Feathers & Glass

9 Back to the Caves

or "Hey! It's Nilrae!"

The journey is much the same as it was before, simply colder and wetter. Naryu does an admirable job of keeping her liquor in, but the three of us are hurting by the time the sun starts to come up behind the clouds. Obscured, it does little to warm us up, but it gives us light to see by. Prask says little during the journey, and Naryu talks a lot but doesn’t say much of anything, either.

Week 2, Day 6

As we get near the Giant’s Table, we stumble over a body. He’s a middle aged man, his guts strewn about the grass. There are five others spread over the scene. They’ve got the scraps of armor and some poorly maintained weapons. There are large rips in their flesh like they were torn to shreds.

Naryu steps off the trail and into a bush and pukes.
”Tsk. Didn’t even make it to the blob. How’re you gonna win the hand of Sleeping Beauty like that?”
”Fuck you.”
Nilrae kneels to examine the body, face painted with fake confusion. “I thought you wanted my spook?”

I fail my hard first aid check but a perception check suggests they’re from the city. They’re an odd mix of cultures and ages, ranging from late teens to early 40s. Not a single one has a coin purse. The wounds are made from claw marks, about a foot wide from 1st to 4th. I don’t think White Eye had any use for robbing these people. I think it’s the shamanic bear. Prask is doubtful about whether the shamanic bear is a shaman or a product of one. Naryu thinks I’m making the bear up to freak her out. I think I have better things to make up to freak her out when we’re already heading to kill the blob soul of a blight golem in the cave where a devil has been released to wreak havoc on a lost tribe of people.

I tell them we need to go check on the Marshfolk, muttering half-unintelligibly about how I’m gonna turn into a fuckin smileodon to show these fuckin local yokels what a shamanic creature is. Show them what it’s like to have Nilrae godsdamned Osada-Nebay trying to freak them out. This is before we switch to RQ2 and I stop being an animist.

We get to the Marshfolk and I call out “Hey, it’s Nilrae!” in a very loud and abrupt voice so they don’t call me Deathless one in front of the cuties. The Speaker’s surprised but catches himself before he fucks it up. Prask and Naryu probably think I’m totally deranged.

The Speaker tells me that the monster left after we did, and that new people moved into the caverns during the storm. He’s worried for Naiv but glad I came back because one of the men fell into the pool. The Marshfolk have him, but they don’t know what to do with him. I agree to talk to him. They have him tied up in the old Rock Lizard Nest with two guards. He looks utterly terrified, late twenties, dirty, and stripped of arms and armor.

“Who are you? What do you want from me? What are these cave freaks?!”

I tell him about the Marshfolk and the misunderstanding. He’s still pretty panicked and asks if I killed the bear. I cast a look over my shoulder at the other two and ask if it had swirls on its shoulder that could be considered shamanic.

“Yeah, that fuckin’ shamanic bear. Ripped up some of the boys. Fuckin’ layed siege to the caves! Where’d a bear learn siege tactics? From spirits, obviously. The world’s so fucked up. Can’t get a job in Bells but a bear can learn to be a fuckin’ shaman.”
“Are you sure it’s not a shaman that learned to be a bear?”
He looks at you like you’re ridiculous, “Why would it do that?”
“Why wouldn’t he?”
“Well we got away from it by squeezin into those little tunnels in the entrance.”
“Maybe he’s stuck like that. Serves him fuckin’ right. Who the fuck attacks travellers for no fuckin’ reason. Thought better of him when I thought he was a bear."
“You attacked the Marshfolk for trying to save you from getting digested by gorp. That’s even worse than ‘no reason.’”
“Yeah – cause they’re fuckin’ grabbin’ me with spears and shit and not talkin’. I’ve heard enough stories about apocalypse cults and shit. I ain’t stupid.”
“How’s a bear supposed to talk? Or understand Nethonese?”
“It’s a fuckin’ person in a bear body, you said so!”
“I said what if it was, not that it was.”
“Well if it was, it’d fuckin’ know how to speak wouldn’t it? Fuckin’ amateur hour! I didn’t even go to fuckin’ school and I know more about this shit than some lady with a fancy name. Bet you’ve never been a bear.”
“Bears don’t got lips how are they supposed to speak?”
“It could fuckin listen!”
“If you talk like this all the time I think I’d sympathize with the bear.”
“Bitch. That bear killed some of my friends.”

