Dain took the lead searching for any indications of traps as we descended down the ramp and into the temple. I followed behind Dain using my ability to sense the weave of magic in order to identify any magical traps. Catherine had shifted into her rat form and had jumped on top Mort, her nose raised in the air, and behind us Ash brought up the rear.
All of a sudden an audible click was heard and I saw Dain look down and ready his shield. Behind us was the sound of grating of stone followed by a massive thud as the ceiling panel slammed into the ground just behind Ash. On top of the panel was a bladed metal caged sphere which began rolling towards us. Dain and I quickly ran down the ramp and around the corner, Dain stopped and readied to bash his shield into the sphere. However it proved unnecessary as the frame shook and collapsed into two halves. I saw that Ash was safe and that he had somehow managed to get behind it.
A compartment in the sphere opened and out unravelled another large spider construct. Dain let out a yell and charged towards the spider, Catherine rushed passed me shifting into her wolf form and leapt onto the sphere’s frame to bite into the spider, Ash seemed to be concentrating on his ability as I maneuvered into a better position and flung a bolt of fire at it. I felt the ground shift slightly under my feet and heard a click.
As the spider construct collapsed due to the combination of damage and failing enchantments there was the whir of chains and the desiccated corpse that was chained in front of the door was ripped apart. Panels in the walls suddenly fell forward forming a makeshift bridge over the five foot chasm around the edge of the room. Inside the alcoves were the desiccated bodies of what appeared to be humanoid insects. I recalled from an old tome I had once read that they were once known as the Xillix. When I saw the first of them begin to move I dashed over to Dain who had readied his shield and hammer. Ash had hidden himself under the broken frame of the sphere and Catherine rushed to protect our rear.
Thankfully not all of the Xillix had managed to reanimate. However I did have to protect the front line with Dain by throwing up a force shield as we were rushed by them. I trusted Catherine to have our backs as I weaved the threads of magic between my hands and let loose a blast of flame at those before us. As Dain slammed his hammer into another skull I noticed a larger Xillix focus its attention on me. It threw several shuriken at me with significant force. I just managed to deflect them, taking only minor scratches.
More of the reanimated Xillix charged towards us. As they closed in I summoned flame to my hand and using it as a blade I slew another. Dain continued to pummel the reanimated Xillix with his hammer as they approached, behind us I could hear the clash of claws and snarls of fury as Catherine tore into her foes. I had not heard from Ash since he had hidden under the sphere but I could not spare the time to be concerned with him as Dain and I were charged at again. This time the larger Xillix attacked me directly. Exhausted my shield faltered after the first two blows from its scimitar and I was struck hard in the side.
Bleeding heavily I scrambled back clutching at the deep gash. I knew Dain would be able to hold the line from this point, as he had just finished killing the last of the smaller Xillix as I began my retreat. Catherine raced by me snapping at the large Xillix. However even with this new threat it paid her no mind fixating its eyes solely on me. With single minded purpose it ignored the solid blow from Dain, the furious jaws of Catherine and clambered over one of the sphere hemispheres. It slipped in one of the gaps of the sphere and a rapier blossomed from its back. Apparently Ash had finally decided it was time to strike.
In a tortured gasp I rested by the wall, blood flowing freely between my hands. Closing my eyes I tried to relax my breathing in order to slow my heartbeat before I ended up bleeding out. A few moments later I could feel a wave of warm pleasure coming from the wound as Ash’s magic repaired the damage. I focused on distancing myself from the emotions he was creating as I knew that the sensations his power invoked could be quite intoxicating.
After a brief rest we headed back into the antechamber. Other than the sounds of scraping coming from the bottom of the pit where a few of the Xillix had fallen into there was nothing else of particular interest in the room. The door was practically identical to the entrance of the temple, as was the enchantment placed upon it. I effortlessly activated the spell and the door slid into the wall.
Inside the next room the walls were of the same alien design, black, ridged and curved, as was the floor. At the far end of the room was a scepter with a single gem resting within a pedestal. Floating high above us was another spider construct globe, this one much larger than the previous ones we had encountered. Carefully we made our way towards the pedestal taking care to search for traps. Finding none I approached the pedestal and concentrated on sensing any magic surrounding it.
The scepter itself was pretty mundane; however the gem seemed to be radiating a constant field of magic. It was a bit too complicated for me to identify considering the time limitation which was upon us, however it was emitting a close range signal with an approximate fifteen foot radius. It didn’t seem to actually be actively causing any effect in particular and I could tell that it was not going to be an immediate danger to us, which was the important thing.
It was obvious that the pedestal was booby trapped and that once the scepter was removed the giant globe above us would come crashing down. Ash thought he would try to be clever and set up a trap for when the globe fell. I could see immediately that it would not work, however I let him have his fun. As I levitated the scepter out of its pedestal Dain, Catherine and Ash prepared to face what would emerge from the globe.
From the other side of the pillar I was behind I heard a mighty crash of glass shattering as the globe impacted with the ground. The scepter almost clattered to the floor however I managed to secure it again just before it hit the ground. I pulled the scepter to me and ran for the door.
