Dear Diary…a brush with undeath

Alert: May contain spoilers for the adventure “Descent into the Depths of the Earth”

We walked all day with Driptz.

He sticks to the back, where the light isn’t so intense, even though Raven made him goggles out of some cloth. I think there’s more than one reason our kinds don’t typically get along too well.

The way is treacherous, sometimes cut by two foot terraces or steps, sometimes slicked with slime or something worse. We came across the corpse of something humanoid, but it’s hard to tell what because the skin is totally transparent. Mr. Drippy says an “abalath” can do that – they’re a fish with tentacles that change skin to be breathable underwater. Apparently that’s not so great if you’re above water. He says they can also mind-control you, and unlike normal fish they can slide around out of the water. Sure enough, a few yards from the corpse we found a slime trail wider than I am tall, crossing our path to duck into a side crevice. Drippy led the way in wiping the slime off his shoes after we crossed it. I have no more words for the creatures down here…the crazy crypto-zoology of the underworld.

**

Everywhere we turn, there’s something trying to ruin my nerves.

We finally reached a larger cavern – so large we could only guess at its size from the faint glow of the luminous mushrooms off in the distance – when a handful of faint, bobbing lights floated around us. Lydia thought they looked like a simple light spell, so we pulled dampening cloths over our lit shields and brought Drippy to the front to meet whoever was examining us.

Three drow approached from behind a rock, and I guess we explained what we wanted (the leader spoke Common with a strong accent, and Ezekiel spoke in elvish to make it easier). The leader and Drippy gestured at each other, and they told us, if we really wanted to be mercenaries, we should take the passage straight ahead, and avoid the turn-off on the right.

Ezekiel told us to check our stuff before we left. Drippy looked quite smug as he stood with his compatriots and watched us leave, but everything seems to be here, so I guess it wasn’t because of that. Maybe he knew what was down the right corridor. Maybe nothing to do with us.

(Note: they already know that Eclavdra died. Makes sense, but it gives the feeling we are swimming in a very big pond indeed.)

Incidentally, I don’t actually know Ezekiel that well. We were given specific instructions, and what does Ezekiel do but want the direct opposite. He told me to take my ring of infravision and go invisibly investigate the tunnel on the right.

I figured either there was actually something dangerous down there, or the drow were watching us and would smack us with a, “Ha you can’t follow basic instructions!” consequence if we messed with it, but I seem to be easier to ignore when I’m invisible, so there didn’t seem a way to get out of it.

Anyway, we crossed the cavern, entered a narrower passage, and found the branch that left the main track, heading to our right. All these passages were still pretty wide, but we couldn’t see very far along because of the bends and turns.

I headed down the forbidden tunnel (as I’ve said before, I’m a team player). Not far along, a booming voice echoed around me, and said the tunnel was liable to collapse, and for my own safety I should leave. Whether that were true or not, I’d blown my cover, so I went back to report. Agnar promptly stomped down the passage a short ways, and announced that it looked safe to him.

Finally, Ezekiel lent me his gem of seeing, and Raven agreed to turn himself invisible and come back me up (with his moving-in-darkness skills) so the two of us went back down the corridor. This time we made it to the end, went down some steps, and found ourselves in a cave about the size of a large room. There was nothing to see with the naked eye (especially without infravision) but when I looked through the gem, I saw stacks and stacks of books…and a tall, skeletal figure in a robe, holding a book, that gave off no body heat.

I had never seen something quite like that, and I’d never heard of something quite like that, but I try to know when I am out of my depth. I turned and left, taking Raven with me with my momentum. I must have kicked over a book as we left, because we heard a voice behind us, echoing through the stony passage: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

The others were quite eager to hear the report when they heard us shuffle back. I tried to explain my perspective, but once I said, “Undead guy with lots of books,” neither Ezekiel nor Lydia could just walk by without investigating. Perhaps the drow knew he was there, and knew there is nothing so tantalizing to the neutral-tending-chaotic as a “Do Not” notice…and so hoped he (whatever he was) would deal with us. Perhaps they honestly wished to warn us. Perhaps they wished to gauge our skill.

Well, anyway. Speculation is free, I guess.

At least when we decide to do something, we usually take the time to do it right. Ezekiel cast a protection from Evil sphere, and then read a scroll over himself – since, he said, I had only seen the skeletal man through the gem. Meanwhile, Lydia cast a shimmery, transparent globe around herself, and Mikael used his stone to call up an earth elemental.

Finally, we advanced down the corridor- not really creeping this time; everything in a five mile radius knew we were there. Aliana called out that the thing really was Evil, and although most of us couldn’t see anything but a brightly lit cave, Ezekiel hit something that sounded substantial. Raven hit it with a cross-bow bolt, but I’m not sure that accomplished anything. What really did it in was the rock elemental, who punched the skeleton man into a pile of bone fragments. I guess even strong undead magic is undone by that kind of damage.

Once the undead person was dead-dead, the whole room jammed with stacks of books popped into the visible spectrum. It’s much easier to look around at something when you can simply see it, instead of squinting at it through a gem – as useful as that is. We spent a good bit of time poking around. I think the most exciting thing overall was a black handkerchief shoved into a crevice hidden under something – it unfolded to be another portable hole. This is very handy, especially with all the copper and silver ingots we’re still carrying around.

Some of the books were in Flannish, which was nice practice for me, but they were mostly political exchanges between ambassadors of countries I’d never heard of, and books of maps. Lydia spent a while reading through what turned out to be spellbooks, and some dry tomes about increasing lifespan and that kind of thing.

Tressarian and I went around checking for magic and Evil, and we found quite a bit of magical stuff (including some dust inside a leather bag). Three things showed up as Evil, though – a crown set with jewels, a scepter, and an ornate golden orb (they were in the portable hole when we opened it). It’s mighty handy being invisible sometimes, but it’s inconvenient when people ignore me when I speak. By the time Tressarian told me the items were Evil, Ezekiel was deep in examination of the scepter, and telling Aliana that she would look really regal in the crown. They finally heard me talking, and when Ezekiel heard the regalia were Evil, he spent some time praying over them to try to drive out any lingering spirits. He has not talked about wanting to dress up Aliana as a queen any more (today).

Raven found a ceramic or stone scarab, just like the last one. He pointed out the last one said, “Death,” with a picture of a skull – while this one is covered with runes to do with Protection and Evil. Well, without a preposition that phrase could go either way, and I am not about to take chances with any more of our party.

There are a few more things on the treasure list, but that’s everything of note so far. Ezekiel says, see it’s a good thing we investigated this. I figure it’s like a dragon – it could easily have gone the other way, like a boulder on a cliff edge. Anyway, onwards to more dark caverns…


Find the previous entry here.

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  1. Pingback: Dear Diary...there were rituals - Kimia Wood

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