Alert: May contain spoilers for the adventure “Scourge of the Slave Lords”
Around the very next corner, we ran into more aspis…by “we” I mean Agnar, Heiron, and Bornthene to start with. Once again, the twisty, tiny passages left me guarding the back, hearing clangs and grunts and bangs from a combat I couldn’t even see.
Anyway, by the time I followed everyone through the narrow dirt tunnel, around the corner, and into the larger space, there were dead aspis and giant ants lying about, Agnar, Ezekiel and Heiron had already disappeared down another tunnel, and Mikael was singing to an ant as big as a wolf, which flapped its antennae hither and thither as though it wasn’t sure what was going on. Dree was singing, too, but not the same thing…it almost sounded like “Peyce of Oyr Fathyrs,” but I didn’t quite like to ask. It didn’t seem like the right time (and anyway, she might turn out to be a magic-shape-shifty lady in the end. You never know).
Lydia told me not to step on a silk trip-cord strung down near the floor, then kept watching Mikael sing his song and wave his one arm.
Bornthene and the half-orc weren’t there, either – and from the muffled clattering, I gathered the rest of the party was somewhere down the eastern tunnel. I didn’t like to leave Mikael unattended, but after all, Lydia is quite able to take care of herself and him…so after Dree went to see what was going on, I went, too.
The tunnels get quite narrow – and also split and merge a bit in a confusing manner – but the others weren’t too hard to find, what with the bright lights they carried, and the noise they were making. When I caught up with them, giant bugs were chewing on Ezekiel and Agnar, and Bornthene was emptying his quiver into a huge, bulbous, queen-looking aspis…imagine a termite the size of a cottage. Raven tumbled through my periphery vision, knocked over by an aspis.
I started filling the queen with arrows, until Bornthene got it in the eye and it had finally had enough, flopping to the ground with a great squelching and squealing. Moments later, a wall of fire leapt up through the middle of the remaining insects, cutting across the cavern. As insects squealed and popped, I saw Lydia across the way, nonchalantly blowing on her fingers.
Dree started bandaging Ezekiel (I guess she’s done something like that before), and the last few aspis beyond the fire fled into tunnels behind.
We didn’t set out to exterminate this nest…but after all: they’re only bugs; they had an “understanding” with the slavers; and they were eating human body parts. Mikael might point out that we wouldn’t blame a wolf or cougar for eating people…but to that I say, I may not blame it but I would still kill it.
I found Heiron (bleeding profusely) and took him to catch up with Mikael. We passed the half-orc…his mouth hung open and his eyes bugged out, like he was trying to swallow what had just happened.
When we got back to Mikael, we found Raven guarding him. Raven looked like he was barely staying on his feet, but he was staunching his own bleeding. I bandaged the worst of Heiron’s injuries…and when Ezekiel and Dree showed up (she leading Bornthene by the hand), he gave her some pointers as she worked on Raven’s injuries.
Bornthene seemed satisfied that we had killed the big aspis, while even Agnar looked like he’d had enough fighting for one day. Yes, even Agnar was breathing heavily and holding his side, and grumbling in his beard as he came down the passage. He did agree it was a bang-up fight. Heiron said something about “fewer of us died this time,” and asked Usin how he was feeling. I guess there were some dramatic rents in his tunic, such as usually come from your internal organs getting ripped out, but his body seemed fine. He nodded a bit, still looking dazed.
About that time, Mikael turned around and introduced us to his new best giant ant friend – Marie Ant-oinette. That just left finding a way back to the temple on the surface…
Lydia said she recognized one of the tunnels as where we came down before, when we climbed down under the Grumpsh statue…and sure enough, as soon as she showed me the place, I found our footprints from yesterday (or was it the day before? It’s been such a whirlwind).
Once everyone was safely tucked into the “sanctuary” (and Heiron barred the double doors), Ezekiel laid out the tiny shriveled forearm with the ring on it, and drew the rod of resurrection. He might have warned us she would come back naked! Well, anyway, some glittery sparkles floated in the air, and then – behold! – a little halfling lady, shivering a little and blinking around her.
When I peeked through my fingers again, Ezekiel was holding up a blanket, and Dree was helping her dress in some of the clothes from the storeroom. As soon as she was decent, she looked around – and ran straight to Bornthene. Not going to lie, it was kind of sweet. We had to apologize for yanking her away from the attendance of Cirililalali (Ez says that’s their halfling goddess; he also says that’s not how it’s spelled), but if my experiences are anything to go by, she doesn’t remember being dead, anyway. And Bornthene looks like a new halfling. They’ve been whispering together in the corner, and he doesn’t look at all like he wants to cry. Maybe there’s still a bit of blood-lust in his eyes, but it’s turned into something sterner, something more rational.
We have to wait until tomorrow morning to try the rod again, but we’ll be here anyway because we still have two more slaves that Lydia burned up by accident and Ezekiel is going to raise. And, of course, we have to go get the three merchants we locked and let them out. In a sense, it feels unfair to leave them all night with nothing to eat, but we got really chewed up by those aspis and ants (and I get the feeling Ezekiel would just as soon leave them in the cages forever, which doesn’t seem like him somehow).
Mikael is “meditating” or something, asking Obed-Hai about any spare arms he might have about the place. Since we’re resting up for the afternoon anyway, Ezekiel divvied out the ledgers from Mr. Bluecolts’ desk, so we can all search for clues. I hope we turn up something…everything we heard about the Slave Lords since we got to Fax has been talking about Highport, and now we’re here…and there’s still more to the rabbit hole.
(Ezekiel gave Dree the basics about the God of gods. She says it’s easier to understand than the book Lydia’s reading. Raven taught her the fishy wave, though it looks different on her.)
