68. May Blibdoolpoolp, the sea mother go with you

“That’s enough, out now everybody, we have pushed our luck to the limit. I don’t care how fascinating this structure is to you three but we are heading back to the surface. Take whatever you wish from here and pass me stuff to carry but we leave now.” Cynan shepherds the group from the building not willing to take any more excuses to stay.

Gildor gets up and in an instant realizes what’s going on. “Guys don’t you get it? Every time we used the rings to transport there was a flash and a bang. This central set of rings is the power to them all. Something just used a ring set to go from one ring to a platform in the complex. I don’t know how stable they are but we still have a plenty of bells to move about to search things if you want. If not and we are not transporting using the rings any more perhaps we can find a way to destroy them so no one else can? We must be done using the rings first though.”

Kradorn shakes his head. “Teleport power or not. Something came through and is somewhere near one of the rings out there” Kradorn replies. ” 15-20 well armed orc’s, orge’s, men… something.” Kradorn barks.
“We need to leave this pit of darkness and return to Lands end or this place will be all of our grave. We have no way of damaging this place without killing ourselves. Let us be gone and blow the passage way.”
“Cynan can you lead us out? I will take the rear. Everyone keep up” Kradorn comments as he waits for the group to move out… above.

Talo sits up from the stroke of lighting, beard smoking and eyes out of focus. He grumbles some old dwarven curses and is overheard saying, “Serves me right. Curiosity is a wicked mistress… I am with Kradorn,” the cleric stumbles to the exit, “homeward bound!” The war-cleric helps Gordon and Gildor to their feet as quickly as he can.
“Keep and eye out for those travellers. They have come to greet us severely!” Talo hands the dark potion to Gordon, “drink up. You’ll need your health right about now.” Talo turns to Gildor and blesses him until he is either out of curing magic or Gildor is completely well.

“Time to scoot,” suggests Gordon as he picks his singed backside off the ground and scuttles back to the others.
Gordon eyes the potion, thanks Talo then drains the flask. He doesn’t like the sound of 20 or so well armed opponents and he does not doubt they are on their way to say hello, but from where? Then it occurs to him, the mines!!! “The mines,” he says out loud, “we didn’t clear out the orcs from the mines! I bet that’s where they’re from.”

Talo commences to cast heal after heal on Gildor but the prayers are weak and the cleric exhausts himself in bringing the elf back up to full health.

Gildor says, “Thanks Talo. That was a bit of a jolt there. The elf nods reluctantly. Ok, time to go then. Let’s be moving out then.”

Gordon finishes the potion and a queer feeling passes over him, though oddly he doesn’t feel much improved from the ‘healing’ potion.
“Let’s get to the gateway and head them off before they outflank us.” he says and heads out. Or tries to but comes to a halt after a couple of steps. He leans down and puts his hand on the floor and then slowly peels it off again. The odd sensation is a ‘spider climb’ spell, one he recognises the effects from his magical ring. He can still walk but its slow going – think ‘magnetic boots’. Gordon thinks if he moves too fast he’s going to pull his boots apart. Casting spells is going to be impossible for the gnome while the potion is in effect.

The party move slowly, Talo isn’t much faster than Gordon anyway and it takes them more than a minute to reach the exit to the mindflayers doughnut shaped building. Through the main gate, the more eagle eyed members of the party can make out a group of 18 figures just passing the huge mindflayer statue. Their features are difficult to make out but they don’t move like orcs and and they’re too tall and what at first they take for odd looking helmets turn out to be the creatures’ heads, complete with huge bulbous eyes and elaborate extended gills. The party have seen them before… Kuo-Toa. Carrying spears, nets and evil looking harpoons.

Gildor says, “Do we know if they be friend or foe? Can we hide and get past them to make a run for the exit? It may be a challenge to out run them though should they give chase. Any chance they’d side with us for taking out the Flayer and orcs for them?”

Gildor looks for a place to hide and uses his spyglass to take a closer look and lets the others use it as well if they wish.

