We’ve Been Flumphed
“It was our only option. The attacks of the mind were too powerful – unending. Had we stayed, we all would have died at the hands of its servants.”
“Perhaps, Mertat” conjured Abban “perhaps. And though the choice was made quickly, with little discussion, all of us knew what the likely price to be paid would be.”
Back at Old Vrock Inn, the party licked its wounds. A thorough thrashing at the hands of the Mind and his minions has brought home how overwhelmed they were. The types of assault that the Mind inflicted proved the party was inferior. Though a number of trinkets were collected during their last sojourn into Rappan Athuk, items which will aid the party in future combats, the last struggle with the Mind was humbling. And while the defeat was great, greater still was the loss of Eccial.
“But still, it is my failure” Abban continues. “The manner of our assault was my charge. The path we chose was mine. And in the end, I chose poorly, and we have thus suffered greatly. I am not sure how I shall make my atonement.”
“The fault is not yours alone, Abban” Sever complained. “We all accepted your leadership – and the choices you made. The choices We made. Do not belittle the sacrifice of Eccial by laying claim to all – it was his decision as much as our own. And a noble sacrifice it was – though the end result was most horrible.”
“No, Sever, this is one responsibility I must bear alone. Though the pain must be borne by all.”
Bowing his head, Abban seeks for silent guidance. “For a while it must be borne. For a while. But for now, we must send word to the fey of our setback.”
“I shall go” Sabus speaks up. “It would be best if I brought such foul news to my sister.”
- * *
Throughout the night, the party mourned the passing of Eccial. Word spread quickly through the Zelkor’s Ferry, and the townsfolk turned out to lay vigil for one of their heroes. One of the noble ones who had just fought so nobly in the defense of the town, now had fallen while trying to set the town free of the evils besieging it. Added to the many townsfolk also recently slain, the mood was grim.
Once the townsfolk had gathered, Mertat had lead a procession outside of town. Eccial’s remains would be taken to the Burning Hill for final disposition. Wary of laying their dead in graves easily accessed by foul intent, the town had recently taken to burning the remains of the departed. And thus it was that as the town had taken in Eccial as one of their own, so would he be laid to rest as one.
Prior to the ceremony, Mertat had taken ownership of the many magical enhancements that Eccial had acquired during their travels – his garb, his armor, his weapons. Hesitant to use them, but also hesitant to throw away or sell off such powerful artifacts that could be useful in their ongoing struggles, Mertat had kept them stowed in his magical bag of holding. Time enough to decide later on, when the pain was less near, what should be done with them.
As the fire burned bright, and as Eccial’s remains became fully consumed, Mertat had turned and returned to town. Now, a second pouch dangled from his neck.
- * *
The next morning saw a flurry of activity. The party and town had mourned their loss during the night. But with day, or such day as the fog would allow, activity seemed to be the best thing for all. Much work was left to do, and now an urgency seemed to descend upon the party.
Mertat in particular was moving with haste, and with a lightness of step. But he had slept little during the night. Rather, after returning from the Burning Hill, he had sequestered himself in deep prayer.
“You look hearty this morning, Mertat” Abban observed.
“Yes. Actually, an evening spent in commune ha refreshed me – and has renewed my hope” Mertat replied. “Come, let us gather all that is necessary to continue the journey. I feel an urging, and we should not delay our returning to the crypts.”
“Agreed.” Abban looks over Mertat closely. Yes, he has the presence of one who has too quickly overcome the mourning. Unusual for the priest, as Mertat usually would carry such a loss as a weighty burden. But no evidence of such was present. Rather, he moved with what could almost be an expectant joy.
“Your prayers must have aided you, Mertat” Abban continues. “May they be strong enough to overcome my failings and help make our decisions wiser.”
“Oh, I am certain of that” Mertat replied. “The gods have certainly taken an interest in our progress, and I believe they will continue to act actively on our behalf.”
“Good tidings you speak. Well, let’s take the advantage while offered and be off as soon as possible.”
The rest of the morning is spent in preparation, gathering and replenishing supplies and such. In particular, Mertat makes his way to the magic shop to refresh his spells to allow the party to rapidly travel to the dungeon.
