Wherein the heroes find unexpected help prowling around nearby.
The group gathers in the humid room, water bubbling from the hot springs in the corners of the room. Meander leans against a wall to rest, after the fight with the water elementals. Broken had told the group they were water animations, but the difference was lost on Meander. Tough Bark calls out softly to the group from the hallway leading up west to the outside, warning them of something approaching outside.
The group as a whole makes their way to the stairwell and outside, with Ember in the lead and Meander bringing up the rear. Tough Bark stays in the stairwell.
Outside is a older foreign fellow looking at the portal that the group had passed through earlier. He is slight of build, with a spry grace, and is dressed in light leather traveling clothes and wears a pair of glasses. He carries a small baton, slightly larger than a stick, but no other weapons are obvious.
The gentleman, watches as the group erupts forth from the passageway. He sees a medium build, heavily scarred bald priest wearing red robes carrying a heavy metal quarterstaff. Following the priest out is a medium height, lighter build man with a haggard worn appearance, who by his garb and the rapier at his waist, is probably nobility of some sort. The sneer on his face confirms it. A few moments later, a towering, muscled man wearing metal plate armor, bristling with weapons comes out of the passageway and leans on the portal, appearing to catch his breath.
“Man, you guys just blew it up, didn’t ya.”
Ember, leaning on his metal quarterstaff, says “The way was already open when we got here.”
“I was told this place was closed up for as long as anyone could remember.”
Ember kicks at one of the withered husks of the nearer of the two Kobolds.
Meander says between breaths, “So, a Kobold infestation… broke in here… And we are trying to clear it out.”
Ember adds, “An undead Kobold infestation.”
“Well, Right! So, you guys have fun.” He starts to back away from the ruin.
Ember says, “And you are?”, staring the fellow down expectantly.
“Ah, My name is Spring. I was coming to investigate these ruins here, as I’d heard about them.”
Broken looks bored with the conversation, looks about for something, sighs loudly and walks off cursing to himself.
Spring looks back at the portal, and starts moving back to the broken archway. Ember steps in front of him, placing his quarterstaff in front to block his way.
Spring says defensively, “I’m just looking what you guys have been doing. I’m not going in.”
Ember says with an edge to his voice, “We just came from a lumber camp where most of the lumberjacks had been slaughtered, and some dragged here. So you will appreciate that I don’t trust someone who just happens to show up.”
Ember watches as Broken gets to the edge of the woods and turns back to Meander and whispers. “So if he dies, can we control Stone Man?” As Meander hesitates, Ember rephrases, “If he dies, can you control Stone Man?”
“Um.. If you start hearing stomping come up these stairs, get out of the way. Bad things will happen.”
“Point taken.” Ember turns back to Spring and begins to tap on his staff.
Spring looks back at the portal, then back at Ember. “So, I was … You know you guys could have done this a bit easier. You did a lot of damage to try to get in here.”
“The door was already broken when we got here.”
“Yeah, look at these ru-ns.”
Meander asks, “Ruins? or Runes?”
“Runes… Your work here with these was pretty coarse.”
Meander asks back, “Do you know something runes?”
“Um, well, Yea.. I’ve looked about. That’s why I was heading up this way. I was going to see what I could find. I like to explore these kinds of places.”
Meander looks excited, “Really!”
Ember answers more tentatively, “That was a curse… and I destroyed it.”
“Oh, I understand, and sometimes it has to happen.”
Meander, enthusiasm uncurbed, “So, do you go to a lot of these kind of places?”
Spring keeps trying to look around Ember to get glimpses of runes that are blocked by Ember.
Broken comes back with some sticks and drops them down by the wall. He begins to start trying to light a fire, taking his animated torch and placing it in the pile of sticks.
Ember says again, “Where did you come from?”
“Well, I came through Candlestick, but most recently from Boar’s End.”
Broken exclaims, “Oh! I think I remember seeing you across the market.”
Spring says, “I just wanted to see if I could find some things to sell… or something.”
“Well, in that case, go away. These are our ruins. We found it first.”
“Well, that’s fine.. Looks like you guys are blunt forcing your way through.”
Meander interjects, “We are trying to do some good for the town. There were some lumberjacks captured and we are trying to rescue them before they are turned into all manner of … you know, horror.”
Broken exclaims again, “Oh! That’s right, the lumberjacks.”
