Exploration of the ancient ruins of Tarass Shar Orn continues…
Rikard Castleberry: “So, what you’re telling me Reess, is that all we have to do is push something on the portal first, then we can walk through it ourselves?”
Reess Whitesmith: “Well it seems that way for the first one. Each may differ though.”
Ian Aedan scratches his chin, “Why would they create a portal that sends the first person one place, and the rest somewhere else?”
Rikard Castleberry: “I see. It would explain why when we all walked onto the one here before, nobody went anywhere.”
Reess Whitesmith: “Hmm, not sure Ian, they must have had their reason, and I do not know Rikard if that is how it works. Did you try one at a time or did you all hold hands and you know…” Reess swings his arms forward and bends his knees to visualize his word. “Jump?”
Rikard Castleberry: “We all walked on at the same time. There was no hand holding…”
Reess Whitesmith: “Don’t be ashamed. It is dark and scary here…”
Ian Aedan: “Heh.”
Rikard Castleberry: “In any event, there are some chairs we can roll onto it. We should try that, and if it works, refill our water skins and such from the entrance.”
Rikard Castleberry: “Follow me.”
Reess Whitesmith follows.
A black metal pole about 10 feet high rises from the floor, topped by a golden globe the size of a man’s head.
Reess Whitesmith: “What was that Sarrag? Oh nothing? Thought you were about to say something. My apologies.”
Reess Whitesmith: “Whoa….”
Ian Aedan looks up at the pole, “That’s a pretty nice globe up there.”
Ian Aedan examines the globe more closely, looking for markings or what not.
Reess Whitesmith: “This is one like the post we met the old man through after Hoyt died.”
There are no markings; however it does appear to be similar to the guidepost that led you all to this place, though it is 10’ shorter in height.
Reess Whitesmith gets close and studies it to confirm that hypothesis.
Reess Whitesmith: “Mind if I try to activate it?”
Rikard Castleberry: “Uh. Sure.”
Ian Aedan takes a few steps back, “Shouldn’t we explore more before teleporting elsewhere?”
Reess Whitesmith rests a hand on the post and thinks first of the old man met before.
Rikard Castleberry: “But Ian, teleporting is exploring!”
Ian Aedan chuckles, “True, but there’s still so much here. Think of all the lavatories we haven’t discovered.”
Reess thinks of one of the creators of this place- Zzhastor Brune. An assault of names whirring by in symbols he doesn’t understand flies through his head until the vision rests upon one set of symbols. His name, perhaps?
Long moments pass as Reess touches the black rod.
His eyes suddenly flutter but stay closed.
Reess Whitesmith slowly opens a left eye and looks about opening the right eye a moment later.
Reess Whitesmith takes his hand off the black rod.
Reess Whitesmith clears his throat.
Ian Aedan leans forward, “I suspect that’s now how it’s supposed to work?”
Reess Whitesmith: “Well that was interesting.”
Reess Whitesmith: “I know what Zhastor Brunes name looks like as written in their symbols.”
Reess Whitesmith: “That is all. Let’s keep going.”
Rikard Castleberry: “Uh. Great.”
Ian Aedan: “That should come in handy if we stumble upon some writings.”
Sarrag: stands before the globe and speaks, “I am Sarrag, old ones.”
Sarrag: “Yes, thank you.”
Reess Whitesmith groans.
Reess Whitesmith: “I didn’t think about doing that.”
Sarrag turns to the others. “The ones say we may go down this ramp.”
Rikard Castleberry: “Er. What ramp?”
Ian Aedan nudges Reess, “See, that’s how you’re supposed to do it.”
Sarrag: “The old ones may not speak to thin skins.”
Reess Whitesmith: “Well that’s good. Guess I will have to work on my calluses.”
Reess Whitesmith: “Lead on Thick Skin.”
Rikard Castleberry looks to Ian, “I thought we didn’t find anything in the center?”
Sarrag walks toward the ramp down. He seems sure of his path.
Ian Aedan: “That was the other room…first time I’ve been in this one. But Sarrag seems to know what he’s doing.”
