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Part 5: Heart of the Matter

Previously (Pt. 4) Home Next (Pt. 6)

Deeper and Deeper.

The Prison and its unsettling Shadow counterpart have already given our heroes pause, but things are only set to get weirder. Prepare to delve into a realm just as metaphorical as it is deadly.

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Real Date: April 27, 2014

Game Date: 3rd of November, a.r. 231, 8 bells (Day 3, continued)

Chapter 18: A Narrow Escape

With the prison (and the nearby guard) now alert, Rina and Joriah decided to retake stock of their situation. The uniformed man stood at casual attention, making glances every so often towards the area of the main gate. The coin hidden in shadow had no special dark sheen to it, so a dash there seemed pointless. But…farther down the hall…something shone at them from a patch of dirt.

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Apparently, a spoon had been lost sometime during mealtime, and the guards had overlooked its half-buried presence. It was a familiar inky color, and a portal to the Shadow Realm awaited perhaps fifty feet out of reach.

Beginning at the guard post and continuing on towards the front gate, a series of gas-fed lanterns spotted the wall. As spirits, the two appeared as vaporous blue forms–certainly noticeable in the unlit depths of the prison. Instead of dashing from shadow to shadow, the two decided to dash from light to light.

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Rina easily darted to the first lamp, but Joriah was less successful in blending in. While their glow was camouflaged, they still formed a distinct area of mist over the fixture nearest to the guard. He gave it a sudden double look and fixed his gaze, perhaps deciding what had changed about the light.

Knowing that they had but seconds before an alarm was sounded, Joriah made a single, mad sprint to where the half-buried spoon lay. It had definitely rusted, and he felt a resistance as he pressed his fingers into it [34% transparency], but he passed through without incident.

The time for stealth was over. Instead of running, Rina decided to “blink” down the hall to where the spoon awaited.

Instead, she landed directly at the entrance to the hallway, with the distinct impression she’d somehow run face-first into an iron gate.

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In an instant, Rina ruefully recalled that her Blink Shirt meldshape allowed her to move as per Dimension Door to a point within range, but that it took a route through the Shadow Realm. And, in this case, there was a very real and solid gate in the way, on the other side of the veil.

Seeing the glowing smoke suddenly reappear in front of his face, the tense guard blurted out a warning. “Hey, Sir! Something’s going on! I don’t know what it is, but it looks like blue smoke!”

Rina lost no time in moving via the physical plane to the spoon.  Pressing her misty fingers into the spoon, she welcomed the familiar feeling of passing over. At the last moment, however, her fingers glided off some hidden resistance [rolled percentile of 35 vs. 34], leaving her still stranded on the physical plane.

In response to the alarm, four new men in the atrium turned towards Rina. Unlike the guards she’d seen thus far, these were fitted in peculiar armor sporting brass gears, lengthy tubing, and dials. As if by instinct, the four flipped switches on their chests, and their contraptions whirred to life.

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In the lead strode a man who Rina could only guess was the visiting Captain. In both hands he hefted a large and humming sword–brought to some form of life by his whirring armor.

The two others immediately behind him carried–not swords–but small and sinister-looking arm cannons. They leveled their barrels in front of them and adjusted dials on their wrists.

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The rear was brought up by a fourth who seemed to hold no weapon, other than a powered baton at his belt. As he followed, he expertly adjusted knobs and dials on his chest.

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All together, the advancing party seemed primed for action. Rina did not wish to test that theory.

The armored Captain was already ten feet away. He eyed her suspiciously and lowered his giant, humming sword. Rina frantically pushed her hand again into the spoon. This could very well be her last chance.

Just when it seemed as if she would fail again, her finger slipped through some ethereal crack, and she was through! [Here, Rina rolled exactly the 34 needed to pass her transparency check.] Gladly reunited with Joriah, the two took their first look at the Shadow side.


Chapter 19: Burning Vengeance

The two stood in an exact (though mirrored) copy of the hallway they’d fled from. Behind them was a locked iron gate (separating them from a familiar gargoyle face). The end of the hallway ahead ended only in stone; no further passage would be found that way. And on their right (corresponding to the left of the physical plane) were three cells, hidden by walls and windowless iron doors. Above all three was the same mystifying number, engraved into the rock.

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Silverware littered the floor on this side and crunched underfoot. However, every piece here was bent, malformed, or in some way useless. In fact, the glimmering spoon that connected to the physical realm had a hole right through the center, explaining in part its low transparency.

