The sound of his companions crying out seemed to echo in his ears from down a long dark hallway. The paladin open his eyes and the light stung. There was something warm dripping on his face, and he reflexively brushed at it. It tumbled down onto his chest, and he felt something smear across his cheek, chin and hand.
Beorth sat up quickly, shaking his head again to come to his senses, and Jeremy’s bloody arm fell into his lap.
“I’m coming!” he called up, and frantically tried to climb the sheer rock wall, but his could not find good purchase, as the weight and restrictive nature of his splint mail dragged him back down.
Derek’s arrows continued to bounce off the lumbering hulk to no effect, but it did not seem to like it nonetheless. It reared over Jeremy’s crumpled form and clacked its mandibles angrily. Ratchis leapt off the wall, whipping his warhammer from his back and charging at the thing. It caught the half-orc’s mighty blow in a claw and pushed it back, bringing the other claw around cutting a deep gash Ratchis’ arm. The ranger’s eyes opened wide, and then stepped within the creature’s reach, to at least be able to trade blows with the monster.
But thankfully, Martin seemed to come to his senses for a moment and his second slow spell seemed to do the trick. The hulk really did seem to lumber now, and teeter slowly towards Ratchis, while Kazrack continued to turn his halberd back and forth in the light, awestruck.
Ratchis felt one claw smash him on the top of head, and a piece of his scalp was scraped painfully full as it ripped off a kinky knot of hair.
Ratchis roared and threw his weight into his shoulder and tried to bulrush the giant bug off the cliff edge, but the thing simply thrust out a claw gripping at his groin and stomach. Ratchis roared again and fell back, moving his hammer to defense himself, while Kazrack coming to himself stepped to try to flank and distract the hulk.
Out of the corner of his eyes, the dwarf could see a figure fall painfully from the step above. Derek had tried to leap down, but misjudged, falling and flat on his back, knocking the wind from his lungs.
Ratchis could feel his own blood pouring from him to mingle in the increasingly black pool of Jeremy’s blood he struggled to keep his footing on.
Below Beorth decided to start removing his armor hastily to aid in his climb, as he had made no progress.
“Colarus Spectrus!” cried Martin, casting a handful of multi-colored sand in the direction of the hulk. A shower of multi-colored light washed over the thing and it stood dazed for a moment. Ratchis took the opportunity to rush into it with a shoulder again in an attempt to knock it off the cliff; but its legs were squat and wide, and it would not go over.
The confusion settled on Martin again, and he was unsure of what to do, even as the creature shook off the stunning effect and took a slowed swing at Ratchis. The half-orc ducked.
“Run! We will all die if we do not flee this monster!” Ratchis cried to his companions. Kazrack alternated between thrusting his halberd at the creature, failing to penetrate its shell and drawing back looking around as if he did not know where he was. Finally, he just wandered lazily towards the cliff face, beneath where Martin floated by means of his spell.
Ratchis slammed his hammer against the creature again and again, but only every other blow seemed to make the smallest of cracks in the hulk’s shell. However, he could see yellow ichor dripping heavily down its leg.
Derek tumbled over towards Ratchis to aid him, avoiding a blow from the thing, but unfortunately the young woodsman, stopped and looked right up at it, and instead of driving his axe into its knee, he hesitated and tried to remember again, what it was he was supposed to do.
Martin suddenly realized what he was doing and sent another flash of color at the monster, and again it was stunned. Ratchis slammed it yet again with his hammer, and this time a long crack appeared from the center of its chest and across its abdomen, spurting more the brown and yellow ichor. The half-orc kept his eyes on the thing’s chest, stealing glances to see where the blows might come from and relying on his faith to keep his mind clear. (1)
The hulk lifted one of its stubby legs to avoid the swing of Derek’s axe, while Kazrack stumbled away confused.
“Traitor!” Martin cried, pointing at the dwarf, and drawing a dagger to hurl at his companion. It made sense to his addled mind.
Ratchis turned to moved away from the thing, but it caught him with a claw and threw him down, a trail of blood arcing through the air, as the half-orc fell on his side and rolled over on his back, unconscious and bleeding out.
Kazrack turned his confusion drawing his attention away from his fallen companion to the glint of a grappling hook grabbing the edge of the stone shelf. Beorth began to pull himself up the rope, bracing his feet against stone wall, but even with the aid, his armor made the climb very difficult. But he refused to give up, thinking of Jeremy bleeding out above him and needing his help, and he pulled himself up as if by force of will alone. (2)
The paladin pulled his head up over the ledge, in time to see Derek duck to make what might have been a decapitating blow from the monster, merely rip a deep gash across the young man’s head.
Derek fell, bleeding from the face and neck.
Martin was staring at the blade of his dagger as if it held the secrets of the universe, and Kazrack, who had been wandering around aimlessly, suddenly charged at the beast, ducking a blow from it and thrusting his halberd blade between its legs. A gush of ichor poured from it, and it teetered, but did not fall.
“Beorth, Hurry! Jeremy’s life blood of pouring out even now!” the dwarf cried.
“Imago Majorca!” Martin incanted, getting a hold of his senses again, and a great gold ram appeared at the edge of the cliff and began to march resolutely towards the hulk. The creature fled, trailing ichor from its many wounds, diving back into the tunnel it had created to emerge from.
