There’s No Place like Rope Trick
It’s 9am in Willard’s Manse in Bastion. I’ve been awake for a several hours, but remain in bed, just been lying here, relishing it. Being able to wake up on my own terms is a luxury I’ve grown accustomed to. I’m not skilled in divination, but I predict being sick of the cramped confines of Edmund’s Rope Trick in the not too distant future.
I hear the wood on the stairs groan slightly as Mabel climbs them. She’s let us sleep in, Helga bless her soul. I release a sigh of resignation as I climb out of bed, readying myself to greet her. No one would be foolish enough to attack Willard’s home, unless you’re an ancient red dragon hell-bent on revenge.
I meet Amy in the kitchen. She’s got all her gear and is poorly hiding a childish grin. She’s obviously been up for a while, eagerly waiting for Edmund and I. Biter is wrapped around her porcelain mug, soaking in the radiant heat from the tea. I suspect she’s chomping at the bit – looking forward to another adventure. She doesn’t seem to understand the level of danger we all face. I can tell, however, from the way she moves, that she’s a totally different from the scared adolescent we rescued in the caves of Copper. Here movement is more confident, but I’m still skeptical of her skills in battle. When she fought with us in the past, we would try to ensure she wasn’t in any direct danger, but we won’t have that option anymore. With Abby pregnant and Linnfard otherwise disposed, our team is lacking brute force. Edmund won’t be standing in the middle of a fray, preferring to attack from above, and I’m much more of a counter striker.
I still can’t wrap my mind around how we’re going to take on a wizard who is more powerful as Edmund. Ed and I have been discussing countless possible scenarios. There are so many variables but the only constant for our success is our need to catch Sal off guard. Therein also lies our biggest obstacle. His honorific is “The Perceptive”. Why couldn’t Edmund have been “The Sneaky” or something?
From what I can see, we don’t have many useful leads and can really only start with one of three locales:
- The caves near Turid’s Folly, North of Egersund – this might be particularly risky because there twenty thousand zombies in the area.
- Tickle Bay. According to Amy’s tales, Salithius has a house there. It’s possible we could get some additional clues about his plans or whereabouts. She also claims that the house is protected with magical wards, so we may prematurely tip him off by investigating there.
- Heading to Choisy-le-Roi in Esonne to find Rispin. I don’t mind this course of action since we can interrogate Rispin, one of Sal’s boy-toys. He who knows Sal, but is probably much weaker and, I assume, infinitely less perceptive. However, none of us have ever been to that continent, which is a fact we should not take lightly, especially when you sprinkle in the variability of teleportation and how much the act of teleporting us just once drains Edmund.
Amy is a strong proponent of the “stop practicing and get on with it” strategy – and Edmund, showing an unexpected level of maturity, reminds her how dangerous this mission is and that we need her to behave and think more like an adult. She may look like a young adult but she’s still naive. Maybe she feels like she has something to prove. I’d like her to prove that she won’t get Edmund and I killed. She acts like she’s invincible and doesn’t she remember that she almost died from dragon’s breath? I think she’s become a little too reliant on magic healing potions. The best healing is to never get hurt, I find.
Edmund is understandably apprehensive on acting on the information we received from The Guild. I’d be incredibly surprised if The Guild is in cahoots with Sal. Their leaders are intelligent enough to realize that working with a mad man is bad for business. The Guild has never been particularly trusting of magic users, let alone homicidal necromancers. In fact, the chaos that is certain to precipitate if Salithius continues unabated has solidified multiple factions that have previously kept each other at arm’s length. While that should be comforting, it confirms to me how dire the Sal situation is.
A couple of knocks at the door interrupts our discussion. I escort Mabel, while Edmund stays behind a wall and listens in. Mabel opens the door, and any hope that this encounter will be benign immediately gets thrown out the window.
“Hello sir, how may I help you?” Mabel asks the man, whom I estimate to be a little over six feet tall.
