Conquering the Barbarian Altanis: Session 29
|Eccy Throi||Elf level 1||Wears a dark green cloak to hide his bulging muscles and crippling anxiety.|
|Rad||Thief level 1||A young, short and malnourished rogue.|
|Adkin the Butcher||Fighter level 2||A hot headed warrior quick to fury trained by Marco Vitelli, retired quartermaster of the army of the Invincible Overlord.|
|Rhovar||Fighter level 2||A generic Nordic guy.|
|Taegen Ianlynn||Elf level 1||Tan skinned wood elf of magnificent physique. Doesn't hide it.|
|Sinai||Cleric level 3||White-robbed beduin, worshipper of Bukera, The Silent Scorpion.|
Warmshade 8th, Earthday
“What shall we do?!”
“Cast Light at its eyes!”
“Try to talk to it?”
The party was exchanging ideas rapidly, whilst a humanoid shaped fungal growth advanced towards them. It didn't seem to care too much what the adventurers had to say.
The party withdrew back into the tunnel they came from, and tightened their ranks. The fungi-man came close and lunged forward, both of its arms changing shape into a web-like sphere.
One of them landed, capturing an adventurer with a firm grip. At that moment, the creature's other arm shapeshifted once again—this time into a firm, ball-like sphere. The creature promptly proceeded to hammer the unlucky victim.
At this moment all brakes were off. One of the elves cast light on the creature's bulbous yellow growth, which they assumed to be eyes, while brave warriors Rhovar and Adkin jumped forth to rain fury.
Alas, Adkin was too eager, and sprained his ankle on the slipper cavern floor. Marco Vitelli would have had him flogged for such incompetence. Ariad, one of the retainers, was of cool nerves, and struck down the creature.
With the threat eliminated, our brave company was eager to investigate curious pods in front of them. Stepping forth they quickly discovered these were in fact two connected chambers, each some forty by forty feet and ceiling so high their torchlight barely illuminated it. A familiar stream was running through them, flowing southwards.
Around twenty human-sized pod-like shapes were hanging by thick stems from the ceiling. Each was suspended few feet off the ground. All but one were open; each reeked of rotten leaves and fish. The elves were as perplexed as humans.
Inspecting one didn't reveal much.
It was at this moment that the party opted for brilliant strategy of “we can investigate more of this cave if we split-up.” Sinai took Phelim “The Scorpion” and Norna “The Repulsive”, his trusty retainers, and went on to explore upstream.
Rest of the party focused on one unopened pod. It was hanging in the south-west corner of the lower chamber. Just behind it was a small nook. Adkin, having massaged his twisted ankle, carefully cut the pod's stem.
It fell to the ground with a loud thud, and bounced of like a plump watermelon. Unsure of what might lurk in it, the group surrounded it with malicious intent.
“Guys, what if one of the abducted peasants is in it?”
“Cut it gently then, I suppose?”
Taegen took to the knee, and approached this as a finely coordinate operation. He gently penetrated the pod with the tip of his blade, and then cut horizontally from top to bottom. Steaming pile of rotten sludge was his reward.
Simultaneously, Rad heard a clicking sound when the stem was cut. The source? A small compartment popped open in the alcove behind the pod. He snuck up to it, and then ransacked it. Two vials, one with metallic orange liquid and another with creamy, watery liquid.
The former had a pleasant appley aroma, while the latter had tarty, nearly citrusy smell. He carefully stowed them in his backpack.
The party fielded some interesting theories, but ultimately agreed that this sole creature wasn't the main culprit. Hence they decided to follow the path downstream, hoping it will connect to the narrow cave passageway they came from. And indeed they did. From there they went back to the chamber where they cut down nine deformed trees, and waited for Sinai's return.
The Cleric of Bukera, God of Desert Mountains, quickly found that the upstream path leads to the junction with wooden divider. It is fed by a waterfall, and it splits the stream into three paths: west, south, and east. He travelled the west when he came down for the first time; now he came to that place from the eastern passageway; therefore only southern remains to be explored. And so he went, and his acolytes followed.
