Legends of Greyhawk
Hive Day 1 (Uath 13)
Back to The Hive
Ahead to Hive Day 2 (Uath 14)
Hive xp (1)
The Team wakes early. Carnail immediately sends word asking whether the ship has arrived in Traft and learns that it has not. She, Fogey, and Lee draw up a shopping list and give it to a junior quartermaster. Carnail will pay for it, but he is in charge of searching Traft for the items:
50 feet of rope, free
50 feet of rope, iron grapnel at one end
30 feet of rope, knotted
12 iron spikes
The team eats in the barracks mess, and Carnail asks the cook for some to take some raw potatoes back to their house; she also requisitions a vial of the strongest ink the quartermaster has.
Back at the house, Carnail tells everyone to line up, but facing away from her and the table. She has three halves of potato face down on the table, into which she has carved designs. She has each member of the team come forward one at a time. Without them looking, she marks each of their wrists with one of the three designs, so that each combination is unique. She memorizes the combinations as the ink is drying. When it is well and truly dry, she carefully bandages each wrist and tells the person not to remove the bandages unless she asks them too. She explains that with all of the polymorphing magic, there may come a point when she needs to check on the identity of each of them.
Person (Right, Left)
Lee (Moon, Star)
Awn (Moon, Moon)
Reamer (Triangle, Moon)
Fogey (Star, Triangle)
Digger (Star, Moon)
Jizam (Triangle, Star)
Split Lip (Triangle, Triangle)
The last to be done is Split Lip. His markings are somewhat smeared – even the underside of his wrist is covered with a light fur.
When she is done, Carnail has Lee mark her right hand with a star, let it dry, and bind it. Then she has Fogey mark her left hand with a star, let it dry, and bind it. Neither Lee nor Fogey knows what is on Carnail’s other hand.
Finally Carnail takes the blotting paper she used to soak up the ink, puts it in the fire, and mashes the half potato molds into a paste.
Carnail explains to the Team that any living thing that is not part of the team will not be making it out of the Hive alive – there will be no questioning, no quarter, no mercy. She will have two questions for each of the Team members that they will need to answer correctly. Carnail has them all stand outside the house, then enter one at a time to talk about their questions until they agree on the answers. The first question for each of them is where they were when they first met Carnail. The second question is how they say “motherfucker” in their native language. Carnail is by no means a linguist, but she does already know how to say that in Cyndicean, Oerid, Dwarven, Gnome, and Bugbear. She has to have Jizam teach her the word in Bakluni, and she practices it several times until he tells her it is correct. He is dark-skinned, but his cheeks are blazing red by the time she tells him to go out and send the next person in.
When all the marking is done, Carnail has everyone assemble around the table for a final gear check. She has them place their healing potions on the table, the ones she commissioned from the Madruan Sisterhood. Some members of the team have two, some have none. She wants everyone to be carrying one. Lee gives her only potion to Split Lip, who had none, and Carnail gives Lee the potion of extra-healing that she identified the night before. Digger gives one of his two to Fogey, who had none. Awn and Jizam have one extra, and these are placed on the table. Carnail leaves a note on the table to Captain Bing, telling him to place the two potions in the small box, and all the other gear in one of the large boxes. She writes a second note to him, telling him to bring the ship first to the garrison to collect their gear and put it in boxes, and then to moor above the warehouse and wait for further instructions. This second note she gives to a military courier and tells him to wait at the lumberyard for the ship to arrive and then to personally give it to the captain or first mate. The junior quartermaster is not back yet from purchasing their gear in Traft, so she leaves a message telling him to put all of the gear purchased on the table in their house.
With the final details taken care of, the Team loads up with their packs and heavy winter cloaks and set out. It will only be about a four-block walk down one of the main streets of the city to get to the warehouse, so they should arrive before noon. As they set off, Carnail tells them that Lee is in charge and that she will meet them at the warehouse.
Carnail recalls to the Tower and grabs the potion of extra-healing for herself that she left there before, as well as her ring of water-walking. She then brings up Lee in the mirror. The Team is already at the warehouse, and they are conversing with the city watchmen that are guarding it. Carnail makes to slip on her ring of invisibility, and then realizes that she has loaned that to Jizam. She carefully moves the mirror to a nearby alley before stepping through.
Carnail strides out and joins her team. It has been nearly three weeks since Lee got authorization from the Plar to have the warehouse and cave mouth guarded. The corporal of the watch is polite and friendly, but also eager to know whether something is finally going to “happen”. His men are bored of standing around an empty building and the townsfolk are grumbling that they care more for protecting a derelict warehouse than their own homes and shops.
Carnail apologizes, and says that she will have the situation resolved soon. She asks to be let in to the building. The side door into the office has been boarded up, but the large double warehouse doors are closed and have been secured with an iron chain and a heavy padlock. The corporal produces the key and makes a great show of unlocking the doors, while townspeople gather about gawking. Lee stands apart from the throng, squinting and gazing far out across the lake. As the chain falls to the ground, she tells Carnail that she can see the ship, and estimates it will make landfall in an hour or two.
Carnail steps into the main warehouse room and pulls out her glowstone. Lee is right next to her, while the others hang in the doorway. Lee points out the interior door to the office.
