The characters in this session were:
- Alabastor Quan, a gnome rogue-turned-illusionist and failed circus ringmaster; wielder of a cursed dagger and member of the Ravenswing Thieves’ Guild.
- Armand Percival Reginald Francois Eustace de la Marche III, a suspiciously pale, apparently human noble and sorcerer, and certainly not a ghoul (how dare such a thing be suggested).
- Caulis, a homunculus warlock liberated from its master; has made a pact with certain Faerie Powers.
- Garvin Otherwise, a human rogue and burglar of the Ravenswing Thieves’ Guild, with a very, very peculiar past and a zoog pet, Lenore.
- An ancient and enigmatic Lengian cleric of the Mother of Spiders, name unknown. She wears bulky ecclesiastical garments covering an uncertain number of limbs and goes by “Sister.”
- Yam, an eccentric gnome illusionist and local graduate student at Umbral University. Yam cares little for money. Yam is curious. Yam is Yam.
XP Awarded: 400 XP.
The hansom carriage trundled through the city, Caligina dropping the group where they pleased. Both Armand and Garvin asked to return to the Dreamer’s Quarter. The sun had set, so the Ravenswing thief – adopting a stealthy manner under the cover of night – quickly scaled the tower opposite the griffin-guarded gates, using his Boots of Wall-Walking, in hopes of finding some clue as to the identity of the cloaked watcher. Little could be found here save for a few hoofed footprints in the snow. A cambion? Some sort of fey? He could not be sure. He returned to the street and began making for Corvid Commons – home.
Armand, meanwhile, got off at his townhouse, looking forward to an evening of experimentation. He opened the door, expecting to find Bernard awaiting him with a drink, but something was wrong – the richly patterned carpet was scuffed, paintings askew, and here was Bernard, slumped against a wall in the opulent foyer, staining the wood-paneled wall with leaked embalming fluid! The reanimated butler looked to have been killed, his head smashed. Armand seethed. What scoundrel would dare defile his home in this manner? His rage turned to focus as he heard a shriek upstairs – his other servant, Colline, must be in danger!
Armand acted quickly. With a whispered incantation he cast blink, slipping into the Ethereal Plane. He drifted up the stairs to the source of the screams and found Colline backed into a corner, menaced by two shaven-headed thugs, wearing studded leather vests and bracers. Their scalps and arms had been tattooed with crimson markings like the coils of a serpent or a vast worm, and they also openly displayed Thieves’ Marks. One carried a knife, the other a club.
“Where’s your master, then?” one of the ruffians demanded.
Armand, carefully, reached into his bag and extracting two small phials – distillations of fairy-crab-apple essence, powerfully concentrated in his laboratory. Blinking suddenly back into the material plane, he thrust both phials into the mouths of the burglars, smashing glass and releasing the potent magical liquid within. The thugs gurgled as the essence inveigled its way into their minds, filling them with suicidal impulses. One quite calmly slit his own throat, a great goat of blood spewing everywhere as he sawed beneath his chin. The other took out a flintlock pistol, aimed it at his temple, and blew out his brains.
Armand tsked. “Colline, are you alright?” the gentleman-sorcerer asked.
“I’m… I’m alright now, sir,” the servant said, quaking. “Poor Bernard! These men, they forced their way inside, killed Bernard… you arrived just in time!”
“Indeed.” Armand examined the corpses, noting the Crowsbeak amulets they wore. “We’ll have to invest in some more magical security. I’ll send for an Abjurer to ward the house. In the meantime, we’d best conceal these bodies. The greenhouse, for now, I think. I’ll have Bernard reanimated on the morrow.” He frowned and set about moving the cadavers.
Meanwhile, the carriage had passed over the Bridge of Sins and through Behemoth Bend into the shabby, eccentric district of Mooncross, where Yam made his abode, along with his temporary house-guest, Alabastor. The two gnomes made for the boarding house where Yam and Yam’s duplicate rented a chamber.
