YOU’RE CAUGHT IN THE WIRE, WELL, I’LL LIFT YOU UP: in which I cast big magic for the culture and we exit stage right– or, wait, maybe left

All I knew was darkness. Darkness and a hell of a lot of weight crushing down on me. It was hard to hear in so much compacted stone, though I thought I heard rock shifting around. I wasn’t sure if that was Yuval or one of my friends, or just more of the tunnel compacting, so it made trying to free myself kind of fraught.

I managed, somehow, no doubt because of my exceptional concentration even in the absolute shittiest of times, to hold onto that spell weakening Yuval, but as time passed so too did my leash on it.

Or he moved away. I don’t know. I was busy being suffocated slowly by a zillion pounds of tunnel.

Like I said, there was lot going on and I couldn’t see most of it.

I was trying, believe me. The wings also were not helping. You’d think that being made out of light that they wouldn’t be a hinderance in these kinds of situations but the rocks were pinning me more because of them and it felt like such a waste to dismiss them. I’d planned to be so cool.

Anyway, there was definitely movement happening here. I dislodged a small stone. This might seem insignificant to the untrained eye, but to me it was a great victory even if it didn’t yet allow me to move.

The rock pile settled again, jagged edges pressing even more insistently into my back and sides.

It was also at this point that I realized Tem was dying.

For starters, she had been looking really bad when the rocks fell down to begin with, so maybe it wasn’t surprising that a few well-aimed stones were enough to take her out. But after lying under the claustrophobic weight of the rubble, she was not doing so good.

I panicked for a few seconds before realizing, yet again, this was a problem only I could solve. One of the perks of literally pledging my life to the service of Lathander was that death was a little more malleable where I was concerned. I’d gotten into this because I hadn’t wanted to lose more friends.

Also, our dragonborns tended to die a lot, so I was pretty familiar with the signs on, like, a soul-level.

So I stopped Tem from once again passing into the great platinum sanctuary in the sky (or whatever Bahamanian heaven looks like) and tried to wiggle out some space for myself to do activities.

Like, going into my knapsack activities. Okay, it sounded really unexciting, but I had a plan.

There seemed like something else going on in the pile. I had a vague sense of where the souls of my friends were– Tem and Harry were relatively close by, though I couldn’t touch them, and judging from the frenetic motion of Felegum and Zeno, it seemed like they’d escaped the worst of the cave-in and were doing something. Either fighting or working to get us out, I didn’t know.

The rock pile collapsed again, which was getting to be annoying, because not only did it make Tem start to consider death again, it also knocked Helli unconscious, so I had not one but two dying friends to sort out, all while under the rocks.

I was also at this point in my wriggling journey, really close to almost touching Tem. I got Helli’s soul to hold on a little longer and continued to reach for Tem’s excessively shiny armor, while also getting her soul to stop leaving as well.

Zeno was shouting something above that I couldn’t quite make out, but that was okay because I finally managed to touch Tem and heal her. “Please,” I said, sweaty from being so close to the magma and trapped in a hot stuffy space for too long, “dig us out. We need to save Helli!”

I also lit up my necklace so that Tem could see. This, I would like to note, was incredibly magnanimous because Tem can’t see in the dark and it’s also kind of funny to watch her try when Harry doesn’t have a problem with it.

But anyway, now was not the time. It was light time. “Come on, let’s go.”

Zeno, keen of ear though not exactly light of body, heard me as he stood on top of the pile burying us. “Set, you’re alive!”

“Yeah,” I grunted up through the rocks to him. “Me and Tem. Oh,” I added as an afterthought, “and Harry too I guess.”

We talked back and forth for a bit and I learned that he and Felegum had been trying to use HFVNN to eat the rocks to get us out. That was incredibly smart and something in my chest contracted (not due to rocks crushing it) at them trying so hard.

Sadly, HFVNN seemed like a really slow eater for someone constantly hungry, so I accepted that I was once again going to have to be extremely cool. I began the long process of once again rummaging to get into my stuff.

“Nisbit,” Zeno called in Helli’s direction, “if you have Helli and she’s not conscious it might be in your best interest to get her out.”

“Maybe I should cast Shatter,” Felegum said from somewhere far away.

“Maybe no,” grunted a familiar non-paladin dragonborn.

“Sorry, Harry, I can’t hear you!” replied our sorcery-happy mage, crushing a boulder above us to little bits.

This would have been more amusing if it didn’t keep hurting us so much. Helli started to slip away again and I pulled her back amidst my directed wiggling. Eventually, I found what I was looking for and told Zeno to go away.

“Stand back,” I said. “I’m going to try magic.”

Zeno peaced out, then promptly realized he’d forgotten something important. “Oh, HFVNN.”

After I was more or less certain that he was clear, I took out the last scroll.

I had intended to use it to cause absolute havoc on the Red Eyes. And to be perfectly honest, there was part of me that regretted not just smashing the entire ritual to pieces with it. Maybe we’d already have freed the city by now if I had.

A part of me had worried that I’d be wasting it, using it like this. But the thing was, we didn’t have another way out. The city would for sure croak if we did.

So in some ways it was still serving its intended purpose after all, even if no one could see me look like a total badass.

But that was okay. Sometimes I did things for the clear shock and awe value (and to save my friends) and other times I just had to do them for the culture. Both figuratively speaking and for the literal ongoing culture of Csipherus, which still hung very much in the balance.

I took out the scroll, and felt the thrill of incredibly powerful magic. I bade gravity to obey me and it did.

Even as I cast it, I missed it, that feeling unlike anything else, magic beyond my reach, the last time I’d ever get to be that cool.

Rocks rose from around me as I spoke, drifting upwards and latching to the tunnel ceiling. Given the truly insane volume of rocks, it did enable the four of us stuck in the debris to get free (with some help from Felegum and Zeno, who dashed in to assist us in the rest of our concerted wiggle out).

I got hit again by a lot of rocks and nearly passed out. It was terrifying and awesome; without me being awake, all this came down. Suddenly I understood why Felegum was obsessed with this stuff. Then I promptly healed myself so that I wouldn’t kill the people I was trying to save with an accidental uncontrolled avalanche if I passed out.

“Helli, wake up!” Zeno called musically over to the gnome, and then dashed to dig her out. Harry probably got himself out, as did Tem, because dragonborns are surprisingly hardy when they’re not dying, and Felegum dug me out at the last possible moment.

There were seconds left in the spell. We ran down the corridors at top speed as the magic fled and rocks crashed back to earth.

I ran to eastward, deeper into the the pyramid after where Yuval had gone. We’d needed a way in. We’d done all this for a way in. I hadn’t so dearly bought our escapes so that we could be back to where we started.

It was, also, completely not due to the fact that I couldn’t tell which way I was running.

Anyway, I wasn’t alone. Helli was with me, and so was Tem. We were keeping a low profile, assuredly not safe given the volume of zombies around, but there was no sign of Yuval and no Savas either, so that was good.

Helli removed her weird spider legs and stretched.

“Helli!” I said, surprised as hell, because this was the first time I’d seen her remove them literally…ever. Since she’d put them on.

A few zombies looked over in our direction.

She sat back down in the legs.

“Helli?” I whispered. Unsure if this was just showing the legs who was really in charge or if she’d been able to stretch this whole time and merely chosen not to (a flex), I decided to address the leg quagmire later.

For now, we had a pyramid to hide in. Luckily for us, we were a pair of thieves. Piece of cake.

Provided you discounted the one very loud paladin of Bahamut.

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