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5E The Kalarian Precipice - Chapter Four

97mg

Villager


The Kalarian Precipice - Chapter Four

Some time ago...

For the few who dared continue to delve and dig, competition was fierce. With no legal needs to draw lines and no tenements written to council scrolls, the operations had quickly become unstable and anarchistic. Securing sites deep within black seaside walls required constant vigil. The placement of devious “consequences” shall we say, was commonplace. An argument over a shared tunnel’s use and delays in night-enshrouded extraction might lead to heavy words. A scuffle. A clashing of teams in a blood soaked, ugly, tribal and all too primitive altercation.

Many unlucky, unprepared, outnumbered and greedy of these souls found their way to the oceans below. A salty, ever-shifting and boiling final rest for those that knowingly broke the law. Kalair’s guards didn’t even bother patrolling the site anymore. It was too dangerous and the violators seemed helpfully bent on self-destruction anyway. Let natural attrition deal with them.

A stubby hand grasped for the next oaken rod, a shaft with holes cut to both sides where hemp rope was tidily knotted. Another rung in the ladder. Around him the night was cool and still. Above, his fellow prospector continued the laborious movements upwards.

They were tied together, literally, with both rope as a last resort and also in spirit. Rinkab and his brother had their own special spot. A small cavern with tiny glittering prizes, like shimmering crustaceans upon a ship’s pitch black hull. The job was dangerous, nobody would proclaim otherwise, but they had their reasons; an appreciative and suitably powerful master, the thrill of secrets, and a good bag full of perks. Rinkab and Bolof lived well, Arrank their father too, the latter having a knack for wheeling and dealing, but preferring not to do the dirty work. Let the young ones, more sound of body take care of such tasks.

Moments later, Rinkab, the lower of the two dwarves screamed.

“Frayed!”

This was no accident. Someone had sabotaged their most important tool! Why, oh why hadn’t they checked it? Probably because they never saw someone rummage in their packs whilst their attention lay elsewhere. Black walls. Beautiful stones. Prospector’s excitement....

“BOLOF!”

By the time Bolof felt the not-so-safe safety line tighten around his waist, it was too late. A brother’s weight yanked at him, pulling his grip free and clear of the only way up. He plummeted, cutting through the air like a tumbling boulder.

Below him, Rinkab’s fingers grated against rough stone, reaching out, grabbing and praying for something to act as saviour. Like any dwarf, his upper body strength was formidable, thick arms of stocky muscle went hard at work. A small ledge! He got one hand on it. The weight on the safety line disappeared as it went slack. Then his friend whistled past in a blur. Bolof’s trajectory would see no chances to avoid fate. He was too far out, lost in the air, the kiss of the sea was inevitable.

Rinkab had mere seconds to make his choice. Wisdom and ethics, tossed to the side when only one instinct screams from within. Survive! With his free hand, he whipped out a short-handled blade and cut the lifeline. His soul was severed equally with the slash. There was a splash far below many seconds later, just as he crawled up onto a narrow protrusion of stone.

He wasn’t alone. A messy circlet of sticks and shells was occupied by a roosting seabird. It fluttered wings and threateningly pecked in his direction, cawwww!

Wrapped in shock, sorrow and bursting with adrenaline fueled despair, Rinkab paid the local wildlife no heed. He slid himself tighter against the ledge. Somehow, between night’s shadow, black stone and a bitter heart, something even darker caught his eye. Behind the nest. A black hole like a pupil within an obsidian eye, it started at him. A cavity? Did he have the strength and will to slide inside? If anyone wished to find him, they need only follow the trail of tears.


Present Day...

Having rejuvenated their spirits, purpose, bodies and minds, our brave explorers make their way through the next section of crevice. This one is long and viscous as a bat's claws in the way it sharply twists. This is no miner’s doing. Something in the shadows of the past caused great earth movement here.

You proceed warily forwards, eventually breathing a sigh of relief as the wall’s grip on you loosens. Is that the most horrid smell of bat guano? Must be, but mixed with an aroma of old salt too. Peeking into what must be a massive open space ahead, you are stunned at what lays before you. This cavern is some fifty feet in radius, so wide in fact that your flames and magical lights fail to reach the other side. A good sized ledge runs to your left and right, a rim around what appears to be an exceptionally wide… and deep… hole. Just on the edge of your light, you might spot roughly assembled steps leading downwards. These aren’t carved stone, no, they are merely large boulders and chunks of basalt that have been arranged into a precarious-looking way down.