Yam’s quarters were those of an involved, even obsessive, if perhaps occasionally slightly scatterbrained student, one unworried by clutter, though the room itself was quite clean. The two Yams – Yam Alpha and Yam Beta – had installed a somewhat rickety bunkbed. Magical texts, small illusions, ongoing experiments, clockwork mechanisms, and other bits and pieces were scattered through the chamber. A hammock is suspended in one corner, for Alabastor.
The two relaxed, talking over the two very different meetings, when the sound of heavy boots became audible on the stairs. A voice could be heard:
“Room’s supposed to be up here. Should be three gnomes in all. Your powder dry?”
Another voice grunted an affirmation.
Yam suppressed a yelp of alarm and, with quick thinking and a practiced hand, immediately wove an illusion, projected onto the other side of the door, to make it appear as if there were simply a blank wall instead of a door.
The booted footprints came closer, stopping outside the door.
“What the…?” one gruff voice said. “Room should be here… do we have the wrong building?” There was more confused discussion, and then the footsteps receded. From the window, Yam and Alabastor watched as a pair of bamboozled thugs walked through the swirling now, back into the city.
“I’m going to follow them!” Alabastor declared recklessly, and made for the door, Yam following reluctantly behind. They slunk out of the boarding house in pursuit of the two heavy-set, shaven-headed men.
The pair slunk along down an alleyway, but Alabastor’s sneaking skills proved rusty, and he slipped on a patch of ice, knocking over a pail. The thugs turned, one catching sight of the gnome. Alasbator yelped an incantation, causing one of the two thugs to fall into a deep slumber, sinking into the snow. The other ruffian cried out in alarm, drawing his pistol, and Yam, casting mirror image, sped forwards, confusing the remaining thug.
Meanwhile, the carriage had dropped Sister off at the Swelter, the docklands of Hex. The Lengian was heading to the inn at which she was staying, when suddenly an armed assailant lurched from the shadows of an alleyway and swung a heavy club at her head. She leapt to one side with surprising dexterity for an elderly woman and turned to face her attackers: two more thugs of the same gang attacking her companions, unbeknownst to the nun.
Sister twisted, facing the trollblood and cambion menacing her. With a chittered prayer to the Mother of Spiders she lashed out with one of her many limbs, connecting with the half-fiend. The man stumbled back, grunting in surprise, quickly turning to screams of pain as a hideous putrescence swept his body, spreading from Sister’s touch – flesh swelling and turning gangrenous in moments, necrotizing rot spreading with horrible rapidity, as if he had been bitten by a monstrous spider. Dropping his weapon he lurched away, desperately clutching at his limbs and face, pressing snow to the decomposing wound in some vain attempt to stop the pain. The other thug snarled and charged, but Sister danced aside and darted towards a nearby door, slamming it behind her and bolting it shut. She dashed up a flight of stairs past a shocked gnome and into a large warehouse where shiftless workers loitered. Skirting the heavy crates she circled round outside, slipping past the thug still battering at the door. With speed and stealth the aged nun crept through the snow, heading for Mooncross.
She reached the district after a hurried rush through the snow – only to find Yam – well, several Yams! – and Alabastor also embroiled in combat! Sister conjured a bolt of sacred flame, but it missed the remaining thug. Yam cast thunderwave while the criminal swatted at Yam’s illusory duplicates. He was blown back, tripping over his comrade, and Yam leapt to his chest.
“Who sent you!” Yam demanded. “What did they want?!”
“Ah! Get off me!” the man grunted. “Crowsbeak, Crowsbeak! Sent us to send you a message.”
“Message?” Alabastor asked.
“The Puppet Factory. Nettie Toadlung. You lot have been mucking up their schemes.”
“Tell them to GET BETTER SCHEMES!” Yam yelled, eyes crackling with arcane puissance. “Dipshit…”
The thug growled as the gnome released him, slinking into the alleys – just as Yam Beta, as the rustic Yam of Arcadia had been dubbed, arrived.
