Wednesday, 16 December 2015

The Long Game: The Caves of Calamity

Our adventurers were making their way west, to track the monster that had killed one of their crew. They did not know what it was, only that it likely came from The Iron Tower and that it was dangerous. Let's see what they find...

The water was very quiet. All they could hear were the splash of their paddles, occasionally interrupted by vines and roots as they passed near some nearby islands.

The fog was thick, Alvyn kept checking his compass. To his left, he could hear Kalgar mumbling, probably praying to Melora, goddess of the sea. To his right, Alvyn could hear Tong, also mumbling. Probably to Ioun.

"Could you two shut up?" Alvyn could never really be stealthy with these two around.

Hours pass, just as the adventurers started to worry that they may be lost, their kayaks brushed the shore. "At last. Our destination." Tong stated solemnly. 

The island was small, but featured an old building, collapsed, made to look like a mausoleum. Upon investigation, the party discovered a staircase leading into the earth. Kalgar recalled buildings such as these leading to tunnels connecting chains of islands. Very useful for moving about quickly and without interruption.

"Hey, Tong, use your psychic powers, find the monster." Alvyn patted him on the back. Rolling his eyes in his head, Tong searched...and found nothing. Kalgar pulled out his javelin, recently upgraded, and placed a sunrod in the holster Alvyn had installed. He then proceeded down the staircase.

Damp, dark, and half-flooded, the water was up to Kalgar and Tong's waist, or in other words, above Alvyn's chin.

"Guys...blugh...this tunnel sucks!"
"This water reeks with the dead, rotted, mucus, Alvyn do you...oh..."
"Tong, can you lift Alvyn up?" Kalgar asks.
"Nah, I'm good." Alvyn rips a reed from the tunnel wall, lowers his goggles, and snorkels his way along.

Kalgar reached out to the wall and, using his dwarven bracers, tried to learn a little more about the tunnel's construction. "The walls are limestone, mortar is soft, breaking through, guys, don't poke at this."

Suddenly, Alvyn feels something poking at his fingertips. Relaxing his hand, Alvyn waited until whatever it was was in reach, then he ripped his hand out of the water revealing...a fish. "Ugh, it's nothing, Tong, keep looking for some alien emanations."

"What!? Alien emanations? Tell me your secrets!" Tong placed his hands on the fish.
"No, not the fish!" Alvyn threw it away.
Tong didn't feel anything from the fish, but he did feel something further up the tunnel.

Plowing through the muck and algae, Tong stopped them, "I sense the emotional residue...something, was in pain near here recently!" The party continued cautiously, the tunnel continued on and on, back in the direction of the Aesian outpost. 

Some time later, they came to a T-intersection, and floating on the water at that point, was a body. It was floating face-down, the water was murky, red-brown with blood reflecting the light of the sunrod. Kalgar used his javelin to flip the body over. It was a female bronze dragonborn, wearing the current Aesian uniform, likely one of the scouts who didn't report back. Her chest was ripped open just as the party's shipmate, Malark Chenn, had been. Alvyn reached forward, and grabbed her discarded flare kit, which only had a yellow and green flare left. 

"But...did the monster crawl its way out or in?" Tong wondered aloud.
Sadly, the corpse was too mangled to even attempt to answer that question.

"Let's move on." Kalgar brushed his way past Tong, grabbed the collar of the corpse, and dragged it forward, down the tunnel.

They continued on in this way for quite a long time until the tunnel seemed to end. The ceiling had collapsed and the way was blocked. Alvyn, who was mostly submerged at this point, felt that there was a current, perhaps a passage running under the cave-in.

"Could we clear it?" Kalgar asked.
"I don't think so, it might collapse even more." Alvyn replied.

Kalgar held the sunrod under the water, and asked Alvyn to look closer. Taking a closer look, the tunnel looked wide enough but Alvyn could not see how far it went.

"Looks like we're going swimming." the gnome said, upon surfacing.

"Wait! I have an idea!" Tong si Gong grabbed a leather satchel and breathed into it.
"Here, Alvyn, I have contained my breath; halfway through the tunnel, you may breathe it in!"