Looking back to where the others were I saw a massive insectoid creature, its chitinous legs skittered under its massive girth the upper half appeared almost humanoid though it was covered in the same chitin as the rest of it, its face very much human like, screamed in rage. Even though it was terrifying I could see that the enchantments which maintained its form had degraded over the passing centuries, however it was still very much a very serious threat. Dain and Cat were flanking the Xillix Matriarch, while Ash was looking frustrated as he tried to influence the creatures mind. The Matriarch charged forwards slamming into Dain and Ash as I dashed around the door. I thought I was safe however one of its legs reached around the corner and slammed into me. There was an audible crack in my rib cage as I bent over in pain.
The legs retreated from the doorway as it turned to face the others. I used the opportunity to retreat. Handing the scepter to Mort I turned back to the Matriarch and with a blast of light I blinded the creature. Catherine used the opportunity to leap onto the Matriarch and with a sickening twist of her body speared bone spurs into the creature ripping into its flesh. Blinded and in pain the Matriarch was no match for our combined might and soon the creature collapsed dead to the ground.
After a rest and a quick bit of healing I pulled out my parchment and ink pen and begin taking sketches of some of the glyphs on the walls, notes on the anatomical structure of the Xillix and the decaying Xillix Matriarch as well as the architecture in the room. Meanwhile Dain retrieved the armor from one of the Xillix corpses and prepared to carry it back. Once we were ready we climbed back up the well and exited the lower levels.
Back in the main room where the Ratkin had made their nest we negotiated with Yesno in order to come back one more time. While she was reluctant the promise of food and language lessons from Catherine convinced her to allow us to return. Once we had completed the sweep with Rohan and Julie we would finally be done with this place. With that we made our way back to our home base in the Pit with our hard won prizes.
Back at our base I was resting up with a cup of tea when Jayce came in. It is always such a pleasure to see Jayce, he is so attentive and thoughtful. Not to mention that he is quite aesthetically pleasing to the eye which doesn’t hurt. However I digress. Jayce informed us that he has managed to arrange a meeting with the Chef in a week’s time. He clearly looked troubled as he told us and, when prompted, he admitted that it was odd that the Chef would take so long in order to arrange the meeting. I personally suspect that the Chef will have some test prepared in order for us to prove our worth.
Over the next couple of days I watched as Rohan and Julie assisted Dain in searching the temple that we have made our home. They were able to produce a fairly comprehensive floor plan which ran beneath the main area and, with a bit of time, Dain was able to find an entrance to one of the rooms. Personally I am thankful for that as at the moment it is quite a cramped living situation.
I saw Ash organising a crew to bring in a table to Asp’s room. I do not want to know what he has planned and quite honestly I hope that she will be able to bring his ego down a peg or two. Of course I do not want him to get physically hurt, just a little embarrassed. Maybe it will finally knock some sense into him, Oghma knows he has been quite insufferable lately.
Mother was out with Catherine talking to the local children, hoping to be able to start building a rapport and laying down the foundation of trust. Since I was feeling better I decided it was time to help father find a new job. Through Barda we had a promising lead that would not involve father in dubious businesses. Dain, father and I went to the Gate, where we met with Wulfsig and Iduna who owned and operated the Gate Chandler. While father told them that he just wanted to be considered an employee I could tell that they believed that if he worked out and was trustworthy they would actually prefer to make him a partner in the business.
As we concluded our business and exited the building Dain came running over to me seemingly quite excited. Apparently he had met another dwarf, his nanny from when he was an infant. I nodded politely trying to sort fact out from fiction. He had met another dwarf, and apparently she had escaped from the prison pit through the oubliette (I can accept this as fact as I am reasonably certain that Dain did not know the word oubliette before now) and they had planned to exchange messages at the very least through Barda at Barda’s Bossum. Dwarves being fairly rare it would be interesting to meet her and see if she shared any of Dain’s… particular traits.
The next day Hubert came to the temple looking for me. He informed me that there was something wrong with Millie, she was not acting like herself. He couldn’t quite describe it other than she seemed to be in a fugue. I asked Ash if he wanted to come however he was planning his next move on Asp. Catherine must have been out giving Yesno her language lessons however Dain offered to come and I was grateful for his presence.
We arrived at Barda’s Bosom and headed downstairs to where Millie was. I waved at mother as I passed and asked her to give us some privacy. Millie was indeed acting quite strangely, she would pick up a cup, look at it like she couldn’t remember why she picked it up and then put it back down only to repeat the same action over again. Remembering a medical text book I had once read while searching for a cure for Felix I started off with a basic physical examination, pupils dilated correctly, no odd coloring of the tongue, steady pulse. Physically she appeared to be fine. I steadied myself and focused in on the magic in the air. A strong weave of magic surrounded her head; it appeared to be originating from a singular point in the base of her skull. There was a strange artifice implanted in the back of her neck and into her skull. From what I could tell it appeared to be altering her perception of time. I motioned to Hubert. He hadn’t seen anything like it before though he was greatly concerned about it. I informed him that I was going to suppress the effect so we could try to find out what had happened to Millie.
