This is your first hard lesson: everybody leaves. You will learn it now, and you will learn it countless times after. They will die or abandon you and there are no exceptions. You can only trust yourself, and your own caution is your greatest ally.
Before anybody could move, including Vilnius, Luco shoots him in both knees and drops him.
I stare at the man at my feet, sobbing about his book. “Uh.” I pull out the book and drop it in front of him. “…here.” Then I walk away. This was way too much trouble for something I didn’t care about.
T’homm approaches him and pats him on the head awkwardly, healing him. As Cera casts an illusion, I walk to the wizard and note a staff by his feet. I pick it up and feel a brief shock of energy, and suddenly the itching in my fingertips is all I can feel. Gold. Right, I’m here for gold. Can’t forget that. The only reason I travel is for gold. I have a goal… the staff chills me, and I realize it possesses frost magic.
I head back out with T’homm towards the statue, but it shoots at us before we can get close and so I fuck off. We find bottles, and I apathetically inspect blue bottles, finding nothing. One of our party [I forget who] finds a secret doorway and get 10 mystery bottles. None of this is gold, though we do find the empty case of what might be floor plans to castle Ravenloft.
Walking down a hallway, I happen to see a book. I try to sneak it into my bag past Cera, but she notices, and asks what it’s about. I can feel it’s magic, and hear a small voice.
Could be worth gold, gold, gold…
“Stories,” I lie as I flip through the pages.
As we leave, I feel a hand in my bag. Immediately I grab the wrist and level my staff at Cera, who looks startled in getting caught. Magic crackles at the end of the staff. I release her wrist only reluctantly, hatred in my eyes as I storm off. How dare she. Those are my things. My gold.
We enter another room and spot a doll house castle. Huh. After inspecting it a bit, T’homm grabs her hammer. “Problem solved!” she says, gleefully smashing it. Inside, we find the amulet.
“Can we move on now? There isn’t any gold here,” I snap.
Cera rounds on me. “Okay, what’s your problem?” she asks.
I don’t even put any effort into my lie, brain noisy with the thought of getting more gold. “Female troubles,” I say. Cera doesn’t look like she believes me, but she quiets down.
She trusts me.
I feel a pang in my chest but it’s quickly drowned out.
I wake feeling stronger, and we go around checking out more of this place. Suddenly we open a room to see Anvyre, tied up at the end of a delicious smelling “feast” that proves no more than illusion. Cera cries out and runs to untie her. When I approach for comfort, I am shunned by Cera. Well. Fair.
7 shadows suddenly attack.
I react quickly, casting shadow and blinking into invisibility. Luco fires a lightning arrow. Jakauf gets hit and blinks out. Cera rips into them, T’homm wipes out another. One remains in front of T’homm. I approach her side, and a ray of cold explodes from just over her shoulder, obliterating the last one before I drop invisibility. T’homm gives me a skeptical look, but Anvyre—is BACK.
Jakauf sees an ewer and grabs it; it fills with wine. I look interested, that could be valuable. Both Cera and Luco seem interested. “I will share the wine, but this is Barovian artifact; I will keep,” Jakauf says.
To get to the next room, we have to dash to avoid getting hit with a magic missile. Thankfully it works. There’s a statue at the end of the room, and a few bodies worship at its feet. Before I can even suggest investigating, Cera blasts it and it reacts strongly.
My brain fuzzes over and I approach, unwillingly, with T’homm, feeling the urge to worship the statue above all else. They attack the statue and attempt to revive us, but nothing works, though I feel my attachment to the staff waver. It is only broken when they destroy the statue.
Luco finds a small room and stomps the skulls on the floor for some reason (???). Cera helps him open the next room, and the floor falls in, and four spectres attack.
Honestly, I’m getting sick of us picking every damn battle. This is not at all interesting to me. I lean over the edge, insult a spectre, and then walk away to file my fingernails. T’homm joins in, and when they’re all done playing murder hobos, we help them back up with a rope.
