The Tome of Ghulras

Spy Checking

The corpse is a lie!

Quickly making their way through Elogotha away from the scene of their latest escapade, the party of adventurers made their way behind Janus, finally arriving at one of the Resistance bases through an extended, dimly lit tunnel. As the party moved through the flickering light cast from the few wall-mounted torches to enter a crossroads, Janus finally stopped and turned to the party members watchfully following behind him. “Wait here,” the goliath said, “I will go ahead and let them know that we have arrived.” With those short words, Janus stalked off down the left hand passageway, leaving the party in the deepening darkness and silence.

Several increasingly uneasy minutes passed as the party waited in the dimly lit passageway, until eventually Elka, annoyed at the delay that their escort was apparently experiencing, prompted Ilyich to bring out the communicator that he had previously used to communicate with the resistance. Typing quickly in the dim light, Ilyich managed to compose a message to the effect of “We have arrived at your base. Where are you?” (Although the exact message seems to have been more “We’re here! Where’s the party?”). Several minutes passed, until the group finally received a surprised reply, “What? When? How did you get here?” Somewhat confused, Ilyich responded, “We followed Janus—you know, tall guy, big black beard…” “…I don’t know of a ‘Janus’ in the Resistance,” came the reply “wait there, we’ll come get you.” As Ilyich read the message, his face fell—a reaction quickly mirrored in his companions as he relayed the unsettling news. Suddenly, from elsewhere in the base a scream split the air for a moment, before lapsing back into the silence. As one, the party members quickly drew their weapons, and after a minute’s deliberation decided to head after “Janus” down the left hand passageway.

As the party members began to make their way cautiously down the passage, a familiar sight suddenly greeted them—Sorus and Glenn, the wizard and kobold pair who had met the party when they had first stumbled upon the resistance. “Good, it’s you,” the wizard said. “Come with me, we’ll figure out exactly what’s going on here.” Turning around, the two began quickly walking in the direction that they had come from with the party tailing behind them. Moving quickly through the base, the party made their way through a series of large rooms—the first of which was filled with raised aqueducts and housed several large waterwheels, while the second seemed to be more of a dormitory, being filled with bunks, hammocks, and a fairly robust makeshift clinic—before making their way down a long hallway to a table-filled room where the rest of the resistance members in the base seemed to have gathered.

As the party trailed in behind the elderly wizard, they took stock of the members of the resistance who populated the room. In one corner, there was a pair of twins who looked to be half-elves. Closer to the door was a jade green Luster Soldier, while on the other side of the table there were a couple of human females, one of whom seemed to have recently returned from a journey, as she had a satchel slung over one shoulder. Maps and charts cluttered the room, depicting facets of the resistance’s operations and making it clear that this room was the nerve center of this complex. Judging from the puzzled and anxious looks on the faces of the assembled resistance members, they had about as much idea of what was going on as the party did.

The initial pleasantries of the assembled group (which, under the circumstances, largely consisted of Sorus gesturing with his head towards the party and saying “they’re with me” by way of explaining to the assembled members of the resistance just what exactly these heavily armed people, still bearing Craterian insignias among their gear were doing in their secret base) were shortly interrupted by the door once more sliding open and another figure entering the room. Clothed in a respectable blue tunic, and carrying a large sack that seemed to be dripping some sort of unsavory liquid, a good part of the newcomer’s face was obscured by a dark, amber mask, getting rid of any identifying characteristics. Of course, given the dozen or so tentacles where most humanoids would have legs, identification would not seem to be a problem. “Mentlegen,” the newcomer smoothly said, surveying the room, “did any of you happen to kill a Craterian spy on your way here? No? Then I believe we still have a problem.” With those words, he heaved the sack off his shoulder and onto the table where with a wet thud it split open, allowing the smell of charred flesh to waft through the room as a charred skeleton with a blackened sword still penetrating out of its ribcage gaped at the assembled resistance.
“Arnaud, who is this?” Sorus asked the newcomer. “Where did you find the body?”
“This, my esteemed Wizard Blight, is the handiwork of a Craterian spy. Who it was, however, I am afraid I cannot answer, suffice to say that I discovered it in the communications room, next to a disabled control panel. I think with proper handiwork, the panel may be able to be fixed. The same, I fear, may not be said for our unfortunate friend here… In any case, I have locked down the base. Our interloper likely has not gotten far and, if he is the same as I am, as I suspect…” with these words, Arnaud blitzed through a series of transformations, taking on the appearances of several of the assembled members in the room before finally returning to his original appearance, “he may be closer than we imagine.” In the uncomfortable silence that followed, the tension in the room seemed to grow by several orders of magnitude, with people shifting their weight, quietly inching their hands towards their weapons, and casting sidelong glances at their assembled companions. Suddenly, with a massive explosion from elsewhere in the base, the lights flickered and went out, casting the entirety of the room into pitch-black darkness. Several tense seconds passed as people fumbled through their bags searching for torches, or cast the appropriate incantations to restore light to the room. When the members had finally managed to get some light going again, it cast the room into sharp relief. It appeared that hardly anyone had moved from the time the lights went out to when it was finally lit up again, but with the news that Arnaud had brought just before the explosion, this was scarce comfort. “It appears,” Sorus began, “that our problem may be larger than we initially thought. Arnaud, you said you locked down the base?”
“Yes, as soon as I found the body. Currently only I can open the doors,” he said, pausing “Or at least, only I can open them the way they are meant to be opened.”
“Yes, well, if that explosion means anything, then I suspect that our friend may not exactly need to rely on conventional means of door-opening,” Sorus replied. I think we may have to split up at this juncture, in order to cover the exits. I want at least two people to a squad—preferably more. Remember, we don’t know who we can trust.”