“Yam!” Yam Beta exclaimed. “Come quick! Sebastian needs you! Experiment gone wrong! Hurry!”
Yam yelped and followed their extraplanar twin, leaving Alabastor and Sister alone in the snow.
Another was also visited by the enforcers of the Crowsbeak Thieves’ Guild. Caulis’ quarters were in the semi-abandoned and deteriorated tower of its creator, now dead for years. Books and eldritch ephemera – scrolls, spell components, reagents, arcane diagrams, and models – were everywhere, but the study and living quarters had been infested with lichen and flowering plants, and the old spells dedicating to conjuring demons have been supplanted by invocations of Faerie beings. A small chair with a nest of patchwork blankets had evidently been re-purposed as a makeshift bed. Caulis had missed the animal messenger sent by Master Melchior – tragically, the creature had been devoured by one of the alchemical mutant strays that teem in the alleyways of Caulchurch, the laboratory district. It was with some surprise that the homunculus heard a heavy rap upon the door. The mandrake-root-creature sent down its psuedodragon familiar to spy upon the unexpected visitors, who reported (another) unpleasant, leather-clad, tattooed, shaven-headed thug. Had Caulis possessed eyebrows and not merely moss, it would have cocked one.
Pondering what to do next, Caulis hesitated, then cast a spell of disguise, making itself appear as a servant. A lockpick clicked deftly in the lock and the brute was upon the homunculus. Thinking quickly, Caulis wove a charm to bewitch the thug into friendship.
“Ah,” it said. “You must be looking for Caulis.”
“Er… yeah,” the thug said, shaking his head, muddled by the enchantment. “You seen it?” The thug seemed almost chummy, as if he had not just broken into a wizard’s tower, but was conversing with some fellow working stiff.
“The homunculus is not here.”
“That’s alright. I can wait.”
“I believe it headed down to the sewers, to hunt down the hag, Wicked Peggy, in the Fever Street sewers.”
“Ah, thanks.” The thug said. “Just wanted to have a, ah, conversation. Crowsbeak business.”
“I see,” Caulis, still disguised, said. “Well, if it returns I’ll let it know.”
The Crowsbeak thug nodded, still enchanted, and trudged back out into the city. Caulis sent its psuedodragon to follow, and the thug indeed headed down into the sewers. It returned reporting that the Starvelings appeared to be on high alert, fortifying their underground casino, the Rat & Roach.
Some distance to the west, Garvin arrived back in Corvid Commons.
Garvin’s quarters were within an old attic with a single door, now sealed and unworking – the main entrance was the single window, carefully trapped with a gnomish slivermine. The furnishings are sparse, but give the room of unfinished wood at least something of the feeling of home. Of course, the place was riddled with hidey-holes – loose floorboards, bricks, hidden panels – in which the veteran thief kept his more valuable possessions.
Garvin was slowly winding down, preparing for a much-needed rest, when he heard a scraping, clunking sound on the wall of his building – someone scaling the wall. Grimacing, Garvin enveloped himself in the furthest shadows of the attic room, awaiting the intruder. A figure appeared in the window – bulky, bald-headed, menacing. Garvin’s eyes narrowed and, abruptly, the thief had flickered through space and time to the rooftop across the street. He now watched from behind as the thug smashed through his window and entered his attic room. A satisfying click and then a hiss of metal indicated the slivermine had been detonated; there was a dim flickering of gleaming silver, the gleam of bright blood, and an anguished shriek as the man was half-eviscerated.
Garvin smiled, slipping on his goggles, and peered into the darkness. The man was still alive, but bits of metal were embedded in his torso, legs, and arms, bloodying him badly. He staggered, bleeding, and lurched for the door, opening it only to discover a brick wall. He swore and began angrily tearing up the attic – searching, it seemed, for Garvin, or perhaps for valuables. Garvin let the thug ransack the place for a moment before shimmying down from his perch and climbing the wall, ducking out of sight when the thug momentarily stuck his head out the window. Slipping back up into his quarters, Garvin pressed a knife to the thug’s throat.
