82. Feed me Kradorn!

“In our wandering through this level we have encountered 8-9 doors marked with the red light. Perhaps it is time to think about taking more risks and investigating them. We could ask the healer golem if it is possible for us to receive its help in advance and whether his skill would protect us for a limited time if we go into a red light area, or at the very least support us for getting back to it and receive some more healing.”
While Kalam talked, his attention remained focused on their surroundings both for seen and unseen enemies, crossbow at the ready.

Gildor says, “Lets go see LG and make sure we are looking in the correct locations and see if it can narrow down which red doors are worth checking. We should also see if there is more than one level and if so how to access them from here.”
If no objections or another route is suggested Gildor will follow in mid pack either way.

“Yes I don’t think we are any closer to finding the King and his men.” Kradorn replies.
“Are we sure they are on this level? Did they go down deeper or higher?”

The party head west again and passing the golem at the end of the corridor, head around to the south, to talk to the avatar of Limited Gravitas again.
In response to the party’s questions LG is able to help with a few points;

The red glowing door beacon or red room lighting both indicate a warning. In the case of the row of doors to the west, these indicate that the life boats behind the doors have been jettisoned. They cannot be opened, except by a red or grey card holder with the appropriate security code, which has to entered manually.

LG has no idea on the effectiveness of the anti-radiation drugs that the medical golem has given the party members. LG no longer has access to that information.

In response to Gildor’s question about the location of the white card, which was in the possession of the captain, her quarters are in the north eastern sector of this level, although her last communication suggested she was heading down to level 2, to deal with an escaped alien creature.

The next level down can be accessed using any of the four drop chutes.
A group of dwarves passed the eastern security golem a couple of weeks ago, heading north, they had an encounter with the vege-pygmies and fled up the main northern corridor. LG has not seen them since.

“Lets take this path! Head up this main corridor. It has been our best lead yet.” Kradorn comments.

Before anyone can answer there is a crash, followed by another and then the clatter of a dropped sword from somewhere to the east. Everyone tenses and then Munin curses and says “The young lad, where is he?”

The party move swiftly as one, east past the security golem and down to the junction where they find Kalam’s crossbow, a crossbow bolt, and his short sword. A thin bloody trail along the floor heads around and into the drop tube in the middle of the junction

Gildor says, “This is what happens when we split up!” Looking at Munin mainly, as the others know since they’ve saved Gildor’s bacon plenty. “Well let’s track quickly and see if there is anything to save. Let’s make sure to be careful as well. I’m all for saving the lad but not if it’s a suicide mission.” Gildor readies his bow when his hands are free to use a weapon, switching to sword when things get close. “Well, we were thinking about going down a level anyway to find the captain’s key card or possibly the King.” Gildor stays mid group in marching order but spots for traps occasionally.

“Damn to Nine hells what has he done and gone.” Kradorn curses as they search for Kalam. Weapons at the ready should something pop out for another bite.
Kradorn pauses for a moment to toss Kalam’s gear into his pack before moving on to the drop tube.
“Well… are we going after him?” Kradorn says, looking down the tube, expecting something to spring out at him.

Gildor replies to Kradorn, “I’m going, unless it’s a fools errand. I think we were going to go this way anyway.” Gildor looks at the rest of the party and says, “Well, if you don’t stop me, then follow me.”
Gildor works with the others to figure out how to get down to follow the blood trail.

“I am with you.” Kradorn replies. Looking over his shoulder to make sure everyone is with them on the descent.

Gildor works with Gordon to figure out if this is some sort of transport down or if ladders will get them down. He does what it takes to get down with the others. He lets Cynan and Kradorn lead though.

Looking up, Gildor can see the top of the drop chute is sealed at the same level as the ceiling. Looking down the 30m deep chute he can see a circular hatch in the western wall about 2m down with a violet ring around it. There are handles on either side of the hatch.
There are another pair of exits, like the ones he is standing at 8m further down and another pair at the very bottom of the chute.
A line of handles are moving up one wall inside the chute, while on the opposite wall they are moving down. The handles are about 1m apart and when they get to the top of the chute they fold into the wall. Leaning out into the chute Gildor tests one of the handles with his foot and it seems sturdy enough to hold his weight. He feels odd leaning out into the chute however, a feeling all too similar to falling.
The dwarves meanwhile have been tying a series of ropes around the chute and throw the remaining length of it down the chute. Strangely it doesn’t fall down the chute but simply floats in the centre. Munin takes a coin and flips it into the chute, where it too just floats. It and the rope gradually move to the edge of the chute and stop there, suspended in thin air.
“Well, that’s bloody weird.” declares Munin.

Gildor says, “Well let’s go find the lad.” He sees the coin and ropes, “That’s kind of odd. Be careful going down.” Gildor is looking for the blood trail as he prepares to go down. “Secure your gear to your body folks, the coin and ropes are floating for some reason.” Gildor makes sure to tighten anything that is loose about himself or in a quiver so it stays put mostly. “If this environment is going to be like this the whole way take some practice swings and shots, to prepare yourselves for a fight with whatever took the boy but maybe the tube is the only thing affected and the main floor is OK. Just prepare yourselves as needed.” Gildor looks at the others and says “Let’s get going. Kradorn take the lead, with Gordon (Red Card Holder), then Cynan and Gildor in the middle, then Talo and the Dwarves.