Big discussion this evening. Ezekiel tried to talk Bornthene into staying with us; whatever he does, he’ll need a safe place to put his wife (she doesn’t seem the adventuring type).
We argued a bit about the best path forward. We found some notes in amongst the ledgers that sound like the Slave Lords are not all of one mind…and in fact that they’re scheming behind each other’s backs to get their own best advantage. My Lawful Good is sarcastically shocked.
More to the point, there’s talk about a caravan that left here recently enough it might be possible to track it. It’s heading to some place called Suderham, which is a better lead than nothing. Ezekiel is really worried about our fighting fitness, maybe because we got our teeth kicked in by a bunch of over-sized bugs…though that’s not a totally fair assessment, since we couldn’t use the full weight of our numbers thanks to the terrain.
Lydia suddenly spoke up and mentioned that Hazard, the magic-user/accountant in Elred, had “Teleport” in his spellbook. Which means she could get back to Homlette and let us rearm…maybe. Unless it goes wrong – and as Lydia says, when something with magic goes wrong, it goes really wrong.
I wasn’t sure it was worth the risk to our fire-power…but I got out-voted. Also I think Ezekiel feels ineffectual without his special relics. I guess he has a point about Mikael…it took him three tries to mend the gash along Ezekiel’s collarbone, and we have to wait until tomorrow morning to patch up my arm that I can’t raise above my head (at least I have an arm, so I’m not complaining).
Bad news this morning. We don’t know if the body parts are too small or too old, or if the rod of resurrection is all charged-out, but it didn’t work this morning. At least Bornthene has his wife back…but any other members of his family are out of our reach. We’ll just have to trust them to their Good deities.
Also – Mikael had been thinking over some things from his training, and he thought that if he could find a tree like one around Homlette (or better yet in Master Geru’s grove) he could travel through the trees and get back to Homlette. He couldn’t take anyone with him, but it would be a way for him to get there if Lydia somehow didn’t make it. But we took a look around this morning while Ezekiel was raising the slave, and we couldn’t find any trees of an appropriate species.
We did get our imprisoned merchant and his two bodyguards out of the cells and on their way to Highport. They were none too gruntled by all this, but considering the death and devastation that seems to follow in our wake, they probably got off easy.
Well, Lydia cast Teleport – and apparently she can take someone with her, because she and Raven held hands, and then they both disappeared. Within a few minutes, her face appeared in the air, and she beckoned us all through the mirror-portal into her room back at the tower in Homlette. Ezekiel came last, carrying the final dead slave (we sent the one he revived today off to Highport to reconnect with the other rescued slaves).
Words cannot express! It feels like a lifetime since we’ve been here. Lydia’s things were all covered with dust, but it didn’t seem that anything had been disturbed. Ezekiel ran off right away to find Sir Rufus, and ran into him in the tower. I’m glad I watched as he told him and Father Yra about what happened to us…Sir Rufus said the story might be better told over a beer, and Ezekiel implied they might need several just to believe it. Father Yra kept most of his face very chill and priest-like, but his eyes kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger.
Master Ostler is the sweetest old man who ever lived!, and he saved all our stuff for us. Ezekiel and Mikael pooled some money together as a thank-you gift, and then Ezekiel dragged Dree and the half-orc off to get them “proper gear,” as he says. To see their faces when they came out! Dree looks actually intimidating in the magic plate-mail, complete with sword and shield, while Usin…I’m not sure his eyes will ever go back to the same size again. He also got enchanted plate, and a ring of protection – this is what happens when Ezekiel hoards his old gear for months and months. He was practically bubbling.
He and Raven are going to take Dree and Usin to visit Keom and Ronhass (and the dragons). Ezekiel is talking about leaving Dree to read his books of theology and get to know Keom and Ronhass, since they’re all the “underlings” of the church of the God of gods. (I wonder if they all have to do the fishy wave.) That sounds like a good idea, since she’s not as experienced as the rest of us and might break more easily…but I don’t think I trust Usin to stay, too. I mean, that might be too much to ask Keom and Ronhass to babysit him, too. (Hope they’ve been getting on all right. It’s so inconsiderate of their master to get kidnapped and drop off the earth for months at a time.)
I wish I could see how that meeting goes, but Elmo suggested we have a drink this evening, and how can I pass that up? Heiron is coming, too. Really, it’s just nice to see everyone here is all right and getting along fine without us.
Ezekiel told Bornthene he is welcome to stay here (at this distance, I doubt he’ll be worth the Slave Lords’ while to hunt down). Ez even said he could pay some of the trainers here to give Bo some pointers and practice in archery and fighting, so that if he does decide to come with us to finish the job – or strikes out into the world with his wife – he’ll have a better chance at survival. We’ll see what he says when he and Miffly have had a chance to take it all in.
Naturally, we’ll be heading back to the Wild Coast in a day or two. While Lydia can’t scry our chest in the ocean (must be too dark or something), we still had a ton of extra gear here. Ezekiel feels much more confident about facing the Slave Lords themselves now.
As for the Slave Lords, Sir Rufus says he’s even heard of them out here, and that they sound like trouble. Sounds like some people are getting a bit too grabby, and need a slap on the wrist.
Much as I miss Tressarian, I will make do with the magic longsword, magic short sword, magic chainmail, magic arrows, silver arrows, and potions I had in storage here. Rescuing Tressarian can wait.
The only one who doesn’t seem totally satisfied yet is Mikael, and he has gone to talk to Druid Master Geru about arms, growing arms, spare arms, etc. Marie Ant-oinette and Buffy must have gone with him, since I don’t see them around.
The Wild Coast is about to get a bit wilder, methinks…
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