Those with the gift of darkvision can see two other ways ahead. A walk around the perimeter of the ledge would lead to two dark shaded breaks in the wall.

Above you, many tens of feet beyond your reach, bats cling to ragged craggy stone and click, flutter and squeak. With their earlier attempt to go somewhere foiled, they seem happy enough to keep you at a distance. Their clicking reflects your presence back to them, but with no manners, the occasional fall of poop from high above seems uncomfortably likely.

 

97mg

Villager
Annit

Young Annit’s eyes widen as the empty void becomes visible ahead. At last, some space, a reminder of the world beyond these walls where a sea churns and sunlight burns. The cause of this expanse is a mystery to her. Father never mentioned the possibility of such an environment underground. It was all meant to be narrow tunnels, pits and ladders.

“Something happened here,” she quietly observes, not meaning to state the obvious, but more out of true surprise. Were those bats roamers of outside air at night? If so, how did they get there?

With open spaces came different techniques. For now her dagger would be stowed away, and a shortbow was drawn and readied. It was up to her companions as to where they would tread next. Not too close to the ledge’s edge would be wise.
 

Jeovanna

Villager
Jeovanna: Watch your step

In no small way, Jeovanna is happy for the cave to open. The plunge into another great hole- that is less promising. And... ugh... bats.

For the moment, Jeovanna kept both weapons close to hand- but she kept the cavern wall close to hand as well!
 

Otiroth

Villager
Otiroth: Watch your step

"Well," Otiroth said with a wry smile as a bit of guano landed on his shoulder, "at least it is a potent spell component. I'll have no shortage after this."

But any stray droppings could be prestidigitation'd away.

Otiroth would use his dancing lights to cast dim light all around them- behind and in front- and near the edge of the drop, as well. He suspected it lead off into the ocean, but had no desire to take the plunge. The presence of bats, as well, did not denote their own safety; they were perhaps too small to set off traps, or to serve as food for any big beast that lived down here.

They would work their way around the full circle of the area first, before they'd have to decide which path the take onwards.
 

Metea

Villager
Metea: Watch your step

Before they headed on down one of the paths, Metea would briefly drop to all fours and scuttle over near the pit. It was a motion that looked oddly natural on the tailed tiefling; perhaps tieflings were meant to skulk?

Mostly, she wanted additional feeling of security before she peeked over the edge. She could deal with the grossness of touching crusted bat guano later.

What was down there, in the dark? Was it worth even giving it a second thought?

They did not exactly have ways to board this one up!

<Investigation: 12>
 
Carthum One-Tusk: Watch Your Step

"In times past, salt was more valuable than any gold or gemstone! I wonder if such mundane things hold a power we never quite appreciated?" Carthum was musing aloud, but Otiroth went on to talk about bat guano being used for spells, and that just lead the half-orc to think... maybe he was right?

Old salt, it pinged at his nostrils in a way the humans probably couldn't quite appreciate. Bestial senses were the pride of his ancestry, after all. He imagined a pure-blooded orc would be even more irritated!

Carthum had eyes out for something else as well; light! While his shield still glowed, his dark-vision- or Metea's- could possibly pick out natural light in the area.

He didn't like Metea moving towards the edge and would approach. Briefly, while she flirted with insanity, he'd either pass the dwarf off to another or lay him down for now. If it looked like she were going over, he'd grab her tail and yank her back.

Sometimes, Metea needed her feathers ruffled to remind her that there were real dangers out there...
 
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Dain - Watch Your Step

Dain emerged from the winding crevice with the others, happy to have some space around him. It seemed like too long since he had breathed fresh air, and the stench of dung and salt did little to appease his desire for a clean wind and a bath in a mountain stream.

A yawning pit. With the sea below? It has the looks of a grave.

"Something surely did happen here. Maybe yesterday, maybe a century ago. Let us try and make certain we do not become part of the mystery." Dain moved around the circle with this torch, seeking either to circumnavigate the hole or to find some other way out. Passing the boulder path that descended into the pit, he gave it a look. His ears and his eyes sought the shadows. Coming to a path leading to his right, he stopped and thrust his torch in that direction. In his other hand, of course, was his sword.

