Woke up to a lovely morning and some Mercykillers ever so kindly informing us that we were no longer welcome in the barracks due to having completed the task assigned to us. Thrimbar has his own jobs for us, but he’s not associated with the Mercykillers really and it would be a stretch to say we were every truly welcome. Grumpy grumpy.
Homeless “Fated Ones,” forced to roam the streets…hehe maybe, maybe not. Still having the other side of the portal, recently vacated, we decided to head over there verses trying to stay in Sigil. We could possibly make something useful out of it and I at least have no complaints over our new “home sweet home” not being in Sigil. It’ll take a lot of soap, water, and purification rituals to make that place clean again, but being near that rain again sounded nice. Ah the nostalgia of the sound of rain and smell of sweet dirt. If ever I were to start a garden, that might be the place. I was also looking forward to giving a proper burial to the poor experiments in that terrible lab, if the storm should ever give way for even a short time so I could safely venture outside long enough to lay them to rest. They undoubtedly didn’t deserve their cruel fate. The human corpses I didn’t much care about, but the animals were innocent. Alma grew antsy as I thought about that place, opting to fly above and a short ways behind me. I certainly couldn’t blame him for his reaction. I imagine it’s the last place he ever wanted to return to. Maybe upon cleaning it up and avoiding the lab, it will be different. Aislyn alternated between resting on my right shoulder and going back by her mate, the two of them hooting softly at each other from time to time.
I just followed Bob’bi to a temple near the well to get a spell that would allow us to breathe underwater. Her morals are maybe a little questionable, but she seems to know her way around. Also, she’s kinda freaky looking and that possibly lowers our chances of randomly getting in unfavourable circumstances. So long as she doesn’t try to kindly lighten anyone’s pockets for them.
Easily purchasing two breathing spells each, we went to the well, eventually all assembling there. Alma continued to flit around as well as a bird so large can flit. Some people openly stared, probably wondering what was going on as he is rather hard to miss, practically a small, feathered child with wings. After the spell was cast, he perched once more on my left shoulder, his long talons digging in more than I cared for in his anxious grip. I briefly placed my hand on the middle of his back, lightly petting his brown feathers with my fingertips before walking through the portal.
I’m not sure that the sensation of being in water yet breathing as though there was air is one that someone can quite get used to. My owls seemed quite confused initially to be floating without the use of their large wings. Aislyn soon began to happily swim around, enjoying the water trailing heavily through her feathers. Alma never quite lost the perturbed look on his face, occasionally flapping his wings slowly as the gentle current pushed us all along towards the bunker. I was tempted to embrace my inner merman, though memories of fighting many a water elemental bade me to pay attention yet to my surrounds. We did, however, arrive to the bunker without a hitch. The elementals didn’t seem to be concerned at all about our return.
Upon opening the door to the bunker, the most vile stench assaulted my nose. Silly me, worried about elementals when clearly this smell would be our downfall. While fighting down the urge to gag, I saw Bob’bi run past me and retch in the corner. Water elementals must not have noses, but it was hard to tell. That’s not quite what I was paying attention to in our past, ever so intimate encounters. Ooze soon opened the portal and Bob’bi, upon finishing displacing her breakfast, pulled the bodies of the lizards through, hoping to dispel the offending odor. With any luck, it’ll work.
On the other side of the portal, we appeared in the same small room. Alma flew over to the wall, listening. “Storm rages on,” he reported. Well, there goes my plans for proper burial, at least for a while. I wonder if the sun ever comes out here. Heading over to the lab, Alma became increasingly agitated. It quickly became obvious that something was very wrong. Entering the room, there was blood everywhere, even more than what originally had tainted the room. With dismay, I noticed that all the bodies were gone. Who or what could have taken them? While it hadn’t been a task I had been looking forward to necessarily, I felt obligated to give the poor creatures that much respect and dignity which they had ultimately been denied in life. The only thing I could do was try to figure out what had happened. Maybe they had merely been moved? Chances of such seemed slim, but hoping couldn’t hurt. Somehow I felt like I owed at least this much to Alma.