“Crowsbeak I see,” Garvin said, knife briefly dipping to the amulet round the man’s neck. “Bothering a Ravenswing guildsman isn’t the wisest move. Your bosses looking to start a war?” He noted the red worm tattooed on the man’s scalp – insignia of the Bloodworms, a vassal gang of the city’s largest thieves’ guild.
The thug froze, blood still dripping from his wounds. “They’re trying to prevent one,” he said. “You’ve been sticking your nose places it doesn’t belong. Interfering with operations – you and that little group you run with. Crowsbeak sent me to put a stop to it.”
“They sent you to kill me?”
“To warn you. Not just you. Sent out enforcers to your friends, too.”
Garvin frowned. “Alright. I’ll let you go. I don’t want a war any more than you do. I won’t be so kind to future intruders. Best make that clear.”
The man swallowed and lurched away, back towards the window. Garvin kicked at a shard of glass, the fragments of mirror reflecting his face in a thousand broken pieces. He needed to talk with the others…
The group gathered at the Green Star, after a flurry of hasty messages. This late, the bar was busy and loud, giving the group cover as they discussed their respective intrusions. Garvin scanned the crowd, looking for Crowsbeak symbols.
“It’s unacceptable,” Armand said, fuming.
“We don’t want to provoke them further, right now,” Garvin said. “That was a warning. That was the Crowsbeak being polite.” He looked to Armand. “If they catch wind you killed their men there will be Hell to pay. I think we should find somewhere safe to hole up, just for a day or so, while things cool down.”
“What about the Puppet Factory?” Sister suggested. “Vespidae’s hideout.”
The suggestion was both inspired and disconcerting. No one had seen Vespidae, the so-called “Thirteenth Queen,” since her bloody performance at the Chiaroscuro.
“Worth looking into,” Caulis said.
“Maybe we should talk to Ravenswing,” Alabastor added. “See what they know.”
“Good idea,” Garvin assented. “Alright. Let’s go visit Vespidae’s new hive, see if we can shelter there for awhile. It’s certainly out of the way. Then you and I can stop by the Witching Hour.”
The Puppet Factory, appropriated as a home for Vespidae, proved difficult to enter given that the doors and windows remained boarded up, and had now accreted parts of a waspkin nest. Waspkin buzzed around the dilapidated place, but seemed to recognize the party – especially after they doused themselves in some of the leftover alchemical pheromones Vespidae had given them. After some clambering the group dropped down to find that the Puppet Factory had been fully transformed into a burgeoning new Hive. Here, countless waspkin – many lame, missing limbs or eyes, or otherwise marked as pariahs from mainstream waspkin society – busied themselves sculpting or assembling complicated clockwork automata and creating other artwork. Although most of these creations resembled waspkin, all were unusual, even surreal in style – highly individualistic.
Speaking with the waspkin clerics here, the party learned that the upper levels of the building were to be the foundation for a new Hive, in which they were considered honorary members. The lower levels, however, were given over to certain challenges and trials of faith, designed to test “initiates.” Deepest down the Yellow Sign worn by Vespidae herself was interred – a prize for any willing to descend to these depths.
The party rested in the Hive’s upper rooms for a time. After recovering from the ordeal with the Crowsbeak thugs, Garvin and Alabastor headed to the Witching Hour to speak with their Ravenswing contacts. They met with Felix Stonemouth, the thief rescued from the Van Lurken house, and recounted their encounter with the Crowsbeak. Felix seemed unsurprised. The Ravenswing, it seemed, had been gearing up towards a full-scale turf-war, aggressively absorbing smaller gangs. Things were reaching a boiling point. He advised the group to lay low, not to antagonize the Crows.
