Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Deep Watch Bay: Part IV

Tong, Alvyn, and Kalgar had found Deep Watch Bay. They thought it abandoned but inside, they found illusory archers, soldiers, and structures. Moving past the illusions, and dropping to a lower level, they found a hidden floor, the base of the volcano. Will they finally get some answers, or just more questions in Deep Way Bay?

Dallas Kasaboski

The walls were still dripping, wet, damp, but otherwise well kept. They appeared to be at the base of the fort. The walls curved inward, and there were a few side tunnels leading off of the main room.

"This looks like it was the main test area," Alvyn said. "They could flood the area if there was a problem."

"Good points." Kalgar said. "It's pretty dark down here." he remarked. "And still no obvious signs of treachery."

"What do you mean?" Tong asked.

"Just, there may be something on the cards, but so far nothing here could be taken to the Admiral as evidence."

"Put one of your Ioun friends on it Tong, scour the cards." Alvyn said.

Tong rolled his eyes back in his head and said, "Search and Know." Six pupils appeared upstairs and began their work.

They reached the first chamber. The doors opened, stiffly, and a musty smell emerged. Inside, there was a small mechanism which Kalgar and Alvyn recognized as a volcano-manipulator. It was old, incomplete, likely a prototype, but this was the start of the superweapons, similar to the one the Doomguard sent Alvyn to collect and destroy a long time ago.

Alvyn collected it, and put it in a secret pocket within his bag.

Moving on to the next room, there were 4 jars on a pedestal. One was empty, the other three had a metallic grey semi-fluid substance which seemed to move slightly on its own. Looking closer, Alvyn got the sense that the fluid was mostly residuum but there was something animating it.

"Bag", Alvyn said, holding his open.

"Nooo, they're not even sealed properly!" Tong said.

Alvyn closed the jars properly and then deposited them into his bag. Behind the pedestal, there was a clipboard, which he also grabbed. The notes were scratched, over and over, all seeming to show failure. It seemed that the experiment was to create modular magical weapons, something which could adopt itself to the wielder. However, it seemed to have failed, although the notes made no mention of the liquid moving.

"Hmm", Alvyn said, "Bag!" and he dropped the notes into his bag.

They moved from room to room, Alvyn continued bagging anything of interest, until they reached a door marked, "Confidential Records".

"These secrets must be exposed to the light of Ioun!" Tong said.

Kalgar reached forward, the door was unlocked.

"Hmm, they didn't bother locking it. Either they thought the rest of the security was enough, or they didn't think to question the loyalty of the soldiers." Kalgar said.

"Wait!" Alvyn said. He took a closer look at the door. It was severely warded with alarms. 

Sighing, Alvyn reached into his bag and pulled out a tripod. He set it on the ground, and pulled out a round dish of some kind. He attached the dish to the tripod, running wires away from the dish to a little box, and then connected that box to his goggles.

He looked up at the party with his gnomish smile and said, "Whatever you do, don't look directly at it."

"Ioun's eyes should never be blind to-AHHH!" Tong screamed as a bright flash erupted around the dish as Alvyn worked to drain the arcane energies from the door. Steam and smoke came out of the dish. Alvyn could sense that he got all but one. It wouldn't harm them but it would send an alert somewhere. Looking closer, all he could sense was that the signal would head west.

"But, there should be nothing west of here..." Kalgar said, thinking of krakens and the ocean depths.

"Well, this door is a problem so, let's skip the door." Alvyn said, flipping up his goggles.

"What?" Tong replied.

"We've got access to dwarves, chemicals, all kinds of things, let's just go through the wall!"

"I can start right now!" Tong said, and began rapidly punching the wall.

"Uh...yeah, you keep at it, Tong, we'll be back." Alvyn said, leading Kalgar back to the stairs.

Before they got too far, Tong stopped. In the back of his mind, he felt something. A presence, getting stronger.

"Wait!" Tong called out, "There has been an awakening. Have you felt it?" He asked.

