I don't own anything. Buffy and Pathfinder are not owned by me. Nor are the writings of H.P. Lovecraft. They are owned by rich, talented people. I'm a nobody. Please don't sue me. Into the Dungeons
It had taken hours for Buffy to finally get Kendra to fall asleep, the zombie made from her father having driven her into hysteria followed by a lengthy fit of weeping that had finally worn her out. The zombie itself had been no trouble for Buffy to dispatch, as she had simply grabbed the hatchet usually used for firewood and beheaded it in a single stroke after pulling Kendra into the kitchen and away from the shambling undead monstrosity. When Kendra had finally succumbed to her exhaustion, Buffy had cleaned up the mess, and had used a wheelbarrow to transport her friend's body to the graveyard where she had swiftly reinterred him.
Buffy had slept fitfully that night, restless dreams of blood and something stalking her with an axe filling her head, and it was nearly noon when she finally made it to the living room, where she found a tired looking Kendra pouring over a stack of books. Grabbing some food for them both, she eventually managed to rouse her friend by reheating the leftovers of the previous evening's dinner. “What's the what?” she asked once they finally sat down to eat.
“Well,” Kendra said slowly as she poked at her food. “I have spent the morning preparing my magics. It was difficult, but I've even managed to memorize a few new spells.”
“What do you mean?” Buffy asked curiously. While she didn't know much about magic, she had listened to enough Willow-babble to know something about the way it was done on her own world.
“A diviner such as myself is a form of wizard, and must commit our magics into our minds in order to perform them. You see, spells are lengthy rituals which take up many pages in our tomes, and if you were to try and perform a spell directly from the ritual, you would never be able to accomplish anything. By the time you spent several minutes performing a spell, an enemy could have simply walked up to you and stabbed you with a knife.”
“That'd be a problem. Baddies are always inconsiderate that way.”
“Precisely. To avoid that problem, we perform the majority of the ritual, leaving the magical forumla trapped within our minds, and we simply use the final words, gestures and ingredients to complete the casting of the spell. Only the simplest of magics, which we refer to as cantrips, can be cast without losing our hold of the formula, forcing us to re-memorize the spell in order to it cast again, as the terminology goes.”
“So you, um, 'memorized' some new spells?” Buffy asked.
“Yes. I don't know many that will be of aid against our foes, but I have prepared what I could.”
After eating they gathered supplies, and soon they were walking once more towards Harrowstone Prison. While Kendra was obviously tired, her eyes were hard and determined, and Buffy couldn't help but wonder if that was how she had looked the day she had gone to confront Angelus. Checking her equipment one last time, Buffy led the way to the entrance to the lower level of the prison.
The entrance was the same dark hole in the ground that it had been the day before, and shining light from a new sun rod revealed little save the rubble that lay at the bottom of the pit. “How should we go about this, do you think?” Kendra asked as they stood carefully at the edge, gazing into the darkness.
“I've got a rope,” Buffy said, pulling it from her bag. Looking around, she found a large broken piece of rubble which she felt comfortable tying it around, before tossing the end of the rope into the hole. “Wish me luck.”
Before Kendra could say a word Buffy simple hopped into the hole, landing lightly on some shattered stone blocks next to a large but shallow pool of water that filled half of the enormous underground chamber. Shining her sun rod around the room, Buffy saw that it had once been even larger, with the majority of the chamber having collapsed during the fire, with soot still clinging to the stone between patches of mold. Nearby was a broken pile of wood and iron which had once been the lift to the upper level, and her keen slayer sight noticed several bones hidden among the debris.
Before Buffy could do more than find her balance and sweep the room quickly with her eyes, a terrible howling began all around her. The sound echoed in her ears, an agonized wailing like dozens of voices screaming as they were painfully burned alive. As the horrible sound began to fade, the dark still water of the pool began to ripple and churn, until, near the broken remains of the lift, two vaguely humanoid shapes slowly rose upwards.
The creatures appeared to be only half-formed, their bodies seemingly composed of strands of oozing semiliquid fibers which jiggled and dripped as they staggered unsteadily towards her. With every step they took the creatures seemed to be almost on the verge of falling apart completely, a silver trail of slime dripping behind them with every motion.