There is a thick accumulation of dust on the floor, crisscrossed with rat tracks. Scratching and scurrying can be heard faintly. The air is foul with a heavy odor of rancid meat and spoiled vegetables – no doubt many of the boxes, barrels, and crates stacked throughout the space were full of food goods. Lee advances to the center of the warehouse, and then uses her ring to levitate up to the main rafter. Situating herself comfortably, she puts and arrow to her bowstring and continually scans the room. Meanwhile Carnail advances up and down the aisles of the warehouse, carefully going throw every row. She does not open any boxes, but she does prod the sacks and bolts. Footprints would be easy to see in the thick dust on the floor, but she finds nothing besides rat prints and rat droppings. Eventually she beckons Lee down and the two go over to the door. Digger leads the rest of the Team into the warehouse.
“Carnail,” calls a voice behind them, and she whirls and presents her spear before realizing she recognizes the voice. Chare stands before them, cloaked by the shadows of warehouse crates. Before Carnail can stride over, Split Lip rushes past her and embraces the elf, crushing her in a massive bear hug. Several minutes later, when she can again breathe, Carnail and Chare bring each other up to date on the events of the last few months. Chare mentions that a certain knife-vender has requested help from Carnail. When Chare learns that the team is about to assault a Hive, she asks what precautions Carnail has taken for their safety. Reflecting, she insists that each member of the Team give her a single strand of hair. From Jizam, who keeps his head shaved, she carefully cuts a small piece of fingernail. She will keep these, she says, in case someone needs resurrection. Fogey agrees that it is a sensible precaution, but adds that he doesn’t know of any priest powerful enough to cast that spell. Meeting him for the first time, Chare talks with Fogey briefly, and seems to be testing his loyalty and worthiness to be in the group. Finally the priestess retreats among the darkness of the warehouse and disappears.
Carnail tries the door to the office, but it is jammed stuck. Digger explains that after Lee, Akmute, and Fogey left and he was in charge, he had the remaining Team barricade themselves inside the office and kitchen. There is a large, heavy desk holding the door closed on the other side.
Carnail takes a few steps back, then runs and launches herself at the door. It gives a fraction of an inch, but she bounces off and lands awkwardly. She has plenty of strength to batter it down, but her shoulder is not the best weapon for the job. She looks over the team members standing around her, and gestures to Split Lip to give her his old, battered club. Despite his huge sword, he still carries the club at his belt.
After the first mighty swing of the club the door creaks – at the second, the top half of it cracks and splinters, opening a hole wide enough for Digger to be lifted through. He can barely lift one corner of the big oaken desk at a time, but with much back and forth he moves it away from the door enough to open the door sufficiently for Carnail to step through. Once she is through, she easily pulls the desk down the hall and back into the office. The rest of the team soon joins her and Digger.
It is dark in here, away from the open doors of the warehouse. There is a window in the office, but it is shuttered and boarded over on the outside as well. Everyone with glowstones takes them out and the room is almost as bright as day.
Here the dust is thinner, but rat tracks are still visible. Digger says that the room is as they left it, so they proceed into the kitchen. The smell of rancid meat from the warehouse dies down, but there is a mildew smell, probably originating from the stewpot that hangs in the cold hearth. The snows and rains have flooded the hearth and a muddy ash spills out across the floor of the kitchen. Carnail checks behind the serving bar and around the tables, but the place is clearly deserted.
Carnail raises her glowstone and looks into the bunkroom. The floor is an obstacle course of empty bed frames. Lee tells her that the exit is through the closet in the back. Carnail motions for the Team to wait in the kitchen, while she carefully steps over and around the frames and into the closet. Lee hisses to her and she freezes. Lee motions her out of the closet, then reaches in and pulls one of the coat pegs down. Instantly the roof swings down and slams into the side of the closet with a force that leads Carnail to believe it must be weighted on top. Lee then moves the peg around until a catch opens and the side of the closet swings wide to reveal a long, narrow, corridor.
Carnail covers her glowstone and waits for her eyes to adjust to the darkness. She strains her ears, but hears nothing for several minutes. Finally she takes out her glowstone again and starts off down the corridor. Halfway down she can hear a crash behind her in the bunkroom – Digger laughs and Fogey curses the bedframes. She pauses at the end of the corridor and Lee rejoins her. Lee points out the guardroom, the stairs and trapdoor leading down, the ladder leading up to the roof, and the concealed room with the ladder leading down. Carnail opts for the last exit first.
Carnail lifts the trapdoor and peers down the dark hole. Immediately below the floorboards is a thin layer of paving stones and then natural bedrock. An iron ladder with a thin coating of rust is set in to the wall. Carnail drops her glowstone to the bottom and allows it to illuminate the space below. The chute is narrow enough for her to “chimney” down it face forward, rather than using the ladder and giving her back to the room.
Carnail slides her spear, point down, through her belt and braces her legs against the rough-hewn rock walls of the chute. She relaxes them enough to slip, and then puts the pressure on again, joining her gauntleted hands in a second. She descends the chute in a controlled sliding fall and lands lightly at the bottom. After a short and narrow passage is a wall-mounted trapdoor. It has a sliding bolt on her side, but the bolt is drawn back. She opens the door and the space is flooded with the scent of fresh air but slightly fetid water. She retrieves her glowstone from the floor and extends it through the door. A low natural cave, more like a long tunnel, is on the other side. It is half-flooded with water, the trapdoor sitting a foot above the surface of the water.
Carnail ponders whether she can simply bolt the door behind them, or whether she needs to check the length of the water-filled tunnel all the way out to the lake. She briefly wonders why she left her ring of warmth behind.
Carnail returns to the base of the ladder and calls up to Lee. She tells Lee to scout the guard room and then move the Team there for the time being. When they are settled in, Lee is to send Awn down the ladder.
