Aiwan

Aerial Ascent
Top o' the mountain to ya

Bing Bong, Ducky, and I (Aldo) were relaxing in the Tasty Pig when we were approached by Orasa, who let us know that there was an archer of above-average skill looking to party up, and an old man was seeking out a group of adventurers to embark on a quest of sorts.  Both were in Sigil, so to Sigil we went. (I feel as if he's just trying to keep us paying him for tout services).

We met the archer, Vil, and brought him on – he exhibited competence and added some much-needed range to our battle repertoire.  We then went to the Whetstone Bar to meet with the elderly man, Astor Kipp.  He told us that his grandfather used to be a great wizard in a council of 8, under the great wizard Lenos, who worked from a floating mountaintop.  Tragedy befell the sect, resulting in everyone dying and being buried in a crypt.  His grandfather had a family heirloom, a talisman, that he wanted back.  That's where we came in.

After some haggling, we settled on a rate and set out for the mountaintop (not before an… incident involving Bing Bong and Fae food that may make it tough for us to return to the establishment).  Orasa got us to the portal and we stepped through.  On the other side was peaceful plains stretching for miles.  Our new archer's eagle eyes caught a speck floating in the distance that we strongly suspected was the mountaintop.  We made our way to the mountain.

A day later, we reached the base.  Flying in the air, guarding the mountain, were three harpies.  I ascended invisible (on a visible carpet), while the others airstepped up to the mountaintop.  We engaged the harpies and managed to down two, but the third got away.  We raided their nest and found the remnants of hatched shells.

We then went to the mountaintop, which was actually three bridged islands.  On the center was an airship which appeared to be missing it's energy source. We moved on to the next island and immediately detected an ambush from two jaguar-like creatures with tentacles. Once again, another group of enemies dealt with, no problem.

Sadly, we were getting worn down and didn't feel up to clearing the final area, so we returned to the Tasty Pig, firm in our resolve to return in the future.

View
Ivol's Task

It came to be that not long after I had made the pact with Ivol, I received another letter:

"Kemanorel,

I hope to find you in good health after the evil that you mentioned you would be facing. I have a proposal for you. I know that your type are always looking for new adventures and there is a village that I know of that has been bothered as of recent by a red dragon named Melniirkumaukrekon. I think you and your friends could do a lot of good. I only ask that if you clear out the lair that you bring me a painting that he has hung in his lair and his head if it is available. Dhunu can get you to the town if you are interested.

Ivol”

I was glad to bring such a task to the other Adventurers of Aiwan. Save a town and take a dragon’s horde for our spoils? What right minded adventurer could resist?

Bing Bong, Rost, Aldo, Ducky, and I met Dhunu in the Known Dragon. To our surprise, he was accompanied by a new member for our group, a fighter called Tarl. He was certainly looked formidable, and this would certainly be a chance to prove himself capable. He was about what you’d expect for a fighter; willing to do most things for gold just to keep his pouch full for a pint at the next tavern. I bet that when we get to Dagirie, he’d be the first one to ask were he can get some ale.

Dhunu was fussy as usual, trying to get underway, as if that were possible with the Adventurers in a new tavern… I don’t remember much of the trip to Dagirie after that, after that much beer, I’m not sure most of us did, but Dhunu lead the way, and we arrived without incident. It was your average kind of town, but there was something odd about it. There was a simultaneous celebration of all things dragon, with vendors having dragon-themed versions of most of their wares, but it all seemed phony.

It was finally at this point we understood at least a little bit of the actual situation. We had initially thought that dragon was just making raids on the town. Our party found out later that it was much more than that. We decided to make our way to the leader of the town and see what he might be able to tell us about the situation and see if they might give us help in hunting down and killing the beast for the town. One of the vendors told us that the leader was a mayor and pointing us up the avenue to a large city hall of sorts.

We didn’t get an audience with the mayor immediately. The secretary penciled us in for later in the day, and rather than wait around we decided to check out the wares and the local bar. Aldo bought some trinket from one of the townspeople, while the rest of us tried to take care of the hang over with some hair of the dog.

The mayor was an odd sort. While we understood our failure may invoke the wrath of the dragon upon the town, he seemed completely disinterested in even considering the idea. Ducky put his skills to the test and fascinated the major and suggested that it would be in his best interest to help us, his friends. Meanwhile, Aldo plied his trade and searched his desk while the mayor was entranced, and found someone to apply some needed pressure to him: his financial books.

The dragon was extorting the town, feeding of livestock and received a portion of taxes collected to add to his horde, all the while this little prat of a mayor was actually skimming off the top to line his own pockets. He finally gave up the information we wanted when we threatened to tell the common people that their mayor was making their situation even worse than it already was. We threatened him in return that if he tried to warn the dragon in any way, he would get what’s coming to him.

As it turned out, the dragon would make regular visits, and scorch part of the town if he wasn’t paid. So, we decided we should sneak in while he was out and catch him while he wasn’t aware, and we set out for the smoking mountain to the north.

We made as far as would could before nightfall, and took turns on watch. It was a good thing we did because we found out that somehow or another the dragon had been warned. I don’t recall who was on duty at the time because we were all roused so quickly. We had only minutes to prepare, and while the fighters strapped into their gear, Ducky’s magic sped up the process while I used a new spell from Ivol’s power to give us a large line of Spike Stones to slow whatever was about to beset upon our camp. Aldo snuck around to the side, ready to flank, just as the fighters readied their weapon.

We heard them shout in pain before we heard them, but these were beasts like we hadn’t encountered before. Oh, we had come across trolls before, but these were a breed above. They carried large swords and powerful bows, and they smelled like blood. As the pair of them came through the line of spikes, they seemed to be almost without harm for all the shouting they were doing.

I took the next moment to polymorph Rost into a Stone Giant, a new preparation I had made for upcoming fight with a fire dragon, and he and Tarl took the front line. It didn’t take but the first few attacks to realize just how much stronger these were than our usual foes. Most of us were looking much worse for the ware, and then a 3rd troll popped up on our flank. He must have been behind the first two and then took a long way around to avoid the spikes.

It was a close call… Just as the new arrival was bearing down on Bing Bong, Ducky, and myself, the first troll fell, followed moments later by the second. With the entire party focused on a single enemy, even as strong as these abominations were, it was no match.

Before we finished out the night, we searched the bodies. We found a few nice weapons and a fair bit of coin, but Aldo found the most interesting thing: a note. As it turned out, these were the dragon’s advanced guard, under order to find and kill us.

Something was wrong; either the mayor had snitched on us after all, or this dragon was learned in divination magics. I hoped it was the former, but expected the later. I had a remedy, but it was shorter term than would take us to continue travel. If it was scrying on us, it would know we were still on our way.

We broke camp and made haste to the mountain. Partway there, I used a significant portion of my spells to cast nondetection on the whole of the party. It would know we were on our way, but now it wouldn’t know when we were going to get there or what preparations we had made.

When we were finally near, Aldo scouted ahead again, searching the mouth of a cave we guessed would be the lair of this beast. He found a magical trap. He left it in place and returned. There would be no benefit in disarming it and tipping off the dragon we had arrived, or worse, accidentally setting it off and being burnt to a crisp.

We learned our lesson when we had gone after Sandy in the desert, and conjured a stable to house our horses, and then hid that with further magic. Once we got near enough the entrance, I set up a rope trick so we could keep watch on the entrance and wait for the dragon’s departure. Safely ensconced, it no longer mattered if the nondetection wore off.

Just like clockwork, what the mayor had said was true. The dragon left its lair the following evening just like we were told he would, and we set to work in preparing a trap for itss return. Ducky got us into the cave by dispelling the trap. We hurried past, the trap reactivating soon after. The dragon wouldn’t know we were inside, but we also wouldn’t necessarily be able to make a quick escape if we needed to; however, we weren’t going to need a quick escape if we had anything to say about it.

As we traveled into the cave we came across a room that was very reminiscent of the Dome of the Orb. Large and circular but with a large hole in the middle. It appeared though that instead of water, this one had lava at the bottom. Not wanting to enter some hell mouth without first searching further, we found a room on the opposite side of the entrance. While it may have seemed like a smart trick, this dragon was either too greedy or too stupid… The fake horde wouldn’t have tricked anyone into thinking it was an actual dragon horde unless they had absolutely zero knowledge of dragons.

What was smart was something we did discover in this little fake horse. While I wasn’t able to completely determine what it was, one of the coins was giving off a sort of divination magic. Fearing it could hear us, or worse, see us, I grabbed it and tossed it down the pit into the lava. It was impulsive… Perhaps I should have just thrown it into a rope trick and had it appraised later, but I didn’t think now was the time to take chances.

All other options exhausted, we made our way down the hole by magic carpet, feather fall, and spider walking. The fighters had landed first, and it didn’t take long for a lumbering golem to make its way into the room. Into the fray again, Tarl and Rost took the front line, followed soon by Ducky and Aldo. I took a leap down from the carpet in order to give Rost the advantage of being a giant as he took the blows set again. I duplicated the spell for Tarl soon after. With two giants on the front line, we’d stand a much better chance.

We had encountered these automata before. Direct magic would be useless, weapons would be less effective, but as if that weren’t enough, this one healed itself. It took the blows from Rost and Tarl well, and stepped into the magma pool. Each passing moment seemed to restore the chips made by sword and axe.

When I saw this, I knew we this could only extend the fight at great detriment to ourself, and set about to find a way to remove this advantage. I had almost forgotten it was in my pack, but I pulled out the Decanter of Endless water, threw it too Bing Bong and shouted the command word to her. She would be strong enough to hold the maximum spray were I may fail.