Sabus departs for the Fairy City, but he was not alone. Jeru had arrived back in town, and decided to accompany Sabus. Jeru had arrived back in Zelkor’s Ferry shortly after the party had last left to go to Athuk. Disappointed that he had missed their adventure, he had instead devoted his time to aiding the town while it recovered from its recent damages. And Jeru certainly also committed both time and coin at Dead Vrock Inn. But once he heard of Sabus’ plan, it was clear to him that Sabus should not travel alone to the fey city. Jeru would accompany Sabus, and indeed determined that it was a much more preferable task strolling beneath the trees than trodding beneath the earth.
The rest of the party returns to Rappan Athuk. But rather than returning to the encounter with the Mind, other parts of Rappan Athuk beckoned, other areas still unexplored. The Mind would be dealt with in course. But since only Mertat, Abban, Sever, and Kael had descended, it was agreed it may be best to try and finish the exploration of some other areas of the dungeon that may pose less of a danger. As if any such area exists in such a foul hole as Athuk.
So it is to the area of mazes the party returns. Kael remembers this area well, for it was here that he was attacked while wondering through a hazy fog. Confusion had reigned during that adventure. He had nearly succumbed to vicious attacks of a minotaur. But the party had wandered through the fog and eventually was able to divine that certain points within the tunnels would teleport an individual a short distance away. That had caused the party to become separated, and left Kael facing the minotaur alone. Hearing gunfire, the party quickly worked on figuring out the pattern. As Kael fought desperately alone, they finally were able to gather themselves together and arrived just in time to aid him. Once the minotaur was dispatched, they had traveled through the fog, finding other areas which still lay unexplored.
So once again the party finds themselves weaving back through the mazes. The fog was still present, as is the befuddling maze and fog (this time without encountering a minotaur). Soon, the party draws to their destination, and stands in front of a heavy wooden door. Intricately carved with symbols and evil paying tribute to Orcus the Most Hideous, the door stands firm as a barrier not lightly to be crossed. And indeed, the last time the party stood before this door, they chose not to attempt the passage. Believing the evil behind the door beyond the power of the party, they instead chose other paths which seemed less oppressive. But now, with their most recent loss still close, and perhaps even driven by that loss, they choose the door. Woe be to any foes on the other side of this portal – for the party was intent on retribution.
Sever steps forward and soon unlocks the door. It was a simple lock, with no trap laid upon the door. With the powerful and evil inscriptions carved into the door as warning, those within must be assured that no further obstacle is necessary.
Beyond the door, a long hallway, walls and ceiling smoothly carved, is offered delving deep into darkness. The party begins the descent downward, Mertat lighting their way with a spell of light cast upon his spear. Sever ranges ahead a bit, and notices no other recent disturbances down this passage. The floor is hard stone, and even in its disuse is well maintained. Soon, a series of murals crudely drawn on the walls is revealed. At each mural, the party pauses to study it – they reveal an ancient story, a tale that humankind has long ago lost.
Hundreds of years ago, during the struggle to defeat the armies of Orcus, the forces of good had arrayed armies against the foul evil. Many battles were fought, and many lives were lost. But the forces of good prevailed, and soon the evil ones sought shelter in the dungeons of Rappan Athuk. They were pursued closely, led by a mighty hero. Into the dungeons he pursued the evil without wane. But in the end he was betrayed. Lost, ensnared by the dungeon. But the long battles by the forces of good had weakened the evil, containing it within the deep caverns, and his sacrifice was mourned and praised by all of Golarian.
But as all great deeds go, the years passed, and mankind’s memory faded. Too busy with the daily pursuit of life, the heroic deeds were lost, and soon only whispers remained in seldom told tales recited by the bards.
The murals lay out the struggle. Two armies struggle, one of Orcus and his foul minions, the other humankind. A great leader is at the forefront of the assault, and Orcus retreats into Athuk. The hero follows the defeated evil army deep into Athuk. The evils ones stay just out of reach, leading him deeper. It is almost as if there’s a trap ahead, but one which the hero does not see. And above, there is a skull representing Orcus watching the progress.
After a great journey, the leader discovers a huge cavern, down which a great waterfall descends forming a great pool. Looking up, there is a platform high above. There appears to be a skull at the platform, looking down, smiling.
The character is now attacked, by undead, and he uses a magic device like a lantern to kill many. The skull continues to watch, and continues to smile.
Now, the good leader has ascended to the platform, but he is now in chains and trapped behind steel bars. Hordes of undead are in attendance as his captors, and the skull fires great evil energies at the hero, and he is gravely weakened.
