Rorin looks a bit baffled by Graxx and simply says: “Oh... OK.”Turning to hear Utar’s words, the teen gets excited after receiving a direct assignment: “He won’t be drinking any til you come back, I will make sure of it!”
On the way to the West Tower:
Praxx looks at Utar with a saddened face: “You are right. We all lowered our guards and those who were willing to do so betrayed our confidence. Perhaps this is the type of sacrifice you must be willing to do in order to be an adventurer... in a way, I envy those who carry no conscience on their shoulders. It makes them immune to he weight of hard decisions...”
Drazzim seems oblivious to the conversation.
Facing the sinkhole:
Graxx is the first to brave the mess of dark water and earth this time. He walks in without hesitation and allows his body to push through the natural trap without putting too much weight on his feet. The barbaric warrior makes it across without a single scratch this time.
Utar follows his companions but his heavy arms does not allow him to be as light on his feet. Graxx extends a hand in assistance and pulls the oout of the sinkhole, but not before the cleric is poked for 2piercing damage.
Neya avoids the trap altogether. Finally getting a full understanding of just how slippery these ledges can be, the agile monk shim is her way across successfully.
Drazzim jumps in next (athletics: 7). The dwarf is as gracious as a rhinoceros. He eventually makes his way acorss but is breathing heavily and bleeding from the knees down (8piercing damage).
"I hate this place," he says.
Praxx avoids all the mess Drazzim is causing and follows Neya instead (athletics: 21). The gnome is just as careful as she was.
The bard then gets a chance to respond to Graxx and Utar's request for a song: "Aye, there will be a song alright."
The group then continues onward. The ground turns red and sticky when they pass the bodies of the executed Black Fist. Making their way into the main worship chamber, they confirm that everything is as they left it. Praxx speaks up again: "Utar, I hope you brought the broken-off tentacles with you. We should make sure whatever ritual we perform here is aimed at the entire statue. Now, I have the spell in hand, but how exactly should we go about this?"
Praxx notices the lack of suggestions and attempts one of his own: "OK... How about this: Drazzim helps me over the pool of black water. I'll take the broken bits with me. Once near the statue, I will begin my restorative ritual. It is a new spell, so I'm not sure how this will pan out. So, I'll need help. Those of you that have some connection to a deity should start praying to them. Stay a few feet away from the pool and focus on prayers on my ritual. I'm sure Torm, Tempus, and... your tree don't want this undead-birthing statue to linger either, so they may lend us a hand. How does that sound?"
(If you are willing to give this a try, each of you should roll a religion check. If you are willing and able to spend some resources on this, you may roll with advantage. Things like spell slots, ki points, even HP. Up to you, as long as it would be something your deity would like... *cough*Rage*cough*).
“While I don’t know if Elder Shade and its kin have sentience or not, I do believe they have a will to protect. As one from under their branches, I consider myself an extension of them. This abominable construction feeds off of death and fills with a false life. Let’s see what happens when there is a source of energy from true life nearby!”
Praxx takes in Utar's blessing with a forced smile. Before he can thank the cleric, Drazzim scoops the gnome up and places him on his shoulders. They enter the pool and the water reaches up to the dwarf's chin, which he realizes with a face of relief. Praxx swoops his Lute of Scribing from around his back and clears his throat. He begins to sing in Common:
"From up in the clouds, the enemy of your seed
performs a righteous deed.
It looks a little gray to the atmosphere that's been corrupted by the impure cleansing all the airways."
One by one, the words appear to be engraved on the statue itself, except they are written in Undercommon (using all three charges of his instrument). Neya understands the written words, while the others assume they match the words being sung.
Once the lyrics die down, Praxx continues to play his lute, weaving a Lesser Restoration spell into the melody. He touches his forehead to the statue while doing this.
Utar grasps his amulet and calls on Torm. Graxx invokes the wrath of Tempus. Neya summons the essence of the Elder Shade.
The green and sickly light emanating from Dagon's idol begins to lose its glow. It appears to blink back in some sort of resistance, but it eventually falters. A faint disembodied scream can be heard in the distance in a language that was surely originated in the dark depths. As it wanes, so does the greenish richness of the statue. It begins to take a more brownish color at first and then settles into a plain grey, not too different from the mundane stones all around. The broken off tentacle pieces also begin to turn, but some of the smaller chipped chunks do not seem affected by this transformation.
(OOC: I set a DC range for this group check. Praxx and you guys missed the highest of the collective DCs by just 2... These were some underwhelming rolls considering we had advantage all around. The transformation of most of the statue reflects this narrow partial success. Sorry guys... the dice have spoken.)
