The denizens of that wing of the ruins were a motley lot, and the world will thank me for destroying them. The ghast thanked me as he expired. It was that pathetic. There were seven rooms with skeletons and zombies, two with spiders (rather small compared to the ones I’ve dealt with previously), neither of them the jumping, acid-spitting variety. One room was nothing but a black hole with screaming coming out of it. I cast a protection from evil there and closed the door. Finally, I took out eleven kobolds, one large snake and an animated chest thing with teeth. I had hopes for something cool when I killed that chest thing, but the only things inside it was more goo. Not a worthwhile foray. I was still fuming over the way Rufus had turned Alfred into stone, and would do everything I could to rectify that situation. But first I needed to find my way out of this area and find my way through to the tower where Bob resided.
Clearing this place room by room was somewhat satisfying, and insured that nothing would sneak up on me, but in the end it just made me tired and covered me in blood, ichor and bone dust. I really wanted a bath. Knowing that wasn’t in the cards anytime soon, I girded my loins and trundled after the path of the cubic ooze.
I must say the corridors were very clean. I’m not suggesting we get something like that for the monastery, but it sure beat scrubbing the floors with a brush. Turns out this entire area is one large dead end, one way in or out. The corridor ran in a large oval with rooms interspersed on either side and torches mounted with enough regularity to dissuade me from carrying one of them, but left enough shadows to keep me jumpy. The spiders really kept the anxiety on high alert, let me tell you.
So I followed the corridor for three full circuits and was near to giving up when I realized that I hadn’t seen the ooze thing. Either it had melted away (which I doubted) or it had managed to flow under a door somewhere that I’d missed. There was a moment of panic when I a drop of condensation dripped from overhead at the furthest point in the section and I thought the ooze had gone above me somehow. Turns out not to be the case, and I am glad no one saw my mad dive down the hall in an attempt to avoid having the great blob land on my head.
Of course, now I’ve told you, but it stings less in the writing. Well writing actually stings as I scraped my hands on the stone floor. I had my gauntlets off. My palms sometimes sweat when I’m nervous so I was airing them out. If you’d have seen me, there would be no end to the ribbing. Once I had recovered my dignity and discerned that this end of the long circular hall was probably under a lake of some sort, I trundled on my way. I made sure to put my gauntlets back on for a while, but the scrape was stinging from the sweat that built up. It’s a painful cycle of shame and irritation. I don’t know why I was so jumpy, I was not exactly quiet when I ransacked the place. I was quite surprised that nothing came out to assist when I cleared each room. It’s as if they were locked to their own personal domains and had no true interaction with the rest of the world. I did them a favor by destroying them all.
I could’ve gone back toward Alfred, but I didn’t want to risk running into the weasel gnome, jerk. I didn’t want to kill him because I needed something from him. He was the only one I knew who could free Alfred and close the rift to the plane of ice. Didn’t mean I had to like him. And I had thought he was funny.
I made my way back to the dead were-rat’s room and was considering where I could take a nap without being surprised when I saw the Cleaning Service oozing out of the wall a dozen paces further down the hall. I debated on staying in Paul’s room, but you know, dead wererat. That’s not a smell you’ll soon forget. And I wasn’t going to stay in any of the other rooms. Well, there was the one room with three skeletons who turned to dust when I turned them. That one was likely safe (ish). But based on the speed at which the Cleaning Service moved, I decided instead to walk the circuit in reverse.
The complete circuit took twenty minutes. I could’ve made it faster, but I kept expecting something to jump out at me, and I was also stopping and drawing out a map of the halls. I mean, I pretty much had this wing memorized by this point, but I thought Bob might be impressed with my mapping skills. The thought of seeing him again after all this time had my heart pounding and my stomach rolling like a storm at sea. What if he hated me now for abandoning them? What if he was disgusted by my crisis of faith? How had he come to be capable of channeling divine, or was I mistaken in that observation? I found myself starting to hyperventilate and stopped to practice some of the breathing exercises Liz had taught me.
I stumbled at this. When did Liz teach me breathing exercises? I had a distinct memory of sparring with her and Bob. Bob taught strengthening exercises and Liz taught stretching. I remember running with them and laughing. Always laughing. I smiled for a moment, then recalled the last look Liz had given me and how she turned away after dashing that woven cord to the ground at my feet.
I reached into my belt and pulled it out, counting the knots woven into it. There was a meaning here, a ritual of some sort that I had known at one time and had lost.
There was ritual there, deep meaning and something beyond my reasoning. Something vital which eluded my memory. Finally I realized I had stopped moving for so long, lost in thought, that the Cleaning Service was coming down the hall toward me. I trudged onward, stuffing the cord into my belt and thinking, thinking, thinking.