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The door to the first “Cell 2” was unlocked, and Joriah pushed it open.  It seemed empty, save for dark patches across the walls suggesting blood splatters.

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Despite his nagging migraine, Joriah managed to notice a distinct pattern in the splotches [nat. 20 on Spot]. Along with two hand prints, streaks and stains on the far side of the room strongly suggested the outline of a standing figure, with his hands either held or chained above him.

Rina stepped into the room to get a closer look at the stains. As soon as she did so, the heavy metal door slammed shut behind her, separating her from Joriah. Joriah was suddenly subjected to wet screams of agony from Rina, as he struggled futilely to reopen the door. The handle was now firmly locked, and the door was solid.

After about a minute, the screams tapered off and ended. The door unlatched itself, and Joriah cautiously reopened it.  Rina was completely missing, and the room looked exactly as when they’d first found it.

Thankful that at least there was no body or new blood stains, Joriah first went to the “second,” and then the “third” Cell 2 in the hallway. As far as his addled senses could tell, each was identical, down to the exact placement of each blood splatter and stone crack. Things here were certainly not as they seemed–but then again, on the Shadow Plane, that was saying little.

Returning to the first cell, Joriah steeled himself. Wherever Rina had gone, her journey had started here. And he had more than a hunch she wasn’t permanently dead.

Joriah stepped in. Ready for the door’s swing, he easily moved aside as it swung shut. He was not, however, ready for what came next: flesh surged out of the spaces between the mortar bricks, quickly covering all surfaces in a familiar growth. Misshapen eyes burst open, and tooth-ringed mouths stretched for his quivering body.

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The last clear memory Joriah had before the end was of being painfully devoured by the very room around him.

*          *          *

Tacitus had never known anything but suffering.

The human male stood chained to the wall in a 15-by-15 stone room, without door or window.  Hunger had claimed his every waking thought.  A loaf of bread and a cup sat on the far side of the room, well out of reach of his shackled form. Directly above his head, a large number two had been engraved in the stone, with no explanation. With nothing to gauge the passage of time, he had little idea how long he’d hung there. His sole memories were composed of this tortured existence, and before that, nothing.

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Not knowing if he was even alive or dead, Tacitus closed his eyes. “God…whatever I did, I’m sorry?”

He reopened them at first slowly, then in surprise. A new, blue mist was slowly seeping into his cell from between the mortar blocks. It formed first one, then two, humanoid forms that awoke, picked themselves up off the floor, and brushed themselves off.

“None the worse for wear,” the tall elf commented, patting his chest. The dwarven woman nodded in apparent agreement.

Tacitus was elated. He couldn’t be dead; these were neither angels nor demons, but flesh-and-blood people. He recognized both of their races; and in that moment, the first memory of a city made from brass and glass returned to his weakened mind.

Noticing the emaciated and helpless human chained to the wall, the newcomers quickly moved to unchain him. It was at this moment, however, that an old friend of theirs decided to make a reappearance.

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Rina held aloft the restrained animated candlestick she’d been using as a makeshift Everburning Torch. However, the seething entity had finally burned through the last cord restraining it [20 Escape Artist check], and it leaped into the air. It landed on Tacitus’s head, splattering him with hot wax.

“No! Bad candle!” yelled Rina. “You come down off that nice man this instant!”

Joriah moved closer to Tacitus to make a failed grab at the candle, and, in doing so, put his chest in the prisoner’s face. Gauging that Joriah’s shirt was probably made from some form of plant by-product, the ravenous Tacitus decided it was better than nothing at all. Joriah was immediately subjected to the rather disconcerting experience of another man attempting to remove his clothes with his teeth.

It was about this point that Rina guessed the prisoner was famished. She ran to grab the loaf of bread in the other corner and returned to push it into Tacitus’s mouth, but the bread was stale beyond recognition. It turned to dust and powder against the prisoner’s face.

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Realizing the food he’d craved for so long had been a lie to begin with, Tacitus finally slumped in his chains, sobbing and thrashing in woe. Luckily, this in fact helped Joriah, who was still making ineffective grabs for the hopping candle. Unbalanced by the sudden movement, the candle fell to the ground nearby.

Covered with burning wax and bread powder, Tacitus began having his first doubts about his new friends. “Who are you people?” he finally demanded.

