I woke up this morning itching with fleas! Fleas! I knew I never should have bedded down in this rancid lean-to of a wannabe vampire asshole. They’re probably elf fleas too, what kind of ELF has fleas? Does anyone even know what happens when an elf flea bites a human? Something horrid I’m sure. Martialla of course was flea-free and fine. I had her scour me with her magic water-blasts to get rid of the disgusting little bloodsuckers. I did my best to dry myself off and started to get redressed.
“If there are fleas in this wig I am going to lose it.”
“This is starting to be habit, do you like being blasted with cold water like a mental patient?”
“It’s not my fault the world is revolting.”
“You want to know the worst part? According to those books you burned last night, which were probably pretty valuable by the way thanks for asking, they probably got fleas on purpose as part of the whole vampire thing. It’s part of a method where you try to control your bloodflow. They should have gone to a swamp and got some leeches – they don’t itch, you don’t feel them at all.”
“That is vile. I should slap your face for even telling me that.”
“Sure but then I’d kick your ass.”
“There’s always a downside.”
Instead of heading back down the path to Heller’s Hills we decided to go higher up in the hills. I’m not sure why, it just seemed like the thing to do. The trail on the other side of the ruined temple was even more treacherous and didn’t look like anything had been on it for a long time based on the amount of slippery debris on it. I kept thinking that this was a stupid thing to do, that we (most importantly me) could fall to our deaths easily, but I never considered stopping, I just kept going. Eventually the path turned into the hillside itself. The shaft was clearly man-made and had petrified wood of some kind as either supports or decoration or both. Wordlessly Martialla summoned light and we went in. Crouching through thirty feet of shaft there was an unpleasant kind of “electricity” in the air –a strange pickling feeling all across the skin.
The shaft opened into a large but low circular burial chamber. Squatting on the crude stone coffin in the middle of the room was a rotten harpy. I’ve heard tales of how hideous and grime-spattered harpies are and I’m sorry to say that you can’t really do it justice with words. Harpies are described as women with the legs and wings of a vulture, I can tell you that a more accurate description would be a compost heap with feathers. On the floor around the coffin writhing was a mass of scaly pink worm creatures each about two feet long with vicious looking maws full of shark like teeth. Staring dead at us the harpy reached down her hand and one of the worms slithered up onto it, which she seized and bit into like a floppy sausage, sending purple fluid squirting into the air.
“I thought harpies had to sing to entrance people.”
“I’ve learned to be a little more subtle than that.”
“Makes sense, the acoustics in here can’t be very good.”
“I was trapped here long ago by a powerful druid. . .”
“We don’t need the whole story, just tell us what’s up.”
“Set me free.”
“You must journey deeper into the earth and find the source of the magic that chains me here and destroy it.”
“Or I feast on your flesh.”
“There were two elfs down there for years it looked like, why didn’t you ever beguile them with whatever you do besides singing?”
“Their minds were too powerful.”
“You’re here aren’t you?”
“Fair point. Instead of setting you free couldn’t we just kill you?”
With a gesture the filthy winged woman summoned a powerful wind that bowled us both over and sent us skittering along the ground towards the shaft we had come through. I retrieved my crossbow and fired at her but the wind carried the bolt away from her and she cackled with delight.
“The air is mine to command! The wind is my slave and no . . . . arwaark!”
That’s the noise a harpy makes when Martialla stabs it in the kidney with a rapier. I summoned a lion’s paw/claws and started ripping up the worms while Martialla commenced to turning the harpy into a pincushion. It was one of the more revolting skirmishes I’d had the ill fortune to be involved with, made none the less so by our lopsided victory.
“As long as we’re already here do you want to travel deeper into the earth and find the source of the magic?”
“Absolutely, I love a good magic source.”
Behind the harpy’s roosting tomb was a crude edifice of petrified wood that sort of approximated a door. We managed to lever it open and found an even smaller tunnel filled with spider webs. Packing my wig away for safe keeping we proceeded forward crawling on hands and knees.
“I don’t care how magical this thing is if this tunnel gets any smaller I’m out.”
“You’re in front though, it’s not like you can turn back unless I agree.”
“Why am I front, that doesn’t seem right.”
“You’re the vanguard bruiser, I’m just the magical support.”
“You’re the one wearing armor.”
“This armor is purely decorative, it lifts as well as separates.”