My training kicks in and I try to glean as much information about the the strange man before he has a chance responds. He’s handsome… not in an elvish way like Edmund is, but different. There’s an almost ineffable trustworthiness about him. But it’s his eyes that are the most striking… the type that I would remember, but I don’t. That’s red flag number one.
I fail to spot any markings or adornments that might belie any affiliation, but his impeccable grooming and the quality of his gear show me that, while he has access to a reasonable amount of wealth, he is not out to flaunt it. Combined with the high quality of his cloak and leather armor, I suspect a warrior caste within The Church. His bow and sword look field tested, and his dagger seems more functional than ceremonial.
There it is. The single word “Brother” reveals volumes. If it’s High Priest Umfred that he’s talking about, I doubt he’d be referring to him as “Brother” unless he was outrageously disrespectful or highly ranked. I’m not sure which is more worrying. Even if Quinn was Umfred’s peer, any wise acolyte wouldn’t refer to the High Priest as “Brother” in public.
“May I ask what this is about?” Mabel dutifully asks.
I try to get an emotional response from Quinn by asking what a high ranking official of the Temple is doing here, but he doesn’t bite. Mabel asks him to wait while she fetches Edmund and closes the door. Edmund steps out from around the corner, telling me that the only magical item that he could sense was the dagger that rests on Quinn’s left hip.
“I highly doubt anyone is foolish to attack us here,” I say.
I shake my head, I doubt it, but can I ever be sure these days?
Edmund nods, reluctantly, and Mabel opens the door to reveal that Quinn hasn’t moved an inch. What a weirdo. As soon as he spots Edmund he walks through the threshold and approaches him. I tense up slightly as Amy tries to introduce herself to Quinn, only to be ignored.
“What do you know?” I interject, trying to get him to show us his cards first.
Our mistrust is palpable, but eventually we are convinced that he is here to help or, more accurately, that our mutual goals are at least partially aligned. In our experience, that is sometimes the most you can hope for when dealing with any church. He assures us that he is capable but doesn’t give us many details. I try to put things into perspective with the Red Dragon attack. Before he can respond, there’s another knock on the door. This time Edmund and I both join Mabel at the front door.
Mabel unlocks the deadbolt and opens the door to reveal an immediate threat. It’s a man wearing a tattered hooded cloak, typical of a Bastion street urchen, but it’s hiss of a lit fuse that takes a strangle hold of my attention. He’s holding a stick of dynamite (which no urchin could afford) large enough to kill himself and anyone caught in the blast radius. I grab Mabel and force her behind the only shelter I can find. I topple the heavy wooden table in a desperate attempt at a barrier. I pray to Helga that Edmund can get away and brace for the explosion.
I come to and my ears are ringing wildly. A good sign, meaning my ear drums haven’t ruptured. I orientate myself quickly and realize I’ve been thrown several feet and scramble to find Mabel. I spot her body, and it looks torn from shards of wood and glass. I scream for Quinn to help – hoping his allegiance to Uros affords healing powers like the disciples of Helga. I can barely hear my own voice over the constant squeal in my ears. I stay low to minimize my exposure and start scanning. There’s a gaping hole where the door was. Various body parts of what remains of the suicide bomber strewn about. I see Edmund for a split second flying upwards before he turns invisible. He looks hurt and very angry. If there’s more of them outside, I hope they like fire.
“She’s dead,” claims Quinn in a calm emotionless manner. Amy starts to cry while Quinn kneels beside the corpse, stoically. I can see his mouth moving but I can’t hear what he’s saying. I turn back around to give them some cover.
“Use your bow Amy and shoot anything or anyone that approaches that you don’t recognize!” I bark and hope she listens, for once.
My hearing is coming back – or at least I think it is – because I can hear explosions coming about a block away. Sounds like Edmund’s work.
