Chapter 12 - Golismorga; City of Madness

The next morning after eating breakfast, memorizing spells for the day and securing their gear, the group headed out, continuing down the tunnel that would lead them to Golismorga. The familiars were the first to show signs of unease. Liamae's tiny viper slithered up her leg to curl around her neck.

"What is it, Irradar?" Liamae cooed as she stroked the reptile gently.

"Bad sssmelling," Irgzid whispered. Ken-ji grunted in agreement. Then the rest of the group caught the foul smell of rot as they came to an immense cavern within which brooded a realm of gigantic polyps and intricate fungi so large and elaborate that they seemed almost to compliment the twisted towers, temples, and the myriad constructions of an insane city.

Ruined citadels of cyclopean grandeur tangled amid spires that looked to have been grown rather than built; homes for beings with unspeakable forms. Senseless bridges reached to suicide heights, dropping away into squamous slums and melted ghettos. Seemingly accidental avenues and inaccessible alleys formed an unfathomable maze, a labyrinth that stretched to the subterranean horizon. Across it all bulged images of gnarled, tentacled things and red domes that glistened like unblinking, demoniac eyes. The already stale air had grown foul and close in this place, as if the smell of rot was somehow trying to crowd out the final gasp of freshness reaching these forsaken depths.

Bursting from the demented cityscape, three titanic columns of unearthly violet flame churned silently like the pillars of some gigantic temple, bathing the entire cavern in a nauseating violet light - a light that seemed somehow more horrible than the darkness that lurked at the edges of this nightmare grotto.

"In there?" Saris asked frowning in disgust.

Viselys nodded as he lead the way, choosing a path that looked like it might lead towards one of the purple pillars, though with the winding ways of the convoluted avenues it was impossible to tell for sure where they were headed. Everyone felt varying degrees of anxiety as they followed when suddenly they were struck with that odd feeling that felt like just before a thunder storm; their hair prickled up, which made Ken-ji appear as if he had gained an inch or so of thickness, and there was the smell of ozone. Suddenly, with a clapping woosh, a great pillar of violet flame nearly 60 feet high appeared in their path; not near enough to cause immediate damage, but close enough to initially startle, and large enough to be fairly disconcerting.

"Great. Now what?" Saris asked drawing his sword with Viselys. "Do we fight it?"

Viselys stood a moment with sword in hand watching the oddly flaming pillar. "It doesn't seem like it's attacking exactly."

"What do you see, Duxsil?" Liamae asked as she too studied the pillar.

"A huge purple pillar of flame in our way," he threw back casually. "It is something powerful, but I can't tell you more than that."

"Let's try to go around it," Viselys suggested with a hint of anxiety in his voice, mirroring the anxiety everyone felt.

Liamae nodded as she followed Viselys around the massive pillar. As nothing happened the others followed with nothing more than the feeling of being watched. As the last man passed the pillar disappeared.

"Well, that was disconcerting," Urol said as he shook himself.

"Move!" Viselys suddenly said, seeing something the others could only hear.

Without a specific direction, the group scattered. From their right, the vibrations of their walking had disrupted the husk of a nearby rotting building, triggering an avalanche of decaying flesh-like resin. Viselys, Ken-ji, and Irgzid managed to get clear. Saris, Liamae, and Duxsil were caught in the spread zone up to their knees, while Urol disappeared altogether.

"Ugh! It's like dandruff from a giant," Liamae commented holding her hands up in disgust.

"Where is Urol?" Viselys demanded.

The others began looking around. "He's over here," Saris called. "I need help digging him out." With Viselys and Ken-ji's help, Saris unearthed a completely disgusted Urol from the yuck.

"This is becoming the absolute worst expedition ever. I am tired of being covered in the muck!" Urol commented as he brushed himself off vigorously. It seemed their once giddy gnome was becoming less giddy with the adventure, but to be fair this was the second time in almost as many days he had gotten covered in something gross.

