The Tide of Shadows - Chapter 2

Adventure Date: April 30, 2010

Last Updated: June 26, 2010

A Tide of Shadows

By Morticia Shadowcaster, dr1478

Chapter 2: A Perilous Journey
Good is an overrated quality, don't you think? I don't mean to suggest that one should wallow like an over-fed pig in the muck of evil. No, I wouldn't suggest that at all, but don't you find 'the good' just a teensy weensy bit boring? Consider, if you will, a journey along the stony shore of a restless sea. This perilous journey could be a metaphor for life. What path do you follow? Do throw yourself into the chaotic tides of shadows boiling in the restless waters. Surely not! That's much too scary. Do wander away from the waters toward the cosy farms, peaceful villages and green fields to join your fellow man, to make a comfortable life for yourself, and raise a family? That is just too boring! You stay on the path along the edge of the brooding sea; that's what you do. Life is lived on the edge, and that edge exists between the comforts of good and the temptations of evil. It is on the shore that the sea coughs up its greatest rewards and deepest mysteries: wrecked galleons brimming with treasure perhaps, or the putrid victim of a hastily covered up murder or horrid creatures to test your mettle. The shore is where you find adventure and where you can truly be alive.

Consider the famous 'Seekers of Faerun' and their leader the incredibly tiresome Gideon Fireforged. They owe their great fame to the fawning admiration of old geezer historians and ageing voluptuaries, but I think they are the worst example over-inflated goodie-goodies. But I hear you protest, "The Seekers were not good, they had many faults". Yes they did have faults, but they were constantly striving for 'the good', that's the point; they sought out some sort of glorious redemption. Think about it. In addition to Gideon, who hid his only scrap of human passion away in the woods, there was Okul who was half man and half dragon, who was always trying to prove that his human half could overcome the compulsions of a reptile mind. Embrace the inner lizard! That's what I say. There was the sorcerer, Kilzadi, who tried to prove himself so that he could win the love of some beautiful but ultimately unobtainable princess. Forget her! Whores and harlots are more your type. Or there was Risca, the dwarf, who betrayed the Stalkers clan and then desperately wanted to be allowed back in the clan. Hello! The Stalkers were barbarians. Have a bath and get on with your life. Then there was the so-called thief, Neon Wilde, mister my-daddy-ran-away- and-my-mommy-doesn't-like-me. No one cares! There isn't a violin in the world small enough to play that tune on. And last but not least, there was Swan Battlestar. Little miss sex is 'natural' and 'beautiful' and therefore I'm not a slut if I sleep with every male who asks politely... or not politely. What the heck, any male who asks! Tee-hee!

So forget the Seekers and attend to other players on the great stage of Faerun. I think of our players as a troupe of actors and a shadowy cast, for they are certainly not the great heroes and heroines of myth and legend. You met them in Chapter 1, as a fledgling group who had not even adopted the name under which they achieved a meagre portion of fame. Now continue the journey with that no-name group and get to know them, and follow their perilous journey along a sea-stone path, and allow yourself, if you dare, to be swept away in a Tide of Shadows.

A sullen silence surrounded our players as they awoke from their watches, rose from their bedrolls and shook the stiffness of a foul night from their bones. They were attacked in the night by creatures both half-human and half-frog. Some thought the raiders were merely Skum, others thought them the legendary Sahuagin, while others felt they were the ancient Kua-Toa; but really no one could say for sure. Pelias Hadrathus was the first to rise and began his daily of ritual prayer to the Morning Lord, the great God Lathander. Normally, he loved the morning but today his heart was heavy, for he knew that it was only by the dumbest luck that this adventure had not end in tragedy to become a minor footnote to the tales of 'The Treasure of the Lost Guide'. Raven Battlestar rose early, as well, and started on a regimen of martial arts exercises. She was heard to mutter, "I fought stupid... like a man... like that big ox, Ska'arr", so the others steered clear of the seething monk. Katharina Shadowfeet decided to put her time to good use, so she started on a thorough search of the bridge that crossed the river near the campsite. "There must be some clue to be found", she thought. The blind girl, Shribryn, went with Kat to help with the search. Perhaps her keen sense of touch, or mystical sensory powers could uncover something. The group's mood was so foul that Ska'arr sought more pleasant company, so he and The Beast opted for a walk along the bank of the fast flowing river. Only Ro-Lun-Do awoke in good humour. True, he was dismayed that none of his 'minions' were cooking bacon and eggs for his breakfast, but the battle last night had gone really, really well; no problem at all. So after a double helping of iron rations and a brief prayer to his deity, Aman-Ra, he was ready for his day.