<Perception check: Natty 20+5=25 Dain sees ALL>
 

97mg

Villager
Watch Your Step

The sorcerer’s lights frolic about, covering a great distance and providing much needed extra visibility to your survey. It's a dizzying drop, Metea would gaze upon. The base of the void is right at the edge of a Tiefling’s aptitude for seeking within darkness. Occasionally it might reflect a tiny twinkle of their light from above, as it is water down there. Well, liquid at least, moving with subtle ripples atop. The walls of this sinkhole however, want to conceal themselves. For the first few yards stone descends vertically until disappearing from sight. Some of this ledge her colleagues tread upon is probably an overhang. Good thing it seems sturdy. Sections of the sinkhole’s walls appear to be pock-marked with other holes, some round and the result of excavation, others cracks and crevices much like those you are becoming familiar with.

Eyes sharp and absorbing detail, Dain’s stride to the ramp of stacked boulders reveals that the construction is haphazard and quite random. The blocks range from small pieces some foot across, to large chunks of basalt some yards in width. This wasn’t built in a day, that's for sure, but is it “safe”? Conducting a visual risk assessment, the results come in as a medium threat. Unsure footing or proceeding in a rush would not be advisable. It would be a physical workout too, your calf muscles and lower body begin to ache just thinking about it. Some safety related plans might be wise if this way is your choice. Agility and strength would be key.

Continuing past this discovery and meeting with a potential exit, Dain’s torchlight illuminates another, larger, theoretically natural break in the rock. A wide split, enough for two to walk side-by-side extends several yards within before turning a corner and disappearing from view. The other exit if explored by your colleagues will reveal a similar situation.

As the group fans out in it's investigations, Annit stands beside the Dwarf, now resting on the ledge. Her bow is raised and scanning an arc through the distance. If anything is going to pop out, hopefully she will be ready. “Interesting,” she says when the priest begins to talk of salt. They are crystals indeed, and she had never really thought of that. So simple, and not impossible. “Lets hope it doesn't get rubbed on any wounds today,” the rogue remarks jokingly.
 

Jeovanna

Villager
Jeovanna: Watch your step

"What do you see?" Jeovanna asked the others.

The potential exertion worried her very little, but it remained a foreign sort of terrain. "If one route does lead to the sea, the bats would have found it." So, if they wanted to reach 'the other side'... follow the guano.

Was that the plan? They could always back-track later- there had been paths they missed before, though some of them had been too thin to safely traverse.
 

Otiroth

Villager
Otiroth: Watch your step

Otiroth nodded at Carthum's mention of salt. "It's already worth a lot in trade, even today. The cliffs are so steep, getting sea salt reliably is difficult. Perhaps, if we go that deep, we can grab some for our own personal use, or so that we actually have something we can trade without being hung," the sorcerer went onto suggest.

He knew this was another 'counting your chickens' situation as Dain had mentioned, but it could not hurt to have goals. Besides, Otiroth could think of some other uses for salt; proper salt, undiluted with flour like it so often was, would no doubt spice up the promised meal considerably.

As for what path to take, well, they had forged on pretty straight so far, heading towards what they imagined would be the 'bottom' of the mine. It had taken them to great peril, but also great treasure, and it seemed that perhaps they should continue that course? At least for now. The fact that this all seemed so untouched by human perfection made him think that there would be no traps other than natural pitfalls, but they shouldn't just assume this.
 

Metea

Villager
Metea: Watch your step

Metea finally scuttled away from the edge.

"There is water down there, or something like it. A great puddle of black puddings, perhaps. Either way, I don't think we should try spelunking down that hole. It doesn't feel like a hewn hole to me- dwarves would be more precise about it. Shame we can't ask him," she nodded towards the dwarf.

The tiefling brightened then. "You know the wilds, don't you, Dain?" She'd say, seeming little worried about disrupting his investigation into which path they took next. "Do you suppose there are sea monsters down there?"

Sea monsters, with gems instead of eyes!

"There's some cracks and crevices. So maybe sea birds already live there," a breathless, excited pause. "Or harpies."
 
