Marcus and Seraphim have gone, not sure if we'll see them again but we had to press on and try to find this Ellis Lillibridge. I'd hoped his information was worth those trials we faced.
We rode further north in silence, barely even talking when we broke for camp, finally reaching Thul Village after a few days. The map Edwin provided for me led me easily to the Salty Kraken tavern. There were a few Imperial vessels in port and oddly enough a familiar drachman. It was the same vessel we'd found in Thulfall here entirely without a crew. It's magic seemed more potent than we'd previously guess.
We entered the tavern, intent to play our roles in contacting Edwin and spending the night. We'd taken the largest table and I sat in the chair closest to the fire, as was requested. We all ordered stew and I ordered a drink called the "Iced Sea Witch", an odd concoction but very potent… a little fruity. Fleer asked for a taste, she'd given up drinking so had just taken a sip. She started lowering the drink and stopped, apparently frozen in place, but still breathing. I took the glass before she spilled it, finishing it off and gently lowered her hand to the table. Viktor had also ordered one, but his sat untouched. After a few seconds, she blinked and renewed her vow to not drink.
During this time a snail had crawled up onto the table. I watched it warily as it slowly moved about the table, leaving a trail of slime. It's trail made letters and said simply, "Drowned Yards" It then climbed back down the table. As cleared up the message, Fleer noticed a deep one hybrid staring at us and went over to interrogate it. It annoyed her, copying her words as she said them. These creatures are a fish-like race that worshipped one of the Great Old Ones, Dagon. She called me over, I glanced at it, apologized for her disturbing it's meal and guided her back to the table, telling her not to worry about it. I did not tell Potter about this creature, his fascination with the Great Old Ones is too great as it is.
I changed our plan to leave after the meal, to head north to throw off pursuit, if given and circle back around to head south east to the Drowned yards. We had not gone far when we all got a feeling of immense dread emanating from the castle further along the road. It was the home of Danté, Ruler of Innistrad and a vampire of immeasurable power. Definitely a fish beyond my ability to catch… yet.
We turned off the road and headed south, keeping a wary eye out for those who might follow us. I instructed Fleer that if she saw that Deep One again, she should kill it to keep it from finding Edwin.
We stopped the carriage just outside of the Drowned yards, a damp and miserable place with derelict hulks of ships lay in a rough circular formation. We could see the rough, broken form of a ship walking around within. It appeared to be almost elemental in nature, yet possessing locomotion through the possessed form of a ship. This is by far one of the oddest specimen of undeath I have ever encountered. We followed at a distance for a while and it just seemed to be patrolling the yards. Upon closing the distance, it turned, spying us for the first time and gave a bellow that resounded like the splintering of a ship's hull and charged us. The fight was quick, but brutal with it having a breath weapon similar to a white wyrm. By the time we felled the thing we were bloodied and exhausted, having spent much of our arcane and divine might to keep standing. Potter had been the one to end the beast, his body still shivering, being covered in frost, twin bolts of fire arcing from his fingers, one of them caught Bob in the back, but the other seared it's way clean through the keel of the elemental ship, toppling it.
As soon as Potter saw the battle was won he immediately began begging and pleading with Fleer to not kill him, "I didn't mean to hit her, I swear! I swear!" Fleer growled and bent over him, picking him up but not trusting herself to not do more as I advised mercy. She turned her back and growled, "You're only alive because we need you…"
I closed my eyes, trying to find a center, a place of calm during this and noticed the feeling of something upon my arm. I glanced down and saw another snail, it made the letters for "cave" and pointed itself behind me. I turned and upon closer inspection I was able to barely make one out in the walls of the cove and led the others there. I spent the last of my power to close my companions' wounds and we made our way towards the cavern. Once we passed the first turn, it was easy to tell the place was lived in: lanterns, furniture, bookshelves and more filled the small cavern. The twist in the corridor made it impossible to see light from outside. Standing over a desk was a thin reed of a man with spectacles poring over a tome similar to my own monster almanac.
I coughed politely, "Edwin Lillibridge, I presume?" This made the man jump with a start, his reading apparently kept him from noticing our approach. He straightened, hand going to a pocket, "You are…?"