“What's the matter?” Kendra called down, her voice steady but anxious.
“Don't worry!” Buffy called. “Just give me a sec!” Drawing her silver short sword from its sheath, Buffy considered her targets as they closed relentlessly. She had never seen such monsters before, but her research during the first few days after Petros' funeral allowed her to recognize them as ectoplasmic creatures. Maddened and desperate, they would attack the living with insane bitterness, hating all living things as they sought some respite from their horrible existence.
When the first came close enough it swung its arm at her, the boneless creature flexing the limb in an impossible manner as it attacked. Buffy was faster, however, stepping back from the blow and swinging her sword to meet it, shearing the undead creature's arm off near the elbow, the severed limb falling to the ground with a loud splash as it lost cohesion and became a slimy heap on the floor.
Howling madly, the monster didn't even hesitate as it swung its remaining arm at her, Buffy's counter being foiled by the arrival of the other creature. The second monster punched with an open palm, the arm stretching disturbingly as it sought to strike her, forcing Buffy to duck to avoid the hit. Jumping backwards and finding her balance easily on the loose rubble due to a combination of her slayer agility and her boots of elvenkind, she watched warily as the two rushed at her again, their attacks fierce but uncoordinated.
Timing her move carefully, Buffy dove forwards as the two prepared to attack again, her sword lashing out and opening large gashes across their torso's as she used a forward handspring to escape their reach. Rolling to her feet smoothly she spun and charged at them as they staggered, beheading first one and then the other before they could react, their bodies collapsing into piles of silvery ectoplasmic slime as they died.
Looking around carefully, Buffy saw no further threats or other items of interest, and so after a moment she called, “all clear!”
Climbing the rope slowly and awkwardly in her long dark purple dress, Kendra eventually managed a safe descent to the chamber floor, taking in the room carefully as she did, finally drawing a sun rod of her own and igniting it when she reached solid ground. “What happened?”
“A couple of extra-plastic creatures. No biggie.”
Kendra gave her a confused look, before finally shrugging and deciding to ignore the issue. “It appears that we have no choice but to take that path.” The direction she pointed had the only apparent exit from the room, a narrow hall that eventually opened into a large, and more intact, chamber.
That room had four hallways that lead from it, each labeled with a sooty brass nameplate. At the center of the room was a rubble filled staircase, and around it lay eight skeletons dressed in singed prisoner's clothes. Reaching up, Kendra wiped the grime from the brass plate above the hallway they had entered through, revealing the name 'Hell's Basement'.
“Charming,” Kendra said flatly as she read the name.
With a great clatter the skeletons at the center of the room slowly began to animate, rising up and turning to face the women, bone fingers curling like claws as they moved towards them. “Step back into the hall,” Buffy ordered, raising her blade as she stood in the doorway, guarding her friend as the eight attackers closed with them.
From behind her she could hear Kendra chant quietly, until a moment later a streak of golden-white light lit up the room as it struck the lead skeleton, the positive energies of the cantrip causing the animated corpse to collapse to the floor like a puppet with its strings cut. Before she could cast it again, however, the remainder were upon them.
The next minute was a frenzy of activity, as Buffy was forced to fight defensively as her attackers pressed all around her, groping for her with sharp bone fingers. Behind her Kendra cast her spell over and over again, the magic picking off one skeleton after another as Buffy kept them at bay and damaged any that gave the slightest opening.
Unfortunately, as they fought Buffy noticed the air slowly growing warmer and warmer, the bones of the remaining skeletons beginning to glow like embers, heating up more and more before finally bursting into flame. By then their numbers had dwindled to just three, and rather than risk the likely dangers of continuing her defensive tactics against her now flaming foes, Buffy switched to offense, wading forward into the heat to deliver powerful downward blows that sheered through skulls and ribcages, shattering the last of the enemies and sending them to the ground in piles of smoldering bone.