Graxx puts his sword in his scabbard and sighs loudly. He then approaches Drazzim with a mournful look.
"Drazzim... My brother of the sword... Fellow hater of Drow... Slayer of Kuo-Toa..."
Graxx looks into Drazzim's eyes not with a smile but not with a frown either. More of a disappointed look.
"We have been through much together. You were here when I first joined this warband at the Tea Kettle. We have shed blood together and I will never forget that. This group has remained effective and we are are still alive because of one principle. We always have each others back and we know that each other have ours."
Graxx looks around at the blood stains and signs of war in the room and looks to Neya and Utar.
"We often disagree on things but we stick to the plan that is decided upon. This way everyone knows that plan is and we can act on it and make sure everyone is safe. We were unified... Until now."
Graxx has a hint of anger.
"I was right there with you my friend! I wanted to kill these Black Fist! I still want to kill every single last one of them! But we decided that was not going to happen... At least not at first! You just had to wait a few more minutes then you could have had your fun! But no, you couldn't wait, you went against the decision and took it among yourself to do what you deemed best."
Graxx calms down and his eyes are starting to water... Just slightly..
"Drazzim... Even though you did what best and I agree with the ending, I can no longer trust you. I could never again leave you to your own bidding as I would be afraid of what might happen. I cannot be worried about your actions in battle. This causes a weakness in our defense and in our party and must unfortunately be fixed. I am not the leader of this party but I believe it is time for you Drazzim to go on your own path. Do you have anything you would like to say for yourself?"
Graxx looks around at Neya and Utar ignoring Praxx
"I believe you have touched on the main points on this matter, Graxx."
Neya then turns to Drazzim.
"I am disappointed that you made such a rash decision. You seemed you were a reasonable dwarf, while rough around the edges. However, since it seems your acting on mere suspicion have proven that last sentence false."
"From where I stand," the dwarf responds, "I made the hard decision none of you were willin' to make, and yet, were goin' to in the end anyway. True heroes need to have a warm heart, that is true. But they also need cold blood runnin' in their veins. Not every fork on the road will be an easy split between flowery paths and dead lands."
He holds his breath for a second or two and then sighs as he arrives at his conclusion: "We finish our duties here and row back to Phlan's mainland. As soon as we disembark, I'll be out of your way. It was never about the gold for me, so relinquishin' my portion of the rewards promised to us by Hurn and Liela won't be hard for me. If I am to no longer be part of the Chaotic Relief adventurin' party, then I don't want anythin' from it startin' now. I can't say I'll be leavin' Phlan, though. Plenty of work in this town. If you see me out there, don't bother sayin' hello."
He pauses and snorts from his nose. "I'll go get Rupert and the fishin' boat ready."
Praxx pipes up: "Wait. Before you go, I want to say something too. I guess I won't really find a better time than this anyway. So, here it is. I am glad we have managed to fix the Lighthouse, though it seemed to me that Harae had the means to do that from the beginning, so... what's up with that? Anyhow. I am also happy that our little impromptu ritual here seem to have worked, though we lost a small fortune in the process. Like many of you here, what I am not happy about is the manner with which we accomplished our task. Unlike some of you though, I am not ready to blame it on Drazzim alone."
He begins to tear up. "The real culprit here is... adventuring itself. Drazzim is right. He may be rash and blunt and prone to fail to consider the overall consequences of his actions, but his words ring true. This is my first time out adventuring but I can tell he is right about one thing. There is no easy split between heroes and villains. No signs telling you what is right and what is wrong. No good dead that goes unpunished or bad ones left unrewarded. I for one, am not ready to make those types of choices. I was perfectly and ignorantly happy playing songs at taverns with my band-mates. When we finally got an offer from a real talent manager, I let my wanderlust take the best of me and decide to go off on an adventure. That was self-centered and unfair to my mates. Nonetheless, I have learned a valuable lesson about myself. When we return to the mainland, I will collect my reward and share it with my fellow musicians. They deserve it. I will then go back to my normal life. This was, well... not fun, and it is definitely not for me, but I wish you all the best in your endeavors."
Praxx walks forward with the pieces of jade in his hands: "Once we hit the mainland, I can get rid of all the baubles we found, including these here pieces of jade statue and those weird looking beaten brass plates engraved with unresponsive arcane glyphs. I can then find the three of you at either Black Fist Guard Sergeant Hurn's or Sokol Family's Administrator Liela's workplace. We'll divvy up my sale's proceeds and I'll say my good byes."
