The Grotto’s Motto
“If this place had a motto, what would it would be..hmmmm…” Areia thought aloud.
“Boom.” Whispered Haryk. He wasn’t listening to Areia, but she still found the coincidence funny. They had followed a tunnel some ways and come across several large chambers where at one end, was a large wall. It took up an entire side floor to ceiling and was made of vast blocks of stone. The chambers seemed to have been made to gain access to the wall which must have been massive, perhaps as wide as the city itself. But what caught everyone’s immediate attention was that stuck to many of the rocks was an interconnected web of what looked like seaweed, then attached via each room by large coils of ropelike strands. The strands were as wide around as a man’s torso. The whole thing gave them all the creeps. It looked like some kind of web laid sideways by a creature from the sea instead of something from the land. It smelled foul and even though it didn’t move, something about it made Thrak think it was, alive.
“I see something shiny, something inside this section of the wall,” said Haryk. He was looking in between two large boulders caught up by strands of the substance and finding a cavity there, where the mortar had been loosened by erosion perhaps, found a skeleton wedged. It seemed to have been part of the wall, but was now exposed. “A breastplate.” He said, stating the obvious. “But it isn’t either Celn, nor any people’s I know of.”
“That’s because it’s Kasillian. It’s Kasillian made my friend, and most likely it is enchanted.” Andril came to stand near Haryk and moved his hands over the armor. It began to hum softly, magically. Haryk was quite pleased.
“What treasure,” he exclaimed, never having owned any himself, save his family’s heirloom of course.
“What trouble,” Thrak said, “I remember once hearing of the city’s Southern walls, and how they were made.” Thrak went on to explain that this was no doubt the Southern wall of Far Realm, as a lizard-folk he knew well his location under ground in relation to when they first entered the tunnels.
“But what is all this stuff doing on the wall,” thought Areia aloud, “obviously these things have done this. To what end?”
“I think to our end,” said Andril. He looked from one to another of the party. “These chambers have been constructed to destroy the Southern city wall, draining the swamp it holds back, in a catastrophic instant. In this storm, it will…”
“Sweep the city out to sea,” finished Thrak.
“Far Realm will be destroyed in a moment of time. And the muddy swamp will fill the grotto. I have a feeling these fishy freaks won’t care about the mud so much.”
“I think it best to destroy this,” said the mage, and summoning up his magic, he cast missiles of energy which struck a strand and sizzled. Nearly immediately from down an adjacent tunnel came guttural shouts and inhuman noises and then the sounds of splashing drawing close!
“What in the Ketian night do we do now?!!!”
“Wait, there is something coming from this way as well,” Andril’s face squinted into the black from the direction they had come, a lone figure was moving quickly in the tunnel. It was small, but humanlike, and agile. Then, a face, old, and covered in long strands of coppery grey hair began to materialize in the dim glow of Andril’s torch.
That Old Coot Can Scoot
“You dumbdumbs, move your bum bums!” The figure’s silhouette turned and raced away.
“Follow that old coot, it’s our only chance,” yelled Areia who was picking up Squeaks and racing down the tunnel. She was careful to avoid the slippery middle section and even with her agile grace couldn’t believe how stealthily and quickly the old man moved. Up and over sewer grates and ladders he took them until they came to a hallway where he held a door open. The door looked like it was perfectly disguised to be part of the wall.
“In you fools. You gonna be their yum yum!”
Haryk brought up the rear and entered last while the old coot closed the door, and turned around holding a finger to his lips. They heard the screeching and shuffling noises of the monsters move by and eventually grow faint. They all let out a collective sigh of relief. “Where’s Morn? The bard?” Asked Areia. But none knew the answer.
“I guess they didn’t make it,” sighed Haryk looking around. “But where are we?”
A True Urban Legend
They were now standing in a room, if it could be called that. More like a slightly less moist albeit equslly smelly space in the chamber. Above was a bit of machinery with pipes going who knows where. The whole place was cluttered with filth and debris, scraps and parchment bits littered the stones of the small chamber. Only the hint of light from a lone candle lit the room. On a makeshift table lay several scrolls, coated with what looked likee paraffin, a broken mirror sat behind it and ahead, on a large stone jutting out from the wall, serving as a pedestal, sat a bust. The bust looked like something that might have been carved by the local people of the isles, the Ata’uahn. It’s face, serene and serious looked off to the opposite side of the room, it’s shoulders square and firm.
“Who in the End Days Night are you old man, and why in the Ketian Hells did you save us?”
The old man blinked, he seemed to be surprised by the question from Andril. His face grew a bit sad, and it appeared as if he was hoping they might have already known he would save them. They watched in fascinated disgust as the old man spoke to himself in a grunt. He went to a shelf where he kept several jars. Each held what could only be human feces. He opened the lid to each jar and sniffed, then came to each of them and smelled their arms or their necks, Thrak set the girl down and took out something small from his bag. He put it in his mouth and chewed, “And you humans think I’m weird,” he chortled, his jaws chomping away.