And finally, the last mural, of the upper chamber again, the skull, now revealed as Orcus, grinning in his ultimate triumph.
And as the party leaves the last mural behind in darkness, ahead is the sound of a waterfall, increasing with each step they take deeper into the dungeon. Ahead, the passage ends. A ledge is displayed, with a huge cavern beyond revealed.
The cavern is massive, going far above and deep below. Damp stalactites and stalagmites cover much of the walls. Fungus and moss grow abundantly in the humid environment. On the far wall, a great waterfall gushes down sending huge amounts of water down into dimness far below. From above, daylight streams down glistening off of and caressing the natural beauty of the cavern.
Closer by, a great stalactites hangs down, a rope attached to its side dangling down, a hook attached to its end. Water drops sparkle, slowly dripping down the sides of the stalactite, making their way down its full length. And at last, running down the full course of the stalactite, they find themselves clinging desperately on the point of the rock mass, then onto the rope dangling down, and finally to the hook on its end. Gradually pushed by those the never ending accumulation of water behind, at last each drop in turn lets loose, falling silently far below adding its miniscule volume to the vast lake below.
Bewitched by the simple beauty of nature, unfolding serenely before him, Mertat steps out onto the ledge. Following the surge of water down the course of the great waterfall as it continues its seemingly never ending barrage, Mertat stares in amazement at the possibility such a marvelous sight could exist within the foul confines of the dungeon.
Mertat soon becomes enchanted by the water dripping from the end of the hook. The hook has begun to sway gently, first a bit closer towards Mertat, then a bit away. With each gently swing, the rope finds itself slightly closer to Mertat, then further away. Droplets of water are soon being flicked off as the rope moves quicker, and soon is snapping at the end of each sway of the rope.
A shout from behind snaps Mertat back to reality “It’s alive – Mertat, alert!” Kael calls out his caution, then moves forward, leveling his firestick and pointing it at the center of the stalactite’s mass. Snapping the smoldering fuse down, a burst of flame propels a heavy metal slug at the mass striking it true.
With a screech, the stalactite comes alive, revealing itself as a foul creature of the underearth. Suddenly, a half dozen ropes uncurl from hidden folds in its mass. The ropes, each ending with sharp hooks dripping with a foul poison, lash out at the party, striking Abban, Sever and Mertat. Each in turn become disoriented, momentarily sinking to their knees as the slashes from the beast weaken them and become light-headed from their effect.
Kael reloads his gun and once again unleashes a slug into the beast with great effect. Enraged, the beast screeches even louder, and begins to lash out wildly with its rope-like appendages, whipping at the party, leaving great painful slashes in its wake.
Mertat, Abban and Sever stumble backwards to gather themselves, stunned at how quickly the beast had achieved an advantage over the party.
As they fall out of reach of the whipping ropes, a great inhuman roar bellows out from behind. Heavy trod of feet rapidly approaching cause the party to turn around to face the new threat. But rather, a familiar form appears. Clad in plate, the form familiar from past battles rushes past the stunned party and begins to swing its great sword at the rope-like beast. Hooks and appendages are severed and fall away sliced from the beast’s body.
“A- tac – now’ it gurgles. With the simple urging, the entire party are stirred from their inaction. This is no apparition – but rather it is quite real. Somehow the warrior Eccial has been returned to them. Time enough to wonder why or how. But now stirred back to action, Kael turns back to his firing. The others surge forward as well, and soon, the beast’s whip-like ropes hang limply from its body.
Drawing forth his rod from within the folds of his cloak, Mertat steps forward and directs a great burst of searing light burning into the creature. With a loud crack, the mass detaches from the side of the overhang on which it had been gripping, and falls slowly tumbling down into the lake far below.
Quickly scanning about to ensure no other similar creatures hung from above or below, the party quickly surround their returned comrade and deliver a hearty series of hugs and greetings.
“Eccial, you have been returned to us” Mertat cries. “I believed my prayers had been answered, but the timing of your return was unknown.”
“You knew?” Abban demands, releasing Eccial who is uncomfortably trying to extract himself from the sudden burst of affection.
“I was not certain” Mertat admits. “But during my prayers from last night I felt an assurance that an aid would be delivered to us in our need. It seemed to me only appropriate that Eccial’s time with us was not at an end.”
“Great is your faith, priest” Abban says, nodding his acceptance. “It is a model for us all. If only my failings were not so great and easily exposed.”
