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Part 13: “Dark Side”

Previously (Pt. 12) Home

Our spirited heroes gain their first real view of “Dark Side,” the Veritan Shadow city. What unique adventures and perils await them there?.

Ikkath’s character is again NPC’d in the background while his player traveled Taiwan.


Real Date: October 12, 2014

Game Date: 10th of November, a.r. 231, morning (Day 10)

Chapter 55: A Faceless Enemy

mental_institution

The party set up a series of overnight watches. They were hiding in a hostile city, surrounded by unknown dangers; it would be incredibly unwise to let down their guard, even for a moment. Joriah took the first shift of four hours, and Rina the second. Tacitus, having now had eight hours of uninterrupted sleep, covered the third and final. He noticed that the breathing of the elf and older human prisoners they’d captures was evening out, and that they’d probably be awake very soon.

scary faceA chill went up his spine, however, when he looked up to see a stone relief of a face on a nearby wall, not far from the sleeping Rina. A thin frame of stone around the visage suggested a vague portrait. Tacitus was sure that he would have noticed this little detail in the past four hours of watch. Indeed, even as he watched, the face and frame both faded back into the stone, like ripples on the surface of a pond.

As the face had appeared nearest to Rina, Tacitus crept over and shook her awake. His assertions that “a face” had come out of the wall and looked at them confused her sleep-addled mind, and she did not fully awake until a stone hand burst from the ground beneath them. Grabbing Tacitus by his mithral chainshirt, it retracted back below, slamming him forcibly face-first into the stone. He heard a solid *crack* and felt several of his ghost teeth go flying from the impact.

Defacer (CR 6) from Monster Manual IV, with the Entomb (Su) ability from the Entomber (Libris Mortis) replacing its Frightful Keening ability.

101152220Aware that there was definitely an enemy on the loose (though still hazy on the details), Amy called out loudly to wake everyone else up. Then, unsure how to combat a monster that had emerged from the ground itself, she drew her adamantine sword and stabbed the floor several times (ineffectually).

While the older human and elf prisoners slowly roused themselves from their groggy sleep, Tacitus pushed himself back off the floor and ran for the stairs. He realized with a sinking feeling that not only the ground, but the stairs, walls, and even ceiling were composed of the same dull-colored masonry. A creature that could pass through stone could attack from anywhere.

Joriah quickly learned this the hard way. Roused from his sleep by Rina’s cry, he looked up to see a stony figure rise straight from the ground in front of him. Its muscular form looked solid and strong, but ghostly faces surrounded its featureless head. As it moved for Joriah, one of the faces rushed up each arm.

The monster (whatever it was) rushed Joriah, trying to bull rush him into the masonry behind him. Nimble as ever, Joriah dodged to the side, slashing against the monster with his just-drawn rapier. As he had suspected sadly, his rapier bounced off the creature’s stony skin.

hatch door tower shieldThinking quickly, Rina unslung the makeshift tower shield she’d received from Ikkath–the ship hatch door. She tossed it onto the ground with a *clang* and stood on it. This would prevent the monster from grabbing her directly from the floor, as it had to Tacitus. Now, she would have time to strike first.

As Tacitus began readying his trademark spell while on the staircase, the two freed prisoners were on their feet but confused. “Where do we go? What should we do?” they muttered sleepily. Not forgetting about them, Joriah quickly ran to help, putting a hand on each of their shoulders to steady them. Rina’s shield or the stairs seemed the best place to convey them.

Defacer_closeupHowever, the stony monster was not finished with the elf swordsman. It rose again directly from the ground in front of him and reached its fingers toward Joriah’s face. However, that was when Tacitus’s readied Scorching Ray hit it in the side of the head. Even with its tough hide ablating a portion of the damage, a full two-thirds of the fiery force soaked through. Tacitus smiled to himself; automatically-empowered spells came in pretty handy at times.

Still, the damage did little besides rock the beast, but this was still enough to keep it off balance. Joriah again dodged its onslaught and (again) felt his rapier recoil from its skin. The cogs in his head began quickly turning; it was important to keep together to fight this invisible enemy.

Joriah: Everyone! Gather together with Rina! We need to ready ourselves for the next attack!

Tacitus returned from his spot on the stairs, enlarging Rina as he moved past. Rina flexed her larger muscles and held her sword above her head, again the size of a claymore. As soon as the creature showed itself, she would give it a piece of her mind. And her steel.

She did not have to wait long. The beast switched its attention to the mage that had harmed it, breaching the floor next to Tacitus. On instinct, Tacitus ducked–and felt the long blade of Rina’s sword pass over his head. Rocks and pebbles flew across the room as Rina’s adamantine blade completely ignored the creature’s stony skin.

Apparently surprised by the sudden pain, the faceless monster immediately withdrew into the ground. For a few quiet and tense moments, the room fell deathly silent and still. Rina hefted her sword expectantly, Tacitus massaged another ball of fire in his palms, and even Joriah put away his useless sword to help with a grapple, if needed.

truths-quicksandThe monster may have spent the time sizing up the weakest target, for this time it burst directly underneath the older human ex-prisoner. The man screamed in terror as he was yanked forcibly under. Tacitus was able to again strike the creature with searing fire; but Rina’s sword went wide, and Joriah’s attempt to hold the man up were ineffectual. The man’s cries were abruptly silenced as he was pulled beneath the ground, leaving only a shallow grave of gravel.

491cd2980d9f3,No-faceBy this point, the other elf ex-prisoner had simply had enough, and his untested psyche cracked. He ran screaming into the depths of the Shadow house, looking for any way out. Joriah dug frantically through the loosened rocks to get to the buried man; but it felt more like scrabbling at packed gravel than sifting through sand. Once he had finally cleared the man’s face, he was horrified to find that not only the man’s life–but his entire face–had been stolen by the entity. The skin and bone were fused across the front of his head as if they’d always grown that way. There was no heartbeat.


The Finale

Our heroes had further adventures in the Dark City, delving deeper into the mysteries of their own continued existence; but for now our observations must cease. For time still passes in the world of the living–groups end, lives continue, and the wheels of fate turns on.

Yet perhaps one day, those wheels will turn full circle, and we will again set foot upon the surface of Iqador, and ply its secrets.

Till then, noble spirits.

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