It was a good choice, as she had no problem dousing the construct; however, at first it seemed like it was a pretty bad idea. The water making contact with the lava sent out a blast of steam, harming everything around it. After some of the steam cleared though, the lava had crusted over and the construct didn’t seem to be healing as much. This was especially true of Tarl’s blows. I was unaware before, but there was no doubt after his next hits that the blade must have been Adamantine. It wasn’t too much longer before it fell permanently, falling through the crusted lava to rest at the bottom of the pool.

We figured we had plenty of time left to prepare, but we had a choice to make. Ambush at horde which we found in the room the golem had come from, or ambush him when he went back to the other room which were obviously its sleeping chambers…

We decided to prepare the attack from the bedroom, and we had plenty of time to do so… Ducky played his Lyre and hollowed out part of the wall in the hallway. We all fit in comfortably by the time he was done playing, and I conjured a thin layer of rock to hide us inside. We took some time to rest while we waited, but soon enough, we heard we could only be the dragon as it returned. The sounds grew quieter at first as its first stop at home must have been its horde.

It knew someone had been down here. That was the only explanation for the missing golem. We soon heard it move past our literal hole-in-the-wall, we prepared everything… This dragon would soon be facing three hasted giants, along with backup from a rogue, a bard, and a cleric. Rarely are we lucky enough to have so much preparation.

Rost counted down silently holding up his fingers for the party to see: 3, 2, 1… As we crashed through the wall, the dragon made a small hop, and set the entire alcove into an inferno. It knew we were there, and it had been toying with us, waiting for us to make a move. It was a grave mistake on our part, and several of the party paid dearly, but it was an even more grave mistake on the part of the dragon.

With that much preparation, our retaliation was legendary. The three giants charged through the breath, and each of us landed massive blows. Aldo ran and made his way around the dragons side, readying a flanking position and landing a sneak attack. Ducky and Bing Bong, having taken the worst damage from the breath had to retreat back down the hallway, protected from pursuit by the giants blocking the dragons way to them. They would be safe as long as they were out of range of its breath attack.

It wasn’t giving up without a fight, and a bit of dragon trickery had knocked us giants onto our backs. It looked like a bad position, but it was far outmatched for our magic-enhanced troupe of dragon-hunters. Even from the ground, with just one last mighty swing, Rost relieved the dragon’s neck of its head. And, then we relieved the cave of its horde, quite a substantial one at that.

We decided as we traveled back through the town that the portion of our earnings that would normally go to our party treasury would instead go back to the village, after all, a significant portion of the horde probably came from the town. As we passed it among the people, we also let them know where more of it had gone. As we left the city, we could see the mob forming and trusted that without the shadow of the dragon and its lackey looming over the town that it would soon be down the road to recovery.

At the end of the day it was a very lucrative adventure, and we also welcomed a new member into our group of adventurers… It was small payment to add the painting to Ivol’s horde and drop the head at her feet.

View
Dragon Pact
Gold for Copper

In oder to understand how we ended up doing favors for a dragon, I must tell a story that is a bit self-centered. I question even telling it as I’m unsure if the dealings between sorcerers and dragons should be known to more than those involved in the events, but I feel that the question would invariably rise when some of our tales start with getting information from an otherwise unmentioned kobold…

I had heard of dragons sometimes making pacts with sorcerers. This intrigued me as a way to increase the versatility of my spells and gain a powerful ally against the impending emergence of the harbinger of doom. I spent a long time in the library researching. The information about the ritual was in an obscure text and lacked some details, but one thing was clear: in order to make a pact with a dragon of my choosing, I would have to be in the presence of the dragon. Without being in its presence, any dragon may respond to the ritual, and there may be no way to know what kind or even whether it is good or evil.

An evil alliance was out of the question, so how to go about finding a dragon and, just as importantly, the right kind of dragon? Well, Sigil is home to a variety of races, so I thought I'd start there. I called our faithful tout Ourasa and inquired about the presence of dragons in the city. He informed me there most certainly were, but would likely be shapeshifted.

I  had decided that a pact with a copper dragon would be my best alliance, so I wrote an advertisement and paid Ourasa to put it out to as many dragon-friendly areas of the city as possible: "Magic Performer seeks assistance for his show! Make money and scale up your own power with the help of a practiced magician! Free to watch, but COPPER, silver, and gold appreciated. All proceeds go to the needy."

It worked even better than expected. I was planning a little street performance in Sigil for the next day, when, to my surprise, Ourasa showed up in the Tasty Pig with a wax-sealed scroll. They symbol on the seal was an X crossed by 3 horizontal lines, the symbol for copper. My fingers trembled with excitement as my eyes scanned the words:

"Good day to you. I believe your message as advertised had more meanings than one. If that is the case I have some Copper that you may be interested in. Since I am needy I wouldn't mind the proceeds going to me. I believe I can provide the assistance that you require. There are matters that I would like to discuss with you. You can find my servant at the The Known Dragons Tavern. His name is Dhunu, and he is a kobold; a little fussy at times but serves me well. He can bring you to me."

I wasn’t confident that my little advertisement would be understood by only the one type of dragon I had an interest in meeting, but I couldn’t pass up the chance. Ourasa guided me to the Known Dragon, a tavern in Sigil where the message said I might find this Dhunu. The food smelled better than the average fair, the drinks were good, and the atmosphere was even darker than most taverns. In short, it was my kind of place.

Ourasa followed me in at my request, standing by my shoulder as I took a seat at the bar. In between ordering a drink and some small talk with the half-black dragon bartender, Ourasa pointed out the little kobold who had give him the message to give to me. He was in a corner near a fire place, and had obviously chosen it to give him a view of the goings-on in the bar.

I gave Ourasa some extra coin and indicated silently that he was free to take his leave, then asked the bartender politely about the kobold’s drink. It turns out that his favorite drink was Rusty Ale, and it was almost out. Lucky me.

I dropped payment, with a generous tip onto the bar for the information, onto the bar, and picked up my fire whiskey and the fresh Rusty Ale. I made my approach as noticeable as possible, not wanting to startle the “fussy” kobold. He sat on a chair that must have been made for races of his stature, otherwise he may have looked like a child sitting at a too high table.

He was still startled. “Who are you? What do you want?"

I was already holding out the drink, and trying to be as friendly as possible while remaining anonymous, I dodged the question, "Waiting for someone is boring, and thirsty, work. I thought you could use some company to pass the time. May I?” I asked indicating a chair that wouldn’t block his view of the tavern.

The drink slid in front of him next to his empty mug, and the kobold look at it, debating whether to accept it and deal with a stranger or turn it away, "I guess, but as soon as the person I am waiting for shows up you are going to have to leave."

"Of course, of course,” I responded, "It just so happens I'm meeting someone here myself. It's a nice place to have a quiet conversation. And you never can really know just who's listening because everyone's always out for silver, gold, and platinum if they can make a single coin off of you. I even met a guy willing to do the most unbelievable things for a copper."

"It is my favorite place in Sigil. There are not many places that you can get a good drink and Shrieker Soup. For a copper? No one does anything for a copper here in Sigil."

"Copper can be worth more than anything in the color of the rainbow, in my opinion. I'm sure there are other that would disagree with me, but there's something that just speaks to me when it comes to copper.”

“Well, my boss would agree with you on that, but I will always prefer gold.”

At that moment, I was quite certain the letter was genuine, but a well-dressed female walked into the tavern. "That might be my contact. Be ready to scram just in case,” he said.

“Oh? Do you know her?” This could be fun, I thought. He obviously had no idea who he was actually looking for.

“No, but she looks the part all regal and like. I can see her being a powerful sorceress.”

He sat forward in anticipation, but had to sit back again when she ordered food and began her meal, “If that’s her, she’s in no rush…” he said with his words trailing off in annoyance.

“So, your contact is a sorcerer, eh, Dhunu?”

I couldn’t suppress a smile as he nearly jumped out of his chair, bumped the table and nearly knocked over his drink. He stammered, "How did you know my name, I didnt tell you my name…”

I had planned on teasing the kobold further, just to see how fussy he really was, but he looked like he was about a second from bolting out the door. No wanting to deal with chasing him down, I quickly put the wax seal from the letter onto the table. "I had to be sure it was genuine… I really would like to meet your boss.”

He visible relaxed, and then became frustrated, “Oh, so you are the one I am waiting for? Why didnt you say so in the first place? You could have introduced yourself like a civilized person.”

“Would my name let you know I was the one you were looking for?”

“No, but you obviously knew that you could introduce yourself with that. Lets get going.”

I smirked at him, "But I didn't know if this was true in the letter or not. At least not until your said your boss would agree with me. It could have been some other evil one pretending to be copper. Besides, it's not my fault you didn't think I looked regal enough. I think I might just be a little insulted at that… I've always thought I looked quite dashing in this cloak.”

“Yes, it is a very fine cloak. You just arent my type. Your ears are too pointy.”

I quirked an eyebrow and laughed, “Lead the way, then.”

As we walked the streets of Sigil, I took in the sights as Ourasa was the usual mode of transportation, skipping from one place to the next. (Except for that time that we were chasing down Rast, the Mercy-Killer, and that was no time to be taking in the sights.) He eventually took us down an alley-way, and in similar fashion to Ourasa, pressed a copper object of some kind against the archway, creating a familiar portal.

On the other side, I immediately felt something was amiss, and dodge out of the way just in time to see Dhunu get a face-full of fine, white flour.