Carthum One-Tusk: Watch Your Step

Despite himself, Carthum nearly laughed. "Metea! Stop teasing the Fates," he said. Of course, they were already taunting the fates just by being down here- Metea's enthusiasm for their group's disembowelment was not likely to change things.

"And if there are no sea monsters down there, there are jagged rocks. So stay away from the edge," he continued, a bit more serious now.

"I would sore like to see some sunlight again, or even moonlight, if I have so lost the meaning of time in this trackless mines," Carthum murmured. Both paths looking the same to his untrained eyes, he trusted the others would choose the safest path.
 
Dain-Watch your Step

Dain looked down the tunnel for some moments, then backed up, turning around to face the others.

"Sea monsters? Most likely, yes." He said this without any humor. And why should he? Had they not already fought demonic beasts? A sea monster would be almost welcome.

"I am for continuing on. That hole is too dangerous for this group." Outside of himself and Annit, he did not think the others likely to make it to the bottom without some incident that could cost them their lives. Setting up a rope system would take time and preparation. They just weren't equipped for it.

He turned back around to once again peer down the first tunnel on the right. It was as good a path as any.
 
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97mg

Villager
Watch your Step

Great creatures from the deep, harpies in flight, falls down an enormous makeshift staircase; Annit's team seemed to have been stained with pessimism. Not really a surprise having encountered armored constructs, walking bones and crackling baby demons already.

If they didn't want to go down, that was fine with Annit. She'd take her place in the group's formation as required and follow wherever they thought best. It was an impressive sight in here, the sections that Otiroth's orbs and the torches could illuminate. Below their ledge, things were complex. What if each crevice in the hole's walls led to more narrow twisting paths? What if they got lost? Maybe the group was right to have questioned what exactly, they were seeking. Young Annit sadly, just didn't have the answers, be they salt, gems or some other kind of item or knowledge.

With no immediate threats detected, she lowered her bow a moment and crouched next to the dwarf, whispering, "how are you going, you are safe my friend, but we would be safer if you were awake."

She decided to touch the little man's hand, just out of curiosity. Well, that moonstone was in a firm grip! Good news on two accounts. He was getting stronger, and the prize hadn't been lost.
 

Jeovanna

Villager
Jeovanna: Watch your step

Well, either path they took, it looked especially rough going. Carthum was strong enough, but his heavy armor would be a hindrance. A dwarf in his arms, even more so.

Jeovanna joined Annit for a moment, watching as she spoke to the dwarf. He did not stir, though. A shame. "Perhaps some fresh air will do him well, too. I'll carry him for now," the barbarian said.

She did not mind continuing in front, either. So long as they all kept an eye out for trouble, their burden could be laid down quickly enough. Jeovanna swept the demihuman up in her arms, and nodding to the others, would prepare to head down to the right-most cavern.

<Acrobatics/athletic checks 18/20>
 

Otiroth

Villager
Otiroth: Watch your step

Otiroth would sneak a squeeze of Metea's hand. Then, perhaps, not let go. Jeovanna was already heading to the front- Otiroth would let Dain and Annit decide between them who would head alongside her, and who would guard the rear of the party. As for him and Metea- they were still in the middle, and would likely stay that way for awhile!

Jeovanna moved ahead with far more grace and surety of footing than Otiroth could pretend he could ever possess. Quite enthralling, really, even if she was carrying a dwarf.

He'd watch where she stepped as well; if the footing there was clear enough for the barbarian, it was clear enough for him!

Well.. maybe he'd do a bit more slipping and stumbling.
 

Metea

Villager
Metea: Watch your step

Well, Metea and Otiroth could help each other over the rough terrain! It was probably best neither of them were responsible for carrying the dwarf.

Her eyes glowed faintly, reflecting the light from Otiroth's dancing lights. She could see quite well, actually, and would keep an eye out for any pit falls that might be hidden underneath how easy Jeovanna made it all look. Also, she'd keep an ear out for bats. Because she had a feeling if any bats came along, that poor dwarf was getting dropped.

"We have learned that demons and undead walk even here, so close to Kalair, where so many claimed they could never be. We have learned that magic is eager to be found," the tiefling quietly reviewed their gains so far. And, thinking about it- they had learned much. Could a random guard patrol have handled those demons? Perhaps, but perhaps the guards worked better when they could work as a squad, and the tight corners of the mine would have prevented it.

