Vita est ludus
The thin line between fantasy and reality...













Tarrastra Adventure 36

Caelesti's notes




The party discussed options while Grimble roamed about the complex. He returned to the guest room and tapped lightly on the door. Carric put his ear against the door, and heard Grimble say "Get them to open the door!" Carric banged on the door, calling for the guards. A yuan-ti opened the door, and Grimble slipped in.

Grimble reported that he followed some of the yuan-ti around. There were two outside the door. There were lots in the throne room. There was a side passage in between the two areas. Using the passage, they could go up or down.

The party had no clear path of what to do. Talon really wanted to know what was in the guest room next to the party's room. Carric summoned an earth elemental to walk through the wall and check. The elemental reported back that there was a room the same size as the party's. When prompted, it said there was a creature in it. When prompted it describe the creature; the description matched Murdocky's description of a caliento, the holder of the gem fragment.

The party worked out a new plan to take out the guards. Siobhan knocked on the door. When the guard opened the door, Siobhan bluffed that Caelesti worked out a new snake dance, and that the guards should come into the room for a preview before the big performance that night. The guards entered the room and locked the door behind. Siobhan started singing. Caelesti started swaying to the music, trying to work it into a dance, but not doing to well. Fortunately, Siobhan played well, and the guards were fascinated. Siobhan was then able to implant a suggestion to let the party stretch their legs while the guards cleaned up the room. The female ordered the doubting male to do just that. The female handed the keys to Siobhan. The party left the room while Siobhan continued to sing and fascinate. Then Siobhan cast Silence into the room, closed the door, and locked it. Caelesti congratulated Siobhan for a job well done!

The party moved to the door to the caliento's room. Siobhan opened the door. The caliento sat dejectedly in its room. Carric said in sylvan that we came to rescue him. Siobhan said the same thing in common, and the caliento, Flann, perked up. Flann explained how he was captured, and asked if the party could take him home. Talon stated that the party was looking for a jagged crystal. Flann said he did find such an object just before he was captured. Carric asked if he had it on him. Flann, timidly said yes. Carric asked if they could have the crystal after they escorted him home. Flann said yes, if was OK with his chief. The party agreed to escort Flann home.

As the party worked their way downward, they remembered that they left the other crystal pieces hidden out on the mesa. They tried to talk Flann into going and getting the pieces before continuing. Flann didn't like that idea and ran toward a portal. The party followed. Caelesti cast Sleep between the guard and Flann, putting the guard to sleep. Flann hopped through the portal. The party followed.

On the other side of the portal, Flann jumped up and down calling out, "We're here! We made it!" Carric asked if he could lead the party to his tribe. Flann moved off, and the party followed.

Flann found the other caliento. They blended well with the desert sand. The caliento were pleased with the return of Flann. Carric asked about the crystal. The caliento seemed to communicate without words. The chief said that the crystal had no use to them and gave it to the party.

The party returned to the portal. They discussed going through it the next day so that the yuan-ti would be less wary following the escape of their prisoners. Caelesti suggested that the mesa that they sought might be able to be seen from high up in the air. Grimble happily flew up to check, reporting that a mesa could be seen in the distance, and it could be the right one.

The party headed toward the mesa, hoping to get in some distance before it got too dark. Once it got too dark, the party set up camp, taking normal watches.

During Carric and Talon's watch, an androsphinx (a horse-sized flying lion with a humanoid face) landed at the campsite. Carric gave a warm greeting. The creature asked the party to explain what they were doing out in the desert, where they came from, and where they were going. Carric explained that the party had just left the caliento, having just rescued one of them from the yuan-ti. He continued saying that the party was trying to get back to the mesa where the yuan-ti lived. The androsphinx seemed to get agitated, asking if the party was friends with the yuan-ti. Carric said that we were their captives as well. Talon said that she enjoyed performing for them, agitating the androsphinx more. Carric continued to say that the party didn't like them, and Caelesti chimed in that we did kill their dragon. The androsphinx said he had meant to do that someday, but had been busy. Caelesti said that they were glad to help. Through more conversation, the androphinx's mood became much cheerier.

The androphinx, Rasarik, was getting ready to leave, and Caelesti asked it to stay. The ladies volunteered to sing and dance for him. He was entertained. He agreed to watch over the party in their travels to the mesa and then to the portal.

While the party camped, Talon swooned over Rasarik like a lovesick half-dragon in heat. To Carric, who was on watch with Talon, the night seemed to go on forever, but didn't.