Several minutes later, Awn descends the ladder. Carnail slips off her gauntlet and then her ring of free action and hands it to Awn, indicating by gestures that she is to put it on and wait here. Awn nods, takes off her own gauntlet, and slips the ring on. Carnail opens a belt pouch and takes out her ring of water walking, puts it on, and then covers it with her tyrant gauntlet. She crawls through the door into the tunnel. There is a narrow ledge she can stand on before she enters the water.
The ceiling is high above the ledge, but most of the tunnel is lower, such that Carnail will have to crouch when standing on the water. She strides out, unused to the soft, spongy feeling of walking on water. She holds her glowstone in one hand and her spear in the other and looks around. She notices that she is drifting slowly away from the door – there must be a current, but nothing she can’t easily walk against. She moves against the current, checking the walls and ceiling and using her spear to probe the floor below the water. The walls narrow and the ceiling lowers rapidly, and Carnail is soon forced to crawl along the shifting surface of the water, wetting her sleeves and gauntlets. Perhaps some fifty feet beyond the door, the ceiling is low enough that she would have to go below the surface of the water to continue – the tunnel is about two feet high from that point on, but completely under water.
Carnail turns around, letting the water carry her slowly back to the door and then beyond. Once beyond the door the tunnel brightens quickly, and Carnail puts away her glowstone. The tunnel turns a corner, and she can see light at the end where it emerges into the outside world. She continues her careful search as she slowly drifts along the tunnel. She has to get to all fours again to emerge – the cave mouth is low enough so that people entering in a boat would have to lie down to pass.
She emerges into the bright light of mid-day on the shore of Lake Quag. She cannot see Traft behind her, as this part of the beach is strewn with rock outcroppings and large boulders, but she can hear the sounds of the city easily enough. She has taken two steps towards the shore when one arrow whizzes by her shoulder and another thunks solidly into the dragon hide on her back.
She spins and launches herself forward, charges at a man half-hidden behind a boulder. She knocks his crossbow out of the way, then thrusts at him with her spear, but sees even as she attacks that he wears the tunic of the city watch, as do both a second bowman beside him and several swordsmen further back. She pulls her attack, swings the butt-end of the spear around and knocks the man to the gravel ground but does not follow up.
Gasps come from the men and then hurried apologies, even from the one she knocked down. “Szeka Carnail…so sorry, your ladyship, we were told to guard the tunnel and…”
Carnail laughs it off, tells then they are doing their job and no harm done. She asks the group’s leader to pull the arrow out of her armor, tells them to keep watching, and then returns up the tunnel from whence she came.
When she gets back to the room with Awn, she takes her ring of free action back and guards the water walking ring in her belt pouch. She bolts the door to the tunnel and they both ascend the ladder.
In the upper guardroom, Carnail ascends the ladder leading to the roof. The trap door is closed but not bolted; she opens it and goes out on the roof, then climbs up the walls of the “well” to get to the true rooftops. A cool breeze off of the lake chills her even in the bright sunlight, but she has a good view of the rooftops of the city. Four blocks away, uphill, are the high, stone, walls of the garrison, and she can see the flying ship moored above it. She looks about just enough to check that no one is around, and then goes back down the ladder, bolting it shut behind her.
Lee shows her where the trapdoor and ladder to the lower level is, and explains to her that the stairs lead down to the water trap room but meet up in the same place. Lee checks the winch and tells Carnail that the metal portcullis of the lower room should be up at present.
Carnail says that she will descend the ladder; she wants the rest of the Team to go down the stairs at the same time to make sure that no one is evading them. Lee leads the others down the hallway to the stairs while Carnail opens the trapdoor in the floor. She drops her glowstone down first to illuminate the area and then immediately descends. The ladder is set into an alcove, but it is too wide for her to chimney down – she turns her back to the room below and jumps through the hatch. She grabs the rails of the ladder to slow her fall and slides. When her feet hit the ground she does a back roll. It is difficult to tumble in the stiff dragon armor but she manages to come up cleanly and draw her spear. Too slow for a real fight, she thinks, but the room is deserted. [11:40am]
She can see Lee coming into the room from the stairwell, but her sounds are strangely muffled. Then she realizes that a huge pane of glass, with an inset metal door, separates the two halves of the room. She lets the Team check the room that they are in while she examines the glass. Not a chip, not a scratch, and it is fully fifteen feet across above the door. It has been some time since she has seen glasssteel, but she thinks she recognizes it. Whoever made this elaborate trap certainly had resources. Then she recalls the spells found in Velinex’s book. Yes, resources indeed.
Carnail opens the door for the Team to enter. There is both a winch and two huge valves in this room. Digger explains that this level is below waterline and that the valves are turned to flood or drain the water trap room, and that the winch on this level controls the metal door at the base of the stairs while the winch in the room above controls the portcullis just in front of the door. The trapdoor that Carnail came through can be bolted from below, but not from above. Thus if they release both winches and bolt the trapdoor, someone from above would have difficulties getting to this level, but they could easily leave going up through the trapdoor. Lee asks Carnail what, if anything, she wants to close behind them as they proceed: bolt the trapdoor, bolt the door in the glass wall, lower the metal door of the trap room, lower the portcullis of the trap room. Digger adds that they could also flood the trap room, if desired. Without waiting to hear Carnail’s answer, he and Fogey begin an animated conversation about plumbing and engineering.
Since Digger and Fogey are still talking, Carnail turns to Lee. “We can leave everything open – it is clear behind us and we will be able to find anything in front of us. At this point, I don’t think we need to worry about an ambush from behind by the Eye.” Silently, she considers that if they have to recall out and someone is left behind, the less impediments to their return here, the better.
