So the kid disappeared right after he stepped into the pool. Nobody wanted to try to follow him in. I tried tossing some pebbles where he was, but they passed right through the spot he was standing. No luck with that. I played out some rope and tossed it into the water, basically fishing for a barbarian. No luck with either. Well, hate to say it, kid, but you’ve got a habit of running off and then coming back just fine. We’re gonna give you some time, pack up the mirror, explore the rest of this place. Hopefully we’ll find you in one of the other rooms or you’ll find your way back eventually. If not, we’ll hold a wake. You were a good kid. Brave and strong and wise in the ways of your people. Almost too brave, really.
After we got the mirror wrapped up and attached to Eddie the Mule, we looked around some more for the kid.
Nah. I can’t in fairness call him a kid. He earned a man’s name. u-Heury was a good friend and a good man. I will mourn his passing. So sad.
Anyways we looked down the other staircase. It looked like it led to the same room, but still no sign of u-Heury. The only places left to look were the central room and the room guarded by dogs to the north. We chose to enter the central room by the northern pair of doors, reasoning that those were less likely to be trapped. Boarface volunteered to open them himself. After u-Heury disappeared he seems to have found his courage. Almost like he was a different person entirely…
The central room contained five sarcophagi and a pair of skeletal ghosts dancing in a shower of iridescent slime, ten feet over the floor. Below them the slim dripped bit by bit into a huge fissure on the floor, as of the slow forces of erosion had worn their way through stone floor and the earth below over millennia.
We talked to the ghostly dancers. Well, mostly the husband, he was the talkative one. He told us the names of the people interred there, and insisted we all dance if we entered the room, but didn’t have anything to say about the rest of the place. Boarface played with the slime a bit and learned that it will levitate anything you coat with it for a minute or two. (Really, like a different person entirely, this newfound intellectual curiousity; it’s almost like someone woke him up and told him he had agency and to stop acting like a supporting character).
We tried to look down the fissure to see if it led to the same room u-Heury had disappeared in, but couldn’t see far enough down to be sure. We did remember not noticing any slime dripping from the ceiling in there, so probably not connected.
The only thing the ghostly dancers seemed to care about was dancing and that we not disturb their “family” in the graves. We preferred not to start a fight, so it was time to move on to the northern doors guarded by stone dogs.
Boarface seemed willing to open the doors himself, so we let him. The rest of us took positions where we thought we would be out of reach from the chains restraining the dogs in case they animated, except for Boarface on door duty.
He touched the doors, there was a flash of light, and of course the dogs animated and rushed us.
I took a shot with my bow and missed. Ygnas swung her mace and missed. The crossbow Merc hit, but the chunk it knocked off the dog’s beastial grimace healed up instantly. Not only were the dogs practically still made of stone, this really hard to get a solid hit on, but they appeared immune to damage from most of the group’s weapons. Crossbow guy ran off into the darkness without a light, through the central room with the fissure. I heard his feet running, then suddenly they stopped. I think he tried to jump the fissure blind. A moment later, a bloodcurdling scream.
It was going to be up to me.
I slung my bow and drew my shiny new magic sword.
Boarface stood his ground, bless the man’s fighting spirit. For a moment he reminded me of u-Heury my boon companion in arms. But then the dog ate him.
I took two quick swings, coming close but missing each time. The corner between me and the dog was cramping my style, and a kind of furious focused rage filled my soul. That dog ate my friend Boarface and it was going to die! I stepped forward to take Boarface’s place, the floor slippery with his blood, and swung viciously. My sword sliced clean through the stone, and a large chunk fell to the floor without reforming. My sword worked! I taunted the beast and swung again as Ygnas fell to the floor in a bloody mess beside me. Another chunk of stone dog fell, buy this time it’s teeth grazed my arm, and blood flew. I winced at the pain, even through my armor, but a soldier knows how to fight through pain.
