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D&D 5E The Kalarian Precipice - Chapter Five



The Kalarian Precipice - Chapter Five

The bodies of a few well-slain lesser demons smoulder upon the floor, acidic ooze-like flesh dissolving. Soon, they will be nothing more than crocodillian bones, elongated skulls and plentiful rows of teeth. Their days of guarding this chamber are over.

Surrounded by streams of slowly moving red-hot coals, ash and winding tentacles of magma, the "hall" for want of a better word, is plenty uncomfortable. Sweat comes easy to many of the group, as does the discomfort of what feels like a slow roasting. Long-term, it would devour one’s strength for sure. Unless of course your flesh had previously been removed.

As the ranger approaches the caged bodyless head, it speaks.

"I must admit, I was concerned for you when you burst in here alone mister. But wisely, of friends you have many! And now, you may add one more. You have my thanks.”

Dain must rely on instinct here, as talking skulls are something of a rarity, even in the ranger’s twisted darkearth dreams. Well, it seems friendly enough. There is no evidence of betrayal or evil, but then again, how does one read body language or facial cues, when of them there are none?

Then it nods calmly, a pleasant introduction from the sorcerer.

He calls me Friend. The first steps go well. So they want to know about comings and goings, jailers and prisoners. Now that, would be a story!

“Young man, it pains me to admit, I’ve seen many a mortal come and go. Slaving workers taught a little about underperformance, mostly. Sometimes an undead creature, or whispy fairykind has shared this space. As far as I know, I am alone here with what remains of them, a sad tale indeed.”

Carthum re-enters then, having rescued what might have become demi-human spider bait. What would Suru consider of such an otherworldly sight? Could this be the remains of a man corrupted beyond recognition? Or has his fate been unjust, a life spent in punishment deemed necessary by those of evil intent? Suru gives the half-orc no simple answers on this matter, today.

“Lucky for all of us me thinks, that of recent years the snotty fiends remaining here are those… lesser in stature, and prowess. The Pitchlings and their bit... sorry, woman, for better or worse, made things… shall we say… less economical?"

The woman, his words almost grated at the mention of her...

The head goes a rull rotation then, spinning upside down before resting back at a traditional eye-level.

“So tell me, who are you? And what might tempt such young feisty souls to the very edges of our dual-layered isle? Other than to rescue a man who will father no children, nor feel the weight of a staff in his hand, of course.”

Meanwhile, Annit has agreed to Carthum’s suggestion, placing herself back in the tunnels, keeping watch for the merest hint of movement, a hairy leg, or the beating of a red infernal wing. She doesn’t wander too far of course. The words behind her are interesting...

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First Post
Dain - Decisions

Listening to the disembodied skull, Dain appeared to shake his head slightly, as if clearing away some annoyance. His eyes closed briefly and a sensation of falling into something soft and damp followed. The pain in his chest faded. Time slowed down for him, and he was keenly aware of his heartbeat in his ears, one beat, silence, and then finally another...

Everything was dark. And warm. And then…the smallest bit of light, as if from a distant and shrouded moon, passed through a tangle of branches to speckle illumination upon Essithea’s body. She was rising up out of a gloomy pool of water, wet hair clinging to pale skin. Her gaze sought him out, stopping his heart altogether when their eyes met. *You will know me.* Her voice was a trickle of water over stones in an underground spring. It was a tangle of roots in deep earth. *As you dream of me.* And above all, it was desire.

His voice was a knot in his throat. She was near to him now, near enough that her warmth fell over him and his stopped heart threatened to burst. Her breath was like a flower that puts forth its final and most perfect scent before the bloom wilts and falls from the stem. Utterly ripe, but a moment from death and decay.

Her lips touched his forehead, and at first they were as cold as ancient ice. But his heat passed into them and they began to warm. His eyes tingled, his body shook. *Give to me, as I give to you.* It was a plaintive, but it was also demanding.

She began to recede from him, her motions in perfect reverse of when she had approached him, backwards and unnatural. The shadowy mere swallowed her. He tried to reach for her, but his body froze and thorns rose up around him. Tearing him. Suffocating him.

His heart ached.