There is an open doorway to an adjoining bunkroom. Though there are chests and a few beds on the floor, in some spots the outlines of dust on the floor show where other beds have been removed. At a question from Lee, Digger explains that the Team moved the beds. He adds that Akmute’s magical scimitar was found in this room. The search here is quick and cursory. [12pm]
Carnail leads the way through a door into the next room, which appears to be a lounge or study. Thick carpets of fine workmanship cover the stone floor. Carved wooden shelves line the walls – some are filled with books, while others hold dishes and platters of pewter and even fine silver. Given the richness of the decoration, the room is strangely absent of furniture, other than a number of long-cold braziers.
Carnail goes to a shelf and takes down a silver plate – it has a relief pattern of flowers around the edge. Carnail grins. “Nice. We can come back for this later. I suppose you were too busy to grab it the first time through?”
“Yes, ma’am,” says Digger. “Mistress Lee wasn’t here. I was under orders to bring out all the bodies – there wasn’t much space left for carrying tea sets.”
Carnail nods. “That’s fine. Right now we have bigger fish to fry.”
She takes the door that Lee says leads to the mage Felmot’s study, and beyond that his bedroom. The decoration isn’t as nice, but there are plenty more books, scrolls, and laboratory equipment. After Carnail returns from clearing the bedroom, Jizam asks to speak to speak with her. He has taken off Carnail’s ring so as to become visible while they speak, out of politeness. He says that the books contained in this study contain much of value – he knows, because he searched through them looking for information about the Eye. Perhaps it is not anything that Carnail could sell for as much profit as a silver plate, but to a mage they would bring great knowledge. He asks that she consider returning them to Probable as well. Before Carnail can form her answer, Fogey butts in heatedly. “Not only silver and magic be of value, my lady! The books outside in the study contain many worthy ideas – we must recover them as well!”
“Gentlemen,” says Carnail calmly, “I know you fought here, and your blood has bought these items. When we have a chance, we will return for them and you will both see your fair share. But not today. Right now, we are after tyrants.”
They nod their understanding. [12:30pm]
The only place not searched is down the long stone corridor. The Team remembers it having been lit with continual light before, but now it is dark. Their own lights play across the scared, sullen features of the statues. They open the final doors into the circular chamber. Atop the ten foot high circular well is another five feet of blackstone. And on top of that, upside down, is a fine carved oak table, several beds, and an assortment of chairs. Carnail cranes her neck to stare up at it, and then looks down at Digger. “I suppose you put all of that up there yourself?” she says dryly.
“Well,” replies the gnome, “Split Lip did help a bit.”
Lee activates her ring of levitation and slowly rises alongside the pillar, then gingerly pulls herself into a position atop it. “Ready?” she calls down, and Carnail answers in the affirmative. One by one she tosses heavy wooden chairs down, each neatly caught by Carnail, with her giant strength. After that come a number of bed frames, for which Carnail has Split Lip help her. Finally, all that is left is the table that Lee is standing on. Bracing herself against the legs, she throws her weight forward, and the table scoots an inch to one side. She eases her weight back and does it again, and again, while Split Lip and Carnail look up from below.
Once it is free of a small ledge of blackstone on the opposite side, Lee is able to step off of it and push on the legs from behind. She moves it forward until she starts to feel her end rise against her, balanced at the lip of the stone. “Here it comes!” she says and gives a final push. Wood scrapes against stone as it passes over the lip and then down the side, but Carnail and Split work well together and catch it, taking up the weight with their knees, then lower it to the floor of the chamber.
“Well, that’s that,” says Lee. Now we need a dispel, and we need a way down.” [12:40pm]
“What did you do before?” asks Carnail.
“Dispel from Awn and solipsism of a rope ladder from Fogey,” replies Lee. “The dispel from Awn is a good call because it is a non-combat cast, but I didn’t know whether you wanted to burn a solipsism this early in the game. Also, it took us a while to get everyone to believe and I don’t know how long we have before the ‘stone would come back. We would have to all go in together – no time for you to scout ahead.”
Carnail reflects on this, and then asks Fogey about how far down it was. He estimates about 75 feet to the cavern floor beneath, with about 40 feet of shaft and then opening out into a 35 foot high natural cavern. Carnail nods.
“Well, you’re right – I don’t want to use the solipsism yet. How much rope do we have?”
Carnail had said that all the mundane adventuring gear would be coming in the box, so only Fogey has brought a length of rope. He says it is only fifty feet, but there is easily another thirty feet of sheets and blankets left from the beds in the bunkroom and Felmot’s room. They took many of them to wrap bodies but there still should be enough left to cut into strips and braid. They go back and collect what is left. Digger, Jizam and Reamer shred the sheets with their daggers while Awn, Split Lip, and Fogey plait them into strands of three, and then combine those into strands of three, for a bulky nine-ply rope which is knotted to the end of Fogey’s hemp rope. The team grabs one end of the rope and Carnail the other, then Awn casts her dispel magic.
The blackstone disappears and Split Lip gives Carnail a boost up to the lip of the well. The Team takes up the slack as Carnail lowers herself over the edge. She tells them to lower her at a slow and steady pace.
The light of the room above her becomes a large circle that slowly shrinks as she descends into darkness. Her eyes have switched over to infravision just as she comes out of the shaft and in to the natural cavern. She hears the buzz of the rope above her and the drip of water on stone, but nothing else. The stone is just slightly colder than the air and she has a hard time making out the dimensions of the chamber. Pools of water on the ground form pale blue splotches in a sea of gray. She spins slowly to see the whole expanse. There is certainly nothing bright-red and living.