Meander and Ember shake their heads. Broken has managed to start a small fire at this point and begins to pay more attention to the group.
Meander continues, “If you can help us with this, through your knowledge of ruins and runes and things, it would be appreciated.”
Pay Day speaks up, “You will have to split your reward with him. I’m not paying him.”
“Well, you know.. I could go somewhere else if you have already ransacked this place. Well, I could offer some help out, for uh.. some split.”
Ember steps to the side and gestures up to the wall. “So if you had gotten here before, how would you have dealt with it.”
Spring stares newly revealed runes, muttering to himself. “Well, you know, there is a good chance we could disable the curse on this.” He points at one rune, whistling softly to himself.
Broken adds, “Meander already stepped through it. You don’t know how to deal with oxdriver. He will run straight into the curse and just ‘Oops! Shit! That’s another curse.’”
Spring responds, “I’ve explored a lot of these by myself and I’m usually pretty good at kindof making my way through. I don’t think it would be much of a problem getting through here. I didn’t see it beforehand, of course.” He continues to stare at the runes, exclaiming softly to himself as he tracks the leftover traces of the magic along the portal.
“So, what do you think about it?”
Spring goes into a discourse on the nature of the magic and magical forces involved in the curse and the bindings to the structure. Meander glazes over immediately, but nods knowingly throughout. Ember looses track of what Spring is saying about three sentences in. Ember glances over a Broken, who has one eyebrow up, struggling to grasp the abstract theoretical magic concepts involved. Broken nods at Ember with his eyes wide, indicating that this is heavy stuff.
Ember stares at Spring, “What they heck are you talking about?”
Spring answers, “This was some difficult magic, but you could have gotten through here pretty easily.”
“Well… I don’t know how much you have dealt with these before. Have you gone in some of these StarGazer ruins before?”
Ember answers, “Um not me.” Meander shakes his head.
Spring says, “They are usually… Well they can be a problem. They are fairly dangerous. But, they also usually have a decent amount of stuff you can sell… You know, I’m just saying.”
Spring continues after a pause, “If you guys are going to go in, um.. I’d be happy to tag along and take an even split.”
Ember says determinedly, “We have all been deputized by the town. The town has had some of its citizens captured and dragged in there. We are going in there. What’s in there aside from getting them out, I really don’t care.”
Meander says, “I care…. kindof. But I’m not opposed to help.”
Ember says, “I agree.”
Spring chimes in, “So an even split?”
Meander clarifies, “Of the stuff we find in there?”
Ember turns to him and says, “Alright… so what’s your skill set.”
Spring looks at the group and answers, “Well, I go out a lot and I’m pretty good with magic.”
Broken says, “I would keep that under wraps.”
Spring replies, “Well, I can tell you guys do magic. Hell! It’s all over you.”
Meander looks shocked, “Wait! You can see… magic?”
Spring looks at Meander quizzically and answers, “Um.. yeah?”
Meander hops up after a moment and say, “We have lumberjacks to save.”
Broken turns to the group and starts to drone, “If you guys, with your very, normal, average intellect levels, you probably don’t remember. But there is an unknown creature, maybe hostile, in the next chamber.”
Meander says, “What?”
“There is a critter in the room past the water animations, next to my spider.”
Ember turns back to ask more questions, “So Spring, do you have any fighting skills?”
“Oh, you know, I’m not much of a fighter. I’ve had to get myself out of a couple of scrapes. I’m more of an explorer.”
Broken perks up, “So you are mostly brains.”
“Oh, you know, I get by.”
Broken frowns and says with some disdain, “Ah, so that would be a no… I was hoping that I would have another person of my sophistication to talk to, but clearly you are more …”
Ember interrupts, “I think the town drunk is busy.”
Broken mocks offended, “I am not a drunk. I appreciate the finer wines… not the dog piss that you like to drink.”
Meander puts his hand to his head and goes over to enter the passageway down into the ruins. Broken follows him in, with Ember and Spring behind. They pass Tough Bark in the passageway down, who takes up position in the tail of the group. Pay Day and the Regulator are in the very back.
The watery chamber opens up at the bottom, with a large stone golem standing guard in the middle of the room. Broken gestures at it, and the stones begin to move as it takes up a position in the front of the group.
