Once again, as always: if you are thinking of attending Otherworld, don't read anything but my first story. You won't enjoy your own adventure as much.
It's better to die on your feet than live on your knees
We Encounter Monsters
A Search for Magical Items
Adventurers in Orange
The Magical Land Grows Stranger
Danger and Battles Increase
The Court of Mirrors
We Lose a Friend
We finally made our way to the tavern for supper, only to find that chaos was taking place all over the area. Many of the townspeople had "Turned", as we started to call it. They had become opposites of themselves -- perhaps mirror images, I thought, as I remembered that today was the Day of Mirrors, a holy and magical day in this land. Worlds End had a lot more magic than other places in the country. Was this what happened here every Day of Mirrors, maybe?
We sat down at a table and one of the Gray brothers (the tavern's proprietors), hurried over. He seemed harried and upset -- though not so distracted that he forget to raise the price of our meals again. Then he asked us about people we'd encountered who had Turned, and if we could shed any light on what was happening. This was the first clue I had that whatever was going on, it was definitely not normal, even on this holy day. It was probably a curse of some sort.
"I'm glad at least you're still the same," I remarked to him. He agreed vehemently and with relief, then hurried off to try to keep things in order. I started eating. Things may be crazy, but it had been a grueling afternoon and I was hungry.
Halfway through the meal, Jonah returned from the dead. We were all relieved to see him whole again! While we were marveling at his newly healed body, we heard shouting behind the bar. I turned around to see that all three of the Gray brothers had become pirates. They crashed into the room, brash and loud, generally causing a ruckus. They had Turned.
It wasn't long after that Young Lord Ted, our faithful guide and companion, also Turned. He started ranting and complaining, then finally he stormed our of the building in a huff. We were on our own.
The pirates started harassing a young noblewoman named Nix. Prior to this evening, she had been a confident and independent knight. But she, like everyone else, had Turned. Now she was a shrinking and frightened young girl, and the pirates were working on intoxicating her.
Murphy, the sweet man who worked for the nobles, came over to our table wringing his hands. "I don't know what to do," he fretted. "I'm really worried for Nix!" I looked around the room. The pirates and some others had gathered in a circle in a corner. I couldn't see what they were doing, but they were definitely still harassing Nix. It slowly dawned on me: Murphy was one of the last townspeople who had not turned. He was still himself -- and he clearly still had a deeply protective feeling for Nix.
I frowned. "I suppose I could try sapping them," I suggested doubtfully.
"I don't know.... be careful! I think they're really dangerous," he said. I wasn't sure if my sapping ability would work against this powerful curse-magic. In fact, I was fairly sure it wouldn't, but I was willing to give it a shot. (If I'd realized it would work, I probably would have given my plan more thought!)
Cautiously, I eased my way to the edge of the circle. They all had their backs to me, so I picked the closest Gray brother and tried to sap him. He collapsed immediately to the ground.
Like I said, if I'd known it would work I would have planned better. I had sapped the medium-sized brother. The largest brother leaped to his feet and bore down on me, yelling, "How dare you sap my brother? Get out of here now!" He was inches away from me, and I looked way up at him. I swear: he had to be at least 8, maybe 9 feet tall.
At first I was going to be tough, but I quickly realized there was no point. If I resisted he would either throw me out, or kill me. Or both. So I played it cool, cocked my head arrogantly, and walked out the door. (At the exit, Murphy caught me and said I should sneak back in to stay with my party, as long as I kept clear of the brothers. They were busy drinking and carousing anyway, so that wasn't a problem.)
The evening progressed, as my party and the rest of the "out of town" parties wandered around the tavern, eating and wondering what we should do. None of us had Turned, but all of the locals had -- except Murphy.... and wait, the village's duchess was also unchanged!
She came in and addressed the tavern, pleading with the adventurers for our help. The village's benevolent and powerful mage had just killed the Wolven leader and taken over the Wolvens himself! There was chaos and danger everywhere, and it was just getting worse. The land would surely be taken over by Wolven if we didn't do something to break this strange Mirror Curse.
She had found a book with a spell that could break it, but it required a number of magical items, none of which we actually had. We quickly agreed to help, and we broke into parties to find and retrieve the necessary items.
This was the first time our group from Keer truly split up. One of magic items required was an amulet of some sort, and it was known that there was a banshee in the area who possessed it. A banshee is a female monster, with a wail that will immediately make any man who hears it her slave. The group that went after the banshee had to be all-female. I, along with our cleric Sunflower, volunteered to help with that mission.
