Journals of Nikita Katarina Czigany Kryszka

A tale of mystery, adventure, love, death and poaching from Torodin's favorite priest. Join in for the ride of a lifetime to stop the Fall of the Night of Evil.

Book 5.10 Greasy Hydras Can't Jump

20 Esterealan

While I am not known as a military strategist, it seemed clear to me that lying prone beneath the belly of a nine-headed ice hydra was not an advantageous position for either Ester or the mouse hiding in her pocket. I hastily cast a healing spell on the badly wounded Ester and urged her to relocate as expediently as possible.
“But it can’t see me here!” Ester protested. “We’re safe.”
In a calmer moment, I am going to have to talk to Ester about the definition of ‘safe.’ Unfortunately, now was not the time to reason with Ester. It’s difficult for a mouse to make oneself heard over the roaring of a nine-headed ice hydra. (Or any sort of hydra, really.)
“Aaaaaaaaaah!” Val cried as she charged through the air toward the ice hydra. She stopped, leaping backward as several heads snapped at her. Val might be bold, but she’s not foolish; it’s a subtle but important distinction. Several heads whipped in her direction and breathed deadly cold at Val. Her brightly colored clothes became crusty with frost, but thanks to Jven’s protective spell, Val was unharmed. By the frost, that is. The three heads that bit her were another matter. Val looked rather unwell at this point.
“Ester,” I pointed out, “we’re not protected by Jven’s spell any more.”
“Shhh! It will hear you.”
More quietly that the flashy warrior, Aren jogged up the stairs. He unleashed one of his shadowy daggers from beneath his sleeve and tossed it at the hydra’s neck. The blade pierced the creature, which snorted in annoyance, as if it had just broken a nail. A few drops of blood splashed onto the ice just past Ester’s nose.
Haquia followed Aren’s attack by firing two arrows into another scaly neck. Canliss cast magic missiles and flapped into the corner, safely out of harm’s way. The creature hissed at them with several heads. All in all, the hydra was a very noisy beast.
“Ester, we need to get out of here,” I squeaked. Honestly, I don’t think there was a more dangerous place for us to be except possibly on top of the hydra, but even Ester wasn’t foolish enough to do that.
Sadly, Ester ignore my wise advice (No one listens to me.). She got to her knees and swung her flame sword at the creature’s foreleg. The blade cut deep, sizzling as the fire melted through the ice coating the beast’s scaly hide. It screamed in rage. (Fortunately, it did not collapse; I would have had harsh words for Ester if that had happened.)
“Ester, don’t attract its attention!” I yelled. Much too late, I’m afraid. It’s impossible to reason with Ester once she starts whacking things. It didn’t take a vision to know that Ester was going to be badly hurt in the near future, and I couldn’t heal her from the grave. The only prudent thing to do was retreat. The hydra was unlikely to notice one little, gray mouse, so I scurried out of Ester’s pocket and to the edge of the pyramid. I slid down the sloping ice and flew into the air, where Aren caught me.
“I got ya,” he said. I huddled in Aren’s palm, shivering and pawing in vain at my wet fur. Retreat might have been the wisest course of action, but it certainly wasn’t the warmest.
As my fellow priest tossed another shadow dagger at the hydra from a nice, safe distance, it occurred to me that Aren’s pocket was a much safer place to be than Ester’s. During a battle, at least – I don’t really know who Aren is (yet). Sadly, my favorite pocket to ride in is on its way to Geston.
“The hydra is healing itself!” Ester bellowed suddenly. This was a rather dismal discovery, given that our ability to heal one another was considerably more limited. Jven and I had already used most of our spells.
Ester had noticed the hydra’s regenerative abilities as it stepped away from her, intent on Val. She took this opportunity to cut a large gash in the vicinity of it’s massive posterior. The hydra roared in anger. Three of its heads breathed frost over poor Val, who was, thank the gods, still protected by Jven.
