So, we woke up the morning (…?) after having been attacked by a giant freaky invisible monster. Cinnamon, having walked through dimensions or something to return covered in Nathaniel’s blood a few nights ago, has been tied up each night since. So tied up still, at the end of this particular sleep cycle, I untied her.
Folks from down here were saying that the attack last “night” was unprecedented this far up. was common in slag post-quake. Not a great sign. We headed out – a smaller passage than before, harder to get cart through, and traveled for awhile
After a ways – it was hard to keep track, seemed like we’d been walking forever – we saw a light ahead. It was steady, magical, about a 60 ft radius. Cautiously, we approached. It was the Fouzuku Butsu we’d seen earlier – still in his perfect armor, with eyes and joints glowing green, kind of a high-pitched hum coming from him. At least… I assume it was a him. Really pretty impossible to tell, what with the full armor and the flat monotone voice. I remembered that he – she – whatever – he’d run away last night in the fight, but I diplomatically decided not to bring that up.
He seemed to glance over our party, but didn’t seem to notice Lady C. He recognized Byron by name, then Raisa, then asked me if I identify as Kalb or Guard, and named me as well. He scanned us for magic items but didn’t look @ Lady C or the box. He did ask if my hat was for sale, though. And Chip. He seemed wary of Byron.
He asked why we were here, and of course we explained that with the geas, we couldn’t explain to him. So he asked if we were the cause of the changes, since magic is not working as it should. He said “signs” point to us being integral, but not how. It was hard to tell if he meant just us Kalbs, or if Bastian and Cinnamon were included in this – he didn’t seem to find them worth paying attention to or speaking to directly.
Then – get this – he asked if we needed assistance. This seemed a little too good to be true until he pointed out that the current state of magic in the underbelly isn’t possible for the Fouzuku Butsu to manufacture long-term.
So he gave us 10 crossbow bolts, with box heads. Rayray was impressed. Apparently they have energy tips. Rayray described them as “badass”. Not bad. Still, kind of an odd encounter, overall.
We reached Outpost 47, which had supply boxes everywhere, used as walls and inner partitions and everything. There were about 3 dozen folks there, total. Understandably, they were happy to see Chew. No other humans there – it was just us, Francis and his six guards, and Skippy.
We slept again – same deal with tying Cinnamon.
As we were getting ready to head out the next “day”, we got some advice from the Outpost 47 folks:
Red means Stop. If you see red, DONT GO THERE
There may be supplies around, keep eyes open.
Disregard signs that say Slag is secure. If signs say unsecure, probably want to turn around.
Creatures crawled up from the depths. They’ve lost a lot of folks. Some monsters are smart.
Don’t eat anything you’re not sure is fine.
If you get in trouble, try to find the Stregia. She gives RayRay the willes, eats babies, but will keep her word. She’s in the belltower. He points to what looks like a mansion on the map.
Fungus gets inside people & makes them act crazy.
Be careful of the crater in the center of town – don’t cast any magic designed to hurt anyone
there. It will work too well. The crater takes up most of the district, and is about ¼ mile across.
… And, we got directions, and headed out.
We came to a cavern, with a gatehouse & 20 foot wall. It had obviously once been fairly stunning, made of white granite. Now, it’s aged and damaged. It’s had decent modern repairs down here, though. It appears to be the old Valenci city wall, but it’s in a natural cavern.
I admit I wasn’t the most attentive scholar, but even I know that this doesn’t match history.
History says that Valenci burned to the ground, and that its foundations were used as sewers. This preserved gatehouse is a long way down. It doesn’t make topographic sense. Francis expected it, seems to have been briefed on it – he was playing it cool but was definitely on edge.
I asked if there was anything else he’d been briefed on that he might care to share. Glad I asked. He said:
A lot of the safe paths were screwed up by earthquake.
There are unquiet dead down here. Whatever was disturbed by earthquake – there are beings re-living being burned to death – run, your sword won’t cut them.
Also, Skin Thieves nesting down here. (Well, we’d known that).