"Was that supposed to happen, Dhunu? I don't quite like the idea of not having a way back out,” I asked casually. I wasn’t too worried figuring if this fussy kobold wasn’t worried, then I shouldn’t be.

"The portal always closes behind. The flour on the other hand is new…. My master thinks his pranks are amusing. I … have grown to accept them.”

I grinned, holding back outright laughter at his misfortune. "It is a little amuzing… Nothing wrong with a little bit of levity in the darkening days we are in,” I responded, as I clapped him on the back, sending large puffs of white smoke into the air.

He still glared as he pointed down the rocky corridor, “This way, please.”

The portal had dropped us into a cavern, the walls, floor, and ceiling showing distinct signs of expert workmanship. I held Tsurlar’s Blade aloft as a torch, as he led the way down the corridor, which sloped down through several winding turns before finally opening into a large, well-lit room with high ceiling and intricate stone work.

I sheathed my blade as the dragon turn its head towards me, and asked in a decidedly female voice, "What would the rouge do if he needed something better than iron daggers?”

It would surprise no one that knows me for even a day that I would be awe struck at this moment. She was beautiful to behold, lounging on top of her horde of gold, gems, and jewelry, and was unmistakably copper. Almost too copper, in fact. The sort of color that lasts only a short while in freshly smelted weaponry, armor, or coin before handling with bare hands and weathering tarnish it. She was not the first dragon I had ever met, but she was the first that wasn’t threatening my life at the moment of our introduction. 

"He would buy adamantine daggers, of course.”

"No silly, he would steel one.”

I guffawed, not only at the joke, but at myself for treating the question as a riddle and answering with logic. "I'll need to remember that one. I am Kemanorel, Lady.” This should be quite interesting I thought; all the power of a dragon, an exceptionally skilled one by the look of the stone-work, and she likes pranks and jokes.

"Welcome to my abode, Kemanorel. Please make yourself comfortable,” and with a gesture of her claw at stone floor, a chaise lounge rose up. To my surprise, Dhunu rushed forward with a beautiful and soft rug and covered the newly created couch. He was a faithful companion, and one I knew I could trust, but I had nearly forgotten he was there the moment the conversation had begun with the dragon. “Please, Dhunu, fetch our guest some refreshments.” His response was immediate, hurrying down a side passage, out of sight.

"I do believe you have a proposition for me.”

I nodded as I took a seat on the couch, but leaned forward, elbows on knees, and unable to stop my nervous habit of rubbing my thumb into the palm of my hand, “The material plane is in danger, and my friends and I must prepare for the fight to come. As a defender of the material plane, I require more power, and, if you may be so willing when the time comes, even more powerful allies. With circumstances as they are, I ask that we make a pact.”

"That could be agreeable. I too seek much. What do you offer?”

“In addition to some of my power, I offer gold for your horde, and my services should you call upon them.”

She purred like a cat at the offer, though it was closer to an earthquake’s rumble, "Oh… I like that.” The joy in her voice was unmistakable, "What stipulations, if any, do you put upon your service?”

"None, Lady. In the future, I may ask a request, and you are free to accept or deny it at the time, but it is not a condition of the pact I ask of you now. I only hope that when the time comes you find me worthy of help.”

"Then it is a deal. Oh, heavens me. I forgot to introduce myself. You may call me Ivol.”

At this I smiled, and kneeled down on the stone in front of the couch. I pulled a bag of gold from my haversack and placed it on the ground in front of me and asked formally, "I, Kemanorel, ask in this day to form a pact with you, Ivol, offering my power, gold, and service as the bargain.”

"I, Ivol, accept this energy from you, Kemanorel, and offer of myself a portion of my essence.”

We sat in mediation for several hours as the pact was formed. I felt waves of power wax and wane between us; my magical power drained little by little, while knowledge of new spells form my mind piece by piece until the puzzle was complete. When the ritual was finished, I was incredibly thankful to Dhunu for the refreshments he had brought out in the interim.

It seemed odd only afterwards that we would make such a partnership before having spent time talking to each other; but, I also suppose that such an pact might only be a contract to some. Or perhaps it is simply prudent when the required interaction might take an hour or it might take ten. In any case, Ivol and I, along with Dhunu, spent a few enjoyable hours talking of past adventures, good and bad. I told her of the triumph of tricking the Fire Giantess into fighting a hydra, and then the eventual failure as she assaulted Aiwan, how I started looking only for gold and glory, and found myself in group that I could call my friends, in the unlikely position of maybe being the only defenders against the Fiends in the Temple of Light. In response, she regaled me with stories, much to Dhunu’s chagrin, of the best pranks she had pulled on him.

He was every bit as fussy as the letter had said, but I could also see why he would put up with such pranks to be in the service of such a kind mistress. You didn’t have to be a mind reader to see that despite his outward reactions, that he had genuine affection for Ivol, or that he didn’t really mind the pranks and joking as much as he let on. I was sure I could trust him as much as anyone.

It was unfortunate to have to spend so few hours before returning to Aiwan, but duty called.

"I will have Dhunu guide you back. Expect to hear from him again soon. I may have some need of assistance.”

"I will be sure to make myself available, whatever you request."

I offered my hand with only my ring, middle, and index finger outstretched; she returned the gesture, palm up, with a claw pointed to the ceiling. As I wrapped my three fingers around her middle claw, my eyes had a strange feeling, as if heat waves from a desert mirage were manifesting in the goo between the front and back. I’m not sure if maybe the ritual hadn’t been fully completed until that moment, or if it was just delayed, but I knew the pact left a physical mark. I think Ivol could tell something had happened as well, but neither said anything. 

As I relaxed my fingers and let my arm fall to my side, turned on my heel, and followed Dhunu from the cavern, I was both honored and relieved. Honored at having such a fine patron, and relief knowing that this world would not fall so easily to the hands of a demon tyrant.

View
Justice to the Betrayer
Even Aidan Can't Aid 'Im Now...

The time had come for another venture into the depths beneath the Temple of Light. Our journey between the planes had been long and meandering, at once awe-inspiring and disheartening from the pure scale of experience that awaited us just through a hidden portal in a dingy alley in Aiwan. Our labors had been fruitful, if extremely dangerous, and Ducky sat marveling over his new weapon or many a night. But the last two fiends lay waiting, the moons to their untimely release rolling by with each passing day, and my blade itched for an adventure with righteous purpose once again.

We ventured forth, all but Bing Bong this time, and descended through the depths to that pillared chamber, connected to which had lain the Fiend of Blood’s prison, and the ancient puzzle-forge, and lastly, the next stairway further under the earth.

As we walked, Aldo scouting ahead into the darkness beyond the light’s edge of my flame-crown, the air grew chill, and soon patches of ice began appearing on the wall. The caverns formed a natural hallway, which twisted and turned through the rock, expanding into small rooms every few dozen feet. And at each new room, we found larger and thicker formations of ice filling up the corners and climbing up the walls.

After a tense several minutes of inching our way forward, Aldo called back in an urgent whisper to halt. A fell voice could be heard, rustling almost imperceptibly through the cave, from somewhere a few turns ahead. Soon the voice grew quiet, and two sickening pops echoed back towards us.

Translating the foul language through his magic ring, Aldo shared what he had heard, and Kemanorel proclaimed that some fiend or devil ahead had been summoning allies to aid him. Our presence was expected, and battle was imminent. Before we could draw up a proper plan of battle, Oz rushed ahead into combat, and as he rounded a corner out of our sight, the fiend’s wicked ambush fell around us. A great solid wall of ice sprung into existence, sealing the entire hallway between us and Oz, while on either end of the hallway in which the rest of us conferenced, two barbed devils apparated suddenly. Transfigured into giant form with barely enough time to spare, I and Aldo began to lay into the devil in front of me, while Kemanorel and Jorven hastened to flee and destroy the one trapping them in from behind, with Ducky’s aid, the danger far too close to those spellcasters than they liked!

We dispatched those foes quick enough, but from beyond the wall we could hear the battle going poorly for Oz. Aldo and I worked, with fire wand blasting and greatsword cleaving, to bring down the wall, aided by Jorven’s summoned friends. Kemanorel took a great risk, and teleported, sight unseen, to aid our erstwhile dwarven friend, thankfully not ending up trapped in the icy walls, while Ducky tended to the wounds on our side of the wall.

Just as we shattered the freezing construct and charged in to help our compatriots, Kemanorel, now in giant form himself, struck down the mastermind of the trap from behind with a blow from Tsular’s Blade. Our enemy seemed, from appearance, to look like another form of Formian, but its carapace was ice-blue, and had clearly been a stronger foe than any individual bug we had squashed thus far. Nevertheless, and despite Oz’s grievous wounds (healed quickly enough with our supplies once we all could aid him) it had been brought low, and the path ahead lay open.

After a few more icy hallways, the unnatural chill began to fade, and we found ourselves at the top of a staircase spiraling down into a large chamber. The polymorph-magic still in effect, I led the charge into what turned out to be a foul nest of hideous evil, Oz following close on my heels.
Rising from reeking nests scattered throughout the room, all four walls of which contained a large archway leading out to pitch-black hallways beyond, were a handful of disgusting, bird like demons, called vrocks by those who study the taxonomy of such evil beasts, who shrieked in abyssal harmony and swarmed us.