The first order of business was to give the bridge and the surrounding area a thorough search. The troupe worked together half-heartedly. Ska'arr lowered Kat by rope down to a sandbar that formed in the slower water in advance of the bridge's central support and Shribryn scrambled down after her. Kat watched the brown-haired girl with sightless glass eyes fumble about and wondered what possible use the blind girl could be on this quest. Ska'arr seemed to like her, although that wasn't much of a recommendation. Did he like her just because they worked together at the circus, or did he have some deeper knowledge?

Kat shouted up to Ska'arr, "There's nothing on this bar except a spot of quicksand over near the pillar. Pull me back up now".

Shribryn continued to conduct her careful search, feeling her way with hands and feet, and stopping occasionally to listen carefully. Finally she returned to the rope and reported, "There's a lot of quicksand just under the bridge."

"Good work, Shribryn. Good work," Kat said, rolling her eyes.

Next, the party combed the shore on both sides of the bridge by following the shore up and down, up and down, keeping their eyes and ears open for the slightest clue. But there was nothing! It seemed that Nighteyes had sent them on a wild goose chase.

Suddenly, there sounded a deep thuuuck and Raven staggered back. An arrow had pierced her shoulder. Eyes and ears darted to the high banks overlooking the river.

"Darn, the wrong one! That's not the one," someone shouted, and a ragged figure was cursing at the top of the high bank.

Kat was quick as her namesake and darted off in the direction of the attacker. Angered by the attack, the monk ripped the arrow shaft from her shoulder and charged in Kat's wake. The archer saw the rush and started to high tail it out of there, but Kat and Raven quickly closed the gap and soon they were almost on top of the forlorn and pitiful man. He tried to dodge their grasp but Raven overtook him and grabbed the rags that he used for a shirt. He twisted to escape but the tall women drove an elbow up under his chin and he collapsed in a heap. The others saw that the fight was over and slowly made their way to the top of the rise.

Raven Battlestar had dispatched the ambusher with the ruthless efficiency that she reserved for male humanoids. Ever since her parents were killed and her sister was carried off by a band of orc and human outlaws, she harboured a deep hatred of all men. It was this heinous attack, more than any other event, which shaped her life and pushed it on a path that strayed ever closer and closer to the shadows. Although, I do have great sympathy for Raven's view of men... after all they are like foolish violent children, I think her view is too extreme. Men do have many uses. Well, maybe they really have only one use. But it is a very important use, don't you think? Tee-Hee!

It looked like the stranger would be out for a while, so Ska'arr offered Shribryn some rope and by feeling her way dexterously; she tightly bound the prisoner's hands and feet and promptly sat on his chest. There was no way he was going to get away.

I said before that life on the edge is where one should chose to live, but for some there is no choice. And few knew the edge better than Shribryn. It is in that boundary between light and dark; between seeing and hearing; between feeling and knowing that Shribryn lived. By rights she should have been under the care of family if lucky, or left to die on rock if unlucky, but in truth neither was her fate. She knew the shadows and the shadows are where she lived. But it did not take the heightened sense of smell of the blind girl to know that the captive reeked of a foul and disgusting odour.

