It’s only noon, but we’re already wiped out. We need to work on pacing or something.
After our little rest, Ezekiel led up through the hall to the north of the cleric’s bedroom. It leads straight up to what I’m calling the “great hall” – although there’s a short corridor that splits off and leads to a room full of bugbears and goblins.
When we first opened that door, Wonillon charged straight in (ignoring the wound on his arm, apparently) before Ezekiel had a chance to shout for everyone to hold back.
I nailed two bugbears through the throat, and then Lydia tossed her egg – and the room filled with a thick green cloud. (She’s been wanting to do that all day, you know.)
I could just see Wonillon on his hands and knees, puking – but then Mikael threw faery fire on the rest of the humanoids, and I was busy filling them with arrows.
A goblin tried to flee the cloud, but ran right into Ezekiel, who turned it into paste on the wall. I think that was satisfying for both of us (though not for the goblin).
Raven has been practicing with javelins, and threw a couple into the room – but apparently he didn’t have the range down, because his first throw lodged the javelin between the chinks in the stone wall opposite us. (Good thing he didn’t use the lightening javelin, eh?)
By the time the cloud dissipated, the enemy was all down, and we could search the room for valuables. It reeked of goblins, the floor was filthy, and the tressel tables were littered with food scraps. There were some sausages hanging from the rafters, but none of us trusted them (unless Corby was interested; Cuddles was still pretty full).
Raven found a pantry with millet, beets, and flour…so if worst comes to worst and we need food down here, we have options. But I don’t find anything a bugbear has been pawing very appetizing.
The bugbears all wore grey cloaks, which fits in with them serving the Air Temple.
Ezekiel wanted to charge off and get the next cleric before we called it a day, so we returned to the “great hall.”
The next passageway that led south had gross paintings on the walls: worshippers of Evil leading their sacrificial captives after a cleric in grey robes.
Ezekiel figured we’d already dealt with Air, so led us to the next passage down.
The paintings there were much the same…although the despicable cultists were being led by three different clerics in different robes: grey with a square, green with a circle, and red with an eight-sided thing.
Ezekiel decided we weren’t ready for all of that, and made us turn around and head down the other corridor.
We killed an ocher jelly in the “great hall” (meaning Raven, Heiron, and Yeti splatted it while the rest of us watched) and moved on. (I really hope it’s not the same one, because that would be annoying, not to say disturbing.)
This corridor ended with a set of double-doors to either side – east and west. According to the map, there should also be a secret door leading the Cleric Kelno’s quarters. (I think I saw another secret door, but I’m not sure…and we haven’t had time to check it out.)
Wonillon thought the doors to the west were trapped…but Raven said the doors to the east were clean.
Ezekiel said that worked out, because according to the map, that was more in the direction of the main bulk of the Temple, anyway.
He and Yeti opened the doors…and now comes –
the creepy part.
The room was huge – steps led down to the floor, fifteen feet below us, and the domed ceiling soared at least forty feet above. A strange, milky glow seemed to come from everywhere…messing with the shadows and looking very unnatural. Maybe like a dull, overcast day.
There was a mist swirling on the floor, too, that made it hard to tell what was in the room. We did notice a pit in the very center of the room, directly underneath a shaft in the middle of the ceiling. I wonder whether it’s the same mysterious shaft we spotted on the level above – but we haven’t put the maps on top of each other to test the theory, or investigated the shaft.
There’s also an alabaster altar in front of the pit. Two braziers on silver chains hung on either side of the pit, as well, giving off a sickly sweet smell. Don’t ask me why, but it made me think of fresh blood.
Ezekiel told Yeti to come with him, and they advanced very carefully down the steps.
Another set of steps led up from the floor to the north, but they stopped at a door covered with horrible runes that none of us could look at. Doors and stairs led away to the east and south, too, all positioned around the central square where the altar and pit were – and forming the outer walls into a big octagon.
Ezekiel and Yeti reached the floor, and didn’t seem to be harmed by the mist (you never know, of course…). They reached the center, and they say the pit was only five feet deep or so (plenty deep for some of us), and there were two crystal knives and a crystal bowl on the altar.
Ezekiel, as we all know, is always grabbing death by the horns – so he picked up one of the daggers.
A weird tinkling – almost a chime, though it set my teeth on edge – rang out, and then a cyclone or something seemed rise out of the pit and smacked Ezekiel and Yeti. I saw them almost fall over — and then we all saw a misty shape, not quite cloud, not exactly human appear on the far side of the room.
Heiron is either gutsy, or just figures the plan you don’t try will always fail. He fired an arrow at the thing – but either he was too excited, or the wind spinning around the pit knocked it off course…anyway, it didn’t hit.
The shape charged our friends and made a slash at Ezekiel, but shrieked and seemed to shrink away from Yeti.
Raven and Heiron both fired missiles (Raven a javelin) before I sent an arrow right through the thing (I can’t call it a creature, because it didn’t seem to even flinch at my arrow).
Mikael cast faery fire on it, and it looked quite strange – glowing and sparkling in the strange luminescence of the room. Parts of it were glowing brighter than others, but I don’t really know if those were its vulnerable spots…I don’t even know if a thing like that has vulnerable spots.
