Almendra, a Beautiful Psionic Wasteland

Fifty-Sixth Day on the Surface

DAY FIFTY SIX

My sleep last night was mostly restless. After a quick breakfast at the bar some of the others wanted to see what other things we could buy from goblins. Sandstorm bought a lot of bottles with an interesting healing alcohol in them. We said a last, painful good bye to the goblins and the Eternal One then descended to the base of the waterfall.

We should’ve searched yesterday. Pe Ell’s body was long gone by the time we searched for it. Couldn’t find any of his possessions either. His sword, his armor…nothing. Not a trace. His body was probably miles down the river. No way we were ever going to find it.

“So, since we’re going to be traveling together, why don’t you all tell me a little bit about yourselves?” Cehos said, a little into our trip back to Kal’wor.

“I’m Sandstorm. I like to fight. I come from a town to the North, and my goal is to some day ride a purple worm.”

Cehos gave him an odd look. “I…see.”

“I’m Vilu, from the city-hive of Nefir.” I began. “My people recently had to come to the surface because our sister city was overrun by illithids, and we’re connected to them by some portals so they could invade our city at any time.”

“And I’m Cinna. I’m from a bakery in Pollt and now I’m carrying around this evil key here.”

Malazhar said nothing. Ith kept silent for awhile before he replied. “I’m a githzerai. Used to be part of the clan, but mostly I do things on my own now. Help ward off evil, that sort of thing.”

Cehos nodded and thanked us for our introductions. It took only a few hours to make it back to Kal’Wor. My people waved to us when we entered the city. We went straight to the Lodge and to Malgo to see if he knew what the old map meant by “dwarves”.

“Let me see it. Right here, where it says ‘Dwarves’ right?”

“Yes.” I said.

“I’m not sure exactly where it’s talking about because according to this, it says that’s open space. But we don’t have an area near by that’s open like that. It goes straight underground from here. Usually we don’t let any people through there but…” He pondered for awhile. “Actually, this word later translates into ‘dwarves’. When was this map made?”

“I think the goblins said it was written about six hundred years ago.”

“Ah, yes. About four hundred years ago the short hand for dwarves in Goblin also used to be the name of a city. It’s not too far South from here.” Malgo grabbed a piece of parchment and sketched a map to its location. “I’m guessing this is a path off to the side of the town. It’s abandoned now. It was established about seven hundred years ago, but four hundred years ago it was destroyed. We don’t really know what happened there. Everyone kind of disappeared one day.”

“Huh, I see. Well, thanks for your help Malgo.”

“No problem.” He smiled. “Good luck getting to the Forge.”

Along the road, about an hour into the journey, a giant insectoid creature jumped down from the trees. Its flesh hung loose from its bones and one of its eyes was missing. Definitely smelled undead and I had a feeling that this thing, what ever it was, was probably a thri-kreen in life. Possibly one of those corrupted ones from the catacombs beneath Aradi. I told the others what I thought before we got close.

Cehos withdrew his bow and readied an arrow. The arrow clipped his hand when he let go and hit Ith in the back. “Shit!” He muttered. “I’m sorry!” Ith frowned, but said nothing.

All the noise alerted the beast to our presence. As it dashed for us I flung a lance of electricity at it, Ith smashed its face in with a swift toss from his sling, and Cinna chilled it with her ice ray. Sandstorm charged up and went for its belly but he missed horribly. The creature shrieked and bit him on the shoulder. A ray of fire erupted from Malazhar’s finger tips. Cehos had better luck. An arrow struck the beast square in the chest. I followed Malazhar’s lead and hit it with a bolt of fire. A second later another pebble flew overhead. Cinna finally slayed the undead thri-kreen with more fire. It shrieked one last time and disintegrated to ash.

The ghost town wasn’t much farther than that, and we found the entrance to the cave system with ease. We collected a pile of platinum pieces just off to the side, near a stack of rotted crates. Just as we disappeared into the depths of the cave an astral construct emerged. Being the closest to it, Malazhar swung and hit with his morning star. The construct screamed and swung at him, but he dodged out of its way. Both Ith and Cehos missed it by a few feet. I swear nearly everyone missed the construct for awhile. It even managed to avoid being smashed by Sandstorm’s pick. But both Cinna and I blasted it with some sonic energy and easily did it in for good.