“Take heart, Abban” Mertat consoles. “Great rather is our guest who has returned to his kind. This is a happening of happiness and joy. Learn, accept your failings, and let it temper your strength against our enemies.”
“Back – from – light” Eccial manages to say. “Abban,,, mes-age. Sta’ strong. U task – defeat – Or,cus.”
Abban looks up at Eccial, and once more steps forward to embrace Eccial. “Thank you. May this charge not overwhelm me.”
“True, we must all stay strong” continues Mertat. “I believe that the gods are intent for us all to continue this journey to its end. Each loss we endure allows us to gain strength in perseverance. It truly builds trust between us that we will be there for each other in time of need. And we must take heart that though great evil besieges us, the gods have not abandoned us.”
Turning their attention back to the cavern, they see far up above, a platform far above. The platform seems familiar – in fact, it seems very similar to the high ledge that was a part of the murals in the passage. Looking down, at the bottom of the cavern, a great distance down, is a sandy floor. Covered in fungus, a great slowly swirling whirlpool drains the water away into some deep underground river.
“What are those?” Sever asks, pointing up towards the platform far above.
Sever had welcomed Eccial back the party much as the others. He had then turned back to the sight of the cavern, marveling at the enormity of the space. From above, several whitish shapes slowly began to descend, coming closer to the party. At first, Sever thought them but an apparition, but as they come closer, it becomes apparent that they are some sort of creature.
A half dozen of the creatures approach, gently floating down on through the air, seemingly intent on investigating the party. Round and disk-like, they are of varying sizes, two or three feet across, with two long eyestalks on top, and a series of long tendrils hanging down beneath them. In appearance, they seem to be similar to the great man-o-war beasts that float on the ocean waters – but these rather seem to have taken to the air as their domain. They approach with slowly and with caution, exhibiting a coordination and sense of intelligence that is surprising to Sever.
The largest of the creatures, a full five feet across, floats closer. It is clear that it has seen many years of life, and not all those years have been kind. There are deep gashes evident in its bulbous body, and one of its eyes on top of the stalk is milky white and lifeless. Its other eye, though, scans the party rapidly, its eyestalk darting back and forth. The creature is emitting a soft hum. Soon, it is apparent the creature is attempting to communicate with Sever.
The rest of the party, Eccial as well, all cautiously move forward to view the wonder before their eyes. Sever, seeming to understand how the wounds were inflicted upon the creature, tries to speak with it. “We come in peace to you and your kind” as he reaches out his palm in a sign of friendship.
At the words, the creature begins to hum a different variation of sounds, almost as if trying to piece together its hums into a humanlike speech.
“We have fought the creature that made its lair here” Sever continues. At that, the creature begins a higher pitch, as if agitated.
“But we have destroyed it. It will do you no more harm. It is dead, and we have cast it down lifeless into the great lake below.”
At that, the pitch of the creature turns almost into a squeal as of delight. It quickly floats away from Sever and closer to its comrades, and soon all of them are emitting squeals of delight.
It then returns once again, and Sever reaches out his hand again in peace. “This must please you. We are happy to have been of service to you and your kind.” The creature floats closer, and gently begins to brush Sever’s outreached hand with its tentacles.
Sever feels a tingling sensation, and it seems as though some sort of bound of friendship has been made between the two. The creature then floats down a bit, under Sever’s hand, and begins to apply gently pressure upwards.
“Be careful, Sever” Abban cautions. “Not many creatures down here in Athuk are kindly.”
The creature hears Abban, and emits an admonishing tone with its hum.
“I don’t think they mean to inflict injury to us” Kael says. “Instead, it seems to be attempting to interconnect with us in some style.”
“Are you trying to tell me something?” Sever asks. The creature begins to emit a pleasant hum, and again applies upward pressure on Sever’s hand. “I think it’s trying to get us to go up to the platform above – it wants to shows us something.”
At that, the creature emits another squeal of delight.
“Well, if that platform up above is what is shown in the murals,” Mertat says “then we should take a look. I’ll take a potion and investigate.”
“Go with caution, Mertat” Abban warns. “We can’t afford to lose you.”
Nodding, Mertat quaffs a potion, and is soon flying through the air up to chamber. The wispy creatures follow Mertat, and others come from other areas of the cavern, hidden alcoves and nestled between groups of stalactites.