I sense movement from behind me and glance over my shoulder. Mabel’s stirring… weakly. Thank Helga… or, in this case, Uros. Amy grabs a clear healing potion from her side pouch and starts to pour it down Mabel’s slack jaw but I notice that many of her wounds have already healed before a single drop of elixir touches her lips. Quinn you beautiful son of a bitch. I want to hug him, but I remain sentinel, waiting for Edmund to return and give us the all clear. We’re teleporting the fuck out of here, that’s for sure.
On cue, Edmund returns, becoming visible just as he lands gently in the foyer. “Link hands!” he commands.
We know what to do. The initial sensation of teleporting, which I still hate, is more than welcome now.
We land in middle of Edmund’s love den, in the heart of The Cauldron, the dormant caldera of an ancient volcano in the middle of Sweetwater Lake. We all turn to Mabel and she looks almost embarrassed by the attention.
“We don’t know,” he replies, echoing my thoughts.
Obviously, the primary suspect is Sal. But even so, it’s hard to believe that he would attack Willard’s home so boldly. He’d have to have gone completely off the rails for such a dangerous act. I don’t understand how the Servants of the Order of Conscious Influence operate. Does Sal think a kill order was issued on him? I’ll have to ask Edmund about the Order’s protocols, if he even knows. Was Sal able to intercept our private messages? We need a plan, and we need one now!
Of course, with that thought, I hear what sounds like a small stampede coming from behind the main doors. At this point, it’s almost comical. Edmund sends Mabel under his enormous bed. Cliche, I know, but we hope it will provide her some cover. I mean, it’s not everyone has a bed with secret love compartments like my pervert of a friend Edmund.
At first, I think that the door shattered due to more explosives but the lack of smoke and the scent of gun powder tell me that’s not the case. Then I realize it’s worse. I see three giant minotaurs shouldering one another to get through the threshold. Thankfully, the impact of smashing through the heavily reinforced doors seems to have stunned them a little. This confusion gives me a chance to act first. I need weaken the closest one as quickly as possible. Our close quarters aren’t going to be good for Edmund, nor Amy, and I’m sure as hell not going to depend on Quinn.
I vault over the bed, while unsheathing my magical rapier, its thin blade begging me to find new victims to sate its lustful hunger. How long had it been lost amongst the dragon’s hoard? It’ll be well fed in the coming moments, I’m sure. The imposing beasts would have made Francis feel diminutive – but they are not well armored. I don’t need to cut them. I just need to get close enough for my blade to drain them. Easy as pie.
Even with both doors ripped from their hinges, the width of the hall restricts the beasts from entering the bedroom at once. That’s good. I need to do two things: slow down the lead pair, and entice them away from Mabel. I feint a simple attack against the one closest to me and it reacts as I hoped, raising its axe in an attempt to parry. Its weapon reminds me of Francis’ battle axe. Hah, I’m fucking day dreaming in the middle of a fight. In the midst of battle, with my adrenaline pumping, I see things in slow motion. My body twists automatically to get in and under the swing of the man-bull. I position myself behind it, close enough to make it impossible for it to generate any power without exposing itself further, and difficult for the other two to target me without the risk of hitting their own. I’m not making the assumption that they won’t cut each other down in order to kill me, though. As I slip by the first, I make sure to slice it right behind the hamstring. My rapier vibrates with delight.
The next minotaur turns and lowers its horns in an effort to gore me. “Thanks, for exposing your neck asshole,” I think. I coil in to avoid being a human shish-kebab, preparing for the right time to spring. I don’t just jump out of the way; I butterfly kick while in the air, using my momentum to strike at its vulnerable neck as I pass. Success. I feel my sword’s hilt getting warm. By the end of my maneuver, I am on the opposite side of the room facing my companions, up on the raised floor by the bathtub. The higher ground and cast iron tub should give me a few more advantages should they retaliate. I study the two beasts I just stabbed, that moments ago obliterated the heavy oak doors leading into the room, and question their will. Both now look like to be straining under the weight of their weapons.