The webs got thicker and thicker, to the point where it seemed like we might actually get entangled in them, when all of a sudden the webs were yanked forwards and we were dragged like fish in a net into another burial chamber. Or what used to be a burial chamber anyway, it looked to be a living quarters of sorts now – although much of the décor was made from webbing, which doesn’t seem very practical. The creature that did the pulling was a bit like a centaur only instead of the bottom half being a horse it was a massive spider and the top half instead of being a person was a horrible spider monster. I think later Martialla called it a drider. I call it a living nightmare. Its voice was curiously feminine and tender.
“Where did you come from?”
“We came through the tunnel you pulled us from, that seems pretty clear.”
“But how did you get there?”
“The tunnel goes all the way through, we were on the hill outside and saw a shaft.”
“You’re not from Ironhold?”
“Ironhold? That’s hundreds of miles away, what are you talking about?”
The monstrosity hissed and clambered away on the side of the walls with its spider legs. Martialla and I wriggled free of our webs and noticed that four people were webbed to the ceiling. They looked gaunt and sick but they were clearly still alive.
“Do you find it at all disturbing that that thing doesn’t seem to be worried about us escaping?”
“A little. Do you happen to a ladder hidden in one of your many secret compartments?”
“That’s going to make getting these folks down tricky, should we bail or what?”
Before I could answer the spider freak scuttled back into the room, hanging from the ceiling – going over to the entrapped people and putting a hand on one of them possessively.
“You weren’t thinking about messing with my lovelies were you?”
“I wouldn’t dream of it.”
“Good, I’ve summoned the others. Sit there and be quiet until they arrive.”
I fired at her with my crossbow but she dipped out of the way like a crafty spider, appearing on the other side of a webbed captive and sending a bolt of lightning at me. Which seems like a disproportional response if you ask me. My robe seemed to protect me somewhat but I was slammed into the wall and jolted something fierce nevertheless. Martialla sent magical energy of her own at the beast in return but it dissipated harmlessly into little orange lights. The spider-thing then turned invisible.
“This isn’t good.”
“This isn’t good at all.”
With a strangely low-key roar of rage the spider-thing appeared on the floor and hurled another bolt of lightning. Martialla was able to nimbly avoid it but I was plastered again. I think without the robe I would have been dead. As it was I kind of wished that I was. Martialla summoned her magic to attack again, but again it simply fizzled out harmlessly. I used my Scarf and lassoed the thing before it could disappear but then instantly regretted it as it started to pull me towards it with said Scarf. Who would have thought that I wasn’t stronger than a spider-demon? It grabbed the Scarf with both hands for a mighty yank and instead of resisting I jumped with it, sliding underneath the spider body and slicing it open with my dagger. A rain of thick blackish chunks of gore showered me as Martialla attacked with her rapier. The three of us were tangled in a stabbing, biting, spider-leg kicking, ball for a few awful seconds before Martialla and I were the ones to emerge.
“I told you you were the bruiser.”
“You look like you fell into a honeywagon.”
“I’m not having a great day.”
I managed to clamber up to the webbed captives with a rope and used a wire saw to start cutting them free and then Martialla used her mage’s far hand to get a rope around one of them so that we could lower them down as I cut. It was exhausting and sticky work. After a good fifteen minutes we managed to get one of them down, who reacted only with a slight moan, and then we sat back to catch our breath. A woman in an unassuming green dress came into the spider’s lair from the opposite side and upon spying us immediately turned and ran. Martialla and I looked at each other.
“We should probably see what else is down here before we save these people.”
What else was down there was only one other room, but it was a doozy – it was clearly not a burial chamber of any sort. This was a worked stone chamber of high craftsmanship that was a good sixty feet across and thirty feet high. The floor was half covered with a single massive arcane symbol which went well with the four pillars crackling with magical energy and the far wall which appeared to contain a glowing circular portal.
“I think we found the magic.”
The woman was nowhere to be seen so either she escaped through the portal, or is invisible, or any one of a thousand other damn things. That’s the fun horrifying thing about magic – anything is possible. Unless I want it, then it’s impossible for sure. The walls were covered with carvings showing elfs living on the branches of an immense oak tree, and by immense I mean that it was being depicted as growing through multiple planets. Martialla said that it was some elf thing called Yignir or Yummir or something like that. I guess elfs think that there’s a massive three that connects all worlds. Stupid elfs. Also there’s a massive serpent that will devour the tree some day and kill everything and everything. Which seems more plausible.
Martialla was able to figure out, by which I mean it was written on the wall by the portal in elfish, that singing a certain song would open up the portal. I suppose maybe that’s why the harpy wouldn’t sing? It was worried about the portal? Who knows?