Casting detect magic, I sensed terribly evil magic lurking within the new blood, invisible wisps connecting it to the chamber of blood farther ahead. To my eyes, the blood lit up on the floor as I followed the dreadful trail through the barracks. Realizing the trap door was closed, we paused. I was sure that it had been left open after we had raided the coppers and Ooze got a new favourite spoon. The deformed horse also claims he’s sure the door had been left open. I very cautiously open the door, only to find a terrified gnome inside. Whoever he is, he seems to know Bob’bi. She claims that he’s simply part of a cleanup crew that she found to help restore the place, but I’m pretty sure we could all tell she was obviously lying. Truthfully, she tracked down some crazy gnome to try to get that mechanical arm attached to her, evidently offering up the research here as part of the trade. She sold the suffering of Alma and countless others to a crazed gnome, knowing full well that he intended to use and continue the research. Counting on such for her own grotesque gain. The jovial side of me wanted to joke, to comment that she hardly needs a mechanical arm with how scary the rest of her is, but the rest of me seethed, far outweighing any such trivial play. I clenched and released my fists a few times, trying to remember how to breathe. Now wasn’t the time for this. Now something was still terribly wrong. Maybe, with any luck, whatever tore through here crushed that gnome into more pieces that could ever be counted and the research remains buried, where it belongs.
At some point or another, Ooze caught the little gnome and began trying to interrogate him. I was tempted to lock him back in the room and “forget” he was there for a couple weeks or so…though the only intent this little one seems to have is to exit as soon as he can. Ooze asked it what it saw and it just held its arms out as wide as it could and said “big.” That sure narrows it down. He’s only barely bigger than Alma. An owl. That sits on my shoulder. The doors in this place must seem fierce.
Ooze then picked up our helpful witness and threw him into the cathedral. He screamed, pounding on the door and begging to be let out before all abruptly goes quiet. I might have felt a little bit bad for the guy. This one didn’t seem too bad. Eventually, it gave another pretty useless description, but at least we knew whatever it was so scared of wasn’t in the room. As Ooze opened the door, the gnome tried to stab him screaming “I hate you! I hope it eats you too!” With that, he ran away as fast as his chicken legs could carry him. We were about to enter the room when he poked his head back around the corner, asking Bob’bi and I if he could stay with us or for help going back. Still none too pleased with the gnomes being here, I largely ignored it, instead wondering idly what the skittish thing would do if say Alma suddenly leapt off my shoulder and landed directly in front of him. Bob’bi explained that we didn’t have enough blood to open the portal for just him, but he could stay us and she promised to look after him. Maybe I should have warned him that Bob’bi might sell him if it became convenient.
Entering the chamber of blood, there was what I can only think to describe as a beacon of magic. As if the new blood coating the walls, the evil magic, or the gnome’s panic weren’t worrisome enough, this certainly promised trouble; trouble that seemed to have left a train out the hole in the wall, leading deep into the forest beyond. We needed to follow it. That much was obvious. What might be waiting at the other end wasn’t a terribly pleasant though. Whatever could do so much damage was bound to be much larger and stronger than elementals and poor experiments. Well, there were four of us and past trials hadn’t killed us yet. Seven, including my lovely owls and the deformed horse. Might as well find it before it finds us.
When the gnome realized that we were going out after Big Evil Guy Not To Be Messed With, it started shrieking again. So much noise from something so small…given the choice between tagging along with Bob’bi to protect him and waiting alone, it decided, more or less, to come along. Something about this gnome seems to have caused sadistic tendencies to form in Ooze, or to bring them out more. He looked ready to kick the gnome the entire way there rather than leaving him behind. He probably would have been safer back in that secret room. The offer to let him ride the yellow horse seems to have helped. Oh well. One must drink the poison he chooses.