Viselys groaned as he began to move his body, "Something's not right."

"Yes, I feel it too," Ken-ji said as he also began to stretch and groan.

"Let me have a look," Urol said quickly. Both Ken-ji and Viselys were showing signs of what Urol dubbed the Red Ache. "Tightening of the muscles and red, swollen irritation of the skin. In three days time it'll be full blown."

"Can you do something about it?" Viselys asked already more uncomfortable than he'd like to be in the heart of darkness as it were.

"Well, of course, I can. Hold on a moment," Urol assured as he preformed a healing spell on both Viselys and Ken-ji. No one said it, but they were all thinking that they needed to be more careful. Dying at the hand of an enemy was one thing, but to die due to disease or illness was not something anyone wanted to end their story.

After the healing, the group continued on their winding path and approached one of the huge pillars of fire. Suddenly, everyone became nauseated and overcome with foreboding.

"Let's go that way and look at something else," Viselys suggested, turning a slight shade of green as he began walking in a new direction. The others followed without complaint.

The sound of a giant bellow with moist qualities greeted them as they rounded a corner to the sight of a two-story tall lung attached to a building, heaving irregularly on the side of a structure. As shocking as the sight was, only Liamae seemed particularly disturbed suddenly screaming, "Don't touch me! Don't touch anything!"

Off to one side another movement caught everyone's attention. From within the fleshy abscess of one of the nearby structures, a monstrous tongue, split in a triple fork, rolled out to lick the red dome upon its surface before recoiling back into the darkness.

Their attention was then drawn by a blood-curdling scream rising from some distance away within the city.

"Let's check it out," Viselys said as he looked towards the source of the scream, but Saris stopped him as, moments later, the sound echoed back, although slightly distorted. Then again it echoed, though taking on a gurgling tone, and again, closer, even more distorted.

"I don't think those other screams are an echo. The buildings are screaming," he said looking around at the creepy living structures.

"Can we leave this germ infested fungaloid?" Liamae demanded as she clenched her fists to her chest, shying away from anything that might touch her. The others looked at her a little worriedly.

"Great. Now she's crazy," Saris commented dryly.

"I am not. This place is covered in germs. They are in the very air, I just know it," Liamae said hotly, but it was apparent to everyone that her usual fearlessness had been replaced with a phobia for germs.

"Freeeeaaak," Saris taunted.

"Do you hear that?" Ken-ji asked as he turned towards one of the fungus-like buildings.

In all this madness, finally, something seemed pretty normal – somebody was home. Viselys nodded at Ken-ji and they led the group to the building. Inside was a humanoid creature writing in a book. It was humanoid in that it had two arms, two legs and apparently, walked upright, however, its head looked like that of a four-tentacled octopus. The creature didn't look up or show any sign of noticing the group, but they heard his voice, in their native language, inside their heads, “Come in, strangers. What brings you to Golismorga?”

"You're an illathid," Urol said with a note of awe in his voice.

"I am. My name is Ras-ka," the creature nodded, glancing interestedly at Urol, who began to speak about their mission.

"There are indeed many kopru in this place," Ras-ka said.

"Where do we find them?" Viselys asked.

"Oh, they patrol the city and spend a lot of time at the ziggurat," Ras-ka responded

"Why are you writing?" Liamae asked as she stood in the doorway farthest from the illathid, refusing to enter any farther into the dwelling.

"I am writing of the city," Ras-ka answered. Then glanced at Urol again as he added, "Yes, studying it."

"You're reading my thoughts," Urol said with a smile.

"Why yes, you are intelligent," Ras-ka said flatteringly to Urol.

"Thank you," Urol said, completely taken in, "As are you."

"And the Kopru leave you alone?" Liamae asked skeptically.

"Most of them do not stray from Holasher's Ziggurat. Only the occasional patrol comes round, and I have no difficulty avoiding them."