Sarrag: “Soon they may tell us why we were called to this place.”
There is a dark deep hole.
The ramp is light gray at the top and leads down.
Rikard hears movement to his right but sees nothing. It’s like bare feet slapping on the stones very quickly.
Sarrag: “Be careful, this place may be unkind to thin skins.”
Sarrag: “I will try to explain that you are friends.”
Ian Aedan looks over the ramp, “So you’re saying a place where we teleported into, in the dark, then got attacked, then separated, MAY be unkind to us.”
Sarrag: “Yes. You understand. You may yet gain wisdom of the swamp.”
Reess Whitesmith: “Sounds like fun.”
Rikard Castleberry glances to his right, takes a step back from the edge, and tries to listen for more steps.
Sarrag: “They fear us meeting the old ones!”
Suddenly, Reess, Sarrag and Ian see a two-mouth rush out from between two pillars…behind Rikard. It lunges at Rikard.
This two-mouth seems to be going for taking Rikard off the ledge with it. Both hands grapple Rikard and they both start over the edge.
Sarrag lunges to grab Rikard’s arm!
Rikard Castleberry desperately tries to hold on but tumbles off the edge with a bewildered look on his face.
Rikard Castleberry and the two-mouth grapple as they plummet down the pit. He manages to maneuver the two-mouth under him just before they land. The two-mouth hits hard, splattering on the ground. A second later, Rikard hits chest first, bouncing off of the two-face, and rolling off. A second later, before losing consciousness, he notices that somehow he managed to survive another unbelievable event, but there’s no way his opponent did.
Sarrag takes off at a run down the ramp.
Reess Whitesmith: “Move!”
Reess Whitesmith picks up the light with his shield hand and runs down.
Ian Aedan shouts over the edge, “Rikard?” He starts after the others.
It takes a while to spiral down a few times before finally arriving about 100’ down to the bottom. Two unmoving bodies lie on the floor. Neither are moving.
Sarrag kneels beside Rikard. “Old ones, here me! Help me save the thin skin!”
Ian Aedan knocks an arrow into his bow and looks about while Sarrag checks on Rikard, “Careful, there may be more of those things.”
Reess Whitesmith runs to Rikard and check for a pulse.
He is alive, but unconscious.
No man should survive a fall from that distance.
Ian Aedan keeps his bow pointed upwards and scan the walls, “How is he?”
Reess Whitesmith: “He is alive.”
Reess Whitesmith: “Sarrag, can you tend to his wounds if we had some water?”
Sarrag: “I will.”
Ian Aedan: “Check that two mouthed thing, if Rikard survived, maybe it did too.”
Reess Whitesmith checks the two-mouth.
The two-mouth is quite obviously dead.
Reess Whitesmith kicks it.
The two-mouth moves one last time.
Pillars ring the circumference of a circular chamber 50 feet in diameter. The central portion of the chamber is a large shaft leading deeper underground. A spiral ramp winds clockwise down the shaft in a gentle descent. The ramp is wide enough for two people to comfortably walk abreast, with the inside edge protected by a 3 foot wall.
Half a circle ahead, the long ramp finally nears an end. The interior curve is lined with statues of Swamp Men twice life size. As the ramp descends, the heads of the statues rise above the edge.
The statues are carved from a gray stone and polished until the light sparkles from the surfaces. The Swamp Men stand in various postures, wear clothing from robes to tunics to armor, and hold many different implements, some of them obviously weapons or staves, others unrecognizable.
As Ian and Reess check out the statues and room, Sarrag works on Rikard. After several minutes of work, he manages to staunch several wounds and return Rikard to consciousness!
Rikard Castleberry: “sonfoagoddamnitihatethisplace.”
Rikard Castleberry groans audibly, struggling to stand up.
Sarrag: “Stay quiet for a moment.”
Sarrag listens carefully for a minute or two.
Ian Aedan: “Rikard, you do know there was a ramp to get down here, right?”
Rikard Castleberry: “This guy wasn’t gentlemanly enough to escort me down slowly.”
Sarrag hisses, “Quiet!”
Ian Aedan hushes up.