“Hold on a second,” the elf responded, trying to beat the candlestick with the pommel of his rapier. It went about as well as one would expect.

Between the two of them, the elf and the dwarven woman eventually retied the candle. Satisfied their handiwork would hold (for now), the two of them then turned to how they would free the man without specialized tools.

“Well, we could chop his hands off,” Rina noted.

When Tacitus’s eyes widened proportionately, Joriah quickly added, “Or we could try using some lamp oil on his wrists first!”

Rina said nothing. After watching a chained man taking off another man’s clothes using only his teeth, while a candle dripped hot wax on them both, she decided forgoing the obvious joke about lubrication was probably for the best.

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In the end, the group used their grappling hook and rope to free Tacitus. It proved no easy task to wrestle him from solid brass shackles bolted directly into the stone. It took all three of them working together, and three consecutive attempts, before they were able to warp the brass manacle enough for Tacitus to withdraw his right hand. After this success, the other manacle was a simpler process.

With no pressing concerns, the three of them finally had the time to make formal introductions.

“Hello, I’m Joriah,” said the elf, “and this is Rina. You’re dead.” In response to Tacitus’s incredulous expression, Joriah waved his hands at the cell walls meaningfully around him. “Eternal torment mean anything to you? I can see you’re hungry, but when was the last time you actually ate?”

Now that he thought about it, Tacitus couldn’t remember the last time he ate, drank, relieved himself–or even actually breathed. A quick check of his pulse confirmed Joriah’s bold statements.

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(This did not mean, however, that Tacitus wasn’t hungry. In fact, while the others discussed their situation, he made short work of the nearby candle. While wax would probably not sit well with his digestive system, but at least it was filling.)

candleBon appetite.

(Trying to be helpful, Rina offered some of her health-restoring salt to go along with it. However, Tacitus only gave her a distrustful look. Because, after all, who eats candles with salt.)

Their moments spent in silent reflection soon highlighted another strange fact: there was a distinct echo in the room, parroting each of their voices after roughly a four-second delay. Though none of them remembered having scientific training, they knew that sound traveled about a mile every five seconds. This meant that, assuming their voices were being physically and not magically reflected, that the “real” borders of their cell could be as far as two thousand feet away.

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Obviously, this made little sense. The three of them each began searching for a way out of the cell, using different methods. Joriah and Rina began their tried-and-true method of “dowsing with silverware,” waving spoons randomly about the room in hopes for a flash of reflected light.

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Sadly, this search was completely fruitless.

Recalling a few of the spells he must have known in life, Tacitus attempted using Ray of Frost to wedge the nearest mortared block apart, but without avail. An Enlarge Person boosted Rina’s size and strength, but her strikes failed to dislodge any stone or even find a hollow spot.

Finally, calling upon the ancient skills granted to her by her blood, Rina placed an open palm flat again the stone wall. She felt for any distant vibrations that would indicate an underground stream, current of air, or even the surface. Again, she came up empty. As far as her innate dwarven sense could tell her, there was infinite rock in every direction.

Discouraged and out of ideas, the three finally flopped together the floor. Over the course of conversation, a number of seemingly-unrelated ideas slowly came together.

First, Joriah had a basic knowledge of the Planes and a grasp of how souls after death behaved.  Joriah recalled that, according to theory, the departed only become restless spirits when they have serious unfinished business in the physical world–and that they are impossible to permanently kill while this business remains.

Rina further recalled that the process of entering Tacitus’s echo chamber had been less than pleasant. She had been consumed by the room around her–in effect, “dying” as a ghost.

To complete the sequence of logic, Tacitus added that he had watched both of them enter as and reform from vaporous blue mists–a motif well-known to the others as the “blood” or essence of ghosts.

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The final connections made themselves in Joriah’s and Rina’s minds. Escaping the doorless room would be unpleasant, but it was most certainly possible.

“Want me to kill you first?” the elf asked Rina, drawing his dagger from his belt.

“Wait, wait,” Tacitus said, holding out his hand in supplication. “Are you going to attack her?”

“Well, I don’t know I’d call it ‘attacking,’ per se,” Joriah explained. “I’m just going to stab her in the face.”