"Is that were they make the pearls?" Saris asked, "At the ziggurat?"

"I do not really know."

"How many kopru? Any around?" Saris persisted.

"Hundreds, I expect, but only 40 or 50 normal Kopru. There are perhaps a hundred enslaved Troglodytes… army," Ras-ka said offhandedly.

"What would happen if the tear were destroyed?" Duxsil asked assuming that with Ras-ka's mind reading ability that he would know exactly what he meant.

"This place would flood," Ras-ka said simply.

"How quickly?" Saris inquired.

Ras-ka did some figuring before answering, "Assuming the curtain comes down instantaneously, water would fill the caverns and passages under the city before Golismorga proper. Perhaps 16 hours or so."

"Who would benefit if it flooded?" Duxsil asked curiously.

"It would stop the production of the pearls you seek. The kopru would send their army to investigate, I am sure, then disperse, or kill the aboleth before they awaken, or both."

Urol perked up, then began to engage in a intellectual banter with Ras-ka as the others weighed the options. Did they go to the ziggurat or find the tear? Finally, they decided that they should do some recon of the temple before deciding anything further.

"I'll stay here with Ras-ka," Urol said, stopping the group from departing.

"I don't think that's a good idea," Duxsil said frowning.

"I'd like my new friend to stay," Ras-ka projected into everyone's mind.

Viselys pulled his sword on Ras-ka, "I'd appreciate it if you would not speak psionically."

Suddenly, Viselys and Saris fell to the floor, Viselys dropping his sword, having been stunned by a mind blast the others managed to resist. Liamae hurled a flaming sphere from the doorway (that ended up doing no damage) before glaring at the unaware Viselys for drawing his sword and provoking the situation.

"Would you protect my friend Urol and me, Kenji, from this most unnecessary attack?" Ras-ka seemed to ask consolingly. Ken-ji hesitated a moment caught by the idea that Ras-ka hadn't technically lashed out until Viselys had drawn his sword before shaking his head. Ken-ji then turned to Viselys to cast dispell, which cleared Viselys' mind and got him back in the fight that now seemed in full swing.

Duxsil attempted to cast disintegrate upon Ras-ka, which was as ineffective as Liamae's flaming sphere had been. "Well, it's great when it works," he muttered with a frown of chagrin.

Urol quickly turned his back on Ras-ka, demanding, "What are you all doing? Ras-ka has done nothing."

Liamae pointed at Saris with an arched brow indicating that Ras-ka clearly did something.

"That was—" Urol began but was cut short when Ras-ka lashed out as Viselys made a grab to retrieve his dropped sword.

Viselys managed to wallop Ras-ka with his sword, slashing, and lopping off one of Ras-ka's tentacles. Liamae, realizing that her spells would have no effect on Ras-ka, pulled her shortbow and shot at the illathid, missing. Ras-ka seemed to be communicating with Urol and reached out to grasp the gnome's hand before they disappear.

"He's plane shifting with Urol!" Liamae and Duxsil shouted together, understanding instantly what Ras-ka was up to.

"I got this. Be ready," Duxsil said as he cast dispell upon the place Ras-ka and Urol had stood. Duxsil's efforts worked as Ras-ka and Urol were yanked back from the rift, with Urol looking perplexed.

With Saris still on the floor, Viselys struck again at Ras-ka. Liamae quickly cast unseen servant to drag the unsuspecting Urol away from the Illathid's reach, allowing Ken-ji to cast a flame spell (that did absolutely nothing) the moment Urol was dragged clear. Duxsil made a less magical move, hitting Ras-ka with his weapon.

Urol looked on agast as Viselys attacked and killed the Illathid, before viciously severing the head. "Now let's burn this thing before it causes any more trouble," Viselys declared as Duxsil pocketed the tentacle.

"Why do you want that?" Liamae asked looking critically at Duxsil's hands as if they might now be contaminated with some unseen germ.