Kradorn nods to Gildor. One hand on the horizontal bar(rung) the other with his sword.
Waiting and prepared as the device lowers him down to the next level. On the way down he spots a small streak of blood on the wall and another on the floor, by the archway below him. Stepping off and grabbing his shield. Waiting for the others to join him.

“Let’s go then”, states Gildor to the rest of the group. Gildor follows Kradorn in order. As they move down he looks for a fresh blood trail to follow.

“Good idea, Gildor.” Talo remains in close between the party and dwarves. “Poor lad, we have got to get to him quick and see what we can do to save him. We need to kill the foul creature that took him, ’cause that just won’t do – people gettin’ stole and erything. Any movement Kradorn makes seems exaggerated but he manages to push himself towards the arch and through it onto the deck, his weight returning as he does so.
In front of him Kradorn sees the most amazing vista. The archway opens onto a balcony running around a huge indoor garden, lit by a bright disc floating against the ceiling. The garden is filled with tall, exotic looking trees and plants and various animals, small and large, moving through the trees, flying through the air or swimming in the lake filling the middle of the garden. An island in the centre of the lake can be reached by a small bridge.

Gordon’s insistent voice gets Kradorn’s attention and turning he sees twenty or thirty of his arrows floating in the air, leaving a trail behind him back up to the party.

Gordon is busy collecting the arrows as he comes down, holding a handle with one hand and collecting the arrows with the other. Oddly Kradorn notices that the gnome seems to be floating, as his feet aren’t resting on any of the handles. Behind him come Cynan, Gildor, Talo and two of the dwarves.
Kradorn turns at the sound of something slithering behind him. He looks about and notices out of the corner of his eye one of the vines growing over the edge of the balcony is slowly creeping across the floor towards him. It’s about 6m away and will reach him shortly.

Gildor says,”Help each other get down.” Gildor helps Talo and the others get down.

Talo shimmies down the corridor as best he can in the micro-gravity. His urgency to get down is accelerated by the sounds below him.
Once down on the ground again and seeing the plant-based nature of the moving vine, Talo fires the needle gun at it, in hopes of some kind of effect.

Gordon lands gracefully on the balcony and deposits a fistful of arrows into Kradorn’s quiver. He turns and helps Cynan out of the drop chute, who immediately draws his sword and readies his shield.
Gildor arrives next and saves Talo from bumping off the edge of the balcony and floating off into the chute.

Kradorn grabs Gildor and pulls him to the ground, while he points out the creeping vines to him.
“What do you think? Burn it or cut them?” he says as he watches the vines.

Gildor examines the area to see if he can safely cast ‘Burning Hands’ and not ignite too much of the area. Gildor says, “I don’t want to start a big fire and it get out of control. Let’s cut them if it’s not too hard.”
Gildor draws his sword and helps Kradorn with the vines. As a last resort he casts Burning Hands if it’s necessary and he can do so without harming his friends.

By this time the vine has got much closer and it rears up like a snake, quickly towering above the party. Talo is ready for it and pulls the trigger while aiming at the vine looming above him. The weapon buzzes like a swarm of hornets and pale fire flashes from the the end of the square muzzle. Talo misses and sees a small patch of the ceiling spark and vibrate high above him.
Gildor slashes with his shortsword as the vine whips down, faster than he or the party are expecting but he hits it all the same and his blade cuts a good third of the way through its 15cm diameter.
Kradorn slices at it too, severing the vine in a single blow. While the severed section twists and contorts on the floor, the rest of the vine rears up and away, shaking spasmodically and spraying pale green fluid for three or four metres from the stump. Below the balcony, something of great bulk shifts and slides in agitation.

Behind the fight, Gordon gives a shout and the party turn to see the gnome with another vine wrapped around his body. Two more vines reach over the balustrade and come wriggling towards them.

One comes at Cynan and with a rush wraps itself around his torso, while another wriggles towards Kradorn and whips around his left leg. As soon as the vines get a good grip they all begin to constrict their victims, revealing the plants hidden danger. Only Cynan’s plate offers any protection from the vine’s grip but the paladin can hear it creaking and squeaking under the pressure.
Gordon tries in vain to pull off the vine but it is too strong for him. Cynan meanwhile hacks at the vine wrapped around his chest but catches his sword against the low ceiling by the chute’s archway. The sword strikes the bone-like material edging the archway and sticks there, smouldering. Somewhere nearby a loud, high pitched scream begins and repeats every few seconds.
Talo steps up next to Kradorn and fires down at the vine wrapped around the human’s leg, he misses again and the tough flooring material is peppered with slivers of metal. He curses and shoots again but still can’t hit he thing. He fires again and misses, spraying the deck with more metal shards.
Kradorn slashes down at the vine creeping up his leg and around his torso and slices clean through it, leaving a centimetre deep gash in the decking. The severed vine whips away and Kradorn tries to prise off what’s clinging to him.