"Addison Dalyngridge…" I paused to let him remember, once I saw a spark of recognition, "The man you sent for about the statues."
The man brightened, "Ah, yes! Of course I can help, you know about my Order…"
My eyes narrowed, "Actually, you mentioned a secret order but never specified…"
"Oh…" he seemed to start at that, "I thought I had… I work for the Office of Paranormal and Occult Investigations."
"Ah" I mused, I'd heard of the Order, they valued knowledge and prevention. Edwin seemed sincere in his offer to help.
"Before we discuss more, I should mention that this one" motioning to Potter, "follows the King in Yellow."
Edwin blanched, "Could he perhaps wait outside while we speak?"
We sent him outside and continued, "We've encountered one of those statues of the Great Old Ones."
"Two, actually." Fleer added in.
I glanced at her, incredulous, "Two?!" I knew of the one she destroyed and Eldritch Horror released from the tomb, but was there another?"
"Yes" she said, "There was another statue, Varadiel brought it back with us from that other plane."
"Damn" I swore, my mind racing at the implications.
"E-excuse me" Edwin said, "That's not necessarily a bad thing. They can be used to trap an Eldritch Horror… or summon one from their plane of existence." He paused a moment, "Do you have them with you?"
"One of them" Fleer stated, suddenly a little embarrassed, "The other was destroyed, freeing the Eldritch Horror." Edwin's eyes widened, I did tell him we had an Elder Sign, if needed.
"Oh, good… that can send them back to their realm" he thought a few moments, "I can look into how to find and destroy the Eldritch Horrors you let out, but while I do that, I need you to investigate something for me"
He gathered us around a map and pointed to a port town to the north, "This is Runeport. Deep Ones live there and I need you to investigate a church I heard is there, find out what they worship. Secondly, there is a large ring at the bay's entrance, see what you can discover about it."
With the inhabitants being Deep Ones and their dislike for outsiders, it was decided the two most foreign looking members of our party would need disguises. Laash would take an animal form while there and Potter was given an alchemical potion, changing his appearance to that of a Deep One. We were warned to not let them touch us due to some property of the slime that covered their skin.
We agreed, got some sleep and the next day we headed back up to Thul Village, making our way to my Drachman. We loaded the longship up with our gear, ashmouth stallions and carriage and set out. It was surprisingly easy to use, the ship seemingly able to perform most of the tasks itself.
The town of Runeport lay before us, just a few leagues out. The ring Edwin mentioned is a fantastically huge, circular arch of some unknown type of metal that extends over the entrance of the bay. Even from here I could tell it is covered in a script of some sort. We were not the only ships heading into port that day, though we were the fastest. We past a few Imperial merchantmen and a few ships towing a colossal iceberg. Thick chains bound the iceberg to the stout tow lines. It seemed it would take a few hours before that would make it in. I wasn't entirely certain it could fit under the ring.
We pulled up to the dock, manning to oars…. no need to let them know the ship is anything special. The harbormaster greeted us calmly, looking disdainfully at us. He was a deep one hybrid and informed us that the peerage fee was twenty crowns. I readied myself to pay the stiff fee when Potter came onto the dock. The harbormaster gasped and bowed hurriedly, saying there would be no charge for an exalted guest as himself. I bantered with the harbormaster awhile, finding us a place to stay at the Gillman House Hotel. Once we were settled, Potter was to go visit the High Priest of the Esoteric Order of Dagon. Now we at least knew what the church was in obeisance to.
We arrived at the Gillman House and Potter was given every courtesy, though I think he gave incorrect answers to some queries. I could not understand him in his current form, but his voice was hesitant and the staff seemed taken a bit aback. We were given the penthouse suite, the establishment having an amazing thirteen floors. Potter rode a mechanical assembly that pulled him up the spiraling staircase as we trudged behind. Fleer was still outside dealing with the horses, not wanting the deep ones' slimy tentacles on them. Potter seemed to be the only full deep one present, the town itself was home to the hybrids, some of them seeming almost completely human.
Once we caught up, the room was immense and the maitre d' was showing Potter the large basin, finding out how salty and cold Potter liked it, frowning once he found it was not very salty and lacked the chill of the deeper depths.