Returning to the Hive, the group discussed their options. Whether they decided to retrieve the Greater Mysteries for Master Melchior of the Velvet Shadow, the most obvious starting point was the Book of Dreams: Garvin had previously spent a handsome sum – eight hundred guineas – on a map of the Nightmare Tunnels where Melchior believed the Oneironomicon was hidden. The party studied this map carefully, tracing possible routes through the layers of sewers and caverns that wound down towards the Egregor Vaults. After recovering their strength they set out again for the Dreamer’s Quarter and located the entrance to the Fever Lane sewers.
Descending from Nightmare Alley, the group crept down a fetid tunnel of mouldering brickwork. They approached the main tunnel, a broad tube fed by a steady, sluggish gush of water and waste, filling the air with a bilious reek strong enough to make the eyes sting. The tunnel doubled as a storm drain and thus was swollen with water from recent precipitation, mixing in with sewage. A grate blocked passage south. Alabastor slunk back to the grate control chamber near the entrance; a rusty lever was set into the wall of the room, along with a complex series of valves and dials seemingly monitoring water-levels throughout the sewers. Alabastor pulled the lever, lowering the grate.
Water and sewage rushed through the tunnel, but as the characters prepared to head south, something bubbled and seethed in the water, and the group retreated. Caulis called on its psuedodragon familiar to scout; the creature returned with a report of something large and many-headed wallowing in the sludge. Alabastor suggested a way forwards: he would conjure an illusion of the brickwork to mask their movements, so that the creature would perceive nothing but a blank wall. He hastily wove the illusion and the party hurried along the walkway as stealthily as possible. When Alabastor himself attempted to follow, however, a brick crumbled beneath his tread, plopping into the water.
The thing in the water stirred. At first all that could be seen was a monstrous claw, but gradually the hybrid abomination emerged from the ooze: a huge, scaled horror with the body of an albino crocodile and three heads, crocodilian, eel, and gigantic rat, with a lamprey for a tail. A pair of monstrous pincers protruded form its flanks. Sister recognized the monster as a putrecampus, a “Chimera of the Sewers.” Sensing movement, the tunnel-monster breathed forth a plume of miasmatic gas from its crocodile-head, catching both Caulis and Alabastor. The homunculus ignored the fume, but Alabastor collapsed, spasming, his face turning black as poison wracked his body. Desperately, Caulis conjured a phantasmal force, creating for the chimera the delusion that the roof had collapsed on it. The other party-members watched as the thing writhed and splashed as if in pain, blood spurting from its several mouths. Hurriedly, Sister, Armand, and Garvin dragged Alabastor to safety down a side-passage, Sister restoring him with a cure spell. Meanwhile the putrecampus shook off the illusion and charged, trying to follow the party down the passage; only its great size prevented it from reaching them, and they ducked into the adjoining grate control room.
Penned now in the second grate control room, the party caught their breath, Alabastor still shaking and wheezing, vomiting blood as his body struggled to expel the toxic gas. Scrawled on the wall not far from the grate control was a rectangle, seemingly drawn in chalk. Above the rectangle, also written in chalk, was a mysterious symbol, which Sister identified as the mark of the Antinomian, the Lawbreaker, a god of chaos. Lying before the rectangle was a body, badly decayed, garbed in mouldering rags which look like some sort of uniform, such as a prisoner or inmate might wear. The corpse, on close inspection, had been riddled with rat-bites and partially eaten by vermin. Clutched in one hand was a piece of pale chalk. Though at first glance the chalk looked white, the colour was actually quite strange and difficult to describe.
Sister began experimenting with the chalk, drawing symbols on the rectangle, and, eventually, drawing other shapes. After some investigation she discovered that the chalk could be used to create two-way portals, connecting one scrawled doorway to another!
“This will certainly be useful,” she said.
“Hmm,” Armand mused. “We need to cross the tunnel, but that thing is in the way. What if I took it and blinked across the tunnel, then drew a portal on the other side?”
“Worth a try,” Garvin said.