"I recognise that smell," Shribryn said, sniffing the air. "He's that beggar we came across in Triboar. You know the one that Nighteyes said was harmless."

"I remember," Pelias said. "Rumours are that he was an adventurer long ago. It looks like he will be unconscious for a while. We have to wait to question him."

The males rifled through belongings of the unconscious man like a pack of thieves. Ska'arr claimed a longbow and some enchanted arrows, Pelias claimed a dagger and Ro-Lun-Do took his stinking leather armour. Kat was content to grab a vial filled with a magic liquid.

As the big warrior examined his new bow, he noticed the barest hint of a trail winding off towards a copse of trees in the distance. "I think I'll there and investigate," he mumbled and headed off with The Beast by his side.

"Where is he going now?" Kat said, exasperated. "Best not to let him go off by himself," she announced and followed him, keeping about thirty feet behind.

"You better go with them," Shribryn said. "I'll stay with the prisoner."

Raven and Pelias started off after the gnome and the warrior, but Ro-Lun-Do settled down in the soft heather instead. "You two can handle it. I'll stay here and help guard the prisoner."

Ska'arr and The Beast followed the wisp of a trail until they paused at the edge of the bush. The looming trees stilled the morning wind so the woods were dark, brooding and silent. Kat followed the pair at a distance thirty Gnome-sized paces, but was not in a hurry to catch up. The monk and cleric followed another ten paces behind her. They could see Ska'arr cocking his head from one side to the other, peering into the murky depths. He hesitated only a moment and then disappeared into the shadows.

If Raven Battlestar knew the evil that lurks in the hearts of men, then Katharina Shadowfeet knew the stupidity that squats in their minds. Ah, Shadowfeet! I like the sound of that, and her nickname 'Whisper' fit her as well. In Whisper's personal journey along the sea-stone path she had learned to take advantage of the stupidity of men in one way or another. And to be fair, she did not discriminate; stupid women also had their uses too. It's not that Whisper was a cutpurse, for she wasn't; it's just that foolish people seemed to provide so many... opportunities for profit. So now her finely honed instincts told her to follow Ska'arr... but not too closely.

Sure enough, as Whisper reached the edge of the woods she heard a loud "Aaaaaaaah!" from the direction of the fighter, followed by a dull thud. When Raven and Pelias arrived beside her, she turned to toward them and grinned. "I just found a trap."

"What kind of trap?" Pelias was curious.

"From the sound of it I'd say it is a shallow pit covered with branches and loose foliage."

"Surely, such a crude trap would not fool anyone," Raven said in her female-superior tone of voice.

"Let's go see," Whisper said with a wink, and the three of them continued along the path until after a short distance into the woods they found The Beast whining pitifully into an open hole in the ground.

Ska'arr was lying at bottom of the pit on top of a pile of old bones and rubbish. He was none the worst for fall, but he cursed under his breath. Finally he rose to his feet and rummaged around in his pack and found a length of rope. "Would one of you 'ladies' grab this and tie it to a tree?" he asked as he threw an end of the rope upwards.

Raven caught the rope and wound it around a nearby tree. "Ska'arr, I was hoping you would put off getting yourself killed until after we find the treasure," she stated without so much as a hint of a smile. "We will need your help to carry it home."

"Just be quiet and tie the rope. It may be that I just found the treasure."

"He's right," Whisper exclaimed. "Look there. There's an old building just ahead." Sure enough, a little deeper into the shadows was a wooden structure covered in squishy moss and overgrown with a thick tangle of brush.

At first the building looked like a small cottage built upon a solid stone foundation, but as they got closer they could see that the windowless walls stretched off into the trees. Around the nearest corner they found a door. Whisper found no traps so Ska'arr simply kicked it open and led them inside. Pelias lit his lantern to penetrate the gloom and Raven offered to carry it. Ska'arr banged opened a door on the other side the entrance hall. Beyond they found a storage room filled with junk, such as old bows, fishing poles, and crates.