In the morning, before it got too hot, the party started heading back toward the mesa to get their stashed valuables. Rasarik flew ahead, making sure the party's travels were undisturbed.

The party had no trouble reaching the mesa. Caelesti and Grimble climbed the path, retrieved the party's items, and returned to the group. The party then continued eastward to find the next crossroads. Siobhan cast her locate crossroads spell to help with that.

Having located the portal, the party stepped through it and into a cave that opened to the outside. The cave was located halfway up a large mountain. Just outside the cave, a path headed right and left. According to the crossroads map from Murdocky, the party was to travel NW. Using the magic arrow, the party located north and decided that they should take the right path when leaving the cave. As the sun appeared to be sinking, the party decided to camp in the cave for the night.

Talon's notes

Grimble, invisible, scouts the complex, while the rest of us debate what to do next.

"The Snake-people don't seem so bad," I said. "They were very appreciative of our performance."

Caelesti, "But they put us in a prison cell."

"This room is beautiful! Fine pillows, exotic food and drinks, every comfort," I say.

Caelesti, "But the door is locked - from the outside."

"Perhaps that's for our own safety?" I say. But I, too, feel trapped.

About this point, we hear a small tapping on the door. Carric pressed his ear to the door.

Carric, "Yup. That's a Grimble tap. Let's think of a reason to call the guards to open the door."

Caelesti, "We could tell them that we ladies are embarrassed to pee in front of a man and could they let us out to go to the bathroom."

I, "Or we could just ask them to empty our chamber pots."

Carric, "No, that might sound suspicious. I'll tell them I'm practicing for the next show and need an opinion."

Personally, I think my "empty the chamber pot" idea would be more "natural" and that Carric is digging himself into a hole. But I go along with it to see what will happen. Heee, heee.

"Okay, Carric," I say, "You do that."

Carric, "Guards, guards!"

Guard 1 unlocks the door, opens it, peers inside (as invisible Grimble flies in). "What is it, are you done with your dishes?"

I, "Yes."

Carric, "No! No, there's something I want you to hear. I've been practicing. I want to know if you think the king would like my performance."

Guard 1, "Alright." He motions to Guard 2. They both come over and look at Carric with curiosity.

I, "Are you going to sing for us, Carric, or play a musical instrument?"

It suddenly dawns on Carric that he can do neither. He is the one non-performer in the group. The look on his face at this moment is priceless!

We look expectantly at Carric. The Guards look expectantly at Carric. Carric looks at his feet and thinks fast, "what can I do? what can I go?"

Carric, to the Guards, "Well, I can't sing, actually. But... I'm a Druid and... and... I have a lot of experience with birds. And I've been practicing.... this. This is a Brown Finch, 'Tweeeeeeeeet-tweeeet, wheat-wheat. Tweeeeeeeeet-tweeeet, wheat-wheat.' "

The Guards tilt their snake heads to one side and give Carric a strange, unblinking look. (The rest of us can hardly keep ourselves from laughing.)

Carric, "Oh, and I can do this one too. This is a Whippoorwill. 'whip, whip, whip, whipper-wil. whipper-wil, whipper-wil. Whip, whip--' " He breaks off. "A... Maybe I need more practice. Could you come back later?"

Guards, "Yeessssss, practissss more." They go out, shut and lock the door.

Carric, half hearted, "Hey, Guards, this door is broken, the lock's on the wrong side."

No answer.

Siobhan, "What did it look like out there, Grimble? Any sign of the facet?"

Grimble, "Nope. But there's this sloping hallway that goes down and the snakepeople seem to hang out down there somewhere. I couldn't get very far."

Carric, "Ahhh-hah! I bet the facet is down there!"

I, "It might be next door."

Carric, "Naw, there's probably nothing next door. Just another cell."

I, "Even so, there might be someone in the cell who also wants to get out and who can help us against the guards. So, what was your plan, Caelestic? Turn your snake into a worm and send it out?"

Carric laughs, "Yeah, it will make its way across the floor at 10 inches an hour and get back to us in about a week."

Caelesti cuts in, "It will go under the door of the cell next to us and then come back and report."

I think it was Siobhan who asked, "How do worms communicate?"

Carric said, "I will do Speak with Animals."

Caelesti, "It's really a snake, in worm-size."

Carric, "Yeah, it will grow back to full size and then I will talk to it."

I, "Carric, why is it that every time you do a Talk with Animals, we lose half our rations?"

Carric, "Well, if I only feed HALF our rations to each animal, then we always have half left."

