In Which We Go Into the River of Blood
Moonday, 17 Sunsebb CY 595
Standing at the edge of the room with the River of Blood running through it, Jane casts water breathing on the entire party. They lower a rope into the River to keep Jane from being swept away by the current and she enters the room, naked, prepared to perform another ritual in her effort to understand her power. However, as soon as she steps off the path onto the earthen floor, there is a shuddering rumble and several enormous squat creatures that appear to be made of stone emerge from the earth as if it were water. A brief battle ensues, and the party is victorious over most of the guardians, with Riddle dismissing many, and Scar-Eater sending another into the River where it is swept away.
The room clear, Jane dives into the River of Blood and casts her spell.
She submerges herself into the heavy red liquid and sinks to the riverbed, ten feet below. She opens her mouth and drinks in the substance as she opens her pores to take it in through her skin. She learns at once that the liquid is not blood, but rather water, rich with heavy minerals from a large deposit of deep earth ore far upstream. These minerals draw many unusual creatures to the river, including the six elemental lifeforms that had been feasting in the earth nearby until very recently. These minerals and their corrosive nature allowed the river to carve a deep, deep cavern, over a thousand feet into the earth only about one hundred and fifty feet downstream. Down, down the water falls, and where the waterfall ends and the river levels off once again, two dozen walking corpses desecrate the river with their unnatural presence. Bathing in the River of Blood that is not blood, as it flows over her and through her, Jane awakens to the staggering amount of water that is within herself. She’d always considered blood to be the body’s essence, the liquid giving it power, the vessel of life. And yes, it does have certain properties and certain powers and certain providence, but these powers are not all that maintain the flesh. Her spirit is tied as surely to the vast volume of water contained within her cells as it is to the blood within her veins. And she now realizes that her magic, her particular power to knit wounds and nurture the flesh, is drawn from her mastery over the healing element of water, not from the arcane magics of the blood. Jane realizes that she has always felt herself limited in her healing abilities because she has ignored where her own powers have sway, sublimating herself within a childish ignorance of the living body. But the body is water. And she is water. And water is a natural element. And the elements are hers to control. The Daughter of the Storm is far from the sky, over a thousand feet below the surface of the earth, and hundreds and hundreds of miles from her so-distant source, yet she still has power and still the elements acknowledge her rule.
Jane returns to the others and describes the interior landscape down the river, and the walking corpses waiting far below. Riddle and Tyrrell fly down to scout the waterfall and the drop ahead. Riddle uses locate object in an effort to detect the key to Icosiol’s tomb, and Tyrrell makes himself invisible in case of trouble. They are soon set upon by six wind warriors with crossbows and longswords, and must escape before they are overpowered. Riddle returns both of them by means of dimension door.
The party heals up and all find means of flying down to confront the wind warriors and in full force make short work of the enemy. Riddle soon knows the object he seeks is below the party, and they soar down four hundred feet to a massive lake of blood. They spot albino crabs scuttling about. They go through another set of narrows and zoom down to another lake, hundreds of feet down, moving diagonally. They pass a section where the water splits briefly, and then a misty area, and then through a very narrow area where they have to actually go through the water. Jane notes that the rock here is volcanic – nothing like anything found near Diamond Lake, the Cairn Hills, or Greyhawk.
As they clear the misty areas, Archie catches sight of a ten-foot by ten-foot outline of a door in the middle of a bare cliff wall. Wary of how much flying time everyone has left available to them, the party takes a moment to investigate the door. Tyrrell finds no traps, but a cunningly hidden trip lever, and goes inside. He finds a winding stairway heading up into the earth. Riddle notes that the object they seek is still down. Unable to hear anything, they decide to leave the secret passage for the time being, and continue. Tyrrell makes sure no signs of their investigation remain behind.
The red waterfall finally crashes to a pool of jagged rocks into a large cave. There is relatively slow-moving reddish water, and lit with pale greenish-yellow light felecting off the walls and catching crystals on the ceiling, making it appear as if the cavern were open to the night sky. Far at the end of the cavern is a man with black hair and a black goatee. He is dressed in finery and sits staring at a dragonchess board across from a morg. Another morg stands behind the first, and the cavern is otherwise littered with drow zombies, twenty-two of them, to be exact. “Well, hello,” says the man. “May we help you?”
The man’s front teeth are filed into sharp points. His tongue is long, black, and slitted. He is clearly not a living creature, however civilized and fully-fleshed. He is what is known as a “true ghoul”: highly intelligent beings with a realm far beneath the earth known as the White Kingdom. Though they share the paralyzing claws and teeth, and rotting bite as normal ghouls, true ghouls have separated their bodies from their spirits and stay on as spectres after they die to either advise the White Kingdom or seek revenge on the thing that killed it. Long Fist notices that these are no shuffling zombies in his entourage, but deadly fast ones. The lantern in the cavern sheds ghoul light, which has a disabling affect on the will and personality of living creatures while making invisibility, displacement, or plain old hiding impossible.
Should be an interesting conversation…