“I doubt they are friendly towards us” says Cynan quietly. A spark of an idea crosses his mind, “Perhaps there are more places like these caverns and those rings can transport between the various areas, so they all inter connect in some way. We can’t reach the portal with those things between us and Gordon in the state he is, we need carry him and find a place to hide until the potion wears off. By the ice halls of Skoti why did you have to mess with those rings”. The paladin shakes his head, ” milk is spilt now, keep an eye on those creatures Gildor we need hide and quickly”.

Gildor nods and quietly says, “How about the battlements? We can move towards one of the troll lairs using the wall as cover then take a set of stairs up the backside of the battlements. Once on top we stay low then go over the other side once we they go inside then we make our move to the platform? Or something like that?”

Cynan nods to Gildor “Very well, let’s go over the wall and head to the troll cave and wait it out till Gordon is back to his old self. We have the better part of two days that we can wait them out if needs be, although the sooner we are finished with this place, the happier I will be. Everybody, let’s move slowly and keep an eye open, we do not want a fight if we can avoid it.”

The party set off as quickly as they can, heading south towards the end of the battlement. After about a minute Gordon becomes disenchanted and can run freely, taking some of Talo’s burden so the dwarf can run a bit faster. As they run, it becomes painfully clear just how noisy the party are when they try to move at speed. After almost three minutes Gordon looks back and see the Kuo-Toa behind them, having walked in through the main gates some 85 metres behind them. Cynan reckons the party are just over half way to the step at the southern end of the battlements. It’s clear from their behaviour that the fish men have seen the fleeing party. One of them gives a loud gurgling shout, not seemingly directed at the party but at the mindflayers compound in general. They wait a few seconds and with no reply the largest of the creatures points his harpoon in the direction of the party and barks an order. More than half of the creatures set off at a run after the party and even given their flat feet and awkward lumbering gait they’re still faster than Talo.

Gildor states, “Well, I don’t know if we can get down from here without a fight. I was hoping for a bit more distance. Looks like it’s time to fight. Saphiria, take flight and be safe. Gordon send them a present. I’ll try to cast sleep on a group of them before they get to us. Everyone else kill what’s left of them, unless you have a better idea.”

Gildor sheaths his sword to cast or if necessary to cast this round lets it fall to his feet if that allows him to cast this round. If he can’t cast this round either way he sheaths his sword.

As the fighters form up ranks in the front, Talo takes his place behind them. The dwarf shoulders his shield between him and the oncoming assault. He looks down at the stone-like sphere in his hand and then levels at the oncoming Fishmen.

Hold friends,” calls Gordon, “It might be that we are not these creatures enemy. But have instead released them from the evil woke of the mindflayers! Perhaps we can parley with them rather than slaughter them out of hand.” Whilst the group line up ready to receive the creatures Gordon will step to the front, “Gildor be ready with Sleep or ColorSpray should this not work,” the gnome calls back to his comrades.

Gildor gauging the rate of closure, decides to sheath his sword saying, “I’ll back you up Gordon if things go bad I’ll cast sleep on your signal or if there’s no doubt it’s needed.” Saphiria climb above from behind us about 250 feet over our heads. That should hopefully give them pause and a reason to negotiate favourably I hope.

Ten Kuo-Toa flap to a halt about 30m away from the party but continue to advance, slowly talking to each other in a series of barks and croaks and not paying the gnome much attention. When they get to within 10m the central and slightly bigger creatures stop but their companions continue to move around the party readying their spears, shields and nets.
Its clear to Gildor and the rest of the party that they have no intention of parleying and Gildor casts his sleep at the largest concentration, directly in front of him. The spell is cast but seems to have no effect what-so-ever on the ‘fish-men’ except to force them into action.

Talo takes aim and fires, aiming for the closest fish-man. Pulling the trigger releases a white fiery flash from the front of the weapon and kicks Talo’s arm back. A tiny, brilliant white sphere races over the Kuo-Toa’s shoulder (think star trek photon torpedo but much faster) and slams into the wall behind it with a white splash of fire. One of the gems on the weapon flashes red twice and then goes green.
The dwarf’s eyes light up with glee as he proceeds to try and strike down the trout-men.

Gildor picks up his shortsword and prepares for the onrushing creatures.
One of the larger Kuo-Toa throws a harpoon through a gap and the heavy barbed spear narrowly misses Gordon. Three more of the creatures close on the gnome with spears and nets.