We eventually get back on track. His name is Spoof. There’s 14 others left alive besides him, some wounded. He was looking for food before the bridge collapsed. He says they won’t attack the gang or the Marshfolk if the Marshfolk leave them alone. We take him with us. The Speaker’s never heard of a bear in the caverns.

Naryu wants to eat the Ilphel’s Crumbs, though she calls it something else. We make Spoof go first so his friends will see him and not attack us. He takes the torch and quickly finds another eviscerated body, this one nailed to the ceiling with one of the bronze spikes from the other room.

Naryu pukes again. Prask curses. A shaking Spoof drops the torch. I pick it up again. ”Huh. A bear probably wouldn’t do that unless it was actually a person.”

Spoof says he fell asleep in the tight caves waiting for the bear to leave so he’s not exactly sure what all happened here. He doesn’t think they pissed anyone off in Bells, but says that everything’s sacred to somebody.

We hear whimpering up ahead, inhuman, but not the blobthing’s. It sounds like something trying to mimic human sounds. I sneak ahead past the torchlight. The great hall is a wreck. The makeshift barricades are destroyed and rubble lines the sides of the passageway. This freaked out, I notice a long strand of string or silk across the passage at ankle height that wasn’t there before, but I can’t figure out what it’s attached to.

I have us go the way Journey and I never checked before to see if it’ll loop around. The tunnel narrows down to the point that we’d need to stoop, and it sounds like rats live there. We turn around to fight the potential spirit.

We gingerly step over the trap and notice a trickle of blood coming down, pooling under some of the debris. The whimpering gets faster, then suddenly stops as we start up. Fast footsteps approach the top of the tunnel. The inhuman voice shrieks and there’s the sound of impact before remnants of the wooden furniture, broken but bulky and sharp with exposed nails, comes rolling down the tunnel. Spoof, Prask, and I try to dodge, though only I get out without a bit of damage. Naryu just sighs and holds up her shield, absorbing the whole impact.

We make it to the Great Hall. There’s no sign of the shrieking maybe-man, but there’s signs of his handy work. Blood is all over the floor and walls in strange patterns. The blightling corpses have been arranged at the tables, sitting in chairs. Two of Spoof’s friends, as torn up as the spiked man, lay in a bed of hay, holding each other, entrails mingling. We find another body near where the bloody designs abruptly stop—handprints on the ground like someone pushed themselves up, the body’s entrails disturbed like someone had been fishing around in them. Spoof starts freaking out. It’s his brother. I tell Spoof we’ll bury him and smear some of the marks to get my point across.

As we approach the end of the Great Hall, the air gets more acrid, like the stench of the blob has spread. Because of course it has. I try to get the vial ready, but it’s a little harder since this time I have to breathe. I crit my endurance roll and shake it off. Naryu passes hers, but Spoof and Prask fail and start coughing like they’re having trouble breathing. A thin layer of growths have started in the passageway between rooms, mostly on the ceiling. The stench is awful and the air is thick, almost hazy. I feel lightheaded but crit a second endurance test. Spoof crits too. Prask fails and flees, Naryu fails and starts coughing.

The blobthing has changed. It’s grown nearly half again. Its side is pockmarked, and two more of Spoof’s men sit at the broken table that now leans against the blob. Their plates hold chunks of it with forks sticking out. Some of the gouges in the blobthing could be bite marks. Putrid fluid pools at its base, running freely from its wounds. Its pores still expel the noxious stuff that fills the air and our lungs. Polyps and smaller colonies of the fleshy mass now grow from various points around the room. The blob continues its slow wheeze, but the new whimpering echoes from down the hall past the shrine. It’s mad and frantic, nearly laughter.

I throw Chance’s vial at it.