They clawed and bit and tore away with great frenzy, trying to overwhelm us with attacks. The fight that followed was long and arduous, and though my armor (and a giant’s naturally tough hide) kept me mostly safe, my companions had a rough go of it. Throughout the battle, the vrocks would blast forth a horrendous call, which repeatedly stunned many of my friends, especially poor Ducky, who spent most of the fight stuck on the stairs, trying to clear his head of the clamorous ringing. Filthy clouds of spores belched forth from their skin, clouding into the gaps even in my armor, stinging and burning and causing frightful growths to spread up our arms as we fought. Kemanorel, in giant form, placed himself between many of the demons and the more vulnerable among us, taking many wounds and almost falling in the melee.

The vrocks, like the creature from the floor above us, summoned more fiendish creatures to their aid, flooding the room with awful dretches to distract us. I focused on cutting down the vrocks one by one, hacking away with my greatsword as their claws scraped off my armor, while Kemanorel distracted most of their fury, and I even threw a few fireballs from a magic necklace into the larger clusters, while Aldo and Oz picked off foes from the edge of the fight. Eventually we slew the last of the vrocks, and the chamber fell quiet, though their stink took days to fully clean off.

But a more immediate issue remained, those awful spores, and the growths that continued to spread and burn at our skin even when the fight was over. Our normal healing magic seemed to have no effect. The three or four of us affected nearly reached a panic as the pain continued to mount, until I had the thought to ignite my blade with sunfire and scrape away at the vines. It seemed to halt their growth, and so, thinking quickly, I gathered us together and dropped one of the weaker fireball beads at our feet. The magical flames scorched us, but it burned away the vines entirely, and we were at last safe.

After two grueling fights, our group felt quite beaten up, and Oz had personal business he claimed kept him from continuing any further. Not wanting to leave our friend to ride alone back through the wilderness, we returned to town to recover and re-gear for a few days, before heading back out and back down. The vrock nest lay as we left it, the demon bodies smelling… not much worse in decay than they did in life, if I must be honest. Less our dwarven friend and his axe and hammer, we stepped through one of the archways and into the dark hallways beyond.

Arriving soon at a large stone door, we waited with bated breath as Aldo searched for hidden traps or tricks. After several seconds, he stepped back quickly, announcing that the door was clearly set to trigger some sort of spell when it was opened. He offered to attempt to disarm, but was unsure of the odds of being successful. Instead, Ducky volunteered to dispel the magic directly. Inscribing arcane symbols quickly in the air, he muttered a few words and there was an imperceptible susurration in the air for a brief second. Looking around sheepishly, he proclaimed that the spell seemed to have gone off without a hitch, but the only way to know for sure was to open the door, and so Aldo gingerly clicked the latch as the rest of us pressed against the wall, and the stone swung back with a rumble.

No magic sprung out to attack him, but he leapt back with alarm all the same, firing his crossbow into the room beyond just as an enormous unseen foe crashed into the doorway, sending shockwaves across the stone floor and clouds of dust and fractured pebbles raining down from the ceiling.

I charged into battle, racing around the corner and coming face-to-face with a horrid abomination, a massive heap of corpses, piled together into a mound twenty feet to a side, which hauled itself forward, as if a single being, with bony, tentacle-like appendages, striking out at us with those same whip-like limbs. Its blows were fast and hard, and though I cleaved great splatters of flesh off the mound with my blade, I barely withstood its initial onslaught before Kemanorel could transform me back into a giant, the magically-granted toughness a brief respite from the storm of attacks. Even so, the next blow to hit me was a tremendous one, and it sent even my weighty altered form flying back to crash to the ground against the far wall. Struggling to my feet, I hastened to rejoin the battle, the rest of the group carving away at the monstrous corpse-mound all the while, and had just barely made it back into melee when a blow from Aldo’s morningstar shattered one of the appendages, and the foul magic holding the beast together dispersed, sending a wave of corpses flooding onto the ground and up to the walls of the room beyond.

We took a few minutes to search the room beyond and recover from the fight, finding a decent amount of gold and treasure scattered among the scattered bodies, which now appeared to us to look very much like long-dead soldiers all hailing from the same army. Aldo examined the next door, a stone portal similar to the first, but declared this one to be free from traps.
As before, the group stayed out of sight while Aldo, with his ring of invisibility powered up, opened the door. Jorven’s summoned bralani charged forth to take the brunt of the first enemy attacks, while the rest of us followed in to continue the assault. Our foe was a great armored warrior, wielding a wicked blade, but beneath his helmet I could see only bone, and it had a strange, reptilian tail. This enemy tried to keep his distance, casting massive fireballs into the middle of our formation, though when we pinned him against the back wall with no room left to retreat, he still proved a fearsome and tough opponent. As the fight wore on, I could feel the necklace of fire-beads absorbing the heat of his attacks, glowing brighter and threatening to explode prematurely, and that danger urged us all to finish the fight as quickly as possible. Forced into a corner and surrounded on all sides by Ducky, Aldo and I, and Jorven’s summons, eventually the beast was slain.

The seal of the Fiend of Betrayal lay before us now, unguarded, but Jorven and Kemanorel professed to being rather magically tapped, and so we decided to sleep in Kemanorel’s rope-trick-portal until they could recover their strength. While we rested, those on watch keeping an eye on the chamber before the seal, a curious thing happened. From forth the ruined body of the creature that had been guarding Eleazar’s prison, a spirit arose, and hovered about the room, almost dejectedly.

The ghost did not leave from the room throughout the next several hours, and seemed to our eyes peaceful enough, and so we ventured down from the portal once our rest was complete. It took notice of us, and in the ensuing discussion between it, me, and Kemanorel we learned a few details of what had transpired here long ago. The spirit gave us its name, Captain Aidan, a soldier of the long vanished empire whose ruins we have seen in these northern wilds. He was the commander of a force that descended into these same depths ages past to confront Eleazar, and though clearly they had succeeded in locking away the great betrayer, in the attempt almost all of them had fallen, and Aidan himself had been corrupted and twisted, compelled into becoming a foul guardian of the fiend’s prison. His slain men had clearly become the monstrosity we had encountered in the first room after leaving the vrock nest. Now his spirit seemed cursed to linger in that same room, haunt of his unending, unwilling vigil. Hopefully when we put down the betrayer, he could at last find rest.

We summoned forth the magical feast from the cornucopia the Harvest Roc had dropped those several months ago, just as we did before fighting the Fiend of Blood barely one month past, and began to eat and grow strong as we discussed the fight to come, with Aidan and among ourselves, each adventurer laying out the materials for their strongest magical boons, planning the order of application to insure the best possible duration of peak fighting strength.
Aidan warned us that the fight ahead would be our most difficult yet, that Eleazar was sure to bombard us with many spells, but was himself a fearsome combatant. Most importantly, he said that the betrayer was fond of blinking between this plane and the ethereal realm, dodging attacks and delaying the fight, hiding to heal and strengthen himself while his minions ground us down. I asked if Aidan would fight alongside us, help cleanse his soul and hasten his release, but he declared that the same magic which had forced him to serve as the betrayer’s minion kept him from doing so. It would be our battle alone.

As we discussed, Jorven examined the runed archway surrounding the metal seal, for we knew from the texts that we would be required to submit to an oath to pass the gateway, and saw no other inscriptions besides Eleazar’s mark on its surface. She translated the runes, and noted that a lingering magic effect would bind us all in a geas, an oathpact to remain faithful to each other for all time, and never leave one of us behind. The consequence for breaking this oath was impossible to tell, but surely grave. A weighty burden, but one none of us were unprepared to bear after the year of life-and-death situations in which we had grown so close.

We knelt before the seal, cast our magicks, and rose: two giants, a halfling, a gnome, and a dwarf, a swarm of summoned bralanis, and even our very own magically bound bone devil, a new trick of Jorven’s (I can’t say I like fighting alongside a beast of the abyss, but when Kemanorel and I take the form of foul giants over and over in our fight against the evils of this world, I suppose I don’t have much of a leg to stand on). The door slid away, and we charged together, a fearsome squadron, radiant and glowing, surrounded by song and light, fire and fury.

We found ourselves in another stone chamber, ringed with alcoves containing large statues, foul and fearsome imitations of great heroes of old, facing an imposing figure bedecked in full plate armor, wielding a greatsword. A twisted reflection of myself, this fallen paragon of the sun, now the Great Fiend’s most wicked servant. Kemanorel blasted forth a beam of energy from Tsular’s Blade, and it impacted Eleazar squarely, and luckily. He staggered, and his shape, which had begun to blur and fade, became all the more sharp and real. My sorcerer friend had succeeded in locking the betrayer to this plane of existence, and the battle tilted already in our favor.

Thinking quickly Eleazar gestured, and a stone wall sprang forth from the ground, sealing us off from his side of the room. We set to work hacking through it, Kemanorel disintegrating large holes, while I and Jorven’s summoned allies worked to break it down. Ducky even brought forth his magical lyre and used its power to weaken the wall, impacts like thousands of pickaxe-blows knocking forth chips from the rock. Eleazar had twisted the barrier, serpent-like, back on itself, and we had to break through three separate layers to reach him, all the while hearing from beyond the stone muffled chanting and magicks and the popping of devils being summoned into the fight. At last, we broke open a gap in the walls, and rushed forth against the betrayer. He had brought forth two bearded devils to aid him, and it seemed every space in those packed quarters was filled with the flashing of blades and the gnashing of teeth and claw as we fought, his forces against ours.