Avoid crevasses. Things are worse further down.
So we went through the gate – through a pretty thick wall into the Slag – which is old Valenci.
We came into a cavern about 50 feet high & 50 feet across. directly across from gatehouse – it looked like it had been a guardhouse, but was blasted. Most buildings down here are just shells. Rubble from the rockfall is piled on tops of buildings, which has made tunnels from the streets. Some have collapsed and pancaked.
Everything here is scorched.
We came to a boulder with a single symbol. The area in front of it was coated in congealed wax. Some of the guards knelt and prayed to Wastel, asking for the god of the underground’s blessing. Not a bad idea.
We came to a major street – which made an impressive scale tunnel – about 40 feet across. There were 24 (12 on each side) very lifelike statues in archaic, fancy but functional/warrior clothing. Tall enough up on their pedestals that they held the ceiling as pillars. The art style was incredibly realistic, not softened or stylized at all like most sculpture today. They look all steely-eyed, intimidating “I’m going to fuck you up”. I realized that we were looking at statues of the monarchs of Kalb, back when Kalb was its own country. I can honestly say I’m proud to be descended from such badassery, but I wouldn’t want those statues to come alive.
I know, that only happens in children’s tales, but the dark does kind of get to you down here.
the road got much narrower after the statues, 1 side of the buildings had collapsed. On the right was a massive, monolithic building, not scorched, completely intact, that appeared to have lights on. It was the old Valenci city archives, marked with the holy symbol of Eustan. And peppered with lots and lots of red signs saying Danger. Prudently, we decided not to enter. According to Francis, Eustan didn’t take kindly to his archives being burned, so he just stopped it. And now, if you go in, you stop too.
We were forced to turn off the main thoroughfare because of collapsed buildings.
We passed a construction site – repair post-quake. Really nice tools, slightly too small for human. Dwarves?
There was a building with a pawnshop sign hanging in the window. The building was blasted, but has been repaired, and was in decent shape. There was a massive vault door in the back wall – appeared to have once been a bank. Maybe supplies in there? But we have a destination, so decided not to go in just then – we marked it on the map instead.
There was a huge pit to the left. Trash… seemed to be where people dump the stuff they couldn’t sell to the pawnshop. Then there was more and more trash in the road. And then, it started drifting in our direction.
Yup, a garbage golem – I totally called it before it happened.
Hat for a head, boots for feet, gloves for hands. It just hovered there. For some reason, Cinnamon goes in and gives it a hug, and it started to fold in, grabbing her. I dodged in and snatched her out of its grasp before it could hurt her. Raisa hit at the thing, and Cinnamon lit it on fire. It collapsed.
Dooop deeee dooo… that was creepy weird.
And we sauntered onward.
For the first time we see a patch of stone that isn’t scorched. Odd. Moving back, we could see that it twas writing on a very large scale that had been too big to read from close up. Looked like ash was scraped off to get to non-burned stone.
The message was cheery:
“DESPAIR! The unknowable has made a home in our hearts and heads, and there is naught to do but flee”
We came to another open area. There appeared to have once been a building there, now completely demolished, not even any rubble around. A few local stone pillars had been put up in its place to keep the ceiling up. There were 3 tunnels that go the direction we want to go.
The middle path took us past a ruin with some humanoids (hobgoblins?) peering out of various windows, watching us, on our way to a dead end, wasting 45 minutes to get to a landslide, completely unpassable. There were still about 6 of the little guys watching us as we passed back again.
The lefthand tunnel took us past a building that looked like it was still smoldering. When one of the guards stumbled near it, the fire inside seemed to get stronger. That road ended in tiered benches or seating some sort of amphitheatre. We went through, to a path leading from the center of the space to a gap in the buildings at the opposite side. It looked like it’ been a park district.
We came to a pile of trash, in which there was a warmly-lit cabin made of rubble. Maybe it’d have a tunnel through the garbage? There was a guy inside – seemed a bit crazy, but that didn’t prepare us for what happened that night…. when he drugged two guards and sewed together their skins.