Carnail’s feet hit the floor before she realizes that she is close and she stumbles for a second before regaining her footing. Above her, the Team feels the rope go slack and they pause. They are working the improved bed-sheet section of the rope. Carnail lets go of her hold on the rope, and then gives it two sharp tugs. The Team pulls it up after her. She is now alone in the cavern, the rope rising into the tiny circle of light far above her. The dripping water echoes forlornly.
In the chamber above, the returning rope clears the lip of the well and falls on the floor. Split Lip vaults up, catches his massive hands on the lip, and heaves himself up to the shaft entrance. Below, the team works quickly to set the table upright alongside the well, four chairs together on top of that, and a fifth chair still higher using the other four as its base. Once their improvised stairs are set, all members of the team prepare to counterweight four hundred pounds of bugbear and gear.
Split Lip stands on the well lip and wraps the end of the rope around each of his hands, then leans slightly back while the team takes up the weight. Putting more and more of his weight back without jerking, he eventually takes a step down, repelling and walking his feet down the side of the well. When he gets to the bottom of the shaft he cannot support himself anymore – the team has to take his whole weight and he has to hold himself up using only his arm muscles. Lee leads the team, telling them when to lower and hold, each one in turn to let go and re-grip. If everyone were to take one hand off at once they could easily let the rope slip.
Below, Carnail watches the bright red of Split Lip’s warm body descend. With a point of reference, it is easier for her to get her bearings. The cavern is some seventy feet across, but longer than it is broad. She can see three of the walls, but the fourth is beyond in the darkness. The floor is very rough and uneven, and full of stalactites – they will have to tread carefully to keep from tripping.
Split Lip is swinging dangerously as he descends. When he is in reach, she steadies him and helps him to the ground. It is funny to see his red-image face grinning in the dark, and she grins back. He unwraps the rope from around his hands and Carnail tugs on it twice.
Next up is Awn. She climbs the table and stacked chairs to the lip of the well and wraps the rope loosely around her hands, repelling as Split Lip did but easing herself down the rope rather than having the others lower it. There are only five people belaying her, but she is nearly 200 pounds lighter than Split Lip. Once she is below the shaft and in free air she digs her boots into the rope and slides down in less than half the time it took to lower Split Lip. She tugs the rope as soon as she hits bottom. [1:20pm]
“In a hurry?” whispers Carnail. Awn makes a gesture as if cutting the top off the well or putting a lid on it. Carnail takes it to mean that she is concerned about how long the blackstone will remain dispelled. She nods her agreement and gestures for Split Lip and Awn to stay where they are.
Carnail begins walking forward, to the dark end of the cavern. She turns her back for a second and pulls out her glowstone, grasping it tightly in her gauntleted hand so that she can barely see a sliver of light through her clenched fingers. Then she turns around and sets off again. She goes as silently as she can, but the uneven footing makes her slip and stub her feet. In the eerie silence her missteps echo around the cavern. She may not be seen, but she will not be surprising anyone. A growing smell of rotting flesh assaults her.
Once Awn is off the rope, Reamer tells the others to haul it up while he mounts the well. He is heavier than Awn, not as strong, and considerably older. He wants to be lowered down. The four people remaining above find it considerably more difficult to support him than Awn, he being heavier and having one less person. He is fine walking down the well, but once he gets to the free air, he struggles to hold himself up against his weight. In the last ten feet he collapses, and only the fact that the rope is bound around his hands keeps him from falling. He dangles from his wrists, gasping in pain, but is quickly on the ground with Awn helping him.
[Reamer failed Str. Check to sustain self but makes Con check – no damage]
Carnail continues cautiously forward, the stench of decaying meat growing ever stronger. She bites her cheek to keep from retching. In front of her, to her left, lies a massive mound, larger than any of the stalactites but as cold as the ground. She alters her course, so as to put it between her and the far wall. When she is alongside it, she crouches and opens a hole between her thumb and forefinger, allowing a ray of light to illuminate the side of the mound.
It is a massive beast, mottled green and brown, a huge body and more necks and heads than she can count. It is several weeks dead, bloated, and stinking to high heaven. Carnail stifles another retch and makes her way from it as quickly as she can without tripping.
In the chamber above, Fogey is getting ready to descend. He says he needn’t be lowered, he is strong enough to hold his own weight. Lee says that is not what she is worried about – she is more concerned about whether those left – herself, Jizam, and Digger, can take the weight of a full-grown dwarf in metal armor. To test it, they have him climb up the well and repel down the far side from them, the outside, so that if he falls he will fall on the chamber floor and not into the cavern below.
Lee, Jizam, and Digger brace themselves and Fogey leans back. His first few steps are secure, but then his footing slips. The sudden change in weight is enough to make Jizam lose his grip. This sets up a chain reaction whereby Digger slams into Jizam’s legs, he goes down, and all of Fogey’s weight is in Lee’s hands. She can’t hold on and loses the rope – Fogey falls about eight feet to the chamber floor and lands in a heap. He gets up and dusts himself off and now agrees that an alternate plan is in order.
[Jizam, Lee, Digger all failed strength checks – Fogey made Dex check to take no damage]
Fogey climbs up to the top of the well again and then Lee clears the chairs from the table. She upends the table so that it is on its side and perpendicular to the well. She wraps the rope several times around two table legs near the base so that they can act as capstans, and then she, Jizam, and Digger again take up positions.
Under Lee’s command, they begin lowering Fogey down the well. The rope slides slowly around the table legs, and they are able to lower him with less effort and much greater control.