Looking around at one another as the resistance members rushed off, the party decided that they would also split up. Fae and Sophia would stay behind and try to examine the body in the hopes of discovering some details about who it could have been, while Ardan, Titus, and Elka would head back to the aqueduct room to attempt to restore power to the lights. Quickly, Elka began preparing one of her rituals while Ardan and Titus stood gingerly watching the door. After completing her preparations, Elka brought out her wand and sucked the rune that she had made into it, encircling her wand with a pale green halo of light and announced “I’m ready, let’s go.” As the three departed, Fae heaved a sigh and with Sophia and the jade luster soldier looking on began the slow work of examining the unfortunate body that Arnaud had hefted onto the table.

Moving quickly through the darkened base, Ardan, Elka, and Titus made their way to thee damaged aqueduct room. Moving through the archway separating it from the dormitories, the three adventurers quickly spotted the source of the problem—although the aqueducts seemed to be largely intact, the waterwheel and accompanying gears that powered the base had been blasted into splinters, allowing water to pour out onto the floor of the room. Elka, who had suspected something like this, waved her wand, and cast the ritual she had prepared, allowing the glowing rune to flow out of her wand over the scene of the wreckage, knitting together the shattered fragments and reshaping the dented machinery. As the glow from the rune faded into the components, the waterwheel slowly resumed its rotation and the lights powered back on. With that task accomplished, the three decided to return to the dormitories to see if they could discover any clues.

Meanwhile, back in the control room, Fae had been making some interesting discoveries. Not only did the skeleton have far too many ribs for an ordinary humanoid, the skull appeared to be more of a caricature of a skull then an actual skull, being one piece of solid bone. As she turned with a puzzled expression on her face to discuss her findings with Sophia and the luster soldier, she heard a peculiar hollow cracking noise coming from behind her. Whirling around, she saw with a mixture of horror and fascination as the skeleton wrenched itself upright and clawed its way across the table, before managing to stand and slowly draw the ruined sword out of its unnatural ribcage. With that action, the skeleton’s bones began to bubble, expanding and creating the appearance of the character who the party had once trusted—Janus. Clothed only in loose fitting pants with baggy pockets, the giant man leapt over the table with a cry only to be met with Sophia’s equally fierce rush with her fullblade. Tearing up from the betrayal made especially bitter by her attraction to the huge man, Sophia channeled her fury into her fullblade, hitting Janus with a massive blow to the shoulder. Fae similarly, after recovering from the shock of Janus’ transformation, cast a massive burst of divine light at Janus, searing his right side. Janus, however, barely let these attacks slow him, hurling his ruined sword at the luster soldier, piercing his chest deeply, before turning and bursting out of the room toward the dormitories.

In the dormitories, Ardan, Elka, and Titus had been poking around, looking to see if they could manage to find any clues, when suddenly Janus burst in from the direction of the command room. On seeing the three adventurers, Janus quickly reached into his massive pockets and pulled out several small globes, each pulsing with a faint light. Before any of the adventurers could respond, Janus quickly lobbed the orbs at the trio, causing the spheres to explode in radiant bursts of light, blinding the party for some time.

