Spare the Child
Choosing their battles, but not always wisely
Characters: Mud, Obsidia, Genesa
Notable NPCs: Moloch the Summoner, Antioch the Doll
Notable monsters and beasts: ghoul refugees
Following the tunnel, it is rougher than the areas they’ve previously seen in the underworld. Torches are more sporadic and dimmer, made of glowing crystals which flicker and sputter, many of them are badly cracked and some barely light at all. Obsidia summoned darts of flame to swirl around her head, providing illumination.
By the light of Obsidia’s flame, Genesa found a child’s broken doll abandoned in the tunnel. She also heard Stonehead moving off as he left the Pallid River. They passed a smaller, but more travelled passage splitting off to the left, but when they came to a small, rough passage that went steeply down, Genesa rolled a rock down the slope, and heard something move in the darkness below. Feeling adventurous, and really wanting to hit something, she ventured down the slope, while Mud and Obsidia waited above (Obsidia did come halfway down).
The passage got quite steep and treaherous at the end, and Genesa stumbled down the last meters into a cave where she was surrounded by pale humanoids with sharp claws and sharper teeth. Four of them were closing in on her, and beyond them she could see more of them, these clutching tiny ones in their arms. Seeing the babies, she sheathed her sword and apologized, saying she meant them no harm. They seemed to consider this, but one of the ones close to her said, “hungry, hungry” and still moved towards her.
Not wanting to fight them, Genesa executed a backflip that took her into the passage above the worst of the slippery rocks. The leader moved to follow her, but one of the ones carrying a baby put a hand on his shoulder and said, “please, we have enough troubles, we need to escape.” Genesa warned Obsidia not to come down any further and they returned to the main passage.
This opened onto a huge cavern of low hills covered in damp fungi. Everything was cold and wet. Obsidia, impressed by Genessa’s backflip, asked for some coaching to learn such impressive moves, so the group spent some time doing cartwheels and gymnastics, with some comical results on the slippery, moss- and fungus-strewn rocks.
They headed for a solitary house with lights shining from the windows. There was a stone path winding between the hills, but it did not go towards the house, so they went off-track. The house was surrounded by a low stone wall with an iron gate in an iron arch. The arch had words they recognized the language of, an archaic tongue used for legal documents and ritual, but no longer spoken, but none of them were able to translate what it said.
Going through the gate, Genesa began pounding at the door while Obsidia peered through the curtained window and Mud consulted his Ectoplasmic Glove to see what readings he could get: for sure there was at least one ghost inside, possibly more than one.
Obsidia could not see well through the lacy curtain, but she did see a humanoid figure walking around at the opposite end of a large room, and a much smaller figure lying on a table. Both appeared to be naked. Obsidia realized the smaller one might be restrained on the table, and learning this Genesa kicked in the surprisingly sturdy door, injuring her ankle in the process.
Inside a man was in the doorway of the far room, having just pulled up his leather trousers and now struggling to get a thigh-high boot pulled on. On a table nearer the door was a young girl, perhaps eight or nine, naked and shackled hand and foot to the table. She was covered in bruises and welts, and there were whips and other implements nearby. She whimpered pitifully as the party came through the door and Genesa told the man to release the girl. He spoke to the girl, saying “Kill them,” the girl’s chains snapped and she got to her feet. Genesa threw a rock, hitting the man in the head and drawing blood. He abandoned the second boot and turned away from them to grab a frilly shirt and begin putting it on. Meanwhile, a force grabbed Genesa and threw her into the wall, stunning her.
Obsidia came through the door and sent fire bolts flying at the man, but they missed and she felt as if they were somehow pushed. Mud drew his shortsword and triggered his steam-powered goggles, which sent him in an unsteady arc across the room toward the man, but the girl leaped into his path and was stabbed through by the sword and fell to the ground crying. The man calmly buttoned up his shirt and began walking toward a staff leaning on the wall.
Obsidia pulled the fire from the fireplace and wrapped it around the man, engulfing him in flames, which he paid no attention to and did not appear to cause him any harm. Mud tried to get to the staff first, but failed. The girl gestured at Obsidia, who felt a force try to lift her, but she resisted and merely stumbled.
Genesa picked herself off the floor and threw two rocks at the man, both missing, and once again she felt that something threw off her aim. The girl gestured at Genesa, who felt something move in her guts and puked, then fell to her hands and knees and began vomiting up serpents.
The girl faced Obsidia and grew in size, transforming into the most beautiful and strong Salamander she had ever seen, beyond her wildest imagining. He walked up and kissed her, and that kiss was both painful and exhilerating, feeling like her life was being burned away, but also that she never wanted it to stop. The salamander stepped away from her, changed back into a young girl, and from behind her back drew out a dagger that wrapped thorny vines around her hand and whose blade was translucent pink.
Mud called to Obsidia to send him a bolt of fire, and when she did he channeled it through his gauntlet of ectoplasm, which exploded under the strain, but also caused all the dozens of ghosts of young children to appear as glowing forms momentarily. Already badly wounded, the blast nearly finished Mud off, but then he remembered that he forgot something and managed to accidentally stumble away from the Black Gate.
The party had enough of this. The man was ignoring them and apparently invulnerable. He told them his name was Moloch, he referred to the girl as his “doll” and after struggling to pull on his other boot while holding the staff, he put on a cloak. Obsidia left the house, and Genesa grabbed Mud and tried to follow but the door slammed shut. From the window, Obsidia wrapped flames around the girl, burning her badly, and Genesa cut off her head. The girl’s body (and head, but not in sync) turned into that of a beautiful woman, and then into a scaly and wrinkled demon, before disappearing in a cloud of oily, sulfurous smoke.
The man scolded them for dispelling his favourite toy and promised to hunt down everyone they loved, every friend they had, and all their families and kill them as painfully as possible. Genesa threw the rose dagger at him, but he walked through the wall saying the phrase, “tower of brass” and the dagger’s tip broke on the wall.
After the battle they found good food and wine, jewelry worth 150 coins, fine clothing and other household items, and a puzzle box.
And they all levelled up!