[Wood, thick: saving throw versus normal blow: one leg saves, the other fails. First failure necessitates a second save for the other leg: fails. Luck roll: 0, Fogey is halfway down. Str check for Lee, Jizam, Digger: failed.]
Things are going smoothly until the near leg reaches the improvised part of the rope. The knots between the lengths of braiding catch and pull – the end being lowered goes slack, and all the weight is on a single table leg. Before Lee can react, the leg snaps, sending splinters flying. As the weight is suddenly transferred to the second leg, it snaps and the rope is jerked forward, flying out of the hands of Lee, Jizam, and Digger. Fogey plummets to the ground.
[40 foot fall = 4d6 = 14 points damage. Fogey from 37 to 23.]
Carnail has been advancing, glad to leave the worst stench of the beast behind her, although it does linger in the air. To the right, she passes two tunnel entrances. They may be actual tunnels, or simply recesses in the cave walls too deep for her to see the end. She thinks Lee said that they explored the cavern and found only one possible exit at the far end.
Carnail is about to decide whether to investigate them or go on when she hears a whoosh followed by a crash and a low groan. Then, Fogey’s unmistakable, but hushed, “Nae, nae, I be fine.” She turns around and makes her way back to the group, being careful not to stumble but less concerned now about noise. [1:30pm]
In the chamber above, Lee uses a chair to vault up, activates her levitation, and easily reaches the well of the lip. She flattens herself out on the ledge and reaches a hand down to the gnome. “Jizam, lift Digger up!”
Jizam comes over and lifts Digger so that the gnome is standing on his shoulders, allowing him to just barely grasp Lee’s hand and be pulled up alongside her. Jizam then mounts a chair and is also pulled up.
“How do we get the rope back up?” asks Jizam, for the entire length fell down with Fogey.
“We don’t – we need to get down there right now. Fogey made enough noise falling that if there is anything around, they will already be fighting by the time we get there. Now, where are you?” With (invisible) Jizam’s help, Lee grabs him from behind, clasping her hands together below his rib cage and above his waist. “Digger, grab my leg as hard as you can!” Lee orders.
As soon as Digger has a firm grasp, Lee steps out into the void and activates her levitation to achieve a controlled fall.
[Lee’s ring of levitation can support 1200 pounds (more than she can carry without giant strength)]
By the time Carnail reaches the group, Fogey is sitting up and Reamer is carefully coiling the rope. Split Lip is staring at the hole in the ceiling. Awn is trying to check Fogey’s limbs for sprains or dislocations, while he keeps pushing her away. “I already be telling yea, I be fine, so hands off mea, yea daft white witch!”
Lee descends as rapidly as she can. Jizam must have a glowstone out in his hand, for the room above them grows dark, but they are descending in a ball of light. They have just cleared the bottom of the well when the room is suddenly cut off from their view by the reappearance of the blackstone cap. Digger gives a start and loosens his hold on Lee, then tries to recover it but keeps slipping.
“Hang on!” hisses Lee, and increases her speed of descent. Digger slips and falls backwards into the darkness, tumbles over, and lands neatly in the arms of Split Lip.
[Lee successful str. Check to hold Jizam. Digger failed Str. Check to hold Lee. Luck roll = +1, Digger falls at 20 feet above floor. Split Lip makes Dex check to catch Digger, no damage to either.]
Two seconds later, all eight members of the Team are together in the cavern directly below the well.
“Jizam, you ok?” asks Carnail.
“Then let’s get that light out.”
“Sorry, mistress. I didn’t know I would be descending so rapidly.”
Jizam takes out some bandages and wraps several layers around the stone. The light slowly dims and fades until it is a pale white, like wan moonlight, in a small area.
“That’s good,” says Carnail. “Leave it like that – just enough so you can see to walk without tripping, and you can tell if we hit an anti-magic field. Also, the rest of you – assume that Jizam is in the center of that glow patch – then we won’t be tripping over him, either. Jizam, if you feel like you are being targeted, drop the light as a decoy and walk away.”
“Okay, while we are at it, let’s get the other three lights wrapped.” Lee, Fogey, and Carnail take a moment to wrap their lights in bandages as well, until they are down to a soft glow that just illuminates a few feet around but does not spoil the infravision of those that have it.
“Lee, I saw some side branches up ahead – did you check those?”
“Yes ma’am. The two on the right are dead ends. The one on the left is where Velinax was held “prisoner”.
“Ah. I hadn’t got to that one yet.”
“Yes, it’s the last one. Right before the skull.”
“Okay. Now, as we practiced, if there is one tyrant we initiate plan Orange and Blackberry. Two is much more dangerous, but we know what we have to do with two. But if possible we want to make sure there is not two. So we explore slow and careful, and make sure there are never any behind or above us. Even though Lee saw those side caves before, we are going to check them out. We want to keep our back clear. As discussed, I will lead, you guys follow at a distance. I doubt they will be here, so this will be a good practice.
Carnail sets off, as fast as she can without tripping, not concerned now about noise as they have already made much.
Lee arranges the group into marching order – single file, Fogey, Reamer, Jizam, Digger, Split Lip, Lee, Awn. Just before they set out, Fogey pulls out his healing potion, and makes to take the top off.
“Fogey,” says Lee, “If you are wounded, let’s get a spell from Awn. We’re not in combat so it should be okay for her.”
Fogey takes his hand from the stopper, but does not put the potion away. “Normally I would be agreeing with yea, Miss Lee. Better tae cast a renewable spell than tae waste a single-use magic item. But I figure, we are goin’ against tyrants. We could be swept by an anti-magic ta any moment – and tha’ could spoil th’ potions. Better tae use ’em now, and save our spells, because they canna’ be spoilin’ those.”