Unfortunately, the hydra was even better at multi-tasking than a busy Torodinite. Even as it coated Val with frost, two more heads turned and breathed frost on Ester, who wasn’t protected by Jven’s magic. Poor Ester shuddered, then screamed in pain as the hydra’s remaining four heads chomped on her. Ester’s blood ran freely over the icy pyramid.
“Hey, Canliss, cast some Grease up there!” Aren yelled. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Perhaps my darkest fears weren’t so paranoid after all – maybe Aren was a saboteur? He could be working for the Flame Brotherhood, for all we know.
Canliss needs no encouragement to cast the Grease spell. Ester shrieked in horror as we heard the all-too-familiar words of the spell, followed by a loud splurt as a pool of grease appeared beneath the hydra. Canliss looked smug, even though the spell had no immediate result other than frightening Ester.
Jven, meanwhile, had cast Sanctuary on herself. She approached Gor, apparently intent on healing him. I would have considered that a waste of divine magic, but it would be nice for the hydra to have something to munch on besides Val and Ester. Ignoring Aren’s startled cry, I leaped out of his pocket to land on Gor’s head. I proceeded to cast a healing spell on him. The barbarian opened his eyes, looking groggy (more so than usual, that is) for only a moment. He leaped to his feet and promptly began foaming at the mouth. Luckily, Jven slapped him with another healing spell before he went charging up the stairs toward the hydra.
Val, still in mid-air, stabbed the hydra and leaped backwards. Ester cut into the beast from the other end, just before Gor arrived to sink his axe into its side. Blood poured onto the ice, yet it looked as if our warriors were just getting started. The hydra’s other wounds had already healed. We didn’t seem to be getting anywhere.
Haquia and Aren pitched in with arrows and phantom daggers, to no avail. Was this creature beyond us? What were we going to do? Our retreat was blocked by a wall of ice.
Even as this worrisome thought occurred to me, the snarling hydra savaged Ester with several heads. The giantess slumped over onto the ice and lay still in a puddle of her own blood.
“Ester’s down!” Val yelled, since many of us couldn’t see the top of the pyramid. (I confess, some of what I have been describing I learned second-hand.)
“Back off everyone!” Canliss yelled. “I’m going to grease the top of the stairs.”
Well, at least he’d warned us for a change. “Canliss,” I snapped, “if you do that, we can not get to Ester to heal her.”
“Never mind,” he said, and cast some more magic missiles. At least he can take direction once in a while.
Ignoring the fact that he was still rather badly wounded, Gor plunged in to the fray, swinging his massive axe at the beast. (Not before the hydra sunk its teeth into him, undoing some of Jven’s and my hard work. Being a cleric is such a thankless job.) Gor got even by chopping into the hydra with his axe, but his pride was short-lived when the wound closed up almost as fast as he’d created it.
Fortunately, Gor had managed to attract the hydra’s attention. As soon as the beast turned away from the unconscious Ester, I summoned a Celestial Saint Bernard and ordered it to rescue her. The dog (who was just as cute as its more mundane brethren but didn’t slobber so much), grabbed Ester’s collar and dragged her to the edge of the pyramid, where they both slid down the icy slope, with Ester’s shadowy tentacles flying in every direction and blood staining the ice behind them. I started running toward them, hoping to reach Ester in time to save her from bleeding to death.
Meanwhile, all nine hydra heads ignored the arrows and shadow daggers sailing past them and attacked Gor. The barbarian staggered but didn’t die. This was probably for the best; Gor was quite useful as a distraction. Realizing this, Jven walked through the air to slap Gor on the back of the head with another healing spell. Unfortunately, we clerics could not heal damage nearly as fast at the hydra could cause it. I hated to admit it, but our odds of winning this battle were looking rather slim.
“Do you think we really have to destroy this thing?” Val asked.