Raven ran down into the room (the cyclone or whatever seemed to be staying in the pit, so didn’t hurt him – just flapped his ropes a little) and he punched the figure.
I saw him shake his hand a little before shouting, “Don’t punch it.”
That’s when Yeti got his hit in. It’s hard to tell whether a figure of vapor has a “head,” but when his hammer connected with the “head,” the cloudy form billowed a little, and it snarled – perhaps in pain, perhaps in anger.
It seemed reasonable to me then that only magical weapons could hurt it…so, (since Raven had gotten down there fine without being carried off by the whirlwind) I told Heiron to help Mikael protect the prisoners (along with the animals), and drew my sword.
Wonillon ran past me, and stabbed the thing in its side (I don’t know if it was its side, you know, but it was the side of what we were looking at – anyway…). It didn’t like that, and snarled again – so that when I tried a cut, it swirled and pulled its misty limbs away.
Ezekiel said, “I think it’s a wraith — it’s mine.”
Fair’s fair…he wants to try using his magic mace on undead…but if that’s his goal maybe he shouldn’t try to hit Yeti, behind him.
I hadn’t even noticed that Raven had left – I was more concerned about staying near Yeti while fighting the apparition – but then we were all reminded of his presence.
He says that he was irritated by the smell of the braziers, and wanted to put them out. So he dumped his waterskin on the nearest one.
Next thing we knew, dense smoke rolled out of the brazier and covered the floor…more than that, it piled up on the floor until we couldn’t breath and could barely see the people right next to us.
While we were all gagging at the burning pain, I heard Yeti mutter something about, “Ula heal…”
I didn’t stay longer though, since I figured my usefulness had come to an end, and besides I couldn’t breathe without feeling like I was inhaling boiling water.
I headed for the last place I’d seen the stairs – which wasn’t quite where I remembered, because I almost banged my face on the wall of the room.
While I recovered myself, I heard footsteps patter off to my right – and then a much more leaden sound…the clatter of someone in armor collapsing to the ground.
Ezekiel yelled something about, “Begone, foul creature!”
I shouted for Yeti and Ezekiel to say something – but by that point, I heard the scraping and clanking of someone dragging someone in armor – up steps.
I followed the sounds, found the steps, and managed to climb onto them – gagging the whole time.
When I got high enough to actually see things again, Wonillon had reached the top of the stairs, and Raven had Yeti laid out on a step, dripping a healing potion into his mouth.
(It’s sure lucky he had that. We have Keoghtem’s Ointment, of course, but they’re all in the bag of holding…on my back.)
As Yeti sat up – coughing and rubbing his throat – Ezekiel charged up the stairs after us…followed by that hideous floating apparition that seemed to be blending with the cloud of poison gas.
Yeti fumbled for his hammer, and threw it — maybe Ula guided that throw, because it caught the figure smack in the middle, and the mist or vapor or whatever it was made of evaporated into the air with a whiny groan.
Ezekiel told us, while desecrating strange temples, make sure you only touch one thing at a time.
That’s all the “learning opportunity” he had time for, since we had to crawl out into the corridor to get away from the rising smoke. (I wasn’t afraid the smoke would flood the whole dungeon…but being anywhere in that room certainly didn’t feel safe.)
In the corridor, we found our companions weren’t having a dull morning, either. A huge, green, humanoid creature with ugly tusks (I knew it was a troll from my studies, but it’s the first I’ve ever seen in real life) was attacking Cuddles, and Heiron was having trouble firing at it through all the friendlies.
Raven and Ezekiel charged into battle (Raven with a javelin that caught the troll square in the shoulder) while Cuddles gave an angry-sounding hiss and bit him.
The troll took another swing at Cuddles, smacking him so hard he flipped over and gurgled on the floor…but by then I finally had my shot lined up, and nailed it through the throat.
Mikael ran to Cuddles, while Ezekiel pounced on the troll and pinned it to the ground with his mace. He called for someone with oil, and Wonillon (after searching it for anything interesting) doused it with a flask.
Lydia lit it up, and we watched the green pile of limbs turn into charcoal.
Well, the others agreed with me that that was quite enough excitement for one day, so we limped back to the guard quarters to heal up.
(I wonder what our captured guard thought of us. Not like my pride hangs on his opinion, but it does seem to be true that we are not prepared for some of the things here.)
The woman we rescued was shaking a little bit, and said she didn’t want to die. A reasonable sentiment…I for one was never keen to go off exploring and fighting with an innocent civilian along.
Whatever else, this turn of events has convinced Ezekiel that we need to return to town for a bit. We can get the woman to safety, heal up a little, and turn our captured guard over to someone responsible (although I admit he’s been a valuable resource to explain what we’re seeing down here. That’s the trouble when we kill important people too fast).
Wonillon had these skinny little knives he calls “crampons” he can use to wedge shut the door into the western guardroom. We should be able to sleep a little better, and with all of us in the same area, whoever’s on watch will have an easier time of it. (Lydia and the woman, of course, have the private room.)
Hard to believe that just this morning, we were eating this same cold mutton for breakfast. At least when we’re spending some serious time recovering, we can light a fire and warm it up.
Maybe Ezekiel will use this time to get more info out of the prisoner? It’s not what we’re good at…but hey, neither is breathing in smoke.
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