The Keep at Ridgehaven

Day 10

This is not a friendly world. Goodbye, Shashakti.

As they travel through the Stain, the adventurers become separated, blinking in and out of reality our of sync with each other. The sussurator has been through this region of chaotic space before, and warns the biothaumaturge, ranger and elementarii of the hazards he has experienced. They narrowly dodge a wake-tree, a man-eating plant whose meat-fruit gives you visions of the dreams of its former victims, but find themselves surrounded by a swarm of emaciated men, women, children and animals, mindless mouths attached by the neck by whip-like tentacles to a single bloated, hideous beast lying wait in a swamp that defied gravity in bizarre ways. Slogging their way through clutching and biting puppet zombies, vertical walls of swamp water and a seemingly endless barrage of grasping mind-control whips, the party narrowly survives the encounter. Shashakti takes great delight in harvesting tentacles and other body parts from the corpse, fashioning an improvised whip through a biothaumaturgic combination of phalagar tentacle and kruthic fang.

Escaping the swamp, the party finds themselves on a broad plain threatened by treacherous smoke-stone. Erupting without warning and appearing as harmless fog, this dangerous terrain solidifies rapidly, covering anything it touches in cloying, smothering granite. Trying to avoid the thickest concentrations of the fog, they find a deep valley that appears to be relatively clear of the impromptu sculptures that show where the fog lingers. However, they soon discover the area has both smoke-stone eruptions and massive, powerful inchmen, whose passage smooths the granite beneath them. Inchmen, the infamous denizens of the Cacatopic Stain, are the size of several rhinos attached end to end, their giant inch-worm bodies ending in a distorted, terribly strong humanoid torso. Immune to the fog, two of the beasts at either end of the valley trap the adventurers between them, with smoke-stone pouring from cracks in the earth. Desperately fighting to escape the valley and avoid the overgrown wake-trees above them, the party is cornered by floating quicksand and the giant monsters. Pulling out his big guns, Dante summons a flame sphere early on in the fight, only to have his hopes smashed as the inchman nearest to him swallows the conjuration whole. With their tremendous reach and enormous maw, inchmen swallow adventurer after adventurer. Nimbler men escape their clutches and their stomachs, and Fak keeps from being swallowed by throttling the inchmen with his spiked hands, but the golem and then Shashakti herself fall prey to the beasts, unable to escape the digesting guts. Dante rains fire from above, having successfully climbed to safety, and the ranger and brawler punch and shoot the two inchmen slowly and methodically, whittling down their tough skins and great bulk until both are killed, but they are too late to save their teammate Shashakti from a painful death. Fishing for her remains and equipment from inside the guts of the beast, Fak, Dante and Okai wait for the smoke-stone to recede before trying to escape the valley and find some way of resurrecting their fallen companion.

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