Walking around the edge of the dome we manage to find a strange shaped circular door. A quick check revealed no traps, so I carefully open the door and step to the side in case anything wants to come out. After a few moments there is nothing but silence and the smell of rotted fruit and meat, however.
Lenata has the better night vision thanks to her heritage, so she volunteers to check the dome first. She gingerly steps into the dome to find herself ankle deep in mist and squishing mud. “I don’t like this… I’m getting a really bad feeling here.” She then rears back out of the dome and grabs her head in pain as I throw my last thunderstone into the dome and close the door.
Once Lenata and the rest are ready I open the door to find myself face to face with the ghostly image of a well-dressed Scro who promptly puts his arm through my chest. I rear back and fall to the ground as I am overcome with images of a disappointed Bast trying to crush me underfoot.
“That isn’t me anymore!” I yell out as I writhe in pain on the ground. Oh Gods it hurts…once I relied on you to tell everyone that I was worthy of love and respect, Bast… but no longer! I am worthy in my own eyes now!
“Damn, it’s an animated dream!” Vedis yells out as her hand begins to glow and she rips into the image of the Scro. It howls and screeches in pain as Ef Utan attacks it with his swords and Lenata enchants her guns for the next attack.
I finally make it to my feet and wield my claws as I manage to shake off the last of the feelings of helplessness that the Scro induced in me. With a growl I pounce and claw at it as Vedis strikes its other side with her psi blades. We then step back as Ef Utan lunges at it with his swords. The Scro absorbs part of the strike and steps back with its weapon. “In the name of Dukash!” it yells.
“In the name of Celestian!” Lenata retorts as a wave of positive energy flows through us all and causes the Scro to scream.
The battle is long and hard as we trade blows back and forth with the Scro nightmare. Things turn for the worse when the creature plunges its hand into Vedis and black energy flows over her body, causing her to writhe in pain.
Little did the creature know that when one of us suffers the rest of us take up the slack with extreme prejudice. With renewed vigor we attack the creature with blade and magic until it finally begins to dissipate. The face of the creature is the last to go, and it uses its last moments to speak in odd-phrased Orc:
My people aren’t patient, I shall teach them patience.
My people are cowards, I shall teach them bravery.
My people think of today, I shall teach them of tomorrow.
My people dwell in blood, this requires no teaching.
We all gradually make our way into the dome through the mushy ground and slime. The room is so large that we can’t see the other side… definitely much larger on the inside than it was outside. Lenata picks up a stone and mutters a few words before it glows with a warm light that illuminates our immediate area.
“Word, since I’m able to see in the dark, maybe it would help if you could take me up so I can get a bird’s eye view of this area?”
“Your suggestion sounds reasonable,” Word replies as he helps Lenata perch on his back and flies up into the air.
We suddenly hear a slithering in the darkness and while the others draw their weapons, I decide that hiding might be a good idea right about now. Is that a rustling of wings I just heard? Something ripples in the muck as there’s a thump and skittering in the dark. I try and slow my breathing and keep to the shadows as I hurry as much as I dare along the wall to find an exit.
“Do you smell smoke?” Ef Utan asks Vedis when there’s a loud screeching noise and the head of a gigantic praying mantis looms out of the dark.
“Run!” Vedis yells as Ef Utan tosses the light rock away and runs. Fortunately the mantis seems to be attracted to the light, as it ignores them momentarily as it flails around digging for the rock. Unfortunately, it manages to strike Word in its attempts and sends them flying to the mushy ground in my direction.
“Hurry, this way!” I whisper to Lenata as she stumbles to her feet. “I think I found a crack in the wall!”
“Word isn’t moving!” Lenata moans as she kneels over the prone Psiforged and chants to her god for help.
I keep a nervous eye on the mantis and gasp in fear when the light stone goes out. “Come on! MOVE!” I yell as I grab Lenata and the now moving Word and shove them through the crack. “This way!” I yell and wave to the others before I jump through. Gods, please let them make it! The walls shake from the strikes of the angry mantis as Vedis and Ef Utan stumble through the rubble to join the rest of us in a new room.
Looking around I see that there are thankfully no more giant bugs in the room. There is a rather large and suspicious looking well in the middle of it, though. I cautiously make my way to the side of the well lest I wake whatever might be down there and read some ancient writing inscribed on the sides that seems to be a combination of Draconic and Ancient Imaskari. Strange… what would an ancient magic race like them have been doing here?
I’m able to pick up a few words here and there… mostly about the “Portal Lord” and an “Endless Dream.” It’s not till I reach the other side that I gasp. “The Imaskari were the ones who created Mulhorand?” I definitely have to read more about this race! As I make my way back around the well I encounter some language that I just can’t make out.
“Lenata, I think this is magical writing here. Can you decipher it?”
She clasps her hands together and mutters a phrase before her eyes begin to glow. “Let me see.”
After a few moments of perusal her eyes stop glowing and she turns to the rest of us. “There is a dimensional effect in action here… very high magic.”
“Dimensional effect… you mean a portal?” I ask eagerly. Lenata nods. I then carefully lean over the side of the well and defocus my eyes just enough to see the glow of the portal energy around the entrance to the well. I concentrate for a few moments and the words flow into my mind. Jump into the portal without fear when the Portal Lord is asleep! A vision of a large circular room with brass lamps and a sleeping figure encased in a smoky crystal comes to my mind.
“Well, it looks like all you have to do is remove fear from your heart and jump in!” I tell the others with a smile and take a step back up onto the edge. “It’s got to be better than here!” I say as I salute the others and turn to look into the darkness of the well. “Adventure awaits!”
…and with an excited whoop I am gone.