“Hey look, a hidden door,” Luco says, pointing across the drop.
“Huh?” Cera asks.
“…oh.” Cera opens it and enters a new room. There’s a skeleton on the floor, looking quite comfortable, eyes glowing red.
“Do I know you?” it asks.
He does not know his name, and is probably a Lich, though he doesn’t seem to want to attack us. Until, of course, Cera sees a magical book on the desk. I can’t really blame her, but it is still annoying when she grabs it and misty-steps away. Suddenly the skeleton is attacking, powerfully, knocking her down. Luco snags the book and throws it back. I have a feeling we missed out on a lot of good loot, and sigh, for though he’s calmed down, attacking and stealing first aren’t always the answers.
Luco also seems to be grabbing the most random shit from off the floor, wanting to use it to decorate himself. Oh yeah, no regrets about him joining us at all.
As we explore more rooms, Jakauf opens a door and gets a desk thrown at the door. Jakauf pokes a bit and gets hit by a chair. Again, no time to suggest we investigate calmly—he throws a fireball into the room and shuts the door.
As we wait for the room to finish burning, we take a short rest, in which time I check out the book. Seems to give the user more wisdom. Definitely worth some gold. Jakauf bugs me about it, and I lie to his face without any remorse—especially not when we check out the room and figure out that there was some fun stuff in there that’s now burnt beyond recognition.
I clear my throat. “Here’s a song, guys. Maybe it’ll help us not destroy everything,” I offer helpfully as I tune my lute.
“Stop look and listen,
Before you explore the room;
Use your eyes, use your ears,
Don’t bring us doom!”
Cera opens another door with knock, and we see sarcophagi. I nervously repeat the song.
T’homm goes up and opens a sarcophagi. She seizes up. “What is it?” Cera asks.
“Nothing!” T’homm obviously lies. “Well… it offered me a dark gift. From Ceriac. But for a price, and I rejected it.”
Apparently that was all that they needed. Cera and Luco run up to touch them and get their own gifts, avoiding being turned evil just barely.
They open another room and Cera runs towards the middle sarcophagi as if to hug it before being attacked by a huge monster. I insult it, give inspiration to Cera, and then wander off. Fucking around with evil stuff is definitely a Nope on the list of Gal, and I’m sick of people touching everything and causing all this shit. Cera gets wailed on a little, Jakauf grabs it with a big hand, and we manage to blink it out. Of course, Cera still approaches the tomb, along with Luco. Luco becomes covered in greasy fur, Cera suddenly gets big voids for eyes.
I stay quiet, but am getting anxious. They’re messing with ancient magics. They could seriously hurt themselves.
The last room has four creatures, eagerly awaiting. “We want truth,” they say to Luco and Cera. “We want truth and you can get gifts.”
“I have PTSD,” Luco says honestly before approaching one of the sarcophagi.
“I have two people trapped in one body!” Cera says eagerly. I’m thrown for a loop, but can’t ask anything. I wonder if the rest of the party is just as uncomfortable as me, but nobody’s saying anything as Cera runs forward.
And then she changes.
Her old skin fades away, and Cera is no more. In her place is a weird lady, with black, red and green scales, eyes still void.
My heart grows cold.
“Hi, Gal here,” I say. “What the fuck?”
“Malz’hara is my name.”
“What happened to Cera?”
She doesn’t respond.
“If I ask you your story, will you ignore me?” I ask, feeling sick. Cera is gone. Cera is dead? Who the hell? She knew this. This was what she meant by two people, and yet she allowed this to happen. She didn’t reject the gift and kept poking and now she’s gone, just like everybody else I’ve ever given a shit about. She’s left the party. She’s abandoned me.
She looks at me, as if memories are sorting themselves out. “She was very fond of you,” Malz’hara says.
I feel the knife in my back twist and decide, in that moment, that I hate this person.