We all enjoyed a good night’s rest in the sanctum, confident that we were well-protected. In the morning Tipwill and Phulgyar set about copying some of the spells in Pendaster’s library into their spell books. We also debated what to do next.
Tip, Shinzu, and Phulgyar all wanted to press on with our quest, most likely by travelling to Candlekeep to seek both Pendaster himself (now in lich-form, we believed) and to possibly study more about Memnon and the Old One in the library there. Phulgyar warned that it would be dangerous, however: in this world and time the great library was a mage school for the shadowvar and their allies.
Amra and I wished to investigate the slavers more, and strike a blow against them. True, it was but a small act set against the larger events of the world. Amra was angered at seeing his kinfolk bred and sold into slavery. Given my own world’s dark past history of selling hin into domestic slavery as cooks and houseboys (a legacy embodied by the very term “halfling,” as if we were half-anything!) I had to agree. I was anxious too that we protect the girls we had saved by eliminating their former captors. Finally, I continued to harbour doubts about our grand strategy of righting the world by loosing an unspeakable horror into it. It seemed very much to be a leap in a dark hole without a rope, something that had never worked out to well for us in the past.
Dragons. The memory of adventure past led me to wonder what had happened to the shadow dragon Mayzine, and whether our kindnesses in the past might have permanently turned her from her evil path. After all, she was one of those few from our past who might still be alive in our present…
The debate continued. With the party split, it was clear that Liam’s word would decide our course of action. He offered a compromise: we would spend a day to slay “Slaver Pete” whom we had seen at the auction in the market square, then return to our original quest. When we left the city on the Skua in two weeks we would also detour to raid the orc encampment.
Aunt Petunia used to tell my siblings and cousins and I stories—all fictional, she would insist—of how an assassin might methodically stalk its target for weeks, discovering its habits and patterns of life, before striking the deadly blow. However, there was little appetite for such prolonged stalking among most of our group. Instead we performed a hasty survey and stake-out of the warehouse where Slaver Pete did his business, planning to improvise an attack when an opportunity presented itself.
Except that we were being followed, by a man in dark clothes that I had noticed the day before in the market. When we turned to confront him, he vanished. A shadowdancer, perhaps? A skilled one too, by the looks of it.
I had long been worried about scrying and spying and the such-like, and this latest episide was just more jam on the pigeon as far as I was concerned. I suggested that we abandon our immediate plans, and try to discover who might have us under such surveillance, and to what end. The consensus, however, was that we press on.
The warehouse was, on examination, a somewhat peculiar building with no windows. The doors were locked–and had no keyhole to the exterior. Pete never came out. Instead, Tip detected a flash of arcane energy from within the building.
I offered to check out the interior of the building. Tipwill transformed me into a Gaseous Form, and I then seeped into the building. It was empty!
Or so it seemed. One pile of crates seemed suspicious. On further examination I found that they were not crates at all, but a wooden hide built to conceal a horrible beast of sorts: a mass of darkness and lugubrious black tentacles, fully the size of an ox—by which I mean, of course, some otherworldly ox that looked nothing at all like an ox, but rather like a mass of darkness and lugubrious black tentacles.
I slipped back out of the building, and waited for the spell to expire so that I could inform my colleagues.
What was it? Some guardian, guarding the warehouse, or possibly tunnels beneath it? We already knew that the slavers used the sewers to hide their human prisoners. In that case, the flash of arcane energy that Tip had detected earlier was possibly Pete teleporting to his home, wherever that might be (although it was also possible that he used any tunnels for this). Alternatively, perhaps the creature was Pete, polymorphed into his real form, possibly some aberration from the Plane of Shadow. We had no way of knowing.
Naturally, we decided to attack. Phulgyar used a Knock spell to open the rear door of the warehouse, and we all slipped in.
Since the creature appeared to be in some sort of slumber, we had ample time to arrange our assault. Liam and Shinzu, as usual, stood in the forefront. Phulgyar, Tipwill, and Amra stood somewhat farther back, ready to use their spells—although they were constrained by the fact that we were in a wooden building the midst of the city, and anxious to neither attract attention nor start a conflagration. I hid among boxes and crates about 10 paces distant, ready to hurl my skiprock.
At a signal, Liam smashed through the false crates which concealed the abomination, while I threw my rock. It missed! Shinzu attacked, but the rubbery beast seemed to absorb her blows with little or no damage. My own rocks seemed similarly ineffective. Amra summoned a landshark to fight alongside us, while Tip tried to find a spell that would hurt the thing. The beast screamed an otherwordly scream and grabbed Shinzu, Liam, and Tipwill in its many tentacles, although the wily mage escaped with the aid of some hidden magical device.
In despair, I threw my Oil of Daylight at it, hoping that this might somehow weaken a creature of shadow. Perhaps this had some effect, but it also caused Phulgyar, unaccustomed to the bright light, to stumble about temporarily blinded. He recovered from the condition by cleverly casting a Darkness spell around himself, and also had the presence of mind to close the back door, which we had foolishly left open!
To be honest, I feared we would all die (with the possible exception of me). The creature squeezed most of the life out of poor Shinzu, then threw her limp, unconscious body to the floor. Liam’s kukris were a whir of steel and black ichor, but it was clear he was barely clinging to life.
Finally, Tip decided to risk all. “Skreuthys!” he exclaimed, invoking the name of the legendary saint of desperate causes, and cast a giant Acidball against the thing. This killed it, leaving a steaming pool of acid and melting tentacles in a pit beneath the floor.
It also blew out a corner of the warehouse. A crowd had already begun to form in the surrounding streets, and the shouts of the guard could be heard amid the commotion. Fortunately they were briefly scattered by the terrifying sight of Amra’s land shark galloping out of the wreckage of the building and into the market, where it devoured a cart of meat pies.
What to do? To leave the warehouse via the doors (or the hole in the wall we had created) was to risk near-certain arrest by the city guard. There were no windows, nor access to the roof.
“Down!” I urged. “There’s a tunnel or something down there, I’m certain.” I wasn’t entirely certain, but when there’s no rabbit in the stew, parsnips will do.
“Yes, but the fullness of the pit with acid of death requires most careful consideration, most honourable halfling…” replied a still-shaken Shinzu, brought back to consciousness by a healing spell from our versatile drow.
Amra step forward, and muttered a druidic incantation. “Not now. Now acid gone. We go. Kwika-sfuk!” Although only a few of us fully understood his idiomatic use of the imperative form of the third person plural of the Orcish verb kwikasfar (“to move very quickly, as if pursued by dangerous foes”), his meaning was nonetheless still clear to all.
And so, aided by the distraction of the bulette in the market square and our drow’s spell of Darkness, we descended beneath the city, where doubtless other dangers would away…