They spoke back and forth for a few moments and the Maitre D' left, stating he would 'deal with the problem, never fear'. I frowned and set about planning how to get our two objectives dealt with in an expedient manner. Less than a quarter hour had passed and I swore I could hear my name yelled from a distance. I hurried down the many levels of floors back to the lobby, Potter admitted to calling Fleer "troublesome"… from what we were warned of in this city, that could be a death sentence since she is an outsider and he was an 'exalted one'. Before speaking to the man in charge, I composed myself and put a subservient look on my face, "Excuse me, but my Master heard the voice of his troublesome charge."
I paused meaningfully, "He would like to deal with her personally."
The man narrowed his eyes, "He sent us to deal with her and she attacked several guards."
I let my eyes widen in a mockery of shock, "That is terrible news, He will want to punish her himself, will she be delivered to his suite?"
"He should have used the bell and requested it personally."
I nodded in understanding, "He has been away from civilization awhile and is used to using us to pass along orders, I shall remind him of the ease of service you have put at his disposal." I bowed and headed upstairs, thinking furiously, wondering if today was the day I'd be forced to kill the follower of the King in Yellow. I got back upstairs and informed him that he was to ring the bell to ask for Fleer's return for punishment. I kept my hand reassuringly on his back, ready to flick my Uru blade from its hidden sheathe and plunge it through his spine, should he betray us all.
A small tube descended from a slot in the ceiling after the bell was rang, taking sound from the room downstairs, "How may we help you, my lord?" came through the tube.
Potter cleared his throat, speaking hesitantly… I wish I could understand his babbling, but hadn't thought to cast a spell of comprehension. What came back as a reply was, "But you asked us to handle her…. Yes, sir. We can bring her up."
Several minutes passed and they again used the tube to speak, "Your troublesome pet refuses to disarm." Again Potter gurgled something out.
I loosened my sword in its sheathe, unsure what might happen next. Many minutes passed before there was a polite knock on the door. I motioned for people to kneel about Potter, letting him stand before us as Viktor got the door. In walked the Maitre D', followed by a shackled Fleer and at least a dozen armed guards. The maitre d' stopped before Potter and held out Fleer's axe, dropping it into my hand. I put the weapon behind me as a sign of a non-threatening attitude and he exchanged words with Potter before heading out, shoving Fleer against the ground into a kneeling position.
She growled an apology to Potter, though the word 'Master' sounded almost like bastard from her lips a sneer in her tone. I got up, grabbing her hair and whispered harshly to her sotto vocé, "Act repentant when you're being viewed or we'll have to fight them all…. Also, make sure to scream well."
I let the group of hybrids leave the room and got a whip from my back that I hadn't gotten around to getting rid of. I let it uncoil then snapped the tip close enough to Fleer to make her jump slightly and scream, letting her know the game.
It continued for several minutes, the whip flying and cracking against the air, her screams slowly becoming more pained and soon after we could hear footsteps retreating from the door. I kept up the act for a few more minutes until my arm burned with the exertion.
"Alright" I said, "We need to do our jobs here and get out, no time for delaying as this has gotten a lot more complicated. Potter" I pointed to him, "You have been requested to visit the church, do so. Laash, be something small and slimy… an octopus and accompany him. I will go investigate the archway, Fleer… you're too visible, I'll need you to stay here. Viktor, stay and guard her so she 'doesn't cause problems'… also you're her backup in case they decide to deal with her anyways."
We split up and I headed down the levy, the base of the archway had a quartet of guards at it. I explained to them the arch was the reason my Master had come to the city, he was busy with the church and asked me to sketch it for him. They didn't allow me closer, but said I could sketch it. I did so, once finished one of the guards looked around for anyone close enough to hear and asked me if I was with the 'troublesome human'. I admitted I was and the guard told me he had an offer for my Master. If she was brought to the East Gate of the Arena a half hour before dusk, there would be no hard feelings towards him for her transgressions. I informed them I would have to bring it before him to decide so they decided to bribe me, giving me a gold ring as a down payment with a promise of more gold if she was delivered. I allowed a false look of greed come over my face and promised she would be there for the festivities. Before I left, I saw the ships towing the iceberg finally passing under the arch. The impossibly large chunk of ice was dark at its core… there was something within it.
