Quiberron chatters to everyone and no one in particular on the way back. “Did everyone see that? That was a cursed pale elf sorceress! I’ve read about them, but never seen one. She is definitely going in my book. I wish I could have gotten a closer look. How do you think the endoskeleton and exoskeleton mesh? Where would the venom glands be located?” He continues in this vein for a while, most ignoring his prattling.
Sabal, however, turns to Roland. "Those creatures,” he says,” like Erandis, are more evil and spiteful than most creatures I'm familiar with from my home...including the pale elf priestesses from earlier this evening. I am impressed that you agreed to this pact for the sake of Lord Fennix, but I do not envy your fate."
Roland gives him a rueful smile. "Then you're in good company. I stopped envying my own fate a while ago. You saw how I almost burned down the mansion. I wish I had never know these flames."
“I’m glad we didn’t antagonize her, then,” Quiberron says, leaving his musings for only a short moment. “She would have made short work of us, I think. Do you think if I went back she would tell me how the transformation process works?”
“These creatures are made using some of the vilest magics of The Scorpion Goddess,” Sabal states. “I would rather not contemplate the torture involved."
Flynn considers them with a shake of his head. "What a strange lot you make. You bargain your bodies and souls for knowledge and power and things you should not have, then you carry on like nothing has changed. What happens when it comes to collect?" Flynn flexes his sword hand. "I don't think it is of a mind to simply let you die to escape your deal. What then?"
Roland speaks up, "Then I will pay it. I am already cursed, so what is one more bane. At least this way I can do some good too. Besides, bargains rarely play out how those who sign them intend, and that sword can cut both ways." He pauses before continuing. "As for continuing on as if nothing had happened, complaining does no good. I did what was necessary, and what will be will be, regardless."
Flynn’s question pulls Quiberron a bit further from his thoughts of the half scorpion woman. “We all must spend our bodies and our lives on something,” the wizard says,“ and I can think of few things more worthy than the pursuit of knowledge. I may draw the line at spending my soul, however.”
Flynn scoffs. "You are so accepting of something you call a curse, Roland. Please. Do you really intend to die? Because if you intend to be a martyr, you can't be a victim. Pick one. Live with your decision. And don't think to lecture me on curses and sacrifices. I've lived a long life and seen my share of both. Like you, life happened in spite of me. But it doesn't mean I just lie down and accept it. Curse, gift, whatever. It will be what you make of it." Flynn looses the borrowed blade at his hip.
"Take this back. I won't play with a child's toy."
Roland takes the sword. "You misunderstand me. I intend to be neither a martyr nor a victim. Nor am I just lying down. But I am also not so arrogant as to deny that powers move in this world that are beyond my control. I did what I must because no one else would have. Unless you are suggesting we should have let the high lord die or gotten slaughtered ourselves provoking her anger.
“If I cannot be rid of this power then I will seek to master it, but whether I can or not I accept it. It is mine to bear. Same with this bargain. If I can I will seek to fulfill my oath without giving the black devil what she wants, but even if I can't I accept that I did the right thing, come what may.
“I will struggle and strive, I am just at peace with the fact that is not always enough. And if it is or isn't, I will have run the race and done my part."
Flynn shakes his head. "Ha! How you talk and how you act aren't the same at all. You speak of mastering your power--of great things moving beyond our control--but you accept the smallest of obstacles as absolute. You think I didn't see you try and leave the manor after YOU set fire to it? You think none of us would have made a bargain? We can't say now, simply because you jumped so quickly at the chance. For one so accepting of your lot, you seem so eager to flee it." Flynn sneers as he crosses his arms. He's stopped the journey in his aggravation, and his voice is rising.
Terrence: Little Terry, come out here. We need to talk.
Little Terry: Yes, Terrence?
T: I have some wonderful news for you. I've found you an understudy.
LT: What's an understudy, Terrence?
T: An understudy is an actor who learns all your parts in case something happens to you.
LT: In case something happens... Like what?
T: Something unexpected. The show must go on, right Little Terry?
LT: Um, yes Terrence.
T: Yes, what, Little Terry?
LT: Yes, the show must go on.
T: Then we're agreed. He starts today. He'll be here soon.
LT: Why is the ground shaking?
T: You'll see!
LT: OH MY GODS!
T: That's right! Meet your understudy: Gohjyrah!
LT: He's terrifying!
LT: He'll frighten the children!
T: He certainly will.
LT: Why is he that offensive color?
T: Words hurt, Little Terry.
