“And then she told the librarians I was crazy! After forcing me to be her slave! Forcing me! The mighty Luonim!”
Click. Click. Whistle. Sigh.
“No, they did not save me! And anyway, that’s not the point. The point is I was subjected to grave indignities at the hands of those ruffians. Imagine! A Suggestion spell!”
A night of rest and some magical cures the librarians had on hand had returned both Luonim and Hasari, the Sweettalker, to some semblance of lucidity. That did not mean their minds were at rest. Luonim, by far the more emotional of the two, was currently venting his feelings to Hasari. She answered him in the clicks and whistles that the Sweettalkers, with their mouths sewn shut, used to communicate.
“And why didn’t they go mad when they saw the symbol! Were they all able to resist? That’s impossible!”
<I spoke to them a little before they went back in> Hasari clicked back, <they said it drained their strength instead>
“Did you tell them that they just got lucky? That they’d better not cross me again?”
<They asked me to join them.>
“What? You didn’t agree to it, did you?”
<No, I need to take some time off to think things through. And anyway I don’t want to join up with people I don’t really know.>
“Well, good for you. Those guys are bastards.”
The bastards in question, meanwhile, were busy killing the one group of creatures they had bypassed before: the creatures in the room with a chain mesh in the ceiling. These creatures, Kytons, had the nasty ability to control the spiked chains that made up the mesh, and used them to lash out at the more vulnerable members of the party, Zelcor and Theodora. They also had chains wrapped around their bodies to serve as instant armor, but the party had taken down armored enemies before. Milacent finished off the last one, then turned to her comrades and asked “Well, where now?”
“To the one door we haven’t opened,” Scratchy replied.
That door was in the room where they had met Luonim. Scratchy had smelled stale water behind it, and since the purple globe thing had said the library extended “Until the river”, they had decided to save that door for last. Now they set themselves up around it while Zelcor opened it up from a distance with an Open/Close spell.
What they found, however, was not a river. It was water, true enough, but more like a pool. Well, more like two feet of standing water in a circular room. There were glowing runes along the wall just above the water line (never a good sign), and in the center of the room, in a cage, a 7-foot-long, four-eyed fish.
The party moved closer to get a good luck at the creature. It was sitting motionless in the part of the cage below the water, its spines and tentacles sticking out through the bars. A metal cap with wires sticking out of it was firmly lodged on its head, and the whole thing was a picture of piscine misery.
“What’s that?” Scratchy asked.
“I don’t know,” Theodora replied, “Never seen anything like it before.”
“Well, go touch it and find out.”
“Um, uh, maybe we should scout a little first?”
And there was indeed some scouting to be done, because there was another open doorway on the other side of the room. Scratchy figured things would be okay if he stayed away from the fish, so he clambered on the wall and moved across. When he arrived at the other door, he looked through it and saw a strange thing that he did recognize: a naga, a large snake-like creature with a humanoid head, intently studying a sealed doorway. It didn’t see him, and Scratchy figured it was best if it never did. He dropped silently to the floor of the room it was in, readied his bow, and motioned for the others to join him.
The rest of the party, understandably reluctant to touch water that screamed “Trap!”, decided that the best way across was through the use of Fly spells. Zelcor cast them on everyone, and they slid noiselessly through the air toward where Scratchy was. Things went fine until they were roughly halfway across, and then the trouble started. First, metal panels slid over the doorways on either side of the pool room, trapping everyone but Scratchy. Then the strange fish made a burping sound, and the room began to fill with water. Where it came from was unclear, but within a few seconds the room was filled halfway. The naga heard the sound and began to turn around, only to be greeted by a volley of arrows from Scratchy, who reasoned that the fight had now begun, like it or not.
Inside the room, Milacent still couldn’t tell where the water was coming from, but the fish seemed to be fairly central to the whole affair. She dived through the water and stabbed at it through the bars of the cage. The creature had no room to dodge and didn’t move anyway, so Milacent’s blade plunged straight through its spine. An instant later, the creature exploded in a blast of pressurized water, flinging its viscera against everyone still trapped in the room. It was disgusting and painful, but it was followed by the doors of the room opening once again. As soon as she was no longer trapped, Helanda flew out of the room and plunged her sword directly into the stomach of the naga, ending that fight almost as quickly as it had begun.
“Grodair!” Theodora yelled, wiping fish guts from her face, “It’s a grodair! A magical creature from the faerie realms!”
“Never mind that!” Scratchy insisted, “come look at this door!”
The door the naga had been studying so intently was a heavy metal door that was featureless except for an etching of the now-familiar seven-pointed star. At the center of the star was a polished seven-sided polygon of shiny onyx. A few minutes of examination indicated that it was magically locked and sealed, so the party decided that the best thing to do was to open it with a Knock spell. Theodora would cast it, and the rest of the party would take shelter across the fish pool, in the room where they had met Luonim.