After briefly conferring in the wake of the fight, they eventually decided to take the hallway to the right of their entrance. Reaching up before they entered it, Kendra cleaned the name plate for that wing of the prison, revealing it to be called 'The Oubliette'.
After walking a short distance down the corridor they found a door to their left which hung slightly ajar. Pushing it open, Buffy saw that it was a small guard room, with a table and chairs, and a pair of rotting cots. Along one wall was a winch assembly for raising and lowering the portcullis that Buffy could see at the end of the corridor in which they stood, although it was currently raised.
Climbing from behind the desk was another skeleton, which began to burn with bright flames as soon as it gained its feet. This skeleton, however, was missing its skull, and it moved with a fluid grace that the others had been lacking as it raised a rusty hand axe.
“Don't these things usually stop being all movey after they get beheaded?” Buffy asked curiously as she raised her blade, warily eyeing the skillful way the headless monster swung its axe through several fast practice swings.
“It does seem odd that the absence does not even faze it, I must admit,” Kendra answered, before she began to chant a spell.
Having apparently sufficiently limbered its nonexistent muscles, the headless skeleton charged Buffy, swinging the axe in a broad stroke before lashing out with its free left hand. Buffy ducked the first swing, blocking the second with her sword before the fiery limb could get too close, before countering with a swing of her own, her silver blade skittering across the burning ribs knocking loose shards of bone that lit the air like sparks as they fell.
Slashing again, this time her attack bit deeper, cutting a heavy notch in the creature's unnaturally tough breastbone, her blade becoming stuck as the creature twisted sharply, clawing at her with its free hand, forcing her to abandon the sword to avoid being burned. Before Buffy could draw another weapon, the skeleton swung its axe with blinding speed, but she managed to catch the stroke on her magical bracer. The skeleton had obviously not expected her strength, causing it to stagger slightly at the abrupt stopping of its powerful attack.
Taking advantage of the opening, Kendra cast her spell, blasting it with a ray of light, dimming the flames momentarily. Before it could recover Buffy kicked it hard, sending the skeleton flying back into the table, its spine bending unnaturally as it hit the heavy wood so forcefully that it flipped the solid oak table over, leaving the burning skeleton laying on top of it with its back bent unnaturally.
Not giving it a chance to recover, Buffy picked up one of the rickety chairs and brought it down on the skeleton hard, breaking both her improvised weapon and the monster's spine into pieces, killing the fire and reducing her enemy to a pile of hot bones lying on the ashy floor. Pulling out her sword, Buffy frowned as she saw that the force she had been wielding it with, combined with the heat, had warped the blade. “This was my favorite sword,” Buffy said, pouting.
“I do not believe its maker intended it to be put through such abuse,” Kendra replied, eyeing the damaged weapon.
“Flaming skeletons are probably against the warranty,” Buffy agreed, removing the sheath from her belt and discarding her damaged weapon. Digging through her bag of holding, Buffy hung the silver war razor she had found in the evidence locker at her side before pulling out her mace.
“I suspect the mace is a better choice for fighting these skeletons,” Kendra said with an approving nod.
“You jinxed it!” Buffy shouted, pointed at her friend.
“What do you mean?”
“You said it, so now we won't find another skeleton.”
“And the problem with that outcome would be?”
“Because that means we'll be fighting even worse stuff,” Buffy answered, rolling her eyes. Reaching into her bag again, Buffy decided to grab her short bow and string it, pulling it over her shoulder, before hanging her bundle of magical arrows from her right hip, opposite her war razor. The arrows could only be fired once each before they expended their magical properties, but she did not have any other magical weapons, and if she had to fight anything really nasty she might need them.
Moving down the hallway past the raised portcullis, the two women found themselves in a sizable chamber with metal cell doors covering every wall, and a ten foot by ten foot metal grate covering a dark pit at the center of the room. A thick rope dangled from the grate into the darkness of the hole.
Before they could do more than step into the room a bone chilling shriek echoed up from the depths of the pit, and a twisted human shape clambered up the rope with the agility of a spider, passing through the grate before launching itself howling at them without pause. The creature appeared to be a shaven headed, emaciated man with usually sharp teeth wearing a tattered prison uniform and wielding a large, blood soaked hand axe. Charging forwards, its legs bent and contorted under it as though they had extra, randomly placed joints as it sprang to attack.