Another chamber opened up after some time. The ceiling was ragged with the spiky points of innumerable stalactites. Part of the stream flowed into the middle of the room, forming a small pond. The far edge of it glowed with an eerie bluish light. Animals usually stay far away from bright colours—but Sinai is no animal.
Coming closer revealed that the edge of the pool was smeared with some sort of gooey substance.
“Norna, bend over and collect it!”
“No way! Do it yourself!”
The cleric bent over and pushed his left pinky into the goo. He was ecstatic to find out that his pinky now emanates glittery light blue hue. Next he soaked his whip, so it to glows. It made for a nice complement to his yellowish glowing boots, courtesy of small mushrooms he treaded on earlier.
Then he proceeded to pour out holy water from his vial, only to fill it with the phosphorescent liquid. With nothing else left to do, he took his team further downstream. That reunited them with the rest of the party.
Downstream they went, reaching another T-junction. Two streams joined into one at this point, flowing rapidly southwards at a fairly steep slope. This tunnel was more treacherous than all the ones they've travelled so far. Stalagmites and stalactites blocked the passage, leaving enough room for barely one person to navigate them at a time. There was no dry footing; all was slippery and wet.
Rhovar took nearly an hour securing the route. He staked an iron spike every ten feet, and then laid the rope, securing it at each point. This allowed even the least dexterous members to descend safely. They still had to watch their footing, but the chance of fatal fall was nearly nonexistent.
Another T-junction greeted them at the bottom. This time it split westwards an southeastwards. A desperate scream coming from the west interrupted the adventurers' planning meeting.
“NOOO! Let me go! NOOO! I beg you!”
Sinai the Hero led the charge, others soon followed—even the unnamed reluctant ones.
“NOOOOOO!” they ran fast enough to witness a macabre sight. Group of six fungi-men was firmly holding another human upside down. They held him above a large wooden apparatus. It was very similar to the one the party has encountered earlier, in which they found minced fish.
The man was yelling, desperately trying to set himself free, but the creatures' grip was unyielding. His grotesque ending was witnessed by all. The creatures pushed him into the device head first. Loud crunching sounds were intermingled with gut-wrenching yelps and pleas. The latter were outlasted by the former.
“Please save me!” loud female voice screamed.
“Don't leave me behind! Not like this! Not like this!”
Adventurers' torchlight was too weak to illuminate the whole chamber; their attention was laser focused on the atrocity that just transpired in front of them. Once they snapped out of it, they immediately found the scream's source. Just at the edge pf their light they could see two small cages.
Distraught woman was kneeling in one, pleading them to save her.
“My father is a rich merchant! He will reward you well! Please!”
“Oh, well, that changes everything!” Rad the Hero said.
Once again the party tightened their ranks, putting heavily armoured Sinai and Phelim upfront, while mighty warriors with long reaching weapons backed them from behind. Elves and Rad prepared their bows.
Fungal humanoids rushed them, but were forced to fight two by two. The party had successfully funnelled them to their advantage. Adkin's polearm worked overtime—he cut down four of the creatures. Rad was in his element, raining hell on all. No creature was left unscathed. Phelim, unlike his master, downed one as well.
A great tragedy struck mid-way through the fight. When the creatures closed in for melee, and Ehrman ran out of arrows, Eccy commanded him to charge in. The intent was to get the fighter to use spear from second rank, bolstering frontline's capability to dish out pain.
Not even the Gods know—except mayhap Mar Nod—what made Ehrman slip. But everyone had seen the result.
The warrior obeyed the elf, threw his shortbow to the side, and took out his spear. He pushed through his brethren, leading with the tip of his spear, ready to drive it through one of this ungodly fungal men. Alas, he lost his footing in the stream. Going down he tried to use the spear to balance himself, but ended up driving it through Phelim's heart instead. From behind.
“What... What have I done?!” he staggered backwards in disbelief.
