APoF 02: Exits are for Losers
Steve attempts to make contact with the bright green sprites, thinking them to be harmless, but as it turns out, they are not. Mischievous little things, the sprites are ethereal creatures that can suck the vitality out of people with the merest touch of their wispy, spindly little fingers. Steve finds this out firsthand and battle is joined against the creatures. Though tiny and fragile, the sprites are quick and difficult to hit with conventional weaponry, but eventually the party is rid of them, but a dim green light glowing at the end of the corridor signals that more are approaching. Knowing what to expect, the party is ready for a fight, but the arrival of a bigger sprite, rotund and bloated, swaying obscenely from side to side as it floats down the corridor, throws a spanner in the works. The party take shots with whatever ranged abilities that they have as the sickly green spirit approaches, and initiate combat once they're within a more effective range. As expected, the second fight takes longer, and consumes significantly more resources than the first, but the party ultimately prevails. Assuming the form of a giant spider, Steve proceeds further down the tunnel through which the sprites had come from and finds the refuse pits of the dwarvenhold. The large chasms have seemingly emptied out through the millennia, and a cursory search reveals that the sprites and their larger cousins appear to dwell in and among the remaining refuse. The party ultimately decides to return at a later time to deal with the issue and continue their exploration on the other side of the courtyard. Heading down the right-hand corridor the group finds the remains of what must have once been a garden, with its now-barren dirt beds. The party finds very little of note in this room save for what appears to be a small clump of flowers made of metal in one lonely corner. Seeing a shiny object, Dr. Roth is unable to resist and attempts to grab at it, only to find that the metal is preternaturally sharp. He attempts to unearth the flower, but despite his care, the razor-sharp petals and stems cause him some damage. The more that he digs away at the dirt surrounding the bases of the flowers, though, the more he realizes that they are all connected to a central body, and by the end of it, he has pulled a ball of silvery metal to which the stems of all the flowers are joined. While this is happening, Steve in his spider form has noticed something concerning and attempts to point it out to the party, who for the most part appear almost oblivious to his attempts. It is Mordollwen who finally figures out that Steve is trying to say something and spots the Shardscape rift as well. Concerned, both Shardborn members of the party counsel that it would be for the best to close the rift, and fortunately, Mordollwen knows the ritual formulae required to close the rift, though it ultimately falls to Iris, who is the only wielder of arcane magic in the party, to perform the ritual. While Mordollwen and Iris are occupied with sealing the rift, Zephyros heads up to the second floor of the courtyard to explore the room directly above the one that they had just been in. He finds something strange within. Specifically, flecks of white stuff suspended in the air. These flecks are dispersed toward the entrance of the room, but denser toward the back, forming a nigh-impenetrable fog that hides the distant side of the room from observers. Investigating, Zephyros finds the tendrils of fungal growth across some of the earthen beds, but the cloud of white flecks becomes too thick for him to pierce, and he angrily stomps off, muttering about black magic. IkBroknard attempts to do what Zephyros was unable to, but is also thwarted. It isn't until Steve enters the room that the white flecks are revealed to be the spores of a fungus. Thinking quickly on his feet, Steve clears the dense cloud with fire, causing an enormous conflagration within the room and revealing a large tumorous growth clinging to the back wall. The party believes that the growth was killed by the fire until the tendrils detach from the walls and begin to flail about. They see little green lights dancing around, bound by tiny tendrils, inside bulbous translucent growths from the abomination's central mass. Zephyros, who has been tearing down doors and breaking whatever remnants of furniture are in the servants' wing, comes running at the sound of combat, as does Mordollwen who has been watching over Iris to ensure that nothing untoward occurs. The beast turns out to be more resilient than the party expected, and puts up a hell of a fight. The strands of metal that reinforce its tendrils cause a significant amount of damage to each person that they hit, and it seems to suck the life out of the sprites that it holds captive to restore itself. The party prevails, but not before taking a lot of damage. As a result they decide to call it a day. They retreat to the lower garden, which they know is clear of threats, and instruct Zephyros to build a barricade from the scraps of wood that he created from the surviving furniture in the servants' quarters, conveniently forgetting to remind him to build an entrance/exit into the structure. It isn't until the job is done that the party realizes that they will have to tear down the barrier to get out, and it is only then that they notice that their foreman, Viper, has been left outside of the barricade. Mordollwen, able to step through the shadows, joins Viper on the other side of the wall and helps her build a smaller barricade of her own, and the party beds down to attempt to get a good night's rest for more exploration come the morrow.