More Halloween Clip Art Illustrations at http://www.ClipartOf.com

Tacitus had a hard time accepting just how matter-of-fact the two were about this. He felt ill when Rina held out her head and let Joriah stab her in the eye almost without flinching. But, then again, he also couldn’t argue with watching Rina collapse, not into a corpse, but into a familiar cloud of blue mist that slowly exited through the cracks in the walls.

“So, I’m really dead,” Tacitus seemed to finally accept.

“Want me to do you now?” Joriah asked helpfully. “I mean, it doesn’t matter to me if you don’t. You’ll eventually get bored in here and off yourself anyway.”

“No,” Tacitus replied, “that’s okay. I won’t need the help.” Recalling that he had taken damage casting his Enlarge Person earlier, Tacitus quickly rubbed his palms together, placed them on both sides of his head, and cast Magic Missile.

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Joriah found it very hard not to be impressed at the human’s courage and practicality, watching him splinter and come apart in his first afterlife “death” experience. Once the last wisps of his new friend had disappeared through the walls, he carefully put the blade of his own knife against the skin of his neck. He barely felt the slash.


Chapter 20: Shadow Prison Gate

The three reformed in what was now a familiar motif to Joriah and Rina–a flesh-covered room, somewhere close by on the Shadow Plane. The space was a lot larger than most they’d encountered so far, being perhaps 75 feet along its longest wall.

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Having become accustomed to the metaphorical nature of the Shadow Realm, Joriah and Rina made a quick guess they were standing on the shadow-side of the prison’s gate area. After all, on one side of the room was a ten-foot-high “door” made of human teeth. It was currently clamped shut.

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It also turned out that the three were not alone in their new surroundings. Five waist-high creatures, perhaps native to the Shadow Plane, were busy tearing up the easy meal lining the walls and consuming it hungrily. Upon noticing the newest occupants, the five creatures hissed loudly and moved at them, perhaps to sample their brand of flesh.

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Already versed in combat, Joriah and Rina each held their own expertly against two of the creatures apiece, but Tacitus found himself being backed across the room by a sole monster. Unaccustomed to fighting for his afterlife, he cast ray after ineffectual ray, each bouncing off the floor near the creature’s feet. Finally deciding that a good bite would hurt him a lot more than a little feedback, he cast an unerring Magic Missile into his adversary’s face, successfully dropping it. (He noted it did not also dissolve into mist, being a native creature to this plane.)

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Next to him, Joriah and Rina made short work of their foes. The last two of the opportunistic animals, bloodied and reeling, decided that peeling flesh from walls was probably safer than attacking these new creatures. They quickly withdrew from combat to the furthest part of the room, hiding in the darkness and hissing whenever re-approached. They did not bother the three adventurers for the rest of their time there.

The flesh of the creatures was tough and rubbery and did not do much for the digestion. After sampling some of the raw meat, Tacitus decided to will himself to no longer be hungry (which, surprisingly, worked). Rina successfully removed one of the dead creature’s three mandibles, which she saved for later crafting.

The “mouth” gate seemed a poor option for escape. The teeth were little more than set stone ringed by flesh, and tickling the “throat” behind it produced no results. There was also a large human-like “tongue” leading to the mouth, thought it was more of a fleshy carpet than an actual organ. As they had noted earlier, the shadow-versions of the prison seemed more like flesh-themed rooms than parts of an actually-functional digestive system.

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They also had little luck seeing between the teeth, which afforded only enough space to push a single hand or sword through. If there was something on the far side, they could neither see it nor touch it.

In searching the rest of the room, they discovered a few broken pieces of masonry. Thinking back to their time in Shadow Solitary, Joriah and Rina surmised they represented the walls of a smaller room, somewhere on the physical plane.

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At the back of this smaller chamber, a rapier display stand hung on a cleared portion of the wall. However, though there were spots for two rapiers on the mount, only the one on the left was present.

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Joriah noticed the rapier on the stand [+1 rapier] looked of better make than the one he was carrying; and he took it, passing down his old one to Tacitus. Intrigued by the mount itself, Tacitus firmly grasped it in both hands and began wrenching it from the wall. As he was doing so, Joriah noticed a brief flash of light on the empty pegs and stopped the eager sorcerer. Here was a hidden portal to the physical realm.

A quick moment later, the trio had a stable (if small) gate to the other side, thanks to a bent spoon artfully wrapped around the glimmering pegs.