"No," Kalgar responded.

Alvyn reached out with his senses. Kalgar listened to the sound of his heart, seeking a connection to the gods. Alvyn and Kalgar sensed something, but they were very unsure what it was.

"It's on the island. Or, it's attention is." Tong said.

The three ran back upstairs, past the elevator and through the rooms.

When they looked out, they saw ships on the horizon, sailing away. They also saw Kalgar's fleet stirring and readying. They could hear orders being shouted out, sounding confused and hurried.

"Ready the cannons! Turn the fleet! Man the sails."

"Belay that!" Kalgar said, flying quickly on deck. "Hold your fire!"

Looking to the horizon, Kalgar, Tong, and Alvyn saw several ships, with flags bearing the insignia of the soldiers they fought below. The ships were sailing away, looking like they came from the very docks where our party now sat. Looking overboard, Tong noticed the water was not acting strange anymore.

"Hmm, remember the Crimson Fields? Ghosts reenacting their last days? Maybe it's that." Kalgar suggested. "Or, maybe they're trying to lead us away..."

Suddenly, it struck him! The interference pattern, the waves, they looked exactly like the wake beside a docked ship. Except without the ships being visible, the waves had looked quite strange. The ships may have been docked the entire time, invisible.

"A cloaking device!" He shouted. "They were here the whole time!"

Tong then realized that the presence he felt occurred at the same time they ships must have started sailing away.

"But, that makes no sense. Why would I feel them now?" Tong asked.

"Well, they're uncloaked now, maybe unhidden from your senses as well." Kalgar offered.

"No, this is something different." Tong sensed it. "Whatever was keeping them invisible, it's not anymore, and its presence is here."

"Maybe it's the dragon that's here."

"It's always dragons." Alvyn said.

"She has been moving the country toward efficiency, maybe this is part of it." Kalgar said.

"Well, either way, they're leaving, we need to get into that vault." Alvyn said.

"Right." Kalgar turned, "Dwight! Call our ships back, get the Dwarves down below, there's a vault there we want open. Set up crews to round the island, look for anyone or anything interesting." 

"Aye, Commodore."

While this progressed, Tong, Alvyn, and Kalgar continued looking for the presence. They led the dwarves to the spot, who began drilling.

Suddenly, Tong stopped, "It's here, on the bottom level with us!"

"Show yourself!" Kalgar snapped. This deception was irritating him greatly.

Somewhere deep in the cavern, a low, booming voice shouted, "You should not be here...but, you have given my people the time they needed. Fools!"

Alvyn begins putting smaller tripods in the ground, hoping to isolate the presence. He then walked over to the dwarves and said, "Going back to the ship would be ridiculous."

The dwarves looked at each other, then at Alvyn, "Pfft" they scoffed, and began going back to the ship.

One of Alvyn's sensors began beeping, and there stood a figure. Its skin was tightly drawn over its skull, it wore a cloak and it said, "You should not be here."

"I go places I'm not supposed to be, so I'm not surprised." Alvyn said, drawing his gun which was as long as he was tall.

"This is my country." Kalgar said, drawing his katana. "Who in the Nine Hells are you?"

The skull face appeared to smile.

Kalgar, Tong, and Alvyn struck at once. 

Alvyn flipped down his goggles, trying to learn more, but the numbers were fluctuating. It was almost as if the goggles had trouble locking on to the creature. So he pulled a lever and his rifle began spinning up. He loosed a bolt, which went through the creature, who immediately disappeared.

The party looked at each other. 

"What is that thing?" Tong asked.

"Whatever it is, I bet it doesn't even really look like that. You know, illusions." Alvyn replied.

"Well...let's bust into that wall again, wait for it to come back." Kalgar suggested.

They made their way back to the room when, all of a sudden, shimmering, semi-silhouetted versions of Kalgar and Tong came around the corner.