Dain took a step backwards, a jilted motion borne of brief panic. He was back from wherever he had gone. He recovered quickly, and wiped a hand across his face to clear the beads of sweat. The pain was back as well, and it helped ground him. His eyes returned to the skull, and there was a hint of abhorrence in his face. This thing was dead and yet not dead. It was cast out of the cycle of life and death, decay and rebirth. The only thing that stopped Dain from despising it outright was the thought that it may in fact be a victim, and had not chosen its cruel fate.

Or had it?

He looked over at Metea and Otiroth. This was their domain. Talking skulls and demon-spawn. If they were in the wilds, he would offer opinion…but here? The mystics and the cleric were the knowledge bearers. “We cannot stay here long. We should follow the cart tracks. Its fate…” He glanced at the skull. “…is your decision.” Maybe the dwarf could carry him.

Dain headed for the entranceway, both to escape the heat and to join Annit in watching for trouble. Jeovanna could keep an eye on the mystics.


First Post
Jeovanna: Decisions

Jeovanna paces the hall like a caged animal. The heat is certainly getting to her. Were it a hot summers' day, a gust of wind might've danced past and temporarily lightened the load. Down here, it seemed every second was only the hotter, and the only gusts of wind that arrive? Are hotter still.

It is too much talking, though Jeovanna supposes she should appreciate that. Rare indeed to talk to a floating skull.

She licks her teeth. They seem sharper. Perhaps it is just her imagination. Perhaps the heat has put her on edge.

She feels very different. It is not just the heat, not just the lingering adrenaline of a corrupt rage. It is something else. When she closes her eyes, she could swear she heard the pack, laughing and snarling, playing and fighting, but... her eyes open, and they are not there. Just the rest of the party, and that talking skull.


First Post
Otiroth: Decisions

His blood burns.

Otiroth can bear it no longer- he yanks off the bandage around his arm. The flesh is still torn and bruised in places, but it is a strange feeling indeed... vitality soars through him, and the heat of the cavern is nothing compared to the burning in his chest.

For a moment, he even seems baffled at what he just did- but a smile returns as the floating skull talks.

It is still strange as the nine hells, but I enjoy strange!

"Economical?" The sorcerer repeats. "Were you with the miners?" A mage to ascertain the worth of what they dug up- it was a lofty position indeed! Though not one that had lead to lofty conditions, in the end. "You have been down here for some time, then. My condolences. What is the name of the last year you remember?"

It strikes him only after asking- could the skull have been down here before Dolstian law?

"We are travelers from Kalair, here seeking something to aid the world above. Even as the demons flee this cavern, other creatures come out of the Sands. It is a dire time. And makes for strange bedfellows indeed."

It was faint, perhaps a trick of the heat and the room, but Otiroth's eyes, already always an unnatural red, seemed a bit... brighter. Like a coal just taken from the fire, though they did not glow.

Carthum One-Tusk: Decisions

Carthum approaches the cage a bit closer, though he does not touch it.

It was indeed... extraordinary times.

Whether or not the skull had chosen his path or had it thrust upon him... Carthum felt pity all the same, the same as he had for the skeleton higher up in the mine. "You are not the first of such a nature we have seen," the priest says, though there's no accusation in his voice.

"My friend is right. It's dire times indeed. But you do not need to suffer longer for our curiosity, if that is your will."

Suru would wish them to release this creature from its suffering, no matter what information it may give them.


First Post
Metea: Decisions

The heat was quite nice, actually!

Metea's pack, already quite light, felt... a bit heavier?

It was strange indeed. While Otiroth chatted up the skull, and Carthum started up the 'blessings of Suru, purge the darkness' stuff, Metea would pull off her pack, set it down on the ground next to her. She'd kneel down by it, tail thrashing in excitement as she picked through it.

Her searching hands fell on an unfamiliar square of leather and the very familiar feeling of a tome! Metea paused before pulling it out, though. She shouldn't get too distracted.



The skull rotates to watch the ranger as he wanders off. It probably wasn't the kind of greeting the old dome had expected, but not everyone was playing aloof or disinterested. Including Annit.

“Are you ok?” She asks simply but with genuine concern. “What happened?” The rogue gently places a hand on Dain's leather armoured chest, having noticed small holes newly burnt into the hide. “Take a moment and rest, Dain, I’ll keep a look out. So, what do you make of the prisoner? What turned your tide of interest in freeing it? Nothing in this place is right. Nothing.”