I returned and gave everyone the information I found. The sigils on the gate didn't translate directly into words, more they were representations of constellations and stars. Likely this is the largest permanent planar portal I would ever see. After I informed the others of the guards offer, Laash told us of the High Priests request to see Fleer in the Arena anyways. Potter was to attend the event with the High Priest.
This would prove to be interesting. I went with Fleer and Viktor, to 'ensure she wouldn't escape' and Laash travelled on Potter, once again a small octopus on his neck. We'd fight their beasts and see our way out of the city. Not the best of plans, but it'd have to do. Twenty guards came to escort Fleer, Viktor and I were taken through another door. She was led into the arena while the guard that had offered the bribe was forcibly taken with her for dishonoring the elder. I wasn't surprised that Viktor and I were pushed over the ledge into the Arena, I tumbled upon landing, tweaking my ankle only slightly with the impact. Viktor gracefully glided along the side of the wall, landing in a neat three-point stance.
"Show off…" I muttered.
The four of us looked around at the large Arena grounds, there was a small sailing vessel on one end, near us that we dashed to once they started flooding the arena. We clambered aboard, the water having gotten up to our knees by the time we got to the rope ladders.
Once the water was deep enough to buoy the ship off of the dirt, we could see the waters starting to teem with a few sharks and at least a hundred Sahaugin. Sahaugin are a fish-like species, in some ways similar to deep ones, but not rabid followers of Dagon. They're tribal and usually fairly simple, but hated land dwellers like us, swarming up the sides of the ship to attack. This was not their best plan and gave Fleer an avenue to vent her rage, her mighty axe alighting with hellfire cutting groups of them down with each swing. My own blade made swift work as I fought back to back with Viktor. The guard that was tossed in with us stayed in the water and I'm fairly sure that red patch on our port side used to be him.
The bodies piled up quickly, many of them slipping off the sides into the water. I lost track of the fishmen we slaughtered, but eventually their moral broke and they fled back to wherever they came from.
We were given a moment's rest before a horn blew with a deep resounding basso, large gates opened and a huge form surged through the water. It was a baby kraken. I say baby and you might think small, this is not so, when it's arms slapped down on either side of the boat, the boat rocked violently, throwing me over the side. I followed my body's momentum, grabbing onto a rising tentacle as it lifted out of the water, using the ship to hoist itself to the surface as it attacked.
We struck as one, hacking at the large beast, dodging its tentacles, preventing it from carrying it to its sharp beak or flinging us aside. Our attacks harassed and angered it, making it lash out at the ship, cracking it's keel in half, sending us flying. We fought for our lives, treading water or hanging onto the thing's flesh before Viktor was able to sink both blades deep within its eye, piercing it's brain. It spasmed once and sank slowly.
We pulled ourselves to the largest of the flotsam, getting out of the water and away from the still circling sharks. Surprisingly the crowd was excited by our victory, chanting something loudly in their tongue. The High Priest waved his hand and healing energies covered us, sealing our wounds. I could see his cruel smile even from this distance as he picked up Potter and threw him bodily from the balcony into the water with a loud call of, "Imposter! Now you shall feel the wrath of the mightiest of Dagon's children… BEHOLD!!"
He made a grandiose gesture, the gates once again surging open and a large ship sailed in slowly, dragging the iceberg we'd seen earlier. It released its tow line and made a wide turn, leaving the arena. Two large floating platforms were brought in for us. They were better than the broken pieces of ship, so we moved to them as we waited. Potter managed to join us as well, I could still understand the spells he cast to prepare himself for combat, a shielding spell and one for flight.
A loud crack rent the air, pieces of ice falling away from the iceberg, the large chains coming free. We didn't have long before whatever was contained within was loose. A series of huge cracks ran down the middle of the iceberg, splitting it as Potter took to the air. The iceberg shattered, I got hit with several smaller chunks of ice, avoiding the worst of the damage but Potter apparently got hit with a piece nearly his size, sending the flying mage hurtling into the waters below.