"Story telling trophy," Duxsil said with a mischievous smile.

"What's going on?" Saris asked, suddenly coming around.

"We won," Viselys said simply as he and the others set about plundering the place. Liamae directed the unseen servant to move things a bit, but otherwise stayed clear of touching anything herself. They retrieved the book containing the ilithid's notes, and a second book of Elder Evils, which Urol took an interest in. They also found a pouch with 700 gold pieces, 2 gems (crystal capacitor -stores psionic power worth approximately 81, 000 gp & slender minor crystal worth 375 gp which worked similar to a psionic scroll/wand with one power a 0 level spell, but no one knew what that might be).

"Did you hear that?" Saris asked.

"I did," Ken-ji said. "Something outside. Perhaps a distance away."

Together the two did a quick investigation outside and came back to report that one of the patrols the now dead Ras-ka had mentioned was headed in their direction. "It looked like some troglodytes carrying a few kopru. They are going from building to building," Saris informed them.

"The trogs are probably being controlled or dominated by kopru," Urol speculated helpfully, apparently having no hard feelings against the group for killing Ras-ka.

"I'd like to talk with them. They may not be bad if we approach them calmly," Viselys said, earning him an are-you-crazy look from just about everyone except Irgzid, but only because his facial features were harder to read.

"If my troglodyte brothersss are under the kopru control, then you mussst sssave them," Irgzid said to Viselys, which meant that his look must have been one of earnest belief.

"I say let's let them pass if we can," Duxsil offered more prudently.

"I can cast an Invisibility Sphere to cloak us all," Liamae volunteered, to which everyone agreed.

Liamae spoke the magic words softly then stood watching the door. Everyone else seemed to follow her gaze.

A few moments later the troglodytes entered with their kopru masters carried between them. Upon seeing the freshly dead, decapitated illithid the trogs put down the kopru and examined the corpse, noticing that it was missing goods. Duxsil unconcerned with ruining Liamae's spell effect on him immediately blasted a chain lightning spell to zap the kopru, which seriously hurt the first one, wounded the second even worse, and killed the trogs outright.

"Well, I guess we won't be saving them," Liamae muttered with a smirk, "and they just lost their ride," she added indicating the wounded kopru.

Saris quickly fired off some arrows to kill one of the wounded kopru and wounded another. This effectively broke Liamae's spell effect on him, but she assured the others with a quick succession of looks, shakes and nods that the rest of them were still covered, so to speak. Urol, having known this, decided not to attack, watching Irgzid who seemed unsettled, but who also did nothing.

The remaining kopru moved forward, pulling themselves with their forearms, having no legs, only fish-like tails.

Ken-ji cast a flaming sphere, which killed another of the kopru, leaving only two. Viselys held himself, seemingly torn by the fight Duxsil had started, but seeing no real attack from the kopru. As far as he could see the kopru hadn't even really done anything to defend themselves. Ignoring Viselys' invisible scowl of disapproval, Duxsil cast a fire ball finishing off the last two kopru. The group collected 4 coral holy symbols worth approximately 50 gp each.

"What are these for?" Saris asked, unconcerned with the lack of fight from the patrol party.

"I believe they are used as foci for spells. These symbols are for Demogoragon, the monkey demon we encountered on our way to Farshore by way of the jungle," Urol said as he frowned remembering his all too close encounter with the demon then shook himself. "How strange. The monkey demon is not aquatic."

"Well, we know that another patrol is out here somewhere, so let's get a move on. I don't want to run into them if we can help it. They probably have worse germs being all slimy," Liamae said, only half of which made sense to the others who agreed they needed to move.

They headed towards the ziggurat as sneakly as possible to get a look before deciding their next move. To their chagrin there were indeed a LOT of kopru guarding the ziggurat, very big, very strong looking kopru. After they had seen enough to know they weren't going in the front door as it was, the group huddled in a safe-ish place to discuss things. Liamae, of course, still struck with her germ phobia stood apart from the others, but close enough to hear.

