In which we discover the innate buoyancy of dwarves, and the otherworldly intelligence behind the call of the sea is brought to account...
Roster (Party Level 10th)
Berend - Dwarven Fighter
Elumai - Eladrin Wizard
Finial - Half-elf Paladin
Jonas - Human Rogue/Ranger
At a barked order from one of the fish-men, three of its underlings retreat into the caves, echoes of their webbed feet disappearing into the darkness. The gibbering mouther continues to approach the party, withstanding everything they throw at it, and then suddenly solidifies into a tall pillar of flesh. All of its mouths open simultaneously and a sickening chorus of screams issues forth, sending the company into a daze and causing the very rock of the cave to deliquesce under Jonas's feet. It flips up, bouncing him down the steep floor of the cave, and freezes into place, the crest of a wave drawn perfectly in stone.
As Jonas lands, he feels a painful tug on his arm and is horrified to see the skin of his fore-arm split open to reveal a tiny, fanged mouth, which erupts out on a pseudopod of his own flesh and clamps down on his wrist. Similar sensations all over his body suggest more mouths are forming, and he looks up at his companions to see them all suffering the same grotesque symptoms.
In the face of such disconcerting attacks, the party renews its assault on the mouther. Finial's flail thuds down into the creature and tears a thatch of spongy flesh from its body; the thing begins to warp and flatten, increasingly unable to hold its shape. As the light of Bahamut shimmers and burns its flesh, it slowly discorporates, disintegrating into a film of rainbow-hued oil which trickles away down the cavern.
At the same time the fish-men who had circled around the party appear at the top of the cavern, but by this point Berend has dealt with those who were attacking from the other end and, being familiar with these enemies, the party makes short work of them.
There is much more of the cavern to explore. Further in, Jonas comes upon a much bigger cave, half submerged in a black, quiet deep. The cave itself is multi-tiered, the stalactite-riddled ceiling reflecting what little light there is in a rippling illumination. Five statues, depicting serpentine monstrosities which seem to writhe in the intermittent light, cluster around a massive obsidian altar, from which the carved head of a gilled snake beast stands sentinel over the cavern. The needle-thin teeth of all of the statues drip continuously with water, which pools on the sandy floor beneath them. The cavern as a whole stinks of a week-old catch left to rot in the sun.
As Jonas looks on, the waters of the pool slide and ripple as a vague shape, only just submerged in the darkness, shifts beneath the surface. Movement beside the altar also catches his eye: it's a woman, dressed in black robes. When she realises she's been seen, she gasps in fear and squeezes herself into a shadowy space beside one of the staues, desperately trying to hide herself. Jonas tries to placate her -- "You've nothing to fear from me..." -- but she doesn't respond to his efforts, cowering with her hand over her face as he approaches.
As the rest of the party moves up, the cavern suddenly comes alive, as several fish-men literally step out of the statues. These are much further from human than the previous creatures the company has faced, and have become little more than a loosely-joined assemblage of coral, shells, seaweed, and the thin bones of dead sea-creatures.
Jonas immediately springs into action, drawing one of the creatures away from the party and leaping up a nearby ledge out of danger. Meanwhile another of the creatures lurches with inhuman purpose towards the party, smashing into Berend and erupting in a foul green gas which clings to the party's skin, slowly calcifying their flesh.
At this point the thing beneath the water rises up, a horror as grotesque as the gibbering mouther but several times larger, meaty plasticine globs of flesh connected by thin tendon-like strands which bulge and subsume each-other in continuous death and rebirth. The air warps as it attacks.
The party focuses its attention on the abominable fish-men, blasting, hacking and melting the shells from their bodies. One of them backs away, lowers its shoulders and an eruption of seaweed whips out towards Berend, clutching at his armour and squeezing the life out of him while pulling him towards the edge of the water. As it does so, the warping tentacles of the aberration flick out towards the dwarf, their tips detaching and splatting onto him. Immediately, his reality begins to tilt; shapes writhe and snap at him from the corners of his vision, and faces leer at him from behind his blinking eyelids.
Jonas continues to attack from the shadows, darting out to deal telling strikes to his foes, and taking several cuts to the face for his troubles. Both Jonas and Finial notice something odd about the master aberration, almost as if its attacks are on a repeating loop, but this doesn't stop it suddenly unleashing its call upon Berend, whose mind, filled with the ululating scream of distant realms, urges his limbs into unwilling motion. The dwarf steps onto the edge of the beach and vanishes with a splash into the water, driving down with powerful strokes towards the far corner of the lake. The aberration launches a hail of fleshy bolts at him as he goes, but they splatter and sizzle harmlessly on the surface of the water as he submerges.
Meanwhile two the fish-men step back into the statues and reappear surrounding Elumai, plunging their coral tridents into the mage and dealing her serious injury. In response she unleashes Thunder Wave, launching one of the creatures into the water where it sinks out of sight, but the next blow sends her to the floor, unconscious. Finial, struggling to get control of the fight and protect her, unleashes the power of Bahamut, cutting a huge chunk from the nearest fish-man and bringing his friend back from the brink.
The company's efforts start to tell on the remaining fish-men. Jonas strikes from a good vantage, tempting one of the creatures into a futile chase. Finial is suddenly assaulted by the call of Dagon, and finds himself helpless to do anything except walk off the edge of the precipice and into the pool... but this frees Berend, who not having had the opportunity to make much of an impact thus far, erupts in furious anger from the waters of the pool and brings his axe down on the aberration that has controlled him for so long. It strikes a great swathe from the creature's flesh, which oozes oily blood.
As another of the fish-men falls to Jonas' blade, the party turns its complete attention to the aberration. Finial musters his inner will and shakes off the call, emerging from the waters to bring his own attacks to bear. The creature shudders under the assault, globs of doughy flesh sloughing off under the attack, until eventually it's nothing more than a thin layer of oily particulate floating on the surface, all semblance of life snuffed out.