Rikard Castleberry slides over to one of the statues, and uses it to pull himself up to a standing position, leaning on it.
Sarrag listens once more.
Reess Whitesmith gets closer and studies the two-mouth closer. What is it?
The two-mouth is a spindly humanoid that is almost 7’ tall in height. Its skin has a translucent quality the color of oxygen depleted blood. The limbs and neck are sticklike. The head is however elongated and accommodates two mouths one atop the other. Each mouth contains rows of jagged teeth coated with a thick fluid.
Rikard Castleberry goes through the motions of stretching out, seeing if anything feels broken. How did nothing break? He must’ve landed on his head….
Ian Aedan hisses, “Don’t touch the teeth, they have venom or something.”
Reess Whitesmith takes an empty vial from his pack and fills it with the creatures’ blood.
Sarrag watches the corridor.
Rikard Castleberry leans back, and uses the back of his hand to wipe off his mouth, still breathing hard, sore all over.
Ian Aedan turns his gaze to the corridor, “You hear something?”
Rikard Castleberry glances up at the statue he’s been leaning on, pats it with a hand, “Thanks buddy”, then moves over to the two-mouth, and spits on it. “Yeah, now what?!”
Ian Aedan lowers his bow, “Well, we’re down here…I vote we explore down here.”
Reess Whitesmith uses a spoon from his pack to remove the creatures’ eyes and stuff them into another vial.
Sarrag: “Those may go well with grubs or fire ants.”
Reess Whitesmith: “Or may help me see in the dark like they can.”
Reess Whitesmith: “Are we ready to move again?”
Rikard Castleberry: “Unless you’d like to look at the statues more.”
Ian Aedan pauses a bit to update the piece of paper he’s been scribbling on as a map, then stuffs it in a pouch, “Ready.”
Reess Whitesmith glances at the statues.
Rikard Castleberry: “Ian, do me a favor?”
Reess Whitesmith: “They will still be here later. I don’t expect them to tell a thin skin like myself anything at the present anyway.”
Ian Aedan: “Hmm?”
Rikard Castleberry: “Draw a giant arrow on the map that shows the more ‘direct’ route I took down?”
Sarrag: “There is hope for you still.”
Ian Aedan pulls out the paper and scribbles on it again, “Here there be Rikard-a-vator.”
Sarrag: “Come, I sense I must go this way. The old ones invited me.”
Ian Aedan: “I hope they don’t mind you bringing guests.”
Rikard Castleberry: “Apparently my name wasn’t on the invitation.”
Reess Whitesmith: “Let’s get going then.”
Rikard Castleberry stands at the front with his spear out, ready to fight this time.
Sarrag: “I am with you. The thin skins shall be welcomed I think.”
The incline becomes gentler before flattening and opening into a large corridor that runs straight for 50 or 60 feet. The end of the corridor divides in two, one part curving left and the other curving right.
As your light moves forward, three more two-mouths stand waiting. As you see them, they turn and flee into the darkness…
Ian Aedan readies his bow again, “Dang it all.”
The corridor to the left abruptly ends in a pile of shattered blocks that extend from floor to ceiling. The rubble recedes as far as the eye can see, interspersed with random points of light that must be buried gems.
Rikard Castleberry: “They don’t seem so tough without a pit or pure blackness to fight in.”
Rikard Castleberry: “Wait. Let’s see if we can acquire one or 2 of those gems.”
The gems are like the one you have in your hand. You might be able to dig a few out with some effort.
Though it would likely be easier to just pry them out of the walls.
They are placed about every ten feet or so on both sides of the hallway.
Some work, some don’t.
Reess Whitesmith touches the gems on the walls.
Ian Aedan points to the walls, “Let’s grab a couple from there.”
Rikard Castleberry works at pulling out some gems.
Reess Whitesmith turns all that work on and pries one of the brighter ones out.
As Reess touches the gemstone it turns on.
After a few minutes of prying and digging you each have 1 more working light gem. It casts a 10’ light sphere with shadows out to 20’.
Reess Whitesmith is happy he can see like it was daylight now.
