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The sun set had set on Five Fingers, and last of the deep blue had vanished from the skies when the Bell Row Troubleshooters managed to recover from their wounds. They spent hours deliberating in the offices over what they should do with Torgus and Cecilia, the two hired killers on their hands. Toad, who’d recently come back from fact-checking Selric, continued furtive conversation with Opifera until finally it began to dawn on the ogrun that maybe these mercenary friends of Apu’s might yet have bloody intentions. He eyed suspiciously and asked about their plans, while casually putting on his gloves. The tight room stiffened. Toad fingered his polearm, while Opifera shifted in her seat. Torgus smelled a fight and resigned himself to a “conversation” but in the last moment Toad suggested Torgus go out for some drinks.
This cleared the way for a more open conversation on the situation. Under the dim orange glow of the lantern, Opifera argued that Cecelia should be killed, while Apu advocated patience. Fewer dead would make fewer blood debts in Five Fingers. Sister Helga tentatively supported Apu’s more generous route. In the meantime, Fabrizio, who’d come in with Toad quietly made sure Cecilia’s bonds were tight. While he thought about taking her armor, he decided it would draw unnecessary, uncomfortable attention to himself. He slipped a couple daggers off her, though, and made his way back downstairs. When Torgus came back he could only guess at how close the Bell Row Troubleshooters came to killing his partner and doing him in. But in the end, he left with Cecilia and no blood was shed.
Not long later, Selric arrived to seal the deal. He’d follow from a distance, a witness to their endeavor. Apu and Sister Helga, exhausted from the night already, rested for another hour. The night had now settled fully into its blackness. Apu awoke sometime after midnight and cast a seeking and tracing spell on the mask. From there they took a gondola across the water to the north side of Captain’s, while Apu directed them through the dark waters. Soon enough they saw the Old Colossus looming over the unsettled waters. It was here that the den of the Forgotten Ones cult was said to lie, deep in the belly of Captain’s Isle, within the caves behind the huge metal warmachine. Its husk hung from the cliff, imbedded in the rocks by silt, erosion, and a system of supports built by the junkers said to live here.
Once they docked the gondola driver pushed away, leaving them to their fate. Far above, some of the cliffside buildings twinkled, but no one would hear or see anyone in the shadows at the foot of Captain’s. Even Selric’s boat had fallen behind in the darkness. Fabrizio quickly led them up the side of the cliffs through the darkness, on slippery steps. The others followed more slowly, but eventually they climbed their way to the hollow chest of the colossus. Inside they found the junkers who called after them with jeers. But their hearts were full of confidence. They met her cries, and her spits with cold warnings. When she wouldn’t quiet, Fabrizio drew his sword and held it to her neck. On an after thought, though, Opifera came back to quietly extract her secret knowledge. With a little bit of pressure, and the added leverage that Fabrizio’s threats gave her, she found out that a secret sea cave allowed the cultists to enter or leave by boat, but the gobber hag warned that this little piece of information, “wouldn’t save” them, that they’d “pick [their]corpses for [their] shiny trinkets” and that “those who are inside” would “make use of their flesh.” Her meaningless babble followed them into the caves until the solitude of the caves swallowed all sound entirely, except for the faint static sound of the waves and the wind beating the cave entrance. Soon even that dwindled, leaving just the quiet dripping of the damp walls.
But they were not alone. Fabrizio who had stayed to the back saw a fleeting shape in the darkness. He looked more closely and saw the caves were riddled with small holes which led to other holes in the ceiling and the walls. Inside these tiny caves, he could barely hear a chortle, and then a click-clack sound. And soon it was returned. He quickly alerted his allies, just in time to see over half a dozen small creatures drop from the ceiling with malicious glee in their eyes. Their faces were half-rotten, their bodies emaciated, they closed in quickly. Fabrizio lunged at one in the back before the others could act, while Sister Helga concentrated on another to root it in its place. Opifera swung at the largest one. They were surrounded by the things, and every time they slashed, the creatures seemed to gain even more strength. Toad cursed as he impaled one, shattering its ribs, and yet it seemed to purposefully writhe on his polearm to rend its own flesh. As if that wasn’t enough, the thing didn’t even fall. Instead its dug its own fingers in its flesh to relish the pain of the open wound. Opifera fought madly to keep several from her and Apu as he tried to weaken their wills- but that too, failed. They shrugged off fear and pain and kept closing in, recklessly. Fabrizio fought off several, while Sister Helga spent herself on another and another, rooting each of them in place. And finally, one saw Apu open and rent his chest its rusty bayonet blade. But at that moment, they found that these abominations were mortal yet. Slowly, one by one, they began to drop, there broken bodies no longer able to support their bloodlust.
