The next three “days” were boring and they saw few other living things. On the eighth day they encountered insane ettins, and these were dispatched quickly. The ninth day say the heroes run into some hook horrors. These were able to be avoided, as were the band of bugbears detected early the following day. At this point the party knew Rogue Thought’s lair was close and did not want the noise of combat to put the mind flayer on alert.
For the past few days the party had to eat at least one of the braincap mushrooms per day, to stave off madness. In addition for the last two days of the journey, the faerzress was so prevalent that Marie complained of hearing a constant buzzing inside her head.
Finally they arrived at Rogue Thought’s lair. The outside was guarded by two driders and several rust monsters. These were taken care of, but they found that the dense faerzress here affected arcane magic, so that any spell of power often had some kind of side effect, often flashy and harmless, like Marie’s skin changing colour for a short time, or the spell being more difficult to control, but one time the backlash of the spell was so bad that Marie was turned into a sheep! Luckily Cundall was on hand to cast a dispel magic to return Marie back to normal.
Thistlelock had participated in most of the battles up to this point, and had proved himself to be a worthy member of the party, his mighty boughs smashing enemies. He was slowly developing a personality as well, as he came to grips with his new intelligence and way of understanding and interacting with the world. Cundall had also summoned an air elemental which provided more muscle and was able to attack the driders that were sticking to the cavern roof and firing their bows at the party.
After the creatures were killed the party explored the cavern, finding a heavy stone door at the far end of the area. The door had a lock of dwarven make, but it did not take Minimus long to pick it. Cautiously they swung the door open to reveal a bizarre sight. Four bodies were arranged around a table, as If they had been seated and inmid-conversation… then just stopped moving. There were a few oddly-colored pools of liquid around the room casting dim light and colorful shimmers across the nearby surfaces. It would have almost been calming if it weren’t for the sense of foreboding.
“Well this is a fairly jarring introduction to the lair of Rogue Thought,” said Marie. There being no obvious threats the party moved into the room. The bodies were of three male humans and a female drow. They
wee obviously dead, and a quick examination of the bodies revealed that each of them had four holes bored into the crowns of their skulls.
“I think their brains have been removed,” said Cundall, doing his best to peer into the holes.
“It’s what mind flayers do,” agreed Zelda.
The surface of the table was covered in maps, crumpled parchments, scroll tubes, and the remains of a recent meal – the food still looked fresh. The maps were large and detailed and were of the cities of Hillsfar, Mulmaster and Phlan. There were some empty scroll tubes – Marie took these – and playing cards – Minimus took these – and some crumpled parchments that turned out to be mercantile trade agreements between a drow outpost and the Red Plumes, signed by Magarl Helck. Minimus took these last as well, saying Elanil might be interested in them.
“The bodies do not bear any insignia of allegiance, they do not have any valuables and are, in fact, curiously devoid of any possessions that might identify where they came from,” said Marie. “Very strange.”
“Looky here,” said Minimus, who had lost interest in the table and was looking around the room. He pointed to a basin on the northern wall, with a small carved depression inside.
“This is getting weirder and weirder,” said Marie. “I think this depression is an imprint of a bottomup view of the underside of a human brain.”
“No doubt the mystery will become apparent when we get more information,” said Cundall. “Onward through the next door. Thistlelock, stay here and guard this door. In fact let’s close this door to the outer cavern.”
As soon as the heavy door was swung closed, Marie whistled.
“That’s better,” she said. “That door cuts out all the interference from the dense faerzress and I’m no longer hearing a constant buzzing. I think my magic will be fine from now on as well.”
They got ready to open the next door. Cundall could hear some kind of shouting on the other side. He didn’t recognise the language.
“Trouble on the other side,” he said. “They sound busy, so now is our chance to surprise them. Open the door!”
To be continued….