Lee shrugs her acceptance and Fogey drinks the potion. He waits a moment. “Tha’s odd – noothin’ be happenin’. I be wonderin’ if’n we hae been in an anti-magic already? Well, now. I guess I be wantin’ some healin’ after all.”
Lee asks Awn to cast a healing on Fogey. The woman rolls her eyes but casts a cure moderate wounds.
[CMW for 6 points, Fogey to 29/37] [1:40pm]
Meanwhile, Carnail has started off down the cavern length, passing again the dead hydra, but giving it a wider berth this time. She probes the ground in front of her with the butt of her spear, looking for traps and deadfalls, as well as mundane rocks she might trip over. She veers left to the first of the tunnel entrances and waits for the team to catch up.
In a few minutes they are behind her again, so she enters the side-cavern. It goes back only about fifteen feet before it dead-ends, so she turns around and exits before the rest of the Team can even follow her in.
The second side cavern is much the same.
From that point on, the main cavern narrows into a small neck of about twenty feet wide. As she approaches, Carnail can begin to make out the far wall of the cavern for the first time – she is nearing the face where Lee told her the skull carving was. [1:50pm]
Carnail can begin to make out the features of the carved skull as she approaches. The open mouth gapes in – it looks like it would be possible to walk into it without even stooping, after a step up an uneven rock ledge. The eyes are also deeply recessed. The nose appears to be carved out, but not very deep.
[Spectator tries to establish ESP and suggestion, but blocked by Carnail’s mind blank]
She steps carefully as she approaches, probing the ground for hidden pits or tripwires with her spear. The Team is some sixty feet behind her, about even with the entrances to the two side tunnels.
[Spectator tries paralization, but canceled by Carnail’s free action ring]
On her left is the entrance to a third tunnel – she takes it to be the one Lee said they found Velinax in.
[Spectator uses cause serious wounds as the gas spores emerge. Carnail not surprised. Carnail saves, 8 damage is 4points, Carnail at 84/88.]
Carnail feels a brief, searing pain, but shakes it off. Above her, she can see movement – something is emerging from the eyes of the skull. She does not know from whence the pain came, but can see that the two moving forms above her have completely emerged from the eyes. They are large and ball-shaped and are floating gently down towards her.
Carnail turns her back on them and looks for something to throw. She moves about half the distance back to the Team, then stoops and seizes a stone from the floor about the size of her fist, but jagged and sharp.
She waits until the spheres are passing through a narrow neck in the cavern that is not much more than twenty feet wide, and then she throws the rock at the leading one with all the might of her giant strength.
[Non-proficiency penalty of -2, range penalty of -2, +3 for hurled weapons due to giant strength, Thaco 7 (F14), rolls a 4, adjusted to 3, hits AC4.]
The stone strikes the nearest orb; a fraction of a second later Carnail is blinded by a searing light erupting from it. Carnail hears but does not see the second one erupt into a fiery explosion as well. A wave of force and fire sweeps by Carnail, knocking her backwards to the stone floor.
[Two saves vs wands; success (18) and fail (2); +3 from RoP but no bonus from jumpsuit as this is an AoE. Both explosions are for 21 points damage, first at half, total 31 points. Carnail at 53/88.]
The sound of the explosions echoes deafeningly in the closed cavern – after that, it seems strangely silent besides the ringing in her ears. Pieces of charred ash float gently down from the air.
Carnail thinks she may have lost her hearing until she hears the faint voice of Lee, “Carnail? You ok?”
And before she can answer, she hears Fogey as well, “Och! More fekkin gas spores! We found enough of them with the tyrant in Burke’s Crossing, didn’t we then?”
The force of the explosion knocked the wind from her, but Carnail manages to sit up and call out to Lee. Her infravision is returning, and everything else seems to be in working order.
Carnail stands, and pulls out her potion of extra-healing. She drains it in one draft.[3d8+3 = 12 points. Carnail at 65/88.]
Hive xp (2)
Carnail examines herself carefully, but finds no obvious injuries besides the scorching burns from the explosion. She suspects that the pain she felt while in front of the skull was some sort of magical wounding. She tells the group that there may be an eye up ahead. Digger tells her that the explosion was fantastic!
Lee asks if she wants more healing, but she says not yet. [2pm]
Carnail carefully picks her way back to the mouth of the skull. She again makes to clamber up the rough ledge into the mouth itself. Again she is filled with the searing pain. This time, however, her infravision sees far back in the tunnel of the mouth, a floating spherical shape.
[CSW for 9 damage, save for 4 points, Carnail at 61/88]
Carnail climbs up the ledge and enters the mouth of the tunnel. There is little room to maneuver. The tunnel is five feet wide with a smooth floor and arched ceiling just high enough so that she does not have to stoop. The tunnel appears to be a dead end – against the back wall floats a sphere.
Carnail holds up the glowstone and slides it from the bandage wrapping so that the full amount of light shines forth. After her eyes adjust, she moves forward, but at a slow walk, carefully checking the walls and floor for traps. She is hit again with the pain.
[CSW for 11 damage, save for 5 points, Carnail at 56/88]
The Team sees light spilling from the open mouth of the skull, but Lee notes that it does not emerge from the nose or eye sockets.
In the light of the stone, the figure at the end of the tunnel is revealed to be…Ziggy. Or at least some creature so similar in appearance that Carnail cannot tell them apart.
Carnail’s mind blank helm normally blocks mental contact, but if she concentrates she can produce her own ESP which can override the helm. She attempts to contact the creature, saying “Let us pass and you can live.”
