As the last naked assailant finally slumps over motionless, and G’way continues to unwrap bandages, the injured half-orc redhead struggles free and shakes off any further attempt to help him. He scrambles over to the fallen body of an old orc who was among the fanatics, and still sobbing, he tries to press together the parts that had been forcibly hacked off. Panicked, he staggers away and breaks into a run, heading down into the passage ahead.
Devan marvels at the fact he still has his healing potions as he licks his wounds and notes to himself that he should probably sit down for a spell. “How’d I forget I had these?” He massages the spots the crossbow bolts had earlier sunk in, and mentally notes to thank the Goblin and Bard later for their talented and timely assistance. Devan goes about his ‘after encounter ritual’, and cleans his magical dagger with care and with a few splashes from his water skin, washes the blood from his prized jacket and laments over the loss of the woman with the large breasts. “What a waste” he mutters as he admires her now lifeless form on the ground. He calls out to Willem “At least you had the care or skill to swing your weapon cleaves to preserve her spectacular breasts. Am I right?” he jokes. Hoping the others enjoy his attempt to lighten the mood after noticing the Red-headed half-orc sobbing over one of the other dead bodies, and then watches the half-orc turn to run from the room and trip over the Goblin’s freaky spirit summoned cuttlefish. “What, no thanks for saving your orcish hide?” he calls out to the fleeing half-orc. “Too bad our friend here doesn’t have these fine boots” he taps his dagger against the heel of his trusty Cat Step Boots. ’Might’ve avoided that misfortune". Devan looks to his companions for support, and wonders what to do with this curious half-orc the group just went through hell and high-water to save.
Willem surveys the gory scene as the last naked fanatic pours to the ground in an avalanche of gory. He clutches the haft of his halberd so tightly that the enchanted timber creaks in protest. As the immediacy of the threat fades, the full toll of this punishing battle sweeps over him, staggering and swaying as the last washes of adrenaline spending themselves through his veins. Devan’s attempt at necrophiliac humor shakes him somewhat from his stupor. As he turns to glare at his cavalier comrade, his eyes dart to following the fleeing form of the ginger half-orc. Not eager to hack his way unnecessarily through even more coosh monsters to retrieve this pitiable creature, Willem charges after the half-orc, catching him as he is halted by the surreal, ghostly cephalopod. Holding the halberd in front of the half-orc’s chest, neither menacingly nor passively, Willem gruffly intones while gazing down into the darkness of the corridor, “It is best if you come with us. We have been sent for your protection.”
Caed spends a moment packing away Mayor Jerkwad’s head in his new special baggy and fantasizes about the kind of bounty he might collect on it, OR the hilarious terror he could inspire in those tight-lipped rustics back in the village.
Indicating the naked bodies on the ground, he jests: “These religious types sure screwed up what could have been a proper orgy, didn’t they, Devan?”
Then to little Orc-an Annie: “What are you even running for? Come on, buddy, you’ve got to understand that we’re all old friends by now! Taking part in a quality dust-up like this binds us all closer than family. Hell, we haven’t been introduced and I already know your name: Tr….Ph….K……Do…… Damn it, does anyone remember the kid’s name? G’way, do you remember?”
“It’s Caemon,” the half-orc growls, as he struggles feebly to pull away from Willem. “Idiots! I don’t know who you are, but if you want to help, you’ll let me work.” He gestures to the carnage-filled room. “Whatever might have… happened to them… these are my friends, my FAMILY, and if there’s a chance even ONE of them is still alive, I’m going to save them.” He cranes his neck towards the sloping tunnel, indicating a small alcove with a trunk and several shelves, filled with what look like preserved herbs and alchemical supplies. Or possibly a spice rack for cooking, but you find that less likely.
G’way bounds forward.
“Tortured Red Hair! you need to calm down….. CALM DOWN!!!!!!!!” G’way shakes him and glances at Willems bag…. and reaches into his bag (if he allows it). And pulls out the letter from Captain Slaver Jerk.
“Here read this letter from Captain Slaver Jerk.”
Caemon squirms, trying to wriggle free of Willem’s hold, but to no avail. At the mention of the so-called Captain Slaver Jerk, his eyes widen. “So h-he sent you, did he? Well, I…” His voice falters. “… damn it all, I guess you’ve got me. I’ll go with you, but first we’re saving what’s left of my family. For that I’ll need those.” His expression growing more urgent, he indicates the alcove with shelves of jars again. “So if you’re going to lead me around on a leash, at least lead me over there so I can get to work!”
