This is Part 3 of 3. (Part 1 was here.)
THE FOLLOWING WAS FOUND WRITTEN IN A SMALL DIARY:
I... I died.
I mean, I'm obviously okay now, or I wouldn't be writing this. And maybe I only really dropped unconscious, but I was as good as dead for at least six seconds or something. I just... look, I need a moment. We're trying to steer a boat here anyway.
There. A moment for you, hours for me. So how did I begin my last entry? ... Joking about being dead. F*c* it, the **ck was I thinking... I'm such a
Hee! So wha's better, a Trixie writin wh*n drunk or tomrrow mornin when hu*govar? D'you even car*? Helloooo, anyone readin? I know wat'll get you read!
Note to self: Don't write when drunk. Those bits aren't erasing very well. Heck, I'm sorely tempted to chuck this entire account in the river. But even if I do, maybe some other mage will still restore the pages and maybe they can learn from reading the whole thing. Which... yeah, if you're reading this, that probably happened. Great. And at at this point, I've really screwed up this introduction, let's just pick up where we left off last entry. Okay?
|An image of actual me.|
Recorded in case I die again.
It's a water weird. THAT much I clue into now, having heard of them with my planar lore! It blends right in with the water. Which... yeah, pretty much the extent of my knowledge. Oh, there's a guy a few villages over whose advice would be handy about now, but he's not exactly accessible.
I forget who came up with the plan, but it involved chucking the oil lanterns onto the water and setting the surface alight. Fair enough. Eldar makes a break for the lantern by the far door, and he succeeds. Patronian gets the closer lantern, but as he's heading for the throw, the Weird uncoils. I zap it with ray of frost! Was holding my action for that.
I think the Weird was hurt there? Created a chunk of ice at least. Then Ox and the Paladin wail on it, while Morrian sets the oil from the one lantern on fire. This causes the Weird to retreat back beneath the surface. GOOD. Which gives US cause to retreat. Except of COURSE both doors are (1) locked and (2) locked using 3 separate locks. And we're not retreating back up.
Gabriel keeps an eye on the closer door near me as Patronian starts to try and unlock the far one. The oil on the water burns itself out, but the Weird must be wary or healing or something. I go to investigate a pile of rocks in the corner. Turns out to be a pile of rocks. Alrighty then.
Which is when the big alarm goes off. Apparently Patronian succeeded with ONE of the locks, but I guess it's the wrong sequence or they had to be simultaneous or something. He soon makes short work of the others, but hey, now they know we're here! So I hang back with Gabriel as our heavies go into the new area first, namely our paladin, and Ox. Patronian follows.
According to Ox, the other two suddenly got jerked up into the air. In the cavern (with a sandy floor by the way), Ox saw a tree-like structure in the middle with moss growing on it. He went to investigate. Apparently, not so much a tree as rock with carvings on it, and the moss was normal according to Morrian's natural lore. Then Ox got jerked up into the air, and apparently the problem is nooses concealed in the sand. Then that annoying alarm stops.
Then the troglodyte shows up.
I hear Morrian give a shout, and run over from Gabriel's Door to zap it with the trusty ray of frost. Patronian, Paladin and Ox try to cut themselves down as we engage the lizard-like being with the bad odor. That last putting us at a bit of a disadvantage; it's like poison. That said, it's actually dispatched fairly easily, particularly once our paladin is on her feet again, but that gives time for the other nasties to close within range. Another troglodyte aaaaand I learn what a Mud Tiger is.
Mud Tigers apparently shoot out lightning. Alrighty. On the bright side, still being in the water pool room, I wasn't in range of that attack. On the down side, it meant I WAS in range of... of... okay, okay, one thing at a time.
I decide to zap off magic missiles. I can track three, so I spear two into the Mud Tiger and one into the troglodyte. Ox has cut himself down, and while Patronius is having more trouble, he's chucking daggers from above. One scores a hit.
Meanwhile, Gabriel has come to join me at this point as we try to figure out if we can get into this cavernous room without being offed by the troglodyte. As such, it's Eldar who first sees Gabriel's Door open and a hooded cleric come through. Cleric says something to "Brubgrok" about us being here, as expected, and is joined by a dwarf with a sharp sword. And then, in his chanting a few words, everything goes silent.