By the time the party recovered their senses, Elka had run out from the council room to join with the rest of the party, but Janus was nowhere to be seen. Quickly deliberating what to do, Elka, Titus and Ardan decided to head toward the storage room, after hearing that Janus was now lacking a weapon. Fae, meanwhile said that she would return to the council room to gather any important documents she found, in order to keep them protected from Janus.
Slogging through the aqueduct room, the adventurers heading toward the supply room noticed their feet becoming significantly wetter than during their previous times—something was still amiss in the room, and was causing it slowly to fill with water. Hurrying onward, the trio was almost to their destination when they reunited with Sorus and Glenn, the Wizard-Kobold duo. “Any luck?” Sorus asked the adventurers, who proceeded to regale him with the tale of their brief encounter with Janus.
“…and when we could see again, he was gone.” Elka finished. “So it’s likely he’s still here, but we unfortunately haven’t made much progress.”
“By the way,” Titus snuck into the conversation, “have you noticed the water level in the aqueduct room? Is it supposed to be doing that?” By way of responding, Sorus slowly turned to Titus
“What exactly is going on with the water level?” he asked slowly, already bracing for the worst. As Titus explained about the rising water Sorus’ already pale face grew even more ashen. “My god, the walls—they were weak as they were, that explosion must have knocked them loose. I’m going to go try to reinforce the supports, you three keep looking!” Speaking these words, he rushed off down the passageway, with Titus surreptitiously following a few paces behind him.

Sorus rushed into the quickly filling room and worked his way over to where the water was, by now, openly flowing from. Raising his arms, he began raising a wall of eerie orange ice to try to stem the quickening flow. While he was absorbed in his work, however, a slight ripple in the water diverted Titus’ attention from watching the wizard work his magic. Suddenly, Janus sprang out from out of the deepened water, pulling out a knife from his large pockets and stabbing Sorus in the back repeatedly. With the wizard mortally injured, Janus grabbed him and shoved his head under the water to prevent him from making any sound that might alert the rest of the base. Titus, however, saw the whole thing, and in his shock neglected his throwing knives and instead tried to fling his hand crossbow at Janus’ head. Unfortunately, his aim was a bit off, causing nothing more than a minor distraction for Janus as he whipped his head around at the sound of the splash, and then the other way at where Titus was once again attempting to hide. Narrowing his eyes, Janus dropped the now still wizard’s body and allowed it to flow downstream in the developing current. Watching the body float off, while still keeping an eye on the area that Titus was crouched, Janus pulled yet another orb from his pockets, this one much larger than the small ones he had used earlier, and shimmering with a red aura. Lobbing the orb at the wall of ice that Sorus had managed to erect before his untimely demise, the orb impacted the wall with a crash, and then exploded, removing the wall from existence, disabling the waterwheel, plunging the base into darkness again, and further exacerbating the flow of water into the room.

By this time Fae had, in consultation with the luster soldier, who had remained in the command room, managed to fit quite a lot of the Resistance’s important information in the bag of holding, including several large maps that appeared to show parts of the underground. Hearing the explosion, however, and noticing the water that by now was even filling up the command room, she hastily stuffed the remainder of the documents that she had on hand in the bag, and raced off to the aqueduct room, certain that her comrades would once again need her help.

Back in the aqueduct room, Titus was doing his best to prove Fae’s suspicions right, closing on the goliath and engaging him in a one-on-one knife fight while waiting for the rest of the party to arrive. Luckily for him, however, he managed to score a quick jab on Janus’ side, while avoiding the goliath’s massive swings of retaliation. By this point, Ardan and Elka had managed to arrive from their examination of the storeroom. Seeing the two figures engaged in combat across the waterlogged room, Ardan quickly began trying to climb up the slippery columns supporting the aqueducts in order to get a better vantage point, while Elka simply muttered a few arcane words, causing a source-less wind to manifest and carry her above the swift-moving waters. Suddenly, from the other side of the room, appeared Fae, moving as fast as she could through the waters, and blasting Janus with a radiant beam of light from her holy symbol, searing Janus fiercely on the right side and causing him briefly to look away from Titus. Unfortunately for Titus, however, this was only a temporary distraction, as he proceeded to whip back towards Titus, bringing his knife upwards and drawing a gash across part of Titus’ face.
Ardan, meanwhile, had finally managed to climb on top of the aqueduct, but in the dark room was having some trouble differentiating between the two fighting figures of Janus and Titus. Pulling a bit of cloth out of his pack, he deftly tied it around one of his arrows before lighting it on fire and loosing it, allowing it to stick in the wall behind the two combatants where it continued to light up the scene enough for him to distinguish between the two. Janus, scowling at the increasing number of combatants as Elka attempted to harass him with her magic, Janus dived under the water, attempting to regain the advantage of stealth. Unfortunately for him, however, Titus’s sharp gaze never lost sight of him, and, grasping the hilt of his short sword firmly, he smashed the pommel of his sword on the back of Janus’ head and forcefully pulled him up out of the water.