Despite its speed, Buffy was far from caught by surprise, the creature's powerful presence having hit her slayer senses like a hammer blow the moment she had stepped into the room. Dropping her mace and drawing her bow, she knocked one of her ten ordinary magical arrows, waiting only a moment for a clear shot before she released, the missile passing through where its heart should be without any apparent resistance, only opening a tiny bleeding cut as his howl transformed from one of blood lust to one of pained rage.
Drawing another arrow, Buffy fired again at point blank range, her shot passing through the creature's breastbone cleanly as it swung at her, forcing her to duck away from the fast strike. Tumbling backwards Buffy drew another arrow which she fired even as she stood. Unfortunately her foe was inhumanly fast and agile, slipping sideways away from her shot on his unnaturally jointed legs. Buffy dropped the bow and raised her left arm to block his next swing, the creature revealing the disproportionate length of its arms as it attacked from well beyond the slayer's reach. However, even with the magic of her bracers, the axe simply ignored them, passing through Buffy's arm completely, leaving a soul deep chill that spread up her limb, until a moment later blood suddenly burst forth from a savage wound.
Buffy grunted in pain, her left hand rendered nearly useless from the damage as she pawed through her bag of holding for another weapon. Ducking under his backswing, Buffy lunged inside his guard and delivered a low spin kick, seeking to sweep his legs. Instead of achieving her desired effect, however, her leg simply felt frozen as it passed straight through his body without any impact.
Kendra finished casting a spell, her golden-white ray striking the monster and causing it to howl once again as it spun and changed at at her, weaving and screaming as it went, swinging the axe through the air before it. As it reached her, she stumbled back, attempting to avoid it, but her efforts were useless as its axe passed through her abdomen without pause. Kendra screamed and fell back against the wall, clutching her stomach as it suddenly began to bleed freely from a deep, delayed cut.
Buffy's eyes narrowed while her hand gripped her next weapon as her foe, which she presumed to be the Lopper, spun around, charging her again while whooping with malicious glee. The two wounds that her arrows had opened were much smaller than before, and as she watched they slowly closed up, revealing no evidence that she had hurt it. When it reached her, Buffy bared her teeth in a savage grin as she swung the Lopper's own axe at it, the bloody weapon thunking solidly into its side. Jerking away with an impossible sideways skitter, the Lopper screamed as it swung its spectral weapon at her, forcing Buffy to tumble back to safety.
Circling warily, the two warriors, living and undead, eyed each other as they gripped identical axes. Buffy could not delay for long, however, as the large injury which she had just inflicted, while slower to heal than the arrow wounds, began to do so as her and Kendra's wounds continued to bleed freely. Swinging her axe through a quick high and low pattern, Buffy pushed the Lopper back as he was forced to parry her attacks, their weapons clashing loudly against each other, each blow emitting clouds of white sparks that simply passed through the floor as they fell, leaving no trace.
Using her superior speed, Buffy finally managed to slip her axe past his guard, opening a shallow cut to his chest, before he suddenly disengaged, his strange stride allowing him to circle around her and charge at Kendra who had been tending to her serious wound while the slayer fought. Before he could reach her, however, Buffy tossed her axe to her still barely functional left hand and grabbed one of her five ghost touch arrows. Throwing it with incredible force, the magical arrow, designed to kill incorporeal creatures like this, struck it hard through the back and out of its chest where the heart should be, spraying blood from the large wound that pierced straight through it.
“Stay away from her!” Buffy shouted angrily. “You're mine!”
The Lopper shrieked back incoherently, spinning and charging at Buffy, its body weaving back and forth as it did so, preventing her from getting another clear shot. She ignored it however, tossing her axe back to her healthy hand and counter charging, meeting her foe axe to axe with a fantastic crash which she sent it flying back with a shriek of outrage.