Outside, the rain was most welcome. The energy from this blessèd water gently tugged away at the rage tinged with betrayal swirling in my chest, washing it all away for the time being. I still remembered the cause perfectly, but the reaction was kept at bay. I could breathe again and the fresh forest air did me some good. Aislyn and especially Alma were relieved to be out of that place, despite out intended destination. Regardless of whatever else she might be, Bob’bi was useful to have in a fight and a fight is what we’re inclined to get on this path. Ooze chattered pretty endlessly about what he was seeing, also having cast detect magic. I could still see the magical trail just fine, so I tuned him out and enjoyed the scenery. Everything just seemed…better somehow. I was aware that we had been walking for quite a while, but felt no fatigue. Rather, I felt I could walk endlessly without issue. The colours of the dense forest grew brighter, clearer and my owls happily flew about in the droplets. If things don’t work out with the rest of the group, maybe I could find a way to live out here, hopefully without exploding. That can ruin a nice day pretty fast. The rain gradually eased up, allowing the sun to shine down from behind the clouds, casting a glorious rainbow across the sky. I don’t recall the sun ever looking so perfect before or sunlight feeling so pleasantly warm on my damp skin. I watched in fascination as the grass began growing longer before my eyes. Still the trail glowed on.
Approaching the edge of the forest, the ground began to grow steeper. Soon we came across some type of burrow with odd holes in it, like something brutally tore the inhabitants out. My owls then heard a scream in the distance. Sounds like we found our fight. I considered trying to identify the sound, but it would take longer than it was worth to page through the massive book. Instead, we simply continued on. It wouldn’t take long for our eyes to do the identifying.
Entering a clearing we saw a huge, blue, tentacled beast somehow attaching other animals onto itself. Two small, luminescent orbs floated a short ways above the hideous thing. The gnome looks up in utter terror, shrieking wildly and trying to take off on Zariel’s horse before passing out. Bob’bi pulled out a dagger and hid behind a tree. I was about to ready my bow when Ooze, true to form, began playing his tuba. The beast began staring intently at Ooze, fascinated by the sound. I paused, not wanting to break the trance of sorts it seemed to be under as it began swaying slightly, happily listening. The gnome woke up again and Ooze kicked it to silence him, though the beast paid it no mind.
Meanwhile, Bob’bi snuck around behind the fiendish creature and began to scale its back to reach the orbs. Upon her attacking the orb, it retaliated, causing bursts of energy to flood out of her where the shots connected. The spell broken, the beast roared to life, its sights set on the owner of the illustrious tuba. Bob’bi tends to have a pretty good idea about where to start, so I sent Alma up by her where they flanked one of the orbs. My precise aim can be both a blessing and a curse sometimes. One on hand, I was confident I wouldn’t hit Alma. On the other, I couldn’t pretend an arrow accidently lodged where Bob’bi’s nose ought to have been. Alas. Arrows to the face have solved so many other problems before.
Finishing off the orbs, I began firing at the rest of the monster. I saw what looked like a sword briefly poking out between the plates on the tentacled monstrosity‘s chest out of the corner of my eye. Bob’bi then was snatched up by the beast’s tail and Zariel was also struck. Alma moved on to swooping at it, but the beast was thrashing so wildly he couldn’t seem to make contact. Looking over I noticed to my horror that Zariel had begun to glow and his skin became translucent. Below its thin protection, his heart visibly beat. Something seemed to have exploded as another gnome erupted out of the beast’s chest, screaming “watch your head!” “He’s alive!” the other gnome yelled, running up. Evidently noticing the gaping hole only slowly closing, the beast reached out with a tentacle, catching the smaller gnome and plugging the aperture with him. “I’ve got you, buddy!” Ooze ironically called after the gnome he’s done nothing but torment, trying to pull him back out. Bob’bi pulled some crazy acrobatics, jumping off the horse and flinging herself up onto the beast, stabbing it in the head while yelling “watch your head!” Mayhap this is a common gnome greeting? Over to the side, Zariel’s bones started poking out and his yellow horse, finally noticing something was amiss, ran over, only to fall upon him.
While I wanted to be able to do something for Zariel, there was still our lovely tentacled acquaintance to attend to. Alma still wasn’t having any luck hitting it, though seeing what was happening to the other two, I didn’t mind too much. My arrows luckily hit from a safe distance. The gnome shot at the dagger in its head but missed. I may need to study more magic. Something to hold this thing still would be quite useful. Ooze, refusing to release his “buddy,” ended up getting swallowed as well. The gnome fires again, this time hitting and paralyzing the beast, who knows doing what to Ooze within. My next arrow thudded into its eye, causing it to spasm. Nearby, Zariel and his increasingly deformed horse began screaming as they seemed to be meshing together. Lightning from the storm that must have started up again at some point struck the dagger again, causing the beast’s head to explode. I raised my arms to shield myself from the blast, looking up to see the beast slump forward onto the Zariel mixture. The battle was over, but so much had yet to resolve. The gnome lifted the body off them with his mechanical arm, likely out of interest of cataloguing the changes, not out of any concern. Unsure of what else to do, I prayed for Ooze. He may have been half orc, but he still fell in battle and deserved that much.