Quinn steps in to end the one I attacked first. At least that’s not an idiotic move. Taking advantage of a weakened opponent, and culling numbers early are good tactics, both physically and psychologically. He lacks the finesse I would prefer, but the fighting style also matches what I expect from an acolyte of Uros. His technique isn’t great – and I’m less than confident that it will be a killing blow. I am wrong! That’s because I didn’t expect his sword, which I clearly remember Edmund saying wasn’t magical, to glow like it was just pulled from a fiery forge. That looks like fucking magic to me, Edmund! And if it’s not, how can I get my hands on such “non-magical” weapons?
As the first foe crumples, Quinn steps forward to strike the second, putting him directly between the remaining beasts. Just sloppy! Now he’ll have to split his attention between them. Does he always fight like this? I guess if I was a hundred pounds heavier, half a foot taller, had a flaming sword and could heal wounds by touch, I might take more risks. Nah. Can’t cast spells if you’re dead.
Quinn tries another power move on the second weakened minotaur, but this time fails to finish it. I wonder how these enemies compare to what he’s faced before. Now he’s flanked and will have to try to defend himself on two fronts. I bet he wishes he had a shield now! Fortunately, the two monsters display their animalistic nature as they fail to take advantage and focus on Quinn like a skilled team would. Instead the one in the back targets Amy, perhaps believing her to be weakest due to her diminutive stature. Here’s hoping that Wolf Hill taught her some tricks in close quarters.
And this is where it goes horribly wrong. The beast in the rear must have been enraged as it charges Amy, who is literally trapped in a corner. She had no real room to maneuver, especially with that bow. The angles are too tight. I can’t believe she survived the goring that comes next. Not just once, but twice the Minotaur runs her through. Actually, I’m certain if she didn’t get magical healing she would have bled out on the floor within a minute. Even the minotaur that attacked her leaves her in the corner, confident confident of her death – a fatal miscalculation. Before Edmund or I can get to her, Amy releases a barrage of arrows. They streak through the air, almost glowing, and explode with the force of a lightning strike as they all find their mark. I can see the beastly muscles seize as the electricity flows, causing havoc on its nervous system. I’m glad the stone floor doesn’t allow the electricity to flow through to Quinn or Edmund who are nearest the convulsing bull. Can everyone in the bloody continent wield magic but me? The minotaur shows us its incredible fortitude as it is able to to power through the initial attack, and turns slowly back towards Amy, allowing her to evenly distribute another set of four arrows into its body.
The remaining sickly minotaur makes a desperate attack on Quinn. It knows it’s going to die here, and its last move is so unorthodox that Quinn is unable to parry the massive battle axe. He’s probably not used to facing such formidable foes. He should have never tried a direct block in the first place. While he should have been able to easily dodge the attack in the first place, I’m impressed with how he manages the resulting blow. Realizing that impact is imminent, he spins with the force, turning what should have been a lethal strike, into something far less damaging. Nevertheless, the impact staggers Quinn down to a knee. This leaves both Amy and Quinn in extremely vulnerable positions.
Edmund flies to the ceiling to get out of a reach, while simultaneously getting a better vantage point to attack. I smile; we’ve been together so long, that I see everything playing out in my mind before it happens. He releases what I can only describe as a pair of small fireballs, one at each foe. It’s nice that he’s learned to focus some of his magic so we’re not all in danger of becoming human barbecue. The stench of burning hair and melted flesh fills the cavern but the two beasts still remain.
The two enemies are now facing my injured companions, which means they’ve exposed their backs to me. This ends now. I launch off the the raised platform to land on the back of the one facing Quinn. I’m more worried about Amy at this point since she was gored horribly and may soon lose consciousness. I slice it’s jugular with the entire lengh of my blade as I jump from it’s back onto the floor beneath the remaining foe, thrusting my blade upwards, impaling it’s neck.
