Episode 56: the Death of Keen, Part One
Keen, Yuna and Whisper, realizing they had disturbed some creature’s lair, decided to retreat out of the tunnel but before they could make much progress were set upon by dozens of stonebreaker spiders pouring out of tiny holes in the surrounding stone and rock. They swarmed Keen, crawling across his body, under his armor and inside his clothes, covering him in tiny bites. Whisper cast Spike Growth to slow the swarming insects, and every time the party attacked they recoiled and burrowed back into the stone, only to reappear again, and in seconds Keen found himself petrified, his horrified visage frozen in place.
Yuna considered using her scroll of Greater Restoration. But such a powerful spell was beyond her talents and she worried it would be for naught. Thinking instead to escape and then return with Magnus to retrieve Keen, Whisper and Yuna began to retreat, but realized in horror that the spiders were now burrowing into Keen, and watched in horror as fissures and cracks spread across the stone halfing, before his torso came apart in several large chunks, tumbling to the rocky floor of the tunnel.
Keen was dead.
Yuna stared in shock, at first not knowing what to do. She considered the spells at her disposal: too late for Spare the Dying, and not enough material components for Revivify. She could do nothing now, but survive. Whisper rummaged in her Bag of Hoarding looking for some sort of insect repellent, but could find only a jar of rat repellent, which she brewed to keep the basement of her broken watchtower clear of infestation. She threw it at the swarm anyway; it seemed effective, as the dozens of tiny spiders abandoned their feast of the shattered Keen and retreated into their stone tunnels.
The pain of each spider bite echoed across the risidium binding’s psychic link, as all wounds do, and alerted Ara and Magnus, still returning from their day of shopping with Sirlius, to their companion’s being in danger. But Keen’s sudden death hit the linked friends with a sharp pain at the base of the skull and a rushing noise in the ears; there could be no mistaking what had happened. Having just arrived on the 7th tier they set off at a run for the manor.
When they arrived some half-hour later, exhausted and out of breath, they found Whisper and Yuna attempting to pull Keen’s heavy stone remains through the tunnel into the base of the dry well. Together, the five remaining party members were able to get Keen’s body out of the well and laid him out on the frozen ground under the darkening sky.
Magnus and Yuna debated who to call for help; there was still time for a resurrection, but they would need a practitioner of high-level magics. Thinking they might find a cleric in one of the city’s temples willing to assist, they set off for the temple district. Ara, Sirlius and Whisper remained with the body of Keen, Whisper quietly muttering “Failed. Failed.”
As Magnus and Yuna made their way through the city, they heard tell of small temples to both Syf and Freya on the 7th Tier of the city, but also that there was a temple to Bahamut on the 6th. They decided to try the latter, given Keen’s relationship to the slain Platinum Queen.
It took well over an hour to make the trip, but as the cold of winter bit at them and the great tear in the sky hung over them, they arrived at last at the foot of the Uman Temple of Bahamut, a great marble edifice at the base of the cliff of the 6th Tier. They were met by two heavily-armed, plate-armored guards, who dismissed them, declaring the Temple closed. While the companions treated with the guards for assistance, a human emerged from the temple, a man with greying hair in a military cut, his pale complexion covered in scars. The man was similarly armed and armored but with his helmet under his arm; he addressed Yuna by name and directed the guards to bring them inside.
Meanwhile, Keen awoke from his ordeal in the tunnel beneath the manor to find himself standing on the Shore, a space between realms. He regarded the black waves of the ocean gently lapping the black sand of the shoreline and the black, sunless sky reaching to the horizon. Keen had shared a vision of the Shore with the party once before: a vision of a potential future brought on by touching the Raven Feather given to them by Anansus. It included an encounter with the Ferryman, a fearsome creature of legend said to carry the souls of the dead away from the world of the living. And sure enough, the squat green creature stood next to a small, flat-bottomed boat, lantern and curved knife in hand, seeming to regard Keen impassively through golden coins upon his eyes.
Keen was greeted by the voice of a young woman behind him. He turned to see a halfing woman with alabaster-white skin, a cascade of black hair and dressed in black leathers. “You done fucked up, Keen,” she said. “You’re here before your time. And you present me with a bit of a conundrum.”
Without understanding how he knew, this was Death. “What conundrum?” asked Keen.
“Well, you are Keen, Halfing scamp and rogue of some repute. But that’s not all you are, is it? And were you to step onto my boat now, you would carry with you immense power into… what comes next. And to be entirely honest I’m not sure what that means for either you or the world you leave behind. You were not meant to die at this time, Keen.”
“Well you don’t have to take me. You could just–” Keen began, but Death shook her head with a wry grin.
“Oh Sugar, you’re under the mistaken impression that I have a choice in these matters. I do not. I am not some midwife of fate, to curry change and influence and align pieces on the board to my pleasing. I am no petty god. I am of singular purpose. You will step onto my boat, Keen. Everything does, sooner or later. But perhaps… I’ll tell you what. You can either take a trip with me now, and the Ferryman will take you where you need to go. Or I can attend to other matters, for a time, and leave you here, on the Shore. And after a spell I will return to collect you. What you do between then and now, well, that’s hardly my concern.”
Keen considered this. “What if we play a game of cards,” he said, reaching for a deck from his pack, “If you win, I will–”
Death smiled again. “Keen.”
“Well, I guess I’ll stay here for a while then,” said the halfing.
“Your fate is your own, of course,” said Death, as she walked lightly across the sand towards the waiting Ferryman. “I’ll be back, Sugar. In the mean time, might I suggest you tell yourself a story? To pass the time?” And with those words she, the Ferryman creature and the boat, all faded into the blackness of the Shore.
Alone once more, Keen sat in the warm, black sand to regard the Ocean of Night.
Keen Trap Status: Sprung
Keen Trap Lethality Rating: Surprising!
Party Slogan: “No More Adventures”
RP Ratiing: Awesome!