So, like, I died. And that’s not even the worst part.
I didn’t want to believe it, but I’ve been having nightmares over the last couple of nights. Me, jumping up after the battle is over to strike down Cassandra and Anselme, and then trying as desperately as I ever tried to kill a foe to bring down Brother Vang.
And the things I said… Meryk tried to lure me out into the last chamber, and I laughed at him for trying to draw me out to where he had the advantage, leaving Vang to his own. I mocked Brother Vang, and his faith, the fates of Aroden and Arazni, and Iomedae’s weakness, her being his second choice. I attacked his most cherished believes with the same vigor as I tried to swing as his neck. If he hadn’t managed to get in that lucky swing, I might have been the only one still here today…
I know it wasn’t me, just some foul creation that arose from my dead body while my spirit communed with the Lord in Iron. But I still feel guilty about it.
The Lord in Iron. The Man in Metal. It seems obvious now, but he’s been pushing me forward for as long as I can remember, the same way I’ll swing a sword at my enemy from the moment I realize it’s their until it’s dropped. But I’ve got a habit of using my best weapons when it matters; I wonder when I’ll see what he saw in me all those years ago.
Other weird shit had been going down while I was gone. Meryk turned evil for a while, apparently, but Father Death had him eat a tar pie and drink a fizzy drink, and he expectorated a glob straight through the wall. Pandora’s been acting even shadier than usual, she’s not even staying at the camp anymore, and reasoning isn’t working out so well.
We were given a mission to investigate that caravan that Grug had been escorting to establish a supply chain through to the Worldwound, so we decided to bring him along. He knew more about the event than anyone else, and with Anselme on our side he didn’t have to worry about acid burns, and I liked to think that getting a chance to make up for his mistake and associate with us for a while would rebuild his rep and get him back on his feet. I had no idea how bad it was going to be, or how much bringing him along would be vital to our survival.
We made our way past the crossroad for the first time, without much incident save for a hydra, but when we got the remains of the caravan there wasn’t much there except rubble, which we sifted through for anything remaining of value, and bodies, which we burned there and then to avoid having to fight later. And then we headed east, the direction from which the attack had come, to the Chaos Rift.
Seriously, fuck the Chaos Rift. The place is brimming with ghosts, sometimes we’d fight two or three groups in a day, a dozen in all. Granted, I’ve managed to build up my strategy, and a few have even missed when trying to reach out and drain me off some vital essence or another, but it still sucks. There were a few that managed to get the jump on me and drain me of my mental faculties, but everyone else managed to drive them off, and there doesn’t seem to have been any permanent side effects or damage or anything.
What else was there? Oh yeah, we did manage to kick some Margoyle scouts’ asses (give me something that actually has an ass, and I can kick it), which helped me not feel worthless in combat for once, but they were part of another tribe. The guys we were looking for? All the way on the other side of the damn Rift. Great. Then there was another basilisk.
Read those last two words again. Seriously, let the ease with which my pen drove them to the paper properly sink in.
That bastard managed to turn EVERYONE but Brother Vang and me to stone. I didn’t hold back, and managed to bust its head pretty hard, but it in turn managed to hit me just as hard, and somehow seemed able to get past all my muscle tightening and skin hardening training to hit me full on, so unfortunately I dropped first. Luckily Brother Vang was able to finish him off, and my body seems to remember how much dying sucked, because it held on just long enough for him to get me back up. Blood, magic, everyone else was fine after that.
We met an Ettercap with a real talent for building traps (paper-mache giant spider, floating skull with diamond eyes to scare off adventurers), but weren’t able to recruit it. Yet.
Avoiding a cave with (maybe) a dragon that was able to make Anselme’s lightning bolts look like rug static (not all of us can freakin’ dodge lightning, Pandora!), we made our way a few miles further around to where those scouts had told us we could find a lift down, but it was only operational at night, so we decided to relax for a day and enjoy a picnic. That was only interrupted by a slime monster that touched Brother Vang and me, turning us into horrible gibbering slime monsters for a while too.
Did I mention the Chaos Rift sucks big fat bulette balls?
Once were finally able to negotiate a rate for passage and information (Did you know that the Margoyles’ nest was just a few easy miles away from that bridge where we fought the Hydra?), we made our way down, fought some more damn ghosts, found a Pathfinder via his body plummeting hundreds of feet and splattering around us (sent a missive back to the Society regarding his still identifiable features, names from his journal, and that he might have info regarding the massive Bone Monster down at the bottom of this place), and were generally creeped out by a collection of baby-related items along our path when we heard some kind of undead demon baby shrieking from down below. Rattle full of teeth, need I say more? Ugh.
The next morning, the camp was in sight across a lake in the valley, way up the opposite cliff, and given that we’re still held to the ground by the invisible chains of gravity, we decided that between castings of spider-climb and water-walk, a bum-rush was our best best. We just managed to get into the first cavern before the Margoyles mounted a counter-attack, and it was a minute of mayhem. Grug and I were crushing skulls, Cassandra was throwing down fireballs and VOLCANOES, Leone and Anselme jumped out of invisibility (I KNEW that Leone and spider-climb would prove a potent combination, by the way), Meryk magically bouncing around the room and shooting pinpoint volleys of destruction where they were needed, Pandora slitting throats, and Brother Vang keeping everyone going. They really tried hard to take down Cassandra, but we tried our best to keep a perimeter around her. It’s hard, when your enemies can just fly over your head. Damn gravity.
That would have kept going, and we probably would have slaughtered all of them, but a leader cried out for a ceasefire, and was willing to negotiate. He wanted us to stop killing his people (a reasonable request), and as a sign of good faith to explore the blocked-off passage where their leader had disappeared days prior (in and out in a few hours, he had been killed and transformed by some kind of slime monster). In return, we managed not only to get the return of the caravan leader, and a promise to stop harassing the trade route, and some valuables to seal the deal, but perhaps also another force to add to Team Has A Pulse.
All in all, a productive couple of days. I’ve learned a lot, like how much I REALLY hate ghosts. It’ll be nice to be back in the southern Desolation for a while, I think. Nice relaxing trip home, a few easy fights here and there, and wrap up some loose ends with Asharru. Easy, right?