Tientrich returns to the island...
The journey back toward Thistletop was much quicker without his companions in tow, Tientrich reflected as he strode briskly through the undergrowth, his affinity with nature allowing him to traverse the difficult terrain with ease, and his new, enchanted boots offsetting the extra weight of his new, heavier armour. He did feel a little guilty about abandoning his new friends in the middle of their investigation, but he reflected that his skills when dealing with people left a little to be desired, and as such he would likely add little to the interrogation of Sevilla and whatever followed. And it wasn’t like they were in any danger questioning prisoners or the institutionalised.
Approaching the bramble tunnels Twitch slowed his pace, pausing to listen for any signs of danger. Hearing nothing, he proceeded into the tunnels, heading first toward the lair of the firepelt he had enchanted the last time they were here, and its goblin master. Deciding to continue with caution, he moved into the brambles adjacent the tunnels as he neared the chamber where the dogs had been chained, and readied himself to use his magical talents to calm them should the need arise. His caution however proved unnecessary, as there was no sign of the animals in the chamber. In fact, he had seen no signs of life at all since his arrival. He continued through the thick growth, pausing only as he reached the edge of the goblin druid’s abode, and carefully peered out into the room.
Nothing. Tientrich stepped out into the clearing and carefully inspected the surrounds, but saw no signs of recent activity. Confident now that the tunnels remained abandoned, he proceeded more swiftly through the thorny growth, seeing nothing but the goblin corpses they had left behind, bloated and stinking with the gases of decomposition. Satisfied, the druid prepares to leave for the island keep, before remembering his unsated curiosity about the monster at the bottom of the hole.
Perched at the edge of the hole, Twitch was disappointed that he could see nothing below despite the keen vision of his elven heritage, nor hear anything but the faint sloshing of water. Pausing for a moment to decide whether to proceed, he shrugged, his curiosity overcoming his caution. He looked around for something to anchor a rope to, but saw nothing that looked secure enough. He considered simply using his arms and legs on the sides of the chimney to control his descent, the hole only being five feet across, but thought better of it; who knew if it would widen further down?
On the verge of abandoning the effort, he remembered another use of powers he had seen by one of the druids during his training in Mierani Forest. Closing his eyes he pictured the giant spiders he had seen crawling effortlessly through the canopy, and looking down was pleased to see sticky filaments growing to entwine his hands and feet.
“As good a time to try as any.” He mumbled to himself, then proceeded to crawl forward over the rim of the hole and into the shaft below.
Twitch proceeded slowly at first, but increased his pace as his confidence in the spell grew. Approaching a circle of dim light at the bottom, the druid poked his head out of the hole.
He looked out upon glittering grotto, its walls dripping with moisture and alive with sea urchins, anemones, and other tidal life. He was hanging from a chimney in a natural dome ten feet above the churning water. A ﬁfteen-foot-long ledge sat just above the water level, upon which Twitch could see a sleek, brown-furred tail widening into a rather rotund body with two flippers sticking out to the sides, but the head was obscured from his vision by the bulk of the body.
“The goblins’ monster is a seal?” he said out to himself, then laughed at the absurdity of it.
As his laugh echoed around the grotto, the creature turned quickly toward its source. As it opened its mouth Twitch had a moment to realise his mistake, the creature’s jaws and teeth looking more like those of a shark than a seal, before he was rattled by a terrifying roar from its throat. His first inclination was to turn and flee, but he was able to push down his panic as he realised there was no way it could get to him up here. Replacing fear with curiosity, Twitch crawled out along the roof of the cavern until he was above the creature, which continued to roar and snap at him in futility.
On closer inspection the creature did indeed resemble a seal, however it appeared stronger through the upper body than he would expect a seal to be, and of course there was the sharklike jaws he could see clearly as it continued to snap and snarl.
“Bunyips are real?” he muttered to himself. He had never given them much credence, but in hindsight he shouldn’t have been surprised. That was the problem with such rumoured magical beasts - some were real, some not, and most were possible through the idiotic meddling of sorcerers and wizards. Fools, always thinking they could “improve” on nature with no understanding of the consequences. Fortunately, this creature had likely caused little damage of late; its thick layer of fat suggested that the goblins had fed it well, and that it had done little hunting as a result, becoming lazy with the easy food source. However, that would likely end with the demise of the goblins, and if the creature was anything like the legends (and who knew how accurate they were?) it would begin voraciously feeding once it truly became hungry. And that could be disastrous for local marine life.
