So, a long while ago my buddy James posted a fiction challenge on his blog. Well, I haven’t touched this one in quite a while, so I figured what better way to get back into the swing of things? Given that one of my buddies is starting a new D&D game soon, I figured I’d do a little short story about my new tiefling Artificer, Kazamir. It’s the story of how he found his famliar, an ooze named Sploot. Hope you enjoy.
Kazamir’s tail curled over his shoulder and swept the battered hat from his head. With a trembling hand he wiped the sweat from his brow, careful not to nudge the delicate trap mechanism in front of him. He took in a deep breath and replaced the hat before bending down once more.
He surveyed the scene in front of him. He’d managed to pry the thin sheet of granite from the floor, revealing the complex set of symbols and runes underneath. The pressure plate was clearly wired to a trap in the room, but try as he might he just couldn’t suss out what it triggered.
Another deep breath and he glanced up from the plate to survey the hallway again. The walls were finely cut granite, etched with arcane runes of some ancient and completely undecipherable language. The floor was made of similar stone, though unadorned and laid out in careful one foot squares. The ceiling was only ten feet above him and also unremarkable. The only light came from the dim glow stones fitted into the ceiling every ten feet. Several of them had lost their magic and hung limply, lifeless orbs of dull gray crystal.
By Vecna’s cursed eyes, what does this trigger? Kazamir growled in frustration, a low and resonant sound at odds with his tenor voice. Another deep breath to calm himself and he closed his eyes. He carefully lifted his hands and held them outstretched, fingers splayed. Slowly he opened his eyes and started to feel for the flow of magic in the room.
His fingertips began to tingle and ever so slowly he built a mental picture of the mana flows. It was a delicate weaving, though the power behind the runes could never be fully disguised. He shifted his hands to the left wall and very carefully felt for the nexus of energy. There. The central rune roughly ten feet down the hallway, about ten feet up from the floor. That was one of the anchor points. Good. That was a start.
Slowly he pulled his hands to the right, searching in the opposite spot. Yes, the same thing on the wall. So. The runes were set up in a sympathetic net. Which meant that they had to be triggered from a primary ignition point. Which had to be the pressure plate he’d found. Once more he slowly spread his arms so that each palm was pointing directly at each anchor point.
Another deep breath to calm his nerves and focus his mind. Kazamir then slowly pulled his hands inward, letting his arcane senses guide his hands through the energy flow and down into the floor. Inch by inch they moved closer until his hands were nearly touching the the largest rune of the pressure plate.
Okay, so the flows lead to this rune here. Kazamir finally opened his eyes and glanced down at the rune. It was an inverted half dragon, a rune known even in this age. The half dragon wasn’t very complex, which was what made it an excellent trigger mechanism. Even the slightest flaw or shifting would break the anchor and release all of the stored energy, likely in a cataclysm of fire and lightning. Not a good way to die.
So, I can’t just break it or the trap will erupt wildly. No, I need to shunt the energy into the secondary runes, let it leak out gradually. But the only way to do that is by altering the rune. And to do that I need to etch it with acid. And if I mess up… well, I better not mess up!
Kazamir took in another deep breath and his nose wrinkled? The winds in the old ruin had shifted, bringing with them the stench of some terrible carrion. Probably some dead rat Kazamir thought. He pushed the smell out of his mind. No time to lose focus.
His tail deftly probed in one of his belt pouches and lifted out a small vial. He took the vial in his left hand while his right rummaged around in the upper pouch of his armor. He pulled out a very thin glass tube and with careful movements popped open the vial. In went the tube and with his finger capping the top he brought the pipette of acid over the rune.
One more deep breath and a prayer to Avandra and he was ready. With the finest of movements Kazamir slowly started dribbling acid on the rune. The material sparked as it hit the magic and Kazamir held his breath. One… Two… Three…
Nothing exploded. That was good. He glanced up at the wall and noticed that two of the runes were now glowing a cheerful green. A heavy sigh of relief and Kazamir bent down again. Another dip into the vial and the processes started anew. More sputtering. One… Two…
Pain erupted across Kazamir’s back. He screamed and tried to wrench away from the source of pain: right onto the pressure plate. The tiefling only had an instant to take in the situation. The floor and walls around him thronged with power. Behind him he saw a terrible worm-like creature. It had hundreds of single clawed legs and a mass of tentacles beneath a set of mandibles and a many-toothed mouth. Its beady black eyes were on elongated stalks and it absolutely reeked of carrion.
And then the world exploded.
* * * * *
Kazamir groaned as he regained consciousness. His vision was nothing but a blur of colors and his entire body hurt like never before. His head swam and he tried to remember just what had been so important before the world had ended. Think! Slowly he reclaimed his wits. Oh! Carrion Crawler! Avandra save me!
Kazamir forced himself to focus on his surroundings and his body. His whole body hurt. That was good. That meant he wasn’t paralyzed. He glanced around the smoldering remains of the room. The floor all around him was covered in blackened rubble. The walls rose a good fifty feet above him, the sides smoothly polished black stone. It was hard to make out anything beyond that, as the only light came from the sole remaining glow stone from the ceiling high above.