Magaw turns his attention back to Otiroth then, a receptive, engaging and mysterious young man. Maybe the sorcerer has reminded it of someone, or starved of good conversation for so long, is pleased to finally share words with a soul who is clearly seeking deeper knowledge.

“With the miners? Indeed, you could say that, or that I was a miner once, though I much prefer the name prospector. Ah, yes, economical. The old woman is a double-edged one. A loose peace comes from removal of other’s power. But power distorts, and peace can not always be. If anyone exploited the best of this damned earth, or Kalair’s brazen gem hunters, it would be her aha. Years? I remember not a name for it, but there was much chaos above. It sounds like...”

He appears to contemplate Otiroth's mention of dire times, and The Sands, for a moment.

“...little has changed. The Sands? You must tell me more! But first, what is your name fine lad?”

A half-orc approaches then, reinforcing that Kalair is in need, before gaining the skull’s eerie and eyeless full attention.

“Friend, I know a servant of the heavens when I see one, that light, your words chosen in battle. What suffering is it that you offer to end? My constrictive accommodation? Or the affliction of being, well… neither living nor dead? Over time, strangely, I've become quite fond and accustomed to being that which I am. You must forgive me if my state offends ye.”
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First Post
Dain - Decisions

Dain stared off into the darkness of the mine. And it was no longer dark. Shadows were lit up and alive, seething like swamp gas. A shortened breath marked his surprise.


Annit's question draws him back and he looks at her, nodding. "Well enough, I think." He wondered if he was the only one being affected by the trip through the mine. "This mine is like a womb, it seems, a place where we may all be reborn if we are fortunate enough to survive it." Her hand on his chest feels light. "But as you say, nothing here is right."

"Rest will come. Later." He was young and daring, and he would not falter! His eyes scanned the darkness. "And the skull...I do not abide things that neither live nor die." He made a subtle gesture with his free hand, some sign against evil that he had learned in another life. In another place. It went unnoticed by him it was so casual. "When I first saw it, I thought only how it might aid our survival. I thought it best the scholars decide its fate, and whether it deserved pity or scorn."

"You might think me cruel." He looked at her again, his eyes meeting hers. "But that is not my intention. I am a soul of nature, and the natural order of things...and beyond that? I know very little of this world."

Or even of myself. She is a beauty. Delicate like a wildflower but keen as a blade. Have I ever loved? Is there some pretty face that weeps for me in some distant land?

"You are kind, Annit." A small grin appeared on his face. "Too kind to be a thief? Or do you pass your spoils on to the poor, like some heroine of a child's tale?"


First Post
Metea: Decisions

Metea stood up again, flipping her hair out of her face. "Fond of being a floating skull? Begging your pardon, but it seems dreadfully boring, to me. Unless there's more to that floating trick you're doing, than meets the eye?"

Or the 'eye hole' in this case, perhaps?

Maybe they had best let Jeovanna just smash in the cage. The creature had grievances with the Pitchlings, and perhaps rightly so, if they didn't fully drive out the demons. But he didn't seem dangerous... to them.

Carthum frowns, ever so slightly. "Offends... me?" He put a strange amount of inflections on that last word. "No. And you are right. There is more than one type of freedom. If your imprisonment here was unjust, then we cannot leave you here, more alone than before."

Ever Carthum tried to appear like the priests of his high order. But they had toiled and soared in Suru's light for far longer. This deep walk into the mines had shown him Suru's strength in a different way, but he did not pretend to be as wise as his elders in such matters.

"You warned before to keep magic away from your cage. Are there specialized enchantments in place?" This seemed a certainty, but Carthum was more pressing for information than anything. "And can the lock be picked? Or smashed?" Such a thing was unlikely for a floating skull to manage, but there were other ways now...


First Post
Sadly, Otiroth did not have much more information than rumor about the Sands, not that he'd care to admit it. Of course, rumors were probably of great interest to someone who'd been in demonic jail for an age, but they could not stand around here chatting forever. The heat was even beginning to bother Otiroth, and it did not seem that the skull knew much about what was on the path ahead.

He was quite interested in the spells involved here, though.

"Well, if you have quarrel with the Pitchlings, I suppose I cannot blame you. But we have no intention of fighting with them," Otiroth said finally. He imagined he'd been annoyed as well, whether or not the Pitchlings could have even helped. It had not been particularly wise of their party to attack the ooze demons, either.