Inside, the cave was damp and cold. Along the ceiling and floor were strange square holes cut into the rock. I was a bit worried about the pile of shattered weapons in the middle. My worries were justified. A troll charged straight for us! Cehos fired first and made his mark, his arrow ablaze. Cinna scorched the troll with a fire ray and I followed suit of a fire lance. The lance engulfed the troll in flames. Sandstorm acted quickly and stabbed it in the chest with his mind blade. It fell to the cave floor unconscious but alive and still on fire. He chopped off its arms, thinking he’d finally killed it.

“Um, guys…!” Cinna said, fear in her voice. The trolls’ arms were reattaching to the body. Acting fast Cehos set them and the body on fire once more, slaying the troll.

Amongst the pile of broken weapons were two that weren’t broken and even a few silver pieces. But as we put them into our bag of holding Malazhar approached Cehos, furious. “You better keep your dirty hands to yourself and if you try to pocket any more shit, we’ll have a nice little chat.”

The rest of us were dumbfounded. Did he steal something from us? I wondered if it was when we found those platinum pieces earlier. Did Malazhar see something the rest of us hadn’t? Cehos said nothing, unphased by Malazhar’s threat. As we continued Southward I smelled the familiar sweet scent of muzaru fruit growing somewhere near by. Off in the distance I saw a lone muzaru plant, glowing radiantly with its many bright red fruits. The smell was absolutely mouth watering. I think the others smelled it too, ravenous from the delicious aroma.

“Hold up!” I warned, “That over there’s a wild muzaru plant! Don’t get close, unless you want to be eaten by it.”

“What’s a muzaru plant?” Cinna asked curiously.

“The fruit on it, the muzaru fruit, are what my people make grishnag out of. It’s a specialty drink of ours.”

As went closer, off to our immediate left was a pair of glowing mushrooms. Cinna and Cehos kneeled down and harvested them. In the south east corner of the cave was a large demonic idol. Upon sight of it Cehos’s face became grim and angry. He ran over and stuck his hand up the idol’s neck. I heard a click and he took a step back.

“Can you help me break it apart?” He asked Sandstorm over his shoulder. The half giant grudgingly agreed and smashed it to bits with a single swing of his pickaxe. As I expected, the aroma wafting off the muzaru plant strengthened, even more sweet smelling than before. (They can detect vibrations, after all.)

“Come on,” I beckoned the others, “Let’s get out of here. There should be a pass near here.”

Just North was indeed a small pass. Along the tunnel to the pass were more square holes in the ceiling and stone beneath our feet. As we approached I heard faint clanking sounds near the Eastern wall. I looked up. A centipede the size of a building descended upon us, its pincers snapping wildly. It kept itself just above Sandstorm and leaned downward to bite him. Cehos fired an arrow and struck it in the face. Cinna took a step in front of me and singed it with a fire ray. Sandstorm slashed through its softer underbelly. The centipedes’ eyes closed and it collapsed atop of the half giant, dead. Luckily he easily crawled out from under it.

At the end of the pass we found a faded and torn tapestry hanging on the Western wall. Upon it were the images of demons whipping humans. On the Northern wall was a dessicated corpse lying in front of a chest. Curious about possible loot, we carefully approached. When we got with in twenty feet of it a demon burst forth from the chest.

I recognized it as a xill, savage creatures under the service of demons. Cehos didn’t even bat an eye and immediately fired arrows at it. Sandstorm charged ahead and slashed through its mid section, banishing it to whence it came.

Inside the chest was quite a bit of money, and even a few psionic items. While the men hurriedly put what we found inside Sandstorm’s bag of holding, Malazhar pointed at Cehos and yelled “Hey, you’re fucking stealing again!”. He took a step towards the red haired human and disappeared.

“Well,” Sandstorm warned, yanking what coins Cehos stole from his hands and shoved them back into the bag of holding, “We’ll let this go this time. But if we catch you a third time you’re in for some serious shit.”

“Fair enough.” Cehos grumbled. The way he keeps trying to steal from us I wonder how in the Abyss he gained the trust of the goblins at Sky’s Well. Tired, we’re camping here in the pass for the night. But I should sleep soon. Sandstorm is taking first watch in a little while and I have second watch in a few hours.

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