" do not pay me enough." the gnome quipped. Sighing, Alvyn reached out his hand, taking the rope Kalgar was handing him. After tying it about his waist, Alvyn dove down. While Kalgar and Tong stood waiting, Alvyn counted the seconds. 10...30...1 minute...2 minutes had passed and, at this point, the tunnel seemed to slope upward. Thirty seconds later, Alvyn reached the other side. The tunnel was similar to the one he had just left, but with stalactites on the higher ceiling.

Through a complex series of tugs on the rope, Alvyn indicated that

"'All is well'" Tong said, "'the...forthcoming surroundings are heavy with stalagmites' no tites! 'please continue swimming, look forward to seeing you or, at least, your next missive.'

Tong clapped his hands together and dove into the murky water. Kalgar grabbed the corpse and quickly followed.

While waiting, Alvyn felt something gently touch his fingers. Remembering the fish from earlier, he ignored it. The tingling feeling continued. Tired of the water, the fish, everything, Alvyn used his Boots of Levitation to fly 10 feet upward, grabbing a stalactite above. Clinging to his leg was a crab. Alvyn examined it, and grabbed it.

Tong was the first to appear. Splashing loudly, the monk looked around, and saw no one.

"Alvyn? Alvyn? Oh Ioun! He must have been taken by that monster! Kalgar, hurry up!" He splashed the water and fell to his knees. Above him, the gnome's stomach hurt from holding in his laughter.

Underwater, Kalgar, still holding the fallen Aesian guard, felt something grab his ankle and began pulling him backward.

Between giggles, Alvyn looked at the water behind Tong. That honourable baffoon is probably bringing the guard with him. Alvyn dropped the crab on Tong.

Back underwater, Kalgar kicked hard and managed to break free, moving forward, but not quickly. Reaching into his armour, Kalgar pulled on a pin known only to a few. When Alvyn originally made Kalgar's plate armour, he made sure to include a fail-safe, a flotation device, so that the sea-faring dragonborn wouldn't be at an unnecessary risk.

The armour plates expanded, small balloons inflated pushing on Kalgar's body, and he surged forward. The resistance on the body he was holding increased dramatically. Kalgar kicked and kicked, but his pace was slowing, he couldn't break free.

On the surface, Tong was kneeling, traumatized, thinking himself alone. Alvyn dropped beside him.

"What!? Who? You...Alvyn...wait, where's the big one?"
"Probably dragging that corpse...still, it's been a while." Alvyn moved over to inspect the water.
"Yes, the body is devoid of knowledge, why does he cling to it so?"
"I don't know, we're going to have to talk to him about this."

Meanwhile, Kalgar was fighting a losing battle. He knew he could bring the corpse no further. He had seen death many times before, but this was unnecessary, brutal, and he wanted to bring the soldier back to her people. I'm sorry, he thought, and he let it go.

Released of his burden, Kalgar used both arms and legs to swim and kick off the walls, finally surfacing loudly beside his friends.

"Kalgar! Where have you been?" Tong asked.
 "What took you so long?" the gnome's eyebrows were raised.

Looking at them coldly, Kalgar pulled the pin again, deflating the armour.
"Something grabbed me down there. Whatever it was was really strong."

"Ioun! We're being pursued by creatures from the deep!"

Suddenly something else surfaces and slams the three adventurers into a wall!

"Was it the creature?"
"Was it that?"
Alvyn and Tong ask simultaneously.

"Yes. I think so." Kalgar set his jaw and answered solemnly.

The three took off after it, but it was moving too quickly. The water was murky, thick, slowing them down. Kalgar reached back and whipped his javelin after it. It flew down the tunnel, struck the water, and reappeared back in his hand. No blood, nothing.

The three looked at each other. The creature was gone; it was so fast that the water in the tunnel had already settled down. Even with Tong's great speed, there was no way they could catch it.

"We need to warn the outpost. And get back to the kayaks." Kalgar advised.
"Right. I will open my mind to the Reverie and..."

