We were about a mile down below ground when the terror began to take hold. I had quaffed a few extracts before we headed down into the darkness, and one had me feeling particularly invincible. Those are the worst, when they begin to wear off. One minute you’re ready to firebomb a dragon’s lair, the next you’re a frail little fleshbag that just wants to go home. Anyways, the cavern was dark and terrifying, is my point. It was okay, though. I had my tools, my potions and bombs. They could keep me safe. They always did, those good tools. Yes, yes, good good tools.
I wasn’t really there for a while, then the godsdamned basiderons were upon us: awful, freakish plant creatures with hungry maws. I’d read much about these creatures, I knew their weaknesses, their strengths…and the powerful hallucinogenic effects of the spores they release into the air. I got excited about that. My team sprang into action, like the trained professionals they mostly are if they are being paid well enough or are in danger. Natalia began her sweet songs, cutting through the oppressive silence of the cavern, while Solven sussed out the situation from the back, carefully looking for a winning strategy to employ against the enemy, as he always did. Mourundar and Sa’diyah went to work with their altogether bloodier tools, a good steel blade and razor sharp arrows. Sa’diyah took to them like a woodsman to a forest, cutting out wide swaths of green flesh with her great blade, while Mourundar loosed arrows faster than the eye could see, finding his target again and again. As for me? I performed my favorite experiment: I investigated whether the damn things could burn. As is often the case, my research was highly successful.
Just around then things went south. Natalia took a dive into the dirt of the cavern floor and started swimming around. It looked like a good cavern floor for swimming, and it looked like she was having fun. Dammit. I hate it when people have fun without me. Then I saw Mourundar and Solven looking utterly confused, eyes fixed upwards as though there were some great giants towering over us in the cavern along with the basiderons. The hallucinogens had gotten to all of them, then. All except Sa’diyah and myself. It was really too bad. I do love a good round of hallucinations. I suppose Sa’diyah’s iron constitution kept her safe, and I’ve been exposed (mostly on purpose) to so many weird substances, I guess the spores weren’t strong enough to affect my system much at all. Still, I noticed that everything had taken on a lovely pink glow after the basiderons released their spores, so I suppose there was that, at least.
Sometime later the plant monsters were dead, but I don’t exactly remember how. I’m pretty sure it had something to do with Sa’diyah’s raging flurry of cuts, some explosions, and a number of arrows. Sa’diyah looked like she’d taken a few blows while she’d been hacking them down, so I handed her a couple of potions to fix her up. Then we were poking around the refuse of the cavern, looking for baubles and clues as to what could have become of Merilin’s party of explorers, when Natalia stumbled upon a veritable treasure trove of dead bodies. Well, there were dead bodies, and treasure, so yes, naturally, there was a treasure trove of dead bodies. Natalia found a signet ring on one of them bearing the mark of the Council of Truth, so we knew we were on the right track. There was a dead dwarf, too. Solven recalled that there was a dwarf on Merilin’s missing team of explorers (Let’s called them Merilin’s Marauders, shall we? Won’t that be more fun?), so he reckoned that maybe the dead dwarf was an indicator that we were on the right track, too. But hey, I figure dead dwarves are probably just laying around all over the place down in the deep places of the world, so who knows? Anyways, Natalia remembered that she’d seen some footprints down on the ground when she’d been flopping around like a drowning ogre baby (you most certainly should not ask how I would know what such a thing looks like), so we decided to follow those. No one had the Track feat, but it was okay—the GM ruled they were obvious enough for us to follow, so off we went. We followed the track to a wall which, upon further investigation, turned out to be illusory, concealing a solid door of wood and iron next to the symbol for the Council of Truth. Truly, an exciting find. The door was locked, but we got in anyways, like we usually do.
I stopped paying too much attention to what everyone else was doing, because there was a truly interesting chamber we found. Interesting is a dumb way to describe the chamber, even though I said truly interesting, which is better but still not best and not even almost best. Just better than regular old interesting. What the chamber was was fucking magnificent, I’m trying to say. The chamber had a great old cauldron in it, iron black and pitted, just like in the stories. Three pillars made of bone surrounded the cauldron, each pillar capped with a skull that emanated light, one red, one blue, and one yellow. Upon closer inspection, we discovered that the glow was coming from liquid inside the skulls. It was exciting and fascinating and I couldn’t wait to figure out what it was. There were paintings on the walls, three very curious paintings: a skeleton with a red apple in its right hand, a blue jaybird in its left, and a golden ring in its chest; a dark castle being shattered by a tidal wave, its highest tower marked with the shape of a rose; and a demon drinking from a golden goblet while holding a bloody red heart. There were lumps of lead and packets of colored powder on a shelf in an alcove, two packets each of red, blue and yellow powders.
We quickly discovered that the liquids could be poured from the skulls into the cauldron, and that the liquid would replenish itself without end. Wonderful! Just wonderful! Who knows what strange magics were at work? Further investigation was required. First, we tried to mix the liquids, but to no effect. Ah well. Nothing wasted, nothing gained. The powder, then, into the liquid. Surely that will yield some effect. We added the red powder to the red liquid. Oh! What disappointment! What tragedy! To have such fine resources, ripe for exploration, and to waste them! The resultant mixture was inert. I would rather have died to the damned basiderons than waste such a precious resource! But such is the nature of investigation! We learned something, eh? We learned what did not work! An important step in the process of discovery, to be sure. And I didn’t even have anything blow up in my face, so that was doubly excellent! Truly, the inert liquid was a victory, a victory of undiscovery, which always precedes understanding! But how to proceed now? The paintings, of course! Why didn’t I think of it before? Yes, the paintings were colorful, and held clues to the secrets of the cauldron. We debated at length how we should go about combining powders and liquids, but when we reached what they call a dialectic impasse, we realized that we must, as any alchemist must, simply try something. Experimentation, the true thrill! I like demons, or at least the idea of demons. Mostly just stories about demons are what I like, and so I decided that the color combination found in the demon’s painting, red and yellow, would be our mixture. Red liquid, for the bloody heart, and yellow powder, for the golden cup. A reaction took place in the cauldron, but what resulted, I could not say. How to test the new compound’s properties? Let’s see what it does to this lump of lead? Hah! Success! One of the greatest successes, for I had done what so many before had tried to do and failed. I had turned lead into gold! The stuff of legend! I must study this mixture further, and so, after turning another lump of lead into gold with the mixture (Because who doesn’t need more gold? Not even kings!), I bottled it up to take back to my lab.
One question invites so many more, though! What other mysteries might lie undisclosed within the cauldron and these compounds? What’s that, Natalia? You and Sa’diyah found a study in another room? Perhaps we should investigate, then. There may be more clues, or even laboratory notes! What a joyous day!