Talo fires again as one of the creatures closes on him and the brilliant projectile slams into its shield, shattering it and knocking down and wounding the Kuo-Toa. The dwarf grips the weapon tightly and decides to use it at close range, all he has to do is point and shoot it seems. His next shot goes wide as the monster gets to its feet but he finally hits it again and puts a smoking 15cm hole in its chest. The dwarf thinks the resulting smell will put him off cooked fish for life.
Kradorn is ready for the on-rushing Kuo-Toa, parrying its spear and wounding it the arm. Before it can recover he slams into it and knocks it down, pinning its shield with his foot he buries his longsword in its neck. Cynan takes down another with a shield to the face and a stab through the ribs. Gordon and Gildor hit too, though they only manage to wound the tough, scaly skinned monsters. Gildor dodges a spear but misses his counter attack, while Gordon parries two spears and ducks under a net, the edges of which are tipped with cruel looking hooks. Cynan parries another net with his shield and sweeps away the clinging hooks with his sword.

Kradorn tries to come to Gildor’s aid but trips over a fallen Kuo-Toa and crashes into the elf, turning a killing blow into no more than a light wound. Gildor steps back just as a tiny white flare flashes past his face and disappears off into the darkness. He turns to see Talo take aim at the Kuo-Toa again and shoot. White fire knocks down the creature in a blast of heat and brilliant light. The dwarven cleric is grinning maniacally and swinging the weapon about wildly looking for another target.
Gordon closes on the Kuo-Toa with the net and guts it while dodging and parrying its companions’ spears. Cynan grabs the net flung at him and pulling its owner towards him, chops off its arm at the wrist. The monster gives a croaking howl and backs off.
The two larger Kuo-Toa move around to tackle Cynan and Kradorn and the fighter has to dodge a nasty looking harpoon when there is a loud croak from behind them. The Kuo-Toa immediately step back, take defensive stance and slowly retreat till they are 10m away from the party. Behind them the bigger Kuo-Toa advance, the largest of which both stand at more than 2m tall. One of them closes to within 5m of Gordon and Cynan and starts talking in what is clearly not the Kuo-Toa tongue. When that gets no reaction he switches to a weird and very obscure form of gnomish, clearly aimed at Gordon.
“What are you doing here Svirfneblin and what has happened to the Illithid and their slaves?” he croaks, nodding to the dead and dismembered orcs scattered around the compound.
”People of the long lake, we mean you no harm and merely wish to leave this evil place now we have freed our people and exacted justice for their kidnap.” says the gnome.

Gildor says in common softly for Gordon to hear but maybe the others of the party too, “Sleeps not working. I’ll try to calm Talo down.” Gildor moves to get the dwarf under control long enough for Gordon and Cynan to sort things out with the Koa thing. “Saphiria keep watch around us.”

Gildor’s approach seems to do the trick. “But I was just getting started! Ey!” Getting blocked off from the fray, the dwarf continues in a harsh whisper, “They are gonna put a knife in us if we try and talk to them… AND negotiation is a failure of war… Let me know, and I can fix this oversight.” The dwarf’s menacing glare remains while the wasted time of war is being spent talking.
Talo transitions to his axe “in case I need to address their persistent breathing problem. The fact they’re breathing is a problem,” he says under his breath, feeling the heft of his war-axe. Talo takes a sniff of the smouldering wounds he has inflicted and snorts, “How is it they stink worse after cookin’?”
The break in fighting has given Talo time to admire his newest war-friend as a distraction from the disappointing outcome against the kua-toa. Keeping a concerned scowl just in case he needs to start attacking again, Talo looks over the blaster and counts the number of indicators on the surface and tries to puzzle out their function.

“We are here to free our people and exact justice for their kidnapping (being taken as slaves), the Illithid are dead or fled, their slaves the same, apart from the women and children who we have taken to the farms. We have no truck with your people and just wish to leave this place with our tribute.”

The creature nods, listening to Gordon and then has a short discussion with its large companion. It turns back to Gordon and says “Go, two of my warriors will follow you as far as they can, to make sure you leave our domain. May Blibdoolpoolp, the sea mother go with you.”

He motions to the other Kuo-Toa to part and let the party pass and gives a short order to the two large warriors that the party fought.