I, "It will be interesting to watch you split our last little crumb. I have a better idea. What if.... after an animal has talked, given us the information we need, and been fed half our rations, we EAT the animal - get the rations back plus some?"

Siobhan, "Yeah, that sounds good to me."

Caelesti, "What about the animals?"

Carric, "Yeah, they won't be with us anymore."

I, "Nonesense, they will be 'with us' more than ever. In fact, you could say, once we eat them, the animals will be with us FOREVER. Always a part of us. Always a part of our lives, of our great consciousness in the universe. It will be an experience for them."

Carric, "Hmnnnn, I don't know about any of that mety-phyiseekal stuff..."

Siobhan, "Oh, come on, Carric."

Carric, "I think maybe I'm against it."

Caelesti, pursuing a similar worry, "Do you think the Snake-people would be nice to regular snakes or do you think they would eat them?"

Siobhan, "Good point. This mystery meat we've been eating... What might it be?"

I, "They are snakes themselves. They would appreciate your snake, Caelesti. I think you should get it out and dance for them. Naked, just you and your snake."

Caelesti, "I think they'd eat my snake, if did that."

Carric, "Yeah, it's too risky."

I, "Then we shouldn't send the snake out to explore. Carric, why don't you conjure an Earth Elemental."

Carric, "I could do that. But it doesn't last very long. It won't be able to go very far."

I, "It only has to go through the one wall and look into the next room."

Carric, "No, we decided against that. The facet is in the lower levels somewhere."

I, "The other cell is right next to us, why not check it out to be sure?"

Caelesti and Siobhan nod in agreement. We women all look at Carric.

Carric, "It's a waste of time."

We women continue to look at Carric.

Carric, "Well, alright, but I'm having it look through the back walls as well."

I, "Fine. As long as it still has time to talk aftewards, say what it saw before it expires."

So Carric conjures a baby Earth Elemental and sends it through the side and back wall. It returns and reports bigger rooms behind us and same size room next to us. In the room next to us, it reports what can only be a caliento (the holder of a facet per Murdocky).

I fold my arms and look pointedly at Carric. I say, "Nothing of interest, eh? The facet is in the lower levels, eh? Waste of time bothering about that room, eh?"

Carric, blushing from his forehead to his toes, "Okay, okay, I was wrong. I admit it."

What ensues is a long and often facetious debate about how to get guards out of the way. I have blocked most of it out of my mind. We don't have the power to sleep both the guards, nor take on a snake army. Even a single one of the higher level snake head people would be too much for us. Besides, I don't see any reason to kill them. They haven't tried to kill us AND they like my music. If it were just me, a lone Bard, I doubt I would have found myself locked up. I'm obviously not a fighter. And I'm of "open-minded" alignment. I have no desire to draw the blood of our hosts! And I'm sure my cousin feels the same. We do our best to discourage Carric and Caelisti from launching a (doomed) bloody revolt.

The final plan is as Caelesti reports:

Siobhan knocks on the door. When the guard open the door, Siobhan invites them to witness Caelesti's new snake dance. The guards enter the room.

Siobhan sings (and very beautifully, I might add!) and fascinates the guards. Caelesti started sways to the music, not too good, because she is practicing something new.

Siobhan suggests to the guards that they clean up the room while we go out and stretch. The female guard is convinced that this is perfectly reasonable. The male guard argues with her and is put down.

Siobhan takes the key from the female guard and unlocks the door so that we can go out into the hallway and stretch our legs. While the guards are inside, cleaning up the room, Siobhan casts silence on them, then locks the door from the outside.

Caelesti congratulates Siobhan for a job well done! Siobhan and I are greatly relieved that we didn't have to battle. Yet! Let's see what the creature in the next room makes of us and us of him?

There are many keys on the ring my cousin borrowed from the guard. She finds the one that works and we open the door. The little caleinto is looking dejected, but perks up when he sees us. Carric tries to speak to him in Sylvan, to no avail. Siobhan speaks to him in Common and he understands.

He tells us his name is Flann.

"I was out with my friends in the desert and we were having a good time and then suddenly there was this net over me and I was dragged, draggged against my will, across the sand to a stone archway and inside and through a long dark tunnel and up and up and around and up and oh I don't where and finally to this room and locked inside all by myself and I don't whether it is day or night or long it has been, but that was very nasty of them, don't you think?" Flann recalls.

Carric, "There, there, little guy, we were prisoners too and we are here to help you escape."

Flann, "You would help me? What do you want?"