The group peer through the short passageway on the east side of the watery chamber. Mists drift into the chamber from the passageway, and the room beyond looks to be filled with heavy mists. There is no sign of the tiny mechanical spider.
Meander walks softly through the water and creeps over to look down the passageway. Spring quietly slides through the water behind Meander, staying quiet as well. They spy into the chamber beyond.
Time has ravaged this ornate chamber, which was obviously once majestic to behold. Half crumbled carvings of cityscapes, some atop clouds and others below the waves, adorn the walls here. Wispy cloud-stuff forms a ring of white vapor just below the ceiling. Four corridors branch off from this chamber, in each of the cardinal directions. On the east wall, a cracked and crumbling portrait of a bearded man wearing armor made of coral and some strange gloving metal rests on the archway above the corridor here. More rasping laughter rings out from the corridor to the east as well as the muffled moans of some tormented soul.
Meander peers around a bit, taking a few more steps, trying to get a good look into the room beyond as the smoke in front of Meander coalesces into a bat-like daemon and claws at his chest. The claws manage to rake through gaps in the armor, causing Meander to bleed. The creature immediately turns back into a mist, but still retains its shape hovering above Meander.
Meander backs out of the hallway, rounds the corner, and turns to the group quickly. “Um, there is something really freaky in the next room. There is smoke on the ceiling, and out of the smoke, this creature just made of smoke appeared and clawed me. And then it turned back into smoke.” Meander pauses for a moment and then says, “I don’t think there is anything I can do to smoke.”
Ember stared into the mists, contemplating the nature of the creature. After a few moments, he speaks out, “My stuff isn’t going to be able to do anything either, because by the time I get it cast, it will be where I can’t hit it either.”
Meander answered a moment of thought, “Naw, I think I can get this thing.”
Ember quipped, “I’ll get the bandages out now…”
Spring exclaimed, “Hey.. hey.. Hold on a sec.”
Ember glanced over, “Yes, Spring.”
“Look. Just give me a moment to take a look.” He slinks over near Meander quietly and peers into the hallway. He stares at the lines of powerful magic that weave through the room. Someone has crafted a powerful permanent binding in the room and captured a creature here for eternity. The creature is most likely crazy with anger. The elements involved are mainly storm, but with a little fire mixed in. He begins to cast a powerful disrupt magic spell to try to interrupt the binding in the room. However with the pressure from the people around and the creature in the next room, the spell fizzles.
Meander eyes Spring as he casts the spell, “Um.. Wha… Whatcha doing there?”
Spring says somewhat sheepishly, “Oh I thought I could.. I saw some magic that I thought I could dispel, but I rushed it a little bit.” Spring sighs.
“It’s not going to… oh .. ok.” Meander shrugs.
“What? Be pissed off at us. I think it is already that.” Spring gasps as a nasty figure pops out of the fog and swipes at Spring. He jumps back, but the creature manages to leave a nasty gash across his head.
Meander leaps out with his axe to strikes at the Smoke Demon. He manages to catch the demon just before it turned back to smoke and embedded the axe into its chest. Meander almost stumbles under his own momentum as the Smoke Demon vanishes and the axe passes through the rest of the Demon’s outline. Its bat-like body vanishes into room, the circling mists obscuring his form.
Spring staggers back out of the way, obviously reeling from the vicious attack, as Meander conjures a crackling shield around him. Broken, who had been concentrating on his spider, takes out and begins to focus on a small branch that he brought into the ruins with him. His skin begins to take on the appearance of tree bark, and he bears a striking resemblance to the Bug Master with his spell.
Ember can’t really see the creature from his position, so he approaches Spring and begins to examine and tend to the head wound. “I can take care of that once we are away from the fighting.”
Meander speaks up, “I can see that you are nervous about that, but he really can take care of it.”
“Ok. Thank you?” says Spring.
Tough Bark nocks an arrow and maneuvers to get a better angle. Stone Man holds aloft his sword, ready to attack. The Torch golem hops down from Stone Man and spreads light. Pay Day and the Regulator wait in the back, with another torch in hand.
Spring looks very tentative, after his last attempt. Meander turns back to him and says, “I got this.” Spring begins to gather arcane energies and swirls them out into an intense field of pure energy bubbled around him. Meander says, “Oh! You have a bubble too.” Meander turns and strides into the room, looking around for movement in the mists. The mists glides down from the ceiling and Meander strikes out, but his axe passes through the mists. An arrow passes through the misty form as well, clattering harmless against the far wall. Hot choking mists surround Meander, making it hard to breath and sapping his energy.