They could smell the foul stench of the next room down the hall even through the closed door. That room was latrine smeared in brown feces and awash with stale urine. The players tried not to gag as they slammed the door quickly. Then they kicked in the door to the next room. Inside, the light from the lantern created scary, jagged shadows on the walls. It was a bedroom, but it was being used as storage for a jumble of horns and antlers from a variety of slain beasts. A search of the room revealed little of value. There was unique set of antlers that would be worth a pretty penny as decoration for 'The Frosted Frog' back in Triboar. On a shelf at the back a pair of vials were marked Peryton Bane. They dimly recalled that a Peryton was some sort of magical beast.

At this point, they decided to bring the party together before continuing with the search, so Pelias returned to get Ro and Shribryn. When the others were gone the acrobat and cleric had tried to interrogate their prisoner after he finally revived. He just babbled nonsense in a crazed tone, occasionally spewing out something about the 'wrong one'. Ro tried to calm him by using the most syrupy sweet tone of voice and saying reassuring words, but this only made the froth ooze more rapidly from the captive's mouth. By the time Pelias arrived, they were happy to leave. They gathered their belongings and headed off into the woods with Shribryn keeping a close hand on the prisoner. When they reached the building, the forlorn man became more coherent and insisted that 'she is in the forest' and that 'he has to kill her'. Finally they rejoined the others. Whisper asked him about the Peryton and he answered 'Peryton, how do you know about the Peryton?' and he howled like a freak when he saw that the huge rack of antlers was now securely tied to The Beast's back. But the troupe still could not get real information out of the madman.

Nothing could be done but continue the exploration of the building. The next room contained a long filthy table that had been used for the skinning of animals. In fact the overwhelming impression of the building was one of filth. A door led outside from this room where they the wreckage of a very old wagon marked with the fading emblem of the three crowns. There was excitement when they realized that this could be the very wagon that transported the lost gold, over thirty years ago. But the wagon was empty. Back in the room they a flight of stairs leading downward, but they saved that route to explore later.

There was a poorly stocked kitchen where they found a small bottle containing flakes of an unknown substance. The final room at the end of the long building was large with meagre furnishings: a desk, a bookshelf, a pot-bellied stove, a couple of old chairs, and pile of musty furs. There was no exit save for a boarded up window at the end.

Ska'arr heard a rustle from the fur pile and was surprised when he poked at it and stirred up a nest of monstrous centipedes. Ska'arr shielded his face with his left hand but one of the foot-long green things took a bite out of it. Whisper relished the chance to practise her two-handed fighting technique so she drew her twin short swords, attacked the nest, but missed. Shribryn sensed the commotion, drew her crossbow, and forgetting her prisoner stumbled towards the action. Raven moved into a fighting stance and squashed a slimy insect under her heel as it tried to scurry into the open.

Ska'arr just stood there with a look of increasing panic growing on his face and then he suddenly bolted from the room with The Beast following on his heels. Ro stepped deftly aside to let him get away. "No problem," he thought. "The girls can take care of a few bugs." But Pelias was worried so he decided to appeal to his God for help. "Great and Glorious Lathander. Protect your servants their time of need and deliver us from all vermin..."

But by this time, the battle had become a little bit of sport. One bug managed to bite Raven but she countered to smash its wriggling body against the wall and then followed by stomping the head of another into the floor. A grim smile of satisfaction touched her lips. Whisper swung her blades at another bug and spilled its green guts. She laughed and danced to find another target and that she skewered neatly. The blind girl almost tripped and then aimed the crossbow dangerously towards the fray. The bolt brushed by Raven but it neatly pinned a bug to the floor. It was amazing! Usually Shribryn was falling down or bumping into walls, but then out of nowhere she pulled off feats like that shot.