I, "Well, if you happen to have a clear crystal facet like we wouldn't mind trading for that as reward for rescuing you?"

Flann eyes us all suspiciously, "I might have. Maybe. Might have found something like that in the desert. But you have to take me HOME. All the way home."

Carric, "We will do that. Naturally. We want to help you. We know several possible ways of getting out of here. But you say they dragged you UP from somewhere? Let's check out the passage leading down. Grimble, go invisible and fly ahead, okay?"

Grimble, "Okay."

Carric and Flann follow Grimble. Then me, Caelesti and Siohan. The passage slopes gently down. All is calm and uneventful until we get to a T intersection. There are portals at either end of the T, each with a guard. Carric motions to us to move back up the passage a little so we can talk.

I consider the portals to be a crap shoot. We have to get past at least one guard (more if he sounds the alarm) and then it's 50/50 as to which portal will take us to Flann's home versus to the likely dangerous home Plane of the Snake People. The others agree, all except Flann, who becomes very agitated and seems to lose trust in us.

"Home! Home! Go now! Home!" shouts Flann and runs down the passage to the left.

Carric runs after Flann, grapples Flann, get burned by Flann and drops Flann, but still tries valiantly to warn the little guy, "That way is dangerous. The guard! You are going to get killed. We need to protect you!"

But Flann is nothing if not single-minded, "Home! Home! Home!"

Caelestic tries to sleep both Flann and the Guard. She only succeeds on one of them and fortunately, it is the Guard.

Flann runs freely through the portal and the rest of us follow. We follow the exited creature to a set of caves, where he runs inside to greet his tribe.

A herd of caleintos come pouring out of the caves, well-camouflaged for the desert, and all twitching and in sinque with one another.

Carric asks to be introduced to the tribal leaders. (Guess he forgot I'm designated as "party negotiator", oh well. Car's a guy.)

Carric explains to the Chief that we rescued Flann and asks if we can have the facet. The female Chief (Shief?) looks the facet over and declares that Flann has no use for it. To me, Flann looks disappointed at this. Not happy to give up his sparkly new play thing. But he obey his Shiefess. As is only proper for male creatures of all kinds!

We discuss returning through the portal. I'm against it, as surely the guards will be on the alert now. I ask if Grimble might be able to fly up and determine our whereabouts and the location of the Snake Fortress. Grimble and the others agree. Carric also thinks that Tankuran will be able to help us mark the place, as we get nearer.

Grimble graciously flies up and circles around. He comes back and reports that he spotted the fortress, but it's a long way off, "for those who to walk, that is."

We decide to make camp and set out in the early AM, while the desert is still cool.

I bravely volunteer to go on first watch with Carric, to give Siobhan a break from his (no longer welcome) attentions.

It is freezing in the desert at night. We build a fire. Caelesti, Grimble, and Siobhan get comfy and go to sleep. I take up a place close to the fire, and look around for any signs of trouble.

Carric, "I'm cold. Let's sit closer."

I, "Sit up against my back, Carric, then we can watch both sides and not miss anything."

Carric, "I can show you a way to sit face to face and look out both ways."

I, "Sit next to me, but keep your paws to yourself. Carric! Don't distract me. I'm watching."

Carric, "But I'm cold."

I hear a sound in the distance. Carric hears it too and stops wriggling around. We look and listen. See a lion-like, male humanoid circling above us.

Carric and I wake the others. Then Carric (who again is usurping me as party spokesperson) calls out a friendly greet to the lion-creature.

He swoops down, lands, and paces near us, obviously just as curious about us as we are about him.

He is an androsphinx. His body is like that of a large lion with wings and he has a very handsome humanoid face! And what a soft and hairy chest. Infact, he looks warm and soft and strong all over... Ummm-ummmm! He introduces himself as "Rasarik." What a manly name. I am smitten!

Rasarik paces. "Who are you? What are you? What are you doing in my desert?"

We introduce ourselves. Then Carric usurps me again. Sigh!

Carric, "We were looking for--"

I, "Carric!"

Carric, "Something. And we went through a portal and we came to a hill and the fortress or castle or whatever you call it and that's we were met the Snake People and--"

Rasarik, "Did you like them?"

Carric, "No."

I, "Yes."

Siobhan, "They were alright."

Caelesti, "They're evil."

Grimble, nothing.

Carric, "We didn't trust them."

Caelesti, "They locked us up."

I, "They were very appreciative of our singing and playing, weren't they Siobhan?"

Siobhan, "Well, yes."