Ember peers at the mists enveloping Meander and takes a calculated risk, and begins to start casting a spell to attack the Demon.
Meander gasps, coughs, and wheezes as the mists take his breathable air away. He starts getting light headed and his vision beings to grow dim around the edges.
Spring looks at Meander and decides that it is too risky to attack the creature. Glancing back at the magical bindings, he decides that it is a safer bet to try to disrupt the bindings which hold the creature here to attack others. He pulls back on the strength of the spell, so that he is more insured to complete the spell. The magic crackles out and ripples through the mists around the ceiling, but nothing appears to happen.
Tough Bark hangs back waiting for a clearer course of action. Arrows don’t seem to effect the mists. Meander desperately runs back, pushing past Broken, into the previous room, gasping for air as he clears the mists. Broken begins casting a disrupt animation spell, charging and casting out a handful of small pebbles, but they crackle and fizzle as they pass through the mists.
Ember finishes his spell and directs the smoky tendrils into the hallway into the room beyond. The tendrils pass through the mists seemingly harmlessly.
The mists drift over the Broken, surrounding him with choking mists. Broken begins to cough and looks sapped. He begins to wave about desperately.
Spring begins to cast a slightly more powerful disrupt, but is agitated by the closeness of combat, and the magic fizzles in his grasp.
Meander reaches into the mists and grabs Broken. He yanks him out of the mists and spins around, setting Broken down in front of Stone Man. Broken coughs out, “Move out of the way, Stone Man is coming through.”
Ember side steps to make room for Stone Man. Meander and Spring dive out of the way. They dive is different directions, both landing prone on the floor. The Smoke Demon drifted back into the cover of the circling mists.
Meander looks about the room and lets the cracking bubble fade around him. He asks after a few moments, “Hey, is he trapped in that room?”
Broken answers, “Not necessarily trapped, but it looks like he wants to stay there.”
“Is that your magical opinion?”
“Yeah! It looks like whenever he retreats he goes back into the mists – which is in that room.”
“Yeah, but we weren’t able to harm him at all.”
“Because he is ethereal, when he was scratching people we hurt him pretty good.”
“Yeah, but it doesn’t make sense why he wouldn’t keep kicking our ass.”
“Well, maybe because the one time he took solid form he took a massive blow and he said fuck that.”
Spring interjected, “So he is bound in that room.”
Ember laughed as he said, “Let me paraphrase.. you are full of shit and he is bound to the room.”
Broken became defensive, “I’m just saying that if I took that a hit like that, I’d stay ethereal also.”
Meander said, “That make perfect sense… whatever this ethereal means. I guess you mean mists.”
“Yeah! See through and what not.”
Ember added, “So now you are using big words.”
Meander agreed wholeheartedly, “He is using big words!”
Broken added with disdain, “It isn’t hard to use words that Oxdriver does not know.”
Meander says after a moment, “Alright fine. I’m going to rest up while you guys get rid of this guy.”
Ember turns to Spring, “If it is not coming at us then, could you take your time and disrupt the bindings?”
Spring answered, “Well, I could, but I wore myself out trying to cast during that fight.”
Meander carefully sits down just outside the pools of water covering half the room. The group rests for a moment and the Smoke Demon appears to ignore them.
Meander stands up. “I suppose I should move up to shed light into the room so you can cast.”
Spring throws his hand out and says somewhat urgently, “Hold on before you go further. Something is going on in there.”
Broken says, “I have a light I can send in…”
Meander says to Spring, “What did you just say?”
Spring says, “Something is going on in there.”
Broken repeats louder and slower, “I HAVE A LIGHT I CAN SEND IN.”
Ember asks Spring, “What do you mean something is going on in there?”
Spring answers, “I don’t know, there is some kind of bloom of power.”
Ember groans, “Oh great.”
Broken begins grumbling about his spider and transmission distances along with some kind of magical boosting. The spider begins to creep out of the mist room back in to the watery chamber. Broken activates some magic on the spider and then directs it back into the other chamber.
After a moment, Spring adds, “I’m not sure what is going on in there now, but I definitely detected a power surge of some kind.”