"I'm a ritual caster, Tong. I'll use Sending. Hmm, hold on, 'Aquatic monster imminent' he counted the words out loud, 'traveling through tunnels, do not engage, wait for us, terrifyingly powerful, we're kayaking back, sandwiches please.'" And after a few moments, Alvyn nodded. "She's received the message."

Traveling back up the tunnel, back to their boats, they rowed back as quickly as they could. Arriving early in the morning, the sky was alight with red flares. Danger, warning.

As their boats neared the shore, the three could hear shouting coming from the outpost. Kalgar suddenly stood up in his kayak, flapped his massive wings and leapt into the air. Landing hard on the prow of the Shockrosia, he immediately barked orders.

Dwight was on deck, dealing with some rigging, "I don't know, they just started yelling!"
"And all is fine here?" Kalgar grabbed some rope.
"Fine. Stay here, stay vigilant. Alert status." And with that, he ran along the ship and leapt off.

Shoring up their boats, Tong looked over to Alvyn and said, "...we never do this kind of thing anymore. It's relaxing."

Thump. Kalgar landed beside them. Alvyn whistled, and one of the dwarves handed down a package, something Alvyn had been tinkering with earlier.

Kicking open the outpost door, the three saw Sora and her men in battle formation in front of the door to the main, underground, storehouse.

"Are you okay? We told you not to engage!" Tong said, his eyes glowing white, anticipating trouble.
"We didn't engage" Sora replied, wiping her brow, "Something came out of there and grabbed Porset!"

"Is there another exit?" Tong asked, his hands out to his sides, simultaneously calm and extremely alert.

"Did anyone see what it was?" Kalgar demanded.
"It was big, dark, no one was paying attention. It all happened so fast." Sora shot Kalgar a look of rage, undertoned with pleading concern.

" it was bigger than, say, the hole in our crewmen's chest?" Alvyn asked, cutting the tension.
"Yes, much bigger. And, we haven't heard back from any of the other scouts, they haven't reported back in 5 hours!"

"Alright. We will need one of your heaviest, most powerful cannons, set up here, aimed at that door." Sora looked down at Alvyn, not used to taking orders from one so short.

"Load it, prime it, and all that stuff. Do not fire until I give the command. I'll use a yellow flare."

"You shouldn't be lighting flares in here."

"Yeah, well, there's a lot of things we shouldn't be doing, but we're doing them, so let's go!" Alvyn slung his latest experiment, from the ship, over his shoulder and moved toward the door.

"None of this is your fault...have you heard of Ioun? Here, here's some literature. That will help." the monk handed over a pamphlet to Sora and followed Kalgar and Alvyn to the door.

The three entered the double doors. To their back was a group of armed guards and a cannon ready to fire at a moment's notice. In front of them, a dark, murky storeroom that smelled like fish. Moving farther within, they noticed the large metal door, used to connect with the storage room below, smashed, seemingly from inside.

"It came from belowwww!" Tong said incredulously.
"Yeah, we knew that!" Alvyn said, shutting him up.
"Even I knew that." Kalgar grunted.

The passageway was wet, recently flooded, but also recently drained of water thanks to Kalgar's crew from earlier. The three sloshed through the ankle-deep water. Kalgar pulled out his javelin, fit a sunrod into the slot, and aimed the javelin down into the storeroom.

They couldn't see much other than barrels. Tong rolled his eyes and searched the plane, hoping to find some sign of life. He wasn't exactly sure what the creature was, nor what to look for, but he did end up sensing the life-force of 4 or 5 people below.

"I sense the living, but not the creature we're after...Ioun!"

Kalgar dropped down, his dragon-like wings slowing his fall.

"Bold!" Tong remarked.

Alvyn climbed on top of Tong, "Geddyup!"

"I'm not a horse! But I will, because we have to! Neigh!"

Splashing down below, the party observed the room. The tunnel progressed some 20 feet ahead, into a larger room, with a side tunnel off of that, possibly connecting to another room. Through the main tunnel, the open area was quite dark. Nothing moved.

"Tactics as usual?" the paladin asks.
The monk and warlord confidently nod.

Here we go again!

Stay tuned for more of this story in a future post!

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