We couldn’t be sure of that without further divination, but retreat was sounding like a pretty good idea. After all, we could always come back and kill it after we’d healed everyone and restored our spells. It wasn’t as if defeating the hydra were beyond our abilities; we’d simply started the fight at a serious disadvantage.
Even Gor could see the wisdom in retreating. Without deliberation, he threw Jven over his shoulder and dove for the edge of the ice pyramid. The hydra lunged after them. One set of teeth snapped on empty air. A second nipped Gor on the shoulder. Jven yelped as they went careening down the icy slope, but I think she was enjoying herself. They reached the bottom and stopped inches short of falling into the lava.
The rest of the group wasn’t about to be left behind. I unmoused and met the Celestial Saint Bernard (His name was Rolf.) in the corner of the ice pyramid and cast a healing spell on her. It wasn’t enough to get her to her feet.
“I need some help with Ester!” I yelled. I certainly couldn’t carry her. Even dragging her would have been a chore, especially in heels.
A shadow fell over me. Aren had moved to stand between me and the hydra. What did he think he was doing? It was a sweet gesture, but Aren was no paladin. And I’m no longer the helpless girl I used to be. I could take care of myself.
Not bothering to get up, Jven crawled across the ice to slap a healing spell on Ester. The giantess opened her eyes just as we heard an anguished roaring from above. Everyone turned as the hydra slipped on Canliss’s grease and slid off the top of the pyramid. Shards of ice flew as it dug in its claws, just managing to stop itself from sliding off the edge. The statue in the corner shattered and plunged into the lava below.
Val, standing in the air just above it, smacked the beast on the head with her rapier. Then she went running through the air to fetch Haquia, who’d gotten herself stuck in the far corner and had no way of escaping without help.
Although we were all happy to see the hydra momentarily confused, there was one problem with this turn of events. (Two, if you count the smugness radiating from Canliss.) The hydra was now just as close to the exit as those of us piled in the corner, and it was closer than Val, Haquia and Canliss. Could we really beat the creature out of here?
“Gor, grab Nikita and run!” Aren ordered.
I backed away and glared at him. Did he think I was a piece of luggage to be hauled around by the barbarian? If our association is to continue, Aren and I are going to have a long talk.
Gor, who didn’t want to save me any more than I wanted to be touched by him, shrugged and ran for the door. We could see the rope bridge swaying under his weight. Unfortunately, once he got to the other side there was only a ten-foot ledge to stand on. It was going to be quite a challenge fitting everyone on that tiny ledge.
“Run for the bridge!” Aren yelled. “I think I can distract it. Just go. Don’t worry about me.”
I stared at Aren in confusion. Apparently, not only does he have the delusion that he’s in charge, but he thinks he’s a paladin. Perhaps we should have the Soltanites inspect him for mental illness.
“Aren, run!” I yelled.
Ignoring me (Everyone ignores me.), Aren strode towards the hydra and cast a spell. A smoky cloud of dark mist filled the corner of the pyramid, obscuring the hydra from view. The beast roared, either in confusion or anger it was difficult to tell.
Hoping to slow the beast down some more, I ordered Rolf, the Celestial Saint Bernard, to attack it. I knew the poor thing didn’t have a prayer of surviving long, but he could buy us some time. As Rolf raced into Aren’s mist, I moused into Ester’s pocket. We heard some barking and snarling amidst all of the hydra’s bellowing.
Ignoring the dog, the hydra charged out of the mist and lumbered toward Val and Haquia. The beast stopped and breathed frost on them. Haquia was still protected, but Val shuddered and screamed in pain.
Canliss, who firmly believes that the only thing better than Grease is more Grease, cast another spell beneath the hydra’s feet. The hydra didn’t seem to notice. At least it didn’t go sliding toward Val and Haquia.
