All of my organic friends were battered and bruised, while my chassis was barely scuffed. I was ready to move onward, but unfortunately our magic-users saw a need to re-acquire permission to access the fundamental fabric of reality. So we retreated to the entry hall to once again keep watch.
I volunteered for the first watch, and borrowed a half dozen iron rings and a whistle from X as my alarm mechanism. But it wasn’t quite enough; I wanted any potential enemies to be distracted for a time. A chance to turn an enemy chancing on us into an ambush instead. So I tapped one of our remaining resources that the others had overlooked: Corpses!
The hermits have mostly been out and about in groups of three, so I laid out two of the dead hermits in the entry hall. I didn’t want to use the dead priestess so I pitched her and her head out the front door instead. By arranging the dead artfully, I could direct a potential enemy’s attention such that they would be looking for foes in the wrong direction.
There was a slight miscommunication, though. X decided that he wanted to use the cloak room as a nesting site, and so the little tableau I had arranged had to be relocated after its initial construction. I figured a way to make it work in my favor, though. Any panicked hermit coming on the site would find a scene that implied that these two had died after fighting the ghouls in the catacombs, using the last of their strength to re-barricade the door. I calculated just a single issue, and it was that there were active ghouls on the other side of that door. Ghouls which were shortly occupied by scratching at the other side of the door.
Ghouls are, of course, far less interested in the artistic merits of my macabre storytelling. Instead, they would perceive it as a well-plated entree, and while it’s nice to be appreciated for my culinary skills for once, ghouls do pose a significant hazard towards my organic companions.
Fortunately – according to our interrogations – the door had held firm against their encroachment for several weeks, and they were making no progress by the time I roused Quickheel for second watch.
All quiet, except for the hungry dead. They’re noisy.”
I had some difficulty understanding the expression on his face, but no matter. My job was clear. Since X was camped separate from the others, I sat outside of his door and went into power saving mode.
I had about a half hour to compile. We’d gone through a lot in the past few days. Losing Myron was just the start. I’d killed people. Deliberately. And there were hints that something larger was going on here. Belenni – or however it’s spelled – was apparently not even here. Was there a larger plot at work? Was she in charge or just another stooge?
More importantly, we were preparing for an act in the next couple of days. Drumming up publicity was one thing – we were getting a lot of attention already – but we have to back it up. Or at least appear to back it up. In show business, the two are one and the same, after all.
X was thinking we should do a limited showing for the elite. I think that might not be the full way to approach it. We should aim for two groups: The envied and the unenviable. The first to rope in those who have to follow in their footsteps, and the second to provoke the greatest disruption in the lives of people who would not notice our passing enough. If the overworked carpenter is suddenly happy because he and his children were allowed to see a show that he would never have found on his own, it makes people talk.
It sounds paradoxical, but we should also make them promise not to tell anyone about certain acts.
I snapped back to attention to Quickheel’s hurried shout to head for the doors. Ghouls were digging their way up through the tunnel floor. Strange. I thought it was solid stone.
Anyway. X had been badly battered in the last fight, so my role was clear. I readied my weapon and shield as they approached, and I was shortly holding the line against three of them. Well, after they took a moment to chow down on a chunk of hermit each.
Everyone else faced off against another three ghouls in the other room. I could hear Grukk doing his trademark smashing and there were occasional flashes of magic as Toreil let loose with a spell to disrupt the undead.
While I held the line, X also cast a spell to animate the rings I’d borrowed from him, shooting them around as projectile weapons. I’ll have to remember that technique, and will likely build it into my gear deliberately in the future. He also warded me against the undead, providing me with some extra protection.
The three ghouls raked and snapped at me, and one even managed to bowl me over. Still, I kept my shield up and fended them off, regained my feet and scored a hit of my own, glad for the first time that I hadn’t brought my kitchen knife. It would need so much cleaning.
I held the line as X’s telekinesis managed to drop one of them, and in moments Grukk was hulking his way through the door. In moments, there was just one left, and its attention was completely focused on three hundred pounds of angry orc.
So I swiped its head off, did a quick scan of the situation as I cleaned my blade, shut X’s door and was back in power saving mode in a matter of seconds.
A few hours later, our spellcasters were ready to work their magic once more and we took stock. While I made it through the fight entirely unscathed, Grukk, Quickheel and Ezren all suffered from bite wounds, and unfortunately for them, they’re organic, and ghouls are known for hygiene in the same way that orcs are known for patience. The wizard looks to be fine, but the dwarf and the orc’s wounds look to be festering and will need further medical attention that will have to wait for later.
We set further into the hermitage, finding the dormitories and privies (indoors, in a mountainside – I am curious about how they’ve plumbed them, but not curious enough to investigate) and eventually finding what looked to be a menagerie of sorts. In a cupboard, we found a few magical items, including a hat of disguise, healer’s gloves for Toreil, and some kind of ancestral mask that can talk about its previous wearers. Allegedly it likes to collect embarrassing or humorous tales.
We move on to find a demonic ritual reaching its completion.
Toreil understands what’s going on but the ritual is literally finishing right now. There’s no time to explain beyond stop them. So I charge straight in.
Two of the cultists have been doing their chanty and ritualy thing around a poor wolf that does not want to be stuck in the middle of their spiky circle. I don’t really know much about matters occult or demonic, but even I can feel the energy building. The power of the Abyss itself is getting focused on that circle and it’s about to be a very bad place to be standing, and the Good Boy is anchored in place by ropes tied to all four legs.
But I’m a speedy, flashy android with a sharp knife. I ignore both cultists and barely notice a kind-of translucent bird that looks like it’s in the middle of a rushing wind at all times. I go straight for the wolf and cut his back legs loose. He pushes his way out of the circle just in time.
Saving the wolf was my one big action in the fight, as X debuted his new spell, which calls a sudden bolt of lightning, even indoors. The cultists really didn’t enjoy that one. They also didn’t enjoy an angry orc, but the worst thing for them was Quickheel. They took their eyes off the dwarf, and he relieved them of their lungs.
That left just the bird, which was fast and hit hard – at least until Grukk fancied dinner. With a thundering cry of “CHICKEN!” he reached up with one hand and snagged it in midflight, then pinned it down and tried to strangle it.
Grukk tried to choke his ‘chicken’ while we debated whether or not to tell him that it was actually an air elemental. It wound up moot, as he found out only a moment later – when it died, it dissolved into planar residue, leaving nothing to eat.
Too bad. I have recipes.
In the aftermath, I find that Grukk had noticed the gathered abyssal energy and decided to throw his battle axe into it. The axe is now completely covered in thorns – including the haft – and when he tried to pick it up, it dug in. He couldn’t put it down again until the casters paused the hungry thorns by dispelling magic.
I want that axe. Not to use, but I might be able to get it useable. If not, I could still learn a lot…
The wolf is safe, but not untouched by the energies of the ritual. Some of his fur is bright red instead of its normal brown. He's more than happy to tag along with us. I name him Feral, because he is not trained.
We also find that one of the cultists was carrying the keys…to the door that Harlock is hiding behind. Does that mean our time in this mendicant maze is coming to a close?
Don't know that many people are reading these but I hope you enjoy them.
- None Found
More about Dungeons & Dragons OnlinePost: "We found a good boy. Yes we did. – Wayward Wonders, Chapter 7." specifically for the game Dungeons & Dragons Online. Other useful information about this game:
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