After that, they knew they had to move quickly if they were going to make it out alive. They passed through a wondrous cavern of stalagtites and stalagmites and met a old man with wrong eyes. He guarded a chamber covered in ruins of the old ones. It seemed to be their spot. They’d passed another main cavern, but this chamber had the proper markings. It greeted them, strangely ingratiating with its purple gleaming eyes:
“Bound to this receiving chamber I am, to let no trespasser pass, and no interloper to loiter these halls. I do so hope you and I could become friends though, and that you might in the very least visit me from time to time, and we could talk of things alive and things which continue on that bawdy surface you call home.” They looked at it suspiciously, so it continued, “I doubt without my help that you will find much of value in this wall. And if you did, I must admit, I could never abide. I’d have to sound my alarm. So what say you, are you friend or foe?” And without a heartbeat’s rest, Apu cast a silent sphere on it. Quietly and firmly he said, “Kill it.” It shook its finger at him, but before it even took another breath Fabrizio and Toad stuck it through the chest. It crumpled silently to the ground, taking its secrets and its suffering with it to the grave. Again, they were in no mood now to waste and risk the manipulations of a bound and likely deadly guardian. Toad and Fabrizio dragged the body into the main cavern, where they beheaded it with an unusual amount of difficulty. When they dropped the body into the shadows below they saw two man-sized worms slither hungrily from the darkness. In a flash they spit an acid on the thing and quickly enveloped their meal. It was only later through a conversation with a colleague that Apu realized the creature blocking their path was likely a fae and probably unwilling in its role.
After disposing of the guardian the group drew back into the inner chamber, just as Sister Helga found the grooves which marked some kind of complex lock on the wall. The others paused to think about what to do, but Apu was in no mood to be stopped. He worked his magick again, and opened a hole in the wall.
Inside they found a spellcaster, and while he tried to entrance them with a tale of his philosophical pursuits, Sister Helga and Fabrizio resisted. The others froze in their spots, but Sister Helga’s will held out, and Fabrizio turned back to help his companions. Together, they made short work of the caster and freed the rest of the company. This left them free to explore several rooms. While Apu, Opifera, and Toad examined the library, Fabrizio heard a melancholy song coming from the end of the hall. Unbeknownst to the others, he snuck away and while they went across the hall to investigate the aisles of preserved creatures and jars of specimens the caster had accumulated. Finally, after several minutes had passed, several members of the company noticed Fabrizio was gone.
They decide to make their way down the hall. The song, it seemed, called to them, as if someone sang to keep themselves sane, or to stave of their loneliness, or maybe, just maybe to call for help without words, but through the simple melancholy tones. Apu remained unconvinced, though, and cautioned everyone to fill their ears with wax. “We know these use the sound of their voices to entrap their victims. We must take precautions.” But Toad and Opifera couldn’t wait- not with Fabrizio’s life in the balance. Toad returned, “We can’t wait that long. He might need us right now. Follow when you’re ready.” And everyone crept down the hall without Apu. Apu scrambled to melt the wax off a candle and mash it into his ears.
When he walked down the hallway alone, he saw no sign of his friends. The corridor twisted and opened into a large chamber. There a strange woman or thing reclined in a porcelain basin. Behind her was a deep abyss, a hole which led straight down. And in front of her were several pews set in the large domed chamber. Her skin was ivory, but her eyes were smooth black. Black horns grew from her head, and while her upper body was that of a woman, her lower half was a mass of purple tentacles. Her fingers extended in long black nails. And her mouth, despite the sound that came from it, was stiched shut except for tiny holes which she exposed as she worked her mouth subtly. Fabrizio was wound in spider’s silk and lay at her feet. Toad and Sister Helga were bound, but Opifera still held her ground- although in secret. The others continued to listen to the haunting melody coming from between the stitched lips of the enchantress. Their eyes were half closed, oblivious to their fate, lost in the lines of her melody, touched in some deeper part of their souls.
Apu tried to act the same, and approached the enchantress, unsure if he was walking straight into death. When he was close he silently began casting his spell, but his fingers moved, giving away his treachery. Luckily, Opifera saw her chance and drew her sword in a flash. Apu threw his effort into a dispelling spell, severing the magick of her song. With the lure of her voice gone, the company awoke to the nightmare. In the meantime Opifera cut into the enchantress, but found her to be surprisingly lithe. Each time her sword only fell on a tentacle, sending the small limb flying but the enchantress ignored her wounds. In her rage, the enchantress swiped at Apu and took his offending hand. And then she ripped his belly, from the navel and below. And everyone, as they gathered their weapons, as they pulled their wits together, heard the ever louder sound of insect chatter approaching.
Opifera was spending all of her will resisting the enchantress’s terrible enchanting gaze, while Sister Helga managed to at least root the witch to her place. Finally, Fabrizio climbed out of the basin, having torn his way out of the spider silk, and run the witch through from behind. All the while Toad was screaming for them to run. They had hardly noticed, but three enormous spiders with strange mandibles had climbed from the abyss to answer the call of their master. The next few moments were a bloody mess. Opifera barely fended off one spider who attacked from behind, ripping its way through a pew. Toad stood his ground and ruptured the hard shell of one spider with his polearm, but his luck and his strength was shortlived. The other spider tore into his leg and his chest. He tried to use the length of his polearm to his advantage and hold off the spiders while the others clamored for the exit, but eventually the spiders tore into him again and again, weakening him with their poison. As he went down, Apu who also only recently pulled himself off the floor, called, “Toad has fallen!” The remaining troubleshooters all looked at one another- one bit her lip another grimaced, and another furrowed his eyebrows. But in the end, their decision was clear. Opifera was the first to turn around on her heels and join Apu. Together they all dragged Toad into the narrow hallway, while Opifera who was barely standing, cut and slashed madly behind her…until at long last, she retreated into the safety of the inner hall. They all made their way back into the first chamber, where they met the fae.
After resting and heeling they went back in, but the body of the enchantress was missing, as were the spiders. And Felelle had slipped away some how, but he did leave the wretched mask. And so they left with what they came for. And a rather unsure victory.