Beorth pulled himself over the edge and crawled next to Derek who has not far away and lay a hand on his head to keep him from bleeding out. He stole a glance at Jeremy, and his head hung low.
Kazrack walked over to Ratchis, and saw that the half-orc had stabilized on his own, and then he forced himself to walk through the thick pool of Jeremy’s blood to look at the dead Neergaardian.
Jeremy’s skin was a pale pale white, and his eyes were open wide in pain and horror, his tongue hanging out of his mouth and split where he had bitten it while convulsing.
“First Chance, then Jana, now Jeremy…again…” Martin said, his voice choking as he walked over beside Kazrack.
“Is Jeremy dead?” was the first thing Ratchis asked when Beorth’s healing awoke him. The half-orc could feel the pain and weight of his wounds dragging his limbs down. He slowly sat up with a grunt and buried his disfigured face in his big calloused ham-hand.
The Fearless Manticore Killers decided to climb the rest of the way down the gigantic steps to the stony plain below, in hopes of finding enough wood to build a pyre for Jeremy, as burial seemed to risky with the amount of undead about.
They marched a few exhausting miles away from the great step, and found a place where many low crags of stone created cover from the barren canyon walls to west where they felt the Pit of Bones must be. Along the way they cut down the few small scrubby trees they found and laid Jeremy’s body upon a pyre made from them, wrapped in his oil soaked wool blanket.
Jeremy’s gear and personal items were spread out on another blanket, to see what would be taken from it to be used and what would burn with him to go to Anubis’ Realm.
“When I die,” Ratchis said, looking over the things. “I want you to burn me and spread my ashes in the places I liked, and take my things and use them ‘til they break, or until you find someone else who can use them well.”
As if in reply there was a rumbling from back in the broken land that had emerged from.
“I hate this place,” said Martin.
Derek had not spoken a word since awakening, but now Kazrack offered him Jeremy’s elven sword, The Right Blade of Arofel.
“Shouldn’t one of you take it?” Derek said, his voice wet with repressed tears. “You knew him longer than I did.”
“I think you tow shared a similar spirit,” Ratchis said. “It would do honor to your friendship if you took it and used it in his stead.”
“I shall do my best then,” Derek said, a tear coming loose from beneath his eyes, and leaving a smudged line of dirt on his face.
Beorth, Kazrack, Martin and Ratchis each stood on one side of the pyre with a lighted torch.
“He may not have lived long, but he experienced much of this cruel world, and despite that he still knew what side to fight on,” Beorth said.
“He was loyal to his friends, and would have given his life for any of them,” Ratchis said.
“Jeremy, when my heart was heavy you lightened it. For this, I owe you a debt,” Kazrack said.
“We’ll see you soon in the Duat,” Martin said, tears streaming down his face. “Wait for us, okay? Good luck on your journey.”
Derek said nothing, but held the Right Blade of Arofel in his hands, and cried.
They each stepped forward and putting their torches to the pyre at once, watched it light up. They then tossed their torches atop it.
“What about the bowl-thing? Use that!” Thomas chittered in Martin’s mind; sadness tainting his little squirrelly voice.
“You mean the urn?” Martin replied. “We cannot. We do not have it with us, and anyway, it will never work again.” (3)
“That’s not fair!”
“Life’s not fair, Thomas,” Martin replied, sadly.
“He did not smell as good as Ratchis, but I still liked him,” Thomas said.
“Yeah, me too.”
As the flames of the pyre rose high into the air, the party noticed scores of whippoorwills alighting upon the stone crags near them, and watching, cooing their dread calls quietly, barely audible over the crackle of the flames.
The birds did not wander far, but at dawn after Ratchis and Kazrack were done praying for spells, they fled.
The party decided to spend the day encamped here, to regain their strength and move on the next day.
End of Session #54
(1) DM’s Note: Friars of Nephthys gain a +2 sacred bonus to all saves against mind-effecting spells and are immune to spells with the charm descriptor.
(2) DM’s Note: Beorth’s player used a hero point to ensure he succeeded at this climb. A hero point can be traded in for a natural ‘20’ for any d20 roll.
(3) Remember, the Urn of Osiris would only work again if all the tasks the party had agreed to undertake were completed, and since Jana died without doing so, it would never function again.
ohmygosh. Jeremy really died. And on a wandering monster, of all things. Still. Death is good now & then. It keeps the players on their toes. And it is fun, I think, to make a new PC now & then. I will miss Jeremy though. Looking forward to meeting the new PC!
There is no replacement for Jeremy coming any time soon. When the Neergaardian died, his player who commuted down to Brooklyn all the way in New Paltz, NY (which has been in the news lately), decided he would drop out to prepare for his return to college.
He showed up for one or two sessions after #54 to help with NPCs and such - but that was it. If the game is still going on when he is done with school in a year or so then I hope he could join again and make a new character.
It was a sad day when Jeremy died, especially when Martin has yet to complete his task for bringing Jeremy back the first time. Also, unknown to the characters, but Jeremy's soul cannot move on from a special place in Anubis' Realm until that debt is paid.
Interestingly I recently had my first PC casualty in my PbP game. That player also elected to drop out rather than create a new one. I wonder how common that is. I still believe it's healthy for the PCs to die occationally, but it is tough on player dynamics.