The Fiend’s minions, despite the blows raining down on them, managed to dispel some of Kemanorel’s magic, and as I moved to attack my foe I reverted back to my normal form. Eleazar flooded the battlefield with profane, unhallowed magic, sapping our strength and stunning the lot of us. I rained down strikes with my blade, its stunning enchantment’s magic flashing forth and battering at my enemy’s mind, and, distracted from the chaos of melee, a lucky blast slipped through his defenses, and his sword dropped from his hand as he reeled back. Aldo smashed his morningstar into the Fiend’s spine, and a sickening crunch echoed throughout the room. His armored form crashed lifelessly to the ground. Soon after, their master slain, the devils were cut down by the rest of us. We had won.

Reveling in victory we stripped Eleazar’s corpse of the magical items he possessed, and found many more valuables scattered about his prison, thankfully undamaged from the fight. Also, clasped to his belt was an intricate book, at the sight of which Kemanorel and Jorven gasped, proclaiming that its pages were enchanted with fearsomely powerful magic to increase the strength of one’s will, and that such tomes were traded at obscenely high prices, such that even its resale value alone exceeded that of the rest of the treasure we had found.

Laden down with the spoils of victory, we destroyed Eleazar’s corpse, banishing his foul spirit to whatever punishment the rulers of the afterlife deem fit for his betrayal, and returned to Aiwan in high spirits. All the lesser corrupters of paradise were defeated, the six fiends slain, and only the Great Evil itself remained. We had gotten lucky in our fight against Eleazar, all of us felt, and we were determined to push our group’s strength to even loftier heights before we made the final descent into the last depths of that hell.

View
The Battle For Hightower
Secret oily things

While recovering one week from our battle against the Fiend of Blood, signs of a new threat slowly began to appear. Dark smoke clouds appeared far to the North, just faintly visible on the horizon, that seemingly grew closer over the next few days.

Alarmed, Aldo volunteered to take the flying carpet on a scouting mission. The news he brought back was dire. It seemed Fiorina had tired of waiting for her mate’s killers to re-visit the burning hills, and had gone on the hunt. She had gathered a fearsome host to her side, nearly a dozen hill giants, a handful of ogres, and close to a hundred hobgoblins pulled from the remnants of the tribe we had scattered into the hills. They had come down onto the plain, hauling carts full of boulders for a siege, and seemed to be making a beeline straight for Aiwan.

By Aldo’s estimate, we had one day to prepare, and they would arrive on the morning after.

By our fortune, the powerful Lyre Ducky had of late acquired seemed a perfect aid for our dire situation. The giant warparty’s path would take them directly past Hightower, and if we could force them to engage us there, and use the Lyre to reshape its fortifications over the next day, we might gain the advantage. Our group’s abilities had grown much since our first fight with giants, but this force was one we could not hope to win against in open combat, a hundred against six or seven.

We had commandeered a table in the Tasty Pig and began laying out plans for our little fortress. Under my instructions, Ducky and I rode out to Hightower, and with my magic curing him of fatigue so he could play without interruption, he began to strum, and the rocks began to shift. 

We excavated the entire entryway of the tomb beneath the tor, and constructed two fortified platforms guarding the tunnel further into the hillside, turning the entire room into an enormous killing zone. With the excavated stone, Ducky sealed off the side passages, funneling any attackers into our path, and built up the sides of the tor into a steep cliff. He sealed off the chimney leading to the top, and constructed a new escape tunnel under the ground, and camouflage the exit, about a quarter-mile away. Hightower was now a nigh-impregnable holdfast.

While Ducky was working, Kemanorel wished to make an attempt at diplomacy. He borrowed Aldo’s ring of invisibility, and the carpet, and flew off, banking on whatever good will he had left with the fire giantess. He returned later in the day, reporting a mild success, at least. Though Fiorina was determined to destroy all of Aiwan if that’s what it took to kill us, K had convinced her that our group would meet her in battle at Hightower, that she need not endanger Aiwan itself.

We had to trust that her anger at us would distract her from the vulnerability of Aiwan. If she decided to attack the town itself, there was little we could hope to do to prevent much death on the townspeople before we could cut down the entire enemy force.

While we hurried to prepare for the coming storm, Oz’s… loose tongue did as it usually does, and word of the pending attack spread throughout the town, causing a minor panic. Hoping to address the issue, I returned, and made my way through the streets, trying to calm the populace and seeing if any of the townsfolk would be willing to take up a bow, and perhaps support the defense of the town without putting themselves in too much danger.

Fear had taken hold however, and rather than righteous willing souls, we found only anger and resentment. The mayor was especially hostile, blaming us for the coming attack, claiming our adventuring had upset the balance of the land, laying responsibility for any death or destruction at our feet. I’m myself am sure, having journeyed throughout the wild marches in the past year that an attack of some sort on Aiwan was inevitable regardless of our presence, and that they should consider themselves lucky we were around to shield them from this particular force, but so be it. Aiwan’s goodwill depended on it. The defense of the town would fall squarely on our shoulders and we would not fail in the task.

Oz’s mind for brutality provided a valuable stratagem. He had gone around town and collected every barrel of oil he could source, some hundreds of gallons of the stuff, and carted it to Hightower. A barrel or two would line the surface of the pit, making it nigh impossible to climb back out of, and a single spark would turn our deathtrap into a smoking fiery hell. The rest of the barrels we kept in reserve, for whatever use might come.

The next morning, the five of us rode out from town to man the fortifications, with BingBong, Jorven, and Snorri staying behind as a final line of defense. The enemy camp was visible on the horizon about as far from Hightower as the tor was from the town walls, and as Kemanorel promised, soon their first thrust approached our lines. Two of the hill giants, a scattering of ogres, and thirty or so hobgoblins were advancing at a quick pace. We fell back within the cave, flying magically over to the fortified platforms, and I lodged the eversmoking bottle into a crack above the entrance, leaving a thick cloud blocking all sight through the large doorway. Soon enough, we heard the clatter of armor and thud of footprints, as the first waves of the enemy came charging through the smoke. Screams filled their air as the ground gave way beneath them, and the press of bodies continued to surge forward, unable to see the fate of their compatriots before them. 

Aldo, Ducky and Oz shot their arrows blindly into the chaos. One of the giants wandered out into the middle of the pit, wounded, and was quickly cut down, and soon silence fell in the hall, except for the soft moaning of those foes who were dying but not dead. As I retrieved the bottle and the smoke cleared, only one giant body could be spotted. We guessed that the other must have escaped and gave chase, finding him fleeing back across the fields towards their camp. 

Mounted on Aethon, I caught up quickly and dispatched him, hoping to keep any news of the detail of our trap from reaching the rest of the force. We had dispatched about a third of Fiorina’s forces after the morning’s battle with no injury to our side and few resources expended. Alas, the giant warparty was not so foolhardy as to charge a second time into a cloud of smoke out of which none of the last squad had returned alive. The remaining bulk of their troops moved out as our group kept watch from a distance, and from the air. They were hauling the boulder carts, and moved not to Hightower itself, but around it, circling towards Aiwan. Kemanorel tried to scare them back towards us from the flying carpet with a few fireballs, but they had spread out across the plains, and besides a few dead hobgoblins, all he got for his trouble and his magic were some boulders thrown back in his face. We were not going to able to stop them from getting in range of the walls, and so as the warparty spread out into a few separate clusters and began bombarding the town, we hastily regrouped, and charged their center.

The group we attacked was made up of a large mob of hobgoblins, a single hill giant, and a heavily armored, imposing bugbear, who we assume to have been a commander of some sort, perhaps Fiorina’s second. Ever the foe of goblinoids, and they ever hateful of dwarves, Oz and this champion engaged in single combat, in which Oz quickly gained the upper hand and slew his foe. Kemanorel blasted apart the mob of Hobgoblins with his spell, while I and Aldo cut down the giant together, Ducky moving around to support all of us.

We had defeated their command, but the rest of the siege party was at our flank, and while I was pleased to note the shelling of Aiwan had quickly ceased with our arrival, it was only because those two groups had noticed out attack and were moving to engage.

Not wanting to be surrounded, we decided to charge at one of the wings, and made short work of the hill giants and hobgoblins comprising it. Having cut down more than half of the raw numbers of Fiorina’s war party, many of the giants, and much of the command structure, the remaining flank, witnessing this slaughter, broke entirely, and the enemy scattered to the north, disappearing into the rolling hills of the plains. I would have liked to chase down every last foul creature on Aethon’s back and cut them down for good, but Fiorina and her guard still remained, and with her forces broken, we would get no better chance to end the larger threat.

We rode back past Hightower, and as the day  grew late, saw that the fire giantess had set up camp within the ruins of the old keep. From what movement we could see, they were fortifying the entrance against an expected assault. 

Oz, eager to put his purchased oil to use, suggested that we try firebombing the camp from above to thin out the defenses, and so after some thorny weight management, Aldo and Kemanorel took to the sky, by spell and carpet, hoisting a half-filled barrel of oil between them. In the deepening dusk, we soon lost sight of them, and eagerly awaited the expected fireball from within the keep.

After a tense minute or so, however, the two reappeared, shaking with cold and heavily wounded. They had been ambushed in mid-air by a hidden ogre-mage, and had narrowly escaped back to the ground without getting knocked to an untimely end, as similar reinforcements were seen taking off from the camp. Our ability to take to the sky was no longer a unique advantage, and so we devised a new plan.
Itching to try out a new spell, I volunteered to let Kemanorel polymorph me into a hill giant myself! The arcane magic tingled and jolted through my veins as I felt my form stretch and grow and my skin harden. I reveled in the new strength I could feel in my arms as I towered (even more) above my compatriots. Armed with this new strength I could lob a few of the oil barrels at their barricade to set it alight and cause a distraction, and then armed with the knowledge of the keep’s layout from clearing it weeks earlier, K could teleport our whole group behind their lines.