First Post
Jeovanna: Decisions

Jeovanna heard 'smash', and honestly, the heat was getting to her. A tad bit of impatience had crept in. Of course, now was not the time to be impatient, as dealing with undead was something far beyond her abilities. Unless that 'dealing with' involved smashing.

She was more worried about the dwarf, though. Getting him out of the coal-soaked room and near Dain and Annit was the best they could do. That fungus-ale was damn potent!

Maybe she was just jealous. Ha!

But eventually the barbarian would head over to the mages, her greatsword resting on her shoulder. It was time for a decision. They needed to decide.



Annit nodded. Dain was right. Let the gifted ones, those more versed in religion, magic and possible skull-release consequences determine Magaw’s fate.

“You’re not cruel,” she said, pleased that the ranger was talking and any acid-induced chest pains weren’t overcoming him. “We’re what we were made to be I guess, either through our own decisions or those of others. This place, I can feel it changing us. All of us. For better or worse I do not know.”

She turned to look into Dain’s eyes. Such a strange fellow, unpredictable, sometimes distant, a man of the wilds and freedom lured into a stonewalled darkness. “Even now, I know I can do things that were impossible before.” A quiet laugh then, before Annit says “we are in a pickle. And we are being pickled by the powers down here too. Poison, the sounds of a funeral bell, trickery to the eye, like daydreams these things are conjured in my thoughts, like pulling the impossible out of a dream, and placing it into the real world.”

An honorable thief? It depended very much on perspective. “You are kind too, Dain, in your own way. Me? I guess I am when I can be. The bloodline didn’t always demand kindness however.” She goes quiet then, uncertain if this should be elaborated on. Probably not the time and place. Few were those she’d confess to. Protecting secrets didn’t always go hand in hand with what might be best for the odd civilian.

In the much warmer and more populated confines of the hall, the discussion with the captive head continues. “Boring? Oh yes it must appear that way,” the skull replies to the Tiefling, “but when you can’t do… well… what your mind dictates that you must, then it seems a choice is made. Perish or patience. Me? I chose the latter.”

Looking back to the priest, he seems pleased. “Alone. Yes, it would be nice not to have to remain here as such. Should you choose to free me, then a debt will be owed, of that I am certain. In some way, it will be paid to you. Ah the cage. This is no forge-beaten iron my friend. The very bars are devil’s work. All that enters these bars, be they fingers or tools, have gifts and magic made void. It is how they kept me here, powerless, a cube of cancellation of sorts. Of a key I am uncertain, though there is a lock on the opposite side. Oh the irony you see? Without mammoth strength nor even hands to bend with, of my containment the fiends were certain. I am sure though, that with distance from these evil irons, I might regain a little more of my former self. Not in body though, but in mind and memory.”

His empty sockets move to Jeovanna, almost hinting at the idea. “She is strong. I had a front row seat to that fight. Question is, is she gifted in the arts of gods or arcana? For my sake… I hope not, and that she might be persuaded in your cause. It looks as though you too, have paid a toll for your entry here.” The skull nods in the direction of the dwarf, quietly sleeping thanks to recently digested fungal “brew”.

He spoke with Otiroth then. “With the Pitchlings I have no quarrel. They had their reasons I suppose, on when and what to interfere with, that I respect. Lives were saved and they were rewarded for it. Do not underestimate the poison of greed though, friends. Even folks closer than family and born of same blood have become enemies, in the lust for the old treasures once locked in these walls.”

Ah, look! The fighter comes closer...
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First Post
Dain - Decisions

Bloodlines. The very word reminds me of how little I know of myself. To have one is be surrounded by a cocoon, be it for ill or boon. But to be without one is to be exposed to the elements of the world, naked and afraid.

He listened to Annit, nodding slightly in the dim light. "So much is demanded of us, from different places and different things. We are all of us servants...to some thing or another."

Then he snorted under breath, laughing at himself as he whispered in the dark to Annit. "Listen to us. Philosophers and sages. Just let us survive this place, and help those that are in need, and everything else will follow well enough."

He put a hand on her shoulder. "Your father will be proud."


First Post
Metea stepped back slightly as Jeovanna approached. Then even more, as the barbarian investigated the cage with true intent in her eyes.

"I say- do it. Nothing's gained by wasting time," Metea said. Maybe he'd teach her his levitation spell!

On second thought- keep that to herself. She'd hate for him to think he meant 'teach me how to be a floating skull'...

