Last night Lancell woke me up and said there was something outside the door. I gathered my bow and positioned myself, just in case, but thankfully it went away after a while.
In the morning, we gathered our gear – and Raven slung Ezekiel’s body over his back – and we headed out.
Something had eaten the bodies of the claw-claw-bite things…and something had also left a million little footprints in the mud by the door.
I don’t remember ever seeing prints like that before, but I’m so glad Lancell didn’t open the door last night.
We led our civilians to the staircase that led to freedom. I think everybody was glad to see honest-to-goodness sunlight filtered down the length of the stairs.
Kelsier took a rope and tied it at the top of the stairs to give us something to hold on to, but it didn’t reach the last ten feet of staircase.
Mikael lost his footing and wiped out…and when I tried to give him a hand, I went down, too – splat. At least we didn’t hurt ourselves, and eventually reached the swamp topside.
Ramne pointed out a route of heavy traffic leading over the dikes that kept back the water – and he pointed out that there was only one such route. We deduce that no other village was roped into the Explictika cult, yet, which I guess is good since it means we nipped it before it spread.
The swamp was slow going, what with the luggage and helping the civilians keep up (and the thigh-high water and mud). Kelsier, as always, was a trooper, and carried his new magical short sword above his head where it wouldn’t get messed up.
There is one crazy thing that happened (Jill probably wouldn’t call it crazy).
I saw this small hill moving towards us, and eventually realized it was a giant turtle instead. I pointed it out to everybody just in time for it to charge it and chomp Jill.
Man, turtles have some mean jaws on them! I mean, they don’t even have teeth – just little beaks – but it drew blood and tossed Jill down into the mud, flopping in unconsciousness.
Lancell leaped forward and hacked at it, while Raven dropped Ezekiel – slop – in the mud and tried a monk-ish punch. Mikael threw his Faery Fire, and as Kelsier launched his arrow (and I readied mine) I could see a gleaming, sparkly outline of the turtle and its weak points – like my mind was narrowing with a hunter’s instinct on my target.
I didn’t get to loose the shot, though, because Ramne waved his hands and babbled some funny words, and hurled a lightening bolt through our midst at the creature.
I think my hair stood up for a second, and the turtle croaked and growled and flailed and died.
“That was amazing!” screamed the little boy. (I’m still not sure Raven should have shown him Explictika’s severed head.)
I hopped through the mud and stopped Jill’s bleeding. Lancell Laid Hands on her, but she was still in a bad way. That must have been one vicious turtle.
When she finally opened her eyes, Ramne gave her the last swallow of his magic healing potion.
Mikael really wanted to skin the turtle (I admit, that shell was pretty impressively huge) but we decided we couldn’t afford the delay. Maybe we’ll get another chance sometime.
Reached the edge of the swamp by sundown. It’s so nice to be camping on dry ground, with the open breezes above us and the night sounds around us. I know I said the Dim Forest was creepy, but after nearly a week underground, it’s practically homey.
If nothing else dramatic happens, we’ll reach Orlane in a couple of days.
Actually three days, which is not bad given how weighed down we were.
As we entered the outskirts and the temple came into view, we could see a heavy rainstorm over the temple. Like, only over the temple. In fact, the path from the gates was a full-blown stream, running downhill to join the river.
“Well, well,” said Raven. “I sense Velnius.”
“Who?” asked those of us who didn’t know.
“Velnius – a god of storms and rain, and cousin to Merikka. His clerics have a way of butting in where they’re not wanted.”
Clerics do that sometimes.
Well, it seemed there had been some excitement while we were gone. We headed to the Slumbering Serpent to meet up with Olwin and the mayor before we decided our next move.
Our rescued prisoners were glad to be home – except for the kids, who were a little nervous about what their parents would be like (the parents hadn’t been quite themselves after meeting Her). We left them with Olwin to take care of (and to talk with their parents) and told the mayor of our success (and showed off the head of course. The little boy wanted to see it once more before he left).
