Monday, July 18, 2016

Dreams Betwixt Walls ep06 : A Red and Pleasant Land

Dreams Betwixt Walls
Episode Six

"To Be Queen"

A Red and Pleasant Land

It feels like months have passed since the group has been traveling through the mountains. The magical influence of the place seems to insidiously be influencing them, transforming them slowly into inhabitants of this place.  The group continues to travel within the Carpathian Mountains, despite having smaller numbers, and both Geoff and Vidar have been taking turns keeping watch. Ace recommends they push on to reach the caves which are protected by his "brothers."  There is talk about the need to get allies among the dwarves, but Vera and Ilya refuse to abandon the House since it has kept them safe for long. 

Vera asks to meet with Ilya, and privately the two discuss the house and their plans regarding magic.  Vera uses her Identify spell upon the crystal skull and attempts to understand how it can be used to create the Orb Loc.  She senses it reaches out somehow and suspects it might be drawing the body to its location.  Keeping the head dead, which means having it in water, avoids it from recovering.  She senses that weeks may be necessary to uncover the proper ritual actions to transform it back into an actual Orb Loc.  Vera wonders if she can tweak the ritual to allow the functions to adjust somewhat and still hold back magic without countering her own arcane abilities.  She asks Ilya to hide it and to never hand it to anyone else.  Vera understands now the head is that of a vampire queen, and it has to match with the correct body.

A shriek breaks the silence in the cavern nearby. Geoff runs to the sound and investigates, telling the children to warn the others.  The shriek came from Ace, but Geoff cannot seem to find what may have caused it. Mava hears it too, but when she asks Vidar, he claims he did not hear anything.  A mist moves through the window and crawls into the room.  A sultry feminine voice speaks to Geoff, whispering of wet faces in the dark, of salt and sugar.  A rock beside Geoff moves, and it looks like a Lion but it has a human head.
The Lion poses a riddle to Geoff, but he fails to guess it and is forced to suffer magically induced laughter.  Mava nearly fails hers, uttering the answer in the nick of time.  The three discuss openly, now having found a truce, and discuss their dislike of the residents. It asks if they can find or capture the Unicorn in exchange for information on how to get back.  When Mava asks about what the Unicorn has done to it, the Lion snarls at them that it has its own reasons.  It asks them about the riddle of man, about the four legs, two legs then three, and Geoff shares what it is.

They talk to Vera about the event, bothering her bath time, and they map out possible plans.  Geoff learns from the children that the March Hare would know about the whereabouts of the Unicorn.  Exasperated, Ilya sees a hole in the wall, smaller in size, and crawls to it.   Vera convinces Mava to investigate it, saying its a chance to stop being a pawn, and she casts Shrink from the scroll to make her fit.  But it makes Mava inconveniently small.. tiny, in fact.  So she goes in, walking in the tiny passage that now opens wide before her like a massive corridor, and eventually finds an axe and finds two more skeletons inside. Deeper in, she finds a bunch of animals in a congress talking about striking now while their target is not organized. Among them is the March Hare, which from their statements has returned from the Court of the Pale King, not the Colorless King.  

Mava finds a place to project her voice as if she was bigger, and starts laughing to taunt them as if she was one of "them."  The animals start to scatter, but the March Hare tries to maintain order.  She convinces it to surrender, but realizes if she reveals herself, her gambit falls apart.  She needs to follow it to head out. Then it disappears after doing some kind of a dance move. Copying it, she follows the magic it had taken and they are now the same size. They nearly duel and he challenges her to pay taxes for trespassing. She claims her liege can cover for it.

Vidar and Ilya make an agreement with the Lion to own below the mountain if they kill the Guest.  The Lion seems more scared of the Guest than it admits. Vidar reminds it of the traditions of hospitality that should be maintained.  Ilya draws out the skull and studies it, noticing the clean neck cut, suggesting a guillotine.  The head has short hair and the suggestion of  what might be a head band.  

Mava arrives, and now stands with the size of the March Hare. She translates for him, as they talk about trespassing taxes and how he serves the Pale King. Vera comes up with the idea of using the rabbit paw of Archibald to claim they are also serving the Pale King.  She claims he wanted they were tasked to deliver him the Unicorn.  The March Hare mentions the unicorn needs to be trapped at an Orb Loc, and that it is very fast and fond of cake. When asked about his unicorn horn, the March Hare admits he helped the Unicorn hide before.   Given the interest in virgin cakes, Vera offers a suggestion: The March Hare is to talk to his council - in an attempt to avoid future issues when her husband becomes king for having gathered in a council without his approval - they are to spread word of a cake party, only for Unicorns to be invited.  March hare agrees.

