Areia peered around the corner. And the first thing she saw was an organ. It was huge, as high as the ceiling, some fifty feet or more. In front of it was a small stool used for the musician at the keyboard. It looked like something meant for a doll beside the massive metal monstrosity. In the middle of the antechamber, chained in a most hideous fashion, were two figures. Each was manacled hand and foot by four chains apiece, which hung from pulleys suspended high above by stout machinery. It strained and squeaked with the force of it’s work pulling the sad victims apart. Both bodies were pulled so tightly they were strung in the middle of the air. Blood was trickling and pooling beneath both onto a gigantic rug over the stones of the floor and it looked as though each person had been ripped so hard that they were impossibly made long. Frank stood before the first of them, an elderly man, his sword and mace lying on the stained rug underneath. Next to him, there was a more wild person, who they could now see had a tail of some kind, a humanoid of some kind. It seemed to be meowing in pain, like a cat would! But the elderly man was either dead or unconscious, as it, like the other was being torn apart limb by limb. Frank was crying, red faced, trying desperately to stop the chains pulling the elderly man. He was more distraught than they remembered seeing, and because of that, their instincts kicked in even higher. “Help me. Flame guide me!”
The organ sounded, Bong!!!!!! And the mechanism above groaned as the pulleys turned, tightening the chains impossibly more.
“They’ll be ripped apart,” yelled Iricah who was looking around her for something to use from her bag, realizing then she had left most of them outside! All she had was the large bag Bolvist had given her, the one with two massive healing potions.
“No, No!!! Light save them!” With his words, a powerful flame grew around Frank’s hands. He gripped the chains holding onto the man’s legs. He pulled with all his might while his hands radiated the divine energy he had called upon. But they wouldn’t budge.
Bong!!!! Now a glow erupted around Frank. It was wildly brilliant, a seering white light. It sprang out from him as though he were a miniature sun. He cried out, “Guide meeeee!!!!”
Just then, finally rushing into the room but cautiously, Zy’an, Areia and Thrak dashed to help him. The monk smashed the pulley, hopping up and over the contraptions and bounded around the chamber like a cricket in a glass jar. Areia stuck her dagger in one of the loops of the elderly man’s chains near where he was manacled and the metal brace clicked, snapping outwards! Thrak’s leaned back mid step and hurled his weapons. Both axes sliced the chains holding onto the legs of each of the victims. Although the chains pulled once more, the pressure was gone! Frank and the others, with Iricah’s help were able to free them, and heal them before any more harm was done. That’s when Zy’an realized that the elderly man was Lood. The man they had found in Enceladus. The man with amnesia, who might well be the only Kasillian left!
“Why Frank? Why did you rush off like that? You nearly died trying to save him!” Zy’an stood before Frank, who, was still desperately binding the wounds of the elderly wizard.
Frank looked up from his work, and stared at them all. “In Silvershore, I learned from Lord Tayrn and Mesilla, of the death of my mentor, the sage Tiresias.”
“So? What does that have to do with this old coot we found in Enceladus?” asked Areia.
“While we were journeying to the colony after the prince gave us the ship, I slept in the same galley as Lood. He had severe amnesia and so couldn’t give us any answers as to why Enceladus was built, for what purpose. But I learned one important thing.” They all remember Lood’s inability to shed any light on what they longed to know. About the ancient civilization, Kasille. But no amount of magic seemed to assist in that discovery!
“What’s that?” asked Zy’an. As usual, he seemed to have a knack when something important was about to be spoken.
“Lood talks in his sleep.”
“Well shit, cleric, I do too!” said Thrak, and Areia laughed along, unable to stop herself from the joy of this situation. The fact that the lizardman dressed like a Celn businessman had actually made a joke, wasn’t helping her find the seriousness of this situation either.
“He talks in his sleep of Tiresias, and also of Abraxas.”
Areia stopped laughing. Her face lost it’s typical humor, and instead became something sterile, as though she were bracing for a hit. The others grew serious as well. They remembered the way she spoke of her encounter with Abraxas so long ago. “Why would Abraxas the Ancient, the great wyrm, know Tiresias? Why would Lood speak of them together?”
“I have been thinking about it since hearing him. The answer is simple,” said Frank who now had their undivided attention, “It’s because he was there, with them, as they too became. Just as Thrak’s people became. Just as the other creatures of Enceladus became. Lood is the key we have needed to understanding Enceladus, to understanding the Kasillians before darkness took over their world.” He looked down at the figure. The old man looked near death, even as Frank worked on him, healing him with the soft glow of his hand’s magical flames and it’s healing.
“What about the other fellow?” asked Thrak. He peered around the others. It was a tabaxi, clearly, which they knew was a catlike half from the wilds. What the creature was doing here, none of them could guess though.
Iricah was bent over the hairy creature. She held it’s head in her hands, and spoke to it soothingly. Somehow her words seemed to ease the tension and pain on it’s face. It began to purr, it’s almond shaped eyes still wedged shut. “This tabaxi is unconscious, but otherwise will live. He’ll need some extensive healing, and his wounds will need time to bind. Even though the Flame and my own bardic inspiration has kept him from crossing over into the darkness, there is much more to do to bring him back. Something has happened to his mind as well, something that has nothing to do with the chains.” Iricah looked all around her, at the organ, at the chains, at the victims. “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”
As if on cue, a cackling sound came from the great hall, back from the way they had come.
