The Tide of Shadows - Chapter 17

Adventure Date: April 27, 2013

Last Updated: July 19, 2014

Tide of Shadows – Log #17 The Things We Cannot Change

Lord Farragut drew his lips back, baring his fangs, as Baron Longtooth growled his defiance.  A pair of bloated, white eyes stared at them impassively from within a deep cowl.  The strange humanoid was abhorrent to nature – its rubbery, greenish flesh glistened with a sickly slime.  As the monstrosity paced more closely, it drew back its hood.  Four tentacles, like those of an octopus, lashed about, seeking flesh to grip and brains to consume.  The creature reeked of rot – a quick glance showed decomposing flesh peeling off of its body.

The creature’s eyes flared and a wave of mental energy washed over Lord Farragut and Baron Longtooth.  Disoriented by the sudden attack, Baron Longtooth rolled over onto his side and pawed desperately at his head as he tried to force the mental noise from his mind.

Lord Farragut proved to be luckier.  As the undead illithid had begun its mental assault, Lord Farragut had ducked down behind his companion, avoiding the main brunt of the attack.  Seeing that Baron Longtooth was helpless, Lord Farragut snarled his anger and leapt at the illithid’s throat.  A sickly arm lashed out and deflected the charge, but it had served its purpose – the illithid was now focused on Lord Farragut.

Sending out empathic messages to his master, Lord Farragut knew he faced a deadly foe and he stood little chance of surviving.  Determined to buy Baron Longtooth some time and to make his opponent bleed, Lord Farragut scampered up the wall of the nearby building and turned around, preparing to leap back down at the illithid.

The illithid walked up to the wall and looked up at Lord Farragut.  To his shock and dismay, the illithid placed his hands and feet on the wall and began to scamper up it as quickly and nimbly as Lord Farragut had.  Turning tail, Lord Farragut played a deadly version of tag with the illithid, all the while calling out frantically to Ska’arr.

The illithid grew irritated – the little ferret proved to be difficult to catch.  Focusing its mental strength once more, it blasted Lord Farragut with waves of psionic energy just as he had reached the roof of the building.  Knocked end over end, Lord Farragut tumbled into a heap and lay there helpless.  Reaching the roof, the illithid stood beside Lord Farragut.  Its clawed hands reached down and gripped the ferret’s throat, and with a vicious twist, ripped out Lord Farragut’s windpipe.

Bleeding profusely, Lord Farragut’s eyes glazed over just as he saw the illithid stumble – a blast of fire had caught it in the back, burning it badly.  Ska’arr had arrived.  With a sigh, Lord Farragut’s heart simply stopped.

“Noooooo!”  Ska’arr stumbled and caught himself.  Berserk with grief and rage, he charged the wall and began climbing up to crush the slime who had killed his friend and companion.

Peppering the illithid with fire and missile fire, Ska’arr, Kat, and Shribryn scaled the wall.  With a look of disdain, the illithid blasted the foolish fodder that sought to take him down.  Suddenly, a wave of unholy energy washed over the illithid, breaking its focus and filling it with a sense of dread and fear.

Focusing on the enemy, no one noted Scuro draw out a holy symbol, one not dedicated to Aman-Ra.  Remembering past glory, he focused his unholy energy.  You will be mine to command.  With that, he sent out his unholy energy, breaking the undead illithid’s will.

Shribryn did not know why the illithid stopped attacking, and frankly, she did not care.  Pulling herself up onto the roof, she rushed forward, ignoring the missile fire from her companions.  Diving forward, she thrust her dagger and impaled the illithid through its chest.  A violent rush of air escaped the illithid as it crumpled down.

Ska’arr reached the roof and stared down at the illithid.  With tears in his eyes, he reached down and gripped the illithid’s bulbous head in his hands.  “For Farragut,” he whispered.  His neck and shoulder muscles bulged as he wrenched the illithid’s head.  With a sickening crack, Ska’arr tore the illithid’s head clear off its shoulders and tossed it off the roof.  Farragut had been avenged, but he felt empty inside.

Shaking his head, Ska’arr turned to where Lord Farragut lay.  Already, Kat had gently wrapped the brave ferret in a silken cloth and cradled his body in her arms.  He was already beginning to turn cold to the touch.

