Yol scowls. "I think we need to practice coordinating dimension doors, if we intend to use this tactic again. You all left me to face the fire giant alone."
Brianna peers at her. "You're never alone, Yol, when you're surrounded with mirror images, It does look like you left one of them behind, though."
"I'm sorry, Yol," says Veracity. "I didn't realize that you wanted me to take you out with me."
"That wasn't the problem," says Yol. "I was expecting to use my own spell, but I was also expecting that we'd all go at the same time. You should have waited for me."
Tebryn frowns. "Do you think we should always wait for you? We were ready before you. What if you'd been ready first?"
"We should wait until we are all ready," says Yol. "How about if each mage calls out 'ready', when she is ready, and everybody waits until everybody else has said 'ready' before going?"
Tebryn nods. "That should work."
"Good," says Yol. "This time, you left me alone with the fire giant, but I was lucky enough to get away. Next time, it could be one of you alone with the fire giant, and it could be giant who gets lucky."
Igor snorts. "No fire giant is going to 'get lucky' with me," he says. "I'm saving myself for Veracity and Brianna!"
Veracity looks at him appraisingly. "You look pretty beat up. You certainly couldn't take us both on!"
"I could try," says Igor, eagerly.
Veracity rolls her eyes and turns away. "Pathetic," she mutters to Brianna, under her breath. She looks around at her companions and her eyes settle upon Yol. "Hey, Yol!" she calls. "How about if I veil you as the undead Tusk, tomorrow?"
"Tusk is not even dead, much less undead," says Yol. "Since he's still alive, having another one wandering through the city might attract too much attention. But you know, I could create some undead to fight for us. Hmm."
"How about some curing, first?" asks Igor.
"I can't even seem to figure out how to get the simplest cure spell to work, Igor," says Brianna. "I need to understand more of the theory of magic."
"I'll tutor you," says Veracity, smiling. Her companion smiles back at her.
Yol scowls. "Leave the curing to me. I won't have any problems." In short order, she heals up Igor, Tebryn, Hazen, and Kress. "Done," she says. "Now what?"
Veracity looks up from her conversation with Brianna. "So, Yol, what kind of undead pets are you thinking of?"
"I was thinking of ghouls and ghasts," says Yol. "Although I know some people might be bothered by them, I'd like to have them at my service."
"What kind of services would you expect from these 'pets?'," asks Veracity.
Yol gets dazzling sparkles in her eyes. "Slaying our enemies, turning them to dust, and devouring their souls," she replies with glee.
"Well, could they carry our luggage?" persists Veracity.
"It depends on whether they are corporeal or not," responds Yol. "In any case, you might have trouble getting your stuff back from them."
Veracity glances at Igor. "So if one of our fighters dies in battle, you could turn him into our 'pet'?"
"No," says Yol glumly. "If it were one of our own, I'd probably just raise him."
"Well, that's what I'd prefer!" says Igor, heatedly.
Veracity frowns at Yol. "But why deny them what you consider to be the joy and perfection of death?"
Yol sighs. "Yes, death is perfection. The perfect oblivion. That's why it's too good for them."
Veracity shakes her head and throws up her hands.
"Where to now?" asks Igor.
"I came here looking for the The Nathlum," says Yol. "Where do you suppose a book of poisons might be found?"
"I was also looking for a book," says Tebryn. "Mine was likely in the Shattered Tower, wherever that is."
"I'd like a more comfortable room," says Brianna. "Perhaps we could move up to one of the villas?"
Veracity nods. "And I was hoping to bring some cases of mushroom wine back to Sigil. Short of finding an intact wine shop here in the city, which seems unlikely, we'll have to hope for a hidden wine cellar. Those villas seem like a good bet."
Igor frowns. "Do you think Irae is up there?"
"Of course not, Igor," says Veracity. "She is our main quest, but not our only quest. We can explore a bit before tackling her!"
"Hamadh said she was in the Castle, and that he could help us get into it, if we killed Kurgoth," says Tebryn. "We should go talk to him."
"Yes," agrees Veracity. "Let's stop at our current hideout, and then head on over to the inn."
The party slinks back to their basement hideaway without incident.
"We should drop our veil before visiting Hamadh" suggests Tebryn. "Barging in as a party of giants will startle him."
Veracity nods and dismisses the spell.
The heroes cross the street and knock on the door of the inn. Hamadh lets them in. "Hail," he says. "Any news?"
