. The water was still rising, and fast. Bumpercar wasn’t able to move very quickly. We were the last ones who hadn’t climbed over the caved-in wall. Rather than leave him behind to navigate the large pile of uneven rock, I picked him up and carried him over, setting him down once we were over the difficult terrain. I felt an odd sense of accomplishment. At the very least that would buy me a few days of kneecap-chewing-free name-calling. And clearly he could see that I was more useful as I was and not newt-ified.

The water was rising. More, more and still more. My boots sloshed through the water, greatly slowed despite my efforts to catch up to the others. The water crept higher, and I fell still further behind. I lost my footing and choked on some water. I could feel fatigue tearing at my body. I could barely see anyone now, but I set my jaw and hauled myself up the steps to moderately drier ground. The sudden change, and my haste, knocked me down again. It was getting harder and harder to swim, the icy currents of that dark water battering me against walls and trying to pull me under. I was coughing and spluttering to free my lungs of water. I got the impression that maybe if I didn’t fight so hard it would be easier. Maybe if I rested a little I wouldn’t be so tired. The sense of urgency in me was dying. Where was Lucien? I couldn’t see anyone. They were leaving me behind. I was good and they were leaving me behind. Maybe just a quick rest. The water was rising. I had to catch up. I was vaguely aware of a rope around my shoulders. But my body felt so heavy, and everything was so far away…

The world exploded into light and air as I was hauled up through the large hole in the floor of the level above. My lungs screamed to life as I landed in a drenched heap, coughing and vomiting up water. I shakily got to my feet, weakened more than injured. I was relatively free of holes. A single watery tentacle reached up through the hole in the floor, reaching for Lucien. “Fuck no!” I shrieked with decidedly less composure than usual, my shortsword slicing through the appendage and reducing it to simple liquid. I scrambled for the exit, my legs finding some desperate strength in them. The water had reached this floor now, and there was a large wave of sorts crashing up ahead. An even larger one was beginning to amass itself where the hole in the floor had been. I bolted out the exit as fast as my weary legs could carry me, and stopped on the ledge with the others. My heart was pounding in my ears, each rapid breath feeling like it was being crushed down and out of me. I was alive. But “we”? I wasn’t sure how much of a “we” there was. “We” were just a motley band of strange folk, most of whom barely knew each other. And I was certainly not going to put other people before myself like that again.

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Big Damn Heroes
Dammit, I hate getting stabbed.

Just for the record, waking up to smoke inhalation is probably among the worst of rude awakenings. Not to mention that outside didn’t look a whole lot safer with lizard people charging down the street. I don’t think I’ve ever leaped out of bed so quickly without ahem motivations of the carnal variety. Need I say more?

Armour on, we booked it out of there. Someone had the courtesy to bang on the doors to check if anyone was an especially heavy sleeper. I don’t think the inn was especially full, only four of us ran out. There was no time for relief with all those ugly little bastards coming at us though. I’m pretty sure my hair was a mess. It wasn’t one of my greatest moments. There was a lot of smoke, but at least it wasn’t too bright out. With the fire at my back, I could see everything except what was in the smoke. There were a lot more than we’d seen from the window. They just kept coming! I was heartened to see that my spear was a lot longer than theirs. Heh. I was able to keep them from messing up my pretty face too much.

Luckily our inn-fellows were hardly green to battle either. I was especially surprised by a bookish young man who proved to be more dangerous than he looked. I haven’t met many wizards, but short stuff wasn’t doing too bad either off to the side there. His aim was exceptional, if a little low. Funny name, that one. Handlebar Daddylonglegs or something, though he might chew on my kneecaps if he heard me say that out loud. I’ll wait until I have a better idea of his temperament before poking too much fun at him. Even the most attractive newt would have trouble picking up ladies.

Lucien started grooming me in front of our new “friends”, and I didn’t even notice until I realized they were staring. Am I used to this already? Is that weird? It’s not like I mind the attention. He gets worried sometimes, it’s just what he does. What if they think we’re “together”? More importantly, what if ladies think we’re together? I guess I can dispel that rumour quickly enough. Clifftop, lock up your daughters! I will not be held responsible for their hearts or their purity.

After that we followed the tracks, which led to the whopping great canyon that drops off into nothing. Then we crashed in the main room of the tavern, and I guess I was tired enough to forget to hit on the innkeeper. Getting stabbed really cramps my style, y’know? I was not performing at 100%. It bothered me to miss such an opportunity, but I’m sure I’ll get another chance once we come back big damn heroes. Anyhow, we got our beauty sleep and set off in the morning.