Meander says tentatively, “What’s the deal with the surge of power?”
Broken says, “That’s what I’m trying to figure out.”
Spring adds after critically evaluating the magical auras, “It looks like healing magic.”
Broken yells out, “We gotta get in there! We gotta get in there now!”
Meander asks, “and do what?”
“Make it not heal itself.”
“Ok. I’ll go burn myself again.”
“No no no… Stone Man will go.”
Broken points into the room and Stone Man begins to stomp into the misty room.
Stone Man pauses at the entrance. Stone Man takes another step. Nothing appears to happen. Stone Man takes another step. Still nothing happens.
Spring analyzes the magic and determines that the heal was a gradual healing power that should completely heal the spirit over the course of five to ten minutes. Spring decides to try to dispel the binding magic one more time. He focuses and slowly works through his casting. The spell goes off after a minute and the magic courses through the mists again, but nothing else seems to happen.
Meander asks, “So what did you do?”
Spring says with a grimace,“Once again I tried to dispel the magic, but it was a swing and a miss.”
Meander, “Could you get rid of the heal spell?”
Spring says, “Let me try it again.” He seems to breath slowly for a few moments, then he swirls the magic with his hands and arcane energy begins to crackle between them. After a minute he pushes the magic out and the magic crackles through the mists. The magic courses through the bindings holding the demon and they wink out of existence, releasing the demon from its prison.
A weird hollow howl waifs in from the next room. The mists near the ceiling begin to fade and dissipate.
“What was that? I’ll go look.” Meander creeps quietly into the next room. The mists fade more and there is no sign of the Smoke Demon. Meander cries out, “Oh, there is the spider.” He looks around, creeping to the center. He looks up at the ceiling, but he doesn’t see anything. “Ok, we are good. It looks clear.”
The group begins to cautiously enter the chamber, led by Spring. He said, “So whatever that bloom of power that seemed to be a healing thing… Well it is gone now.”
Meander begins, “Do you sense… The smoke is fading away and the creature appears to be gone too.”
“Evidently. You are still standing there.”
“Either that or it went one of these other directions.”
“It is my experience that bound creatures will not stay if they don’t have to.”
Broken looks around as he enters the room and says, “So, there was something down the stairs…”
Meander added. “Those stairs are where I heard the insane laughter.”
Broken continued, “And the creature was down that way.” Broken pointed to the hallway on the right.
“There was a creature?”
“Yes! That is what I was trying to tell you.”
“You weren’t talking about the smoky creature?”
“No! There was a actual thing standing in the hallway.”
“But that thing that just attacked us was an actual thing too.”
“No… something else. It was not in this room, it was down that hallway.”
Meander said eagerly, “Ok! Let’s go down this hallway.”
Spring adds, “Hey, Can we take a minute and let me catch my breath?”
Meander grins, “Just catch your breath while I’m sneaking down here.”
Meander begins to sneak over into the hallway. He creeps past the shadow spider in the hallway and into another room beyond. The far side of the room has caved in long ago, filling over half the room with rock, clay and earth. One sarcophagus near the entrance, it’s lid carved with a vaguely feminine form, has mostly escaped destruction, but even still has mostly crumbled away. Meander cast he eyes about, but he doesn’t see any creature. He begins to look around the room.
Back in the other room, they rest for a bit, waiting for Meander to return. They begin to hear a sad song in the distance. The sadness begins to weighs on them heavily as it continues, almost in the back of their minds.
Ember finally speaks out, “Do you hear music?”
Broken says with a snarl, “Yes. It is not very catchy.”
“Where is it coming from?”
Ember stands up and begins to listen. “Which way did Meander go?”
Broken answers, “He went south.”
Spring says, “At least that’s where we saw him last.”
Broken, “He was standing over my spider. I was very concerned.”
As Ember walks over the the hallway, he can see Meander is locked in an embrace with a spectral woman, kissing. Ember cries out “UNDEAD!” As Broken walks over to Ember, he says, “Undead? That’s just a ghost.”
Ember says, “I believe she is sucking Meander’s soul.”
It quickly becomes obvious that the sorrowful music is coming from the spirit. The group gathers at the hallway and they each try to figure out if there is anything they can do to separate the two as Meander continues to smooch with the Spectral Maiden.