"Yes," says Tebryn. "Hellspawn is dead."
Hamadh looks at the group and shows almost no visible reaction, but after a while, he smiles. "Impressive."
"You said you could tell us about Irae's defenses?" asks Veracity.
"I understand that Irae has a magical forbiddence The most recent password I have learned is 'Istava morthaum', but I cannot guarantee it is current."
Tebryn ponders. "We'll go there soon, but there is something else I want to check out first."
"The longer you delay, the more likely Irae is to change the password," warns Hamadh.
"We'll not go today, but, we don't expect to delay long. I came because I was seeking the Shattered Tower. Have you heard of it?"
"Yes," says Hamadh. "It is quite its namesake now. It always had that name because its walls were cracked like broken glass, purely for aesthetic reasons. But now no stone remains standing on another."
"Where are the ruins?" asks Tebryn.
Hamadh looks at him amusedly and gestures over his shoulder. "Right over there. It's across the street from the back door of the inn. However, I believe it is not quite as empty as one would like."
"So, now that Hellspawn is dead," asks Veracity, "what are your plans?"
Hamadh ponders. "With Hellspawn gone, we expect his army to collapse. At that point, Irae will have free reign in the city. Therefore, it is urgent that you deal with her, soon."
"After we crush Irae," says Veracity, "Yol and I were thinking of settling down here in the city, as queen and death priestess."
Hamadh's face twitches before settling into a small, fixed smile. "How wonderful," he says, although his eyes belie the sentiment.
"Let's go plan our next steps," says Veracity. Her party takes its leave of Hamadh's group and returns to their own headquarters.
"So, off to the Shattered Tower?" says Igor. "I'm ready."
"Oh, I used a lot of spells," says Veracity. "Should we wait until tomorrow?"
"Nah," says Tebryn. "I think we have plenty of spells. It's not even noon. Let's go today!"
"What shape are you in?" Veracity asks Igor.
"Oh, I'm all out of spells," says Igor.
"No, physically!" says Veracity.
"I'm in great shape," says Igor. "Very firm!"
"Ah, but isn't her butt firmer?" says Hazen. "I think she's clearly asking you to check and compare again."
Veracity is notably silent at this remark. She takes in the mood of her companions and announces, "Well, I feel that you all are itching for battle, so let's check out the ruins of the Shattered Tower today. But let's do it cautiously and use our best tactics, keeping flanking in mind. And I want an exit strategy: if we find ourselves overwhelmed we should retreat! Igor, don't run into a horde of monsters on your own!"
"I like to take out the spellcasters first," responds Igor. "And I like to maneuver to flank them. Opponents are unlikely to flank me."
"Smart move," says Veracity, "but think about what happened with the mind flayer: it stunned you into helplessness while you were standing alone next to it. You can't flank your foe without a buddy."
"Hey, Miss V!" says Hazen. "You are forgetting the sticky regurgitated flower dust."
"OK, flower child," says Veracity to Hazen. "...honey" she adds, to Igor.
"Fine," says Igor. "Two against one for each spellcaster."
"Good," says Veracity. "Ready to go?"
"Wait," says Igor. "Yol?"
"Hmmn?" says the death priestess.
"How'd you like to use my rope of entanglement? I notice that you tend to stay back from melee, but this would let you disable a foe so that we could take it down at our leisure."
Yol nods. "I like that!"
"Good," says Igor. He hands her the rope and tells her the command word.
The party lines up and walks over to the ruins of the Shattered Tower. Magical energy sparks from the rubble. The whole tower has tumbled into a heap. As the heroes approach, two incorporeal creatures rise from the ruins. They are glowing with a pale blue energy. Their forms are vaguely skeletal, but give the impression of the flowing robes they wore in life.
"Psst, Yol," whispers Veracity, "some 'pets' for you..." One of the undead sends an acid arrow whizzing by her ear. "Whoah!" says Veracity. She conjures herself, and her whole party seems to be moving faster.
The invisible Igor runs up and stands directly between the two undead. Veracity stamps her foot in annoyance. "Didn't we just talk about this?" she mutters.
The other undead sends another acid arrow at Veracity. This one sticks in her arm, caustically dripping. "Ouch!" says Veracity.
And then, the battle is over almost before it begins, as first Yol steps up and rebukes the foul creatures, leaving one cowering at her feet, and then Kress commands the other, using the power of his ring of Nekros. "What kind of creature are you," asks Kress. "I am a silveraith," replies his undead minion.