“No... No! Impossible...” others pushed him backwards, as they finished the remaining monsters.
“No... No...” Ehrman was shaken to his core. Ariad, Rhovar, and Adkin tried to calm him with no success.
“Oh, thank Mithra you are here! I'm Merinthia. Please set me free before more of them come!” the screaming woman seemed to have regained her composure.
The chamber was some fifty by seventy feet. Surprisingly, most of it was dry. The stream terminated around the wooden contraption of doom. In fact, it seemed to power it somehow. There were four cages in total. One housed Merinthia, one a grumbling dwarf, and one a fighter named Ulster.
The cages were made of an elastic, yet firm, fungy substance. The party found it impossible to break, bend or cut. They was a small boxy affair, forcing the prisoners to sit on the ground in an uncomfortable position.
Ulster calmly explained how they found themselves here. Merinthia indeed is a daughter of a wealthy merchant, and she hired him, alongside several others, to protect her trading caravan. They were ambushed in the forest close to Bathdawn, and were taken down here. Since then, they were slowly taken away, one by one. Most were minced right in front of their eyes.
Merinthia shared similar detail, including the information that Thuskar, her most trusted and capable guard, was not imprisoned in the same cave. She is hoping that he has set himself free, and is looking for them.
The dwarf was entirely uncommunicative. He turned his back to whomever tried to address him, and merely scoffed and grumbled.
At one point a discerning adventurer noticed the cages are tied to the ground with some sort of discoloured vines. Unlike the cage, they were easy to cut. Strong-man Taegen quickly released the damsel; and she in turn threw herself in his wide elven arms.
“Oh, please take me to safety!”
Guiding her, Taegen retreated upstream, almost all the way to the T-junction.
“Here, have some food and a blade. That should help you free yourself.” Adkin three a short sword and some rations into the Grumpy's cage.
“Company!” Eccy shouted as his colleagues. He made a shocking discover following the northern exit—a chamber filled with pods and fungi-men. Eight of them to be precise.
Sinai, Rhovar, and Adkin rushed to his aid. They immediately swarmed the narrow tunnel. In doing so, they secured a tactically superior position, forcing the creatures to fight one by one while having to suffer three or more blows in return.
“Norna, get the blade from the cage with the mute dwarf and set Ulster free!” This time she did not object. Rad rushed to the fighter's cage as well.
Adkin cut down another fungal humanoid. Alas, its replacement quickly rushed in, and managed to capture Eccy Throi in its iron grip.
Norna unleashed an ear-piercing shriek.
Rad turned to her in confusion. Horror replaced confusion, as he realised that Norna was screaming because her right arm was ripped out from her shoulder blade. She staggered, cupping her gaping wound spurting blood, calling out for Sinai to heal her.
“What the fuck?!”
The dwarf in the cage was loudly gnawing on the arm, slurping and giggling. Once he finished with it, he grabbed the sword, and tried to cut himself loose, imitating what the adventurer's did earlier. He seemed quite clumsy.
“Ariad, get over there and beat that sword out of his hand!”
Norna's loud gaps and pleas were mostly ignored, sans Rad's quiet “I'm sorry...”
“Set me free and I'll grab her mace. Set me free and I'll bash these monsters.” Ulster said to Rad.
“And if you don't want to set me free, then I beg you to kill me right here, right now. Drive your sword straight through my heart. Anything, just not that machine!”
Ehrman, despite still being shell-shocked, managed to follow Taegen. The elf was now calming both the fighter and the damsel.
Ariad stood by the dwarf's cage, attempting to strike his hand whenever he tried to cut himself loose. So far the dwarf has cut the vines on one side of the cage.
Rad was almost done with setting Ulster free. Just one more tiny cut.
Eccy Throi was firmly in the creature's grasp. Behind it nine more stood. Sinai was brutally whipping them; entangling them. Rhovar and Adkin were stabbing at Eccy's captor.
Will they manage to fight their way out of it?
Or will they be fed to the machine?
Discuss at Dragonsfoot forum.
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