Even more dangerously, Ro-Lun-Do decided to swing into action. He used a crossbow and managed a marvellous hit, nailing a green wiggly between the pincers. "That's how it's done!" he chortled. Raven turned to glare at Ro-Lund-Do. Grabbed the last remaining bug behind its pincers, she picked it up, and squished it in her fist until green guts flew in all directions. "No. This is how it's done," she sneered and then lobbed the carcass idly at the cleric. Ro-Lun-Do stepped aside with an air of haughty indifference. "It's so hard to get good help these days," he mused.

After all of the monstrous centipedes were exterminated, Ska'arr and The Beast returned to the kitchen. The Beast whined and Ska'arr whined too. "We have to run," he said. "The bugs are too danger..." he stopped in midsentence when he saw that all of them were dead. Kat just shook her head, looked up at Raven and rolled her eyes. Raven snorted loudly.

Raven and Kat were slowly beginning to trust one another. It's true that Kat remembered how Pelias had told her how Raven had blabbed and blabbed to the store-keeper in Triboar. The monk seemed incapable of keeping anything secret and told the clerk about Nighteye's test and even about the treasure and their quest to find it. It was clear to Kat that Raven could not be trusted in delicate situations. Raven for her part was suspicious of the diminutive gnome. So many adventurers like Kat turned to less than honest means to supplement their income. How far could Kat be trusted? Despite these reservations Kat and Raven were united by their feelings about men: Raven with her deep dislike of all men and Kat with her subtler understanding of their failings.

Next the troupe headed descended the stairway leading down from the skinning room and it was here they found their first real clue. At the bottom was a large cellar that was relatively clean and empty. Pelias noticed that the wall of one corner of the room was built of newer stone and in fact was built out by five feet into the original cellar. They clambered upstairs to a narrow closet just above the new construction and there after careful searching they found a secret door and behind it a stone stair leading downwards to the dark.

Hardly able to contain their excitement, the group headed down the stair into the creepy gloom. At the bottom Raven's lantern revealed a rough hewn cavern lined with jail cells with ancient iron bars. Water dripped from the ceiling and algae slime coated the rock walls. The iron bars were rusted shut and it took the strength of Ska'arr and Raven together to budge them. There was nothing in the cells but old rags, although they did find the remains of an orc tunic decorated with the fading emblem of the eye and the lightning bolt.

The prisoner took advantage of the attention paid to the cells and broke from Shribryn's grasp and made for the stairs. Raven intercepted him with a quick kick to the groin that lifted him three feet into the air before he crumpled into a heap. The troupe placed his unconscious body in one of the cells and shut it. There was no way he could escape from there.

A dank passage lead out of the jail. Kat lead the troupe into the tunnel which angled sharply downward until it opened up into a large cavern. Raven and the lantern were in the middle of the line so the light could not penetrate far into the darkness. Kat motioned to indicate that she would go on by herself and moved silently into the open. She saw a dark block shape in the middle of the room and she padded silently towards it. It was a stone chair fitted with manacles on the arm rests. What could its purpose be? Then she heard it, ever so softly at first. It was the sound of breathing coming from two sides. She froze, hunched low and moved back to the tunnel. Two shapes leapt at her out of the shadows. "Frogs!" she shouted and swerved around the corner and flattened herself against the tunnel wall.

The frog-men rushed around the corner to chase Kat down and kill her, but they ran into the huge bulk of Ska'arr. He blocked the way wielding a wicked double length of spiked chain. One frog took a bite out of Kat while the other clawed at the chain warrior. In a wild move Kat tumbled under the next attack and rolled under Ska'arr and The Beast who was growling at his side.

The rest of the troupe was desperate to get into action but they found themselves backed up along the passage. Shribryn dropped something from her hand and suddenly there was a burst of light. This startled the frog-men but one continued to attack. Kat's attacker now clawed Ska'arr, gashing along his left arm. The ranger unleashed the chain in violent fury, wrapped frog-man's legs and spilled him unto his back. Ska'arr followed that with the other end of the chain which choked the creature's neck, ripping it open in a river of blood. The Beast moved in for the final kill and feast on the open wound.