Two massive arms fell into the water, the ends resting on the floating platforms. How they kept afloat, I do not know as the arms were wide enough to ride two carriages abreast of each other on one. I leapt atop one, moving as far as I may before stabbing into the rubbery flesh to hold on. The massive elder kraken continued to break free of the ice, innumerable tentacles writhed and fell into the water around us, one of them striking me and knocking me supine. It grasped for me, but missed as I slid along the arm of the beast towards the body.
Fleer and Viktor were held by tentacles of their own and flung out to impact the wall of the arena. I could tell Laash was in the water as it frothed and roiled unnaturally, starting to seep up the sides of the walls, flushing those watching the fight into the water, save the High Priest on his tall balcony.
A sputtering Potter burst free of the water, cursing unintelligibly sending streaking lances of fire into the chest of the priest. I can remember only pieces of the fight, but I remember digging in to the flesh of the beast with my uru blade, hacking relentlessly as it, its ear-piercing shrieks of pain and rage making me all but deaf. I could see the blossoming flower of a fireball at the high priests' seat, followed shortly by arcane darts, pinning his body to the floor.
The kraken lost all sense, flying into a rage and sending a wall of water into the city, breaking through the outer walls with me still clinging on for dear life. I could see our drachman climb the wall of water and crest it, Bob apparently at the helm. I summoned the ship to me, the others grasping it's sides as it passed. I dove off of the kraken as the ship passed, landing hard on the deck. I could see the archway crackling and surging with energy… it was about to open.
Thinking quickly I gave the ship orders to hit flank speed, Fleer stood at the prow to try to make even a portion of the gate ring a softer metal while I used the blessings of Anubis to guide my arm, striking it as we passed with my uru blade, bracing myself on the ship with a belaying pin. The blow was powerful enough to rip my arm free from his socket, sending a white-hot pain coursing through me. I looked back at the gate, hoping to see some damage as we sailed past, my arm dangling uselessly, but slowly moving back into position, healing magic slowly coursing through me. There was a bright light and the air in the center of the ring swirled before the gateway opened. There was a roar of rushing water as all the water in the town, the inhabitants and many of the very buildings of the town were pulled into the vacuum of the gate. Our own forward momentum slowed, but we continued pulling away as we watched Runeport ceased to be.
We healed ourselves and rested, Bob showed us the large chest that had been delivered… the payment for taking Fleer to the arena. The chest was full of golden statuettes, coins and jewelry. It took us some time to return to Edwin, bringing the ship to rest in the drowned yards. We gave Edwin the information he needed, Potter pleaded to be returned to normal.
Edwin agreed and gazed behind Potter, Potter turned, missing the sap Edwin pulled from his belt and slumped to the floor after a deft application of said sap to the rear of his skull. His body writhed and shrank, once again resuming his normal state.
Fleer put the shackles the deep one hybrids had originally intended for her onto Potter. They were magical in nature and pulled his wrists together, bound his bound and mouth, keeping him in a fetal, kneeling position. She took him outside, muttering something about how 'repentant' she was.
The next day we woke early, our wounds healed, Potter was hung from a tree, being spun round and round by an angry Fleer. She finally released him from his spinning imprisonment after Fleer spun him, pushing his spins faster with each letter in the word repentant. I'm fairly sure she kept misspelling it on purpose, forcing her to do it over and over. It took him minutes to get over his vertigo and memorize his spells. Part of me wanted to stop his torment, but his betrayal hit hard, even though we knew it could happen.
The plan was this, the location of one of the Eldritch Horrors was known, the circle of rocks in the bay of the drowned yards was a Way to their home plane. We didn't know if it was the one causing the black rain, but Edwin said its name was Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hungerer. Once we prepared ourselves physically, and as best we could mentally, we swam out towards the ring of stones. Our first objective was the TimeKeeper, a being that apparently governed time in that realm. We were to kill it or somehow get it's Stop Watch, a device that could freeze time relative to the bearer for half a minute, allowing them to line up spells, move or do any non-directly offensive actions whilst they were apart from everything else. Edwin presented us with a smooth, metallic cylinder with settings and a button. He called it a D-Hopper and said it's charge was enough for three more uses. I had him show me the settings for our plane, just in case it slipped, then we swam out towards the underwater portal.
