I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass
16-17 Mirtul, The Year of the Trusted Covenant (1479 DR)
With the column of giant ants behind, the vertiginous chasm below and a corpse beneath the feet to remind the party of their parlous position, our heroes press on in their inimitable fashion. Spooling out lengths of rope they descend the steepening cliff face, pausing at the occasional terrace to rest and to guess at the pattern of blasts of superheated air belched from below that threaten to knock them from their tenuous hold on things.
To the northeast the pulsing glow continues to attract the attention of the keen-eyed, while directly below the approaching floor of the gorge seems densely speckled in pinpricks of mirror flashed blue light.
The climb becomes tougher as even Danforth struggles to grip the surface of the wall, that has moved from firm volcanic rock to something almost spongy and loose and soaked by the moisture heavy atmosphere.
The source of the twinkling light below becomes clearer as the party scramble and scrabble their way down to the floor, correctly guessing the pattern of the blasts of charged air, but occasionally losing their footing on the cliffs. It seems this part of the chasm is covered in a dense cluster of blue glass-like extrusions, like a forest of brittle trees. Finally reaching terra firma the party realise they can see nothing at all, as they weave amongst these strange formations like a traverse of the Mirror Palace of Farngold.
Keeping close to the chasm wall, the party inch their way slowly northeast, towards the source of the blue light. Brief musical interludes of wind-chime tinklings punctuate the journey, which might be relaxing had not the source of such sounds be so mysterious.
Exhausted, and now unaided by the light of the mortal world which seems so distant as night falls over Neverwinter, the party decide to make camp and attempt to regain their composure before the further trials of the hard path they have set themselves upon.
Unfortunately, such respite from the horrors of the day do not come, as all are yet again beset by nightmares, and, on waking, kept awake and fearful by the continuing sounds of glass on glass that seem to come from all over the forest, but often much closer than before.
The disturbing dream visions take on the dark narratives of the previous night, propelling each of the heroes deeper into the maze of their black demesnes.
For Mani, not only has she lost all hope of acceptance by her elven half-kin, but as she looks around the dark forest, she realises she has lost her bear companion as well, leaving her completely and utterly alone and despairing.
As Danforth finishes his degrading chores he looks into a mirror, only to see his brother’s face staring back, as Danforth lifts a dagger and plunges it into his own chest.
Rok Alim continues his descent into the blue mist, to land on some sort of plain. Around him he can see the bodies of his dead parents, maimed and distorted, while above him stands his tutor, a smile on his face that expands into a peal of cruel laughter.
For Bohdan his elemental rage and fury at the green dragon shows no sign of diminishing, particularly when his senses clear enough to enable him to look down and to realise that the green reptilian skin that has raised his ire is, in fact, his own.
For Malus the sight of the night sky blackening becomes more sinister with the realisation that the stars are not blinking out, but are in fact obstructed, by some great dark tentacled horror that fills the sky with its vast impossible bulk.
As for the bard, the story he can never tell continues. After losing his voice and his ability to play, Talak is thrown outside the vast auditorium he was shamed to leave the stage of, with nothing to do but listen to the crowd cheering at his rival Brandis’ songs and laughing at his jokes. Even these sounds begin to lessen as he is slowly pulled away from the gaudily-lit place of entertainments, on his own, out in the darkness, where he’s not sure if it’s the black night he’s drawn into, or the light-choking solidarity of the very earth itself. Down and down he goes, and further still, until all is black and silent, and hopeless. Slowly, his remaining sense of sight picks up on a pin-prick of red light in the void. It grows, and a lake of red fire slowly hoves into view. Always growing in intensity and heat, the inferno comes closer and closer until all is blinding flame and searing heat, white-hot agony consuming everything, suddenly starting Talak from sleep back into the waking world.
A waking world that is not much better than the one he has just left, as the party rouse themselves from a doze that has not refreshed them at all as they lumber on through the glass forest, taking cuts and abrasions with every false step.
At last, the chasm floor begins to clear and the way forward is eased. But such freedom comes at a cost, as the party finally face the source of the mysterious brittle sounds. A cluster of scorpion-like creatures face them across the clearing, their skin formed of the same blue glass of the forest, their claws razor sharp and a single long proboscis extending from their heads that is topped with a vicious stabling point. The telltale tinkling of what must be similar creatures come from the thick terrain behind them.
Rightly afraid of the prospect of being surrounded, the party charge forward in an attempt to break through the ring, only to find that smaller creatures of similar lineage spring from the few trees left in the clearing, slicing and dicing as they land among the party.
Again these plaguechanged creatures have a nasty habit of exploding as they die, sending clouds of razor glass through the heroes.
The battle is savage and the party are close to being overwhelmed when more of the strange creatures arrive from the forest. But eventually the pack is beaten back and the party can trudge on, exhausted, nauseous and crazed at the prospect of facing the source of that that strange blue light.