Armand took the chalk and crept back into the tunnel. Before the putrecampus could attack he cast blink – but due to some eldritch interference or other phenomena, the spell went sour, wild magic coursing through the gentleman-sorcerer! In moments, a grotesque wrenching of flesh transformed him into a second putrecampus, even while the blink spell misfired, displacing him atop the other monster! The Portal Chalk lay abandoned.
The two beasts thrashed in confusion. The party looked on in horror, not realizing what had happened, but Garvin, panicking, wrenched the grate control lever, once more sealing the tunnel. The grate crashed down upon both putrecampuses – but Armand, even polymorphed, blinked once more into the Ethereal Plane and was mercifully spared. There was a sound of bones snapping as the beast’s rat-head lolled on a broken neck, and the thing wrenched itself out from the grate, retreating into the depths of the sewers.
Armand rematerialized as the party crossed the now-unguarded tunnel, having retrieved the Portal Chalk. Still polymorphed, he managed to make his identity clear before the party could attack. Relieved, the group descended from the Fever Lane sewers into the upper caverns of the Nightmare Tunnels.
As they passed deeper below, past the churning sewers of modern Hex and into the tunnels beneath, the hair on the back of their necks stood up and an almost electric sensation coursed throughout their bodies. Sounds become muted, strangely soothing, yet, at the same time, filled with an ineffable menace, a kind of eerie ponderous portentousness. It was as if they had stepped into a dream. Images drift suddenly unbidden through their minds. A pyramid of glistening teeth that stretches to the moon. Ivy, parasitic and invasive, choking the streets of a city, engulfing everyone in its vines. Carnivorous trees stretching pallid limbs out to snatch at passing children. A churning sea where something old and malignant swells and broods on ancient slights.
There was a sensation, also, of potentiality, brimming in their fingertips, and in their brains.
Armand found it difficult to press ahead in his putrecampus form, the tunnel being too narrow – but then, queerly, the walls seemed to stretch to accommodate his bulk, snapping back into place as he passed. It seemed that reality was somewhat malleable here.
Sister called for a halt and offered a brief prayer to the Mother of Spiders while studying the map. Her augury proved fruitful, as a route through the caverns gleamed on the parchment.
“This was,” the nun urged, pointing down the tunnel marked “Spiders” on the map. Webs swathed the walls of this tunnel, crazed in a mad profusion of designs which at first seemed random but which, upon further investigation, revealed themselves to be spelling out words – obscenities, expressions of lust or love or anguish, symbols of unknown power. The fist-sized purple spiders who tended to the webs watched with unnervingly intelligent eyes. Their susurrus of chitters formed unmistakable rhythms, a rustling alien song.
Armand, blundering through the tunnel, destroyed innumerable webs. Frantically, the spiders began spinning words in Aklo, which Sister could translate: PLEASE STOP DESTROYING OUR HOMES.
Armand ceased and, after a moment of concentration, succeeded in returning to his humanoid form. “Sorry,” he said, an apology undercut by the aristocratic disdain forever dripping from his voice.
“Can you understand me?” Sister said.
YES, the spiders wove. WHO ENTERS OUR LARDER. Punctuation seemed difficult for them.
“I am a servant of the Mother of Spiders,” Sister said. “Goddess of dreams.”
GREETINGS HOLY ONE.
“Greetings,” Sister said. “What can you tell us about these caverns?”
DO NOT LIGHT THE WAY, the spiders urged. Then, moments later: WE THIRST FOR UNREAL BLOOD. WE HUNGER FOR DREAMFLESH.
Garvin made sure that Lenore was safely hidden. The party confessed they had no food suitable for the spiders, but Sister’s status as a nun of the Mother of Spiders earned them safe passage nonetheless.