Theodora reached out and intoned the words of the spell. Her spirits sank when the door didn’t open, then fell some more when a bolt of lightning shot out from the door and struck her. A sharp pain raced through her body, and then the bolt arced towards the others, but was stopped by an intervening wall.
Theodora fell into the water of the fish room, smoke rising from her body. “Ok, time for more healing,” she said, “and then we’ll find another way to open this door.”
After some examination, the party found that touching the onyx caused the spot touched to glow. “Aren’t we looking for the Shard of Gluttony?” asked Scratchy, “Draw the rune for gluttony on it!”
Milacent decided this was a great time to practice her Thassilonian, and no one else was really enthusiastic about facing the trapped door anyway. She began to draw the rune when Theodora cried out, “No, stop! Who did the research assistant at the start say was the master here?”
“Karzoug,” Zelcor reminded him.
“Karzoug!” Theodora exclaimed, “The Runelord of Greed! Draw that rune!”
Milacent hesitated a bit, then told herself that if Theodora could take a lightning bolt hit and survive, certainly she could too. She went ahead and drew the rune, and an instant later the door slid open. Milacent looked through it, then turned back to the rest of the party and said, “Guys, I think we’ve found the river.”
Scratchy slid past her to see. Beyond the door there was a large natural cavern which did indeed have a ribbon of dark water running through its center, and a sculpted stone bridge going over it towards a passage on the other side. Theodora crossed through the doorway to get a look of her own, then stood by it as Scratchy snuck down to the river to investigate. He crept up to the banks and saw two very large shapes swimming beneath the water. He signaled the rest of the party to be ready for combat, then lifted his bow.
Zelcor motioned for him to hold his fire, because the gnome had an idea. He created a set of dancing lights in a human-shaped form and walked it from the far end of the bridge back across. The shapes beneath the water stopped moving, and then two sets of milky-white eyes broke above the surface and followed the shape as it moved. For a few seconds, nothing more happened. Then one of the eyes flicked rapidly to the side and back: it had seen the party with its peripheral vision.
A voice cried out in Abyssal, “Treulavhuk, the spellcaster is here!” and suddenly a giant froglike shape launched itself out of the water. It was twenty feet from the river to the doorway, but to everyone’s horror the frog creature glided through the air towards the nearest target, Theodora, who was still standing in front of the door.
The force of the impact slammed Theodora back into the wall, her blood spraying out where the creature rent her with its claws. It picked her up in its mouth and seemed about to bite her in two, when Scratchy intervened with a bit of nature magic he had picked up. “Get free!” he shouted, and Theodora felt a surge of energy rushing through her. She pushed against the creature’s jaws with all her strength and fell to the ground, badly hurt but still alive. Plus, now that she had touched the creature, she knew what it was. “Hydrodaemons!” she shouted, “hit them with cold iron!”
That was all the information Milacent needed. She lifted her ranseur and plunged it deep into the hydrodaemon that had attacked Theodora, turning aside at the spray of hot, black ichor that sprayed from its wounds. She was assisted by Helanda, who stepped forward with her shield to cover Theodora. The other hydrodaemon, meanwhile, turned to Scratchy. The goblin whistled for his wolf, Fleabait, who came running to his master’s side. The hydrodaemon launched itself at Fleabait, but luckily only managed to graze him. Scratchy jumped onto Fleabait and rode back through the doorway away from the hydrodaemons, firing his bow the whole time.
Milacent and Helanda continued stabbing at the first monster, and soon had reduced it to a pile of quivering foulness on the ground. The second one regarded Milacent, then opened its mouth and shot out a spray of grayish spittle at her. It covered her entirely, and Milacent felt a supernatural grogginess falling over her. She shook it off, however, and charged at the creature. Her blade caught it right beneath its chin, forcing it upward and back. It lashed out with its giant claws, but Milacent was much more difficult a target than Theodora. Then Helanda came in to strike the creature from the flank, and its fate was sealed. Soon both hydrodaemons lay dead upon the ground.
“What were you doing out in front of everybody else?!” Scratchy shouted at Theodora.
“I thought they were going to come through the door!” Theodora answered.
The incipient shouting match was interrupted by Zelcor saying, “Hey, guys? Look over there.”
“WHAT?!” everyone shouted, then turned their eyes to where Zelcor was pointing. Across the river, in front of the opposite passage, was what looked like a giant floating brain. On either side of it were pale, hairless humanoids with smooth hoods of skin where eyes would be, and two mouths, one above the other. One of them raised its hand in an awkward gesture of greeting, and in their minds each of the party members heard, “Greetings. You are the emissaries from the library, yes?”
“Oh yes, yes we are,” answered Theodora, and then strode forward to talk.