Gods and Beholders

Stephen takes us down into his basement, which looks more lived in than the upstairs, and then jumps down an eerily familiar hole. We all follow suit, finding ourselves floating down to an island in a dry lakebed beneath the mansion. It looks nearly identical to the one we visited below Bangoria. Only, this one is a bit busier in the section between the standing stones and the inner circle. It’s all still crumbling, and the statues to the gods are a bit different. When we step through the circle here, nothing happens, to our great relief.

The thrones here are empty, and Stephen tells us they were that way when he found them. We fill him in that there’s one under his old house, too. Moving towards the throne, we find a pit dug in front of the thrones. Ten feet in diameter, and about five feet deep. It’s about the size of the worm tree holes, when they dug them up! Oh Dawnmother!!! What if they have one, what if New Calay is infected? What if they plan to unleash it on our army or New Gnosis?

Stephen hands over a message he found here. It speaks of our army’s approach, and asks the mages here to relocate the “occulus.” Which doesn’t sound like a tree, but what could it refer to? I can feel the pounding of the earth here, and I jump into the hole as Remy takes a look at the magic around this pit. The beating gets louder and stronger as I sit in the pit, trying to reach for it, understand it.

They chatter above me, about the six god statues here. A tall black marble column covered in script of prayers to the Stoneman. An empty ring with faded, delicate tile work of a dancer with a skull for a head, with swords in one hand and scales in the other. A massive stone-carved brazier with stylized sun which says “drive away the night.” A squared off empty plot of tilled, dry, cracked earth. Benches around a massive cylinder carved with shelves, topped with an onyx brain. A broken shrine, with only feet remaining.

They’re nameing the gods and arguing, but I can only hear the pounding heartbeat get louder and louder. The ground starts trembling, rumbling and a monstrous mass of eyeballs bursts out of the pit beside me!

Scrambling back, I try to thunderstep away, but it doesn’t work, the magic doesn’t work! So, I climb up and out and circle away from the thing while it shoots rays from various eyes. Klyce tries to grapple it, but it’s floating, so it doesn’t do much except allow him to keep punching it. Gerhardt is the first to get a spell off, from outside the circle and to the side. Nat falls under a black ray, and Stephen beside her turns to stone. Rays, spells, bullets, and punches fly. Gerhardt finally manages to banish it, but not before Remy, too, turns to stone.

Stunned in the aftermath of the battle, I rush to Nat, but she’s gone, there’s nothing. I pray to the Dawnmother for help, but she does not hear me. Marybeth sobs beside me. Dalish comes over, puts his hands on Nat’s head, to try and bring her back like he brought Remy just a few days ago. It works, but this time, it was too much, and Dalish falls over dead himself. Marybeth’s sobs increase and I pray all the harder.

Beside me, Nat climbs out from under Dalish to find her brother a statue, and her eyes healed! She can see again, and is terribly disoriented by this fact. She starts praying to the Dancer for help, but he can’t save Dalish either. Nat decides she wants to have some tea and visions, to find out what we can do to fix this. We’re too far from the swamp witch, and Durance isn’t likely to give us leave to go back to her anyway. We insist on binding her hands so she can’t mindpalace us when high again, and she has her tea.

Her trance lasts for four hours. Klyce and I get Stephen and Remy back up through the hole in basement floor. Then we wait. But Nat awakes with no more info, except the usual horrible visions of death and destruction. We have a discussion about what to do and who to talk to. Perhaps Durance or one of the other mages can turn Remy back if we take him outside. Nat wonders if Stephen’s books can help fix Dalish and convinces Cerissa to take her to look through them. There is nothing to help the statues, and only spells to create undead creatures, not return life. I send a message to Durance that we’re staying the night here, and we all take rest.

In the morning, leaving Nat and Gerhardt behind with Stephen, because they won’t let us take him out, we head back to camp. Klyce carries Dalish, and I levitate Remy out. Marybeth explains the trip to the basement and below and the eye monstrosity. She explains that Nat and Gerhardt stayed behind to try and find more research into solutions. Klyce explains that we think they might have had a worm tree in the basement, and so the whole world is at threat again.

Lt Durance summarizes our crazy story back to us, to make sure it got it all. Then he tells us to go round up Nat, Gerhardt, and Stephen so we can head to meet up with the rest of the army and get the statues returned to flesh. We argue a little, but cannot disagree that it’s the only way to fix Stephen. So, leaving Remy behind, but taking Dalish with us, we head back to the house.

Nat pulls us all into a mind palace to talk. First item – Dalish. Do we bring him with us in a deep pocket spell, or do we raise him as a powerful undead thing? Arguement ensues, but due to his necromatic leanings, we all agree to let Nat do it. And most of us agree we do not want that should we fall. Second, Klyce asks Cerissa to let us take Stephen, as it’s the only way to fix him. We all swear to protect him with our own lives. She will give us a glyph we can use to get him to safety in an emergency. Third, what about New Calay, the burning, explosions, and the worm tree? Well, if the worm tree is there, it will be us, firebombing the city and rightly so. Everything settled, we pop back out to do some magic.