It didn't take long for the swirling vortex to drag us beneath the waters, depositing us in a dense forest. We could see other islands of land floating in the distance and above us. Everything looked alien and misshapen here, strange sounds came from afar. Ahead we could see a pathway arcing away from us towards a mountain. Having no other clues to go off of, we followed it. We walked for an indeterminate amount of time, coming to a large, angular archway over the path, beyond it stood a thin figure in immaculate dress, almost foppish really with a ruffled undershirt beneath its vest and waistcoat. It's head was skeletal and similar to a human's. It greeted us in a measured tone, "Welcome, you're a long way from home."
I nodded, not taking my eyes from it, "Are you the Timekeeper?" It acknowledged me, "What do you seek of me?"
I gazed solemnly at it, "We need your stop watch, it would be returned."
"That I cannot al… why do you need it?" it asked.
"You know of Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hungerer?" my hand did not stray far from the hilt of my blade.
It seemed to contemplate this, "If I were to hand it over to you, each of you would have to enter into a pact to return it to me upon the completion of this goal: The Destruction or Failure of Ulamog. Do you agree?"
Each of us in turn swore to return it, though I think Fleer went a bit above and beyond to swear to bring it even should I fall, I was fairly confident I would return alive.
The creature handed the silvery metallic stop watch to me, I hooked it into my belt and slipped the watch into an easily accessed pouch. It told us to continue on the path and after the third arch, we would see the horror for ourselves.
I'm unsure if we walked for hours, days or just minutes… time here was off, but we came to the third archway over the path, in the distance we could see a gigantic structure, our destination, though it seems to sway as if in a breeze. We drew closer to it and my heart froze like ice upon the realization that that was no structure, it was the most immense creature I had ever seen. My chest hurt with the understanding that I stood before Ulamog, its movement upon its colossal tentacles made the very ground shake. Nonetheless, I gave a prayer for our success to Anubis and I could hear others do the same with their deities before we charged in to meet our fate.
The battle was fierce, taking ages weaken the beast. When it's tower-sized fists came down at us, had we not been swift enough to dodge or at least just receive a glancing blow we'd have been done for. Potter was down in seconds, his magic all but useless against it, rebounding harmlessly from its skin. Only powerful weapons even stood a chance of harming it if they were not made of Uru or star metal. The Blade of Ashmouth and Fleer's own axe were enough to pierce it's hide and I had given Viktor my Uru blade so that he could assist. Laash and Bear Bear quickly found out even in their fiercest fighting forms that they could not injure the beast. Bear Bear ran, fleeing it's attacks and Laash stood in a huge reptilian form, taking advantage of its thick hide to allow her to cast healing magic on us.
Truth be told, I thought I would be the next to fall, I had injured it grievously and a powerful fist slammed down on me and around me, nearly crushing me before beginning a psychic assault. I could feel my grip on sanity waning, but remembered in time the stop watch, activating it and slipping out of its slack grasp between the ticks of time, healing everyone back up to renew our attacks once time caught back up to me. When everything started moving once more, I stood again in a phalanx formation with my allies, healing vigor bringing us back to top form, save the unconscious Potter lying too far to aid.
With a few final blows the creature slumped before starting to spasm violently, floating crystals in the area started arcing electricity between each other. We started running but could not flee far or fast enough before a powerful wave of energy hit us. I lost consciousness at that time, thankfully Viktor remained standing as had Fleer. The last of our magic was used in healing and the Timekeeper appeared before us, its palm extended expectantly.
I returned it's device thankfully and took the advice it gave about not staying. We gathered together, weary and sore but triumphant, and activated the D-Hopper. The feeling of using that device cannot adequately be described, and several of us ended up retching on Edwin's doorstep.
We gave our story to Edwin and slept. During the night, Potter thrashed and turned in a terrible nightmare, the brand on his shoulder of the Yellow King burst into flame, burning itself off of him and a thick, greasy yellow mist past out of his lips as he screamed. He calmed and fell asleep again almost instantly, but did not seem harmed. The hold of the Yellow King no longer seemed to hold sway over him so I began instructing him in a more proper religion.
We were triumphant that day, yes, but we are all different for it. I can feel something within me. A power. I hope that I will use it for good, but who can say with the seductive allure of power.