Making his decision, Twitch returned to the chimney, climbing up and out of the hole. Knowing that the monster lurked directly below gave him confidence in his course of action, as he called on natural forces, binding them into the form of a swarm of bats below. That done, he ran out through the brambles and toward the coast; no doubt the bunyip would quickly dive once the swarm began tearing into its flesh, and he had no control over where it would hunt for more blood. It would of course disperse quickly without his guidance, but until then he could well be its prey.
Reaching the shore, he smiled as he saw the bunyip swim out into the sea, the water around it stained pink. He had chosen the bats as their saliva contained an agent that prevented blood from clotting, and the creature would continue to bleed for at least a couple of minute. That likely would be enough to kill it, but he’d rather be sure. Again focusing his energy, he created first one, then two dolphins alongside the bunyip, and both immediately attacked the unnatural creature. Although they buffeted it around, it wasn’t long before one was torn apart by the beast, and Twitch had to remind himself that the animals he conjured were not true creatures, but rather manifestations of natural energy. The second dolphin soon also disappeared as the spell’s duration ended, but they had done enough. As the druid watched on, the bunyip’s movement ceased, and it sank from sight below the surface of the bloodied water.
A Pleasant SwimEdit
Ready now to continue to the island, Tientrich rethought his initial plan of action. He had been intending to cross the bridge, but having used much of his granted power for the day he decided on more caution. Goblins, he knew, could see well even in the complete absence of light, but the range of such vision was limited, and in the approaching starlight his own vision would be far better. He would wait until nightfall to cross. However, the bridge was neither long nor far from the keep, possibly close enough for him still to be seen by any watchers on the walls. A better option, he decided, would be to swim out to the island away from the bridge, the natural bramble defences on the island being no obstacle to his approach. The only problem with this, he thought, was that his new armour was heavy enough that he was not completely confident in his ability to swim in it, and he was loathe to leave it behind in case of danger. Fortunately, nature always provided a solution.
A short time later Twitch approached the shore. Behind him he dragged the pieces of his breastplate, securely bound together with bramble canes, and attached to each side of this bundle one of the goblin corpses. As he waded out into the water he was pleased to see his armour bobbing on the surface, the buoyancy of the gas-filled corpses keeping it afloat. Tying off the vegetation around his waist, he swam out to the island of Thistletop.
The Deserted IslandEdit
Once again, the druid’s caution proved unnecessary. Two hours later, after re-armouring himself and proceeding with the utmost caution, he had re-explored the entire keep both above and below ground. He had seen no signs that anything had been disturbed since they left other than the dead goblins at the gate having been partially devoured, probably be the dogs that had run away, and he suspected a few items were missing from the bedrooms, probably taken by Lyrie before she left.
Confident now that he was alone on the island, Tientrich set up camp outdoors; he felt uncomfortable in the keep, and moreso below it, and wanted to be well-rested before undertaking the task that had brought him here.
The following day saw Twitch standing before the stone double-doors to Malfeshnekor’s prison. On the floor to his left lay a shovel taken from the study room where they had encountered Lyrie previously, to his right a sack of putrid meat taken from the goblins’ storeroom. In his hand he held the silver and gold seven-pointed star that was the key to these doors. He had planned initially on coming here to simply make the passage to these doors, and indeed their operation, more difficult. However during his journey he had considered all the questions that had been raised in his time spend here with his companions, and that there was one creature that may be able to provide some answers. Clutching his spear tightly in his left hand to control the nervous twitching of his arm, with his right he pressed the star into the slots on the door and twisted. With a groan the doors opened.
The barghest’s room appeared empty and silent, lit by the fiery pit in its centre. There was no sign of the creature itself, but from previous experience Twitch knew the barghest could remain invisible. Twitch approached the doorway but paused, unwilling to cross the threshold into the beast’s prison. Although nothing visibly blocked his path, an unseen power kept the barghest within the room, and the druid was loathe to cross whatever barrier separated him and the monster. “You return,” a deep voice echoed from somewhere within the room. In response Twitch flung a haunch of meat, possibly dog, he thought, into the room. The greasy flesh slid along the floor and came to rest at the foot of a goblin, which appeared from nowhere. Twitch was slightly surprised to see the creature, though didn’t show it. The goblin reached out and touched the food, caressing it, before opening his mouth wide and stuffing the meat down quicker than the druid thought possible. “Tasty, but hardly satiating,” the goblin spoke in the same grating voice of the barghest. Whether an illusion or another form the beast could take Twitch was not sure, but he spoke to the creature. “I have more.” “Bring it!” the goblin demanded, leaping forward. Twitch involuntarily stepped back before remembering the beast was imprisoned. He gained his composure and tossed another piece of meat into the room, which the goblin greedily devoured.