"Kalgar, shift there, Tong, get ready!" Alvyn said.

"I've already fought Tong's demons, now it's time to face mine!" Kalgar said, re-drawing his katana.

Alvyn took a step back, loaded a Firestorm Arrow and fired it at the not-Kalgar. It exploded on impact, catching the not-Tong on fire. 

"Kalgar, drop yourself." Alvyn ordered.

Kalgar swung his katana and was blocked, with moves mirroring his own.

"We can't kill our own demons, we have to kill each other's demons!" Tong said, smirking.

Returning the smirk, Kalgar lowered his guard, on purpose, drawing in the not-Kalgar. He moved away, but could not block the incoming attack. The attack lands in his shoulder, and Kalgar reached up and grabbed his foe's sword, pulled it out, and continued his movement.

"Nobody makes me bleed my own blood, especially me!" Kalgar said.

He turned on his heel, ready to strike his new foe, when he felt radiant light damaging him. Seems he had become the subject of Divine Sanction from the not-Kalgar.

"So that's what that feels like." Kalgar said, driving his sword home into the not-Tong. The illusory Tong vanished.

A new not-Kalgar moved in swept its katana from side-to-side, it struck Kalgar deeply, blood dripping from its illusory blade.

Another not-Tong moved closer and attacked the real Tong. Its movements were fast, blurry, and knocked Tong prone, switching places with him. Another not-Kalgar stabbed at the prone Tong.

To Alvyn's left, an illusory Tong attacked. He swept his leg and hit Alvyn in the head, knocking him prone.

Tong leapt up and said, "Two can play at that game...but I'm playing this game, with you!" He loosed his Arc-hammer scroll at the fake Kalgar, and missed.

Far off in the dungeon, Alvyn's sensor was going off. The skull creature was back.

Rising to his feet, Alvyn dropped half of his gun, drawing a shield.

Tong couldn't seem to remember many of his abilities. Neither could Kalgar. Tong surmised that these illusions were formed from their memories.

Kalgar feinted his sword high, then struck low, seriously wounding a not-Kalgar. When that happened, the image became fuzzier, less coherent.

Two not-Tong's attacked Alvyn. The gnome shifted to the side, and blocked another attack with his shield.

Tong reached out and the Codex Caduceus appeared. A pillar from the Canitian temple appeared and fell promptly on the nearest not-Tong and not-Kalgar. The two forms shimmered and disappeared.

"You may have my form but you don't have my training!" Tong said.

"Tong," Alvyn shouted, "Clear me a path!"

Tong swung around and whipped a warbead at one of Alvyn's foes. It hit, and the foe shimmered.

"Form up!" Alvyn called out again.

Kalgar shifted his weight back, and then lunged forward, catching the not-Kalgar off-guard, killing it. He tried to focus on the sound of his heart beating, like the beat of the waves, in order to clear his mind of these illusions. But he was distracted and could not shake it.

To his right, Alvyn saw the skull creature, and felt compelled to move away. He moved away from the group.

A warbead whipped past his head, striking the skull creature. It sunk into his chest, thunk, hitting something before returning to Tong.

Alvyn moved, flicked his wrist, his shield collapsed into his gloves once more. He gripped his rifle in both hands again and fired at the creature. The bolt lands and begins pulsing, distracting him and slowing him somewhat. He flipped his goggles down, gave them a tap, and tried to see through the illusion.

Alvyn could now see the outline of a normal human underneath this mummy lord/lich shape, and he realized its powers were half-fueled by illusion and half-fueled by psionic force. "It's some kind of half-psion!" he called.

With no foes around him, Kalgar began running toward the creature. He threw the javelin with the strong arm of practice, but while his aim was true, the javelin passed through his foe.

It turned its gaze toward Kalgar, and tried to peer deep into his mind. More not-Kalgars appeared to either side and the skull creature disappeared. The not-Kalgars charged and stuck Tong and Alvyn.