Nat wants to bring Dalish back as a mummy and asks Cerissa for help. She suggests linked overcharging, and when we all stare dumbly at her, she explains. After disparaging our education. Gerhardt, Cerissa, and Nat join together, sharing their mana and the burden of the overcharge. They wrap Dalish up in strips of cloth and cast their spell. He awakes, though undead, and says he feels better than he has in a long while. He agrees it was the right decision. We give him some mana, but he can’t use it. Marybeth gives him some of the mana from her weird wineskin, and that he Can use. Interesting.

Levitating Stephen, we head back to camp to explain to Durance what we’ve done this time. He is not terribly excited about it and tells Nat that she is now responsible for him and his behavior. Camp packs up and we march for the rest of the day before setting camp.

In the morning, a perfectly living Dalish walks right up into camp, where we are having breakfast with our mummy Dalish.

Warnings, Witches, and Warriors

The voice in the mist says we must pay the price to pass through her swamp. We must Find Her.

I rush to Marybeth , and pull her body back to our camp. Major Dalish decides we’re going to finish our rest before heading out. I barely rest, lying beside my lifeless friend. Surely this witch, Mistress of the Undead, can do something.

In the morning, I send to the Lt. to tell him we were attacked by an arcanist in the swamp, and we’re going to take care of her on our way to the plantation. He simply replies Okay, but in a way that makes me think he’s confused, or busy. The group sits to confer on where to go next. I simply stare at Marybeth, as they argue about heading to the plantation, as our only landmark in this awful place.

Nat leads us forward, but after a very short time, says that we are lost. Remy looks around at the magic of the swamp and sees all schools. We spend the entire day walking in circles because Major Dalish won’t admit we need a different plan than heading for the plantation. Remy spends most of the day arguing with him. That evening, the guys go to take care of the soldiers, but I can’t leave Marybeth. Klyce has carried her with us all day, and I spend the evening before sleeping praying to the Dawnmother that there is a way to bring her back.

We gather up to plan for the next day. Should we try to use Natty’s divination gifts to set us on the right path? At the very least Augury our plan before setting out the next morning? Do anything but keep heading for the plantation? Mid-discussion, shouting breaks out among the soldiers. Giant toads are attacking and eating our men. We burst into action, and it’s a bit of a mess, but between Klyce, Remy, and Dalish, we manage to organize the terrified soldiers enough to help. Unfortunately, we do lose two in the battle, unable to save them from being eaten before we dissected the toads.

I go through the wounded and gather the most greviously injured together. First I tell them about the Dawnmother, and how her light shines upon us, even in this dark swamp. Then I invite them to pray with me and her light heals their deepest wounds. I tell them where the church is in New Gnosis, should they ever wish to worship once the war is over. Then I return to Marybeth and the discussion of plans. Dalish thinks to mark the direction the toads came from, for tomorrow’s march.

I take second watch with Nat, who says there are zombies all around us in the water. But they aren’t moving. This is super creepy, but not unexpected. Somehow, I manage to sleep through til morning. Nat Auguries our path and gets a yes and no, so seems better than just plain no. We go with it. After I report in to the Lt. about our losses and new plan. Klyce takes Marybeth again, and has the soldiers form litters for their fallen, as well.

We find a banyan tree which seems to have eaten an old plantation mansion at the edge of a pond. There is movement in the water as we go around to reach the door. Once on the stoop, the voice bids us enter, but just us, our troops must stay outside. Remy takes them to a dry patch nearby to set up camp. We note dangling mage corpses near the door as we enter.

Zombie servants greet us silently in a row, and a young woman in fancy dress with wild hair descends the stairs. She stops short when she sees us.

You’re just kids!

She apparently can’t see through her undead and did not realize she was attacking children. She is horrified to have done so, and especially to have killed Marybeth. We all agree that our government is terrible for sending us to war, as children. She is at a loss, clearly, but insists that we must still pay the price to cross her lands. Sure, of course, we’ve made enough deals at this point. What does she want? Power, bodies, spells… Klyce immediately offers up three spellbooks for her to choose from. Everyone has copied down all the spells they wanted out of them, we have no use for them anymore. She chooses one and we discuss how different we are and how most mages wouldn’t be so generous.

What about Marybeth? She takes her, and Nat away into a back room. Remy goes out to check on the troops, figuring we’ll be a while. And we are. It is quite some time before she comes back in and escorts us outside, to a brackish pool behind her home.