The troupe had been bottled in the narrow tunnel but the light had backed off the enemy and allow them to push forward. The healers, Pelias and Ro, moved to help the wounded. Ro used a magic wand of curing to heal Kat's bite and Pelias used the second curing wand to heal Ska'arr's gash.

The no-name group pushed forward and confronted the retreating frog-man who stopped and turned to face them. A third shadowy figure could be seen coming out of the cavern. The first frog had somehow managed to survive in his mangled state and crawled unmolested out of the conflict. The second frog, still dazzled by the light, attacked Ska'arr but missed wildly. Now, Ska'arr was finding a rhythm and swung the spiked chain with an easy grace. Each oiled spike along the sinuous weapon gleamed like a dragon's tooth in the lantern light. When he was at the height of his powers, Ska'arr was an artist with the chain and could upend an orc with one whip, shred off its skin with another and then finish it with a head-centred spike blow. But even in these early days, he tripped the frog-man easily and ripped away a swath of flesh.

The others still moved forward. Shribryn fumbled with her crossbow and Raven threw and a monk star futilely through the heavy traffic. The Beast slowed the advance of the third figure, another frog. But it was Kat who showed true grit. She dashed out of hiding, rolled in under the grasping claws of the wounded frog-man to slip a blade quickly between its ribs. The creature yowled with anguish but remained its feet. It staggered, turned and with a growl of revenge raked Kat with its claws. She fell hard to the ground. But the frog left himself defenceless, so Ska'arr seeing an opportunity chain-wrapped the frog's head and tore it off the body to release another spray of blood.

While all of this was going on, the cleric, Ro-Lun-Do, remained near the back of the troupe muttering strange prayers. What prayers were these? Well, it wasn't really noticed by his fellow adventurers, but his spell was meant to cause fear in the frog-men and then he prayed for his deity to cause bane against his enemies. Unusual, don't you think? You know, I think that the unusual Ro-Lun-Do is my favourite of all of the no-name players. "But why?" I hear you question me. "Is he not merely some minor cleric of La-Di-Da?" Well, for one thing he was very handsome in a rangy, sunken-chest sort of way. His skin was bright burnished silver, but they say that it was his tongue that was truly golden. Tee-hee! But more importantly, of the entire troupe it is only Ro-Lun-Do who might thrill us by leaving the sea-stone path to bathe fully in the swirling Tides of Shadows. Sigh! I would have truly loved to have met the talented and unusual Ro-Lun-Do, but he was just born at the wrong time, and there is nothing that can be done about that is there?

So there was one frog-man left standing, fighting The Beast, while the gnome lay unconscious beneath their shifting claws and paws. Raven found an opening through the crowd and moved to stand over Kat, protecting her from further harm. She tried to grab the frog-man, but her hands slipped off the algae slime that coated its body. From this vantage point she could see the layout of the rest of the cavern. To her right was the tunnel from which the troupe had come, straight ahead the cavern opened out and the wounded frog-man could be seen crawling slowly toward another exit. To her left ran another tunnel that ended at the black water of an underground lagoon.

Pelias had been hesitating, but when he saw Kat fall he rushed from the back of the pack, past Ska'arr and Raven to kneel at the fallen gnome's side. He used the magic healing wand to cure her wounds. Then he ran his gentle healing hands over her limbs and torso and found that there were no more injuries and that her body was sound.

Pelias, most of all, could have been a good person; he just fell in with the wrong crowd. He reminds me of a little puppy that has strayed onto the wrong path. As he crouched over Kat, intent on healing her, he had his back turned on the tunnel on the left. And what he didn't see was a creature from the black lagoon slip silently out of the water and creep cautiously toward him.