Rasarik, pacing faster, "So what is it? You are friends of their or not?"

Carric, "Not. They're evil!"

I, "I didn't say we were their friends. But they like our music and they were too tough for us to get into a fight with. And I don't think we should pass judgement. As long as they aren't bothering anyone else...."

Caelesti, "They're evil. We should kill them. Will you help us Mister Rasarik?"

Rasarik, "I would. I would. Of course, I would. I've been planning to. For some long years. Yes. That has been my plan. You know they don't belong here?"

The Ladies as one, "Really?"

Rasarik, "Yes! They are interlopers. I don't know where they came from or how they got here. They came many years ago - when my parents were still living. Or was it my grandparents? But no matter. It was a long time ago. But not forever. That castle was built by someone else. And they sneaked in somehow and claimed it."

Caelesti, "Then you'll be happy to know we killed their dragon?"

Rasarik, "Did you?" He looks at us with new respect.

Carric, puffing out his chest, "Yes, and we overcame three guards and escaped."

Caelesti, "We helped a little caleinto, whom they had KIDNAPPED. They stole him away from his home - against his will and everything! And I don't call THAT 'not bothering anyone.' " Caelesti gives me a combative look when she says this. I shrug it off.

I figure Caelesti can do battle with the Snake People herself, if she feels so strongly. I'm not killing myself over it. And I very doubt Rasarik is, either. Best to indulge his fantasies, though. He is rather a handsome brute! Yum, yum...

I say to Rasarik, "You're so brave and handsome. Why don't you stay and have some berries with us?"

Siobhan, "I suspect he only eats meat."

Rasarik, "Yes, I eat meat. I hunt when I have to. And I don't bother others who do the same. But I don't approve of killing and kidnapping for sport. It grieves me that the little caleintos were troubled. I know them, of couse. I try to watch over ALL my little creatures. My territory, the desert, is so large."

I, with awe, "You mean, all this belongs to you?"

Rasarik stops pacing and puffs out his chest. With great pride, "Yes. It does."

Caelesti, "Why, that's great! Could you protect us, then, on our way back to the castle of the Snake People?"

Rasarik paces, suspicious again. "Here I am talking to you... you strangers! Believing everything you say. And what do I really know of you? You say the Snake People are not your friends and yet you want to go back there. Why?"

Carric, "Well, we left some of our stuff there."

Rasarik, "That was careless of you."

Caelesti, "It wasn't careless. We did it on purpose."

Rasarik, "What? What?"

Carric, "We left some of our possessions outside their house. We hid it in a secret place because we didn't trust them and didn't want to rob us when were in their house."

Rasarik, "You don't trust people, but you go into their house? You are foolish adventurers indeed!"

Carric, "Well, some of our possessions are quite valuable. Quite... important to us."

Rasarik, "And your lives are not?"

Carric, "Well, when you put it that way..."

Rasarik, "I do put it that way. I put it to you that once you are dead, you're possessions will not matter to you. I put it to you that your own lives are your MOST valuable possessions. Do not go back to the house of the Snake People. Go home and be safe. You are better off alive than rich."

Carric, "Well, we would, but I left my eagle there too. Don't eat her, by the way. Her name is Tankuran. And I am quite attached to her. I consider her one of the party. I can't leave her behind. And our possessions aren't INSIDE the house anyway. I'm sure we can retrive them without the Snake People even noticing."

Rasarik, "Hmnnn...well that is different. And perhaps you have learned your lession?"

Carric, "Oh, yes, we have. We have!"

Caelesti, eagerly, "So you'll go with us?"

Rasarik, "Yes, I will. I will lead you there and see that no harm comes to you. You say you came through a portal?"

I, "Yes, from another plane."

Rasarik, "I am very sorry to hear that. I have lived all my life in this desert. I was hoping you could tell me of lands nearby?"

I, "We've got LOTS of good stories to tell. Of all kinds of wonderful places. Did you know my great grandmother was a Silver Dragon and lived in a castle in the clouds?"

Rasarik, "No?"

I, "She was! Come closer. Sit next to me by the fire and I'll tell you all about it. See my eyes? How they look like molten silver and don't have pupils like the others'? That's because I'm part dragon. And you look like you are part lion. So we have a lot in common. And you're so handsome and intelligent and valiant and strong. Cuddle closer to me."

Rasarik swishes his tail with pride and cuddles closer to me.

My silver eyes glow and twinkle in the moonlight. I am in love!

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Copyright © 2009 by Brianna Sollandry <brianna at hambo dot com> Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu
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