There were around 10 or 15 women who had volunteered to try to fight that banshee, and we gathered in one corner of the tavern while an ander (he was also unchanged) explained to us what was required. A banshee cannot be killed by normal weapons. Also, she surrounds herself with Undead, and as long as she lives her creatures can be knocked down but not killed. Her zombies would get back up, as soon as they heard her magical wail.
Someone had found a pendant that would allow its wearer to slay the banshee. But that pendant came with a price: the woman who wore it would immediately become so weak that she would not even be able to stand. (In explaining this part, our ander gave a very dramatic demonstration, collapsing to the ground before he hoopahoppa'd back up and finished the story.) She would have to be carried, the instant she put it on. However, its banshee-slaying ability would only kick in 20 minutes after she'd put on the pendant -- even though she would be weak right away.
We would have to carry our Slayer to the area the banshee had been last seen in, find the banshee, somehow get the Slayer past the ranks of unkillable zombies protecting her, and give her enough time and protection to make the kill. Then we had to retrieve the banshee's amulet and hurry back to the tavern. Sure, no problem.
The first thing somebody suggested was a teleport spell. A mage could teleport the Slayer in, and the Slayer would take out the banshee. "No, that won't work, she won't be able to stand, she'll just collapse!" exclaimed the ander.
"Okay, how about two teleport spells?" I asked. "One for the Slayer, and one for the carrier." We looked around our small group of female warriors for mages. "Who has a teleport spell left?" It turned out we had three mages, each with one teleport spell. We could teleport a carrier, the Slayer, and a guard.
The next task was to pick the Slayer. At the point our ander was getting really anxious. The pendant takes 20 minutes before it works, after all. "Somebody has to put it on," he stressed, bouncing in his worry. We got kind of stuck picking a Slayer though -- nobody wanted to make the final decision.
Well, we had to carry her the whole time... "Who weights the least?" We had one tiny woman, but she turned out to be a mage. We needed our mages for the teleport spells. Then all eyes turned to me, because I'm pretty short too. I'm short, but solid. I told them how much I weigh and asked if anyone weighed less. We found a taller but skinnier ranger.
Then the debate began. Who would be easier to carry, the shortest woman? The lightest woman? Should we just use the woman who had found the pendant? "Somebody has to put it on," agonized the ander. Finally we picked the skinny ranger for our Slayer. She put it on and immediately collapsed, her legs too weak to carry her. A couple of girls picked her up, and off we went to find ourselves a banshee.
We didn't have to go too far, but it was up a steep hill. That looked challenging for the woman carrying the Slayer at the time, but she insisted she was fine. Luckily I was small enough that I wasn't given any Slayer-carrying duties. I preferred to have my hands free anyway, walking through the dark woods.
We were on alert, but we didn't meet any monsters as we traveled. At the top of the hill, we could just see a building in the distance. The ander had said that we were likely to find the banshee in the clear space between two buildings. We were close. We checked the time: still 8 minutes until the Slayer could work. Two girls volunteered to go ahead and scout out the location.
The rest of us huddled in a small clump. We extinguished all flashlights, and talked in furtive whispers. The woods felt vast, dark, and threatening. Our swords ready, watching for attack, we whispered questions and ideas about the upcoming fight.
We knew there would be a banshee, and lots of zombies protecting her. We had no idea where they'd be, or what formation, so who would do what when? The mages couldn't teleport to an unknown location. "The first mage to see the banshee, whoever that is, should cast her spell immediately," I suggested. "Then that will be the signal for the next two to cast theirs one after the other." We would teleport a carrier, the Slayer, then a fighter. It was hard to be specific though, not really having any idea what we were going to face. More whispers, more vague plans, while we waited for our scouts.
They came back. "We found the place, but there is no sign of a banshee or anybody," they reported breathlessly. The Slayer's 20-minute wait was over, so we decided to just head up there as a group and see what we could find.
We picked up our Slayer and headed cautiously to the building. There was a roofed but open area in the middle of the building, just out of the circle of electric light. We clustered there, feeling less "out in the open", wondering where the banshee might be.
Then we saw our first zombies.
