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Cleric Journal: Day Fifty-Nine

DearFatherMulcahy

 

The next day we scouted over to the kobold camp and found that another party had come through and scavenged anything we’d left behind. Even the bodies were gone. Sparkle insisted we trail this new threat for a bit, but broke it off once we entered the camp proper and learned the scavenger’s true nature.

Troglodytes. Oh, god the stench. There was a party of a dozen or more of the foul smelling beasts nearly an hour ahead of us according to Sparkle’s best guess. If that smell was an hour old, I cannot imagine how awful they smelled in person.

They were not moving toward our camp so we broke off our pursuit and slunk back. I suggested that perhaps we could rig up some area for bathing and washing clothes. Not only had we been wallowing in our own filth for a few days, but the stench of the Troglodytes was worse than anything I’d ever imagined and it clung to us by proximity. I stank like I’ve never stunk before. It was a little nauseating.

Liz and Sparkle spoke in quiet whispers once we returned to the camp, leaving me from their conversations. They were never heated words, but when they finished, Liz declared she would return to the fishing spot and be gone for the greater part of the day so we dry-landers could have privacy in our cleansing. Sparkle nodded at her solemnly and after Liz was gone, she dragged me to the back of the cave where we took turns boiling water and bathing each other. It was strange and awkward, but once we had tossed our clothes to the front of the cave and mopped hot water over each other, things got less tense.

I explained to her how bathing was one of the first forms of worship I had been taught by Sister Edna. This pleased Sparkle for some reason. She said I was very adept at the rituals we had shared, and hoped that perhaps my learning had moved to more advanced forms. I spent the next several hours showing her more intricate forms of worship than the day before. I did not want to overwhelm her, nor exhaust myself beyond reason.

Again, after she slept like someone who had been grievously wounded. I understood the lethargy after worship, but she truly was spent beyond reason. I would watch for her further condition. I worried.

I also boiled my robes and hung them to dry near the fire. It wasn’t until late in the afternoon that Liz returned to find me mending Sparkle’s awesome purple leather armor. The mend spell worked with some difficulty and I assumed it was because her armor had its own magic. The leather was soft and supple, and luckily intact. But the mend spell would remove stains and odors as well. It was quite a remarkable spell over all. I don’t know why I hadn’t learned that much sooner. With the way Brother Durham was constantly saying how I was stinking up the place, I thought he would have insisted I learn this spell.

Of course, I had no spells when I left. I see now my error. I was must an acolyte then. I had not gained my ability to channel the divine. My training and worship had remained healing in the mind and spirit (according to the Sisters) but I had been devoid of true clerical powers. But not anymore, suck it, Brother Durham.

While we ate, Liz mentioned that Wizard Tim had slept a lot once I healed him and wondered, not unkindly, if I was doing something wrong.

I had never thought of that. Was I doing something that put her into a trance or some such? Was I pushing her further and further away from being well? I had to consider that possibility. If she continued to sleep, I would have to refrain from healing her, in any fashion, for at least a day or more, just to be sure.

Besides, I was getting a bit sore.

I finished here before I was to take watch. I needed to concentrate.

Liz and I split the watch once more while Sparkle slept the night away. It was a long night as I pondered my potential failures. The joy I had felt earlier faded as the voices in my head reminded me of all my past failures. I sat just inside the edge of the cave, having taken the second watch this evening. I was deep in the shadows but had a clear view out of the cave mouth.

Just before dawn I spotted movement at the water’s edge a dozen rods beyond the cave entrance. At first I thought I was seeing more stone crabs, but as it crept closer to the cave, the moonlight was enough to highlight the shape of the beast.

It appeared to be a bulbous creature creeping forward on four taloned claws. It whispered in my mind, a sing-song of gibberish that spoke of sleep and pain to come if I interfered. It knew I was there and considered me an annoyance more than a threat.

Then Sparkle started screaming.

Not out loud, mind, but in my head. Liz woke up with a shout herself and I was on my feet by the time the beast reached the cave. It was a giant brain with four legs and it hunted Sparkle.

I acted on instinct. The mace in my hand screamed a counter song, warning me that the beast, a brain abomination, was an horrible, malignant, evil beyond reckoning.

The spell I cast was new to me, but I recognized it from my deepest need. I cast a protection on the cave, from the entrance back to where my friends were struggling to wake. Nothing evil could come near us without suffering pain. I was a very young cleric, however. And this beast was ages old. It spoke into my mind, lashing forward with psychic energy. I felt my ears bleeding and felt myself beginning to fade. It was literally consuming my intelligence. The mace in my hand blazed with a sudden and explosive light, flinging the creature back from the cave entrance. For a moment my mind teetered in the edge of madness. It had attempted to devour my brain. Literally. Its vile thoughts had been so intertwined with my own I understood its true intent.

It hunted Sparkle.

But it would devour my brain, take over my body and use me to capture her and return her to the devourer’s true master. I had no name for that master, but the image of it was burned into my mind. I knew it was a thing that must be destroyed, a monster beyond the evils of man. The devourer named it Mindflayer.

Liz appeared at my side as I attempted to clear my mind. She stabbed forward with her spear, but it literally bounced off the monster. She could not hurt it.

Blue light shot from the creature and Liz staggered as it smashed against her. She made the quietest of “ohs” and crumpled at my feet.

Rage flooded me, smashing through the remaining web that the beast had laid across my mind. I called down the wrath of Semaunya (may her vengeance be swift and painful). A bolt of white light shot from my right hand, striking the devourer. A wound the size of my fist blossoming on one of its frontal lobes. Clear brain fluid splattered the ground around it, sizzling in the mud, not unlike the acid from the black dragon we’d seen once before.

The creature was limned with divine light as it staggered back, turning to dash away from the cave. I staggered out into the night, oblivious to the fact it could have allies.

Luckily for me, it was alone. I caught it and swung the mace, fearing like Liz’s spear, my action would prove useless. I was half right. I missed. I’m not a brawny warrior. My momentum carried me past the creature and it turned, raking me with its claws.

We danced, this spawn of evil, me swinging my mace (and missing), it raking me with its claws. I had done it grievous damage with my divine bolt, but I had nothing else up my sleeve.   I needed to end this.

The light was fading from around the beast as my spell finally ended. I had one last chance before it would fade into the night. Kithri, I believe, was watching over me that night. The beast, sensing my panic and fear of losing, lashed out at me once more. Only this time I had protections it did not expect. The protection from evil was one thing, but the mace provided a shield the beast had not anticipated. I pushed forward, straining against the mental attack that the beast flung at me in waves. Each step took great energy and I felt near the last step that I would collapse beneath the greatest mind I had ever encountered.

If I failed, however, everyone would die. Liz, Sparkle, and once the beast devoured my brain, it would know all about you, Father Mulcahy, you and the monastery, Sister Vera, the other acolytes, and even the jerk Brother Durham.

This was something I could not abide. I called upon the blessing of my mixed divinity and swung the mace one final time.

The world exploded like the shattering of crystal. The creature who’s brain had been twisted by foul magicks into this heinous abomination appeared in my mind for a fleeting moment. She had been a young sorceress who had reached too deeply into the secrets of the world and had been ensnared by a Mind Flayer. The same Mind Flayer who hunted Sparkle. This Elven sorceress whispered something to my fading mind and she was gone. I knew I had freed her from an eternity of pain and suffering.

Then the blackness overtook me and I fell away from myself for a time.

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D&D 5E Player’s Handbook

 

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