Gordon will wait to see what the Kuo-Toa have to say to that, hopefully the response will be favourable and they will go on their way and us on ours. If it turns out they were allies/friends of the Illithid and start to kick off then Gordon will hit them with a colour spray, targeting the two big ones. Followed with Mirror Image and some cold steel.

A very confused look comes across Kradorn’s face as he listens and regains a defensive posture. Ready to restart the fray should any take aggression to the party.
Not sure what is happening with these… fish things and their croaking talk that seems to be understood by Gordon.

Talo can see three gems built into the back of the sphere just above the handle with a large button just under the central gem. When he grips the handle the left and right gems light up, the one on the left glows amber briefly and the one on the right glows green briefly. When the weapon shoots the gem on the left flashes briefly red, amber and then green.

The party head out of the main gates and make their way to the the collection of transporters in the centre of the giant cave followed by the two Kuo-Toa several paces back.

” Well done Gordon, a fight was the last thing we needed here.” Cynan moves along with the party glad to be leaving these caverns finally and hoping the dwarfs can seal them permanently.

Talo looks over his shoulder, “Now look what you have done! Peace has broke out and there is no getting it back in the bottle!” The dwarf seems disgusted. He does not seem to upset for too long before he is staring at his new weapon.
Further down the path Talo takes the time to look up from his admiration of his new ‘Tear of Clanggedin’ and addresses Gildor, “Ya know… sorry if I got too close back there with my fire-flinger.” His face is screwed up in a look of some bashfulness,”I will try and keep it pointed just at the bad guys… But she sure is a beaut, right?!!?” He looks down at the blaster and Talo looks like he is in love.
After many minutes of looking over the blaster, Talo spends some time thumbing through one of the many manuals and tomes he has in his pack.

Gildor shakes his head at Talo saying, “We will need to talk about your aggressiveness my friend. Good job Gordon, I had hoped we could avoid a fight all together. I’ll activate there ring to get us to the lake so we can walk out of here.”

Using the markings they put on the rings to identify where they go Gildor will activate the ring as needed.
Once on their own, he whispers to Cynan, Kradorn and Gordon individually along the way, “I think Talo is a danger to the group. Maybe something has taken hold of the dwarf. He doesn’t seem himself and is quick to rage. He almost killed me back there and he already killed his dwarf henchman. Perhaps he should be examined by a priest in town?”

Cynan looks at Gildor, “He does not think when he is in battle, and yes his actions worry me as well. I am not sure a priest will help it seems more a problem with his battle awareness and people around him. However it is something we all need to discuss once back at Lands End.”

Kradorn nods in agreement with Cynan. Grabbing his make-shift bag and making haste to the exit, with the party.
“Ah to see daylight again.” Kradorn comments.
“I have heard of these kind, but I have known them to be much larger. Wild black haired and blue eyed wild-men. Simple people, raiders, but not warriors of battles or armies” Kradorn replies
“He needs guidance and control. Its a rage to strike fear but can be focused… So I have been told.” Kradorn smirks.

The party march slowly over to the transporter discs and following Gildor’s markings head back to the long lake. They arrive with a flash at the transporter to be greeted by a dozen more Kuo-Toa standing nearby. A short barked conversation between the party’s guards and this group allows the party to head down to the lake shore and begin the climb up to the great round lake of the giant crabs.
A slow grinding march round to the far side of the lake brings them to the partially submerged tunnel entrance, followed by a short climb to the small tunnel in the side of the larger tunnel beyond.
The Kuo-Toa seem surprised when the party begin climbing into the narrow tunnel and wriggling up into the chamber beyond. They have a short conversation before announcing something to the party. It seems they won’t be coming any further.
The party scramble from under the fallen section of cave roof in the steeply angled cave above and clamber up the forty five degree slope to the collapsed mine tunnel at the top.
Here six dwarves are waiting, camped, drinking tea and chatting amongst themselves. They have half a dozen barrels with them and a supply of black powder cord. The party catches them somewhat by surprise. They were expecting them to take a little longer but now Cynan is out Thraim wants him to report his findings before the tunnels are sealed for good.
The final climb out of the mines is slow and wearisome but eventually the party emerge into the daylight just as Evening Bell is being sounded.