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Chapter 21: The Lieutenant’s Quarters

The three emerged in, as expected, a smaller chamber cut off from the main gate area, entering through a full rapier display of two swords. The walls here were complete, and the door closed and locked. Surprisingly, this room was adorned with a few choice bits of regalia, including an ornate bed, a mahogany desk, several pieces of artwork on the walls, and a suit of armor on a stand.

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Hearing voices through the nearby door, the misty blue form of Joriah floated over to the keyhole and peered out. From his vantage point, he could see the welcoming desk, the ajar gate to the outside world, and a guard room that perhaps housed the closing mechanism for the gate. He could also see the lieutenant in charge of the prison, standing at uneasy attention while the visiting captain gave tips.

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Captain: Don’t you worry too much about them will-o-the-wisps. We see them every so often up in the King’s Way too, but we make sure not to let them get out of hand. If you find yourself having any trouble with those overblown farts, let me and my boys know, and we’ll make short work of them.

While Joriah kept an outlook, the others quickly searched the room. Rina inspected a few nearby crates of fine woven clothes, half removed from the packaging. She guessed this was the private work/bed chamber of the lieutenant in charge of Wayward Prison. It was likely he’d been reassigned from somewhere in the Royal Quarter, as he’d brought a few of his comforts of home with him, though he’d never fully unpacked them.

It took a few moments for Tacitus to come to grips with his new vaporous form. This day had been full of firsts for him, and it was quickly becoming an endurance race of how many blows to his psyche he could withstand. To take his mind off such matters, he passed over to where an open journal lay on the lieutenant’s desk. Though he could not turn the pages with his misty fingers, what he could read was more than enough.

journal thumbnailThe Captain’s Journal…click the image to read in full!

A few quotes in particular stood out to him. “Where you two ever arrested for starting a bar fight?” he asked his new compatriots.

The two seemed to shrug a reply; it was hard to tell.

“Well, if I’m reading this correctly,” he continued, “a ‘dwarf’ and an ‘elf’ were incarcerated here a few days ago for just that. And, apparently, a ‘Captain Laurentius’ came around to pick them up and take them to the Royal Quarter.”

“Sounds familiar,” Rina muttered, eyeing the door to the gate room outside. Joriah gave her the thumbs-up; the coast was still clear.

“Unless I miss my guess,” Tacitus continued, “he was probably responsible for your subsequent executions. Although the why is still beyond me.”

“We can deal with that later,” Rina declared. Her misty hand seemed to point to a specific passage on the second page. “This right here sounds like the boy we’re looking for.”

The good news was that a “street urchin with a rather strong set of teeth” did indeed sound like the boy Warrick they’d been sent to find. The bad news was that it sounded like he’d been garroted to death, probably ending up in the prison morgue.

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The flickering form of Joriah suddenly swept past them back towards the rapier display. The Captain’s visit was over, the visiting guards were leaving, and the lieutenant was returning to his quarters. Having discovered what they needed to, the three spirits beat a hasty retreat back to the Shadow Plane.


Chapter 22: The Shadow Morgue

Luck was on their side once the party had reassembled in the shadow-version of the front gate room. The two hungry marauders from earlier had torn some of the flesh off the north side of the room. In doing so, they had revealed a hidden door–a pure metal door that seemed serviceable and cool to the touch.

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“Cool…” Rina commented, “just like a morgue would be.” Readying themselves, they gripped the handle of the metallic door and yanked it open.

They were wholly unprepared for what awaited them inside.

Continuing the morbid flesh-wall theme, the morgue appeared as the inside of a stomach, complete with slime-coated walls and a calf-deep pool of acid covering the floor. If the prison was like a monster that swallowed victims through gated teeth, digested them, and finally spit them out through a fleshy sphincter, there here was the place where the grisly work was done.

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Rina tossed a hunk of flesh from the walls into the green-tinted acid. As expected, it immediately began to bubble and come apart in the liquid.

“Don’t step in it,” Tacitus noted. “Got it.”

Fortunately, there were morgue dissection tables spotted every ten feet or so, leading around a corner thirty feet away. One would be able to easily hop between them to avoid the acid pool. At the same time, each table was adorned with carefully-decorated platters presenting all forms of human meat.

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None of them appeared dangerous, but the travelers would need to sidestep each macabre dish along their way.

Tacitus was the first to venture into the ghastly chamber, taking a flying jump from the Shadow gate room onto the first table.