Gildor comes to Cynan’s assistance and hacks into the vine wrapped around the paladin, Cynan meanwhile wrenches his sword from the melting, burning section of archway.

Gordon pulls out his axe and hammers it into the vine attempting to crush him to pulp. The blade cuts halfway through the vine but it keeps up its pressure.
Talo looks around for another target, on the verge of abandoning the needler pistol when he spots four more of the vines slithering quickly over the balustrade. He takes aim at the nearest and shoots, he doesn’t see where the metal projectiles land but they don’t come anywhere near the vine he was aiming at. He shoots again, wondering if perhaps he’s missing something here.
A vine reaches out for Kradorn but he avoids it, while another whips over Talo’s head. A third catches the dwarf around the ankle and reaches up and around his torso, while the last slithers around his left arm.
Talo shoots point blank at the vine wrapped around his arm, hitting it with three of the hypersonic darts.

Apart from three tiny entry wounds there doesn’t seem to be much damage done to the vine. The priest is glad of his armour as he feels the vines constricting. He notices though, that the one around his arm is weaker than the one around his torso and seems to be darkening in colour around the three tiny wounds.
From the ceiling above Cynan, a tiny nozzle begins spraying freezing water at him, while another sprays a fine powder at the guttering section of the drop-chute archway which his flaming sword had set alight.
By now the four dwarves have arrived on the balcony and are readying for battle.

“Do we fight or run?” Kradorn yells, prepared to cut through any approaching vine.

“RRrrrraaaaaaggggghh!!! Fight!!” Is all the reply Talo can muster as he hacks at the vines holding him fast.
Talo’s desperation is reflected in the ferocity of his attack as he bites and tears at the vines with his teeth. He tries to free himself and the others who are held bound.

“We fight to free our friends Kradorn. I think the majority of this beast is below the balcony. Let me see if my spells will help. Gildor figures he has enough mana possibly for the fireball spell or a couple burning hands. “Blast this unnatural rain!”

Gildor peers over the edge of the balcony and can see the main trunk of the plant reaching up from the garden 32m below to just under the balcony. At its base, the plant is 60cm in diameter and tapers up towards the top. It is dark green and has four vines sprouting from the trunk every 4 metres. Only the top two sets of vines are long enough to reach up over the balcony.

Gildor is trying to chose the best course of action. Fireball if he can cast it safely down the balcony so it doesn’t hit his friends if he has the mana or Burning hands on the vine around Cynan where the vine is not wet possibly hitting more than one vine if possible.
“Saphiria attack the vines but stay out of danger.”

Kradorn turns his attention to freeing his friends and any vines that get too close.

The fighter slashes at the vine wrapped around Talo’s left arm and severs it with a splash of brown and stinking fluid, the internal structure of the vine seemingly turned to mush.
Gildor casts his Fireball spell down below the balcony, trying to catch the trunk where the vines attacking the party are attached. The fireball detonates with a deep roar and moments later a fireball rolls up past the balcony. The vines immediately release anyone still held by them and begin thrashing about. Smoke rolls up just under where the party are standing and the vines twitch and thrash uncontrollably. Gildor looks carefully over the edge and can see the section of the plant where he cast his spell is burning, the flames slowly rising to engulf the vines reaching up to the balcony.
More screaming begins around the party, seemingly coming from sections of the walls, which are flashing red.

Munin clears his throat. “Time to leave I think. Which way?”

“Is everyone ok? Can any of you see any blood trail from Kalam, or sign of the King or the Captain. that possibly came this way. Any tracks or creatures lurking about?” Gildor looks around as well. “Let’s follow any signs we see that will help us.” Gildor checks for a safe way to proceed to follow any signs they may find.

Kradorn steps back towards the air tunnel. “Step away from the edge. See what comes from below.” Kradorn says as he watches carefully. Ready to jump back into the tunnel which they came down.

Kradorn can’t see any sign of the vines reappearing, as the fire seems to have put an end to them.

Gildor and the others search for some sign of Kalam but can find nothing. By this time the smoke from the fire below the balcony is beginning to billow up against the roof and all sorts of alarms (for that’s what the party assume they are) are beginning to wail. Smoke is also starting to roll onto the balcony making the visibility poor.

Gildor steps back saying, “I’m sorry friends. I saw no other way to get us out of danger and that may have put us in a different dangers. The path to find Kalam is unclear, or the king or capt of this vessel for that matter. We are wounded and low on magic my friends. We must be careful and stick together.”

Gildor is trying to figure out if they can still follow the blood trial, King or Captain.

Gildor says, “If we can safely keep tracking the blood trial we should do so my friends. We have 2 reasons to continue. Find Kalam, hopefully alive and find the Captain and her card. That will also help us find the King which I believe came this way. Let’s find a safe way to proceed.”