Life's Bazaar - Part 3: Aram dashed past Grifore as the mechanized Pulverizer charged down the tunnel toward them. "Crap!", he thought, "Why does he think he has a chance against that thing? It doesn't even have a mind!" The Bard struck a powerful note on his Gnomish mandolin and a dart composed of pure sound manifested itself and struck the automaton. Unphased, it rushed on.
Aram's steps faltered. Should he go back and face the thing at his friend's side? Grifore's scream of horror and the glint of spinning rotors just beyond the flickering light of the torch answered his question. He rushed on -- the darkness closing in on his heels.
"Where had we gone wrong? Where had I gone wrong?"
"Ah yes . . . 'Caution to the Wind'" . . .
The last few days (was it only 2 days?) had been tough ones. Crushed, clobbered, hours lost unconscious, the oppressive darkness and Desmona . . . sweet Desmona, still unburied . . . stretch out in room at the Temple of Marush Hob.
It had all been too much for Minolos, who retreated to his books, and Paithan, who returned to the simpler duties of a guard.
Grifore, Osthryd and Aram were all that remained. The Temple sent Ruphus, now recovered from his run in with those thugs, back to the Gnome's shop with them and together, they descended into the darkness. The information provided by that talking chest ("Damn Gnomes and their illusions!") had given their search a focus. They knew they'd have to pass through the web filled room.
With their new rod/keys they looked into some side rooms. They all held the dust of untold years of emptyness but there was one near the spider room had had secrets to reveal. A search by Osthryd in the loft of a storage room revealed a door leading into the upper half of the spider's nest. All prepared themselves for the great blood thirsty horrors that must lurk beyond and Osthryd threw open the door.
It was over in no time . . . Ruphus made a great leap into the room, killing an enormous spider as he fell and landing in a pool in the center of the room. Osthryd followed and felled an even larger one. Grifore and Aram quickly finished off the last. Their bodies twitched on the floor, legs curling and ichor oozing from their crushed abdomens. Osthryd recoiled at the sight of a human body, hung in the webs and cocooned in silk.
"Cut that poor soul down, Aram. I'll catch him.", she called to the Rake as he stood in the doorway above.
Aram fired his crossbow surely and the mass fell into Osthryd's arms. Thousands of tiny spiders burst forth and spread like a carpet of crawling fur and legs over the knight of Wemusa. Every primeval fear welled up in her and she reacted instinctively. Ducking herself into the water, the others stamped and applied the torch to all that they could. She came up sputtering when she could no longer hold her breath. The body of the unfortunate man had been almost wholly consumed.
They opened the door that led on to Uathibe.
They entered into a great dining hall in deep decay from misuse. To their surprise, sunlight streamed in from the north and the sound of birdcalls filled the room. They moved cautiously toward an open doorway to see it filled with a beautiful grove. The room, it seemed, was no room at all but a great vista of idyllic forests and peaceful meadows.
"Damn gnomish illusions!", thought Aram. He squinted into the apparent distance and turned back to the darkness and the task at hand. The great room yielded nothing, there was but one room with a Rune that matched one of the few rods they'd found. They steeled themselves against the unknown and Aram activated the lock.
As the round door rolled aside, their torch light illuminated a widening strip of the room beyond. Two cloaked figures stood over the twitching bodies of two giant spiders. Their glowing red eyes glared menacingly under their cowls.
"Stay!", called Aram, "What's your business here?"
"We may ask the same of you . . ."
"We seek Uathibe. Is he your Master?"
"No one is our master", sneered the first, "but we work for him at times."
"And do you work for Kazmojen as well?"
"We deal with him. The slave trade with the Drow provides us with food and supplies." "Bring us to Uathibe and perhaps we can negotiate a better deal than the looting of our town's residents." Maybe this can be straightened out with no bloodshed. Would they really lead them directly to Uathibe?, wondered Aram. He looked questioningly at Osthryd. "Caution to the wind?", he whispered.
Osthryd looked at the two dark figures conferring in their native tongue. "Caution to the Wind."
The Pulveriser bore down on Aram and slammed him hard. His ears rang and his head swam from the blow. He dropped to a knee, wondering if he would survive the next attack. Osthryd was wounded badly from the Stalkers ahead and Ruphus was waylaid by the one behind. "RETREAT!", cried Osthryd; her battle training winning through against her mortal fear. Grifore and Aram, fleet-footed and nimble in their light armor, tumbled back to the tunnel that they entered by and set off at a full run. They heard Ruphus cry out in pain as the remaining Stalkers fell upon him. The automaton charged after them as they ran on.
Osthryd, encumbered by her armor and badly wounded by a second attack from the machine could not follow her friends. As Ruphus fell to the ground, she ran blindly into a side tunnel. "I need to find a quiet place to heal my wounds", but her first thoughts were of escape. A Stalker followed her and caught the injured Paladin quickly. Osthryd knew she couldn't outrun him in her condition and she turned to fight. Blows were exchanged with neither gaining the upper hand. Desperate, Osthryd stepped back and called upon the power of Wemusa, god of Death and Life, to close her wounds. New life flowed through her and she rejoined the fight with new vigor.
The treacherous Stalker couldn't last long before the rejuvenated knight, but as he fell lifeless at her feet she faced a new choice. In the room she just left, she heard the automaton returning and behind her, a new presence approached . . . a shadowy figure slid noiselessly behind her and as she turned to face this new horror she was met with savage blows from a being that had no fear of death. Her unconscious form fell at his feet as he glowered over her still body.
He looked through the illusory room where birds still chirped merrily and resigned himself that no one else would be following. He locked the door behind him and ran back to the surface. They're either dead or captured." He fingered the coins in his pouch. "Either way, I'll get reinforcements and if I can't rescue them -- I'll avenge them!
Aram - Bob Probst, Swashbuckler
Grifor - Allen Myers, Monte Cook Bard
Osthryd - Chris Bradley, Holy Warrior of Wemusa
Ruphus - Vincent Darlage, Cleric of Marush Hob