Do you know how in the horror plays that are so popular these days, that there is always a scantily clad young maiden who meets a gruesome end to open the show? Do you recall the sound of her spine-chilling scream just before she dies? Well, I have played the part of such a maiden in those plays many times and she screams like this: "Aaaaaaaaaaaah!" I know it is hard to capture this blood-curdling sound with quill and paper, but suffice it to say when the creature reached out its webbed claws to pull Pelias into the black lagoon, the cleric screamed just like that girl. Tee-hee!

Pelias fell and kicked madly at the attacking frog-man, and managing to fend it off so he could scramble to safety behind Raven. Ska'arr heard Pelias' scream and with a tremendous swing wrapped the spiked chain around the head of the frog-man that was on The Beast. He ripped another head off in a spray of blood and turned to face this new intruder. Raven turned on the creature too, and two monk-stars flashed in the lantern light. One missile was lost in the dark, but the other struck the creature's chest causing it to stagger back. The creature saw the scarred warrior and looming giantess close ranks and prepare to charge him. Knowing that he was the only attacker left and that his surprise was lost he backed away slowly and carefully, watching them warily until he disappeared underneath the water.

So that was the end of the attack. Whisper put the crawling frog-man out of its misery with a short sword. It had been trying to escape down the passage on the far side of the cave. The walls of this tunnel were oddly smooth and the floor was polished to a gloss. The troupe followed this passage a short way until it ended in a low drop and a blobby pool of black ooze. Beyond the ooze the cavern opened out again, but there was no way around it.

"I want to see what's on the other side," Ska'arr announced, "I'm going to jump over that black stuff."

"Ah... Okay," Kat agreed.

So Ska'arr went back up the tunnel, turned and ran down towards the ooze at full speed. When e reached the edge, he jumped...

Now, let's think about this warrior for a minute. Ska'arr was a big sweaty brute of a man, but the physical scar that slashed his face mirrored a deeper scar that marred his soul. Like Raven, Ska'arr's parents had died at the hands of orcs and that fact drove his journey along the sea-stone path. But which Ska'arr is the real Ska'arr? Is he the fearsome warrior Ska'arr, an artist with the spiked chain, and completely fearless? Or is he the Ska'arr the buffoon, a fighter of illusions, a springer of pit traps and a runner from teensy bugs? Or both of these? And which Ska'arr do we have now jumping over a big blob of ooze? There are more questions than I can answer right now.

Ska'arr hurtled through the air over the black ooze, and it looked for a moment like he just might make it. One of his feet plopped into the ooze as he landed and he stumbled back into it but managed to stay on his feet. His boots hissed steam as the acid of the blob burned into them. Ska'arr leapt clear of clear but then a most marvellous thing happened; the black ooze animated with crudely formed arms and grabbed at the warrior. But Ska'arr twisted out of the grasp of the acidic lifeform and drew his chain. The rest of the troupe saw his predicament and started to rain the blob with every missile weapon at their disposal. And it worked. The acidic blog weakened and raged at the troupe and grasped futilely for Ska'arr, but finally a strike from Kat caused it to shiver frightfully and dissolve into nothing.

Ska'arr, now a jumper of ooze, searched the cavern that he had landed in and found nothing. Then he joined the party and they searched the cavern where the battle had taken place. Here they found nothing as well. But the purpose of the stone chair was now clear. The troupe shivered as they imagined a lone prisoner manacled to the chair awaiting his doom. The steaming black ooze crawling slowly out of its lair, following the acid smoothed tunnel, until it engulfs the prisoner's feet. The prisoner would scream and scream with hideous torment as the black ooze slowly dissolved his life away.

Finally, they followed the tunnel that led downward to the black lagoon where they found five sturdy dugout canoes on the shore. The water filled a cavern so huge that the far side was lost in deep shadows. And these shadows cloaked the way ahead.

So, this chapter of the tale has now ended. Read on if you dare. Follow the no-name troupe as they continue their perilous journey over the water, and pray that you too are not lost in a Tide of Shadows.

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