We made camp away from the island in a quiet spot that offered cover and good line of sight.
Cane, unusually loquacious, shared the nature of his love for Sizzles as the rest of us prepared to bed down. It sounds very similar to something Little Billee tried with his cat, and you saw what came of that—they almost didn’t get the bleeding to stop. At least the cat is safe, although we won’t know if Billee’s the same until adolescence.
Cane volunteered to take the first watch, prowling the perimeter of our camp like the wolf he holds so dear. All was quiet once Lev and Trask stopped arguing about the names our new towns would bear (Ilsagrad and Varnville). the next thing I knew I awoke to Cane’s sunrod blazing forth. At first I thought I was dreaming because I couldn't make sense of what I was seeing. It looked like Cane was wrestling with shadows—shadows with claws! It was a soul eater from Beyond.
“Good thing I’m soulless,” Cane laughed, returning to the battle with a loud and nasty thunderstrike. He stared at the creature in dismay as it cackled maniacally, “Hee hee haha ahhaw heh heh ehe ehe heh ha ha hah ha ha ha!” while raking him savagely.
Trask hit it with three arrows to little avail as Lev began spouting his familiar “You guys are great,” speech and we all felt a little better about ourselves. I stepped up, took a couple of licks from the monster, and returned its affections with strong slashes from my sword.
Suddenly a burst of noise erupted from Vlad buffeting the creature. Trask followed with a single shot but deadly aim. Sizzles then ripped into the soul eater ferociously as it flew into shreds about her head like chicken feathers from a slain hen.
It was still dark so we tried to resting until dawn came glimmering from the east. I found myself gazing at the north star and wondering what you were dreaming. Ever since the owlbear rampaged through Tuskland I’ve seen how little my protection is worth when I'm away. Gods bless Bert Askew, but I doubt if his noodle arms could fight anything larger than a housecat.
With a start, I realized that it was morning, awakening to the sound of Sizzles whining piteously. “She had a bad dream,” Cane said, rubbing the back of her neck. “It was a Cyclops, old as the hills with a glowing red eye.”
“And he probably chased his tail!” Trask scowled as I hastily folded my blankets. “Are you really trying to relate to us what Sizzles saw in a dream?” he scoffed.
“Yes, I am,” Cane replied, taken aback. “And Sizzles is a she.”
I sat by the fire as they bickered, drinking a hot cup of coffee. A half moon was waning at the edge of the sky. Then we packed our camp and saddled up, Lev and Cane in the lead.
Before long, over the distant scrub, we could see a tower jutting up. We came to a rushing river where we saw an island—a large rock, really—at the tower’s base. It was Vordakai's Tomb, the place from where no one returns. A hundred feet of water separated us. Tethering the horses we unfolded our boat, making for the island. At the foot of the cliff, where the beach was rimmed by a limestone scarp, there was a dark opening in the stone, partially obscured by creepers. Cane noticed tracks in the mud. Three creatures had passed this way over the previous three weeks: the first was human, the second was something very large, and, most recently, unshod horse hooves—a centaur.
“This makes me angry,” Cane muttered.
Lev led the way in. It was very dark and I walked careful of debris on the ground. Lev reported that there were arches overhead, stopping us before we crossed their plane. He said runes were writ there—a magic ward. Lev and Trask moved ahead while I cast light and the rest of us explored the alcoves. We found human tracks, going into and then returning from the tunnel ahead. The huge footprints emerged while the centaur’s entered.
Farther along we found an amphora that had been broken open, spilling 689 ancient gold pieces. Each was stamped on one side with the image of an all-seeing eye, a clenched fist dominated the other. Buried in the coins was a jade bracelet—the one described by Master Pendrod!
“Worth 200 gold on eFey,” Cane joked.
Rubble lay strewn on the ground. As we collected the coins our colleagues went ahead, peering around a bend in the tunnel. Lev noted that the entire structure of the tomb was imbued with preserving magic.
That’s when they spied a large creature shambling unaware towards us, a zombie cyclops!
With Lev whispering encouragement in his ear Trask let fly with a flaming arrow.
“Querrowlowlowl!” we heard it howl as the arrow hit true.
Through the wall there was a muffled “Querrowlowlowl!” in answer.
Cane quickly followed up the attack, cutting a large bloodless hunk from its pale flesh. I cast hide from undead and moved forward but the fight was quickly over when Vlad blew it away using a spell of searing light.
The muffled growling became more distinct as stones tumbled from the wall and another zombie cyclops broke through.
This time Vlad’s searing light failed miserably—perhaps his powder wasn’t dry. Trask calmly filled it with arrows as Cane’s sword fell so heavily that its blue spine went spiraling through the air all by itself.
We collected their masterwork battleaxes and moved through a door into a large cavern with stalactites dripping from the roof. A wide pool filled the chamber except for a narrow shelf hugging the wall at the level of the river outside. We saw no tracks. Lev noticed that there were stairs in the river going down. Cane stripped to his trunks, much less shy now that Piea has left our group. He had hardly disappeared down the steps when we saw the water begin to roil.
“I like watching the failure of others,” Trask smirked, “especially if it was my action that sent them to their doom.”
What Cane had encountered was an Elasmosaurus. I’ll leave it to you to research the creature but, needless to say, it was large and vicious. Bleeding badly, Cane cried, “Look at my side! I’ve got a chunk out of it! That was a bad idea.”
“We’ve got to kill it because there’s stuff down there,” Trask grumbled.
“Well, I’m not going to be bait for it!” Cane said hotly.
“Let’s stop being little girls about this and let’s go get this done, buttercups,” Trask growled, frowning with his one good eye.
I cast spiritual weapon and gingerly placed it under the water. The creature sat unperturbed as it popped away at him. Cane, healed somewhat by Vlad, swaggered back into the water after the creature, getting bitten once again. I heard Vlad screech in pain, realizing that he had cast friend shield, taking half of Cane’s damage.
Trask shot an arrow into the water, nicking it. I tried, too, but hit Cane instead. I heard a curse bubble from the water
“Ha ha ha ha,” Trask shouted. “How delicious! Friends make the best enemies!”
Sizzles entered the fray but the creature matched him bite for bite. Then it turned to lash at Cane again but this time he was ready. With the flash of his blade the fight was over.
We found that it had been protecting a pouch containing a silver raven figurine of wondrous power and a ring of freedom of movement. We quickly rolled dice for possession of the ring and, for once, the gods smiled on Cane.
The firelight is getting dim and I must get some rest before I go on watch. I’ll continue this story next time.