Game Time: Friday – early afternoon
Zut alors! There was no respite – they had barely checked each other over and re-fastened their armor when Darg heard footsteps from the south, where the cloak had come from. The party rallied together and ran full-tilt to the eladrin tomb, where they rested unassailed for a few moments. They patched each other's wounds, drank a few sips of cool water, and then headed back up to finish exploring. Darg suggested the basement stairs, so they could be sure to not leave any unexplored routes behind them. A stray memory plucked at his curiosity.
Nobody (not even Bree?) was in any mood to find out what was trampling towards them – at the cloak's behest? – so they agreed that Darg's plan seemed to have the most merit. Shard scouted ahead to be sure the way was clear, and ducked down the stairs as soon as they could. He found himself in a brightly torchlit room with a white marble bowl perched on a large porcelain hand. He called the rest of the group down and then ducked into the shadows. He passed his knife back and forth between his hands, quietly watching the bowl and the door for any signs of hostile activity.
Bree, Darg, and Rache examined the room's furnishings for signs of strange magic, while Terciel looked into the bowl to figure out whether perhaps the forest scene was from the feywild. As they talked it over, Darg remembered that a porcelain hand inscribed with runes was required for casting Unseen Servant, and he checked the hand for any sign of what this one's servant would do. A strange thrumming sound emerged from the misty covering over the bowl, as though the portal were stretching or getting ready to open. In a matter of seconds, the party determined that the brass torchieres were actually some sort of cages; the lantern wicks were some firey creature; and the portal to the feywild was almost certainly intended to release the swarm of buzzing stirges for the bats to feed upon. The unseen servant would probably be there soon. Darg looked up at the ceiling, closed his eyes, and turned until he was facing southwest. "We're underneath the hallway with the drake statues. Terciel, I think you might be right about them breathing fire." The party set to work disabling the apparatus as quickly as they could.
Shard practically leaped from the shadows to lock one of the cages – he didn't need to be engulfed in flames any more today, thanks very much. Bree got the next cage locked, and Thea followed suit. Her fingers slipped and the bat within rustled and squeaked, its flaming aura surging momentarily. She shook her head and rubbed her singed fingers together, then moved to guard the western doorway. Shard moved to the last cage and also fumbled the locking mechanism. Bree looked at the swarm of insects threatening to burst through the portal and decided that some preparation was called for. She surveyed the room's dimensions, held her hands up to frame the cages, and grinned wickedly. "Everyone stand back. No, further. Further!" She wedged a thin glass globe between two of the porcelain fingers, and called over to Terciel to find a safe spot from which he could see – and shoot – the vial. Shard eyed it, too, and made sure to keep it in sight.
Thea and Lenora stood side by side in the west archway, looking uncertainly into the dark room beyond. Its strange blue glow reminded them of sorcery, and nothing good could come of it. A dim glowing outline of a man was walking along the east wall of the room, towards their archway. Lenora hollered out that whatever everyone else was doing, they'd better do it quickly. Darg scrambled out of the way, and Rache ducked into the shadows near him. She opened and closed her hand, watching the oily green sparks twirling between her fingers. The servant moved through Thea and Lenora and stood next to the bowl, and Bree whispered to Shard to get away from the last cage – there wasn't time! He scrambled back into the shadows, crossbow drawn, and Bree backpedaled clear of the bowl. Her hands crackled with thick sinuous bolts of arcane magic, and she let loose a ferocious … burst … of soothing … calming air. The warm and tranquil scents of lavender and chamomile filled the room, and the air seemed to soften all sound for a moment. The restless firey bats rustled in their cages, then their wingbeats slowed down.
The servant opened the portal, and the bowl rotated an eighth of a turn, dropping down a fraction of an inch with an audible "KERCHUNK". A thick cloud of cave stirges swarmed out to fill the air over the bowl and two of the four cages popped open. Shard fired his crossbow and smashed the vial, spraying burning fuel everywhere, and dozens of the stirges dropped to the ground. A huge burning bat flapped lazily out of its cage, half-heartedly attempting to set Thea on fire – she and Lenora laid into it, axe and flail, flail and axe. The other freed bat made a low pass towards Bree, swiping out at Rache, and then flopped on the ground in a deep sleep. The caged bats appeared to not even hear the commotion. Bree sprayed a dazzling array of rainbows into the mix, and placed her foot on the grounded bat's body to make sure it didn't go anywhere.
Shard moved in for the kill, stabbing ferociously at the sleeping bat closest to him. In moments he had opened so many wounds that it lay smoldering in its cage, dead before it could wake. He moved to the other cage and just barely managed to slam the door on a bat that had awakened. The hot metal sizzled against his skin, but he ignored the burns, jabbing and stabbing it repeatedly. Darg, Bree, and Rache blasted the swarm of insects with potent spells, dropping dozens with each blast, while Terciel helped Thea and Lenora bring down the only bat that was putting up a fight. They flustered it, driving it through the cloud of bugs over and over again, and stirges fell from the air in its wake like fat leathery fruits at harvest time. Thea and Lenora gave chase, bashing and slicing its burning body over and over. If it seemed invulnerable to the violence they visited on it, at least Lenora seemed to shrug off its scalding attacks as well. She lit into it, scoring a half-dozen blows – forehand, backhand, overhand, rinse, repeat – and now the bat flopped feebly in the air, screeching angrily at her. It reared back for a broken-winged counterattack and an arrow from Terciel silenced it. The bugs dissipated now, their swarm chased away and scattered by the group's spells.
Darg surveyed the battlefield a little more closely, squinting and shifting his weight from foot to foot, striding from wall to wall to figure out why the view through the archway looked so familiar. He'd certainly never been down here before. The flagstone floor was bleached and streaked with white as though scalded or blasted. That was where – yes, the dream, of course. This was the spot! And that door to his left was where he had seen… yes. Definitely, this was the place, which meant that the glowing place on the floor was a good place to be after all. He tried to assuage Thea's doubts, and finally stepped into the light.
Immediately his wounds knit together, and he stood straighter. Bree smelled magic at work and hopped into the light before anyone could stop her – she too noticed a calming and restorative magic working its way through her battered little body. "Guys, come here – this is great!" she said. The rest of the group stepped into the circle one by one, looking around at each other and marveling as their bruises faded from black to blue, green, gold, and gone. They breathed the luminous air and grinned with almost giddy relief. The feeling of well-being persisted right through the moment when a pencil-thin beam of bright blue light shot out from Darg's forehead, tracing a triangle in the air between himself, Terciel, and Lenora. On the floor between their feet, a white cloud of mist coalesced into a stack of well-worn battle gear: a coat of mail, a chain belt, a bleached wooden quarterstaff with a crystal finial, and a priest's symbol of office: three quarters of a circle in gold, strung on a short leash of ivory prayer beads with a single sapphire charm in the shape of an evil spirit.
Darg and Bree looked at the gear on the ground with incredulous smiles, and started swapping it in for their dinged and damaged equipment. Lenora and Terciel exchanged worried looks for a moment, wondering what exactly they'd gotten themselves into.
La Cage Aux Feux
Celui Ci N'est Pas Un Chat
Game Time: Friday – early afternoon