Cauldron

Episode 40

2 Planting [9 April]

The Company of Seekers sleeps fitfully underneath the arterial glow of Occipitus’ sky, their dreams troubled by shadowy images. If they were not so exhausted by their travels and battles they might not sleep at all. But they rest sufficiently well, and with some of Baker’s warm dwarven bread to sustain them, they are ready to begin their third day on the Abyss.

The party is still within one of the strange furrows that run across the plane’s surface. Despite its restrictive dimensions, Kaurophon was right in that it has so far kept them all safe from further encounters. The monotony of the travel here is a welcome relief, and the group continues for several more hours undisturbed.

Arithil’s familiar Hu is flying just above the rim of the furrow, keeping an eye out for any potential trouble. Just before the party is thinking of stopping for lunch, the raven comes down and tells Arithil that there is a small herd of bison coming directly towards them. And indeed, only a moment later everyone can feel a vibration under their feet. They hasten forward.

The furrow makes a wide bend at this point. As the group runs, the vibrations increase. There is a chorus of howls which is mostly silenced as the beasts plunge to their deaths over the lip of the furrow. Kaurophon says: “This is no time for gawking – keep moving!”

The party is quickly around the bend and out of sight of the creatures. But Enzo’s curiosity gets the better of him. He turns Arithil and himself invisible and they creep back to have a look. The two of them see a vrock swoop down and attack the struggling survivors of the herd, seeming to delight in their pains. Satisfied, the two return to the party and the trek continues.

But for this one diversion, the adventurers proceed for the rest of the day without issue. They have spent the entire time within the same strange wrinkle creasing its way across the surface of Occipitus. There is little variation to the fleshy, greyish-red trench. They do however find a slight divot in the sidewall that offers a meagre bit of protection as they settle down for another restless sleep.

3 Planting [10 April]

The party continues its long march through the furrow. Only a few hours pass when it comes to an abrupt end. Kaurophon pauses to consider. “Furrows often appear in groups – there may be one running roughly parallel nearby.” Hu takes to the air to have a look. Kaurophon is correct – there are two furrows relatively close. One is a half mile away in the direction of the mountain-skull. The other lies two miles away in the direction of Occipitus’ mountainous rim. The group opts for the closer one and soon reaches its edge. They must climb down to the bottom, but this isn’t a problem.

The decision to stay in the furrow proves well-founded. After an hour or so Hu reports that there is a herd of five thunder beasts not too far away on the flats. They surely would have spotted the party had it stayed on the open ground.

The remainder of the day passes uneventfully, and the group covers a good amount of ground. They again make camp in the furrow, trying to find some small amount of shelter. Once more they are left undisturbed by any living thing. But again they sleep fitfully, finding it hard to feel any real sense of ease here in this place of chaos and evil.

4 Planting [11 April]

Baker wakes feeling unusually fatigued, though his sleep was no worse than everyone else’s. The great strength he has felt ever since imbibing the Amaranth Elixir from the Spell Weaver’s magic pool in Vaprak’s Voice has left him. Even a close shave and some wholesome baked bread aren’t enough to fully restore his usual vigour. It will be a long, tiring day for the paladin. Thomas however is still benefiting from the effects of the Elixir, and also continues to suffer the penalty to his Wisdom.

The party breaks camp and continues along the furrow. Gradually, the floor of the chasm widens and the adventurers can see the furrow coming to an end. Kaurophon looks upward. “We must be near the edge of the flats now. Let’s get out of here and see…”

Suddenly, Kaurophon is interrupted. From nowhere, multitudes of vrock appear, writhing with menace. There are twenty or so of the demons in a tight group, about sixty feet in front of the adventurers. That many couldn’t possibly all fit in so tight a space. Looking closer, it seems that many of them are moving exactly like each other. “Mirror image” says Enzo. It appears as though the vrocks are all doing a kind of bizarre, chaotic dance of some sort.

Kaurophon casts a spell and suddenly most of the demons disappear – now there are only three of them. He then warns: “We must either kill one of them or get away before they finish their dance or it will be disastrous!”

There is no thought of running, except to charge the closest vrock. The party tries its best to kill the monster before it is too late. They come close, but the demon’s resistance to spells and unblessed weapons are enough to protect it. The vrock’s dance reaches a frenzied climax, and there is a wave of crackling energy that flashes out from the group, engulfing all within a hundred feet. Though badly injured by the blast, nobody is dead, so they continue to press the fight.

Fortuna climbs up the side of furrow and takes a quick look around. She sees that near the edge there is a house-sized mass of tangles, looking like fleshy, rope-like plants. Within the strange forest she thinks she sees humanoid shapes lurking. The next thing she knows she is surrounded by darkness. She retreats down the side of the furrow and comes out below the sphere of inky blackness above.

Meanwhile the fight with the vrocks continues. Now that they are done with their dance, the demons are dishing out tremendous damage with their claws and beaks. But eventually one falls, and then another. Fortuna, Arithil, and Daisy are positioned back from the melee, and they suddenly find themselves engulfed in darkness. As the final vrock is killed, Enzo dispels the darkness and reveals several babau demons preparing to attack Daisy.

This part of the battle is tense, as the babau keep casting darkness spells and targeting the spell casters with their melee attacks. They are also adept at setting up flanking for each other, allowing them to do sneak attack damage. Kaurophon, who is invisible, manages to reach Daisy and cast displacement on her, which saves her from several lethal strikes. Despite the difficulties, these demons are not nearly as hardy as the vrocks, and they soon lie dead.

The heroes immediately set about healing themselves. It was an incredible battle, and as they look around them they are amazed at their accomplishment. The demons are searched, and Enzo sets about collecting samples of body parts for the folks back in Blue.

Note: I completely forgot that the vrocks were all wearing bits of jewellery – I will properly credit you next time we play.

Once they are healed and rested, the adventurers hoist their backpacks and continue their journey. From the edge of the furrow they look towards their destination and see an outcropping several hundred feet to the right. “The Ossaic Forest,” Kaurophon informs. “Not a forest as you are familiar. More a tangled growth of calcified columns that penetrate the surface of Occipitus.”

Scanning the forest the party can see curving pillars, some resembling twisted bones, others as calcified trees. Kaurophon says: “We can travel fastest by staying in the flats and avoiding the forest for now.”

Bloodied but unbowed, the Seekers continue their mission.

Comments

Azuria

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.