She pushes Marybeth’s body out into the water and begins chanting. Storms and mists roll in and build. Her chant rises to a crescendo with a clap of thunder and she collapses. The mists part and Marybeth is standing in the water before us. Next to her corpse. The corpse stands up, a glistening, rubbery, black body with fangs, horns, and glowing red eyes. It looks at us, then at Marybeth and smiles. Nat rushes betwen them, but Marybeth walks right past her, towards it. It walks away from the both, casts a spell, mutters something to Marybeth and then disappears. We can hear it running away through the water, but we stand helpless, too far away to stop it.

Our stunned silence is broken by the witch waking up. She stares at Marybeth, terrified. What’s wrong with you girl?! Get out of my Swamp! Now! All of you!

We hustle away as Remy appears around the corner, drawn by the clap of thunder just moments before. We turn him around after he hugs a very confused Marybeth, to get the troops moving. Nat drops back to talk to the witch woman for a moment, but we hustle out as quickly as we can.

Two hours later, we hit the edge of the swamp and the beginning of fields. Marybeth fills us in on what the thing said to her. She believes it was her grandfather, back from the dead, and that he is going to kill her. Nat tries looking into her head, and gets a vision of a hazy conversation with an old man, but not much detail. It doesn’t seem to be like the others. We camp on dry land and send Heyhey out to scout the path ahead. He finds skeleton and zombie scarecrows in every field.

The night is peaceful, and then next day, as we march. The boys entertain themselves by tying up any zombie or skeleton that takes an interest in our troop. Afraid that killing them will alert their creator. Heyhey is able to scout all the way ahead to the mansion that night. A big old Grecian thing surrounded by woods to mark it off from the fields. There are loads of soldiers with big guns and they are fortified for a fight. We push the men forward to within a quarter mile of the place and dig in for the night.

Dalish casts Invisibility on Remy and Nat, who sneak closer for a better look at their defenses. It is some time before they come back, without Heyhey, and with bad news. They know we’re coming. The mage is looking forward to it. Klyce tries to sign at Nat to make a mind palace, but she can’t see without her Heyhey. So, I tap it out in her hand for her. We have to plan in secret.

Dead Things and Stephen?

Nat, after some nudging, tells us that Stephen’s body is supposed to be in the basement, under a spell that should prevent him from being turned into undead. Clearly, it didn’t work. We’ll have to look into that later, but for the moment, we keep heading deeper.

The air gets dryer and colder. The road narrows, the buildings getting closer and closer together. Dalish detects residual mana in the air, but it’s not a lot. There is rustling nearby, and we all stop. Blacked skeletons with coal red eyes, and a bunch of tiny smoke monsters burst out of an alley and attack.

I shoot some of them, this crossbow seems pretty useful and easier today. We do manage to make them dead… again… and Gerhardt once again comes through, patching us up after the fight. I sit with Maribeth while the others begin looking around. Nat finds the right path to get to townsquare.

We head that way, and can hear shuffling all around us. We move our lights away from us to try an get them to chase it. We got to the square, though, before they got to us. There is an old big green wicker witch there, like at the festival. And there’s some crying coming from it. Nat approaches, as the shuffling moves away from us again.

She calls out, and a voice answers. When she tells the voice her name, it becomes an enraged shadowy figure shouting for her to Fix It! She attacks and we’re fighting again. I try my spell again, but it still causes more problems than gains. Or at least that’s what the boys say. I don’t know how to do anything else though.

Dalish finds footprints heading into the townhall, so we all head in. It’s a bit of a maze in there. Crumbled walls and burned out beams. There are two ashey, pale figures with glowing eyes and sharp teeth. They are arguing about bells, paper, and shoes. We quietly argue about what to do, until Remy walks right by them. Shrugging, and happy to not be fighting again, we follow suit. We pass another pair who are also arguing about packing things.

Eventually, we find a set of stairs going down. Exhausted, we take a break to rest. Nat keeps poking around though, and finds a strange symbol in the corner. Remy and Dalish look, too. They all decide it is definitely necromatic, but no one is sure what it does. Rested, we head down the stairs. And down, and down, and down. At the bottom, we start hearing the sound of boiling liquid, fire, and wind blowing from somewhere.

Voices drift up to us. Master, they approach. They come to fast. I know, I can feel them, too.

We head in to a room filled with tables, books, and alchemy equipment. There’s a boiling cauldron with green liquid inside. Stephen is in front of it, with a female strange ashen figure. Nat immediately calls out to her brother, demanding to know what he’s doing. Stephen is not interested in talking, though. Remy shouts out that he’s not going to let us leave and we start attacking.

Chaos erupts. Nat tackles Stephen. Stephen bites Nat. Dalish tries to spill the cauldron on the bad guys. Maribeth closes the doorway with a sheet of metal. I lift him up into the air when he steps away from Nat. He turns to mist and floats away, leaving us to fight his servant. Klyce insists Stephen will be fine and we should just let him go. Dalish tries to stab the girl with a wooden stake he found. Nat tries, too. She bites Klyce pretty deeply, but eventually we manage to put her down and Klyce rips her head off. It’s pretty gruesome, so Maribeth, Nat, and I start looking around for other things.

