PCs: Toad, Saad, Urisk, Xeal
Ring of NPC: Nazareth, Garnidelia, Jack of Spades
20th of Phara, 179th Year of the Goddess
12 days left til Iomedaea
With the blood of their enemies soaking into the sand, the group stood triumphant once more (if not a little battered by the experience). Toad took the opportunity to loot the dead of their possessions, lifting the most choice items from Lop’s corpse. More intent on catching their breath, the rest of the party chose to make no issue of his claiming the majority of the loot. In addition to some useful items, Toad also found instructions from W, G & Associates instructing Lop and his follow mercenaries to keep anyone from going near the cave.
It was then with impeccable timing that Saad and Xeal came over the rise of the dunes, having travelled from Casta and followed in the party’s footsteps. Xeal had been similarly hired by White, Grey & Associates to head to the cave and had joined Saad on the road for the sake of having a travelling companion. Upon realising that the people he was meant to join had just been slaughtered, Xeal noticeably panicked, and it took no time before the others had him surrounded with weapons at the ready.
Realising that honesty was the best chance of getting out of the situation alive, Xeal stuck to the truth- his employers were owners of a chain of magic shops, and he was only on a contract basis to pick up some extra cash. Despite some members of the group gleefully discussing the possibility of using the Rape Shackles on the unfortunate sorcerer, they agreed that he was probably telling the truth, and he could at the very least be used as cannon fodder when entering the cave.
It was at this point that the fish that Nazareth ate decided to reappear, and the dwarf was violently sick. With the majority of the party not wanting to deal with a sick dwarf, Garnidelia and Jack volunteered to stay back and watch him.
Travelling to the cave was uneventful, and the party soon found the rocky entrance to the cave protruding from the dunes, with an unhealthy looking yellow gas seeping from the entrance. The party decided a stealthy approach was best, keeping lights to a minimum (most of the party being able to see in the dark, anyway). Making their way through the cave system, the group went out of their way to investigate every nook and cranny in the hope of finding treasure. Only Saad saw real success, however, finding a ring of amethyst engraved with the words “Yours forever and always” (nat 20).
Their actual spelunking was met with mixed results- while the majority of the party managed to leap across the treacherous natural pits, Xeal was hampered by the lack of light, and took a fall when not guided by his companions. The only other problem the party encountered was a bone box (Saad and Toad backing away from this now easily recognised danger) which was easily disarmed by Urisk. Upon successfully disarming it, he attempted to remove the explosive, but instead rendered it inert.
Coming to the end of the cave system, the more alert of the group heard someone humming, and geared up to attack. They moved forward cautiously into a large cavern lit dimly by the luminescent molds and fungi growing from the walls. In the center of the space was a large metal cube- one of the steel walls had been bent upwards, as if explosively ruptured from the inside, and a hatch on another side was hanging open. A familiar figure then walked out from behind the cube, tossing a skull up and down casually with her velociraptor close behind.
Saad and Toad recognised this as Piper and held off from attacking to ask her what she was doing here. She replied that she was still working for the same person, after a fashion, and had been told there was something interesting in the area to pick up. She was also able to confirm that it was the skull that had been causing the problems in the area, but that it was not doing so at present. Toad took the chance to take a look at the skull, noticing the runes carved into it and the overpowering evocation aura that it gave off.
Despite the lack of answers, the group made a collective shrug and chose not to question Piper any more (though Urisk did take the time to ask for her number). She took her leave, popping her head around the corner to warn that Toad could expect a mutual acquaintance to make an appearance shortly. Saad (once shrunken back to normal) took a look in the steel box- it housed a pedestal, a strange box on a strut in one corner pointed at the pedestal, and a long thin staff, supported by another staff, pointed at the pedestal, with black foam over its tip. With little to no idea of what to make of it, the group chose to head back to Casta and claim their reward. Heading back through the caves, Xeal was unfortunately so caught up in trying to remember where the pits were that he managed to fall back into the same pit. Determined to redeem himself, he took a run at the wall and jumped nimbly from wall to wall of the pit, finishing with a final somersault up to the incredulous onlookers. He did this so well, in fact, that he convinced most of the party he had intended to fall (Urisk, though, looked on skeptically).