The sword was as light as the wind in my hand, the sword forms a dance that would have put the ghost dancers to shame. With a flourish I pulled the blade free of the first dog, only to see the second ravaging Ygnas' leg like a chew toy. She wasn’t moving, not even to scream. For a moment indecision filled my soul. Could I drag the dance was over, and the dog’s slavering stone teeth heading for my face was the last thing I saw.
At least until I woke up, weak as a kitten, naked as the day I was born, and covered in henna body paint with some obscure symbology, and a priest of Ygg looking down at me and to my mind enjoying the sight of my scrawny, naked, rail thin form a lot more than a priest really should. Ygnas filled me in on what happened.
She woke up a little while later, covered in her own blood and my blood. The dog got me, I fell over onto her unconscious body and bled out. By the time she woke up the dog was back to stone statue mode. She dragged me out, carried me back to Westkeep on her back, bought a cart and 3 more mules, traveled all the way to Eastdale with the mirror and my corpse, and convinced the church of St Ygg to bring me back to life, trading the mirror we had acquired for the service.
I’m not sure how I feel about that. The back to life bit. I mean I’m grateful to Ygnas for the effort. I don’t want to die. I know it’s a risk in this line of work, but I want to live. But do I owe some kind of debt to St Ygg for bringing me back? Or is the debt paid by the fae mirror they took as payment? Is there a moral debt as well as a financial one, to be settled by simple trade of value for value? If indeed it was a trade of value for value, than is it not Denara, the goddess of commerce Oscar is always blathering about, who I truly owe? I will need to ponder this, and decide what I truly wish to do with my life. I feel so weak,and the priests tell me it will last two weeks, so I will have ample time to contemplate.
I feel my cough coming back, too. I can tell that I will need to focus intently on my health if I am to thrive as an adventurer.
The St Yggians said they would destroy the mirror. Good riddance. But I doubt they would be happy about my sword from the same place. And I’m not happy that the damn thing won’t let me run when that’s the sane thing to do. Since I was gonna be stuck in bed for a while anyway, I figured I would have a custom harness made for two swords. One normal one and then this “fae blade”. Saw a guy named Geralt do that once, he said the silver sword was for monsters and the steel sword for men. Sounds about right. Cept in my case the steel sword is for when I think I might need to run.
Also got a whip. Something about the phrase “the fae blade” just says I need a whip, and maybe to start carving my initials into things.
The kid was back when I woke up. Turns out he spent a few seconds in some kind of frozen landscape where he badly needed winter clothing and left by backing out a few steps. But, the catch is, he was gone for days so he had to catch up after the rest of us had died and left.
Now I have a lot less money, but I do have a wagon and four mules to pull it, and I need a vacation. I need a vacation badly. Maybe I’ll go out one more time to get these mules and wagon back to Westkeep, where I can help Oscar out clearing forest and logging trees for a while.
With Barbarian Boy missing, the first thing Feverborne thinks of is to get the mirror covered and loaded on the poor mule. That accomplished with the muscle of the cannon fodder, we checked out the other stairs to see if they led to the same water logged room. Looked like they did. Same pool, same statue, same floating ghost candles moving to some unheard music.
We decided to look for Barbarian Boy in the first room with double doors, going in from the north side. Well, the cannon fodder went in. No danger in there, and no kid. Plenty of oddities. The two floating and dancing skeletons were in there, along with five coffins, a fissure in the floor, and dripping glowing slime from the ceiling. We haven’t found stairs, and the top of the barrow certainly wasn’t covered in slime from the outside, so where is the slime coming from? The male skeleton identified the people in the coffins as “family.” But there weren’t any other coffins, so why were the skeletons drawn here, and where were they laid to rest. They didn’t know who they were. Only that they awakened and needed to dance to the music. Still unheard music. Then again, if I hear that music, I’m probably dead. Considering this was supposed to be the barrow of the hero, there are way more dead people here than I expected. His whole family?