I tied all our lengths of rope together, hoping that this “bottomless” pit would be no deeper than 200ft. I went down first with the gnome, and found a narrow ledge about 100ft down. Lucien and – I think his name was Francis? – followed suit and we shuffled awkwardly along the rock face. It was too misty down there to see very far. We soon came to a gap in the ledge, the other side was visible about 8-10 feet away. It looked like a good landing spot but the option of missing and plummeting to our deaths gave us pause. We cut the extra off our climbing rope and decided to tie it around our waists. I was first, being dashing and talented and all. And first in line. Yeah, that must’ve been it.

So we cleared the gap and moved forward to find a doorway carved in the rock. Once inside we were finally able to see ahead of us (or at least I was). We put on our armour and I was just volunteering to scout ahead when our stumpy wizard friend pulled out a toad and offered to send it ahead. A fellow could easily take being one-upped by a toad personally. However, I guess it signifies that they find me less expendable. I can handle myself on my own. Mostly. And if I do anything stupid, Lucien has my back.

Our “scout” located two lizard guards down the left hall. With my quick reflexes I was there in an instant, which meant of course that I had to take both of them on. Luckily the others weren’t too far behind, so I only got a little stabbed. One of them made a break for it and managed to raise the alarm. Slippery little bastard was hard to shut up. We positioned ourselves to be ready for whatever came out of the big lit room. Two minions and a priest burst open the doors. That priest was a real piece of work, entangling half of us in stone right from the get-go. I was speedy enough to avoid it for a short while, but it caught me eventually. @#$%ing magic. I was able to wriggle free quickly enough, but being tied down is among my least favourite things. Those bastards had me surrounded and I couldn’t do a thing about it. Luckily Lucien had escaped his bonds by then so we made short work of the remaining lizard minions. He’s really quite useful. Not that I’m using him. I mean, I don’t like being showed up when he’s better at things than I am. But we make a good team, and it’s not like he’s going to compete with me over… well, anything. He just wants to help. I can work with that. What I’m saying is that, while my motivation is less than charitable, I like having him around. He may be a lousy wingman but he’s a damn good shot.

Then there was the issue of the spiky pit at the end of the right hall. There was obviously something cool near the cave-in on the other side, so I took a running leap and… well, didn’t quite make it. I managed to avoid getting impaled, but it was a hard landing nonetheless. Francis was saying something about using the rope. It sounds like he’s quite fond of rope. My elbow was quite supportive of this whole rope idea. They hauled me out of there and proceeded to chicken out or fail the leap themselves, though being tied to the rope prevented any serious injury. Finally I stepped forward and said I’d give it another go. I wanted to get it right this time; I don’t take well to falling short. Pun intended. I made it this time and found a small bag of stuff that we later figured out was Dust of Dryness. It shrank the pool in the bright room to nothing but a pellet. Potent stuff!

So I made it back across and we checked out the rooms we’d passed along the way. We got some sweet gold, all of it embossed with the same fiery symbol we’d seen on the floor of the bright room. That kind of money can buy a lot of drinks. When do we get to head back to the tavern? I hope the innkeeper is there. She could probably use some cheering up after having her inn burned to the ground. I’m sure I can take her mind off of it…

Oh, right, so we went to explore the end of the left-hand hall, where there were more big doors. Lucien and I wasted a couple minutes looking for a lock that wasn’t there. Ooops! Turns out the door wasn’t locked. I’ve really got to stop thinking about ladies when I’m on the job. There was some big ugly fucker in there scaring up a smaller one. And a huge motherfucking scorpion in a pen, which the little guy just had to let out. Lovely. I ran past to deal with the lizard captain while everyone else focused on the scorpion. Eventually the lizard minion worked up the courage to join the fray too. Isolating myself from the group was probably not one of my best ideas. Things got crazy, I got stabbed a bit, I started missing my mark a lot more. Then the scorpion came after me and pushed me down some stairs. So I was trapped and had no choice but to try and fight it back. The others soon caught its attention again and I was left to deal with the lizard captain. For such a big guy he was proving difficult to hit. I had already lost a fair amount of blood by then, and I think I passed out for a few seconds. Next thing I knew Lucien had healed me and was charging the lizard captain, who was nearly twice his size. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so angry.

With all our enemies dispatched, we checked their bodies for useful items. I got a kickass masterwork longspear, Francis got some quality armour, and there was another set of armour we’ll have to get refitted for Lucien. We were pretty worn out by then, so we healed up and bedded down for the night. I hope nothing trips the alarm. We have at least another floor to explore in the morning.

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