I rush to Amy, glad to see she’s already drinking a clear healing potion. Edmund hands her a red one, and I can see her gaping wounds heal before my eyes. Damnit! We’re already down three healing potions and the day has just begun. I turn to see Quinn wiping his blade. He doesn’t seem phased, which is assuring, although he’s not the most expressive person I’ve ever met. For all I know, he could be shitting himself on the inside. I ask if he’s okay. He nods. He doesn’t seem to be too hurt, and doesn’t ask for healing. I assume he can heal himself?
I hear a slight buzz echoing through the hallway leading to the room. I tell the others that we might have company. I point and Amy spots the mosquito . Then I see an rat inching towards us. Quinn tells us both the mosquito and rat are undead. Fuck.
“I can give us an hour of protection from these abominations,” he declares.
We check on Mabel and find her lying under the bed with her eyes closed. She hasn’t moved. Maybe she was trying to pretend nothing was going on a few feet away. We use the time Quinn’s spell affords us to discuss what the next course of action should be. We agree to return to Willard’s house to drop Mabel off and restock. Edmund tells us to gather and prepare for our teleportation. Vinnik lands on his shoulder and also confirms that he didn’t spot our assailants arriving on the island in a traditional manner. This means they were teleported by someone, most likely Sal.
The familiar feeling of free falling starts, and we re-appear in the middle of the woods?!
“Did you fuck up, or did you do this on purpose,” I ask Edmund. The smirk on his face tells me this was intentional… kind of. I immediately look for the sun. It’s about 6-7 hours east of where it should be in the sky.
“Where’s your map Edmund?” I ask.
We unroll it and plot the distance westward and approximate where we might be. If we go directly west – it’s nothing but ocean. So we must be on a continent somewhere north relative to Atlin – and west. The name on the map shows the continent is named Nordkapp. Edmund confesses he was trying to get us to The Twins, but messed up.
Edmund explains that he didn’t go to Bastion because he’s certain that Salithius was scrying on us back at The Cauldron. Makes sense. I realize I’ve been so reliant on his magic, that I’ve not been following practcing basic spycraft and operations security. Smart move Edmund – misdirection. This could be used to our advantage. Hopefully, Sal still assumes that we don’t know he’s listening. We need to come up with a way to communicate secretly. I wonder how long it would take me to teach these guys basic words using the my guild’s cant. At the very least I could teach them the alphabet. It would be excruciatingly slow, but its better than nothing.
Of course, Edmund might be able to allow us to communicate telepathically – but I’m not sure it’s wise to drain his powers necessarily.
We look around at this new continent, on which none of us have treaded before today. We’re surrounded by trees in every direction. Quinn finally admits he needs some rest. Edmund also needs to recharge, so we’re stuck here for now. He tells us that he can still manage create the rope trick for us, and since the room exists on another plane, it may be more difficult for Sal to find us. We all climb up the rope, leaving Mabel to be the last one on the ground. The rest of us pull her up into the small inter-dimensional room. It’s like coming back to a family cabin after a few years off, although it feels a more cramped than I remember.
Edmund zones out, apparently communicating with someone – I assume Willard. He comes back and tells us that Willard is concerned about Sal’s recent escalation. He also assures us that he will take care of Mabel and, within the next five minutes, Mabel vanishes before our eyes. It’s probably better for everyone if we don’t know where she went.
So here we sit, safe for now, but for how long? We seem committed to continuing to Esonne – to track down Rispin, but we need to work out a plan. How do we maintain the element of surprise if Sal notices we are on another continent. Is he able to observe us anywhere in the world? Is there a way to detect how he’s spying on us? Is there a way to protect against this?
While the other three rest, I take inventory of our healing potions.
Session ends: 1136 – July 6 @ 6 AM local time (since we moved westward) – Woods, unknown location, on the Nordkapp continent.