I wrote this on Friday but never posted it, so here we are! It’s super wordy. Sorry.
After a long and bloody battle with the gnolls, Tamlyn has run screaming into the night and Kratos– dripping with warm blood and his rage retreating –points to the thread of light, still illuminating the dark night as if it was a misplaced slice of day. Desdemona nods, exhausted, but approaches the light as close as she’s able. The memory of the shrieking, vaporized gnoll is still fresh in their minds. Desdemona pulls the mystic stones from her bag and, still wary of distance, conjures a large, spirit-made hand. Each move she makes is reflected in its ethereal form. The group watches as it picks up the stones and places them in a triangle around the light. They begin to pulse and glow with color, a sunset of colors warming on their surface. The air seems to vibrate. After a handful of silent minutes, the glowing stops. There is a tense, expectant moment where the group waits for something else to happen. Nothing.
“Well,” Fairinduil says, breaking the silence, “That was anticlimactic.” Almost everyone rolls their eyes.
Desdemona, still in control of the large, floating hand, picks up the stones and drops them in front of the group. The hand fades into nothing. She picks the stones up– still glowing and rather hot to the touch –and sets them carefully back into her bag. “That’s our job done,” she says.
“Let’s get back,” Kratos says. “I’ll carry Nemeia.”
His chest might puff out in pride at this, but no one remarks on it. Fairin definitely makes a face behind his back. The group walks back through the stinking, fetid gnoll graveyard, across the outlying field, and up a small grassy hill. They make camp, the strange thread of light always in their sight, and sleep under the stars. The next morning, they set out for Haberlin. Nemeia is groggy, still not fully recovered, and Kratos helps her on their way.
As they walk toward Haberlin, there’s a rustling in the brush nearby. As they move, the rustling seems to follow. Desdemona is quick to notice, and gives a little shout to whatever is very un-stealthily following them. A bit more rustling and then out comes– a gnome.
“That’s… new,” mutters Fairinduil. Which is fair. He didn’t think gnomes even existed. Kratos, diplomatic gentleman that he is, picks the gnome up and shakes her, demanding to know what she is, who she is, and what business she has. After enough shouting and motioning for Kratos to put her the hell down, the gnome dusts herself off and shyly begins her tale. Her name is Roywin, and much like Kratos and Desdemona, has been charged with gathering information on the strange thread of light. Roywin sneaks glances at the slightly glowing stones inside Des’ bag and asks to see them. She’s met with an awkward pause and a firm no. “But we’re headed to Haberlin, if you’d like to join us there,” Des says.
Roywin agrees. The group now has a gnome. Kratos stares suspiciously at her as they walk, but after a while forgets to watch her, seemingly not thinking she’s much of a threat. Fairin watches her movements with curiosity. Because she’s a gnome. A gnome. As if two enormous horned aspect children weren’t enough. They were going to be the life of the party anywhere they went. And probably not in a good way.
The sky darkens, a little too early to be evening. On the horizon, dark clouds are gathering. When it’s pointed out to the rest of the group, there’s mixed reactions. This region is in a drought, so Des, Kratos, and their new gnome friend think it’s great. And Fairin– well, he doesn’t think it’s ominous. No, not at all.
Once evening hovers over the land, it begins to rain. There’s lights a little north of them, and the group decides to make their way towards what is certainly a town. It is– a small village by the name of Ghatford. It seems to be built on a river bed, and the group descends, past wooden houses and pastures of goats, to a stone-built inn and tavern. There’s only three rooms available – the fourth is leaking with rain. They pay a few coins for the night. Desdemona takes a room for herself, feeling a little too important with the stones in her bag. Fairin brings Nemeia into a room– and let it be said Nemeia’s caught a bit of venturing sickness. She’s floating in between planes and Fairin thinks if you’ve got to have a roommate, why not let it basically be a half-ghost version of a friend? Yeah. Exactly.
That leaves Kratos with Roywin. They put down their packs in their rooms upstairs, and then head back down to the tavern to have a few drinks. Kratos somehow manages to convince the entire crowd at the tavern that they are definitely, totally, absolutely responsible for the rain. They did magic. With rocks. It was all very exciting and dangerous. Needless to say the town is half-drunk and ecstatic at the news that a ton of strangers changed the weather. None of the group has to buy their own drinks.
Three villagers sit down with the group when they hear this– Joze, Alexi, and Sebastian. They trade stories, talk about the town, but then Alexi brings up a topic both Joze and Sebastian dislike: a place on his land called Hagan’s Tooth. There’s superstition about the area– which Alexi laughs and waves off –saying it’s a regular old cave that no one seems to like for no reason in particular. It’s said that the owner of the land that the cave lies on will eventually go insane. But Alexi’s doing just fine, so they continue drinking and chatting.