While Metea looked otherwise relaxed, her tail lashed in excitement. She couldn't wait to see what happened next! Carthum had saved one of his healing spells, hadn't he?

Carthum One-Tusk: Decisions

Carthum nodded. He too would step back, though not as far.

Was this wise? Did compassion need to come from a place of wisdom? Could it?

Suru, I ask only that if I create a wrong... I be given the chance to fix it

His shield remained on his arm, his mace close at hand. "Strike well."


First Post
Jeovanna strode forward to investigate the cage. It looked too strong to simply smash it with her greatsword- now, if she had had an ax!- but that was beside the point.

"Keep your head down," she suggested to the floating skull, with a bit of a wry twist of her lips. It was impossible to tell if she was making a pun or not.

The weak point would have to be the hinges, wouldn't it? For whatever passed as such in devilwrought metal. She drove her sword between the bars below one of the hinges, pinioning the blade sharply upwards.

If anything, she was more concerned about sundering her blade than that her own strength would not be enough- but after burning her hands twice on hot rocks in the path of flame, she was hesitant to outright grasp metal bars!


First Post
Otiroth: Decisions

Yes.. they all took a step back, though Otiroth watched with more curiosity than trepidation. Imagine- an undead, floating skull owing them a favor! That was an unusual concept indeed.

Perhaps the sorcerer may have moved to stand between the skull and the dwarf, but a part of him, deep down, did not much care that the skull had pointed him out. The dwarf hadn't come down with them, true, but they were responsible for his safety.

He'd watch Jeovanna's attempt- perhaps a magic missile could've softened the hinges?


Kravikus Comes!

As well as wide carving arcs, deep impalement and weighty slashing, the greatsword offers other advantages. Leverage. A blade axis that in it's center is denser than mere one-handed tools. With a thrust beneath the hinge and a groany sweat-inducing shove, Jeovanna hears the iron begin to creak. With her weight as much an advantage as sheer muscle, her side of the cage slides upwards just an inch or so.

“It's working!” Magaw has taken the advice to retreat out of the way, but oh it is a sweet sound. The sound of brute force overcoming magic. Raw physicality disrupting a magic's constricting flow. Whatever poor creatures and people had been imprisoned here, they must have been so terribly weakened that this method of escape was impossible. Demonistic guards lurking around probably didn't help either. And Jeovanna? Few humans could be named stronger. The skull is truly lucky this day. Fresh, youthful and strong assistance. A woman in her prime. The room’s guardians sent back to hell.

Another creaky push, and a cage wall is hanging off of it's hinges, sagging to clang against hard rock with a sound like a single strike of a blacksmith’s hammer. Magaw moves to the very edge of what was once confinement.

“Hail you! Lifter of iron and releaser of Magaw!” The head floats a little further out, mere inches. “I tread a new path now friends, and though it won't be worn by my feet, I thank you!”

With speed he flys out then, moving upwards and nodding to the group with respect.

It is then that Dain hears something, behind them up the unexplored cart-tracked way. A distant crunch of a foot upon coals. Then a dark growling voice booms off the walls. A threat.

“Who dares call upon Kravikus! Imp, I will crush you if this is one of your jests!”

“Shit,” Annit exclaims under her breath, taking a few steps towards the call. She kneels then, running hands upon the basalt at her feet.

“I witnessed a dream, some gift now bequeathed. This dark rocky path to be jaws, with teeth!”

Dain might be a little shocked at what he witnesses next. From the floor, sharp protrusions of stone grow, like blackened stalacmites. Five feet of razor-sharp obstacle.

The skull turns to face the priest. “Kravikus comes, someone has alerted him to your presence here. Quick, prepare yourselves! The fiend is not so easily felled as those on prison duty! I will help you! Beware of claws, bite and fire!”

Something brushes Dain’s mind then...

I know you are there, trespasser, prepare for punishment!

Then everyone would feel it, a penetration of their thoughts.

Ah, an infestation of mites, here, come let me crush you!

<Everyone declare your actions and where you would like to be located. The round after that we will roll initiative (feel free to email over your initiative rolls in advance). >

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First Post
Dain - Kravikus Comes

Dain's eyes widened at Annit's display of power. "To the shadows...protect yourself!" He whispered, but loudly.

He drifted backwards, beyond the torchlight.