...and yet, by the time we actually needed to use it, there was stuff on it again. We didn't need to use the whole thing, though.
Gamble and Serene approached the city, after escaping from the graveyard, only to find the gates shut and the walls guarded. Gamble decided to flirt with the guards to get them to let her inside... so one of them floated her up to the top of the wall with them, and started hitting on her while his sergeant yelled at him, and yelled at her, and told her that a woman walking around outside the wall during a disaster -- she could see clouds of dust from various places in the city -- was very suspicious, and that she'd have to be held for interrogation.
"Oh! Oh! Let me!" said the guard who'd fallen for her. The sergeant sighed and sent him and a large, imposing, completely uninterested bear to escort Gamble to the jail. Serene followed them, having turned invisible and intangible to float under the wall -- it was never a barrier to *her*.
So Gamble was taken to the jail, and the guard she'd kept flirting with had the bear shut off the scrying spells on the interrogation room so that he could use some drastic interrogation measures without anyone being able to prove anything.
Bear: "Alright, but if I find you naked and tied up the searge is going to have your head!"
These measures involved taking off his clothes, having Gamble come up behind him and nibble on his ear while giving him a nice friendly hug, and then getting strangled unconscious with her arm around his neck while he tried in vain to escape. Unfortunately, Gamble had nothing to tie him up with. She was able to turn herself into a man (being a golem, her gender was completely fake) and wear his uniform as a disguise, then bluff her way out of the jail -- the bear didn't notice her leaving the room, and didn't recognize her when he finally spotted her.
Serene did. Together, they headed to the mage's guild where the wagon had been parked for improvements, where they found Carnelian. And a giant sink-hole where the mage's guild used to be.
Carnelian: "Gee, I wonder who could have done that? Could it be the templars?"
Not everyone in the sinkhole was dead -- they could see to the bottom, 300 feet down, where bits of the city were still glowing and where people were moving around rescuing trapped people who weren't dead yet, or looting the ruins of the mage's guild, which had been an enchanting guild and had stuff to loot. The party headed down and helped with that -- Carnelian with the looting, the other two with the rescue.
They also saw Sadie there, looting -- Carnelian knew she'd been in the wagon, but apparently she hadn't been crushed in the fall.
Then Priests of the Church of the Mother -- not templars, at least -- showed up and thanked everyone for their efforts, but they were going to complete the rescue and salvage operation professionally, so please put all recovered items in these bins so that they could be reunited with their owners, or used to help pay for the mass ressurection they were going to perform once they'd recovered all the bodies. Carnelian snuck out with some loot by going farther down, into the Miner Cat tunnels, the others had to go through the checkpoint.
Serene hadn't actually looted anyone and was fine. Gamble walked out with Sadie, who had a huge armful of magical items, in addition to full pockets and magic everything -- she'd looted a lot! Somehow, though, the guards and priests who came to remind her to leave her looted possessions behind all stopped talking and started staring off into space in a daze. Serene examined her with magic sight, and saw that not only was she covered in magical items, but her own personal aura was now ridiculously powerful -- estimated magery in the 15-25 range. Some of the other people who'd been looting the crash site were similarly super-charged. It looked like they'd absorbed a huge release of magical energy, or something.
Oh, and they did spot one templar (a crow mage) among the guards trying to dissuade Sadie from leaving with her armful of loot -- the templar got dazed just like everyone else, but Gamble decided to resist the duty to kill him, because they were inside the city and there were witnesses.
Anyway, Serene headed off to the owl's library to study magical spells, since she was between jobs. Gamble asked her to study enchantment because he'd need regular maintenance, now that Armitage was gone, and resisting his duty to kill templars seemed to accelerate the need for that -- it felt like he was forcing his limbs to move against his internal gearing, metaphorically since he wasn't literal clockwork.
Gamble spent a few days working as a guard for an enchanter that could maintain him in the meantime -- there weren't many professionals left in the city, since all three of the organized guilds had mysteriously fallen down sinkholes. He spent his nights living with Sadie and her gang of thieves, flirting (Sadie didn't really seem to know what to do with men, but wanted a harem anyway because she was rich now and deserved it) and plotting to take over the gang somehow. But not coming up with any real ideas.