"We have learned..."

Where is it? Is this the right way? Wait, no, don't tell me... I want to see what's coming next!
 
Jeovanna had relieved Carthum of his burden, as slight of a physical one as it was. Who knows, perhaps being cradled in the barbarian's arms would do good for the dwarf in a way that armor hadn't been?

Argh! Suru, forgive me!

He would cast light upon his shield once more, so that it could light the paths of his companions, and take up the rear of the party once more.
 
Dain - Down the Crack

With Jeovanna carrying the dwarf, and doing a fine job of it he had to admit, Dain would take the point position. He held his torch aloft, carrying his sword in a ready position. As he walked through the shadows made by fire and magic, listening to the others and peering forward, his mind raced.

Devil's arse. I think I may need to invest in a mail shirt. And a helm. Soft leather and free hair is good enough for traversing the wilds, but is proving inadequate for close-quarter fighting. I feel like a harried mule-deer with its antlers nubbed. Probably look like one too, at this point. Mange. Rot. But my sword is proving its mettle well enough. I wonder where I got it? Was it a gift? A spoil of war, ripped from the dead hand of some mighty foe? Did I inherit it? Or...arse...did I steal it? Essithea...

One of the potions made a slight jingle in his pack as it brushed against something. He grinned slightly to himself.

Skunk dung...I do look forward to drinking that mystery juice. Some similar act of reckless bravado probably landed me in Kalair without a past. Was it all just some night of drinking gone awry, 'Darkspring'? Essithea...how can you abide us mortals? Do I please you at all or do you laugh at me, like I would an aimless ant walking in circles upon a log, lost from its comrades? I like to think I would either put it out of its misery or reunite it with its kind, at least.

He moved on, ever vigilant.

I'm hungry as a cave-bear in the spring. I smell like one, I'm sure of that. My kingdom for a clear creek to bathe in and a haunch of venison served with wild red-tops! Gods. And some company besides? I wonder if Annit has ever swam in a still mountain lake? Essithea...I bet the Tiefling would flail about like a chicken in a water trough! Does she preen after a bath, like an eagle in her eyrie? Devil's arse. I'd wager Otiroth would enjoy that. Feather bed for the princeling!

He smiled to himself again. In the darkness.

No doubt Carthum is imagining Jeovanna carrying their buttery child in her arms, even as she carries that poor dwarf. Essithea...love is in the air...even in this damnable pit! Mortals are tenacious, you must give us that! Is it enough that we amuse you?

We will find these gems. We will find these gems. Devil's arse, we will find these gems. Or we'll die trying. Dust and bones, Dain. A foul smell downwind and the buzzing of flies...Essithea...do not show me this. I must focus!

<A devil's arse>

<Perception check=22>
<Insight check (to be fair in noticing Carthum might be attracted to Jeovanna)=18>
 
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97mg

Villager
Down the Crack

Your chosen path zigzags through the rock and all are aware that you are descending, as each yard of progress seems to drop by a foot or so. At times, even Annit is able to be at eye level with Jeovanna up at the front. A short time into Dain’s chosen crevice, the ground begins to lose a lot of the firm consistency you’ve grown accustomed to. Here and there the surface beneath your feet appears to contain small splits and cracks. Occasionally loose lumps of basalt come under toe. It still feels solid and motionless, safe, but the rock formations here are random, cut by nature’s will. This area feels raw, less tampered with. Until you turn a corner.

Anxiously looking around a hairpin bend, Dain’s torch reveals a most unusual sight. Ahead, the crevice splits into two ways ahead, a pair of shadowy fractures leading off into an unknown. At their intersection a great darkness upon the ground. A hole several yards in length that swallows your light.

“What is it? Why have we stopped,” Annit whispers.

It is not only the ground that has caught Dain’s scouting eyes. On the wall to the left, someone has chiseled a small arrow form into the rock, which points right. And on the right? Vice versa. Before Dain can see the humor in it, his hairs stand on end.

<Jumping across the hole to proceed either left or right looks possible, but not without risk. It would take a short runup and decent timing to clear it. A DC12 Athletics check.

We need an intelligence check from everyone at this point, and will factor that into a group investigation result (assuming you plan to spend at least a round contemplating what to do)

Annit Int check = 10>

 

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