As the lit pebble went skittering across the floor of the crater, there were… memories. In the reflections. Unsettling. I saw myself cutting Seal, over and over and over, able to see my own face and hard eyes as I did. Young Ivan and Fyodor laughing at me after they’d knocked me down as a kid. Adult Ivan and Fyodor facing off outside Averton, each with armed men backing them. Reflections upon reflections, each following the next. Sinking into oblivion after a long night of revelry. Father’s eyes, desperate and helpless as he talked to me a few weeks ago.
Eventually the rock tumbled to a stop, and we all shook ourselves out of whatever we’d seen. Cinnamon was visibly shaken, although I think we all felt uneasy. Thinking it through, she’s probably got awfuler memories than the rest of us.
We continued forward on the catwalk, which Bastian said was new, but it was corroded. Lady C said it was aging at an accelerated pace. Up ahead, at an intersection of catwalks, we could see a figure rocking back and forth. Her back was to us, and her long blond hair was matted with blood and dirt. As we got closer we realized that she was the elf who’d run away from us — the one that Raisa hadn’t been able to see before. Raisa could see her now, though. So was it the same elf, or was the other an apparition of some sort? Or was this one an apparition? Down here, who the hell knows?
The elf’s arm was in a sling, cradled as if she was injured. Raisa called out to her, and she turned slowly, favoring one of her legs, and we could see that her whole arm was chewed up really badly. The elf said she’d been “writing, trying to warn people about the music”. Writing… apparently in her own blood, grinding her hand down to a stump. Lovely image. She said the music was inside her now, and didn’t want to go away. Raisa tried to heal her, which fixed her face and leg, but not the hand. The elf never stopped moving.
Suddenly there was a rush of cold, which sapped the energy out of all of us. The whole metal structure we were on shuddered, and we heard keening howls in various directions. A gout of flame erupted to the right of us, outside the crater. We noticed that our Dead guard was now much Deader. No idea what happened there, but it didn’t seem to have been a Good Thing.
The elf said her name was Annalise. She still danced. Was the dancing keeping her alive? We considered knocking her out, which might stop her dancing, but it might kill her, or — worse(?) it might let the music out. We had no idea what that might mean or what it might do, but consensus was that The Music was a Bad Thing.
Lady C said that Annalise seemed preserved in some unnatural manner. In the end we didn’t have a good solution, so we left Annalise there. Still dancing.
We headed down the next walkway. It was buckled and warped, although some metal sheets had been put down to help ease some of the bumps. We reached the crater’s edge, and continued back into the tall streets of the city.
After a time, I got the sensation of being watched, first to one side, then another… and then it felt like it was all around, including behind us.
We saw a naked dwarf skitter quickly across the road, faster than dwarves move. Cinnamon saw a mostly-naked orc, and we realized that we were being watched by a multi-racial gang of skin thieves. A mostly-naked one at that. Seriously, if there’s anything worse than a horde of skin thieves, it’s one coming at you dangling and bouncing bits of them you don’t ever need to have seen. You can’t erase that kind of memory. It’s scarring. My eyes cannot forget.
After a short ways, Francis stopped and said “they’re driving us.”
Byron tossed a lighted rock to try to get the lay of the land. There was a weird halo aftereffect. Raisa did the same in the other direction, and there was also movement there. Round about then, Byron turned into a … bugbear-elf…? The fuck? And then he got poisoned with a fast-acting version of that weaponized Takara crap, and he was temporarily cut off from magic.
The skin-thieves started getting right up to the edge of the light.
And then there was this Nonchalant guy, watching.
Lots of skin thieves. And….Torvik golem saved our bacon. Byron turned back to himself, but he was still cut off from magic.
Our old pal Nirgle came, and drew some symbols that made things Bad, then left into the darkness.
We killed Mr Nonchalant. Raisa’s lips were sealed shut; C cut them. If I hadn’t already seen Annalise’s bloody arm stump and a horde of underclothed skin thieves, seeing someone cut my little sister a ragged gash of a mouth might have been the most hideous thing I’d seen that day. As it was — well I knew it had to be done, and Raisa was all steely-eyed brave about it, but it was hard not to feel protective of her. We had to walk a ways before we could heal her, and she just dripped blood from those mouth-flaps the whole way. We passed the remains of an ambush as we were walking.
Finally, we found Calleich’s temple. Surprise, surprise – there were red warning signs all around. We didn’t take much time to look closely, because all of us needed to rest.
When we woke, we were still outside the temple, which all in all was in fairly good shape, solidly built. There was a forest of red signs in a circle around it, where the paving stones changed from the street stones to the temple’s paving stones. There were three main entrances, all up slightly from the street. The middle one had a ramp, that our cart could get up, the others had stairs, with some debris on them. Path of the Living, path of the Dead, path of the Seeker.
Our dead guard was still on the cart, starting to smell, because in the cavern he suddenly seemed to decompose a few days.
Raisa cast a remove curse spell on Byron, which seemed to make him feel a lot better. Lady C made coffee in celebration, which made all of us feel better… and made the dry rations a lot tastier.