One more piece of sorcery was left, and for that I had to spend a few minutes assuring Aethon that my change… and his… would be temporary. Finally, I convinced him of the plan’s merit, and Kemanorel cast the spell again, this time morphing my trusty steed into an enormous pyrohydra. I told Aethon to charge the gate as our group linked hands, and in a flash of energy we were standing in an archway to the side of the main courtyard, watching Fiorina and a single hill giant bodyguard from behind as Aethon’s morphed form burst through the flaming wood of the front gate, teeth gnashing and multiple heads roaring. 

We charged then, and while I would have loved to report a glorious and worthy fight to conclude our defense of Aiwan, in truth it was over before it had begun. Fiorina spotted us quickly, and attacked Oz, screaming in rage. While they seemed evenly matched enough, Ducky managed to successfully cast a tricky bit of magic, and no sooner had the giantess finished slashing her flaming greatsword past Oz’ guard did she freeze, paralyzed and defenseless. Wounded from Oz’s own attacks, a single mighty blow from my now enormous greataxe felled her where she stood, and hydra-Aethon tore the hill giant apart in a frenzy in as short a span of time. Witnessing the slaughter, the ogre magi must have fled, for we did not see them again.

After a long day of fighting, Aiwan was safe again for the moment, and the threat vanquished. We returned to town as true night was falling, checking in with our compatriots to find that, thankfully, no one had perished from the boulder bombardment, and the minor damage to the town’s structures could be easily paid for with the supplies and treasure the now-routed warparty had brought with them. We collected the bodies scattered in front of the town walls, and threw them into the pit with their slain brethren. Oz finally got to toss a torch into his oil-coated nightmare, and the resulting bonfire roared for nearly a whole day, belching foul smoke into the air and blackening the walls of the old tomb.

One more heroic deed to add to our register, and our group’s first pitched battle won. K and I were pleased mightily with the performance of his polymorph trick, and we agreed that it would prove extremely useful in tough fights to come. Abominable creatures born of evil they may be, the strength of a giant has proven supremely useful in the fight to vanquish the greater devils that inhabit these wildlands, and I will take every boon and blessing that Divine Sol sees fit to place in my reach.

View
Report on the Slaying of the Fiend of Blood
Everyone's a little bit beuracratic, sometimes...

To High Lord Tragold, at The Dawnsword Citadel
To the Hierarchs of the Radiant Pact
To All Concerned in Service To the Eternal Glory of the Divine Sol

Report on the Slaying of the Fiend of Blood

Following find enumerated my recollection of my and my compatriots’ latest venture into the Temple of Light, a briefer one than normal, but still quite successful.

-——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

- The Signate of Acdenu being found and recovered, convinced the group easily that returning to The Temple of Light was of high priority. The ticking clock until The Great Fiend is freed is worrying, but an efficient motivator.

- In hallway wherein bebilith was encountered and slain prvsly (c.f. past report, Fiend of Madness), descended stairs to next level. This makes the 7th level of the temple.

- Aldo (A) scouted ahead, invisible via ring. Medium-sized chamber, four (4) pillars. Was surprised and attacked by a Wraith, even while invisible. Second Wraith attacked myself®, retreating, blink-like and instantly, to far wall.

- Wraiths engaged in combat. Similar to Shadows encountered in past. Ethereal. Attacks pass through armor. Life-draining. BingBong (B) attempts to purge them, fails. Points out that Wraiths react negatively to sunlight. Party magically hasted by Ducky (D), Oz (O) charges second wraith, deals minor damage, (A) disengages and shoots at first wraith, unsuccessful. Kemanorel (K) casts Scorching Ray, only lands one ray, moderate damage. Jorven (J) summons a bralani archer (Note: Extremely effective new summons, even the most wild and untamed righteous aid from the heavens is welcome!).® activates blessing on weapon, moves to middle of room. Wraiths flee from light shed from weapon.

- Dungeon explored. In side chamber: Anvil, and on wall a large engraving of dwarf working at similar anvil, weapons and armor on racks nearby (in engraving, not room). (D) speaks of local legend of powerful weapon associated with similar sounding anvil. (A) searches engraving, finds hard-to-notice chest visible in corner. A Puzzle.

- Time running out on summoned bralani and blade-blessing, next door searched, trap found in keyhole. Bralani set to breaking down the door. Before successful, light goes out, wraiths re-appear. Re-engaged in combat, defeated by additional summoning by (J), plus smiting.

- Summons re-directed at door, eventually broken down. Immediately, magic force begins drawing® via the Signate of Acdenu towards Fiend Door at end of next hall. Party + Summons group together to resist force, hold® back. Magical effect dispelled with great speed by (D). Signate of Acdenu stashed in extra dimensional hide-hole by (K).

- Party decides to rest in extra dimensional hide-hole before engaging fiend. A 3rd door remains unopened, leading further into the depths.

- With time available, puzzle re-examined. (A) picks up chalk pieces from floor. (O) smashes anvil with hammer, engraved dwarf moves, hammers metal in hand in engraving. (A) re-examines engraved chest, notices keyhole. Draws key shape on metal on engraving, (O) gets dwarf to hammer: no effect.

- Key drawn in chalk on real anvil, (O) hammers. Dwarf in engraving hammers metal into a key, floats across engraving, opens chest. Longsword appears from within the wall. Flame aesthetic, gold trappings, large ruby in pommel. (J) identifies as Tsurlar’s Blade. Claimed by (K).

- Next-morning: Magical force drawing Signate towards door present again. Re-dispelled by (D).

- Party summons feast from Cornucopia of Plenty. Post feast-consumption, party prepares for combat with numerous magical effects. Circles of Protection Against Evil cast, party Death Warded by (B). Potions consumed by® and all possible weapon blessings engaged. Bralani summoned by (J). (A) activates invisibility via ring. (D) casts haste.

- Signate of Acdenu applied to Fiend Door. Seals dis-engaged, combat engaged. Within: Four (4) Bearded Devils + Fiend of Blood. Winged. Canine-scout. Four (4) hands. Approx. size of horse. Wielding greataxe.

- (D) supplements (A)’s invisibility for continued attacks without breaking effect. (K) summons Black Tentacles beneath the devils + fiend, all are grappled. (J) begins summoning 2nd bralani, 1st attacks via lightning bolt, Fiend proves resistant to spells.® leads charge, followed closely by (O) and (A). Devils clearly resistant to damage, but great effect still achieved via weapon-blessings, raw power, attacks from invisibility.

- Devils + Fiend teleport free from tentacles. (D) remains attached to wall via slippers. (K) makes force attacks, bralani attack via longbow, barrage proves highly effective, Fiend proves highly resistant to spells. Devils cut down soon by combined assault of®/(O)/(A), Fiend now in flight, surrounds itself with mirror images for protection.

- More bralani incoming by (J). Fiend attacks a bralani from above, is grappled by second cast of black tentacles by (K).® withdraws and mounts flying carpet, moves to engage Fiend, is shielded from an attack by (K). (O) switches to bow to engage flying fiend, joins (A) and (D) in ranged assault. Fiend attacks® repeatedly, mildly successful, new adamantium armor protects® from serious damage, but® begins bleeding heavily.

-® unleashes rapid barrage of smites. High damage is inflicted. Ichor splash from successive attacks against wounded Fiend prove dangerous to all in close distance. Attacks continued. Fiend brought low soon after by crossbow bolt from (A), crashes to ground.

- All party wounds healed cleanly by bralanis before they disperse. Special attention should be noted to the effectiveness of the Holy magic of their weapons. Also effectiveness of small combatant (A) targeting weak spots while invisible cannot be understated. All allies in the fight against evil must be celebrated.

-——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

This makes the 5th Fiend defeated by the Adventurers of Aiwan (sic.). I shall endeavor now to gather information from the texts and translation by Talys Sumusulat about my next target, The Fiend of Betrayal. Worry is present about his powers in the group, especially given the danger of the Formians and their mind-control faced by Oz, Aldo, and Kemanorel. Our group has waited, as you will surely be aware from past reports, longer periods between ventures in the Temple of Light in the past, wishing to gather strength and treasure (for enchantment) to ensure capability before facing the next Fiend. We are all intently aware that these are fights we must win, for once the seal is open, if we are vanquished the Fiend will be free. With the revelations of the hags in recent weeks, such delays are no longer advisable. The end is in sight, only one more enemy awaits before we find our way to face and defeat the Great Fiend.

As always, I request to all who receive these reports to keep our brave band of adventurers in your thoughts, and humbly beg again for any and all aid your orders can spare to be sent to Aiwan, care of ‘The Adventurers of Aiwan’, reachable if need be via the Tasty Pig Tavern.

In the Light,
Jorgan Rost, Paladin of the Order of Pelor, Sanctioned Shadowstriker of the Radiant Pact

-——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

P.S.

On a personal note, I wish to share a miraculous occasion with all who revel in the glory and light of our Divine Sol. In a prior adventure wherein our group visited the Isle of Wizards and engaged in combat with a group of hags, retrieving the Signate of Acdenu, I was brought mightily low by the blade of a Frost Giant. My soul was for a time sundered, and recovery from my return to the material world has been slow and harrowing. In my morning prayers a few days past, I was greeted by the voice of Divine Sol itself, with encouragement for the efforts and wounds I have undertaken and suffered in this great saga in which I have found myself. What a delight, to receive Their blessing so directly. I have been shown me a new power to radiate light so bright as to make my exact location indeterminable. I am not so hale in these later years as I was in my youth, but still the sun gives me the tools to survive and continue in my quest. Truly, trust in the power and righteousness of our great Sun cannot be wrongly placed.

