Dreams, bad dreams, are the kinds of things where you can never hit your assailant, or get away. You thrash, you run. None of it works. I should know, I spend most of my waking hours planting bad dreams in other people’s heads. That’s where the real damage gets done. Only yesterday it was me that was living a bad dream.
Damn, I’m glad to wake up today. I think I’ll take out some of those frustrations by making someone else’s life miserable. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The only really good reason to revisit yesterday is to tell you how epic the rest of this motley crew was. Start with Escher. We can hear all kinds of ruckus in the forest behind us. Ahead of us is the forbidden “Temple of the Gods”. Escher climbs up the wall and goes toe to toe with some kind of panther. And not just the run-of-the-mill, tear-out-your-throat kind, but a teleporting panther. Quicker than flies on a carcass. Sir Daniel, Rage and I manage to get stuck with Stirges. Big mosquitoes. A total bitch for me. I do NOT like being grabbed. By anything.
On top of the wall, a bunch of vines coalesce into an animate-plant creature of some sort, capable of shooting vines and other abusive plant matter. I raise a few grasping shadows to hold her in place and then knock her off the wall with a phantom bolt. Bought myself some more time to get sucked dry by the damn Stirge.
The ruckus in the forest turns out to be the tribe of lizardfolk zealots who were so incensed at our setting foot in their holy precincts. Only this time they’ve brought along a 20’-tall uber-lizard, complete with profane rider. No way I’m staying on the wall for this. Escher, Rage and Daniel are down in the cracked-up courtyard skewering the panther. Escher finished it with one of his signature blade-in-the-back moves. Pretty effective. Rage is charging about, splitting Stirges with his greataxe. If he wasn’t so wild, I’d let him hack the Stirge off me. I leave that to Escher’s more surgical approach. Now I owe him one. The plant lady shimmers through the portcullis and wraps Daniel up with a web of vines, so the group starts hacking on her.
I stop the plant lady with a maze of mirrors, and Rage makes a salad out of her. I’d stop to sample it, but the uber-lizard had jumped up on the wall at this point, and the zealots were trying to lift the portcullis. The boys have barred the door, and we race for the temple. Too late. The uber-lizard leaps into the courtyard, and we all discover that the reason the courtyard looks beat to hell is that it is all poised to collapse into hell. Which it does.
Fortunately for us there is a stone bridge below. Unfortunately for the uber-lizard, he misses the bridge and falls into the chasm it spans.
We find a boulder with a tempting piece of notepaper tucked under it. Bad dream #2: the boulder is, of course, a creature! It’s bad enough that the plants were a creature upstairs, now the rocks are against us. This particular rock figures out that slamming the bridge will make us fall down. In Sir Daniel’s case, this means falling off. It’s a long way down. I try to get a rope to him, but I’m way too late for that. Escher and Rage are between a rock boy, and a hard place (which happens to be a long way down from where we stand) but they’re punishing the rock boy. That’s when I spot the bugs at the other end of the bridge. It takes a couple of shots, but I manage to immobilize one of them. Not good enough — which is the story of my day so far. I belatedly figure out that it’d be useful to make rock boy believe there’s a bolt headed for his head. He dodges, but doesn’t fall. The bug is gonna get me.
Rock boy to the rescue! He bellows , the bug sees raging rock boy, and retreats. Smart bug. Rock boy slams the bridge again and knocks me off. (Later on I recall my shield spell, and wonder if it might have saved me. Crap.) I grab the rope that I’d set up to save Daniel. I can hear a river rushing below me, but it’s a long way off. I try to climb out. Not my strong suit. Escher and Rage manage to arrange themselves on either side of rock boy, herd him back into the cave, and finish him off. I’ve almost climbed the rope when I lose my grip and plummet into the river. What a load of excrement this day is turning out to be.
Rushing downstream, I try to recall the caves and sewers beneath Wellspring. I’ve spent enough time underground that it helps me stay afloat for a bit. Then I try to remember if Shathrax ever told me any stories of falling into rivers, or where they go underground, but it’s just too chaotic to think straight. I’m getting pummeled, and I’m not exactly the enduring sort when it comes to physical punishment. Finally, I try a twisting grab at a stalactite and crash my head against it instead, knocking myself out. Sweet unconsciousness!
I wake up on a torchlit beach with Sir Daniel humming one of his healing ditties over me. Escher has skillfully navigated the river like an otter, and is wringing out his cloak, while Rage — who doesn’t seem to be affected by anything the environment dishes out — stoically inspects the edge of his greataxe for notches from rock boy.
We decide to camp here for the night. The stupid piece of paper that started this whole escapade appears to be a journal fragment. Some hopeless bit of survivalist claptrap about solitude and madness. And two years of attack-free living. After yesterday, that sounds like heaven to me. Madness I can deal with. Animate rocks and plants I could do without. Before I go to sleep, I spend ten minutes reciting my ritual of fastidiousness, There’s nothing quite as satisfying as being clean, and remaining so, despite wandering in underground caves full of bugs, animate rocks, and torch-lighting grues. Tomorrow I plan to punish someone. I feel better already.