Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Bitter Blades: The Liberation of Thorn Island Part 6

"So, what do you think killed the girl?" Hazel asked Tom, looking around warily as Jack and Ada proceeded to collect the spoils from the fallen adventurers. It was, of course, the wrong question to ask.

Jack carefully lifted a necklace from the, recently, undead corpse of Nat, the dwarf, then froze in his tracks, half-bent over, completely unmoving. Hazel tapped him on the shoulder to see what was wrong, and simply knocked the ugly man over, still in the same pose. It was then that she felt something slithering up her leg. Hazel jumped back. Clearly to the surprise of the near-transparent slimy thing that was totally expecting to have paralyzed her as well.

Even with Hazel's warning, the thing was incredibly difficult to see, and surprisingly hardy. Tom, Ada, and Hazel scrambled up on the pile of rubble, hoping to avoid contact with the thing and Tom waved his hammer around carefully, trying to direct the light in such a way as to make the thing at least partially visible. Hazel struck a few blows against the thing, but it kept slithering away, under and around the rubble, quick as a snake and as elusive as water.

Finally Ada leaped down off the pile of rubble and ran outside the ruined temple to Enzebal's body. She scraped some of the luminous liquid off of his front with her hands and ran back. She mouthed that the others should stay where they were, then stood very still next to where Jack's body lay paralyzed on the ground, her gaze fixed on the others to tell them to keep waiting. A minute passed, then she heard something moving near her mailed boots. She reached down quickly and plunged her glowing hands into the thing. She froze immediately, but the paste worked well to identify the otherwise transparent creature.

Hazel and Tom leaped to action and smashed and slashed at the slithering beast, scattering its oozy form to the far corners of the room.

Kade's zombie continued to stand impassively to one side.

Tom and Hazel searched carefully for more of the slithering oozes, but found nothing else. They waited for nearly half an hour, but Ada and Jack remained paralyzed. They appeared to be breathing though, so the two companions lifted them up on top of the rubble pile and left them as comfortably as they could. Just as they were getting ready to head deeper into the old temple, they heard a quiet, "Hello?" from out in the courtyard.

They stepped out to see a lone, wet, rag-clad halfling carrying a lantern and what looked like the broken handle of an oar. The halfling introduced himself as Tamn, explained that he had washed up on shore, and asked where he was and what was going on. After some explanation, the halfling surprisingly cheerily agreed to help them explore the keep, claiming "it beat running into some undead beasts by his lonesome."

The three of them pushed their way through the back door of the lighthouse, into a small chapel, old and dusty, with a large altar occupying the back wall. Tom approached the altar cautiously, using the hammer to illuminate the room. As he approached the translucent gray form of a balding old man in the robes of a Tyrran monk appeared before him. With much cursing, Hazel drew her blades and readied to attack, but was stopped by Tom.

Tom held up the cherub amulet and spoke the word "Shestnik". The old ghost nodded then, in a long, moaning voice he explained that he was the spirit of Ferran Martinez, the abbot of the keep and that he had bound himself there to protect the keep even in death from 'unblessed creatures imbued by the might of a magical pool' that overwhelmed Phlan. The spirit asked if their presence meant that the city had been freed. Tamn simply looked confused, but Hazel stepped forward and suggested that "Yes, this old keep is the last to be civilized. We're here to make sure the harbor is opened..."

Apparently the spirit did not like her answer, for it immediately struck out at Hazel and the others, decrying their "unjust lies".

Tom, closest to the altar, was the first to feel the soul-chilling touch of the spirit. His eyes widened in fear as the ex-priest clawed at him, and he swung the glowing hammer wildly trying to beat the incorporeal thing away. While his blows were ineffective, he did buy time for the screaming, wild-eyed Hazel to leap in behind the thing. Tamn turned and bolted from the room, unwilling to face a ghost with not but a stick.

With two forceless blows, the spectre slew Tom, each touch causing his flesh to wither and muscles to weaken. The big mason fell unbreathing at the spirit's feet, looking as if he had aged a century in moments.

Hazel's swords tore through the creature. The black flames of her broadsword, cool to the touch for the living, licked at the thing and scorched at its incorporeal flesh. Enraged the spectre spun and tore at her chest with one ghostly claw, taking her breath away with the cold and nearly stopping her heart. Her rage drove her onward, though, striking savagely.

With one last cross-wise strike of her two blades, she rent the ghostly form of Ferran Martinez in twain, scattering his spirit and with a final, moaning cry of "Noooooooooooo." Still enraged, Hazel spun and drove her sword into the old, wooden altar, cleaving it in two as well.

Tamn hesitantly stepped back into the room. "Welcome to Phlan little man. I think we're done here," Hazel said.

Tamn helped Hazel gather up the bodies of her slain or paralyzed companions, as well as whatever weapons and treasures they could scavenge from the many fallen within the courtyard, and drag them back to the little boat waiting on the shore of the island.

With the arrival of dawn, their success was clear. The thick, black clouds which had hung like a veil over Thorn Island for nearly a century broke apart and drifted away and the old, white walls of Sokol Keep were visible from the docks for the first time since the founding of New Phlan.

Jack and Ada did not move until several hours after the boat had docked back in New Phlan, but when they did, the four who returned from the island were hailed as heroes and showered with the gifts and praise of the Council.