Devan begins to put it together and realizes now that these poor saps he and his party just slew were this half-orc’s family, however confused or bewitched they might’ve been. “Uh, hey Caemon… why would your family tie you up and try to have you killed? Seems to me your town Mayor wasn’t too keen on you, during the battle it was all we could do to stop his minions from sending you to your grave.” His gaze lingers again on the woman with the large breasts. “And I hope this wasn’t your sister… I… I’d feel bad about ogling your sister.” Devan shakes off his momentary lament for the woman and limps over to Caemon putting a reassuring hand on his shoulder, “Here, if saving their lives is what you intend, I can offer you this healing potion if it might do any good” Devan hands over one of his potions reluctantly, and deftly conceals his remaining one thinking to himself, that it might come in handy later, best not to let him know I’m holding out on him. He offers his dashing customary smile “I’m no good with healing, but I will offer whatever help I can if it means us leaving this forsaken dungeon quickly.” Devan looks to the exits and tries to hear if there is anymore oncoming danger. “Caemon, he asks cautiously, are there anymore of your religious fanatic friends about these caverns?”
Caemon shakes his head. “I’m guessing you fought your way this far, so that should be all of them, at least… if I counted right.” He suddenly looks mortified. “But more might arrive any minute, if we don’t shut down that THING they’ve got down there. Listen… let me try to do what I can for these people. I need you to get down there and make sure nothing else comes up from down below.”
Glancing suspiciously down the dark corridor, Willem squints at Caemon, “How do we know you won’t try to run off again? We have gone through a lot of trouble to find you here. Besides, what do you think you can do for these people now and can you be sure they won’t just attack us again if you succeed?”
Turning his full attention to Caemon, Willem asks, "And what thing exactly are we supposed to shut down?"
Caemon looks over to the dark passageway. “Whatever it is that brought those twisted things into these caves, it’s down there. I’ll be damned if I know what it is or how it works, though, except that it’s sort of… alive, and it has something to do with the crystal that’s all around us down here.”
“Look, I’m not going anywhere until this is finished.” He sighs. "I’m sure most of them are already gone. And some of them, well… they deserve what they got. But the rest… some of THEM might still be hanging on to what’s left of their souls, and it’s MY fault they’re here. I have to save them if I can. So take whatever precautions you want. Post a guard on me if it makes you feel better, but whatever you do, hurry, or it’ll be the least of our prob– "
Caemon trails off, and you all feel a brief tremor under your feet. A faint humming noise is now barely perceptible where there was none before, and the air seems different– almost electric. [Those of you trained in Arcana now sense the power source that led you here has become much more intense, almost blindingly so.]
Caed advances on Caemon, arcane power crackling in the cadence of his voice. “I’ve felt death’s icy breath on my neck twice already to free you, boy, and I can’t weather another battle under this same sun. We must flee before this gods-forsaken THING draws more of it’s disgusting followers to overwhelm us. So it was YOUR FAULT your friends were drawn here and killed?!?!? Earn the right to be worthy of their memory by making it out alive and returning to fight when you have even a sliver of a chance to win. Now’s not that time – we must flee!”
Caed’s voice strikes home, each emphatic word eliciting a flinch from Caemon. He starts to quiver, and is clearly holding back another outburst of sobbing. It is all too apparent now that despite his ragged edges and aggressive stance, he is but a youth.
Caemon looks once more upon the scattered bodies of his kinfolk, and steeling himself, he turns his attention to Caed. “Y-you’re right… they’re beyond my help now. And we have to get out of here if we want to live. But if we leave now –if this place will even LET us leave– then whatever’s left down there will begin this all over again. I had hoped I could destroy it myself, but they were always watching me, and I never got the chance. But now… with them gone, and your help… I th-think we could do it.”
A faraway look washes over his face. “They never really explained what it was – they just told me what components I needed to make, and gave me the materials. I wasn’t even allowed in there– but I could feel tremors, and hear the sound of grinding down below. Then those foul things emerged from the chamber – the ones with tentacles all over, and the twisted creatures that looked like two goblins mashed into one body. And then… then they started taking people from the village, and they dragged them in there. When they came out, they were like different people.” He grimaces. “One of them was my uncle… the man lying there in that room now. Once, when I told them I refused to help them any more, they ordered him to take a dagger and slit the throat of a village girl they had brought in here. He… he did it without blinking an EYE. Then they told him to place the dagger against his own throat…”
“I probably deserve to die for what I’ve allowed to happen… for what I’ve DONE. So if your plan is to deliver me up to those pirate scumbags, you might as well kill me now, because that’s what I’ve earned. And I’d rather die than let this… hideousness keep growing here like pus in a festering wound. Now are you going to help me, or kill me?”