LT: And the smell!
T: The truth also hurts, Little Terry.
LT: Why is he carrying a ha... THERE'S A HUMAN FINGER STUCK IN HIS TEETH!
T: His oral hygiene IS reproachable.
LT: WHY TERRENCE?
T: Because, Little Terry, you were so preoccupied with whether you COULD be a thorn in my side that you forgot to ask whether you should. Now, just in case you're unable to perform in a way that is acceptable to management, we have a back-up. Right, Gohji?
T: Now go wait in your dressing room Little Terry.
(Exit Little Terry)
G: That was pretty brutal.
T: Don't you start.
“Will that be all?” Erandis asks.
"I believe we are done here,” Flynn states. “We take our leave so we may return to the High Lord."
Erandis bows her head. “Go.” She looks to Terrence and Roland. “Just remember our bargain.”
"Well, I assume the Candle Man here intends his favor for the High Lord's dose,” Tyrects observes. “Will Sir Loudfire acquire his own?"
Terrence steps forward and gives a half-hearted bow. "You have me at a disadvantage, Madam. I accept your terms but I won't lie to you. I'll face whatever dangers you ask, but I won't kill a sentient being for you. If that's unacceptable to you I'll go without."
Erandis laughs darkly. “I doubt you would be useful killing anything. Let alone something which has sentience to outwit you.” And with those words she withdraws another vial and throws it to Terrence.
"You're too kind."
Whispering, Tyrects says to Terrence, "I am not sure what sentient means, but I think she's making fun of you."
Also whispering, Terrence replies, "Yes, thank you—I picked up on that. For the sake of argument, though, I'll point out that I'm wearing the clothes of a fellow I killed earlier today."
"To be fair, I didn't know you knew how to whisper. This is nice." And with that, Tyrects reslings his maul and starts to walk away from the mine entrance and back to town.
"Ha! He got you good, Terrence!" Little Terry chirps from Terrence’s pocket.
"You know, Little Terry, I think I have an idea for a NEW puppet." Silence meets those threatening words. "Yeah, I thought that would shut you up."
Flynn slowly slides the borrowed blade back through his belt. "I've had enough vengeance in my life. Nasty business, that." He rubs his wrist, mildly anxious. "We have no quarrel with you or your brood, Erandis. As they said, we are here to trade for what we need, then we intend to leave you to your peace."
Roland steps back a bit at the sight of the monstrous woman, then regains his composure. "Our need is great. I am less willing than others to do violence to get what we need..." he pauses slightly, "But I cannot promise I can or even would stop them if it came to that. I only reiterate what I and my fellows have already said." He steps forward, voice growing stronger and louder. "Name you price and we shall pay it. And if we cannot or will not, I shall, whatever it is, and my life and honor be forfeit if I do not. This I swear!" He looked the strange creature square in the eyes and stood his ground, the knot of fear he felt at her first appearance evaporating.
Erandis looks at each member of the party with a cool gaze, quietly considering their words or silence. “Fine. For every dose of venom, I require a favor from one person. You need at least two, by the looks of it.” Her eyes fall to linger on Terrence.
"I will repay the first. Name your favor that we might be done with this,” Roland agrees.
“I will call them in as I need them. A messenger will come for you when the time arrives.”
"Done and done, and thrice I say done," says Roland, swearing by an old oath.
"You might have just sold your soul." Del mutters.
The creature reaches an elven hand into a pouch at her hip, retrieving out a vial filled with a crimson liquid. She tosses it to Roland. “Do not flee when the time comes,” she says. “You would regret it.”
Roland catches it, then turns to Del. "Perhaps. But as I draw breath a soul can be rewon, without needing to break the oath that sold it. Returning the dead to life unchanged is far harder, and the High Lord needs this."
“It would be unwise to harm any of the children of the Scorpion Queen,” a hissing voice floats from the mine. “As it would be unwise to incite my vengeance.”
From the shadows, only palely illuminated by the muted magical lights, a creature creeps from the darkness of the cavern. She is tall — if such a beast can even be regarded as a she — and her pale elf torso sits upon the body and spindly legs of a white, almost eerily glowing scorpion. Venom drips from the fangs that part her lips.
"I have no desire to anger you,” Tyrects growls, “but we are short on time. Name your price for your help, we will pay. We can get gold I am sure, or goods, or a favor... The one thing we cannot lose right now is time."