It arcs out of my hand and cracks with a flash of white light against the surface of the growth. The vial’s contents run down the skin of the thing, and it starts to smoke, the stuff burning away at it. The smell is foul and the white smoke billows up from the wound and starts to choke the air in the cavern. Polyps wither and fall from the ceiling and walls where the smoke envelops them. The flesh of the main growth melts away from its growing wound. Shrieking echoes towards us from down the hall, but the madman never approaches. Naryu and Spoof look on with horror, Naryu’s coughing exacerbated by the smoke. I can hear Prask succumb to a fit of sickness from outside the cavern. The vial’s contents eats away at the growth quicker and quicker, and at the center of the fleshy thing, I can start to make out the limp figure of a man, withered and black-veined, wheezing, eyes covered in whatever this thing is made from. Naryu flees, Spoof wants to but is rooted to the spot.

The limp figure, its support from the withering blob lessening rapidly, sloughs off the remnants of the thing and crumbles to the floor in a heap, looking a mix between a drowning cadaver, a fungal colony and a victim of some black veined poison. The man still breathes slowly, weakly. The breaths are shallow and wet sounding.

The shrieking from down the hall has been replaced by silence.

Glamour said that these things bloodwights fueled by corpses, so even though this body is still breathing and I don’t know what the blobthing was for (and kind of because this freaks me the FUCK out), I decide to kill this guy extra dead with some oil and a torch. He lights up well. The added smell is even worse.

I tell the gang to hold their breath and Spoof and I drag the others through the room down the hall to confront the awful man. We almost immediately hear a thwack as an arrow’s released and buries itself in Naryu’s thigh. Something has to be wrong with the arrow because she’s screaming. Prask gets a shield up between us, but Spoof looks like he’s ready to rout. I grab his arm. ”I can either help Naryu or make sure that freak who killed your brother doesn’t get out of here alive. Are you gonna help her or run?” I nearly crit the influence roll and Spoof steels himself and takes Naryu’s shoulder.

With Naryu’s shield helping to cover the hall ((we’re still playing RQ6 where dual wielding with a sword and dagger is a feasible option, so Nilrae doesn’t have a shield)), we push up past the shrine break. The obsidian shards are missing and the walls are painted with bloody glyphs. I make Spoof pull Naryu in the passageway but not all the way into the shrine to help her out.

Prask and I push ahead and finally get eyes on him. He’s dressed like he was once part of Spoof’s group, but now he’s covered in gore, painted glyphs, and maybe the fluid from the blobthing. His face looks like raw ground beef. We exchange some arrow fire and he evades out of the way of mine, landing prone. I take the opportunity to change into a smilodon ((because RQ6 animist)) and leap across the stream since he’s taken the brass chain. Now that I’m over, I can tell that his face is so fucked up because he’s jammed every single one of those obsidian shards into his flesh. I crush his skull. He goes limp. I’m suspicious but he’s deffo deadzo.
Loot: a nice ring covered in gross shit I can’t deal with rn.

Back in human form, I take a sack and collect some of the shards and some of the arrows—coated in something thick and vile that smells like the growths. I burn him. I swing back over and tell Prask we’ve got to get Naryu back before she ends up like the governor.

Naryu’s able to stand with Spoof’s help and she’s abe to embarrass him by being a bitch all by herself. She complains about the lack of drink and Prask lets it drop that that’s why the Captain won’t let her join. She shuts up.

I update the Speaker on everything and ask if I can let Naryu touch the stone to negate any of the magic shit inside her. He consents. I drag her in and tell her a bit about the pillar. She’s unsure but touches it. She’s not knocked on her ass, but she is surprised.

The Speaker looks on with surprised concern. Naryu shakes her head. She babbles something incoherent about the gods being as everyone else. She’s started to shiver. Black blood runs down her leg from under her bandages. I sit her down and try to redo her bandages, but it doesn’t work out well, but the black blood starts to give way to red.

I give the Speaker a few more warnings about everything that’s happened and start lugging Naryu back. She remembers that I said I hadn’t touched the stone and calls me a bitch. She’s pretty out of it, and I’m basically the only thing keeping her moving. I ask if she’s this passive in bed or only when she actually wants to sleep. She’s too out of it to respond.

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