Drazzim waits for Praxx to finish his speech, then silently turns around and leaves the main chamber. You can hear from just beyond the door that the dwarf is rustling the bodies a bit. You can hear him say to himself: "There we go..." and then walk off.
Praxx waits a moment to hear any potential feedback you may provide, but is otherwise clearly signaling that he is ready to leave as well.
Utar lets the dwarf leave, having said nothing. He speaks slowly, picking his words with care.
"The truth of the matter is you're both right. Drazzim made the hard choice and it cost him. Knowing him, I think he'd make it again, exactly the same. I just wish we could have known what led to Igan's death. What brought on the sudden change?..."
"I think Harae brought us here to force the issue with Grim. I think she wanted vengeance for the bit she had seen grow into a man. I think she'd have been happy with just Grim too, I don't know that others had to die, that's what I can't forgive the dwarf for, taking the choice away."
"As for the shades of grey... We're all a lot darker than when we started out in Phlan. And as the shadows come down around us, nothing is illuminated. The Black Fist. Dragon Cults. Undead everywhere."
"We need a chink of light to start illuminating things, otherwise we might not be able to see the path between right and wrong anymore. Let's gather our things and get out of this cursed place."
Graxx watches Drazzim leave and shakes his head and with a half smirk looks to Utar. Graxx has to laugh to deal with his emotions.
"Remember when I first joined up with you all what seems like so long ago. We tracked down those Kuo-Toa. Ol' Drazzim spent half that cave on his back unconscious. He has always been brash. Running right into the pool like that. Then those hungry fish came and knocked him out. Ugh. Times change and people change. I'm sure he's just mad now. We will be able to speak again, just not side by side. At least not unless he changes his heart."
Graxx then looks to Neya.
"Neya joined us shortly after that adventure. My voice of reason. Neya, you helped guide me toward a more level head. I know I'm not all the way there yet but thing's are improvin' for sure. Especially after the Tea Kettle Incident... We have to change over time or remain stagnant.
Graxx turns to Praxx.
"Master Praxx... We have indeed had our differences, they seem to increase over time. At first, I could tell you were present with us, you were engaged and helpful. Later on it seemed like your body was here but you really weren't. Almost as if someone else was controlling your body but you were elsewhere. Either way, I appreciate the healing and you tagging along when we asked. I would ask that you remain outside while we speak with Hurn and Liela as I am not sure what you may say."
Graxx turns to all.
"Speaking of unification, we should probably get our stories straight regarding what happened down here. I've never been one good at talking. What do you all think?"
"It does not need to be overly complicated. It is a simple matter of sprinkling in kernels of truth with misinformation."
"Igan and Grim caught wind of a treasure deep under the keep. They eventually found a way into an ancient structure laying deep under the island. They were able to find some treasure, but in the process, inadvertently activated some ancient magic that disabled the lighthouse and overwhelmed them with the undead. We were able to disable the magic and eventually remove the source. However, we were too late to save Igan, Grim, and the other Black Fist guardsmen."
"If anyone asks what happened to Keria and Aravele, we discovered their broken bodies earlier in the structure, bludgeoned in an apparent ambush by golems that were also fueled by the animating magic."
"Simple, sequential and plausible. If there is anything anyone would like to add or amend to this version, now is a good time to take the opportunity."
Praxx nods as he listens to Neya's version of the story: "Simple, sequential, and plausible. You'd make a good bard, you know." He shows a true smile for the first time since the previous day. "You all have my word that this is the story I'll also maintain. There is no need to get anyone here in undue trouble, including Drazzim. But worry not, I won't make you test my word either. I shall wait for my portion of the gold outside the offices of our benefactors, as Graxx proposes."
Turning to Utar, Praxx shares some more: "Regarding Harae, I think you are right. The devout spirit probably wanted some revenge on Grim. Turning off the Lighthouse was probably her way of getting some people to the island who would be able to deliver it on her behalf, now that I think about it." He places his thumb and index finger on his chin. "As for Igan, I have a theory. You see, Graxx here suggested at one point that the Black Fist folk were demon worshipers. You spoke with them the most, Utar. Did you notice any sort of behavior from them that would corroborate Graxx's idea? I certainly did not. I have a feeling the truth is less dramatic. This change you allude to could simply by a change of heart, perhaps after realizing that the treasure was connected to a place of dark worship, perhaps after realizing that Grim was more interested in enriching his pockets than his friendship, or perhaps after hearing some wise words from a hired spy advisor from the lands of the Silent Wood. We'll never know the truth, any of these feel simple, sequential, and plausible to me."