 

View
Formian Hunting
Pest Control

The party:

  • Kemanorel
  • Aldo
  • Ducky

While Aldo, Ducky, and I drank at the Tasty Pig, we discussed looking into the Formian threat in the Burning Hills, and before we knew it, we were on a scouting mission. We stopped in with the dwarves to check in for any more information that might help us, but were soon on our way in search of the Formian encampment.

It wasn’t hard to find the spire that twisted like a white, turritella shell into the air, with the smoke rising from the tip. We saw two obvious entrances. The one at ground level was closed, but the one close to the top was open.

Aldo scouted ahead, and returned with news of the general layout of the camp. Just some low level workers and four flying sentries. We were all able to sneak up under cover, and saw some of the low level workers stacking, what we later learned, was building material in piles around the outer parameter. I disposed of them instantly with a cloud kill spell while Ducky and Aldo took aim at a sentry. Two extremely well placed shots and it was down. However, when it crashed into the ground, the other guards were alerted. They weren’t terribly tough. We had disposed of another before they got to us, and we started to whittle them down. 

While none of us took too much damage, I was poisoned. It sapped my strength and I got weaker as the fight went on, so much so that I had to drop my pack just so I could walk. The sentries were destroyed just before I was totally immobilized under the weight of my own clothes, and my companions were kind enough to transport me back to the dwarves for rest.

A full night, along with several spells of healing, and I was good as new. Ducky had travelled back to Aiwan alone to stock up on antivenom for the future, and returned with more than we ended up needing. Then we were off again.

Upon returning to the camp, it was eerily silent. We knew these to be hivemind creatures, and thought that maybe they had decided the danger outside was too much for now. Staying vigilant in case of surprised attack, we did at this point examine the building materials and found we could lift it, and that one side was astonishingly tough. I personally kicked one over in frustration of earlier, which was surprisingly satisfying.

We decided to go in through the open door, and flew ourselves up. After Also searched thoroughly for traps, we entered the attic resting near the top of the spire. We found only more of the building material and a trap door. Aldo skillfully picked it, and it was at this point we decided to protect ourselves from a repeat of earlier by each drinking an antivenom potion.

As we started our way down we noticed that the walls were wet, water dripping down from the top throughout the complex. This obviously could not be coming from outside, and we decided to look for the water source. Once again, Aldo’s superior eyesight found what we sought. Thankfully, the hidden panel was not on the top shelf of a storage closet, but rather midlevel in the wall where he had a chance of spotting it. He stood on tip-toe to open it, and inside we saw a flask which seemed to gush water without end. Quite interesting that the entire complex’s integrity should rely on magical water cooling. We decided to leave it in place seeing as how we were planning on delving further and didn’t want to be slowly steamed.

As the spiral continued downward, we saw that the workers were piling their materials in here instead. The din from all the workers told us that most of the spiral must be packed. It had worked before, so I cast another cloud kill. We could hear their pitiful, little bodies fall one-by-one as the miasma sank down through the spiral. Good riddance.

We proceeded down the spiral concealed with invisibility, thoughtfully provided by Ducky. Stepping around the dead bodies and materials, we reached the bottom where the cloud had finally hit a wall and dissipated. The bottom ended in a small square chamber, with a closed door and an open doorway. We used our invisibility to get the jump on two Armadons. These were yet another abomination of the Formians that looked rather like giant fleas; one of those kinds of bugs that makes you sick to your stomach at the though of the diseases they must carry. We made quick work of them, using black tentacles to grapple then so that Aldo could land the subsequent critical blows, enhanced and supported by Ducky’s singing and crossbow.

There was another passage way here that we surmised must go deeper into the complex, so we turned back to check the closed door, fearing that if we proceed that we may run into something blocking our retreat if we needed it.

Aldo’s keen ears heard voices though the door, but couldn’t determine exactly what they were saying, but they sounded intelligent, and in elvish. We pushed open the door and were assaulted both physically and mentally. Aldo and I both felt the tug at our mind that we knew several months ago when we had come across the slavers who had captured a couple members of the scouting party. It took no effect thanks to a Circle of Protection scroll we wisely had brought with us, but also had to dodge out of the way of a minotaur that came charging from the room while an owlbear stepped into the doorway to block our way to the mind-controlling insects that were soon to be squashed. A concentrated effort felled the minotaur at our backs, followed quickly by the owlbear. With our way clear, a combination of Aldo’s strikes, Ducky’s bow, and my spells destroyed the first mind-controller.

With the first down, the remaining could not all be held in check, and was torn limb from limb as one might see a child torture a fly. At this point we found ourselves playing diplomat to the released humanoids, which numbered several humans and elves, two more of the scouting party, and an ogre. I sent the Ogre ahead with directions to find Fiorina, thinking he would open the door at ground level for the rest to escape and to relieve the tension in the room.

The former prisoners told us many incredible things. First, we learned that these people had all been used to the benefit of the Formians, several of them having been slaves for many years at this point, happy that they might finally get to go home again. One of the elves had also been the one to create the flask that cooled the complex, and taught me the command words to control the flow of water. They also informed us that the tunnel we had yet to explore was filled with gates to other planes! The Formians had come from but one of the gates, which meant there were many others, hopefully with great treasures to find, just waiting to be explored!

Moving the group to safety though the Burning Hills was not going to be an easy task, and would take a lot of time, more than enough to be tracked by a bunch of Formians if they knew of the escape. Running from hive-mind creatures would be an unlikely solution, so we decided we needed to protect our backs, and took a peek down the hallway leading deeper into the complex. As the sounds of more Formians echoed through the hallway, I filled the corridor with black tentacles, hoping to slow them down, and giving us a chance to hold them in a choke point, but as soon as I had cast, an ant that looked more like a centaur than just another bug popped into the room behind us!

The beast was large, strong, and intimidating, glaring at us through a heavy bronze helmet. It had split our party, and while this would usually be to our advantage, the circle of protection no longer covered everyone in the group. This had an interesting effect of making the battle range all around the room, the myramarch moving to avoid my lingering spell effects; our party moving to better attacking positions, trying not to get too close, but also trying to flank our target. At one point Aldo was mind-controlled, only being protected by accident when I moved to a better position, after which Aldo made sure to stay close to my side. Ducky, however, was still too far away to have protection. With grit and a little luck, we finally took down the beast, leaving our backs clear to rescue the prisoners.

I grabbed the decanter on the way out, first, to hopefully make the complex so hot as to be unusable by the Formians, and second, to provide cooling water for a large traveling party without magical protection to move through the Burning Hills unscathed. The journey was arduous, wet feet causing blisters as the group walked, and stopping several times to allow the group to rest away from the heat inside of a rope trick, but we eventually reached the relative safety of the Dwarven encampment.

We walked away with a fair bit of treasure for ourselves, but more importantly we had done enough damage to make sure Formians would not be a threat to the region for at least a fair while.

View
Yuletide Heroics and Snowcapped Tragedy
You better watch out, you better not cry...

I sit in the Tasty Pig near to the roaring fire on another dark winter night, enjoying David’s finest ale, Ducky’s lyre filling the room, penning this journal. It seems, after the events of the great battle for Hightower, that our time living in this tavern may soon be drawing to a close, and so now seems a fine night to record the events of one of our few adventures that began not from some clue buried in an ancient text, not from a dire omen appearing on the horizon, but in this very common room, on a similar winter night.

It seems ages ago, but it was nary a month back, just before the Yuletide festival, with pine wreaths garlanding the tavern halls, when the Tasty Pig’s door burst open in a clatter, silencing the noisy room and stopping Ducky’s song mid-chord. Standing in the doorway with the snow blowing in around her was Darandia! The blue-skinned fae drew gawking stares from all the townsfolk as I got up to close the door behind her, and ushered her to our table with Kemanorel, Jorven, and Aldo. BingBong and Oz were also enjoying their usual spots at the bar, and wandered over to investigate the commotion. Darandia seemed very shaken up, and clearly uncomfortable to be inside the walls of a human settlement and not in her normal locale, and quickly we coaxed out the reason for her coming: her sister had been kidnapped!

She told us details of her family then, and how her sister Delimbiyra had been out on a foraging trip, but had not returned. When she investigated, she found signs of a struggle and tracks leading north into the mountains. Not knowing who else to turn to for help, with her parents worried sick, she had rushed to Aiwan to find us and enlist our aid.

Darandia remains a most welcome ally in the normally hostile wilds, and we were all eager to aid her, rescue Delimbiyra, and hopefully put an end to an as yet unknown threat in these wild marches, we threw together our gear and set out at as soon as the storm broke and dawn’s light arrived.

We rode hard over the river and through the wastelands, skirting the edge of the canyons and coming early on the second day to the beginning of the hilly region beyond which lay Darandia’s village. Darandia guided us swiftly and surely to the spot where her sister had been abducted from, and thankfully the snow had not fallen freshly here, making it easy enough for Oz to pick up the tracks himself, confirming Darandia’s earlier work. She left us then to return home and comfort her parents, and await her sister’s safe return, with our assurance that it would be soon.

We followed the tracks up through the hills and into the heights, the snow growing deeper as we trekked higher. Soon the tracks of the kidnappers became faint from fresher snowfall, but by then it was clear there was only one pass over the mountains in the direction they had been heading, so we could continue to follow in haste.