Have you ever experienced total silence? It's
I figure this isn't TOO bad though. I haven't taken a hit yet, Gabriel's gone to the cavern to help Morrian deal with the troglodyte, and I see Eldar throwing his sleeping powder at the cleric. Which... the cleric shakes off. A bit incredulous, I back up a couple steps, moving into the cavern while engaging the dwarf with my quarterstaff - unsuccessfully.
Then... I die. Just like that.
Okay. To be absolutely accurate, I make what might be termed a "saving throw", in that I don't feel like I have negative health... I simply have nothing left in me. It's necrotic damage. That much, I know. Yet one second, I'm fighting a dwarf, the next, I'm staring at the cavern ceiling, my life rushing before my watering eyes.
I have never felt so terrified as I did that moment when I slipped into unconsciousness. Into oblivion. In, I might remind, absolute total silence.
Sorry. I pray you don't have a vivid enough imagination to picture that.
The one saving grace, if any, is that at least I took the hit rather than someone else in our party who might not have had my constitution. See, I used to work out in my youth. Probably saved me. Uh, not that I'm old now. Well, I guess I feel old. But I don't look it. Perky as ever.
Now, the Mud Tiger died around the same time as I did. This allowed Morrian, resident druid, to take a couple steps back out of the zone of silence - he knew where he was, he'd had to run around the centre pillar - and cast some sort of healing on me at range. Took maybe six seconds. Just like that, I was fully healed! Apparently, it's that easy when you're a low level adventurer like me!
Okay. Okay, not... not easy. It's like I was yanked back into my body, drawing a huge breath into my lungs - without hearing it, goddamn spell - my extremities kind of tingling, as I saw people running back into the room with the pool. My first instinct was to run like hell, to get away, to curl up into a ball and cry. My second instinct was to inflict severe pain on the guy who had driven me to feel that way.
Went with the second instinct.
I ran in and attacked the cleric with magic missile. I guess I managed it without speaking aloud? It's also possible I merely dreamed that I did it. Sadly, he didn't drop.
Other stuff was happening too, naturally. Didn't register another troglodyte going after Gabriel. That dwarf with the sword probably could have killed me if it weren't for Ox - only the cleric was on my radar. After all, I found out later that the dwarf had taken a successful swipe at the paladin as she entered. Also he wasn't a dwarf, he was a dwarf-half-orc or something. But said Dorc was summarily dispatched thanks to Ox, OUR half-orc, so poetic justice maybe.
Ox and Eldar closed in towards the cleric. Patronius ran in after me - having finally cut himself down from the ropes - and fired a crossbow bolt at the cleric too. Cleric finally turned to flee, and Ox cut him down... "you killed a party member, prepare to die, natural 20" and very good for all that. I don't know who offed the troglodyte. I wasn't paying attention. I was busy closing into range and bludgeoning the cleric's dead body with my quarterstaff.
Someone pulled me back. Or maybe just grabbed my quarterstaff. Don't remember. Don't care. At that moment, once I was sure the cleric was dead, I was content to listen to the sound of my heavy breathing. Sound. Breathing. You have no idea. None.
I will say this: I didn't cry. That I remember. Maybe I even smiled. Smoothed my robes. Business as usual. Right?
Our paladin identified the cleric as worshipping... Thorizdun? Something like that. He had a ring of keys, a few gems, and the ledger with all the slaver information we'd been looking for. Eldar had been keeping an eye out down the hall behind the cleric during this time. All clear. Passage seemingly led to the troglodyte village or something, so didn't go there. Found a couple lockboxes.
Paladin had heard water waves from one of the five passages out of the cavernous room. Found a ship. Navigated our way out of the mines. Still business as usual.
Baron had finally arrived in town. Slavers were chased off, townspeople were able to leave the guardhouse, more business as usual. Except we were seen as heros, so that was different. I also got drunk - come to think, might have been on the rare vintage wine I stole - so that was different too. I mean, I've been drinking before, but not to excess. So... yeah, maybe I've changed. Who wouldn't?
Now what? Well, there is one part of me that isn't sure I can keep doing this. Still, another part of me has already started looking into the Arcane Tradition of Illusion, and knows a spell I can add to my spellbook. I'm not sure which of them is me the practical me. The one I should listen to.
Perhaps, in the end, it doesn't matter. I'm alive. And life, as I said in the beginning, is awesome. So I'll try to make the best of the time left to me - so long as you, dear reader, say that you will learn from this and do the same. ... Deal?
For more by the author:
The web serial Taylor's Polynomials
The high school saga Time Trippers