The fighters quickly slice up their helpless foes while the mages hurry the process along with miscellaneous spells.
"Igor," calls Veracity. The rogue looks over at her. "Didn't I hear you say that foes were unlikely to flank you? It looked to me like you did it for them!"
"Oh, I was distracting them on purpose," says the rogue, not meeting her eyes. "You know - so that they wouldn't keep shooting arrows at you!"
"Thanks, Sugarwart," responds the enchantress, "but you should thank me for coming up to help you flank them"
Igor shrugs. "I'm smarter than you give me credit for. It was always my plan that you would come up and do that."
Meanwhile, Tebryn is staring in dismay at the rubble. "If what I seek was in this tower, I hope it was at least in the basement," he says. "But where would the stairs down have been?"
Hazen saunters over and points to a spot on the ground. "They are completely filled in, but look here!"
Tebryn shakes his head. "Trust a dwarf to spot something like this," he comments.
Hazen beams. "Yeah, we're naturals with the stonework! And I have an idea about how we can dig this out."
"Perhaps we should rest up before exploring?" suggests Veracity.
"What, and let someone else loot the undefended basement?" says Igor.
"Uh, right," says Veracity.
"I have plenty of spells left," says Tebryn. "What's your idea?" he asks Hazen.
The gray dwarf pulls out his staff of earth and stone. "How about this, Mr T?" he says to the mage.
Tebryn smiles. "Good thinking, Hazen!" He takes the staff. Invoking the power of a move earth spell, he quickly moves the rubble out of the stairs onto a pile by the side.
"Lets go!" he says.
The party descends the cleared stair and finds a fairly large basement with several small rooms, including a pantry, a root cellar, and a little dungeon cell. There does not appear to be any sort of a laboratory.
Tebryn frowns. "This is it?"
"Perhaps there is a secret door, somewhere," suggests Veracity.
"Yeah, let's search!" agrees Hazen. All the rogues spend a long time searching every inch of the walls, to no avail.
Meanwhile, Veracity pokes around the rubbish littering the root cellar. Rotted vegetables and broken crates and barrels lie on the floor. She does find one damaged but uncrushed crate. Prying open the top, she peers in. "Ah ha!" she exclaims, "looks like wine bottles to me!" She carefully pulls out seven intact bottles and examines the labels. "These are illegible; they've been damaged by dampness. But judging by the residue from the broken bottles, these are unambiguously mushroom wine!" She grins.
Wandering into the dungeon cell, she spies some strange instruments lying on a small table. "And look here," she exclaims. She picks up a strange device that looks sort of like a reverse thumbscrew: turning a crank forces two plates farther apart. "This is a jawbreaker," she comments to Brianna. "And that looks like a flenser!" She picks up an extremely sharp scalpel-like knife and appreciatively examines it. "Masterwork quality, too! Strip the skin right off your victim with this!"
The rogues finish their searching and come to see her discovery, grumbling.
"No lab," says Tebryn. "It must have been in a higher level, and everything in it was either looted or smashed into bits when the tower fell."
Hazen looks at Veracity clutching the flenser. "You could take those home and hang them on the wall, as a kind of conversation piece," he comments, although he doesn't seem quite comfortable with the idea.
Veracity nods. She looks at Yol and winks. "Stop by sometime and we'll play with these together." Yol scowls.
Tebryn pulls out his portable hole and Veracity carefully stashes the wine and torture implements.
"Let's go back," says Tebryn.
The party returns to their basement without incident.
"I still have lots of spells," says Tebryn. "And all the fighters seem to be in good shape. Let's check out the Temple of Lolth on the plateau."
"Yes," says Brianna. "And as I commented this morning, surely we can find some more comfortable digs up in one of the villas up there."
"I don't understand," says Igor. "I thought we were going after the priestess. If she's not up on the plateau, why waste time going up there?"
"She's just one of our quests, Igor," says Veracity. "Certainly, the most important one, since Loviatar herself directed me to take her down, but my brother and Yol are seeking special Tomes. And I agree with Brianna: let's find a more comfortable place to stay. With real beds, say." She smiles at her friend, who grins back.
"Very well," says Igor. "But I don't think you are taking this as seriously as I am."
|Copyright © 2005 by Brianna Sollandry <brianna at hambo dot com>||
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu
R'lyeh wgah-nagl fhtagn.