Understandably Millie was confused at first however it seemed her mental faculties had not been damaged by the effect of the artifice. I explained what was happening in a calm voice and informed her that I would do everything I could to help her. After several questions we found out that she had encountered someone familiar while out on an errand though she could not remember who it was. I encouraged her to use her power to trace the artifice’s history back to its origin and she was given a vision of a cave behind a waterfall. I asked if she could show us where it was and she nodded. Leading us out of Barda’s Bosom she took us to the rim of the path and pointed out the location along the cliff face where the two waterfalls fell into the pit from above.
I thanked Millie for her help then I took her hand in my own. Looking her in the eyes I told her that I could try to remove the artifice now however there were risks involved. I told her that there was a fifty percent chance everything would be fine, a forty percent chance that there could be some short term damage and a ten percent chance that it could be worse. I assured her that if she wished to undergo the removal I would ensure to have a healer on hand to mitigate any possible damage however if we could locate who was responsible I might be able to obtain the information from them though that may take some time. She thought about it and said a little while longer wouldn’t hurt. Nodding I told her that I would see her later and released the artifice’s magic.
The roar of the waterfall was deafening as it fell past us and into the chasm below. From here we could see the oubliette which was the entrance to the prison section of the Pit. I am sure the thought of searching out the dwarves was on the forefront of Dain’s mind, however today it was about rescuing Millie. Looking at the wall it appeared to be solid rock face, activating my arcane sight I could clearly see the illusionary section. There also appeared to be a secondary magic woven within the illusion, though I could not tell for sure I would assume that this would trigger an alarm. I traced the weave back to four artifice set into the rock, unable to be removed from where we were without triggering the spell effect. Catherine spotted a small crevice running through the rock and (shifting into her rat form) entered it, shortly emerging on the far side a few moments later. While I continued to study the enchantment Ash and Dain kept watch while Catherine ran ahead to scout.
Several minutes passed until Catherine returned. She informed us that she had encountered a mentally unstable person, or in her vernacular crazy, who she had managed to convince to allow us inside without the worry of defenses. We followed Catherine down the tunnel where it opened up into a cavern which was covered in scrim. Catherine made mention that these particular scrim were slightly euphoric and I deduced that this particular species of scrim was one of the ingredients used in the manufacture of the narcotic known as dust. Off to one side of the room was an armored figure with crossbow in hand, however the image flickered revealing an old rusty suit of armor propped up against a chair. Above us there was an entrance to another tunnel and peering over the edge was a rather disheveled old man.
The man was muttering about how they had finally come and asking if we were with “them”. He wouldn’t elaborate who “they” were and I tried to reason with him to calm him down enough in order to hold a conversation. Suddenly I realised that I knew this man. It was Simon Finklestien, a colleague of my master before his death. The last I saw of him he had been rather agitated and left my master’s place in quite a state. I called out to him and as he looked at me a glimmer of sanity appeared to register. However this quickly turned to suspicion and he asked once more if I was with “them”. I assured him that I was not, that I had come because of Millie. He pulled out an alien looking lens, similar in style to the device that Brik-n-Brak had used on Dain. He appeared to be relieved at what he saw. He passed the lens over Ash, Catherine and then Dain. As he looked at Dain he let loose a terrified shout and demanded that he leave, he dropped the lens and then retreated from the ledge.
I turned to Dain and asked him to wait a little ways back in the tunnel out of sight while I sorted out what was going on. Then I hiked my skirt and climbed the cave wall to where Simon had vacated. After a few moments I was up. I took a moment to clear my head of the spores that I had disturbed and seeing the lens I picked it up. I went further inside and encountered another cavern.
Simon had set up a makeshift arcane lab and appeared to be performing several experiments. However I could tell that they were intrinsically flawed for the most part and destined for failure. At the back of the room huddled by his “bed”, for lack of a better term, was Simon. He smelled rather ripe. I took what must have once been a blanket and draped it over his shoulders. I then pulled up a chair and waited for him to calm down enough to talk again.
Sometime later after a discussion with Simon I climbed back down the cliff and informed the others that I would be staying here for the next couple of days. I asked Catherine if she could grab me some clean bedding, fresh food and a change of clothes. I turned to Dain and asked him if I could try a couple of experiments.
First I looked through the lens at him and seeing no change I handed to him to have a look through. As he touched the device it clamped onto him. I carefully watched his expression and when it was apparent that something was seriously wrong, indicated by his biting of his mouth hard enough to draw blood, I quickly tore it for him. A long string, almost appearing to be a vein, was withdrawn which was quite surprising. Making sure he was ok I tucked it away for safe keeping. If I can’t get answers from Simon maybe I could find out more about the lens from Brik-n-Brak, provided that I could track them down. I bid my friends farewell and climbed up the cave wall and back to Simon.