The cavern beyond had been swathed with more thick webs, and several creatures struggled in the sticky mass. One was a huge pale moth with beautiful porcelain-white wings veined with red, a monstrous proboscis juddering from its head; it thrashed madly, trying to escape. Several web-swathed bodies also hung in the webs, obscured by silk. Most notable, perhaps, was a huge, hulking thing, a gigantic beast with pinkish eyes, yellow fangs in a vertical slit of a mouth, and weird brachiating arms, four in all – Sister recognized it instantly as a gug, a voracious Dreamland native. The thing wore crude hides and was covered in tattoos, but has been utterly snared by the webbing, and though still half-conscious seemws to be slipping into a torpor. Bones and bits of decaying flesh qwre scattered throughout the intricate webs, along with occasional items – detritus leftover from previous victims.
The party was preparing to hurry onwards when a voice cooed softly from nowhere: “Ah… visitors.”
A face appeared, first pallid vampiric teeth and violet eyes in a visage pale and perfect as a doll’s or a theatrical mask, framed by long, dark hair. This face – exquisitely beautiful, feminine, but alien and unsettling – was followed by a body, huge and fat and bloated, the body of an enormous arachnid, supported by eight – or are there nine, or ten? – spindly, delicate legs. The spider-thing perched above the party in her webs. “Newcomers. Tasty-looking newcomers…” She cocked her head, noting Sister’s garb. “Ah… a woman of the cloth.” She bowed.
Sister returned the greeting. “We’re just passing through, on our way to the lower tunnels,” she said.
“I see,” the spider-thing said. “My name is Maeve. Normally I would not let such delicious-looking morsels wander past unmolested, but given your affiliations… well, I shall make an exception.”
“We, ah, appreciate that, I’m sure,” Sister said. “Anything you can tell us about what lies ahead? Or of the Cavern of Fear?”
“The gugs expand their little empire,” Maeve said. “They have a city down below, in the place where the bounds of waking world and slumber fray. But they grow bolder, colonizing the caves beyond the Seven Hundred Steps of Slumber.”
Sister nodded, old memories of the gugs making her grimace. “We may return,” she said. “It’s nice to know that not everything down here wants to eat us.”
“Well,” Maeve said. “I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I don’t want to eat you; but, for the sake of piety, I shall restrain myself.” She smiled enigmatically.
Judging it unwise to linger further lest the spider-thing changed her mind, the group pressed on. They came now to the cavern marked “Intact Guardians” on the map. In the black, dripping depths, strange statues of peculiar metal stood silent vigil, untainted by rust, unmoving. Careful to heed the spiders’ advice and avoid any light, the party pressed forwards, seeing only with Darkvision, Garvin having equipped his goggles. The statues were horrifying. Scything limbs, clacking mandibles, razor-tipped tentacles, serrated teeth, all twisting and shifting and flickering – as a person passed the statue would morph, assuming the guise of that individual’s most phobic nightmare. Several party-members were too shaken by these monstrosities to cross the chamber, but through a clever use of the Portal Chalk – some characters returning to the grate control room via one portal, while Caulis scrawled a new portal on the other side of the Guardians – the room was passed.
Mere steps later, however, the group found another gruesome sight. Sprawled in deflated-looking heaps in the middle of this cavern were the bodies of three ghouls, nearly-naked, their skins ritually scarified, broken spears and flint daggers lying nearby. The corpses at first looked like withered sacks or piles of empty clothes. Closer inspection revealed that their bones had mostly collapsed or been consumed. Horribly wounds marred their skin where something sharp pierced their bodies to suck the marrow from their bones. Several of the bodies had glossy white eggs laid inside them.
“Marrowmoths,” Caulis said. “Bone-sucking insects.” It shivered. “Let’s return to the grate room for a moment. We could all do with a moment’s rest, but I don’t want spend it here.” It scrawled a doorway on one cave-wall using the Portal Chalk. The party stepped through – but, when Sister and Alabastor reached the other side, they realized that, quite suddenly, they were alone. Garvin, Caulis, and Armand had vanished, seemingly without a trace.
Images: Thief concept art, screenshots from Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, Outlast.