What are you, some saint all of a sudden? What has the galaxy ever done for you? Why would you want to save it?
‘Cause I’m one of the idiots who lives in it!
In the last episode, the intrepid adventurers had breached the inner sanctum of a serpentfolk temple! After recording the blasphemous rites contained within, the heroes were dramatically confronted by a horde of lacedons and their leader, Nylithati, the terrible Mama Thrunefang!
And Monica had shot her.
Should’ve Stayed in Their Humble Abodes
Nylithati screeched in agony as black viscera oozed from the bullet-sized cavity that was once her chest. The ghouls moved toward the Castaways cautiously while their leader drew the cathedral’s shadows around herself, obscuring her location. Only one of the lesser undead remained to guard Mama Thrunefang within the cloud of darkness.
“Take the humans first!” howled the Zura priestess, presuming Dornas and Monica would be more vulnerable to the lacedons’ paralyzing touch. She was nearly as wrong about that as her tactical decision to confront the heroes in the first place. One of Nylithati’s children buried its fangs into Monica’s shoulder. The lacedon chewed off a succulent chunk, so the archaeologist helped him wash it down with hot lead.
Dornas had no intention of allowing Mama Thrunefang to regroup, and with his staff boldly vaulted into the darkness, blindness be damned! Like a virtuoso of the stave, the magus found his audience and played a symphony upon the skull of the harridan ghoul. Though she managed to conjure a flying blade of force, aiming it at her foes was tricky while she ducked and wove around Dornas’s twirling staff.
Meanwhile, Kishtari psionically blasted one of the lacedons into a hot soup that splattered against the cathedral’s fixtures. Kai and Kor’lec worked together like the jaws of a bear trap, the druid hitting low on one side and his saurian companion leapt high on the other to turn their undead foes into gory mulches from the neck up. Likki darted and tumbled about like an unholy monkey to channel curative magic on anyone the lacedons managed to wound – first repairing Monica’s ravaged shoulder.
Jask did what he could, channeling holy healing and poking nearby ghouls with his long spear, though the heroes were cautious to keep a tight battle line between themselves and the aging priest. Monica approached the railing separating the dais from the lower floor of the temple and the haze of blackness where Dornas fought alone against the undead priestess.
The last lacedon henchman reached out of the darkness and through the bars of the railing to clasp its hand around Monica’s ankle. The Taldan could just make out its slobbering, grinning mug behind the banister, resembling a jailed lunatic. Kishtari was forced to hose it down with phrenic fire, adding another fine layer of ghoul glop to the temple décor.
Kor’lec imbued his cutlass with primordial flames and presented a swashbuckling figure complete with tricorne. True to the image, the druid leapt the railing and landed atop the stump of the broken pillar, then sashayed down its fallen length. The magical shadows seemed to flee from the half-elf as he flashed his blade like a man sparring with darkness itself.
As the darkness dissipated, Nylithati found herself surrounded. For the first time in a century, the monster knew fear. She tried to cower and flee, and was beaten back and forth by the heroes like a footbag losing its stuffing. Finally, Mama Thrunefang could move no more.
“We make her talk now?” queried Likki, half-kidding on account of the team’s original intention to question the Thrunefang’s founder on Ieana’s whereabouts.
“Not unless you can suddenly talk to the dead,” answered Dornas. “Still, she might be useful.” The magus pried the recently expired creature’s head off and bagged it up. The heroes also found on her an amulet of protection, and Kishtari discovered that the former Captain Kovack had worn magical armor that molded itself into a fetching, feminine leather suit when she donned it.
“I want one of those orbs,” said the kalashtar, pointing to one of the amber, snake-filled globes that topped the temple’s pillars.
The horrible relic was about the size of a person and weighed about ten stone.
Pray I Don’t Alter It Any Further
After making a thorough search of the lacedon’s warren (towing and rolling the huge serpentfolk ornament all the way), the adventurers were almost surprised to see the trailing rope leading to the surface right where they left it. They ascended, though Dornas and Kish opted to levitate themselves out of the tunnel. Dornas continued higher up to the balcony of the old lighthouse and signaled its cannibal occupants.
Chief Klorak the Red seemed annoyed to be called on. Dornas couldn’t care less.
“I have Nylithati’s head.” The magus pulled the hideous, tongue-lolling trophy from his sack.
“Give it to me,” growled the cannibal, through a fanged grin.
Klorak’s expression turned grim. “We had a deal.”
“It was never made clear that we would give this to you,” countered Dornas, “and besides, we want to make certain you hold to the parts we did agree to.”
“Go ahead,” the chief’s smarmy smile returned, but there was uncertainty behind it. “See what happens when my men learn you’ve slain their beloved Mama Thrunefang.”
Dornas gestured at the Thrunefang corpses still littering the yard. That pretty much spoke for itself. Klorak cursed and returned to his den. Satisfied the chief knew who was sheriff ‘round these parts, the heroes headed home to Aycenia’s grove.
Jask was especially happy to be safe at last, and was welcomed back by the rest of the home team. Aerys, standing now on a very piratey-looking pegleg, might’ve even cracked a smile, but quickly recovered herself. Sasha wasn’t looking quite so pallid, and Aycenia reported the patient had made a full recovery. The teen took her pet dimorphodon chic back from Kor’lec with a muttered “thanks.” Gelik’s wooden foot was shaped by his and the dryad’s magic into a fully articulated and fashionable pointy toe that he showed off to Monica.
The Castaways and friends retired to one of the hollowed-out baobabs to catch up with each other. Jask mentioned that he was happy to leave adventuring to younger, healthier heroes, and he was thinking of establishing a Temple of Nethys on the mainland once his name was cleared. Aerys seemed a little sullen as the evening’s chatter wore down, and Kishtari learned that the half-elven pirate had lost her opus, The Abendego Cantos when the Brine Demon was destroyed. “It’s all right,” Aerys reflected, “I can recall most of it, and I’ve a new inspiration.”
It came time for the away team to discuss their plans for the next day, and the home team graciously left them the little bungalow for serious hero talk. Right before clearing out, Kor’lec tried to trip Gelik, but the gnome managed to keep his balance in spite of his wooden foot. Gelik had had it.
The druid and bard exchanged jibes and insults that grew increasingly tense and ugly. Monica said nothing to either side. Finally, Gelik threw up his hands and admitted that he’d lied about being a super-spy. Nobody was surprised, though Monica said she was proud of him. The gnome “whatever-ed” and stormed out of the room into the late night rain.
The discussion that followed confirmed that the majority of the team wanted to go after Ieana at first light. Kishtari didn’t argue as much as wonder aloud if there was a good reason to take the risk. They had treasure and a means to signal the shipping lanes, after all. The decision to go after the serpentfolk wound up being unanimous – justice for those who died on the Jenivere, to cleanse the isle of evil, to finish what they started, and to prevent catastrophe.
Then the storm struck with a vengeance.
On the far side of the island, dark clouds rumbled and flashed as they revolved above the apex of Red Mountain. The pressurized atmosphere seemed to heave and exhale as if it were suffering a chest wound. The phenomenon lasted about fifteen minutes.
“Maybe we shouldn’t have decided to wait until morning,” said Kish.