Realizing we couldn’t stand around waiting for the hydra to breathe frost on us, or for Canliss to cause some Grease-induced disaster, we lost no more time retreating. The betentacled Ester turned and ran across the rope bridge. As I bounced alarmingly in her pocket, I could see Gor standing on the ledge ahead of us, chopping at the wall of ice with his axe. Jven, walking on air, ran straight for the ledge, where she drew her cutlass and began helping Gor.
Behind us, Val threw Haquia over her shoulder. Eluding the hydra’s snapping jaws, she climbed into the air and started across the river of lava.
This left only Aren and Canliss in the room with the hydra. I looked anxiously over Ester’s shoulder. If Aren died, I’d never find out who he was. Fortunately, Aren knew that Canliss could take care of himself. He turned and started across the rope bridge. We heard a distant yelp that signaled the untimely passing of Rolf the Celestial Saint Bernard, then the hydra appeared at the cavern opening. The beast stopped to breathe frost on Aren, but my brother priest was still protected. Ester ran back to fetch him and carried him the rest of the way across the rope bridge.
“We should do a lot more leaving,” said Jven, shaking her head at the frost-covered Aren.
“Thank the gods, we’re all safe” I said as we all crowded on the ledge and the end of the rope bridge while Gor, Ester and Jven hacked at the wall of ice.
“What about Canliss?” Val asked.
“Oh, he can take care of himself,” Jven and I replied in unison. We both knew that self-preservation was the six-fingered mage’s specialty.
Gor paused a moment in his ice chopping. “Do you think the hydra will be mad when it notices we’re gone?”
An angry roar came from the distant cavern. “I, uh, think it’s noticed,” said Val.
While Ester and Gor chopped at the ice wall, the rest of us discussed our situation. We couldn’t just run away and leave the hydra here. It smacked of leaving things half-finished.
“So, how do we know if we destroyed the Soul of Ice or not?” Ester asked, even as she kept hacking at the wall.
“We did not,” Aren said decisively. I wonder where he learned to be such a pessimist.
“But we smashed it all to hell,” Ester protested, “just like the child of Stern mother unborn.”
“That’s lifeless child, Ester,” I added hastily, since Val was looking rather alarmed. “Of Stern mother found.”
“Let’s just go back and tell Donar we destroyed it,” said Jven, taking a swig of her whiskey. (I’m sure she was kidding.)

We made it through the wall of ice (an unpleasantly chilly experience) by the time Canliss flew over to join us. He looked dangerously smug.
“I killed the hydra with a Grease spell,” he said proudly.
We all stared at him. The six-fingered mage proceeded to describe how the hydra had jumped from of the platforms between the bridge and the ice pyramid and onto the ledge just beyond the rope bridge. At which point Canliss naturally cast a Grease spell. Then Canliss flew above the rope bridge and cast a Taunt spell. The hydra, which wasn’t all that bright, leaped at him. Canliss gleefully reported how the hydra had slipped on the grease and went screaming into the lava below.
“Riiiiiiight,” Jven and I said in unison. We proceeded to plan how we were going to return and destroy the hydra in the morning.
“What do you mean?” asked Val, who didn’t know Canliss all that well. “He said he killed it.”
“You don’t know Canliss like we do,” said Jven.
“It could happen,” said Val generously.
“I killed it,” Canliss insisted. “I wiped up the floor with that thing. It’s gone.”
“Technically, the lava killed it,” Ester pointed out.
We attempted to plan tomorrow’s assault on the lava, although those who thought Canliss was telling the truth weren’t really into the spirit of things. We did take care of the ice wall. Aren tossed a torch into the grease on the other side. As the wall melted (The rope bridge caught on fire, too, but we had spells to get around the need for that.) We used our remaining healing spells, then we slept inside the rope trick.
21 Esterealan

In the morning, we noticed that all the frost was gone from the walls. After we said our prayers, I sent a creeping shadow to check on the hydra. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that it wasn’t there.
“Oh my gods!” I cried. “Canliss was telling the truth. The hydra is gone!”