The mayor told us a Cleric of Velnius had arrived two days before, and taken responsibility for the temple. Apparently it’d been raining there almost ever since.
We stashed most of our treasure in our room upstairs (which Olwin had faithfully saved for us) and prepared to go to the temple (because what else?).
Master Ramne cast a “floating disk” spell so we could carry Ezekiel in a little more dignity, then bid farewell. He’s going home. We thanked him, of course, and I said that if he changed his mind about some treasure to let us know.
The mayor hadn’t seen Abramo since we left, but who knew what he had been up to?
We reached the temple gates. They were swinging free on their hinges, while just over the threshold a heavy rain was still falling.
I wasn’t eager to charge into a Cleric battle, but what else was there to do? The answer to the mystery lay ahead.
We ducked through the rain, pushing Ezekiel along on his floating hearse, and through the open doors of the temple. Fortunately, it wasn’t raining inside – although everything did look dampish and freshly scrubbed.
We advanced into the sanctuary.
In front of the statue of Merikka sat an old man in robes that made me think of the sky – of storms and sunshine and clear days and wind. On his right sat Abramo on some kind of stool (not wearing armor, and not attacking us – so far so good). On his left sat a number of monks of Merikka.
Anyone will tell you I can blather with the best of them, but there was something about the powers involved here – and the interaction of deities – that made me feel a little nervous and awed.
I forget who broke the silence first, but the Cleric of Velnius (yes, Raven was right) welcomed us and congratulated us on our good work. He explained that he’d cleared out the torture chamber and the dead bodies (ahem – we had been a little careless with our dead bodies) and we showed him Explictika’s head (again, I don’t see the appeal of her – alive or dead).
It seems “Brother Abramo” is not totally himself…but he is on the way there, and working on penance. (So, sorry, Kelsier – we don’t get to kill him and take his stuff.)
Then the Cleric of Velnius waved his hands at Ezekiel…and Ezekiel twitched…and promptly rolled off the disk.
He came up shouting (because of course Ezekiel does): “That was my sword wound, you spawn of a scaly earthworm –”
And then he realized where he was and bowed to the Cleric and thanked him.
The Cleric told us a long story about some Temple of Elemental Evil…and as he talked, he held his hands toward Ezekiel and I could tell there was magic happening. He said it was destroyed by an alliance of kings and paladins (sounds like the kind of thing my dad would be into) but that there were still people interested in worshiping the forces of Chaotic Evil, and that they had maybe set up shop in a village called Homlet.
“Now you owe us,” said the Cleric to Ezekiel. “And I charge you, and those who are bound to you, to visit the village of Homlet and deal with this cult of Elemental Evil.”
“Thank you for all your help,” said Ezekiel with another bow. “I understand. My mentor was also under a geas.”
Trust Ezekiel to take an enchantment in stride! Right after coming back to life, no less.
Well, with the solemn stuff out of the way, we asked the Cleric’s help in identifying some of the magic items we looted.
He explained that Mikael’s new horn is a “Brass Horn of Valhalla” and will summon barbarians to fight for him (has to be blown by a spell-caster, so it works out that we gave it to Mikael).
Ezekiel started rooting through Kelsier’s bag and thoroughly examined all the potions. I’m not sure he really knows what all of them are, but he was happy to tell us what he thought they were. Because that’s Ezekiel all over.
Well. He’s back. Large as life. And as soon as we mop up the problems for the people of Orlane, he’s magic-bound to go do the same thing for the people of Homlet.
And, well, I’ll go with him, of course. He needs someone around to pull his fat out of the fire (Raven snickered really hard at that and started complaining about his shoulders). And that’s what this whole adventuring thing is about – helping people and stomping evil. What else would I do…take the Love Potion and go off to try my luck?
Ha ha. I’m not my brother Reginald. Ah, the troubles that Father and Alpheus had to pull Reginald out of.
I am not like that. I’m going to be more like Father and Alpheus. A hero.
(I’ll probably also die horribly and young, but there you go.)
To start at the beginning, click here.