They found a bunch of scrolls, potions, platinum coins and books. Apparently the book had a ton of spells in it that they can all learn. The scrolls were spells, too, and the potions had a lot of healing in them. Seems like a good haul for our troubles, if we get to keep it.

We decide it’s pointless to try and find Stephen, so we head out. The creepy arguing folk are all gone. Klyce is feeling pretty weak, so we give him all the water, orange juice, and wine that we’re carrying. This, unfortunately, makes him very drunk. Fortunately, all the undead leave us alone as we exit the cave. Klyce is funny when he’s drunk. Eventually, Remy casts silence to stop all our arguing. When we get outside, Klyce wants to go swimming, but he’s way too drunk, so I levitate him to stop him and we pull him back to the castle. Once there, he immediately starts baking all the things. Drunk Klyce makes excellent bread and muffins. But he’s really heavy when he passes out. Dalish makes a magic disc to carry him to bed, and we all take a well deserved sleep.

Ghosts, Corpses, and Maribeth

On Saturday, we get up early again, and I help a few of the gang out with the obstacle course so a few more of them can get the Jump spell. Nat manages to run it fast enough to get Expeditious Retreat, as well. Then he and I go check the Lost and Found. There are a lot less notices, now. Looks like Malden found the stuff in the tunnels and gave it back.

Nat, Dalish, and I go down to check on the secret room in the tunnels, but it’s gone. Dalish notices some trace magic around the area that lead to it, but nothing left. Nat wants to start mapping the tunnels, so I suggest we find the entrances to all the other buildings so we can get around without getting caught by the groundskeeper. We find our way to the Main Hall and come out in that weird hall of doors by the kitchen.

That evening, we decide to stake out the deal. Nat, Remy, and I wait in the foyer, while Dalish goes up to the Astronomy tower. When three hooded figures come down, Remy tries to ‘bump’ into them, and they put him to sleep. Nat gets mad and starts yelling at them, trying to yank one of their hoods down, but his hand goes right through. Then we both fall asleep, too. Dalish is there when we wake up. He says they went out and came back, just like before, but from the tower he couldn’t see more than that. We convince Nat to talk to Malden in Philosophy, since he’s the only one in the class.

We take a trip to the infirmary. Then things got really strange. Everyone started talking to mirrors name Nurse Honey, and Maribeth handed coins to nothing. I go look in the mirror and see a strange statue, too weird! Remy then started talking to a ghost named Barry, who answered him back, but was very sad. This is so boring! So I start making strange noises around the room and flickering the torches. Then Maribeth turns herself into a sexy nurse lady! If that wasn’t strange enough, Dalish starts casting sickness spells at people, and this ghost nurse heals them and gives them spells. Remy starts thinking about casting Shocking Grasp on people to see what they could learn, and Raltus kicks us out for the day.

We decide to go to the Library to look for history books. Dalish wants to know about Nurse Honey, I want to know about Grumpkins. All the books here are boring and dry though. Nothing about the history of the school, and fairies are just stories. We give up after a while and go back to studying for the week to come.

Nat fills us in his meeting with Malden in Philosophy. He told him everything, and Malden believed him! Malden thinks we’re in danger and we should be careful, but keep looking. Nat says they might have been followed when he took him out to the trade spot, so we decide to all stick together.

Malden starts teaching the others Detect Magic. Maribeth hasn’t spoken to me since Thursday night. I cast Message and ask what’s wrong, but she won’t say. Just that she can’t be around us anymore. In P.E., Remy says he snuck into Maribeth’s room, but doesn’t find anything. He says he got a letter from home with ashes in it. Whoever is behind this burned down their outhouse. Nat offers to go talk to Maribeth, and I tell him to be nice. He, however, turns and runs straight at her, and she falls down and goes limping off to the infirmary instead of talking. NAT!!! I message her an apology.

We decide to take Remy’s letter to Professor Alleria, the divination teacher. She says an Unseen Servant wrote it, so there’s nothing else she can tell. She instructs Nat to practice using his unseen eye.

Worried that the thieves have changed their plans because of last weekend, we decide to keep watch on Friday, just in case. Nat dresses me in some of his old clothes, so I’ll fit in outside the school wall. Then he and I go around the houses and taverns near the school to look for any suspicious activity. When it gets pretty late, we try to get back in, but the gates are closed, so we sneak off to my house and sleep in the stables’ hayloft.

When we get back in the morning, Dalish says he and Malden watched from the tower, and Remy from the lobby, but no one saw anything. We’ll have to try again tonight.