“See, I told you I killed it,” Canliss replied smugly.
I couldn’t bring myself to congratulate him. I was too appalled knowing that one day I will have to explain to Rhavin how Canliss came to believe that his Grease spell is the cure to all of Hurva’s ills. Honestly, he was cocky before… now he’s going to be insufferable. The whole of Istur is going to be covered in grease before the month is out.
At the moment, we had more impressing concerns. I cast air walk on Val and Ester so they could ferry everyone across the river of lava.
We spent several hours searching the cavern and the pyramid. We found nothing. I don’t know about the others, but I was terribly disappointed. I’d expected an important discovery after destroying the Soul of Ice. But what had we learned? Nothing. We didn’t even know how the Soul of Ice came to be here.
“I know,” I said. “I’ll send a magma mephit to search the area where the hydra fell into the lava.”
“There’s a magma mephit?” Ester asked dubiously.
I nodded.
“Really? Is there a cookie mephit?”
“No, Ester?”
“How about a sock mephit? A noodle mephit?”
“That’s enough Ester.”
“Cast the spell, Nikita,” said Val, smiling. “It certainly the only use you’re ever likely to find for a magma mephit.”
“True,” I said. “They’re not much use for doing chores.”
I cast the spell. Sadly, the mephit found nothing. There was simply nothing to be learned here. After all that effort, I’d expected some sort of soul-shaking discovery. Instead, all we had was two escaped demons and one missing head of a creepy fire cult. Canliss didn’t even get any loot.
There was nothing else for it. We made our way back to the surface to report to Donar. When we reached the warehouse, we saw the demons had left quite a mess behind them.
“This is not our fault,” I reminded the others. I wanted to make sure we were all clear on this, so there would be no confusion when Donar asked about it. I will not be held responsible for demons being loose in Istur.
It was mid morning on the surface. Although we were all happy to see daylight again, the experience was soured by the nonstop bragging from the six-fingered mage.
“Canliss,” I chastised him, “that’s enough. Arrogance is not a charming trait.”
“We all agree with that,” Canliss said unrepentantly.
“So Aren, are you coming to Strand’s with us?” I asked innocently. “Or do you need to get home? You said you lived on…”
Aren chuckled, not taking the bait. “I don’t believe I actually mentioned that. And I do have other obligations.”
“Really? What might those be?”
Aren smiled and didn’t answer.
We’d just rounded the corner of Shadow Lane, bringing Strand’s into sight, when I spotted someone watching us from the doorway of Lightfingered Willie’s house. It was Nunzio, one of Shifty Nicco’s thugs. What in the name of the nine hells was that bastard doing? Spying on me?
There was no time to discuss the matter with the others (especially when one considers their tendency to bicker). I cast invisibility on myself and started towards him. As soon as I vanished, he ran. I followed, but soon lost him in the crowded streets.
I would dearly have loved to know his reason for following me, but I lacked the spells to continue the chase. Knowing the others (well, Jven) would be concerned, I headed back to Strand’s.
As I was passing Daria’s Jewelry Shoppe, I spotted the most lovely sapphire pendant in the window. I just had to see it; it would only take a minute. I suppose it took more than a few minutes… I ended up not buying that, but this fabulous diamond choker that Daria knew I’d just love. We chatted for a bit, as propriety demanded, then I hurried back to Strand’s.
Indeed, hurry is an understatement. I dreaded the thought of inflicting my friends upon whoever was manning the Cloak Room. Why is it that otherwise intelligent people can’t seem to grasp the concept that you’re supposed to stay silent in the Cloak Room? The percentage of people who think that you’ll give in an answer their question if they just keep repeating it with increased volume is astonishing. I suggested putting up a sign, but outvoted by my brother priests who enjoy watching the ignorant become frustrated.
At any rate, I was looking forward to reporting the success of our mission to Donar and Rachel. I’m sure they’ll understand that those two demons who got away weren’t really our fault.