“Wait, I know you,” said Areia, “You’re Basel! You sometimes beg in the four heroes plaza. It’s an urban legend that you’ve been living in the Far Realm sewer these many years. They say you are always going on about…”
“The Great Mother is arisen tonight you dumb dumbs!!! She’s going to kill us all!!! Hey, Dumb Dumb? I told em, I told you they’d need my help!!!” The old man was having s hard time focusing on one place, avoiding staring at any of their faces, and as he spoke he kept looking back at the bust, which seemed to be teasing him in his mind. “Don’t talk first you dumb dumb, it’s my turn! I found em!” He yelled at the bust.
They all looked at the statue’s head behind him, It was expressionless and unchanging. Basel quickly glanced back at it and stuck his tongue out. “He’s quite mad then,” Andril whispered to Haryk.
It wasn’t easy, but they managed to get quite a bit of information from Basel. They learned he had lived in Far Realm since it was first established. Thrak, nearly by accident learned that he would do just about anything for gossip. And because of this, they acquired some of his maps, scrolls and a very very smelly sack. The sack turned out to be quite magical and was Basel’s secret to successful hiding. Opening it, revealed a ladder and a large room inside enchanted. Stocked with supplies, it could house them to rest even in a terrible place. Andril called it a Bag of Lodging. An incredibly powerful artifact.
At that moment though, Lord Humboldt, whose wounds had been oozing blood and who had been quiet for some time, collapsed. “Humboldt?” Asked Areia, trying to check his bandages.
“He’s alive,” said Andril. “In fact,” he went on, opening up one of the scrolls he acquired from Basel. “This scroll should help.” Reading s few lines of ancient Kasillian magic, he closed up the worst of Humboldt’s wounds. Then, he looked at the bag. “Anyone else thinking what I’m thinking?”
Wordlessly, together they carried Humboldt into the bag and climbed back out. “That sack could really come in handy,” said Areia, “smells a bit like Basel though.” The old man looked at her and smiled. A lone tooth hung from his upper gums.
Thrak traded stories for an axe that had the dwarvish word for “somebody” along it’s shaft. “Axe…. somebody”, read Haryk looking over the lizardman’s shoulder. “Interesting. Is it magical?”
“Not sssure, but I’m thinking that isss human.” He pointed his talon to a wand under some scrolls, it had a large crack down the side. They recognized it immediately as the device that could set their chains free, the anklet that prevented them from leaving Far Realm’s city limits. Grabbing it, Andril pointed it at their anklets in turn, one by one they snapped off. But when he used it on his, the wand sputtered and smoked, and his leg grew hot. A searing pain shot up his leg. His anklet wouldn’t come off. “Well, that spills the ale, doesn’t it,” he said. “We’re losing time,” he said putting down the now useless wand. As usual, he was interested in staying alive. “Basel, what are these things, and how can we get out of here?”
“You cootcoots gonna scoot scoot?!!!” He seemed to be growing impatient for them to leave anyway, following them around and watching them touch his things. He told them however, it was a bad idea, how the boom boom was coming and that they’d most likely wind up like the people that were kept in the pitpit.
“The pit pit?” Asked Areia. “Humboldt’s daughters? Maybe a few of Humboldt’s men? They can help us fight our way out of here!!”
“Well, what are we waiting for,” said Haryk. He glanced over at the statue head. He wasn’t sure, but he could have sworn he saw it wink at him, possibly sticking out it’s tongue. He shook his head, nah, he thought. Long night. Then, mimicking Basel’s rough grunt, he said, “Well come on you bum bums, let’s free some dumb dumbs.”
They wound up worrying about trusting the old man. Basel seemed to change his mind about some of the items they had “acquired” and he became agitated. Haryk knocked him out from behind and tying him up they placed him in the bag. It was strange, csrrying him down a ladder into the sack snd still finding a large room there! “It’s for his own good,” Andril said sheepishly to the others while they climbed up the ladder and excited the bag. Inside, they kept the other rescuees as well. Far safer there, than out here.
“According to Basel, the prisoners should be just up ahead.” Areia pointed towards Thrak, who had not yet readied his new ax. “Your claws are fierce Master Scaly, but this time, I think you better axe somebody.” She then grinned and slunk around the corner. A soft glow from flickering torchlight cast shadows on the floor of the tunnel. And that’s when they heard the screaming.
Monstrous noises came from the next area. Followed by screams, the screams of men. From where they peeked, they saw several of the long toothed fish creatures lead a panicked and naked man out of a pit. He was starved and clearly horrified. They lead him to a slab of stone, where next lay another slab and a corpse which had been hacked into shreds. Several more creatures were feasting on this corpse, slicing long strips of meat from the bones with their claws. They fed in a frenzy, fighting over the blood and gore.