As Mertat approaches the landing, he can discern unfamiliar runes carved around entrance to the landing. As he gets closer to the landing, the creatures begin to swarm about Mertat, trying to get in his way. They appear agitated that he’s looking at the runes. But Mertat ignores the creatures, reaching out and touching one of the runes.
There is an instant flash, and all magic is cancelled on Mertat, including his flying potion. A rune trap has activated, and in an instant all of Mertat’s magic is dispelled. With the potion of flying dispelled, he begins to plummet down quickly. But Abban was prepared, and quickly drinks a flying potion of his own he had prepared. Its magic is still viable, and Abban leaps from the ledge flying quickly to the rapidly falling and flailing Mertat. The pair collide in mid-air, and begin to tumble wildly down farther as Abban is momentarily put off balance by the extra mass. Mertat, for his part, latches tight onto Abban. After a short distance, though, Abban is able stop their tumbling fall, and as the rest of the party gasp in amazement, gently floats back up to the ledge with the rest of the party.
“Well, that was a near tragedy” Kael says.
“Fool-is pr’est” agrees Eccial.
Now back on firm ground, Mertat shakes himself a bit, thanking Abban for averting the close tragedy.
The creatures have now returned, and the large one once again comes over to Sever. Glaring his single eyestalk intently at Mertat and humming a sound of displeasure, it then gently grasps and begins to tug on Sever’s hand. “You want to take me somewhere? Somewhere up?” The hum changes to a pleasant intensity, as if the creature’s intent is understood.
“Can you carry me?” Again, the creature hums pleasantly.
Reaching out both hands, Sever steps to the very edge of the ledge. The creature then floats down level with the ledge, and hums an impatient tweet.
“Sever, are you insane?” Mertat asks. “Did you see what just happened to me?”
“Perhaps I am insane, but for this I will trust and follow the guidance of this creature. Let’s see where this leads” and Sever gently steps out onto the top of the creature. Its surface is a bit soft, but not nearly as yielding as their aquatic cousins. Sever gently shifts his feet a few times, testing his balance, much to the discomfort of the creature – but it stays patient. Once Sever secures himself firmly on top, the creature hums in satisfaction, and they begin to rise up to the ledge far above.
“Crazy ba’tard” mumbles Eccial.
They watch as Sever and the other creatures all ascent. Soon, they have reached the platform, and the creature flies them both into the hallway beyond. There is a brief flash, startling the party. But Sever pokes his head over the ledge and waves, then ducks back away into the tunnel.
After a few minutes, Sever appears again. Once again, his is standing on the back of the large creature. Floating back down the cavern to the ledge, Sever lightly steps from the creature and back to the platform with the rest of the party. The creature then floats a short distance away, with several of the smaller ones now also gathering closer than before. They seem to have gained a comfort with the party, and Sever in particular.
With the rest of the party gathered about, Sever begins “It was amazing. Mertat, I’m sure you saw the runes about the entrance to the tunnel above. They are still active. It seems that anything that touches or passes them instantly cancels any active magic. But it lasts only a minute or so.
“Once I landed, the creature lead me down the passage with several side passages and doorways. It doesn’t look like any of it has been disturbed by foot traffic for many years. I was drawn down one of the side passages by a powerful glow. At the end of the passage was a large room – on its ceiling a huge mirror the like of which I’ve never seen before. It was easily three or four paces across, and the mirror threw off a bright light as of day. It is held on the ceiling by three great stone claws that at some time surely where magically enabled. The strange thing about the claws, though, is that two of them are blackened, as if their magic has been dispelled. The third claw is still intact and fresh. I’m not sure what to make of it.”
“Interesting discovery” Mertat agrees. “Seems to be of some import if the creatures lead you there. We’ll have to ponder this mystery.”
“Well, I’ve got some ideas. But hopefully we can learn more. For one of the rooms I briefly entered contained many scrolls and tomes – a dusty, long abandoned library. I didn’t stay long, but one of the books upon a desk had drawings of these floating creatures through it. It was titled ‘A Treatise of Flumphs’. I believe whose ever library that was wrote that tome. And he named these creatures flumphs.”
At that, the creatures floating nearby began to hum with amusement as though a long held riddle or secret has finally been uncovered.
“Flumphs. Flumphs” ponders Mertat. “Yes, that’s it. I’ve heard of such creatures. I don’t recall much of them, other than they are of a benevolent sort. That seems to agree with their behavior towards us thus far.”
“They have been proven proper” agreed Kael.