Quiberron finishes his ritual and puts away his spellbook. “Ooooohh.... what’s that... I mean what is she... how interesting.” He is peering intently at the being in the cavern, making furious mental notes. “Hey Sabal, is that one of your compatriots?”
"It was an elf once….” Sabal whispers in reply. “The Pale Goddess saves her worst punishments for her own followers."
Tyrects begins to get impatient. "What is it we need from this woman?” he asks. “Just scorpion venom?"
"You say that like scorpion venom were goat's milk,” Terrence quips. “Scorpions are generally reluctant to part with it, except directly into your bloodstream."
"I agree with the loud one. Gathering such a thing is difficult," Roland says. He pauses, before adding, "And while we might perhaps be able to harvest venom sacs from slain scorpions I am getting a growing suspicion we do not want to take violently from this place anything we might be able to bargain for."
"Well…." And then Tyrects says the next loudly so his voice carries, "We need scorpion venom to heal the High Lord, and I don't want to spend more time standing in the dark woods doing nothing than I need to. If we don't get help forthcoming, I will harvest what I need to myself." With that, he unslings his hammer and stretches.
"In my experience, it is not unreasonable to be wary of scorpions." Sabal's tone is light and conversational.
Terrence examines Tyrects's battle stance. "You know, that would be something to see! An another instant matinee hit! Giant Lizard Man VS Giant scorpion! Tearing the stage apart! It would be exhilarating!"
Quiberron takes out his spell book and performs the ritual to comprehend languages. “If one of you manages to get them to respond, I want to be sure we can understand them,” he tells the group.
A single scorpion appears at the mouth of the cave. It pauses... then darts back inside.
Quiberron orders Bart to return, and opens his eyes. “Nothing too unusual for the first hundred feet or so, but there are some strange holes in the walls.”
Sabal emerges from the cave shortly after the owl, just as Terrence begins trying to address Erandis. After Roland speaks, he informs the group, "There are several tunnels further down, each lined with scorpion webs. I did not see anyone, anything else, down any of the tunnels, but I did not venture farther than the owl."
“Fascinating,” says Quiberron, peering at the creatures. “I wonder why they aren’t moving? I would suggest that none of us should make any loud noises or sudden movements until Sabal gets back.”
Quiberron cocks his head and reconsiders. “Although perhaps we should call out to whoever we are meeting. Does anyone know their name?”
"Erandis!” Terrence shouts. ”Hello! We come in peace! We'd like to negotiate a purchase!"
At the sound of Terrence’s loud voice, all the scorpions fall silent and retreat into their holes. Then, all torches snuff out and all magical light substantially dims.
“Psst... Can someone who doesn’t have puke all over their shirt take over the negotiating?” Quiberron hisses in a voice just loud enough to be heard by the party.
Terrence whispers, "There's no puke on the shirt I'm wearing! Of course, I did take it off a dead guy at the dinner party, so it could be haunted."
Roland steps forward. "Perhaps I can try talking to them." He then speaks up in a louder voice. "Ignore the theatrics of my friend, he was sincere. We come to bargain. We seek only an antidote for the high lord, and regardless of what my compatriots are willing to do, I personally pledge to fulfill any favor required in return."
"Thanks for picking up the ball, old fellow! My tongue seems to have swollen from all that poison. Your leadership is inspiring.”
Even with Roland’s words, everything remains dark and still.
Del visibly pales as she looks behind her. "In the shadows! Scorpions! Very fat scorpions." She glances down to make sure none are on her, her free hand checking her hair. "If one gets near me, I'm zapping it to the abyss," she whispers.
The scorpions are difficult to see, many of them hiding in burrows in the ground. They watch the group from their small, shrouded caves with hundreds of rounded eyes. They range from the size of a small cat to the size of a mouse, most of them comparable to a squirrel. The largest of them makes a strange clicking noise, and soon enough they are all clicking in an eerie symphony that silences any other natural noise.
However, none of them move from the mouths of their holes.
“Didn’t I tell you I hate scorpions,” Terrence stammers.
Flynn draws his borrowed sword. "Bloody puppet man. Can't you hate piles of gold or the like?"
"What can I say? The heart hates what it hates. At least we haven't been assaulted by bagpipe players... yet." Terrence looks around as if suspecting bagpipe players behind every tree or crouching in the tall grass.
In a dangerous political climate, several expeditions are made to the infamous Wilds in hopes of expanding the country, Urbane, and avoiding an all out civil war. But, when the lord in charge of the excursions is almost assassinated, tensions increase and put new pressures on the brave explorers.