"I've been giving some thought to the cerulean veil. I think that if we did destroy the tear we'd be in a sort of bubble with the water chasing us. We'd probably be fine to get out of here in time, 16 hours being the better part of half a day. We may even have a bit more time than that with all the nooks and carnies the water would have to fill," he whispered.

"I'm not sure that destroying it is really the best thing, though. I mean, wouldn't that just allow the aboleth to reanimate and take over again?" Duxsil asked, still unconvinced by that plan, especially in light of all those who had suggested it; inbred hybrids, spirits of the long dead, and the now dead illithid just didn't seem reliable sources of good advice. "We should go scope out Tlaloc's Tear, just the same. Perhaps we could steal it."

"Steal it? To what end if not to destroy it?" Urol asked confused.

"Well, I'm sure that there are guards on that thing. If we were to take them out and steal the tear then the other kopru at the temple may be distracted," Duxsil offered meaningfully.

"Ah, I see. Not bad," Saris said a bit admiringly.

"Let's go," Viselys nodded in agreement, and the group headed out through the city utilizing a map found in the illathid's book.

As they headed in the direction indicated by the map the group began to hear a grinding from around the next corner. Proceeding with caution they turned the corner and were faced with a gigantic purple worm blocking the way, pinned by spires from a building that appears to have bit down on it like a bear trap.

Liamae looked anxiously at the buildings as the others assessed the situation. Duxsil had a particularly shrewd look on his face as he eyed the struggling worm, wounded, but still very much alive.

"You know," Duxsil began slowly, "I wonder if it's possible to charm the worm and use it to attack the ziggurat? I mean, we'd have to charm it, heal it, and free it, first. I'm sure sending it in the direction of some tasty rocks and chewy kopru wouldn't be out of its nature."

The others stared blankly at him for a moment. Then suddenly they all became enthralled by the shear mad genius of the idea and it fast became their new plan.

Duxsil charmed the monster first, while Ken-ji used Animal empathy to communicate their intent to help it with Urol's help. Together the three were able to calm the beast enough for Ken-ji to calmly approach it to cure its critical wounds. Impaled as it was, it could not be completely healed, but at least it was stabilized. After that, Viselys and Saris set about breaking the stone of the building that pinned the gargantuan worm while Ken-ji calmed it. Liamae and Irgzid kept look out, and it was a good thing they did.

"We've got company," Liamae said as she spotted what could only be the second patrol.

"Quick! Behind the purple worm," Viselys directed.

Saris was dominated by 2 kopru, and charged to hit Ken-ji. Irgzid asked again that the party not harm the trogs, as they were controlled by the kopru, and therefore were innocent of their actions. Duxsil, unmoved by their trog ally's pleas, decided to blast the entire patrol, trogs and kopru alike, with a snow storm. Liamae, still overcome with her germ phobia, opted to cast a spell allowing her to meld with stone. Viselys did some slicing and dicing at the kopru, while Ken-ji, reluctant to hurt a friend, conjured an obscuring mist in the hopes that Saris would be unable to do further harm to him. Saris, however, landed a few hits anyway.

With the obscuring mist obscuring everything for everyone, Duxsil threw a lightning bolt at the only kopru he could see, which happened to be the one in the lead, the rest still lined up behind. The lightning bolt killed the lead kopru, then proceeded to shoot down the line, killing the other two and fortunately only harming Viselys. With the death of the kopru, Saris was freed and stopped his attack on Ken-ji just in time. And again the entire trog contingent with the kopru was slaughtered in the skirmish.

The group quickly returned to their efforts to free the worm, while Liamae stayed in the stone until they were done making germ filled dust (as she saw it) fly. Urol healed the worm, which seemed pleased to stay nearby while the group slept and healed in another of Duxsil's secure shelters.

Continue to Chapter 13...

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