We decided to check the next set of double doors with the chained dog statues. I stayed well back and ordered the cannon fodder to open the doors. As soon as they cracked the doors open, the dog statues, as expected, animated. Since the words on the doors said something about calling the companions, I warned Feverborne to check the room with the companion statues. They didn’t move, thank Zuul. The dogs were enough. The cannon fodder fled back. The archer and Feverborne shot at the dogs, but didn’t hit them. What did hit them healed over new stone immediately. Boarface showed commendable resolve, and tried to hit one of the dogs. He did no damage, but the dog killed him. I faced the second one, but it got me and slammed me around like a toy. Everything went black, and I heard it, the music.
Then I woke up. I guess Zuul didn’t want me in the afterlife yet. With Feverborne on top of me. I got out from under him, and checked him over, but he was dead. There was a pile of stone rubble by Boarface’s body, so Feverborne must have killed it. The other dog was back by the door as a statue again. No sign of the archer. Bastard coward. No sign of Barbarian Boy. I had a vague idea that the St. Ygg priests could resurrect people for a price. Feverborne had said the mirror was worth a lot. It was already loaded up on the mule. I looked at the body for a while, and felt like it’d be a shitty thing to do to just leave someone who had my back and pulled me out of danger several times. Feverborne died a hero. Seemed the least I could do is try to save the man.
I was weak as a kitten, but I got the body over my shoulders in a carry, and headed out with the mule. It was a tense few days getting to town. I was afraid to sleep. Kept the body in the tent with me, so the flies and carrion eaters wouldn’t get at it. Didn’t know how to wrap it, or what to wrap it with. It was grim company. In town, people wanted to help me, but they couldn’t help me, and I didn’t have time to waste on useless people. They actually suggested burying the body. Burying! Of all the gross, disrespectful, heretical notions. Bodies get burned as is proper. The priest there was good only to heal me up. As much as he could; I have scars on my leg, and a limp. I used Feverborne’s money to buy a wagon and three more mules, so I could carry the body and mirror to the bigger town. Makes sense to use the dead man’s money to try to save the dead man. Another tense few days to get to town. I was stopped at the gates by paranoid guards babbling about occult things. They inspected the cart and charged me an outrageous amount of gold to get in. I paid it, but I was thinking of those two bastards burning at the stake the whole time.
Went immediately to the Ygg temple. The paladins about fell all over themselves when I said I had a magic donation to the church in exchange for a resurrection. They led me to a priest with a title bigger than he was. I hid my holy symbol and played nice. Simpered, batted my eyes, flattered him. We found the mirror in ruins in the Fae forest. I said we were bringing the Fae mirror to him, so Ygg could protect the world from it, and we were set upon by bandits with dogs. Idiot ate it up. Especially after they tested the mirror on some poor novice. He was saying he agreed the magic mirror was worth the price of a resurrection when Barbarian Boy strolled in. I thanked the idiot high priest profusely and grabbed the kid to drag him out, telling the priest we would leave him to his meditations to prepare for the ritual. I was terrified the kid would say where we really were. I’d been deliberately vague to try to throw the paladins off. Because the priest will send the paladins out after the Fae. He had that fanatic gleam in his eyes. I feel sorry for the Fae, giving the Ygg priests a reason to target them, but better to sacrifice the Fae to the Yggians than make ourselves their target.
Brought Barbarian Boy back to the tavern and grilled him none too gently. Here he is fine and not a scratch on him, and two of us died. Granted, I came back to life, and Feverborne would be back in the morning, but still. He said he was transported to a place with a tower and snow on the ground. He backed out and returned to the room with the pool. He swore it lasted a few seconds. I was intrigued about the tower in the snow, because somewhere in the barrow we’d read that the hero interred there had killed some frost lord or something. Seems the kid found the lord’s tower. I’m wondering if he was really killed, if the pool in the barrow celebrating his killer goes to his tower.
In the morning, after warning Barbarian Boy to keep his mouth shut, we went back to the temple for the ritual. He’s a self righteous idiot, but the priest knew his business. Feverborne popped right up. Has some manly scars on his face now that will undoubtedly impress the ladies. We left him in the inn on bedrest for a few weeks to heal back up good as new.