Ska’arr walked over and gently took his companion into his arms.  “I will return you to our homeland.  Your spirit will soar with nature – I will not allow you to become trapped in this otherworldly nightmare.”  Opening his knapsack, he placed Farragut in where he normally liked to curl up and rest.

Kat placed her hand gently on Ska’arr’s arm.  He looked down at her, his hard gaze causing her to step back.  “Let us find this accursed book and leave.”  Hoisting himself over the edge of the roof, he climbed down the wall recklessly and went to check on Baron Longtooth.

Pelias had been caring for the bear, but as soon as he saw Ska’arr, he mewled almost piteously and buried its head in its paws.  Kneeling down, Ska’arr comforted his other companion.  “Do not blame yourself.  You did what you could and you protected him as well as you could.  There is nothing more that could be asked of you.”  Standing up, he walked past the others.  “Let us end this business quickly.”

Entering the partially-flooded tomb once more, they went back to the central area and continued their exploration.  Thraor was moving by the gargoyle-shaped spout when he glanced at it casually.  The spout was well made and larger than normal – he could probably stick his arm into it.  The water trickled gently from its opening.  Peering more closely, Thraor could see that there was a space behind the spout!

Calling to the others, they began examining the spout but could see no way to access the space behind it – the opening was too small and they could find no hidden doors.  Clicking her tongue sharply, Shribryn listened intently for the echo.  There was definitely an open space behind the spout and something else.  Without thinking, Shribryn thrust her hand within the spout and began feeling around.

A cold frisson rushed up her arm, colder than an arctic blast.  Shribryn shivered uncontrollably as her mental strength left her.  Pulling her arm out quickly, the others turned to see what was upsetting her.  As her arm left the spout, Ska’arr saw a shadowy hand that seemed to be gripping Shribryn’s arm.  Suddenly, a wavering silhouette of a humanoid stepped out from the central, square pillar and reached for Shribryn once more.

Stepping between Shribryn and the shadowy apparition, Ska’arr intended on stopping whatever it was.  The silhouette seemed not to notice Ska’arr and stepped right through him.  A violent convulsion wracked Ska’arr’s body as a wave of cold washed over him.  Feeling his mental faculties leaving him, he cried out in warning.

Raven spotted the silhouette.  “There it is!”  Rushing forward, she sought to strike it, but suddenly, Ro-Lund-Do was there.

“Do not touch it,” he hissed.  “The touch of the murk deadens the mind and breaks the will.  You will only bring ruin to yourself and the rest of us.”  With that, Ro-Lund-Do gripped his holy symbol hidden beneath his cloak and sent forth another blast of unholy energy.

Suddenly, the murk stopped and seemed to quiver in place.  Turning to Ro-Lund-Do, it knelt in reverence.  Scuro heard its voice in his head.  Master.  With a smile, he turned to the others.  “The murk is no longer a threat.  It is now under my control.”  The others had dubious and concerned looks on their faces.

Ignoring the looks, Scuro focused on his new acolyte.  What is in the opening behind the spout?

My pipes.  My life.  The murk pointed to itself.

How do we stop the water?  It irritates me.

The murk pointed at itself again and drew a claw over its throat.  I see, Scuro responded.

A loud crashing noise caused everyone to turn.  Ska’arr had taken a warhammer and bashed down part of the wall.  Behind the ruined spout, they could see a well that sank down deep within the floor.

Raven reached over to Ska’arr and placed a restraining hand on him.  “Before you continue, let me heal your mind if not your heart.”  Unfurling a scroll, Raven began to chant.  As she completed the spell, Ska’arr’s mind healed, the damage from the murk’s touch vanishing.

Pelias had been staring down the well.  “There’s a magical aura emanating at the bottom of the well.”  Ska’arr removed his backpack and handed it to Pelias.  Without further discussion, Ska’arr jumped into the well, letting himself be carried down to the bottom.  As he reached the bottom, he felt a stick-like object break beneath his foot.  Looking down, he could just make out the remnants of a skeleton.  Hanging from the skeleton’s neck was a set of panpipes.  Grabbing the skeleton, he hauled it back up to the surface.