Nodding, Sever then continued “I was lead to another room – a throne room of some sort. Within, an ancient one of these creatures greeted me. It seems he is their leader. We were able to communicate after a fashion. It drew a story in the sand using its tentacles. The first scene was of a champion coming to them. He was a great teacher, and was much loved by the creatures. He passed along much knowledge to the flumphs, and spent much of his time studying them as well. But after long years, the champion grew old. His passing caused great sadness among the creatures. But with the knowledge the champion bestowed, the flumphs have flourished.”
“Now, though, they are under assault. Three threats were revealed to me. The first, this monster that we just defeated. Two others remain, though. One behind the waterfall, and another below in a cavern on this side of the cavern.”
“Once I understood that, then, the creature did something most intensely. He violently slashed out his drawings in the sand of the other two threats. And then, almost with veneration, pointed at the throne. Leaning against the throne is a great magical staff. After questioning it a bit, I understood it means to reward us with the staff if we can eliminate the other threats within the cavern. The staff is held in great reverence by the flumphs. It was carried by the champion who lived among them, and it is not a trinket they would easily part with. Their need must truly be great. I told him I must consult with the rest of the party, but I believe we have a great opportunity here.”
“Yes” Abban agrees. “We have another set of potential allies. There is no evil about them. And they are under assault by the evils of Athuk, further proving their fealty. We can redeem ourselves – I can redeem myself – by aiding them in this task.”
“We’re here to cleanse this dungeon” Mertat points out. “And these creatures have been fighting Orcus and his servants. Yes, we must help if we can.”
“They have agreed to transport us to the areas which they desire us to cleanse” Sever says.
At this, a dozen of the creatures all approach, softly humming.
“It seems our ride has arrived.”
Sever once again steps out on the grizzled old creature. But the rest of creatures are smaller, so two of them are required to carry each of the other party member. One by one, they all step gently onto the flumphs, and then descend several hundred feet below to a small ledge. A short tunnel leads away from the ledge and into the rock. Once they alight from the creatures, the flumphs quickly float away as if they don’t wish to stay near this area for too long.
Landing on the ledge first, Sever begins to investigate down the tunnel. But soon, the tunnel dips down steeply, and goes at such an angle that will require other means of ascent.
Coming back to the group, Sever explains the difficulty of traversing the hallway. Magical means will be needed to make our way down the tunnel. Abban is still under the influence of the flying potion. For the rest, Mertat provides other potions of flying and potions of climbing which allow the recipient to clutch and move along walls and ceilings as a spider. Soon, the entire party is moving down the tunnel when they are greeted by a burst of searing light.
From below, at the bottom of the steep tunnel, a level landing with a hallway leading away is visible. From the tunnel, a number of long tentacle-like appendages flick out and begin cast various magical spells at the party. Spells of fear, light, and force assault the party. Realizing that they must get down to the landing to attack the creature, the party begins the ascent through the spells being cast. One by one, the party arrive on the landing and begin to attack the monstrous construct.
No normal creature is before them. But rather, it is as if a gross assortment of humanity and beasts were cut into chunks and then tossed in a great pot to congeal. Heads, arms, legs, paws, and other ghastly bits are joined in grotesque ways, oozing and swelling from the massive lump of flesh which is the monster. Not only has the monster assimilated the flesh of its victims, but also the magic the victims possessed is still somehow still active. The heads that are mashed into the creature jabber away incoherently, proving to be a terrifying and revolting spectacle. But each head also seems to be directing its own assault against the party, it ands attacks are many and varied.
While the rest of the party launch attacks against the monstrosity, Abban manages to fly and maneuver his way behind the monster up the tunnel. Like an irritant, the monster merely flicks Abban away. He is sent crashing up the tunnel to its end, and then tumbles down a steep pit at its end.
Abban is shaken, and curses that he has been thrust so far away and out of the combat. From above, the cries and assault of the party continue on the creature, great flashes of light and bursts of flame are the apparent methods of attack. The fight continues, and it is clear that the party is having little effect on the monstrosity.
But also Abban is greatly wounded, so he uses several healing spells to restore himself to strength before rejoining the fight. The delay to heal himself is bitter, but in his current condition Abban fears that he would not last long facing the monster above.