The next morning, everyone’s having breakfast downstairs. Kratos seems to be inhaling his food rather than eating like a normal, civilized person, which seems to only offend Des. It rained throughout the night, and is still raining now, the pattering against the inn’s roof making it clear it will mostly likely rain the rest of the day as well. Fairin is halfway to putting some bread in his mouth when there’s swift rushing sound.
Water has flooded into the inn through the outside door. The floor is suddenly a few inches deep with water. The rain is still pounding down, and the water is steadily rising. Someone curses. Desdemona is up and running up the stairs, Fairin jumps over to Roywin and picks her up from the rising water without asking (“Uh, sorry?” he mutters), while Kratos continues to shovel the rest of his breakfast down his throat.
Desdemona is upstairs, grabbing her bag from her room. Fairin quickly follows, Roy still in his arms. He sets her down, and a moment later Kratos is upstairs as well. Outside, the water is several feet high, the rain pouring in sheets, and the current looks strong. They need to get out of there, fast. Several things happen:
- Desdemona jumps out of her bedroom window, trying to scale down the side of the building and into the water. She missteps, and falls.
- Fairin pulls Roy onto his back with a “Heave ho, little buddy,” and jumps from the hallway window and outside, right onto the roof of the next building over. He lands gracefully, Roywin still on his back. Kratos follows.
- Desdemona gets up, struggles through the water to the building where the rest of the group are. They lower a rope. Kratos and Fairin heave Des up the building until she’s on the roof with them.
- The building ahead of them– where they were going to jump next –has caught fire. “Oh for fuck’s sake–” Fairin begins, but it is cut off as Kratos charges past them and jumps onto the roof of the flaming building and then falls through, right into the building’s inferno.
- Fairin scales carefully down the east side of the building, where the current isn’t as strong, Roywin with him still. Des also tries to scale down but manages to slip again and crashes into the water. Fairin throws a rope, pulls her to relative safety.
Inside the burning building, Joze is calling out for his daughter, Dera. Kratos finds her, picks her up and hauls her out of the front of the building, Joze not far behind. There’s three panicking horses nearby, and a wagon which is stuck fast. Kratos lays Dera down on the wagon and instructs Joze to stay with her. He can’t walk past the horses without them kicking him wildly so he manages to set one loose.
Meanwhile, Des is able to make her way to one of the horses and is using some kind of druid animal magic to calm it down. Everything seems to be doing okay until a huge wave crashes into Roywin, pushing her downstream. She manages to grab onto the corner of a building and Fairin is about to help her when a hand grabs onto Roywin’s leg, trying to pull her under. Between Roywin’s shriek, the pounding rain, the rush of water, and the phenomenal amount of luck they’ve been having recently, Fairinduil assumes the worst. He nocks an arrow into his crossbow and fires. It’s a perfect shot. The hand releases Roywin, blood stains the water, but another rush of the current and Roywin’s fingers slip. She’s whisked downstream. As she goes, the unknown shape that dragged her down buoys up to the surface of the water– a dwarf woman. She’s bleeding heavily, unconscious, and is taken downstream by the current as well. Fairin throws the crossbow across his back and, full of anger and guilt, let’s the current take him downstream, to see if he can find Roy and the dwarf woman.
Kratos can’t get the wagon loose or the horses to cooperate, so he has Joze take his daughter to the high land to the north, where the rest of the villagers are gathering. Des’ horse has calmed down and she’s able to take him through scrub brush, which slows the water, and up onto high land. The water has slowed, the current not as fast and strong. Kratos makes his way to the gathered villagers.
An enormous, panicked wolf breaks through the brush as well. He’s starving, and traumatized, and headed straight for one of the villagers. Before Des can try to calm the creature, Kratos throws his javelin. It’s a near miss but it panics the wolf even further and it goes for the first thing it sees– a village boy. There is blood everywhere. Kratos throws another javelin, and Desdemona’s magic makes the wolf run off. Des gets close to the boy who is still alive, but not by much. She leans down, feels the earth in her hands and her blood and whispers words that no one can hear. In a flash of light, the boy is whole. He gasps awake and stands. The villagers are in awe. Their town has been destroyed, but one of their own was saved.
Fairin washes up onto a sandbar, where Roywin and the dwarf woman are already laid out. Roy is fine, just waterlogged, but the dwarf doesn’t look good. Fairin rips the sleeves from his shirt, pushes the arrow from the woman’s body, and wraps the cloth around the wound. Roy helps him keep pressure on the wound in an effort to save her. She stabilizes. They bandage her as best as possible, and see a commotion up ahead of them, and what looks like a wolf running through a crowd. Fairin lifts the woman up and half-carries-half-walks her toward the villagers, Roy in his wake.