When the others gave questioning glances, Ska’arr simply replied, “We leave no one to rot in this place.”  Pelias took the remaining bones and placed them in his backpack.  He would consecrate them and give them a proper burial.

Placing the panpipes to his lips, Ska’arr blew experimentally.  Water rushed out of the pipes, causing an irritating squeaking noise.  Pelias gave a short laugh.  Shrugging his shoulders, Ska’arr passed the pipes to Pelias.  “You give it a try.”  Pelias brought the pipes to his lips and blew, but his performance was not much better.

“If you two are through with your musical performance, we have other places to search,” Kat said with mock irritation.  The first room was filled with strange relics.  Tables were scattered throughout the room and each table had a skeleton strapped down upon it.  After a quick search, they found nothing of interest and moved onto the next room.  The second room proved to be almost exactly the same as the first room.

Leaving it behind, they entered the third room and found a bizarre sight.  The room itself sloped up slightly so that the back part of the room was not submerged in water.  At the back of the room, a mannequin stood covered in what seemed to be layers of flesh.  The mannequin itself was missing limbs and seemed incomplete.

Sensing no threat, Ska’arr entered the room.  As he began searching about, the sound of flapping wings made him look up.  Amazingly, the layers of flesh were flapping themselves like the wings of a bat and swooped to attack!  The first patch landed on Ska’arr’s face and, to his horror, he felt the sickly flesh begin to burrow and meld into his face.

Without hesitation, Ska’arr brought up a vial of acid and smashed it over his face.  Gritting his teeth against the pain, Ska’arr hoped his desperate move would drive the attacking skin away.  The monstrous skin seemed to pull back in agony, but then continued to burrow itself into his face.  “It’s a skin kite!”  Pelias shouted in horror.  “Don’t let it attach itself to you or it will take control of you!”

Shribryn tumbled in and shouted at Ska’arr, “Sorry about this.  This is going to sting a little!”  Thrusting her dagger at Ska’arr’s face, as soon as the dagger pierced his skin and that of the attacking skin kite, a blast of flame erupted from her dagger, engulfing the skin kite on Ska’arr’s face as well as the other skin kites.  Burnt to a crisp, the skin kites fell to the ground and sank beneath the surface of the water.

Shribryn was feeling Ska’arr’s face, trying to determine the extent of damage that had occurred.  She winced as her fingers lightly brushed his crisp skin.  “I hope my methods were effective.”  Ska’arr looked at her, stone-faced.  “I apologize that the methods I used to remove the scourge injured you.”

Ska’arr’s voice was full of menace.  “I’ll be sure to return the favor.”

Kat had examined the mannequin and found a simple, woven rope belt tucked into the inside of the hollow mannequin’s body.  Tossing it to Pelias, he examined it quickly – it radiated a moderate level of transmutation magic and could prove to be useful.  Tucking it away, they continued their exploration of the tomb.

Losing his patience, Ska’arr didn’t even bother waiting for the others as he smashed down the fourth door.  Behind him, he heard Raven and Pelias gasp – the room was filled with fungus and mold, the likes of which neither had ever seen before.  The fungus covered everything in a light layer.  In the far corner, they saw a crucible housing a spherical object.  Both were covered in black mold, but they could just make out the shapes.

Pelias examined the room for magical auras and sensed one within the crucible.  Telling Ska’arr, Ska’arr made as if to move into the room.  Raven and Pelias stopped him.  “This is not a natural phenomenon,” Raven explained.  “To enter this room means to embrace death.”

Taking a moment to think, Ska’arr thrust his hand forward, his hand outstretched as if expecting something to land in it.  The spherical object began to gently rock back and forth and then finally flew up towards Ska’arr’s hand.  Even as the object moved towards Ska’arr, Pelias could see the magical aura surrounding it fade.

“It no longer holds any magic,” Pelias said.  The loss of magic weighed heavily on his mind.  Magic was the ultimate puzzle and he loved solving puzzles.  An unsolved mystery always bothered him.  Ska’arr tried placing the object back into the crucible, but it proved pointless.

“Well, let’s at least see what it is,” Ska’arr said.  Using his magic, Pelias gently wiped the mold from the object, revealing a large black pearl.  With no other points of interest, the party headed to the last section of the tomb.

