We regret to inform you that our recent expedition on your behalf was unsuccessful. While we were able to pick up the trail of the thieves, they detected and ambushed our operatives. Our squad prevailed in the engagement, but their leader was aware of who he had stolen from and preferred death to capture. He used magic to collapse a considerable amount of the tunnel system, burying himself and his men, and making continuing the expedition impossible.
Regretfully, The Dark Moon Guild
Apu awoke from a fitful sleep. The stench of unwashed trollkin in a confined space was overpowering, and the sauce they had been marinating Fabrizio in was pungent. The combination had put Apu on the verge of uncontrollable retching.
He did not understand why Fabrizio declined to wash himself- the madman seemed to consider coming so close to being dinner and surviving to be something of an accomplishment, and regarded the sauce he had been soaked in as a bizarre trophy. Nevermind that the trollkin seemed to consider human flesh as one of those obligatory holiday dishes everyone said was a delicacy, but there was always plenty left after the meal was over. Some of the younger trollkin seemed relieved to have found an excuse to let Fabrizio go.
Muttering to himself, Apu cast a minor incantation to remove the odors from his immediate vicinity. The spell would only bring a moment’s relief, but he would treasure it. To his disappointment, Opifera had been uninterested in sharing bedrolls- if she is typical, the legendary appetites of the Satyrs are greatly exaggerated- and Sister Helga had seemed in a prostletyzing mood last night. While feigning interest in a religion will occasionally result in truly devout members of some religions giving you cause to shout praises to the heavens, it is an approach best avoided with someone who knows where you live. Sooner or later, they expect you to actually show up at the church, sing the hymns, and tithe 10% of the coin you earn to the church. In Five Fingers, 10% of a successful Magi’s income is enough to support at least one skilled mistress, possibly more. Apu grumbled a bit, and then moved towards the latrine in hopes that relieving his bladder would help his thoughts move on to other matters. Whatver the trollkin down here ate saved Apu the trouble of asking where it was.
Apu checked the Trace as he relieved the pressure from his bladder. Still active. The Maintenance incantation had kept the spell going while he had slept, and their position had changed. The mercenaries were still moving deeper into the tunnels. Perhaps we should consider simply remaining here and ambushing them as they return… then the odor of the latrine, freshly invigorated by his urine, reached up and hit Apu with an almost physical force.
No, we must persue them. Staying here would be slow death by asphyxiation.
Fabrizio was forthcoming about why he had joined the mercenaries. It was a job like any other- an expedition to a dangerous place, they wanted an additional sword or two, and had hired him and some others as reinforcements. They had encountered the Trollkin and killed two, but when they realized they had wandered into a warren and the entire clan was coming they abandoned the wounded Fabrizio and fled.
The core of the group was a mage by the name of Aspis, and two assassins Fabrizio said used poisons and kalipurian blades. The mage was allegedly a necromancer- Fabrizio was unable to describe the method of his magic, but said he had a cloud of mist- some kind of spirit, Fabrizio thought- doing his bidding. The other six were merely hired swords, reinforcements brought on to replace a Minotaur and a Satyr who were missing.
The Trollkin chieftan had promised a guide to lead the party to ‘the Dying Lands’, which seemed to be the destination of the mercenaries, and told of an ancient legend of how an entity called Rig-Salbath had been killed and bound deep under the islands by the incubus Maerlyn. The story had some inconsistencies- the Chieftan said Rig-salbath was dead, yet continued to grow- a trait not generally common in dead things.
Thanks the guide, the DMG made good time, only occasionally getting side-tracked and sometimes even seeing traces of their quarry in the dust- dust that had lain undisturbed for millenia, if what the guide said was accurate. Supposedly, these tunnels were a mixture of natural tunnels bored out by the rockworms, and ancient labratories dug by Maerlyn’s slaves.
After some hours, the guide came to a tunnel and merely pointed before turning around and going back the way he came. The party continued down the tunnel he indicated, and eventually came to an underground river- only a few feet deep, but very swift, and about 15 feet across. Opifera thought she could jump it, Sister Helga wanted someone to fly across, carrying the others one at a time. Apu hoped Fabrizio would wade and wash some of the sauce off.
As the discussion of how best to bypass this minor impediment dragged on, Apu used a spell to reshape the stone of the riverbed, raising steps suitable for walking upon, and crossed ahead of the others- a mistake, in retrospect, and one he would not have normally made, if deprivation had not addled his wits and made him foolishly aggressive in hopes of returning to the surface- and Jenna- that much sooner.
The remainder of the expedition became aware of Apu’s position on the far side of the river when the shot rang out, loud in the confined space. Apu stood for a moment, and crumpled to the ground, blood flowing from his chest. He knew he was in trouble because of the detached sensation – everything seemed far away, as if his spirit was about to lose it’s connection to the body, and thoughts flashed through his mind like lightning.
Was that a gunshot?
This must be shock. Interesting sensation. I don’t think I like it.
But I’m a mage! Everyone knows shooting at a mage is the ultimate expression of foolishness! I tell them often enough that everyone in Five Fingers should know by now!
What about the trauma plate?
Oh, he didn’t shoot me in a place the trauma plate covers. How inconsiderate of him.
Is that Sister Helga standing over me?
Is the last thing I see in this turn of the great wheel going to be the view up Sister Helga’s robe?
I should probably tell her about the sniper. If she knew about him, she’d probably be ducking more.
Speaking isn’t supposed to take this much effort.
Apu’s arm flailed up and grabbed on to the belt of Sister Helga’s robe, pulling her to the ground. The initial shock had subsided somewhat, so Apu shaped the stone around them to form a low wall, providing cover from the sniper. The others ran across the stepping stones, and Vaun and Fabrizio went down tunnels, searching for the sniper, while Opifera remained to protect the healers. Sister Helga opened Apu’s coat, discovering the bullet had blown through the mail vest underneath, and cast healing magics to revive Apu.
to be continued