Monday, September 5, 2016

Hidden Dangers in the Dragon People's Stronghold

After recovering from the battle, Bangqiu and Tetsukichi discussed what they had experienced and sought the counsel of Beatriss and the others.  Bangqiu and Tetsukichi had defeated a sizable force, but some of their enemies had escaped—there seemed to be a sizable underground complex where their reptilian foes, now alerted to their presence might be lurking.  Beatriss agreed that she and her associates would join them for another sortie into the dungeon.

Moving from room to room, with stealth and care (Beatriss was becoming a careful mapper) the principled raiders, dispatched several small groups of dragon people and their commanders.  Some were the wounded survivors of the pitched battle from the day before.  Others seemed to been too drunk, cowardly, undisciplined, or smart to have joined the catastrophic event that had led to the destruction of their comrades.

But there were some losses for the party of Sansar, including one death.  The party happened upon one eerily empty barracks room, lined with beds and chests belonging to the dragon warriors who had bravely gone to the battle where they would be killed.  Chests!  Beatriss opened the first one, and narrowly dodged a dart that sprung out if it.  She asked Perin to check the next one before he opened it.  Inspecting the next chest, he found the panel on the front of the chest that likely held its own poison dart.  But not the panel hiding another dart on the back of the chest.  Its poison barbs were embedded deep in his neck, and his end was quick.  The other chests remain unopened.

Bangqiu also experienced a scare.  The party found another demon sculpture very much like the one hiding the entrance to the dragon’s lair.  Like the room upstairs, the little black gem seemed to function as a key, revealing a well-appointed bedroom, study, and alchemical library.  The party grabbed the obvious valuables and elected to take a rest, reasoning that the room’s occupant would never return.  But wizards have strange guests, who sometimes drop by uninvited.  An eight-foot tall, foul-smelling horned fiend (looking almost exactly like the sculpture) appeared in a puff of smoke and charged at Bangqiu, slashing him with its claws even as the young magician pulled his invisibility cloak more and more tightly around him.  Beatriss and Tetsukichi bodily wrestled the demon away from Bangqiu, stabbing it with their stabbing swords and sustaining many injuries themselves.  Bangqiu blasted the demon with two volleys of magic missiles, seemingly destroying his near-killer—it disintegrated into black goo and then evaporated in a flash of pale green fire.

After these frightening encounters, the party moved back upstairs to their more comfortable bolt-hole next to the room of the bubbling pools.  As the snake creatures reformed, they commented with sadness that no more would they have to warn the sometimes careless Perin not to wander too close to weird water.

While the rest of the party slept, Ju May meditated, seeking a vision of whether they would meet Sakatha, the Lizard King, ancient enemy of the Sansar clan. 
Jumay had news for Beatriss, Tetsukichi, and Bangqiu in the morning—Sakatha’s lair lay far far below the earth, “Past the doors you cannot find, down the steps you cannot climb, and across the River of Nothingness.”

“That sounds far.”

The party made one last foray into the complex beneath the temple.  They found a small shrine dedicated to something evil, robes decorated with evil-looking symbols, and a collection of books about evilness.  No doors other than the ones they could find, no steps others than the ones they could quite easily climb back up to the temple, and no river except for the swamp that they struggled for a few days to find their way out of.  It was difficult with Perin to guide them.  The nights were strange.  They heard voices in the distances, saw large fires. 

After four days, they emerged from the swamp and rejoined the Sansar clan.  They shared the sad news about Perin and returned his belonging to his family, along with a share of the treasure they’d looted from the dragon.

Over the next few days, the Sansar elders listened to the party’s stories with interest.  They were heartened to hear of their heroic victory over the hordes of dragon people.  And dismayed at the hints of a deeper, older, stranger evil.

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