There were just three, ugly and awkward, creeping through the open and lighted area. Several of us came out of our shelter and engaged them. They were tougher fighters than expected, but there were plenty of us. Soon they were down...but one of our fighters was also. I came to see if I could help her. "It's okay, I have a healing potion in my pocket," she told me. She said she didn't need help, so I and the rest of the women returned to our improvised home base.
The fallen woman had drank her potion and was just beginning to sit up, when several things happened at once. Off to my left, I heard an eerie warbling wail piercing my eardrums. I looked left and saw a wall of zombies approaching us in uneven formation, the wail coming from somewhere behind them. I looked back at the fighter, and saw one of the zombies we'd "killed" getting up again. It was behind her; she didn't even see it coming.
It all happened so fast, but in slow-motion as well. The zombie loomed over her, just as she began to get up. We watched in helpless horror, knowing we were too far away to help her, knowing she was doomed. The zombie pushed her down, and she fell onto her back and let out a long drawn-out scream, her legs kicking frantically, as she was consumed alive by that hideous creature.
I'll never forget that moment, like a nightmare come to life. We all stood there, frozen in the pitch black night, our comrade screaming, the massive line of zombies stalking relentlessly towards us, and above it all that high wailing piercing cry of the banshee, foretelling our doom.
Then I heard a mage's whistle, shaking me back to reality. The first teleport spell was cast. Then the second. Then the third. I still couldn't see the banshee, and I could just hope that they had found her. There were now zombies everywhere. It was time to for me fight, to distract as many as possible away from our Slayer so she could complete our mission. I stepped out of the sheltered alcove and into the melee.
At first I kept my back to the wall. Directly in front of me was a zombie wielding a sword in each decaying hand, making it extra hard for me to get inside of his guard. Another one came close to my right as we fought, but him I was able to quickly knock down. Then the two-sworded zombie backed away into the light. I had to follow, stepping over the zombie I'd already killed.
Once my back was no longer against the wall, things went much worse for me. The space was swarming with zombies, and I was surrounded. I got in a couple of good hits before I felt a sword in my back, then one in my stomach. Swinging wildly I went down; hopefully I got at least one more before I fell. Things were blurring at this point.
I was lying in the middle of the battlefield, feeling numb. I tried to get up and found I didn't have the strength. I summoned the last of my energy and crawled/rolled my way out of the way of the fight. I didn't want to get trampled, and I didn't want to trip my companions. I was trying to head back to the shelter, where I hoped to find my cleric. But in the confusion, I found myself on the opposite side of the field.
I lay on my back, arms flopped out on either side, looking around me. Where was Sunflower? I felt so weak, my strength was going, I could feel it seeping out of me. I looked around again, but what was I looking for? Sunflower. But why? The sounds of the battle grew faint, and I felt a little like I was floating above the grass. Almost peaceful.
I was jerked abruptly back to my senses by a strange sensation on my right hand. Cold... then there it was on my left hand. Cold...teeth? I tried to scramble for my sword, but my body stayed motionless. It was no longer obeying me. My eyes were still able to dart back and forth though, and I could see a zombie on either side of me. They were each nibbling on a hand. They were eating my hands!
I couldn't move, but a mustered up the last of my energy to call out, "Help... Sunflower!" But she was too far away, everything was growing dim. The creatures were working their way up my arms, mumbling, "Braaaiiiins..."
I was alone on a dark and empty field. I couldn't feel the zombies any longer. I couldn't see them. Then, finally, even the gravelly voices echoing in my ears disappeared. There was nothing.
Then, in one of the strangest sensations I've ever experienced in my.... in my life? Can I say that? Because it wasn't life. I was floating, looking down at... myself? That still and bloody body, I could barely recognize it as my own -- especially with the zombies nibbling away at it. I tried to kick one off, but my foot went right through it. I was a ghost! The zombies got up and shambled off, looking lost.
Suddenly remembering the reason I was here, I turned to the battle. It was practically over. The last zombies standing were very slow and lethargic, and they were quickly put down. This time, they stayed down. I realized this must be because the banshee was dead! We had completed our mission, even though it had cost us.... I looked around again. There were a lot of ghostly spirits like me, drifting about it confusion. The Slayer was one of them.
But there were a few women still standing -- and one of them was holding the banshee's amulet! After quickly checking to make certain all of the zombies were dead, we all made our triumphant way back to the tavern. The living led the way, and we ghosts drifted along behind them in a misty cluster. Even in my new ghostly state, I felt a strong sense of pride in our success.