A pit trap. And as if that wasn’t enough, Kazamir could hear scuttling from up above. He slowly moved his head and caught sight of the carrion crawler advancing down the wall. Well, at least I’m not alone in my misery he thought as he took stock of the situation. The carrion crawler was moving slowly, its once green hide now covered in burns and charred bits. One of its eyes had gone white and was oozing puss. One mandible was now nothing more than a charred stump.
Ha. I’m fireproof and you’re not he thought, managing the shade of a wicked smile. Kazamir tried to push himself to his feet and pain shot through both of his legs. He screamed again and quickly dropped back onto his back. Vecna’s eyes, I’ve broken both of my legs!
As the pain receded Kazamir took stock of the situation. He was laying on his back on a mound of rubble. His back felt wet and he could hear and feel the crushed vials in his backpack. He glanced down at his hips and breathed a sigh of relief when he spotted his trusty khopesh and wand. At least he had weapons.
A quick glance up at the wall showed that the carrion crawler was now halfway to him. It might be moving slowly but it was still approaching far too fast. And if it got him he was dead for sure. Their touch brought on paralysis and he doubted if he could kill it in a brawl even fully functional. Which meant that he had to kill it now, while it was still on the wall.
That meant the wand. He slid his hand down to his wand sheath and carefully pulled out the beautiful ash and crystal device. Pain shot through his shoulder and Kazamir sucked in a breath through gritted teeth. He only had one shot at this. His arm wavered for several critical seconds as he tried to get a bead on the creature.
The crystal wobbled over the creature and then suddenly all was right. Kazamir called upon the arcane power in his soul and spoke the words of power he needed. A brilliant lance of blue energy shot forth from the wand and impacted the carrion crawler right square in its midsection. CRACK! The energy beam split into several bands that wrapped themselves tightly around the aberration. The crawler squealed in agony as the bands contracted ever tighter.
The squeal went on for almost a second until there was the horrendous sound of splitting meat. The bands sliced through the crawler and the remains of the creature fell to the floor with wet splats and a gut churning stench. Kazamir let out a a sigh of relief. At least he wasn’t going to die in the belly of a monster.
But he was still quite wounded. Well, he could fix that, too. Kazamir closed his eyes and found the center within himself. One of the first things he had really mastered was the art of infusion, healing infusions in particular. He pulled upon his inner power and then spoke the word of power necessary to infuse a living soul with arcane energy.
Magic surged through Kazamir’s body, knitting bones and mending flesh. He gasped in sudden relief as the pain left his system. He panted for a few minutes in then slowly pushed himself to his feet with a groan. He glanced down at the ruins of his backpack and sighed. He pulled it up and shook it a couple of times and was rewarded with the distinct sound of broken glass.
Well, at least he wasn’t dead.
* * * * *
It hadn’t taken long for Kazamir to examine the bottom of the pit. It was roughly twenty feet square and devoid of anything interesting, save the rubble and a small pile of all his broken potion bottles. He shook his head and glanced up at the ceiling. At least he’d had enough sense to pack some rope and grappling hook.
It only took a few moments to get the grapple attached to the rope. As Kazamir was checking his knots he suddenly stopped at the sign of movement from a small crack in the wall. Leery of another attack, his hand crept toward his wand but stopped when the tiniest ooze he had ever seen flowed out of the hole.
It was no bigger than a small apple and a bright electric blue. The little blob suddenly flowed up into a little tentacle. The tip of the tentacle swiveled all around and then stopped dead when it focused on the pile of broken potions. The ooze suddenly quivered, turned a bright red, and let out a wet sounding SQULORCH!
Then the ooze shot toward the pile with a speed that was surprising given its tiny size. Within moments it was flowing around all of the broken bits, soaking up every bit of alchemist’s fire and potion that had been left. With every little tidbit the ooze shifted color and droned in a very pleasant way.
Kazamir stood in stark surprise for a moment before letting out a tremendous laugh. It was about the funniest thing he had seen in months. The little ooze let out a SPLETCH and darted behind the nearest bit of rubble.
“Ah, did I scare you, little guy?” Kazamir asked.
The ooze didn’t answer, but after a few seconds of silence it did resume its feast. Kazamir bit at his lip in thought. Just how long had the thing been trapped down here within absolutely nothing to eat. Was that why it was so small? And would it remain that small?
Kazamir slowly walked toward the pile of glass, being careful not to make too much noise or move so suddenly. After a few minutes of patience he was kneeling beside the potion remains, watching the little ooze finish off the last of the potions. With one last little SLURP the ooze finished off the last bits. It quivered and formed into a tentacle again, trying to see if anything else remained. When it spotted nothing it let out a mournful keen and turned a dull brown.
“Ah, poor little guy. You still hungry? Well, how about you come with me, then? I’ve always got extra bits of spoiled potion you can eat” aid Kazamir. Then he paused. Why am I talking to an ooze?
To his surprise, the little ooze suddenly grew a little bluer and rose up a bit. Slowly the little creature crept closer to Kazamir. With careful moments Kazamir pulled out his very last vial of acid and uncorked it, holding it out of the ooze. The little ooze then let out another trill and darted toward and into the vial. Almost instantly it turned an electric green and started humming.
“I’ll take that as a yes” said Kazamir, laughing all the while. “But just one question. What am I gonna call you?”
The little ooze only responded with a horrible wet sound. SPLOOT!
“Sploot it is.”