While he ate Twitch began to feel more confident - if the monster had been able to get to him, it surely would have done by now. Deciding to make a show of being relaxed, the druid sat down cross-legged on the floor outside the doorway. Then, deciding to sate one aspect of his curiosity, he grasped the holy symbol around his neck, muttering a few syllables in the secret druidic language before gesturing toward Malfeshnekor. A faint green glow surrounds the beast’s body, its dull flicker almost lost in the brighter light of the firepit. The goblin pauses to examine his glowing skin, then returns to his food as if now bored by the momentary curiosity. The druid smiled; not only would that keep him visible, but had also informed Twitch both that spells could pass across the barghest’s barrier, and that the creature itself was not immune to magics. “It has been so long,” the goblin crooned as he smacked his lips. “Too long. More!” Drool spilled from his bottom lip. “I have questions,” Twitch stated bluntly. “More food!” the goblin demanded. “Answer my questions first!” Twitch demanded back. The eyes of the goblin narrowed. “What questions?” The druid took a steadying breath. “How did you get here?” “Here? This room?” the goblin asked. Twitch nodded. “I was captured by Karzoug’s minions. The scum bound me here.” “Why?” The goblin growls. “Food…” “Why?” Twitch asked again. The goblin fell to his knees and dragged his claws along the stonework. “Food!” he cried. Twitch throws a smaller piece of meat, which was quickly gobbled up. “I fought for Runelord Alaznist.” Alaznist. The druid recalled Jon mentioning that name from his research. “Who is Runelord Alaznist?” The goblin paused and wiped its mouth. “You do not know Runelord Alaznist?” Twitch shook his head. “Runelord Alaznist, ruler of Bakrakhan. My liege.” “And Karzoug’s enemy,” Twitch adds. The goblin spat. “Runelord Karzoug, ruler of Shalast. ” “These places mean nothing to me,” Twitch responded. The gobin shrugged. “You know nothing of the world.” “Where are these realms?” The goblin cackled. “We are in Shalast you fool!” “We are in Varisia,” Twitch responded. It was now the goblin’s turn to pause. “I have not heard of Varisia.” “Perhaps it is you who knows nothing of this world,” the druid replies. The goblin roared and leapt forward as if to attack Twitch, and slammed up against the magical barrier at the door. He scratched and clawed at the invisible wall as Twitch watched impassively. Finally the goblin fell to the ground and clawed at the stonework again, as if trying to dig his way out. “Food,” it whispered. Twitch tossed a small piece in, which was quickly devoured. “For centuries I have been locked in this room, the world has changed no doubt,” he said quietly.
“The goblins drew an image of a giant goblin trapped within this island, is that you?” The goblin chuckled. “Perhaps. I can whisper to them in their dreams. But these pathetic goblins are too weak to understand. But one recently was close. What of her?” “Nualia? I killed her.” The goblin hissed. “She understood. She understood what I could do for her. And sought me out. But it was you who found me, and now who taunts me from beyond my barrier. Now tell me: does half-elf flesh taste more like elf or human?” Twitch throws another piece of meat. “Stick to horse and dog. You say I taunt you? I could as easily be standing here not throwing you food. I’m sure Nualia did understand what you could do for her. But Nualia was insane on a misplaced need for vengeance, and was planning on bringing the world under the sway of Lamashtu. I couldn’t allow it. “Now, you have answered my questions, but I have more. Who made this fortress, these tunnels?” “Fortress?” the goblin asked while devouring pieces of meat. “I don’t know. This island was an outpost of Karzoug. Perhaps the goblins built the fortress. Or perhaps the ones before that.” “Who were they?” “Followers of the Monster Mother. I called to them, and they were close. But they vanished, unexpectedly. Before them was a time, a very long time, where I did not sense anything nearby. This was after… a great event. Aeons of silence. Thousands of years of nothing. You were the first ones to open my door. Karzoug’s minions… I find their absence disturbing.” “Earthfall,” Twitch guessed. “The stars fell from the sky. What followed was the Age of Darkness. Ancient civilisations were destroyed.