Ilya later visits a stream, tries to have the skull in the water, but then she starts to hear her own voice in the distance. She pulls away.  A weird frog like creature emerges with claws and moving like a biped, and each time it breathes, a face is on the bulbous part of its throat. The Guest has arrived!  It uses Ilya to speak asking for her mother.

Mava grabs Ilya to pull her away. Vidar is briskly walking to the scene.  Vera follows, drawing her umbrella.  The frog thing's head inflates into a distorted expression showing on Martin's face as it stretches.  The frog thing spits at Ilya and Mava.   It solidifies and turns into a web that traps the two girls in place. Geoff gathers the four kids to accompany him to the battle.  The two women begin to bleed as the Guest's proximity causes them to bleed from their eyes! Vidar and Vera slow down, shocked to see the horror.

Geoff brandishes the holy symbol and commands the monster to step back.  It charges at them, but two of the kids try to block its approach.  The Guest tears apart one of the kids with the least of effort.  The Lion emerges and scratches the guest, but it happens ineffectually. Vera's first spell to Enfeeble the thing fails.  As it tries to get closer to the two girls, Geoff attempts to strike with a staff but even that barely hurts it.  Vidar's tears of blood flow as he closes in to strike at the thing.  Vera empowers him, casting Haste to quicken his motions for the next few seconds.   Mava and Ilya continue to bleed blood tears. Vidar's blows would have stunned a man, but against the Guest they seem to be barely noticed.  Mava tries to find a vulnerable spot to strike but her attempt to hit it fails.  Ilya tears free from the web and tries to stab at thing while it is unaware. The blade bites deep but barely registers a grunt from the monter.  Vera leaps beside Ilya, then blasts it with a Magic Missile to its face. The Guest seems to be slightly inconvenienced by it. It tries to wrestle with Vera and she snarls at it, "Take me if you must, you will never have her!"

Geoff blesses Vidar to save his wife, casting Heroism upon him to enchant him.  Mava yells at Ironforge to go for its throat.    The Lion tries to strike again but fails.  Vidar sees the wings, however, and strikes where the wings are growing to keep it from escaping.  In anger, it drops Vera and strikes at Vidar, wounding him but thanks to Geoff's spell, the wounds are superficial.  Mava charges violently to strike with her battle axe, and it hits the Guest's neck.  Geoff slips close as well, casting Cause Light Wounds on the thing.  Vera finds the opening and runs to Ilya, pulling her from the battle while the rest "distract the Guest."  Vidar continues to fight, but this time it is the Lion that hits the monster.  Ilya begins unleashing a spell.  Vera is forced to stop dragging her, but realizes now that Ilya might be the one intended to replace Grandmama, not her.  

The Lion strikes it once more, and during this distranction, Ilya hands Vera the skull. Vera launches her final Magic Missile at the thing.  Geoff commands it to die, and the command stuns it long enough that the rest of the group finally defeats the monstrosity leaving only the dead child, Martin, in its wake and her old spellbook but its contents are in reverse.  Geoff prepares last rites for it. The group meets the Sphinx and reminds it of its agreement.  Vidar Ironforge is hailed the Underking of the Mountain.  Vera teases the Lion with a riddle on the thought that she rules the land, but lives in a cave... a place beneath the land, implying her home is under Vidar's rule.  

The Lion and Geoff discuss the vampire children, and discuss having found the head of their queen.  And he admits his companions may need the head for other purposes.  They insist they need the head for her survival.  Geoff asks them to leave the coffin open for the nonce, and to visit the new king of the mountain.  They insist however their only Queen is the Queen of Clubs.  Geoff mentions the king now pushes for the old ways and the vampiric children seem intrigued.

Meanwhile, at the heart castle, which is the reflection of the house, a throne stands.  On a throne there, sits a woman who looks striking similar to Vera, but in red.  She talks to a squirrel and reminds the thing that if he speaks properly, they will not take her head.  Tell me more of this "party?"  Jacque is nearby, just smiling.  

A Unicorn impales a vampire.  The vampire turns to dust.  "So uncivilized..." A Squirrel hands him the invitation and the unicorn brushes it off.  "But there will be cake."

Downstream from the mountain, a fish leaps out and starts walking. It bows on the pale woman sitting on the rock.  The colorless Queen merely smiles.  

Finally, the March Hare shows up in a new plain colorless court with loads of Gold, deeds to land and tax returns.  An old man with colorless clothing, which a massive fluffy beard, greets him and sees the letter.

It seems there will be no shortage of guests for the upcoming party.

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