They might never have noticed the thieves if it wasn't for Kit's Vore Hound (sort of a dire-wolf looking thing he'd found himself with, replacing his mountain rescue dog, after they somehow got free of Vaal's influence) trying to bite his butt.
A dragonfly? In the mountains? In a giant acorn flying 50 feet above the ground at 60 mph in the mountains? Faerie fire!
There were a LOT of dragonflies. About half of them scattered out the windows of the control deck, the rest of them were put to sleep by the fish. So was most of the party, except for Kit and Mira -- it was a pretty powerful spell, but Kit and Mira had studied counterspelling specifically.
Kit lit the sky on fire with gigantic cones of flame, to try to get the dragonflies who'd run off -- which were obviously polymorphed thieves, since he'd noticed the pocket the one the dog had bit at was mysteriously empty -- but if he hit them, he didn't hit them hard enough to kill them and turn them back into people. He couldn't actually *see* them, which is why he had to trade damage for area. [Also, the magic system had just changed to make killing people in one hit really hard.]
Then Kit used precise tongues of flame to 'immobilize' all the dragonflies by burning off their legs and wings, and Mira went antimagic to untransform one of the sleeping thieves, so that they could try to get their stuff back. That didn't work as well as they'd hoped -- the antimagic instantly reversed the effect of Kit's fire, and the thief was awfully squirmy even without magic, with smoke bombs and stuff. Cho (they *did* wake up the rest of the party before trying this stuff) grabbed him, though, and then the thief horribly failed his polymorph spell and effectively immobilized himself.
He wouldn't talk, though, when they tried to interrogate him about the thieves' hide out.
The second thief, they woke up after carefully dispelling the transformation only, and he triggered his word of recall spell and escaped.
The third thief was examined in detail, and had apparently booby-trapped himself with compressed steam, so that if he was anti-magicked he would explode, killing everyone nearby. He was left, still asleep, hanging from a tree, since he was too dangerous to have on the ship. Er, acorn. They debated dispelling him from long range to safely detonate him, but didn't get around to actually doing that.
They did use mind control on one of the thieves after dispelling his escape spells, to get him to tell them where the gang's hideout was... only, it wasn't a gang. It was more of a club. They'd heard the prophecy too, and had gotten together to rob the prophecied merchants after they'd sold the water of youth, since they couldn't afford to actually buy any. Afterwards, they were all just going to go to separate homes, though -- and the ones who'd already robbed Bob and Kit (Cho hadn't gotten robbed yet when the dog started biting, and Mira was also a thief and had hidden her money better) had been the ones to immediately fly off when faerie fired.
Eventually, they decided that since MOST of the thieves (including all the ones they still had in custody) hadn't actually intended to hurt them, just steal from them, they didn't deserve to die. So they were stripped naked and cast out into a blizzard-ridden forest (blizzard courtesty of Leen, of course), with a druid-path leading to the forest near the fountain of youth. In Vaal's territory. Where Vaal would, most likely, take control of them and give them a Perfect Life, if the fountain didn't turn them into the next gang of kids guarding it.
At the end of it, they took stock -- they'd lost a LOT of money to the thieves, but they had gotten their hands on 57 mezukuma boxes (essentially, bags of holding) that the thieves they'd caught had planned to carry off loot in. Apparently, they'd expected the party to spend more of their money on buying stuff. And most of their equipment was still there.
So they headed on to Krrtk's fountain. The map in the guidebook said that there were some witches who lived nearby, who kept the tortured souls of anyone who tried to enter the mountain without permission, so they decided to go deal with them first. Hopefully, by getting permission.
Well, the book was 500 years old, and the witches were gone. Their hut was still there, though, and inside were some magically preserved books and other little trinkets, which they put inside one of the mezukuma boxes and so didn't notice all turning to dust when they left. There were also a bunch of mysterious little spheres that they couldn't identify, but didn't seem magical -- they took those with them too.
The monastary where the fountain was located was overgrown and abandoned as well. The reflecting pool out front was guarded by carnivorous mold, and the fountain itself was long since dry -- they'd have to go find the source, which wasn't entirely unexpected, given the state of the last ruin-based fountain (in Kintar, with the fish). They did find some lovely gems in the eyes of a statue -- it was guarded by skeletons, which is why they were still there, but the skeletons weren't much of a threat to the party.
When they decided to head down into the dungeon, it was a lucky thing they had the astral sight devices, though, because the guard room leading to the dungeon was crisscrossed with fate-spider webs, and 'DOOM' was written over and over again on the walls, in a dead language (that Mira and Kit remembered as being an alien tongue, even back when it was used).
So Bob and Cho (and presumably the Vore Hound, which I always forget about) were put in mezukuma boxes, and Mira and Kit (who had some acrobatics training) carefully threaded their way through the room. Then the battered party members were let out -- unlike real bags of holding, the boxes just got small, and still translated acceleration. Oopsie.
The first level of the dungeon only had one water source, according to the map, and it turned out not to be magical. Sigh. There were two more levels of the dungeon on the map, but... um... how do you get to them? There weren't any stairs...
They pored over the guidebook, until eventually figuring out that you had to make sure the throne was empty, and then you'd be able to set off a trap dumping you into the maze of death. Of course! So they headed towards the throne room, checking rooms they passed for any signs of habitation or valuables. Well, there were signs of recent habitation -- dead hobgoblins glued to the walls in cocoons of astral fate-spider thread.
...the threads of fate really shouldn't have been doing that. They made lucky things happen, or made people decide to do one thing or another -- they didn't physically haul you up to the ceiling and pin you there.
One room did have valuables -- a Temple of Mars had orichalcum statues of Mars. Very valuable! They decided to loot it thoroughly, to search of clues about what had happened there. And they found one, kind of...
In the back room of the temple, a human was wrapped up in fate spider strands, but alive -- and drawing power from them, trying to gradually cast a spell that would turn him into a lich. They tried to ask him questions, but his answers were a little cryptic.
"You will all die." "Nothing mortal can leave this place alive." "Krttk's word is law!"
Mira sarcastically noted that the *rest* of the party was probably going to be fine, then, since she was the only mortal. Kit tried to lecture the priest on the horrific misuse of fate -- because when he'd made his first proclamation, strands of fate had attached to each member of the party, presumably dooming them.
But they couldn't get the priest to explain further, so there was no choice but to follow the threads to their doom. And then, hopefully, kick its butt.
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