The villagers have a hard time accepting the group after the whole “Kratos-and-his-friends-made-it-rain-in-the-first-place” spiel, but it works itself out. Everyone is very wet, very ragged, and it’s still raining. Alexi points out that Hagan’s Tooth has plenty of room for the villagers and their goats, and so they set out.
At the cave’s entrance, Roywin shines some light on her dagger, and a sphere of light seems to glow from it. She ventures deep into the cave, but when she returns, there’s nothing eerie to report. The villagers gather into the mouth of the cave, with their goats, and settle into sleep. There’s a long descending tunnel that opens into another room. The group follows it. They decide to sleep in shifts, keeping watch in case of any further bad luck. When it’s Desdemona’s shift, there’s movement from the front of the cavern. Alexi, the villager whose land they were on, creeps forward and across the cave, to a small alcove. There’s a shuffling sound, and then– he disappears.
After a few silent minutes, shuffling and clicking sound from further down from where the group is sleeping. Des wakes everyone up. Kratos wakes up half the villagers with his stomping. They make their way down another long tunnel, and find themselves in another room. It’s wet, and a small body of water glows with phosphorescence. Further down, there’s a spiral staircase. Kratos stomps his way down, Des following.
“Great idea, everybody,” Fairin says to no one. Roy has already begun her descent. Fairin follows.
Now deep into the Hagan’s Tooth, Kratos sees a shortsword with an intricate ivory handle laying on the ground. Before anyone can say “hey, that’s not suspicious at all, definitely pick that up,” Kratos has hefted it into his hand.
“Good idea,” Fairin says. No one is listening. The room they’ve entered has a long ramp up to another enormous door with huge dragon-like horns framing the doorway. On either side of the room, along the ramp, is murky, brackish water. Ivy hangs down the walls, and some kind of water vegetation strings and winds itself atop the water’s surface.
The ground is slippery, and in single file, Fairin in the lead– why not, he thinks, the rest of the day has been going so well, after all– they make their way toward the door. Dark shapes move in the water, following them.
As soon as they’re a few feet away from the large, dragon horn-framed door, four Koa-tua rise up from the water. Monstrous, disgusting fish creatures, gills sucking the air and large spears in their hands. The two creatures near the front, toward Fairin, throw their spears. One of them misses but the other pierces him through the leg. He tries to nock an arrow and fire in retaliation, but misses, the pain in his leg too much. The battle begins. Kratos flies into a rage, Desdemona calls on her magic, and Roywin dodges and parries attacks. One of the Koa-tua falls. Roywin is quick on her feet, and continues dodging. Spells light the air, the air crackling with ozone. Kratos bellows and attacks in his rage, killing one. Fairin swings his rapier, slicing one of the attackers in half, but eventually is pierced again by another spear, falling prone. He’s almost dragged under water, but Des, Roy, and Kratos manage to defeat the remaining creatures.
At the door, each of them take a turn listening, to see what they can hear. Fairin only hears a single voice, but he’s been bashed in the head, so no one takes him seriously. Roywin can hear five distinct voices. If there are more Koa-tua they might be totally screwed. But Desdemona points out that there might have been captives or prisoners of the fishlike creatures. The group opens the door.
They are met with four more Koa-tua, and a fifth Koa-tua wearing robes, holding a mechanical pincer that has Alexi in its grasp, dangling over a pool of acid. They are totally screwed.
Fairin rushes forward, slicing one of the creatures with his rapier. Roywin and Kratos follow, Desdemona taking the rear. More magic, more bashing and bellowing, more injury. Fairin dispatches of a Koa-tua and goes after the leader– a mistake. The leader drops Alexi into the acid pool and uses the pincer to grab Fairin. Everyone is exhausted, injured, close to passing out. Roywin goes after Fairin, Desdemona and Kratos teaming up against the Koa-tua. Roywin barely manages to get to Fairin in time– he’s been dropped in the pool of acid, but she’s able to drag him out. The leader tries to grab Roywin and misses. With the last of the Koa-tua dispatched, Kratos and Desdemona go after the leader.
It doesn’t end well, for the leader.
Fairin and Roy are pulled even further out from the pool of acid. Kratos grabs the leader’s pincer to try and pull Alexi out of the pool too– but something dark and tentacled grabs Alexi’s body and pulls him even further down.
The Koa-tua are defeated. Fairin and Roy are near-dead. Kratos and Desdemona are barely standing. But they’re technically alive.
And the story’s not over.