“Including Thassilon...” the goblin added. “And Alaznist.” He suddenly leapt up. “Release me!” Twitch shook his head. “I can’t. Yet.” The goblin paused. “When?” “I need to find out how. Do you know?” The goblin growled. “The magic is powerful. The binding spell cannot be dispelled with lesser magic. Perhaps a powerful wizard, or an artefact. Or perhaps there is a particular action needed to be carried out, a quest or ritual.” “Who would know?” Twitch asked. “Anyone who knows is dead!” The goblin shrieked, leaping at the invisible barrier again. He beat his head against the barrier and scratched at the walls, then turned and leapt upon the ground, clawing at the stones again. “Beast, I will release you, but there is no way I will let you loose on the world. You are not of this world and do not belong here, you do not fit the natural order.” “What a strange thing to say,” the goblin said quietly, rolling over to look at the druid. “For I have been in this world far, far longer than you have. I was already old when your ancestors were crawling about in the muck, scared of their own shadows.” “Irrelevent.” The druid replies “I am aware that my own life is nothing in the life of this world, the whole existence of civilisation but a fleeting moment. All things upon the world change, but nature, elemental forces, always remain in some form. You, however, are not of this world.”
Malfeshnekor sneered. Twitch ignored the beast and continued. “I will try to find a way to send you back to whatever land you come from. I will not countenance releasing you into the world. But nor am I cruel, and I would end your suffering.” “Just make it quick!” the beast screamed. “Oh I am so hungry! Come in here and kill me now, end my suffering!” “And become your next meal? I don’t think so. As I said, I am not cruel, but nor am I stupid. If you do not wish the help I have offered you will receive none.” Twitch dragged a corpse into sight. The half-naked woman, silver hair now stained with dark, dry blood, caught the eye of the goblin. The druid avoided touching the red, demonic arm of Nualia while pushing the body closer to the doorway. Indeed, he had considered removing the arm and taking it back to the Pillbug’s Pantry in Sandpoint in case it was something he would find of value, however he had decided that anything that the corrupt limb could be used for could be of no good, and that it was better destroyed. Finally he managed to push it across the threshold without getting too close himself. “This is to tide you over while I find out how to release you,” Twitch explained. The goblin eyed the corpse greedily. “I am grateful, but I ask for something in addition. Something small, but still alive. A lamb perhaps. Yes, it has been far too long since I have dined on living flesh.”
“I will consider it, but make no promises.”
Twitch quickly closed the doors. He had not particularly enjoyed the sight of the creature feasting on the meat, and he was not sure his stomach would survive the ordeal of watching it devouring the woman’s corpse.
Now, to make Malfeshnekor more inaccessible than he had been before, though the revelation that they had been the first to open the prison’s doors since the beast had been contained here made Tientrich a little less concerned that he would be sought out and released.
Calling on his affinity with the natural world, he caused the stone of the tunnel floor to soften, its texture becoming more like that of clay. Taking the shovel he dug out a large clump, and pressed it into the recess where he had placed the key. He continued to add the softened stone to the doors, pressing it into the joins. It would make opening the doors again more of a chore for him as he would have to re-soften and then remove the stone, which would harden over the next few days, but it would be even more difficult for someone who did not have that ability.
He scooped another handful of the substance before he proceeded back toward the exit. Once through the secret door concealed as a stack of coins, he sought out the slots where coins were placed to open it and filled these also with stone. Continuing, he gathered handfuls of dirt to scatter over the floor of the trapped area after he had carefully leapt over it, making the trap less obvious than it had been when Marius saved him from triggering it when they had first come here.
Finally, he ascended the stairs and closed the secret door behind him, He was unsure whether he would have found it had it not been already ajar when they had confronted Lyrie in the room, but he would take no chances. Again calling on his connection with the elements, he placed the same type of fiery trap on the door as he had done with Marius’ room.
Satisfied that he had done all he could, Twitch ascended to the keep, strolled across the bridge, and began the journey to rejoin his companions and see how they were faring.