"You're not my friend!" Tong shouted, as he brought his limbs across all who surrounded him. The images shimmered.

"Tong, there is a Kalgar in front of me, get rid of it!" Alvyn commanded.

Tong whipped a warbead. It bounced off of the not-Kalgar's arm and struck the next not-Kalgar in the neck.

"Tong, do you even listen? I said this guy!" Alvyn shouted, with a smile on his face.

"The beads go where they may, like my spirit." Tong responded.

A javelin flew past his shrugging gesture, and struck the not-Kalgar next to him.

The skull creature appeared closeby and pointed a skeletal finger at Alvyn. Several shimmering not-Alvyn's appeared.

Off in the corner, the party could hear a metallic clunk, and the sound of rushing water.

"Uh...we need to get out of here!" Kalgar said.

Tong whipped his head toward the lever and ran with breakneck pace. He reached the lever and pulled it, the water rescinded. The skull creature was gone.

Alvyn raised his rifle, rotated the barrel, and fired at the nearest not-Alvyn. Trailing the bolt were two wires, leading back to Alvyn. The creature was hit, it shimmered, looked up at Alvyn who smiled, pressed a button on the end of the wires, and teleported closer to Tong.

Kalgar shifted his stance and charged the next nearest not-Alvyn. Bringing his sword down, he swiped through the illusion, who began growing fuzzy.

The skull creature pointed at Tong, who suddenly felt compelled to move away from the lever. He whipped a warbead at another illusion, shattering it, before moving over to one of Alvyn's sensors. Pinging the dungeon, the party realized the creature was in a room, on the far side.

Kalgar's next javelin toss missed his foe. He rocked his head back, still reeling from psychic attacks. More not-Kalgars appeared.

"Kalgar, get back in the game!" Alvyn shouted, reinvigorating him.

Kalgar shook his head clear and swiped his katana. Wounding his adjacent foe, Kalgar then moved to the next nearest. Both foes were subject to Kord's might.

The not-Kalgars moved next to Alvyn and swung their katanas. Knowing what was about to happen, Alvyn stood stoically. Before their attacks could hit, lightning struck each and they vanished.

Clunk, the lever was moved and water began rushing into the dungeon once more.

Tong's mind was hailed by another attack and he was slid away from the lever.

Chi wings sprouted once again from his back, and Tong landed near the creature. "BIG. HIT!" Straining, Tong's attack just missed. Drawing divine energy into himself, Tong backflipped and followed up with a Seismic Knee Veda.

The creature staggered and grunted, revealing himself to be a normal human for a moment.

Moving to make the most of the opportunity, Alvyn slugged him with a bolt of Reaving Ammunition. "Tong, your cloak!"

Wrapping the cloak around himself, Tong felt refreshed, ready for the next round.

The not-Alvyn's closed in on Kalgar, who stood defiantly waiting. A spiritual bolt struck him, but it was just enough for him to shake his mind of the creature's attack. He felt his memories return, finally, after long last able to use his more powerful abilities.

Tong swept his leg and hit the creature, injuring him and sliding him closer to Alvyn.

Alvyn's next rifle bolt went wild, as the water level reached three feet and the gnome found himself floating off his feet.

Kalgar roared, channeling all of his rage into a single gale of force. Despite his use of Dragonfear, nothing happened. The creature, his minions, none looked affected.

The creature reached out to Tong. "Watch out for the thing!" Alvyn called, causing Tong to duck and the skeletal fingers to just miss grabbing him.

Two not-Alvyn's fired at Kalgar as a not-Kalgar charged him. Our friend the paladin fended off all the attacks, but the dungeon's water level continued to rise.

Alvyn clicked something on his belt, causing him to hover above the water. The water level rose, drowning the false Alvyns.

Tong slammed his elbow into the creature's face. It pointed at him, and fake Tong's appeared around the party.

The first one attacked Alvyn and missed. The next attacked Kalgar and bloodied his jaw.