The last area to be explored was guarded by a large set of double doors.  The doors seemed sturdy and showed little sign of wear.  Shirbryn went to listen to the door.  Unfortunately, she slipped on some slime and accidentally shoved a sliver into her ear canal.  With a shriek of pain, she yanked the sliver free and tried to stem the flow of blood with a silk handkerchief.

“Enough of this,” Ska’arr muttered under his breath.  Taking his warhammer once more, he struck the double doors with such fury that they flung wide open.  At the back of the room an altar stood.  The altar resembled a black lacquered coffin more than an altar.  The room had 3 different tiers and the path to the altar was blocked.  A large scorpion and small, crustacean-type creatures scurried forward to attack the party.

A humanoid, covered in numerous robes, stood behind the altar.  Pointing its finger at the party, it had an air of command about it.  Immediately, the scorpion and crustacean creatures attacked.  Ska’arr’s nerves were afire with fear.  The vermin approached, stalking their helpless prey.  Quashing down his rising fear, Ska’arr remembered Lord Farragut.  These creatures must die.

A small red pea flew towards the scorpion.  Pelias smiled.  As it landed, it ignited, turning the surrounding area into a raging inferno.  As quickly as the vermin had rushed to attack, they were dead.

Before the others could react, Raven ran forward into the room and charged up the tiers.  Ro-Lund-Do called out to warn Raven – the deathlock necromancer was not a being to be taken lightly, but Scuro thought, Let us see how she fares against a necromancer, albeit a lesser one.  Leaping towards the robed figure, she tackled it and bore it to the ground.  As they landed, she landed two punches in quick succession.  The creature’s head snapped back and a sickly snapping noise brought a wince to Ro-Lund-Do’s face.

As Raven stripped the dead necromancer of scrolls, a spellbook, magical bracers, and a magic dagger, Shribryn found a hidden compartment within the altar.  Four sparkling gems tumbled out of the compartment, which Shribryn grabbed quickly.  “Hey, look what I found!” she began to say.  Then her world went topsy turvy.

Raven had noted defensive runes on the scrolls and had passed the scrolls to Kat to disarm.  “Not a problem,” Kat boasted.  As she began to use a wetted brush to smear the explosive runes, she looked up at what Shribryn was saying.  The brush slipped ever-so-slightly, activating the rune.  The blast caught Kat and Shribryn, knocking them flying.

Rushing over, Pelias began to lay healing hands on Kat and Shribryn.  “What about the spellbook?” Raven asked innocently.  Kat shook her head.  Being blown up once was enough.  Pelias shook his head as Raven passed the spellbook to him.  Opening the book, he found the spells contained within were common, necromantic spells that many arcanists used.  Flipping through the book, he turned to the last page and saw a curious symbol, looking almost like a snake....

The ink came to life as a snake-head sprung forth from the page.  Sinking its fangs in deeply into Pelias hand, it dissolved into nothingness.  Pelias’ body jerked and became rigid.  He toppled over and was completely still.

“Oh crap!” Kat said.  Rolling him onto his back, she quickly checked for a heartbeat but found none.  Stricken, she looked at the others with tears in her eyes.

“I call dibs on his wands,” Ro-Lund-Do joked.  The rest of the group looked sharply at him, anger clearly etched in their features.  “Don’t worry,” he said.  “I recognized the spell.  Pelias isn’t dead.  He’s just been put into stasis.  I’m sure in a couple of days, he will return to his old irritating self.”  They all sighed in relief.

“I know this is not the most dignified way of doing this,” Ska’arr explained, “but it is the only way to transport Pelias and allow us to defend ourselves.”  As he spoke, he finished tying Pelias to Baron Longtooth’s back.

Scuro snickered.  “Have any of you considered counteracting the spell on Pelias?  A simple dispel should work.  Unfortunately, I have not memorized that spell today, so our only chance is our dwarf friend.”

Thraor stepped forward, his face a little red.  He hadn’t even considered removing the spell on Pelias.  Placing his hand on Pelias, he began to incant.  Suddenly, Pelias began to thrash.

Calming down, he asked, “Why am I tied up to the bear?”  Shribryn giggled.  “Can someone get me down from here?”

