From the diary and future autobiography of Chat’G’Hak AKA Dazeel: Orchid of the Dunes.
I am not accustomed to being unconscious. What caused my blackout I do not know. Place of Forgetting indeed! Not even able at first to recall the names of my clutchmates in training, I had enough sense to grip tight my precious metal blade and fall into the darkest corner that my strange surroundings afforded me. Slowly I regained the higher functions of my fractured mind. The taste in the air was foul. Not the kind of putrid foul of the Chuul pit with its rotting and unbuffed chitin within. Not the kind of putrid sweetness of an oasis hiding a bitter enemy… The taste on the air was musky. Old. Like music from a dusty lyre.
My beautiful eyes settled on the black within black in the center of a room that my team (privately dubbed “Team Sparkle”) has entered. I wished not to voice a warning so loud as to alert Team Sparkle for I knew not what slithering tympanic membrane may detect my presence from the pit punctuating the room like the pupil of a man’s eye. Darkness in this moment was my friend. If I were needed to spring into action, I’d have to orient myself to the surroundings first and gain sure footing.
It turned out that the musky taste was a frutescent cluster of mushrooms. Though surprised I was when they started MOVING, they hardly looked threatening. For a moment they looked as if they would not attack, but instead offer us rest and a snack of whatever it is that animated fungi enjoy orally.
NAY! They did not offer us a morsel. They instead offered us GLORIOUS BATTLE. It seemed from my vantage point that a mul warrior, shardmind wizard, eladrin, and sexy elf could easily handle these phallic knaves. How tough could their skin be? Then the TRUE threat to Team Sparkle’s safety arose from that black and most musky pit. I’ve never actually seen a mushroom before, so I can’t honestly say that I know what I’m writing about, but this creature had to be the second-largest—no, largest—mushroom ever to exist. From its blade-like gills spewed a dusty semen that caused the rest of Team Sparkle to more than flinch. At first, disgust was in their expressions…then repulsion…then as if the spores spattered across their mouths like a creamy mustache was casual business attire, they relaxed. Fortunately, I was not in the spray zone, so I decided to take action.
Without a sound I sprung into…well…actions, actually. The aforementioned “action” included:
A backflip, a flourish, drawing of my sacred metal blade, a check of my six to see if anything was behind me, a glance of admiration in the glinting reflection of myself in the dagger, a check to make sure I still had my chatkcha, and a deep plunge into the fleshy domed cranium of what had to be the mother of all shrooms.
The battle was so inglorious that I fail to remember much of it. I’m sure it will come to back to me eventually, but I certainly can’t foretell the need to bore an audience with the recounting without some much-needed embellishment. Perhaps the advances made by our spore foes were misinterpreted? In town they could be real “fun-guys” to cavort with…get it?
When the room fell silent and my mates came to their senses, we looked around for treasure and found a few supplies and curios. Perhaps it is my cosmopolitan indoctrination that drives me to enjoy the quest for treasure. It is doubtless however that what I consider a treasure and what the others in Team Sparkle consider a treasure are conceptually disparate.
What follows next I find difficult to interpret. At least, I find it hard to put into words that folk with soft vocalization could understand. Restless as usual, I crept up the unexplored fork in our path. I noticed the sounds of a struggle ahead. My homuncular friend Bost sensed danger. I hadn’t even noticed him with me. He’s quiet for such a brute. I’m growing to like him very much. He shows bravery that is unmatched, but it is his drive that opens his character to me. He seems compelled to adventure for reasons somewhat similar to my own. I would say that he is marginalized like me, but then our party has a crystalline entity, and a speedy little thing that smells like food. I suppose that makes us all a bit “marginal.”
Usually adept at sneaking and the art of remaining unheard, if I’d had a vertically oriented jaw surely it hitting the floor could have been heard the dungeon over, and throughout the Ringing Mountains. What I saw was a sight to behold for sure. I thought I’d seen it all. Some ancestral memory of skyward-bound kreen had seen attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion, or so I hear… Here were we, crammed in a doorway watching a bone snake attack monsters thrown into a pit by a tornado! Egad! Of course, I’ve dealt with the odd structural support beam spitting cyclones, but never cyclones that toss you into a pit with a magic snake.
I’m still not sure what got into Birel. Perhaps she was as hungry for treasure as I was for her. She darted into the room with speed typical of elfkind. She headed straight for a staff near some sort of throne made for the buttocks of skinned folk. I suppose it was the object’s glimmer that caught her eye. Some sort of arcane tug of war with her desires was no doubt afoot. When she approached one of the columns with its tornadic breath, she too was cast into the pit (without her treasure.)
I must interject an observation: we have uncovered a few rarities in this place. I with my precious metal blade, Birel with her golden stick, Vilsis with his bottle of goo… it seems this place is giving to us what we desire. One by one. I can’t help but think that next, Zuri will find a rock tumbler. All joking aside. I adore the blade. Almost too much. It’s distracting me from my chatkcha.
Bost had issues of his own. He was distracted by an ill-tempered mul thrashing about with another bone-fiend. It turns out this lump of endoskeleton was some sort of slaver. The slaver called for help in a tongue that I couldn’t understand and sounded like someone was draining a dead kank’s intestinal tract of a bit of remaining gas. A haglike hunkered yet wizardlike being appeared and started battling bonething and Team Sparkle with magics that I scarcely understand, and that I probably don’t need to. My first instinct wasn’t to fend off attacks from bone stack, or tornado, or witch hag, or even the sweaty hairless slaver. It was, oddly enough, to save the life of Birel. I’m willing to admit that when short on survival days, I would be tempted to make one of her, but I just as easily admit to starting to respect her. Her ability to heal and grant advantages to those in my party are as valuable as as our weapons. Using my superior dexterity, cunning, wisdom, sneaking, and attitude, I slip myself into the room and to the edge of the pit. There I found Birel, waist deep in a pit being immobilized by the stings of a chattering snake. Reaching in and pulling her out was effortless really, so I will bore you no longer with that part of my tale. However, I did save her tail. …get it?
I would love to say that we survived by the skin of our teeth, but I have no teeth and the skin on the floor was theirs. Bost did a lot of hammering to the Mul fiend’s skull… like after he was dead… it was totally gross. We found an interesting map in his belt pouch. In the end, we learned a valuable lesson:
YOU NEVER KNOW WHICH COLUMNS ARE HOLDING UP THE CEILING AND WHICH ONES WILL TRY AND KILL YOU.
Also, Birel got her stick. I was unimpressed, but Birel was happy beyond belief. This made me “happy.” I plan to write a one-act play about Birel’s happiness called “Birel finds a stick.” Perhaps, dear reader, one day you shall see it on stage at the Pleasure Argosy, or if my fortunes are so voluminous, on stage at the regular Argosy just up the road.
For the first time in nearly a day, or night, I forget which, I sheathe my precious and glimmering blade… but I can’t take my mind off it.