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From here, he was able to see the final gruesome surprise of the Shadow morgue, just around the corner. Along the far wall, a full banquet table had been arranged, topped with a complete human corpse.

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Blood splattered on the wall above the corpse conveyed a large and final message.

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It was at this moment that Tacitus spotted the last and most vital element of the scene–two giant and powerful hounds, whose powerful maws poked among the assembled delicacies. Shadows flowed around them like smoke, and their precise contours were hard to see.

Shadow_Dogs_Prowling_by_white_angel_ariahShadow Mastiff, CR 5

Turning to see this delicious newcomer, the two hounds snarled loudly and lunged forward.

In his haste to escape, Tacitus tripped over a plate of eyeballs and landed in the stomach acid. He was able to nimbly jump from here to the doorway, but one of his shoes began to smoke, and he felt a sudden painful stinging in the associated foot. “Get back!” he yelled. “There are two giant hounds in there!”

Joriah and Rina nodded to each other and quickly moved into battle positions. In just the past few days, they had become very accustomed to fighting with each other, to the point they could communicate with a glance. Rina used her trusty Blink Shirt to hop onto the nearest table, and Joriah stood in the doorway behind her with a readied sling and bullet.

The hounds had disappeared.

Rina shot a quizzical glance back at Tacitus. She turned back just in time to see both hounds suddenly burst from the nearby shadows, leaping directly at her.

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Fortunately, her readied Mask of the Chimera fought for her, seizing the first hound by the throat and tossing it into the nearby pool of acid. It howled in pain as it landed full in the liquid, and a cloud of steam began to rise from its form.

The second hound, however, came in full right behind the first, and succeeded in pushing her back to the edge of her table. Its jaws nipped and snapped at her clothes, but she managed to push the large, ferocious maw away just in time.

Tough as she was, Rina knew full well she couldn’t face both beasts alone, and she jumped back off the table towards the door. A sear of pain erupted where the second hound’s teeth bit into her calf, and she fell face-foward into Joriah, knocking them both to the fleshy floor.

“Quick!” Rina shouted, and the two scrambled to their feet. Dodging out of the doorway itself, the three combatants flanked both sides of the entrance. As soon as either hound showed its snout, it would receive a full face of pain.

It was then, however, that the mastiffs decided to use their second deadly skill. Each raised its maw to the ceiling and let loose a long, reverberating howl–an echoing tone of horror that bounced between the ears of all listening nearby.

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Unaccustomed to such attacks, the wills of both Joriah and Tacitus melted, and they fled in terror. Finding nowhere else to go than the room they were in, they curled into fetal positions in the furthest corners, sputtering incoherently.

The battle seemed up to poor Rina alone, and she readied her stocky dwarven form. She did not have long to wait. Almost instantly, the clever hounds erupted again from the shadows on both sides, tearing at her with their teeth.

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The battle was desperate. Rina knew full well that if she allowed either mastiff to get a hold on her, they would drag her to the floor underneath them and pull her to shreds with combined strength.

Fortunately, the hound to her right was still smoking from its encounter with the acid, and bloody flanks showed beneath the fur. Feinting back a step, she turned and sank the teeth of all three Chimera heads into its form. The beast screamed as the soul-shaped animals ripped into its arteries. Shadowy blood splattered across the ceiling, and the beast sank to the floor in a quivering mess.

Seeing the fate of its companion, the other mastiff vanished yet again into the shadows. Rina began to understand the tactics of these predators; like wolves, they were accustomed to hunting in packs–approaching a target in stealth, separating it from the group, and finally bringing it down quickly and savagely.  Which would only mean that…

Across the room, the last mastiff burst from the shadows in a lunge at Joriah’s elvish form. Fortunately for Joriah, his pants-wetting panic meant he felt forward on his face in dread, allowing the beast to pass over him and face-first into the wall.

Finally free of the terror that had claimed their minds, Joriah and Tacitus rose to help Rina. They circled the hound’s snarling form, flanking it on all sides and preventing escape.

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In the ensuing struggle, the hound managed to gain a hold on Rina’s leg, but the dwarf’s sturdy frame proved unshakable. While the others had difficulty hitting the hound’s dodging figure, Rina’s three Chimera heads again found purchase on her enemy’s hide, tearing shadow from sinew. Oozing a dark mist profusely, the hound finally gave a frustrated howl…and vanished.