The creature bobs in the air, seemingly surprised at her contact. After a moment, it replies. “That is not possible. I must guard this entrance as instructed. Please leave in peace.”
Carnail drops her spear to the floor and shows her empty hands. “What are your instructions?”
Fortunately, the creature seems inclined to converse. “I must guard this passage. No one who is not a tyrant or with a tyrant may enter.”
“Is there an unguarded entrance?”
“I do not know of another entrance. That is not in my instructions.”
“Can you heal me?”
“No. I regret having to harm you. I tried both my suggestion to leave, and then my paralization, but you seem immune to both. If you will not leave, I must continue to do you harm." Although the creature is openly threatening Carnail, it seems in no hurry to fulfill that threat.
“Are you the only guard at this entrance?”
“I take it from the force of the explosion that you have dispatched both gas spores. Besides them and myself, there are no more guards of which I am aware.”
“Do you know anything of the rest of the hive?”
“I know of the tyrant who summoned me, and another one. These are the only ones I have seen come and go.”
“When was the last time a tyrant came through here?”
Here the creature hesitates, seems to be searching for the right words. Finally it ‘says,’ “I do not think we have a common frame of reference for time. Your mind has words like “hour” and “day” but I do not know what these mean. The last tyrant I saw passed through here shortly before the hydra was slain.”
“How do we get beyond this point?”
“That is not my concern. My instructions are to prevent you from passing beyond here.”
“It seems we are at an impasse. I am sorry my friend, but today you will die.”
“I will not die. I will return to my world, free of my servitude to the tyrant who summoned me. It will be a welcome release.”
“How is that so? Will not your body die here?”
“My ‘body,’ such as it is, will die here. My spirit will return to my true body, which is waiting for me in my own world.”
“I understand that you will have to fight back. Is there any way I can make this less painful for you?”
“I am not concerned about pain. Just be quick about releasing me, so that I will have to harm you as little as possible.”
“Remember me – Carnail Bethil – Champion of Ulaa. I will set your people free.”
“I will tell your name to my matron.”
Carnail bends and retrieves her spear. “Defend yourself.”
She charges at the creature, sinking her spear deep into its side before she is hit with another wave of pain. This one is so intense that she nearly drops her weapon and swoons.
[Carnail: failed dex check = two attacks. 6 and 2 on init. Spectator gets a 5.
6: Carnail rolls 13, hits, d6+3(spear)+7(str)=12 damage.
5: Carnail saves, 16 points is 8 damage, Carnail at 48/88
2: Carnail rolls 1, auto miss.]
Carnail shakes her head and recovers, pulls the spear out and plunges it deep into the creature’s body.
[Carnail inits at 10, 5, 4. Spectator at init 6. 10: Hits, 14 points, total 26 damage]
The creature does not thrash on her spear. Its main eye fixes on Carnail and slowly closes, its alien expression seeming more like relief or gratitude than pain.
Hive xp (3)
As Carnail looks at the far wall, she can see that it is blackstone, neatly flush with the natural stone of the cavern.
Carnail returns to the Team and recounts what happened. Feeling confident that no opposition remains in the cavern, she leaves her glowstone at full brightness. She asks that Awn heal her. [2:10pm]
[CMW = 5, Carnail at 53/88.
CLW = 8, Carnail at 61/88
CLW = 2, Carnail at 63/88]
Three healing spells later and Awn is tapped out. Carnail moves the Team to the skull. Awn, Jizam, Digger, and Lee make camp inside the mouth-tunnel, while Carnail, Fogey, Split Lip, and Reamer are outside. Carnail gives the amulet from her bag of holding to Awn and tells her to wear it while she rests to recover her dispel magic.
Carnail pulls out her ioun stone and lets it circle her head. She produces food from her bag of unending nourishment, and this is shared among everyone. While people eat, she goes over strategy again, coaching and mentoring and making sure they know the plans by heart.
[Note: Carnail’s bag can produce 12 meals per day (a day’s food for four people per day). After the end of lunch, it has produced eight meals for today (the 13th)].
[Fogey uses his own CLW on himself
CLW = 4, Fogey from 29 to 33
CLW = 7, Fogey from 33 to 37]; 30xp.
Afterword, Carnail enters the mouth of the skull and joins the resting group, to meditate and pray in silence. Digger and Lee levitate and climb about the skull face, searching the nose and mouth caves, which are shallow and unconnected. [3:10pm]
Within four hours, Carnail’s stone has healed her to full, and she puts it away. Awn is still resting, and says that she feels no effect from the amulet. Carnail tells her to keep wearing it, as it may affect the speed with which she prays for spells.
After six hours, Awn is ready to begin praying. [9:10pm] She spends three-quarters of an hour to receive her dispel magic, and says that the amulet does not appear to have any effect. Reamer suggests that perhaps it works only on mages. Awn asks whether she should continue to pray, to recover the four healing spells she has cast.
Carnail estimates that it is early evening, and tells Awn to go ahead and fully charge. She takes another hour and a half to pray for two cure light wounds and two cure moderate wounds. [11:25pm]
Meanwhile, Fogey is getting hungry again. He asks if they won’t be eating again before they break camp, since it has by now been nearly eight hours since Carnail provided lunch with her bag. Carnail authorizes him to pray for a create food spell, so long as he can pray for it, cast it, and replace it with his assigned spell before Awn is ready.
[Fogey spends 90 minutes, as long as it takes Awn. He casts one Create food, at 3 people per level is food for 21 people. It will spoil in 24 hours]. [11:25pm; will spoil at midnight of U-14]
Hive xp (4)
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