After sneaking past the guards, evading the traps, and fast-talking the supervisor, Carnelian spent a while assisting the professionals -- that is, the miner cats -- with the cleanup on the junk pile, stealing or trading for or 'finding' a bunch of powerups and some small expensive magical items.
Anyway, after three days, they all met on a rooftop near the wall farthest from the city's main colloseum, because none of them wanted to be anywhere nearby when the priests of the Mother did their Mass Ressurection. The theory was simple -- use an 'area effect' modifier on a 'ressurection' powerup, but no one had had to do that exact combination before, and there were worries that it wouldn't work, would cause a massive explosion, or (Carnelian's favorite) that it would fuse all the ressurected people into one giant blob of flesh that would rampage and kill everyone. So it was much safer to watch on a telecast, from a distant rooftop.
Serene: "If we see a giant glowing dome appear over the stadium, run."
As the priests combined their powerups and activated the magic, a giant glowing dome appeared over the stadium. That wasn't the reason to run, though -- the dome did in fact seem to be ressurecting people, and showed no signs of hurting the priests. No, the reason to run was that the sky -- the huge thorny plant that made up the sky -- seemed to be reaching down towards the city, and giant spiders were parachuting in all over the place and attacking people.
The party -- and the squirrel thieves who'd come with them to watch -- fought off the spiders on the rooftop, backing into a tight circle where Sadie used an item to put up a force dome. A couple of people they didn't know (including the telecaster) were caught outside and paralyzed and warped up in cocoons -- as good as dead. They shaped earth down into the building, where a woman was shooting little bolts of fire at a glowing, meowing cat. They rescued her from the cat (by putting it up through the hole in her ceiling and then sealing the hole) and ran for the stairwell, trying to get underground. Through the window, they saw the whole city engulfed in spiders and insects, and then -- white lightning, crackling through the streets, and everything went dark.
Carnelian lit a lantern, and they could see that the spiders were still hunting people, and the glow-beetles started glowing again as the light hit them, and none of their magical items were working, at all. Apparently, nothing in the city was working, thus the sudden darkness. Even their powerups seemed drained and nonfunctional.
But at least the city didn't collapse into a giant sinkhole... thanks to the thorny vines from the sky wrapping around half the buildings and engulfing the city in skyplant.
Accordingly, the 'flee through the tunnels' plan still sounded good. There were glow-beetles in the tunnel, but Carnelian theorized that they were just attracted to the light of the lantern, and not actively hostile -- so she tossed a bright continual light down the corridor behind them, which did in fact distract most of the beetles. Sadie made a glue patch to trap the others, and they ran past quickly, out of the city. Their magic was working just fine, so obviously the city hadn't been engulfed in a giant no-mana zone or anything. Serene theorized that the mass ressurrection had required too much mana, and had basically sucked the magic out of everything nearby... although they'd seen a few spiders landing on the glowing dome through the telecast, and it had looked like the spiders had their own disruptive effect.
They met with a few other refugees outside the city, as they fled farther away to be outside the range of the swarming spiders, and made a giant ring of fire to hold the insects at bay while they partied to celebrate their survival. During the party, strange lights with no obvious source started poking around the campsite, and managed to hypnotize a deer-satyr, trying to lure her outside. But Gamble and Carnelian were on guard to stop her, and eventually the lights went away. They found a cave to hide in, and a door to install on the cave entrance to keep people out, and spent a somewhat crowded and uncomfortable night, huddling in the dark.
Eventually, it was time to wake up and get moving. But where? Serene spotted what looked like a large camp near one of the city gates, and peeped over to investigate -- the city guard had a refugee camp with a few thousand people in it already, and was organizing an army to take back the city from the spiders, or at least rescue the rest of the people still trapped inside. She informed the others, and most of them decided that at least investigating the reclamation efforts was their best bet, since otherwise they'd be heading off into the wilderness with no real goal in mind.
Sadie wanted to conquer the city, or else find a boat and become a pirate, but Gamble talked her out of it.
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