As they approached the village the group started to hear the sounds of screams accompanied by vile imprecations screamed out of a set of lungs more powerful than any mere mortal. This turned out to be Esveralda, out for Toad’s blood and laying into the helpless villages.Upon seeing Toad, she grew even more enraged, swearing to rip his head off. Toad responded in his usual fashion, shooting web at her to delay her as best as he could, then turning invisible and scarpering off. The others chose not to get involved immediately, as the erinyes had not threatened them, but readied themselves to charge into battle.
Now for the fun part… This is why a natural 20 can be the most amazing thing to ever happen in a game.
Pulling free of the web and leaping into the air, Esveralda sprinted towards the house, seething with rage and bloodlust. On the other side of what seemed at that moment to be very thin wooden walls stood Toad, back to the wall and hoping that his invisibility would hold. As he heard the devil’s footsteps pound towards him, a strange idea came into his head. It was daring, incredibly dangerous and most certainly stupid, he thought, but it might just get him out of this.
He sidled along to the corner of the house, and spoke in possibly the most convincing tones of his young life,
“You’re still beautiful, you know.”
Esveralda stopped, dumbstruck. She’d never been called beautiful before- not that there was a lot of compliments given in hell, of course. She’d been bullied, she’d been tortured, she’d been abused, but never complimented. She knew what a compliment was, of course, and how courtship worked- she’d been summoned by enough jilted lovers to be subject to their moaning of how things should go in the course of love. But she’d never been called beautiful before, and with her face as it was, she never thought she would be.
Her sword tip wavered, and lowered a little.
Releasing a breath he hadn’t realised he was holding, Toad cautiously looked around the corner at the devil. She was still tense, but she was clearly waiting for something. He searched deep within himself, and found the words to go on.
“A lady as beautiful as you deserves something special.”
Esveralda subconsciously started twirling a curl of her hair with one hand. She was struggling with emotions that no erinyes had ever experienced before, and it was quiet for a long while before she answered.
“Are you asking me on a date?”
At seventeen years of age and with absolutely zero dating experience, Toad (having ducked back behind the relative safety of the corner) had something of a dilemma. On the one hand, saying yes would yield a date with an incredibly attractive (minus half her face) devil. On the other, she was likely to rip him into tiny little pieces if he stopped now.
He let out a very quiet sigh, and shrugged to himself. You only live once, he thought.
“I know this lovely little chapel just a few hours from here. Why don’t you and I meet there in a little while, and we can discuss this over the sacrifice of a priest?
Whirling around the corner, Esveralda stood face to face with Toad, looking straight into his eyes. She narrowed her eyes, but sheathed her sword. (The others looked on with incredulity, Urisk making encouraging gestures at where he guessed Toad to be.)
“How do I know this isn’t just a plan to run away from me? Mortals flee from prospective partners all the time.”
Toad mustered all of his charm, and pressed on.
“I just want everything to be perfect for you. You can trust me.”
For a tense moment, Esveralda’s stare bored into Toad, searching for any scrap of dishonesty. Being apparently satisfied with what she found, she deftly wove some strands from her rope into a small bracelet.
“I will trust you, mortal. But you will take this with you as proof of your sincerity, so I might seek you out wherever you are. We will meet again at noon on the morrow. But for now, I have a job to finish.”
And with that, she turned away from Toad and flew at the shocked villagers with renewed ferocity, laughing in a beautiful tone that belied her savagery.
At this point the party decided that if the village was going to die, they might as well help out in the slaughter. Toad, Urisk and Xeal set about dealing death in their own unique ways, and Saad set about taking whatever valuables he could find in addition to their reward. And so, the adventurers make their first real mark on the world as villains, figures to be feared by all as butchers and murderers.