Alvyn's hover ended, and he fell into the water. He began to tread water.

Kalgar reached out with his fist, calling upon Kord's strength. A false Tong kicked him in the side, Kalgar did not even flinch.

Suddenly, a hole ripped open in the room, and lightning struck out at the creature and 3 surrounding minions. Sadly, while they took damage, it was not a lot, even with the water.

Kalgar flapped his wings and moved over the water, closer to the lever. As he landed, he was hit with another psychic attack and more false Kalgars appeared.

One swiped down on Tong, missed, and Tong teleported across the room. He appeared next to another false Kalgar, who struck, but Tong kept moving toward the lever.

The creature vanished, Alvyn checked his sensors, and the creature suddenly appeared near Kalgar!

"About damned time!" Kalgar said, his wings unfurled. "You've really pissed me off!" He shoulder-checked the creature, and thrust his katana forward.

The creature fell, the shimmering duplicates vanished, and the creature's facade disappeared, revealing a young human male, military crop hair, wearing a uniform that marked him as the Head of Security.

Tong tripped the lever, the water level began to drop.

Kalgar sheathed his katana, picked up the human, punched him in the face, and dropped him back on the ground. Alvyn, Tong, and Kalgar gathered around the human.

"Let's tie him up, and get in that room." Kalgar said.

"Are we not going to kill him?" Alvyn said.

"I don't think we need to, his power is finished." Tong replied.

"I just want to cut into his brain..." Alvyn said, forever investigating the powers that be.

"That is not how you extract knowledge, Alvyn!" Tong exclaimed.

"Watch me." Alvyn said, but he didn't say anything.

After tying the human up, our heroes finally broke into the final room. Inside, it was exceptionally clean and empty, except for one filing cabinet. Inside of which, papers and files related to various superweapons Alvyn had heard of, and some he had not. Most of the text was redacted. One folder stood out, entitled, "Horizon Black".

Reading through and cross-checking, it seemed to suggest that there was another facility, even further to the west. Horizon Black.

Alvyn examined the main document, all covered in some kind of marked ink. He cast Make Whole on it, and the document reformed, without the ink!

It detailed a newer research base, to the north and west, just south of the Arctic circle, on an uncharted island. The document went on to say that Deep Watch Bay was simply the research facility, whereas actual manufacture of superweapons occurs at Horizon Black.

Reading on, Alvyn was able to learn a little about the base's defensive capabilities, which were substantially more so, at least officially, than that of Deep Watch Bay. Furthermore, it seems that the Head of Security was part of a program to enhance a person's normal abilities, turning the simple human into the security for the entire base.

The three shook their heads upon reading the news. More evidence of corrupt and abused power.

Specifically not mentioned in the documents was Alvyn, the Grand Admiral, or the Capital.

"It's likely to keep deniability with the government." Alvyn said.

While Kalgar and Tong investigated the last few rooms, Alvyn noticed that his bag was shaking. Inside, one of the jars containing the semi-fluid goo was shaking vigorously. Alvyn opened the jar and reached in, the goo immediately changed and coalesced into a small, black, leather notebook. Even without looking too hard, Alvyn could sense that this was an extremely magical item.

When Kalgar and Tong returned, Alvyn pocketed the book.

"What should we do with him?" Kalgar asked, pointing to the gagged and unconscious human.

"Throw him in the brig!" Tong suggested.

"Are you kidding me? No! He's an extremely powerful psionic caster. We take him to the other side of the island, put a bunch of knives in him so he's almost dead, and, hmm, maybe we should disable him so he can't move." Alvyn replied.

Despite this being the base of a volcano, the room felt very cold.

"He's a psionic, obviously misguided, perhaps he could be changed for good." Tong said, moving between Alvyn and the human.

"Wait. Don't we have a psionic dampener? Tong, you could cut him off from that energy, like you did with the Iron Dragon."

"I want to know, was he willing or was he made this way against his will?" Tong asked.