A short time later, the party went to the next tomb.  Dispensing with the silent approach, Ska’arr smashed down the door to the tomb.  Another staircase leading below ground could be seen.  A faint light could be seen somewhere down below, but its source was unknown.

Scuro sent a silent message to his murk companion.  Do you know what lies ahead?  The murk responded quickly.  No.  I have never seen this place before.  Scouring the stairs for traps and finding none, the party headed down the stairs.  At the base of the stairs, a set of double doors blocked their passage.  Placing her ear to a door, Shribryn’s hand shot up – she definitely heard movement on the other side of the door.

Assuming a defensive position, Ska’arr extended his magical aura and pulled the doors open.  The doors opened towards the party and the room behind them seemed empty except for a large table with coins and gems upon it.  Again, doors dotted the walls, but there was no sign of any creatures.  “Maybe they fled,” Kat whispered.  “We weren’t so subtle with our actions prior to this.”  With no enemy in sight, Ska’arr stepped through the doorway into the room.

A sweet, cloying scent caught Ska’arr’s attention.  Inhaling the intoxicating fumes, Ska’arr was taken aback when his body froze.  Trying to warn the others, two large, decrepit-looking ogres stepped out of opposing doorways and swung their large clubs at Ska’arr, knocking him to the ground.

Raven dashed forward between Ska’arr and the two ogre zombies, and struck at them in rapid succession.  With a new target, the ogres struck Raven, though she was able to roll with the blows, minimizing their damage.  Unfortunately, as she rolled away from the ogres, a third door opened, revealing another ogre, who swung mightily at Raven.

Shribryn jumped over Ska’arr, determined to redeem herself for her past mistakes.  Unfortunately, her left foot landed on a patch of slime.  As her left leg shot out from underneath her, Shribryn tried to shift her weight fully to her right leg.  The sudden, unexpected motion wrenched her right foot, twisting her ankle severely.  Crying out in pain, Shribryn stumbled but quickly recovered.  Favoring her right leg, she placed most of her weight on her left leg.  Assuming a defensive stance, she knew she was in trouble, but there was no time to heal herself.

Scuro sighed heavily.  Must I solve every problem.  Gripping his holy symbol, he sent a wave of unholy energy out, causing the undead ogres to cower.  Stepping into the room, Scuro began to heal Ska’arr.  “Well?  What are you waiting for?” he called back to the others.

In short order, the ogres were reduced to quivering lumps of charred flesh.  The table held gold pieces and 3 gems, which were pocketed quickly.  Within the rooms where the undead ogres had emerged from proved empty, except for a single large, steel shield that had been hanging from a wall.

Only a set of double doors had not been explored.  Sending the murk ahead, it found no enemies or traps and signalled to Scuro that the area was safe.  Ska’arr continued his destructive rampage and smashed down the doors.  The room seemed to be a storage area – several broken crates littered the room.  Another set of double doors could be seen on the other side of the room.  With nothing else of interest, the party approached the doors.

Finding no traps upon the door, Shribryn opened the doors cautiously.  Stepping forward, a blast of fire engulfed her.  Thrown back, Pelias quickly lay healing hands upon Shribryn, closing the gruesome wounds and blisters that marked her body.

Kat moved forward cautiously to the threshold of the doorway and examined the area.  She noted that, in very faint writing, she could see runes written all around the doorway in the next room.  On top of that, she suspected that, since the runes didn’t disappear after blasting Shribryn, the rune trap could reset itself.  Uh oh.

Relaying her findings to the others, they discussed their options.  “There is little we can do about the rune trap,” Thraor was saying.  “None of us have the means to remove it.  Maybe we’ll be lucky and it takes days for the runes to reset.”

“I agree,” said Ska’arr.  With that, he leapt into the next room passed the stones that held the runes.  Flames engulfed Ska’arr.  “Ouch.”  As he landed, he noticed two things; one:  Kat was beside him unscathed.  Two:  one of the blocks he landed on sank down slightly.  Spears flew out of the walls and struck Ska’arr and Kat.  “Double ouch.”

“I think the coast is clear for now,” Pelias said.  “We need to get into the next room now!”  As they all rushed into the room, they sighed in relief as none of them were engulfed in flames or struck by spears.

“Well, that was easy,” Raven said dryly.