“I didn’t hear anything singing, so the portal must have been open already and the woman in green ran through and closed it from the other side?”
“What makes you think it’s closed?”
“I guess I assumed a magical portal would be more like a window, you could see what was on the other side.”
Martialla stared at it for a while and then declared “I think it’s still active. You feel like giving it a try?”
“I think I’ll give it a try.”
Before I could consider talking her out of it Martialla disappeared into the glowing wall. The light rippled slightly like water but otherwise nothing seemed to happen. A moment later she came back through – despite all the strange things I’ve seen the past few months it was still very eerie to see a woman walk out of a wall. She was carrying a small crate full of pickled herring, which could be the weirdest thing about what just happened.
“So, what did you see?”
“A storeroom.” She set down the crate “I think it was a basement. There were stairs but I heard people above so I didn’t explore any further. Does the mark on his box mean anything to you?”
I glanced at it, a blue shield with wavy lines “No, but the spiderthing mentioned Ironhold, I suppose that’s where the portal goes. Not sure how that makes sense, why would anyone build a magic portal from a city to a tomb?”
“Maybe the tomb came later. Whoever buried people here sensed the power and just got in on the action.”
“Was there anything over there that looked like they could control it?”
“No, I think it all happens over here. So there must be some way for them to communicate so the spider knew when to open the door for them.”
“Or they just had a schedule. There are a lot of unknowns here.”
“As per usual.”
I tried a few songs at random but nothing happened, there’s thousands of songs after all, assuming they didn’t make up one specifically for this portal. Not to mention which who even knows what language it might be in. We went back to the other room and spent a good hour pulling the other three victims out of the webs on the ceiling, the whole time keeping a nervous eye for anymore intruders from who knows where. One of them, an athletic looking gal with silver hair managed to perk up enough to tell us that it was Ironhold on the other side and they had been taken through to be imprisoned here by the woman in the green dress along with a dwarf and some thugs. She had no idea why but she was able to tell me the song that would close portal, which I did immediately.
None of the four could even stand up, never mind going down a mountain trail, and the odds of Martialla and I dragging them down one by one were about as poor. We decided that Martialla would stay with them and I would return to Heller’s Hills to get some folk up here to care for them. It was late in the afternoon by the time I got back to town where I quickly gathered up the townsfolk.
“Good news, if you’re willing to take advantage of it you’re all about to get rich. Potential bad news if you like your sleepy country lifestyle, this place is about to become very important.”
Hair regrowth progress : .045%
Funds: 747 platinum, 70,296 gold
Inventory: Wig of Alluring Charisma +4, Enchanted White Pathfinder’s Gear (effects as Iadaran Dress Uniform) Pocketed Scarf, Wrist Sheath, Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Ring of Protection +2, Assortment of Fake Signet Rings, Bag of Concealment, Belt of Giant Strength +4, Versatile Vest, Ring of Sustenance, Silver Chain set with Moonstones, Gold and Emerald Ring (2) Black Marketers’ Bag, 852 Garnets, Campfire Bead, Expedition Pavilion, +1 Human Bane Endless Ammunition Light Crossbow, Deck of Curses (two cards used), Blue Dragoncloth Dress, severed hag head, Ring of Urban Grace, gold necklace with jade pendant, Feather Token (tree) , white squirrel fur slippers, +1 Human Bane Dagger, ivory combs, Bewitching Gown, masterwork lute, Grappling Scarf, Wyvern Skin Robe (Robe of Arcane Heritage), receipt, Bag of Holding, tax collector’s badge, Calastar (Superior Riding horse, Horseshoes of Speed, Endless Feedbag)
Revenge List: Duke Eaglevane,
Piltis Swine, Rince Electrum, watchman Gridley, White-Muzzle the worg, Percy Ringle the butler, Alice Kinsey , “ Patch”, Heroes of the Lost Sword, Claire Conrad, Erist priest of Strider, Riselda owner of the Sage Mirror, Eedraxis, Skin-Taker tribe, Kartak, Królewna & Bonifacja Trading Company, Hurmont Family, Androni Titus, Greasy dreadlocks woman, Lodestone Security, Kellgale Nickoslander, Beltian Kruin the Splithog Pauper, The King of Spiders, Auraluna Domiel, mother Hurk, Mazzmus Parmalee, Helgan van Tankerstrum, Lightdancer, Bonder Greysmith, Pegwhistle Proudfoot, Lumbfoot Sheepskin, Lumber Consortium of Three Rivers, Hellerhad the Wizard, Forsaken Kin, Law Offices of Office of Glilcus and Stolo