Devan interjects and tries to calm the sputtering and now timorous half-orc, patting empty palms at the air as he approaches. “We’re not going to let anything bad happen to you Caemon, certainly not killing you just after saving you. We may be here at the behest of your pirate associate, and it’s true we four have found ourselves pressed into service to the dirty captain, much to our dismay, and it occurs to me we are in a position much like yourself. Perhaps we can use our common bond to assist each other, and by doing so, end this tide of immediate evil, and later deal with the captain. As you say, we might not be able to flee as easily as we would like like. I remember our way out being barred after the cave floor started to stir. However, by the looks of it, none of us are in any shape to forge ahead against any more dangerous foes. You’ve been itching to get past in the passageway beyond. Is there anything of use there that could be to our advantage in such an ordeal? Perhaps more of these handy health potions we found in the previous alcove?” Devan claps the half-orc on the back, pulls out his remaining potion and takes a drink. “Hmm, not bad” he says as he notices his legs begin to strengthen and strides on past the cuttlefish to get a better look at the passageway beyond to find what Caemon meant by ‘down below’.
Adopting a clinical air, Caemon surveys the state of each of your injuries, and your general health. He takes the healing flask Devan gave him, and concentrating for a moment, swirls the flask gently while murmuring an incantation. The contents turn beige and cloudy, and begin to glow faintly. He gestures to the numerous crossbow bolts stuck in Caed’s side, and pausing for permission, he swiftly applies the mixture to his hand and begins to dab the wounds with it.
“There’s only a little of this left, and I was about to use it on my uncle… but of course, you’re right – it won’t do him any good now. Better to use it ourselves, so we can make it out of here alive. Now hold still a little while longer, and we’ll get the rest of those bolts out.” He pauses and nods towards the alcove filled with jars of strange herbs and fluid mixtures. “The rest of you can help yourselves to the healing potions over there. There should be a half dozen there… not as effective as this stuff I’m using, but it’ll do the trick. Just make sure to drink only the reddish-purple ones, and not the purplish-red ones.” He falls silent again as he continues to work on Caed.
“Well, you’re not as helpless as you look, are ya sonny boy? The walls puckered up behind us on our way here – do you have anything in those jars that can burn our way out of this festering hole?”
Caemon thinks a moment. “I’ve got some strong acid, but there’s no way I have enough to burn our way out. Not if the entire wall sealed up behind you.” Caemon finishes applying the healing mixture, and Caed’s wounds are completely gone.
Devan comes back from the hallway with 3 potions tucked into his pack, and hands the remaining 3 to Willem, and gives him a reassuring nod, and then addresses the half-orc, “Caemon, I’m glad you are able to help. It sounds like our retreat is fairly solidly blocked, and we have a choice to make, either attempt cutting through the blocked passage, or to press forward. Do you have any remaining knowledge of this magical force that seems to be the source of this madness, or what foes we may face further below us? Also, what might you know of these strange creatures that seem to have had a symbiotic relationship with these poor followers? We’ve seen these creatures attach themselves in many ways, specifically, this strange armor the village Reave was wearing. Is it dead or alive? Magically cursed?” Devan moves to the strange armor on the ground next to the fallen Reave and picks it up. “I’ll see if I can inspect it, but I’ll need someone with some magic abilities to help me see specifically if it might be to our party’s benefit.”
Pondering your question, Caemon furrows his brow. “The creatures– the symbionts– that’s as good a name as any, yes… I don’t know how they are made, or grown, whichever… the others would go down into the chamber, and come back with them attached. From what I can tell, they are like living tools, made of flesh and bone and other substances I wouldn’t begin to know how to classify. From a certain perspective, they aren’t really much different from a pair of magical boots or bracers that draw small amounts of magical energy from their wearers to perform a useful function. Yes, I suppose you could say they are alive, but that’s a tricky statement. Is something alive because it grows? The rock pillars in caves like these grow over time, and I’d hardly call them living. Or if it acts and moves on its own… but then, what about inert objects made to move through magic? Or is something alive only if it eats, breathes, gives off waste and can multiply itself? Then what is a fire that grows and spreads through a forest, leaving behind ash and smoke?”
He catches himself, sensing that perhaps now is not the best time for a philosophical lecture. “You asked about the suit of armor the reeve wore. If there is a curse, it didn’t make him the act the way he did. His mind was long gone before I ever saw him wearing it. I only know for sure that it’s a powerful tool– as such, it might only be as good or evil as the actions of the one who uses it. But for all I know, it really could be alive, and have its own agenda.”
As Devan holds and inspects the strange leather cuirass, the flexible leather pads in its back seem to curl out gently, as if it were trying to become easier to don. The effect is somewhat unsettling.