Knowing that they would not be able to reveal the beast without proper magic, the three at first tried to track the mastiff’s bloody footprints through the room. Then, realizing they were in a room already coated completely in blood, they gave up. The beast had looked in a bad way when it had vanished, and they doubted they would see it again.

*          *          *

In time, the three adventurers made it all the way to the banquet table at the far end of the morgue. They had spent some time munching on the recuperating salt that Rina had been saving (although her stocks were running low) before dancing their way across the tables. (An initial plan to use a giant “tongue boat” had been quickly shot down.) While Rina had relied on her trusty Blink Shirt to make it from perch to perch, the others had had to make careful leaps across each space. They had only slipped once apiece, and thankfully had little to show for it than smoking shoes.

(Along with the food and “delicacies” on the far banquet table, there was a small backpack of equipment and items hidden near the back. The party snatched it for a later perusal.)

It was hard to identify the body on the table, prepared as it was for consumption, though it did appear to be of an underage boy. The defining moment came when the party parted the lips of the body. From the teeth inside emanated a bright, glowing color.

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Silver teeth had formed a connection to the physical world. The three touched the portal together and passed through onto the other side.


Chapter 23: The Physical Morgue, and a Mystery Solved

The scene on the physical side of the curtain was arguable more disturbing than the one they just hailed from.

Updates photo for West MiddlesexAlas, poor Warrick.

The three adventurers, again misty spirits, floated above the body of poor Warrick. Now far more recognizable, his body lay with mouth agape and teeth half-missing. A pair of pliers sat nearby, where his precious silver dentures were collecting in a ceramic bowl.

silver teethThese will fetch a pretty penny.

A little further away, two workers stood with their backs to the party. They were busy arranging the personal items of the deceased, separating those of obvious value from the detritus, which they piled on the floor. They laughed and joked quietly between themselves about their recent good “fortunes,” and how easy it was to get rid of the evidence once they were finished.

Besides that of Warrick, a few of the nearby corpses stood out in stark contrast. Along with the expected drunkards and homeless, there was a lady of obvious wealth, whose traveling handbags were scattered at her feet.

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A garrote-mark about her neck confirmed her all-too-familiar end…an end that Warrick had shared.

All of the pieces suddenly and horrifically connected in our party’s mind. Wayward Prison was far more than a sad end for the poor and destitute. A small but insidious crime ring operated here, preying on anyone unfortunate enough to not be missed. Whether ferried here under false pretenses or in a body bag, all disappeared into the morgue, where they were cleanly and efficiently written off. The bodies likely ended up in the harbor or a poor man’s grave, and the gold ended up in the pockets of the guards. Here was the grisly work done, indeed.

A wrath seized the three restless dead, a wrath they did not know they were capable of. Rina, in particular, felt an inescapable desire to literally possess the bodies of the criminals she saw before her–and somehow destroy them both.

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However, Malevolence was a skill they’d need to learn in time, and the three were forced to use more direct measures. Hovering ominously over the sad body of Warrick, the three began making muted, haunting noises.

The two mortuary workers turned towards the sudden sounds.

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Suddenly convinced the spirit of the boy they’d murdered had come back to exact vengeance, the two men emitted wholly unmanly screams and wrestled each other to open the door. Then, remembering they were just as sunk if the visiting Captain discovered their operation, they sank back into a nearby corner, blubbering to themselves. Dark patches were increasingly visible on their pants.

Captain or no captain, the three spirits’ welcome here was at an end. Having all the information they needed (and perhaps a bit more than they wanted), the ghosts raced out the open doorway, through the front iron gate still ajar, and out laughing into the bright and disguising sunlight.

There would be time later to think on vengeance.


Chapter 24: Epilogue.

Unknown to our heroes, forces mirroring their struggles had begun to move of their own accord. In a prison that devoured the lives of the hapless, a hollow wail had begun in a secluded echo chamber–a wail that built and built in resonance until it gained physical form. Separated words and phrases, scattered along the Shadow Plane, finally collected together in a single message–a single psychic call for vengeance.

psychic messageThe full psychic message–click to review!psychic message

And even as the three spirits made their way carefully back to a certain Lady, a scream reverberated along the Plane of Shadow…a resonating scream that, unknown to our heroes, had finally taken on a life of its own.psychic message


As a result of this session, the following sourcebooks and info pages were unlocked or updated:

New:
Shadow Plane Encounters

Updated:
Ghosts in Iqador

 

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