Distressed at the loss of Ooze, as dark as he was becoming, as well as Zariel’s confusing state, I went off to the side with my owls. There was no knowing if Zariel would survive whatever was happening and with Ooze gone, that would just leave me with Bob’bi…and the gnome, if she had any plans on trying to keep that demented thing around. Still none too pleased with Bob’bi and certainly not the gnome, I munched on some dirt and tried to once more enjoy the constant spray of the rain. The dirt was indescribably delicious, I swear akin to the most decadent of chocolate pudding, if not better. Aislyn tilted her head some, watching my behaviour in confusion before taking a hesitant nibble at the dirt. I don’t know that she appreciated it quite the same as I did, but I smiled at her attempt anyway. Alma didn’t seem to know what to think of my choice in sustenance. Bob’bi openly stared, though I didn’t expect her to understand the fantastic taste of high quality dirt.
Standing up, I felt lighter, somehow faster, more agile. It must have been some sort of residual effect from the dirt. Feeling a bit better, I walked over to Zariamel. They seemed to be stabilizing some, but were still rather formless. I tried to touch them to see what would happen. Their skin was spongy and my hand began phasing through them. I quickly pulled it back, looking over my hand, occasionally glancing back at them. Nothing seemed to have changed. Curiously, I picked up some dirt and dropped it on The Sponginator. The dirt rested on top of their “skin” momentarily before it was absorbed. I tried it again to the same effect. Well….such fine dirt couldn’t possibly hurt, right? I took out my belovèd trowel and began shoveling dirt onto them. At some point Bob’bi found Ooze’s tuba and seemed to be having a conversation with it. And she thinks I’m weird. Ah, well, maybe the tuba was actually speaking, or someone was speaking through it. All Bob’bi would say was “shut up, Lothar,” which Mr. Tuba didn’t seem to appreciate. She went to bury it and I lent her my trowel, which, unlike the silver dagger, I was going to be given back. Not sure why she was burying the tuba rather than Ooze, chattiness aside, but I didn’t ask. I suppose it’s less gruesome than Orc a la Crispy. After digging a nice little moat around Zariante, which the rain happily filled, they seemed to be thinking about picking a shape and sticking to it. They were, however, still squishy like a weird mass of dough. Maybe now cookies and cream dough with all the dirt.
After Bob’bi finished with the tuba, I took back my trowel. Now to get back without touching Mass Not Us…the rain was possibly helping or possibly preparing to cause them to explode. Wrapping them up in Zariel’s clothing and various possessions, we began dragging Mr. Cook and Lieutenant Cream back towards the compound. Once again, I was grateful for the rain, so despite the weight I did not fatigue. Call me crazy, but I skipped the horse dragging portion of my training with the humans.
Finally returning to the compound, we deposited Soggy McSponge in the lab, as there was the most open space there. Aislyn and Alma then began flying around in a frenzy as Alma pointed towards the wall and shrieked “blood.” Carefully watching the blood, I noticed that it was beginning to move, gravitating towards the conjoined twins on the ground. When the blood made contact, they absorbed it like they did the dirt and probably would have my hand if I had been too careless. I wonder what would happen if I were to promote a prolonged hug between them and the gnome. Soon all the blood in the room had been absorbed and His Spongness remain unchanged. Bob’bi then proposed rolling them around the entire compound to clean up all the blood. I wasn’t so sure that such was a good idea, though the evil magic seemed to have dissipated and isn’t that what sponges are meant for? I still felt bad for using them in such a fashion, but after everything else, hopefully some more blood would hurt. With that, Zariante the Bloody was left once again in the now cleaner lab. Now all that was left to deal with was some debris and the gnome.