Once healed, Abban looks about and sees what is evidently the treasure horde of the monster. Some loose coins lay about, and minor trinkets are displayed on a number of poorly repaired tables. Much of what is here is worthless. But Abban also spies a great chest, bound and locked, and knows that this must be where all of the greatest treasures are stored. Delaying a bit his return to the fight still clashing desperately above, Abban grabs the chest and struggles to shove it into his magical bag of holding. As he struggles with the chest, his bag slowly conforms in size to accommodate the chest within. As the chest is shoved into the bag, the chest’s heft and size shrinks to fit magically within the bag’s confines with a tremor. Once within, the bag returns to its normal size.
Slinging the bag over his shoulder, Abban looks up. The fight continues. With the flying potion still in effect, Abban leaps up and flies out of the pit, concerned that he has been so long away from the fight.
As he lands back in the tunnel from which the monster had slung him, he sees that the party is truly in a desperate way. Though clearly they had attacked the monster with all sorts of weapons and magic, the monster looks barely wounded. But the party itself is in a wretched state, with Mertat, Eccial, Kael and Sever having taken great physical and magical wounds from the monster’s assault.
And then Abban notices something odd. From the magical bag slung over his shoulder, a tenuous vibration that had started out with a soft tremor now begins to throb from within. Abban had carried and used the bag for some time, and this reaction seems out of place. But he understands there is no more time to delay.
Charging down the tunnel with his sword drawn, Abban flails away at the creature causing bits of it to ooze into unseemly puddles. But as fast as the puddles are created by Abban’s attacks, the ooze is sucked back into the mass of the creature leaving it seemingly unaffected. Abban is then grabbed by one of the monsters long and thick tentacles. The monster bites into Abban, and begins to suck the life from him.
As Abban begins to weaken, he notices that the magical bag, which had been oddly humming and trembling, is now shaking fiercely. It begins to expand and contract rapidly, as of one of Sufi’s potions from long ago that was on edge of bursting.
Understanding the danger, Abban shouts out a warning to his party to get away from the creature. They respond, and get as far away from the flinging arms as possible. Then, with a great wretch, Abban frees himself from the tentacle’s grasp and lands on the floor. With the bag in his hand now throbbing violently, Abban thrusts it at the monster then runs back up the tunnel.
He had taken barely five steps before the bag explodes in a great whoosh. Abban in knocked to his knees, then is briefly sucked back down the hall towards the monster. But as he turns his head to look, he sees that the monster is gone. No part of it remains. Abban tumbles to the ground, and ends up where just a heartbeat ago the massive creature had been.
After long moments of silence, Mertat approaches “What have you done, Abban?” he asks, walking slowly from the far side of the landing. The rest of the party also approach in amazement – the monster is gone.
Abban explains what he did – tossing the bag with the chest into the monster.
At that, Sever gives a moan “That chest was probably a magical chest – a chest of holding, similar to the bag of holding we use to carry out gear in.”
Mertat quickly understands “The bags we use are a link to an extra-dimension, allowing us to store a great number and weight of items within. If this chest is a similar object as Sever believes, then it also was a link into another dimension. Placing an extra-dimension into another extra-dimension is a dangerous thing. Whatever was in that bag – and that chest – have been sucked to who knows where. All of your extra gear, and whatever treasure was in the chest, is gone. Along with the monster.”
Understanding overcoming him, Abban moans “What have I done? In my greed I was afraid to leave the chest behind. There was no need to do such. We could have easily gone back to fetch it. But the delay I took to secure the chest also left you all to struggle against the monster alone. Once again, I have failed.” Falling to the ground, Abban begins to beat the dirt with his fists in frustration.
Standing silently by, the party has no words of wisdom. Abban’s choices of late have proven poorly for the party. No words are sufficient, or necessary. Abban knows the risk he took – and once again it has cost the party dearly.
“At least the monster is gone, Abban” Mertat tries to console Abban. “And your warning for us to retreat from the monster saved us all from traveling with it to other worlds. You know there is now nothing we can do to change what has happened. What is lost is lost.”
“But we have another creature to dispatch” Sever adds. “Come on, Abban, the chest, and whatever treasure was within is lost to us. Let’s see if we can’t find another horde.”
Looking up at the party, Abban also understands now is not the time to fret. Sever is right – there is more to be done. But will he be sufficient to the task? That is the question now besieging Abban.
Standing up, Abban collects his composure. “Let’s get out of this hole. Let’s see if those flying creatures will take us to the third task. Time for me to make amends, once again. My debt is becoming great.”