Covering Fire

Wherein hygeine is discussed, the limitations of critting a stealth check are explored, and the party has an inexplicable craving for a taco.

Game Time: Monday, midday

After discovering the collapsed floor and the murky water below, the party considered their options.  Three hallways, north, east, and south – assuming that nobody felt like swimming.  Terciel rubbed his hands together, tied a rope around his waist, and appeared in the blink of an eye on the east edge of the gap.  Lenora threw the now-empty bowline across to him, and he worked his way forward slowly.  Rache took a deep breath and stepped through nothing, then came out of it at a right angle on the other side of the gap.  She steadied herself, still a little dizzy from the teleportation, then grabbed the rope from Terciel.  Fixing him with an uncertain look, she said quietly "don't make me regret this, Eladrin."

Terciel handed the rope to Rache and unslung his bow.  The hallway angled left, then right, and opened into a semi-circular room with a collapsed wall.  Lenora strained to hear any noises coming from around the blind corner, and the rest of the party stood still and stared, looking for any kind of hint of what was around the bend.  Rache
muttered a dark incantation under her breath.

Weapon at the ready, Terciel examined the collapsed room.  A runny grey slime dripped from the rubble, and as Terciel leaned in more closely it began to gush and pool at his feet, coalescing into a silvery hemisphere the size of a pig.  Disgusted and nervous, Terciel backed up and nocked an arrow.  As he took aim, a horrid stench from the slime washed over him, and he momentarily lowered his bow, shaking his head to clear away the fumes.  The silvery slug moved forward and Terciel fired twice: his first arrow slipped high, and his second sunk into the goop with a gurgling hiss.  Terciel had only a moment to determine the best course of action, and with his head clouded in the awful vapors he shouted "don't worry about the rope!"

Thea did not worry about the rope.

She slung her axe over her shoulder and began running towards the pit.  As she pumped her arms to build up speed she snatched a throwing hammer in her fist.  Two more strides and then she leaped to clear the pit.  Still in the air as she sailed past Rache, she got her first look at the slime.  She planted both feet together and landed in a high crouch only a few feet away.  She sucked in a deep breath to steady her aim – and gagged.  The stench was unbearable!  She threw her hammer, dizzy with the noxious vapor, and knew from the second she released it that she was going to miss.  It clattered against the rubble behind the slime.  She unslung her axe and got ready to have a serious conversation about underground hygiene with this thing.

As Thea and Rache joined the fight, more slime began oozing out of the wall.  Terciel began to edge back and the slime's pseudopod lashed out at him sapping his strength.  Thea and Rache covered his retreat, and Thea felt the weird weakness shoot through her as the slime chilled her to the bone and the stench forced her to breathe shallowly.  Bree blasted one of the slimes with a shimmering ball of force, and Terciel took the opportunity to blink across the gap.  He spun on his heel, shouting something guttural and aggressive, and then fired another pair of arrows downrange.  Rache backed away, now protected by Bree's and Terciel's suppressing fire, and surveyed the situation.  Thea was knee-deep in slime, so Rache took the opportunity to blink around the corner to the north edge.  She took another dicey leap across the corner of the pit, scrambled for a second, and then caught herself.

Thea held her ground – ever the last one out of trouble, she reluctantly withdrew.  Rache focused herself and found that the eldritch power that she had struggled to focus was coming much more easily now, as though a burden had been lifted.  She reached out her hand, looked past it and fixed the slime in her gaze.  Then she clenched her outstretched hand, twisting suddenly and yanking it back to her chest.  On the other side of the pit, the slime jerked and stretched, and then was flung towards the party, skidding over the lip of the pit into the dark water below.  As Lenora leaned over to see where it went, a muddy black-brown tentacle lashed out of the darkness and cleaved it in two.  The water churned and frothed in the darkness, and guttural slurping and squealing rose to a crescendo and then stopped.  The other two slimes searched around tentatively, but once they realized that they couldn't cross the pit, they slurbled back towards the rubble in defeat.