"Doesn't really matter. He's a superweapon." Alvyn replied.

"I'm a superweapon, so are you." Things were getting heated.

"No, I'm not. I fixed that."

"Are you going to 'fix' him?"

"No, he's Aesian, he's unfixable." Alvyn looked at Kalgar, "You know it's true!"

Kalgar stood there, fuming.

"You hold him, I'm going to hold a knife to the back of his neck. If I see something I shouldn't, I'm going to put a dagger through his vertebrae so he dies instantly."

"Let me talk to him first." Tong said.

"Knock yourself out," Alvyn pulled out a dagger. "Keep in mind that he's the Chief of Security of the exact kind of place that I escaped from. Think about the kind of person you're dealing with."

"I understand that the wounds run deep," Tong began-

"Just disable his powers if you can. If you can't, we would have killed him in battle anyway Tong." Kalgar finally responded.

The three began. Tong knelt and began meditation.

"His connection is strong. I can hold off his power, but not well and not for long." Tong said, straining. Mists from the Reverie began forming around them.

Suddenly, Alvyn clasped a collar around the human's neck. In his hand, Alvyn held a switch. "If I let go of this, spikes will go through his neck."

Kalgar shook the man awake. Instantly alert, he looked at Tong, as if he knew what was happening.

"I see from your look that you're aware of your situation," Tong began, "I have a question for you. Several, actually. What is your name?"

The man is silent.

"Did you agree to this?"

No response.

"Such power, you could do so much, you could heal, why choose to destroy?"

Finally, the man spoke. "Destroy? No."

"What do you call this? You're an arbiter of death! You pit people's personalities against themselves," Tong replied.

"Tong, we are invaders here." Alvyn reminded him.

"We tried to talk, no one listened." Kalgar said.

"What caused you to use this power in this way?"


"He's not wrong." Alvyn admitted.

"I'm a member of the military and he still attacked us for no reason." Kalgar said, confused.

"Yeah, this is a black site." Alvyn replied. "Anyone here is a true believer and fully committed to this cause."

Kalgar breathed heavily through his nostrils. Seeing zealotry from the other side was not at all comforting.

"Is there any soul, any mote, anything underneath this incredible power-"

"I'm a loyal soldier, what are you?" the man interrupted, startling Tong.

Kalgar pushed Tong aside, looked into the man's eyes and said, "I am your better" as he pushed the dagger through the man's heart. He collapsed to the floor, and Tong stopped his meditation.

"He wore his power like a beggar's rag. That's all I needed to know." the monk said.

Alvyn moved over and carefully removed the collar. Kalgar picked up the man and threw him over his shoulder, like the trash that he was.

Tong, Alvyn, and Kalgar loaded what they could and made their way to the ships. Kalgar was pleased to see the fort's cannons manned by his own people. Kalgar began issuing orders, getting his men to collect all the information they could, and bring it back to The Bilge Rat.

Alvyn began setting himself up a lab on the ship, a place to tinker with what remained. He reached into his bag and pulled out the leather notebook. On the surface, it seemed very plain, the paper inside was rough but strong. Flipping down his goggles, Alvyn took a closer look.

This book was heavily entwined with fate. It seemed that any name could be written down, along with the intended cause of death. The book would then ensure that happened. If no cause was left, the person would die of a heart attack one minute after their name was written.

"What's that?" Tong asked, dropping off some supplies.

"I'm not really sure," Alvyn said, doing his best to look dejected. "It's really powerful."

"Be careful with it." Kalgar said.

"You're sure you don't know?" Tong asked, in a moment of insight.

"It seems like it's some kind of 'death book' but that doesn't make sense. I'll have to study it further."

Tong looked at Alvyn, nodded, and then walked away.
Whew! That's a wrap for this adventure. Thank you for sticking with us and making it this far. We're a little behind on things which is good for you, as it means new content will be coming soon, so please, come back next time to find out more about Horizon Black!

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