Slowly regained consciousness, confused. Found myself next to a pile of gold; this continued to fuel my suspicion that I had died. The embrace of nothingness after such a perilous situation alone seemed to be the touch of Iss. Gold, then, would perhaps be my reward? A small gesture for my pathetically small success.
A loud halfling suddenly interrupted my ponderings. “Hi there! Chance is the name, and luck’s my game!” he announced loudly. I responded courteously, offering my new, favored name. Perhaps instead of rewarding me with riches, Iss had decided to punish? Having me see what I could have had, yet due to my failure to remain in the mortal plane, he would have me endure this presence instead. Chance has a sly, devious look about him though, so I considered if instead he were not a servant of Iss himself. Is this a test perhaps?
Chance ran off and began introducing himself to the others in the room; a quick count noted that there were five of us in total: Chance, the dwarf that I had noticed entering the whirlpool was there, a human, and a gnome. Possibly we had survived somehow. I had noticed the glimmer of gold as we entered, so it stands to reason that we are now inside the Vault. It is something I choose to believe: eternity with these people is surely an unfair punishment. Decided to take action while they talked, and so I deftly palmed a gold coin.
Reawakened with something of a headache, the gnome peering at me quizzically. After making some jokes at my expense, they continued sifting through the gold without touching it (clearly having made use of my discovery). So, aren’t complete idiots at least. However, they seem to struggle to make the connection to practical application (most unfortunate for them, but this can come to be in my favor later no doubt). As such, after something of a struggle managed to secure some of the enchanted coins, intending to launch at enemies or to use to pay uncooperative merchants.
Some time passed, and eventually the mage hand (somehow created by Chance) moved the piles of gold sufficiently to reveal an exit. Opening the door, we were greeted by noxious fumes that I immediately recognized: dragon. I was proven correct, naturally. I had not anticipated that it would be able to sense my thoughts, however, and was soon caught off guard and vulnerable. Despite this, I secured us a passage to the next room by tribute of the enchanted gold (no thanks to the others). Also promised to deliver a message to his master, and the dragon (named Carco) noted that the other human thought many questions but asked few. I will have to note for the future that the man, named Tatalka, is irritatingly perceptive for his age. Worse yet, he seems determined to interfere with my progress. Interference has already cost me my eyesight and bought me weeks of pestering; I do not relish thinking of what this will entail while we journey together.
Mustering together through common purpose, we proceeded through the passageways. I stayed back, not particularly anxious to rush headlong into the unknown, and my caution was rewarded with relative safety from the barrage of poisoned darts and pitfalls that crippled all of the others. Strangely, they did not hold this against me. Perhaps they did not notice? Decided to make a chalk trail of safe passage in case a hasty retreat was required. Made note that only I stopped to save the gnome, Berty, when he could no longer move. Began to suspect that the others cared only for their own survival – or perhaps not even that, in the case of Chance who was fool enough to drink unknown potions, of which any (or as the case may be, every) potion could have been poisoned. Chance later revealed himself to have secreted away several items he found from dead adventurers like ourselves; his motives became suddenly rather clear. I suppose I should have expected such shortsighted goals from the reckless halfling. As for the others, I have yet to gain direct insight as to their motivation. The only good person in the party, for that is what we are now, is Tatalka. Why, then, would he have left Burty behind? Mysterious. Nearly as mysterious is Bronx, the dwarven wizard who takes point, despite the pattern of traps. Being neutral aligned, this is a strangely selfless act. Perhaps touched in the head? There is a kind of madness in his eyes that I have noted. I think that Bronx is a threat, or a spy of some kind.
There are forces at work in this place. The type of forces that take my torch, or close a door, but leave behind bodies of others and their gear. The type of force that resets these traps without our notice. Could explain why Bronx takes point; who would suspect the person being hit by traps to be responsible for them? It fits, but I somehow cannot believe it. The wild gaze is more akin to a starved fox than a madman. Bronx must never be at my back, or in a situation of greater power than I.
There is also a voice, a puppeteer of this place. I think this to be the most likely cause of our situation, though I am not willing to set it as the only option just yet. Carco mentioned his master, and I have heard this voice echoed through the corridor of evil warning off competition. I think we are playthings. The strangled gnome and the fool’s trap seem clear evidence of these things. Sadly, he is free to continue this torment; those with the power make the rules, and he has all the power.
I think, however, that he will soon come to regret this choice.