And that’s when a grey and thick fog began seeping into the chamber from the entryway of the great hall. The fog though was putrid and rank. The fetid stench stung their eyes.
“Can you smell that?!” cried Iricah.
“All I smell is a trap,” whispered Zy’an. He brought his hands up in front of his face, and curled them into fists.
What at first appeared to be a fog, they could now tell was really a foul and obnoxious gas. It swept in and quickly filled up the space around them. Form a circle, spoke Zy’an telepathically. And strangely, for some reason they couldn’t understand, a sense of overwhelming calm came over them. Another voice spoke, but it was none of their own. It will be well, you will see. He couldn’t figure out why, but at that moment the monk thought of Ulua. The warrior princess who had disappeared into the portal, who had been lost.
Be ready, they will come for us soon said Frank. He set Lood’s head down on the ground as gently as he could, certain now that the mechanism was stopped and that he and the tabaxi were stable. Picking up his shield and mace, the cleric moved to the center of the room, armor clinking. “Show yourself, you demon!”
A figure he couldn’t see materialized from the vapors behind him. It was 8 feet tall, bent and racked with razor like hairs running down it’s back. It was the deformed marriage of a woman with a monster. It’s naked form was a mockery of the feminine. It’s arms were long, just as it’s nose and face had become something sick and twisted. It looked melted as if it were a living candle oozing downwards. It’s fingers were grotesquely shaped, as long as a man’s arm. With these, it swiftly lashed out, and cut with wicked talons through Frank’s armor. Then the arms wound around him, shaking him in a hug that lifted him clear off the ground, armor and all. The cleric fell over, bleeding from multiple wounds and wouldn’t move!
A sinister voice cut through the fog and echoed in the hall. It came from above them, up on the landing.
“These are those who would imprison you, throw you to rot like your brethren on the far edge of town. It is time for you to take your vengeance upon your masters. Cut down the enemy, fulfill your purposes!” Although they couldn’t see, there was a clanging and banging as if many feet were coming down the spiral staircase. They sounded heavy and cumbersome.
Iricah knew who they were before their gleaming blue eyes broke through the rank cloud.
The gas parted a bit, and they looked up to see their enemy!
Like a puppeteer after the performance she had orchestrated, Chlamydia revealed herself to them above, on the staircase. Two lines of warforged soldiers ran down the spiral stairs towards their position in the cloud. Even though, they could hear the laughter, the wicked cackling of the other two hags that this foul old demon had lured into joining her coven. No doubt these were the last of Humbolt’s daughters. Made foul and fetid by this ancient monster.
“Bring me back their heads!” She thundered, her laughter echoing around the chamber. “Bring me the ones and make your mistress whole once more!”
Thrak roared his battlecry and waded through the fog anxious for battle. But when he stepped out of the cloud, he was met with axe and sword he did not expect. A whole troop of the plate armored things surrounded him and before he could strike down a single foe, he himself had been cut down himself!
“Frank! Thrak!” Yelled Iricah trying to find her way through the cloud to either of them. “Areia, Zy’an!” This had gotten serious. The battle had turned against them before it had even started.
“Bring them to me!” Railed the ancient hag. “Vengeance, you fools! You simpletons! Your bones will be my utensils for years to come! hahahahaha!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Alone and isolated in the diseased cloud, Iricah stopped, and began to sing. As if on a thread, her magical aura allowed her to feel the stirrings of both Frank and Thrak, but she knew neither would be healed much, nor for long. She now had but one choice. Bolvist’s bag! She thought, and unclasping the opening, she removed one of the large bottles and brought it to where she could feel Frank was. She bent over him and uncorked it. To her utter amazement, when she try to pour it into his mouth, nothing came out. She turned it, thinking something still stuck, and saw that inside, there were two little eyes which stared out back at her!!
“Hiya Bag Lady!” said a gruff little voice from inside the bottle. ‘Where’s Bolvey?!”
Iricah shrieked and dropped the bag. The fog was too thick to see properly, and she was too worried about Frank anyway. A form materialized behind her and she shrieked again, but then realized it was Areia! The rogue moved to Frank and uncorked her own potion. She winked at Iricah, “Spent some of my loot in Silvershore ‘fore we left!” She let the fluid drain into Frank’s mouth. The cleric sat up quickly this time, and they watched as his massive wounds closed with powerful healing magicks from the elixir!
“Time to spread some of that love, ‘k pal?” chuckled Areia. She picked up her daggers and faded back into the cloud.
Iricah, knowing Frank was safe, took off to find Thrak. She came across the bag a few steps later. Next to it, both bottles were uncorked and shattered. Both empty. Somewhere from deeper in the hall she heard laughter. High pitched and casual, as though this were all entertainment.
“Bag lady, Dong?!!! She’s a bag lady! Hehehehehehehe!!!”