“Finish it,” Janus spit at Titus, glowering at his foe, only to have Ardan send an arrow streaking over Titus’ shoulder into the middle of Janus’ chest. With his final gurgling breaths, Janus somehow managed to give a strangled laugh, saying, “I have a message from the boss for you,” releasing with his last breath a cloud of green smoke. The roiling smoke, after it had ceased to expel itself from Janus’ body, began to morph slowly into a shape vaguely facelike, becoming increasingly clear as the moments passed. Eventually resolving into the shape of a tiefling’s head, the smoke then began relaying a prerecorded message. “If you are hearing this message,” the head spoke, “then that means you’ve taken out a second one of my lieutenants, which means that you’re more capable than I originally expected. I am Radek, the leader of the Craterian forces in Elogotha. Before you dismiss what I have to say, I must advise you that you would be wise to listen—I know that you and I may be working for different goals, but that does not necessarily mean that they need be mutually exclusive,” he continued. “As much power as my position as head of Craterian forces in Elogotha affords me, it is an honor I no longer wish to bear—I have seen, and done things that I wish I had not. I believe now that we may be of some use to each other. If you are interested in this proposition, meet me at the Silk Silhouette—I, as you, can hardly afford to trust many people, and I find that there is one of the few places that I can expect… discretion. If you cannot make the meeting by the end of the week, it will be too late, so come quickly, or not at all.”

With the echoing words dissipating as quickly as the smoky head, the party of adventurers suddenly noticed that the air into which the smoke was disappearing was quickly becoming water—the flow of water had once again increased with the passing of time, now threatening the total flooding of the base. Luckily for the party, the water did not seem to be rising as fast as it could have been, suggesting that somewhere in the base, a door had been opened. Quickly, against the current, the party began to struggle towards the dormitories (except for Elka, still serenely floating above all the mess)—the likeliest place for them to be able to find a door. As she struggled towards the exit of the room, however, Fae noticed that her foot had bumped a short rod of wood with her foot. Taking a deep breath, she plunged under the water several times, struggling against the depth and current to try to grasp the object she had felt. After some searching, costing her precious seconds as the water level continued to rise, she managed to wrest the object from the water’s grasp, albeit a bit too forcefully. Wrenching the small rod of wood from the water, she accidentally stabbed herself with it in the eye, causing it to activate and embed itself in the layer of ice that had suddenly sprung over a good part of her face. Quickly pulling the wand free, before it could thicken the layer of ice any further, she embarrassedly tried to scrape the ice off her face before any of her companions noticed, and quickly resumed the slog northward.

Entering the dormitories, the party felt a shift in the current, suggesting that this, indeed, was the correct way to be heading. Suddenly, from across the room, Arnaud, the shape changer from earlier, appeared and yelled to them, “This way! I’ll get you out of here,” tossing them a rope in the process. After reeling the party in, Arnaud said hurriedly “Quickly, this way—I don’t think we have much time left.” Walking down a short hallway, he abruptly stopped before a blank wall, and turned to them. “Now push!” He said, jabbing upwards towards the ceiling. Exerting all their strength, the party felt the ceiling give way, lifting up what turned out to be a section of the cobblestone street of Elogotha. “Up there is one of the areas that the Craterians have cleared out—it should be safe to go up. Now hurry!” Arnaud told them, gesturing toward the encroaching water. Finally, the party managed to clamber exhaustedly into the cool night air, seconds before a dull rumble and accompanying surge of water showed them that the restraining walls had finally succumbed and the base had submerged entirely.

After everyone had managed to catch their breath, Ardan asked the shifter “Do you know who else made it out?”
“I opened several of the other doors, and I helped several others escape, but I can’t say a definite number,” Arnaud replied, shaking his head. “We likely not only lost some good people in there,” he said, “but all our materials, are gone also,” sighed Arnaud sadly, shaking his head. “In there were maps, files, reports—most of the materials that chapter had gathered that we could have used…”
“You mean these?” Fae said with a half-smirk, amused at Arnaud’s sudden look of shocked delight as she began pulling materials out of the bag of holding.
“Our papers! Thank goodness—you have no idea how long it took to compile all this information,” Arnaud said. Then, as Fae began pulling out one of the maps, “ah, you wouldn’t happen to know what this is, would you?” He gestured to what appeared to be a large black crevasse on the map. “Every time we send people to try to examine what lies there they either never return, or find themselves blocked by dead-end passages.” As the party relayed their information of the deep parts of Elogotha, including the underground lake near the dragon’s lair, Arnaud’s face took on a worried look. “If what you say is true,” he began, “then that means the whole of Elogotha could be structurally unsound! I’ll have to take this information to one of the other bases. I’m sure it will come in handy in the coming days.” As he began to take his leave, he suddenly turned back to the party. “And what will you do now? It’s dangerous to stay still out here for too long, even with the evacuation of this part of the city.” The party, thinking of the smoky tiefling’s message, simply replied that they had several options to consider, a response that the shape shifter appeared to accept, as he bowed his head and quickly disappeared into the night, leaving the party alone on the streets of Elogotha.

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