Jumping into the air, Buffy swung her weapon down at her foe who lay sprawled on the floor. Before she could reach it, however, its body contorted like a dying spider, the apishly long arms twisting as its freakishly jointed legs coiled, until with a burst of motion, it sprang sideways, spinning its axe as it did so, cutting into Buffy side. As before, a numbing cold filled her, and only after her own weapon imbedded harmlessly into the stone floor did her cut open and begin to bleed.
Gripping her axe hard, Buffy planted her feet and pulled the weapon from the ground with a grunt of effort and a shower of stone chips. Spinning low beneath a decapitating swing, Buffy caught the Lopper in the hip, opening another deep gash. Blocking his counter attack, she swung again high, then low, falling into the same rhythm as before, forcing him to simply react and block with her superior speed and skill, his defensive moves now well understood by his cagey opponent.
Another flash of light lit the room as Kendra returned to the fray, blasting it in the back with another spell. Taking advantage of the distraction, Buffy snuck her weapon past his guard and imbedded it deeply in his shoulder, nearly removing the arm. Twisting the haft cruelly as she retrieved her weapon, the Lopper staggered back screaming in pain as she tore a huge hole in his torso.
Casually blocking his weakening attacks, Buffy slowly pushed the Lopper back, forcing him completely on the defensive as she slowly opened one shallow gash after another on her opponent. As it weakened, Kendra continued to strike it with her cantrip, leaving it staggering and wounded, barely able to defend itself. Finally, with one last powerful swing, Buffy knocked its axe out wide, before stepping close and beheading it with a backhand swipe of her weapon. The head screamed in outrage and pain all the way to the ground, before the Lopper slowly transformed into a shadow, then faded away into nothing, its final howl echoing in their ears as it disappeared.
“What... the hell
... was that thing?” Buffy asked, panting. The Lopper's axe, which had previously given her the creeps, was now free of blood and felt comfortable in her hand.
“I'm uncertain,” Kendra answered in a strained voice. “It did not clearly resemble any particular type of undead creature with which I am familiar. It may have been something unique.”
“It's not terribly uncommon for such a powerful event as the fire that burned down Harrowstone to generate truly unusual undead entities. Even expert necromancers do not fully comprehend the forces that are at play in a place such as this.”
“Well, its re-dead now,” Buffy quipped, bringing a brief smile to Kendra's face. “How's your stomach?”
“I believe the bleeding is slowing, but it took my last healing potion to make any headway. The wounds it inflicted bled far more freely than they should have.”
“Yeah. They're pretty ouchy too. Here, take some of my healing potions. I'm running low, but I've got a few left.”
The two women spent several minutes tending to their wounds, before finally taking stock of the situation. The metal doors all around the room were empty cells, most of which were unlocked. Finally they came to the edge of the grate covered pit and peered down into it, the bottom only dimly visible under the light of their sun rods.
“What is this?” Buffy asked curiously.
“As the name of this wing indicated, this is an oubliette. A 'forgotten place.' Those kept in them are supposed to be so terrible that their captors merely wish to forget their very existence.”
“So they just throw them in a hole in the ground! The more I hear, the more I think this prison sucks.”
“What about your friend, the one who killed your sister and sent you here?”
“What about her?” Buffy sked defensively.
“If you had a choice about her punishment, what would you do? Would you wish to forget her?” Kendra asked, gesturing at the oubliette.
Buffy stood for a long moment at the edge of the pit, her keen slayer eyes making out the broken remains of a corpse that must have once been the Lopper. “No. I couldn't throw her in there, even after what she did. I may want to move on, but I don't what to forget her that way. She was my friend once. As mad as I am, as much as it hurts... I couldn't do this to her. I couldn't do this to anyone.”
Kendra simply nodded solemnly. Author's Notes
This begins the lower level of the prison in Haunting of Harrowstone. Kendra continues to use her disrupt undead cantrip to great effect, and they have now taken down three of the five prisoners. The Lopper's axe is no longer cursed (her dream about blood and being hunted could have led to a painful awakening after a while), and is now a minor magical weapon. Like the first chapter in the dungeon, this covered most of the random fights in the area, so it was a series of short skirmishes, although this one ended with a major fight.