Reess Whitesmith looks up suddenly; the extra light lets him catch something he hadn’t seen before.
_Like spiders, you see a group of 4 two-mouths using their hands and legs to hold the ceiling and cornices. They are looking into your eyes and as they lock on, they all drop to the ground in unison. Their mouths are open in the shape of ecstatic howling, but there is no noise.
Reess Whitesmith: “SHIT!”
Ian Aedan: “Oh hells.”
The first one bites and claws at Reess. The bite is aimed perfectly, but Reess overcomes the poison leaked out from the fangs.
The claw misses Reess as he spins out of the way.
Sarrag whirls around, bringing the spear into the creature’s gut. The two-mouth deftly fends off the stab.
Rikard Castleberry turns around, and angrily lays into the one that fell right in front of him.
The Two-Mouth staggers, spins and falls, oozing blood from long deep wounds in the shoulder and abdomen. Then it stops moving, eyes glassing over.
Ian Aedan spins as quickly as he can and fires off the arrow he had knocked. The arrow pierces the upper mouth and stays there, quivering as the creature drops.
The next Two-Mouth bites at Reess and misses. He follows it up with a claw that leaves Reess shaken. Then it decides to run away, drawing an attack from Sarrag. The attack goes wide, however, and he starts to run down the hall.
Reess Whitesmith clears his head. Then he lines up a shot from his gauntlet and fires. The Two-Mouth manages to dart out of the way before being struck.
Sarrag hisses, “You shall not have the old ones, foul creature!”
Sarrag steps forward to finish off the two mouth. He stabs at the two-mouth with his spear, landing a shot in the abdomen.
The two-mouth hisses silently at the new combatant, and manages to deflect the attack at the last moment.
Footsteps are heard rising up the ramp in the dark distance. The two-mouth is escaping.
The last two-mouth bites at Sarrag. He scores a strong hit, but Sarrag comes away relatively unscathed, thanks to his thick skin.
Ian Aedan jogs down the hall, knocking another arrow, “Come back here you two mouthed bastard!” He fires off the arrow, to little good.
Reess Whitesmith fires off another lightning bolt at the runner. Frustratingly, it manages to evade the attack yet again.
Rikard Castleberry puts on a solid run, and dashes up towards the two-mouth, catching sight of it, but unable to yet close in on it.
A Two-mouth misses as it rushes hard into Sarrag from behind.
Ian Aedan pauses, takes a deep breath, and fires at the fleeing creature. The arrow flies true and strikes its target, but it doesn’t fall. “Curses.”
The other Two-Mouth lashes out with both bite and claw, but fails to connect with its target.
Sarrag cries, “You do not belong here!”
Sarrag lashes out with not only spear, but also tail.
Sarrag braces for a flurry of poison as he stumbles and misses with tail and spear.
Reess Whitesmith shouts “Rikard! Get the one fleeing, I will help Sarrag!”
Reess Whitesmith runs up the one of the beasts which was distracted momentarily by Sarrag. Reess stabs upward with his rapier through the lower mouth, through the upper, then through the skull.
Rikard Castleberry moves up to the fleeing two-mouth and tries to put it down.
Rikard Castleberry trips up the two-mouth with his first attack, then manages to swing just over its head with the follow through, barely missing its head.
The fourth two-mouth slips back against the wall, obviously in sincere pain.
Ian Aedan spins on a heel to face the two mouth to the east. Nock, raise, aim, fire. The arrow strikes the creature in the head with a sickening ‘THUNK!’
Bone bits splatter across Sarrag’s chest.
Rikard Castleberry still remembers the fall a minute ago, and charges the two-mouth, intent on some violence.
Rikard Castleberry steps up, with murder in his eyes, and slashes it across the abdomen, then follows through and slashes it again through the neck as it’s falling down.
Rikard Castleberry grunts in satisfaction.
One two-mouth has slipped up the ramp. There is no noise from above.
Sarrag: “Any of you hurt?”
Rikard Castleberry: “I was uninjured by these things.”
Rikard Castleberry: “They seem to perform much worse when there is adequate light around them.”
Ian Aedan shakes his head, “None got close to me this time.”