The group patched themselves up as best they could while Bree did some more investigation: to the north, another collapsed dead end, shimmering with slime.  Bree left it undisturbed and headed south. The party followed, and discovered a dead end tunnel with two long cylindrical bores drilled into the wall.  Thea boosted Bree up and took a look through the holes, and Bree saw flickering orange light from a fire.  The round room they looked into was lined with bones like the other rooms they had seen.  Darg was able to confirm that the room they were peering into was almost certainly connected to the curved hallway they'd seen earlier.  They headed back, Thea still picking slime off her scale mail and feeling a little shaky from the fumes.

Terciel scouted ahead gingerly.  Lenora tucked her sunrod away, and Bree kept her light spell close at hand to avoid tipping off whomever had set the fire.  From his place in the dark bend of the hallway, Terciel saw a blazing skeleton pacing north to south, examining something to the east.  Whatever the bonfire was illuminating was hidden by the pillar in the center of the room.  He went to report back to the group, and a plan was formed: Thea would lead the charge, Lenora would back her up, Darg would stand ready to block and heal, and the rest of the group would saturate the area with covering fire.

The skeletal bonfire seared Thea's skin as she charged in, and when she struck it with her axe, a plume of embers burst away from its body, crackling and illuminating the six skeletal soldiers arrayed for inspection before the warlord.  Lenora waded in behind Thea, took stock of the situation, and laid a punishing strike across his skull.

The party concentrated their efforts on a devastating first strike, and as the skeletal captain withered under the rain of blows, the fire blazing around his bones went out.  The team's efforts at stealth had been flawless—but without the burning officer to light their path, they found themselves in the dark.  Arrows ripped through the darkness, and heavy scimitar strikes thumped and clanged off Thea's armor.  When Lenora found the sunrod and took it out, she revealed an unpleasant tactical situation.

The party was arrayed in their strongest formation, but their heaviest fighters were outnumbered two to one, and the enemy had two vicious ranged attackers who had withdrawn to the far wall to focus on the party's strong points.  Within a few moments their snipers had fixated on Darg to prevent him from using his radiant powers – he fell unconscious but Lenora helped him to his feet and snapped him out of it.  Thea continued to press the attack despite her bloody bruises and flagging reserves, and Rache seemed to grow stronger as the enemies crumbled to dust under her vicious eldritch attacks.  Bree set off burst after burst of fire while Terciel picked off their heaviest troops and wore down the archers.  In a matter of minutes the party was able to drive back the assault.  Terciel pursued the fleeing archers, destroyed one of the last two, and then stopped to catch his breath.

Darg and Lenora turned and put down one of the infantry who was trying in vain to rise from the dead a second time, and Thea came back just in time to see the smoldering pile of bones stirring.  Thea smashed the rib cage and other sundry bones, and a flaming skull popped out of the pile.  It bounced once or twice on the marble floor, then burst into a sickly greenish flame and levitated, rotating until it was upright and looking back at Thea.  It screamed in the same guttural language that the others had, but while the others seemed reluctant adversaries this one seemed far more committed.  Terciel told the group later that he clearly heard him say:

"Oh, you think you're strong – and you're stronger than we thought! But I have many more borrowed bodies to throw at you.  Let's see how well you fight when you feel our complete wrath!"

The skull hovered for a moment and then flew away down a wide corridor to the southwest, cackling maniacally.  Bree was not going to back down from something as trivial as a challenge from a flying flaming skull, and Rache seemed oddly refreshed – the paradox of taking sustenance from others' pain.  Thea, Terciel and Lenora were exhausted.  Darg was still woozy from being knocked out, and his fingers ached and burned from channeling so much radiant energy.  He admitted that he wasn't sure how many more times he could save his allies, and was nervous that he would be called more times than he could answer.  Reluctantly they ceded the hard-won ground.  They headed to the Map Room to collect Zoran and return to the watch post for a well-deserved rest.



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