Our chase was slowed though, by two encounters with dangerous beasts of that snowy range. The first was during our ascent, while still deep in the pine trees that coated the mountainside. Horus began to circle tightly ahead, and Aldo called a halt to our march, whispering back that he had the noise of animals moving towards us in the brush. Suddenly, a herd of twelve dire beasts burst into the clearing, cloven hoofed and with great antlers, like enormous shaggy deer, and giving forth aggressive grunts as they caught sight of our group, they wheeled and charged! Kemanorel prevented the whole herd from stampeding over us with a patch of grasping black tentacles, and Oz, Aldo and I began to pick off the stragglers. This fight would have been relatively unremarkable but for the fact that the leader of the herd had somehow been imbued with magical energy. A baleful red light glowed from its nose, and it surprised Ducky and Kemanorel by blasting them with beams of energy, inflicting much hurt before they refocused their attacks and brought it down, kept in the fight by BingBong’s healing.

Our next encounter was not to have so fortunate an end.

Higher up now, above the treeline, we had come almost to the highest point in the pass, when in the middle of the path we came upon an enormous mound of snow. We would have simply rode past, thinking it just another snow drift, so much larger simply by a curiosity of the wind patterns in the mountains, but Aldo again drew us up short, and pointed out the subtle patterns that showed that beneath a thin layer of snow waited a colossal beast.

Its ruse foiled, an abominable yeti (Ducky called out its name in awe as it arose) shook free from its disguise with a great roar that shook the mountains, blasting out from its maw a great cone of icy magic that caught all of us but the sprightly Aldo in the blast, as he dived off his horse to the side, while with a pop Jorven jaunted away just out of range.

Though the battle began on the backfoot, things went smoothly enough through the bulk of the fight, with Oz absorbing the brunt of the creature’s powerful claws, while Aethon bore me thunderously through the snow to strike at its flank as I rode by. As the wounds Oz inflicted began to multiply, reddening the snow, and the fire from Kemanorel’s spells took hold all over its fur, Ducky called out to warn us that the tales of this beast spoke of a mighty explosion of ice that resulted from its death. We all began to spread away from the yeti, wounded as many of us were from the initial blast of cold magic, but Oz was embroiled in his furious battle with the monster, and before Ducky could throw himself into a snowbank for cover, his axe bit deep into the creature’s skull as it tried to bite at him, and with a deafening blast the world turned white for a while.

The group picked themselves up from the snow apprehensively, and I rode back from the distance I had retreated, finding Oz standing relatively unharmed, his buckler a bit battered from absorbing the brunt of the blast. But Ducky was not so lucky. He was lying on his back in the snow, his small form blasted twenty or so feet away from where the flying carpet had fallen. He was not moving. A large spike of ice was embedded in his chest, his blood pooling beneath him, lifeless eyes staring up into the winter sky. Dead.

Memories of Krom flashing through our heads, before Oz had even had time to finish removing the yeti’s head and wander over to investigate the hub-bub, I had yanked BingBong over to Ducky’s body and we began compiling the expensive components for the spell to return our gnomish friend’s soul to his body. Many times had a party member come close to falling in the past months, but this was the first time we had really needed this spell. We removed the ice, patched up the wounds as best we could, and BingBong began the incantation. After a tense few seconds that seemed to crawl on forever, Ducky’s eyes twitched and he inhaled in a great gasping breath, and sat up coughing and wracked with a sudden shuddering fever, that passed quickly and violently. Our friend was back. But there was a sadness in his eyes, and he told us how he felt… diminished, some of his power lost in the transition back to the material world. He tried to cast one of the newer spells he had devised, and it fizzled out in his hand. I am ashamed to say that Oz made only the most bare of conciliatory apologies, refusing to take true responsibility for an outcome that he claimed no one could have truly known would happen. The group was somewhat on edge after a tragedy that could have been avoided, but happily I think now Oz and Ducky’s friendship has moved past the regrettable accident, and in the moment we all knew there was still a mission to complete.

We reformed our train and skirted the yeti’s corpse, Ducky eyeing it warily, abnormally quiet compared to his normal jovial self, and we rode down out of the mountains without further incident.

The other side of the pass was a land we had never yet seen, the furthest north from Aiwan any of us had ventured, a great desert of rolling dunes and the occasional rocky outcrop. The tips of the dunes were dusted with a thin layer of snow, for while the mountains kept back the storms from reaching this land, it remained chilled by the winter, and what little precipitation had fell over the past two months had not melted.

Here in the sand, Oz once again picked up the trail of our quarry. It led a few miles into the desert, heading straight for one of the rocky mesas. On our way there we received the first clue of the foe we had to overcome, as Horus came diving out of the clouds, shrieking in what seemed like fright, and refused to take to the air from Oz’s shoulder again. Something frightful was out there in the sky.

We arrived soon to the mesa, and spotted a cave entrance midway up the cliffside. Apprehensive, Jorven summoned a griffin and sent her conjured creature in to scout. We heard a blast like the crack of thunder, and the cave mouth flashed with blue light, and the griffin reappeared from within, its feathers singed and smoking, and clearly wounded. Jorven sent the beast back in, hoping to lure out whatever had attacked it. We heard the blast several more times, but nothing appeared from within the cave and eventually the griffin succumbed to the attacks and vanished.

Kemanorel volunteered that together with Jorven they had enough magic to shield even our large group from magical electricity, but that we should rest to regain their spells before we ventured within. Not liking the idea of being caught in the open against the edge of a cliff, we decided to sleep within the handy extradimensional pocket he could summon, and after flying up to the opening of the cave that’s just what we did, leading to the next regrettable mistake of the adventure.

Our mounts (minus Aethon, thankfully, who simply returned to the celestial plane) had to be tied up still at the base of the cliff, and as we kept vigil through the night, we heard a loud roar and the rushing of wings, and from out of the sky came a great sweeping arc of lightning which caught the horses full blast and roasted them all to a crisp. After a shocked moment during which Aldo (who was on watch) woke the group, we all watched in horror as a blue dragon landed from its flight and began to feast on the remains. Oz was particularly broken up over the ghastly (if quick) death of his mount Pharoah, though he seemed more distraught about the loss of the (now paltry) sum of gold Pharaoh's death represented (the other 5 dead horses being those reclaimed from the Hobgoblins so many months ago, for any readers wondering).

After it finished feasting, the dragon lifted with a great flapping of its wings and dove from the air into the cave right beneath our little window back into the world. We knew now what awaited us in that cave, though the cost of said information was rather saddening, and we finished our rest nervously. None of us had fought a real dragon before, only illusions and animated skeletons.

The next morning came, and shielded by magic against electricity, we made our way into the cave, which quickly began sloping down into the rock. Quickly enough, we triggered what was apparently a magical trap, the same that the griffin had encountered, and it blasted our group repeatedly with bolts on lightning, but the shielding held, and we managed to advance past it with only some tingling and a few minor shocks.

That said, we made quite the racket tripping the trap over and over, and as we came soon to some sort of living quarters within the mesa, we were lucky that at the moment, they seemed to be unoccupied. We searched the room, but found little of interest, and continued down the tunnel, which soon split, one fork continuing roughly straight, while another went further down. Jorven and Oz estimated that we were at about ground level now, and so we investigated the ‘straight’ fork first, finding it quickly ended in a mass of loose sand and rocks, with a few gaps letting in some streams of sunlight. Kemanorel informed us of the digging ability Blue Dragons were known for, and we concluded that this was another entry or exit point for the dragon from its lair. Returning to the fork, we continued deeper underground.

At last, after maybe a total of half an hour of exploring the as-yet empty lair from top to bottom, we heard activity ahead, and Aldo crept forward, reporting back his discoveries: A large chamber, some sixty or eighty feet in height and width, with a wide ramp spiraling down to the floor from where the tunnel met it, ringed with workbenches, of all things! In it were a number of elves, some tinkering away at the benches, while two more heavily armed elves stood guard. In one corner of the room, another pile of sand and rocks could be seen, just like the one we had found above. Of the dragon, there was no other sign. But more importantly, Delimbiyra herself was there, Aldo said, painting glumly at an easel, unmistakable by the blue-tinted skin of her race.

We had found our goal, and now we sprung into action. The elves seemed totally surprised by our appearance and in a flash we charged down the ramp, taking control of the room, the guards in a standoff with Oz and BingBong while Aldo and I kept an eye on the unarmed workers.

Tense negotiations followed as the elves begged us to keep quiet, and we slowly coaxed the truth of the situation from them. They belonged to the ‘family’ of the blue dragon, whose name was Sandy Claws (an odd name for a dragon I thought but then what do I know of dragons), who had overtime kidnapped them, like Delimbiyra, in order to force them to use their artistic talents to create works of art that he sold across the land, hoarding the income as dragons are want to do. What a strange little cartel we had found under the desert! They said that Sandy was slumbering in the chamber beyond the sand-block, and seemed terrified that she would awaken and find us here, that even her “family” would not then be spared her wrath. To my ears, this sounded like pure slavery, and I urged the elves to come away with us, that if we went now we could be away before Sandy even awoke. At the least, we were there only to rescue Delimbirya, who gratefully moved away back up the ramp behind us when we told her Darandia had sent us, and if they let us free her without an issue we would leave at once.

My words seemed to be moving a few of the elves, but fear does strange things to all beings, and at once chaos broke out. One of the guards moved to attack, but BingBong grabbed his face, and with a sickening green flash the guard dropped dead like a stone. At the same time, one of the workers ran to the sand-door and began shouting the dragons name. I chased after, and cut him down before his foolish actions could endanger any more innocent lives. But alas, it was too late, and we all heard a great rumble and roar from the room beyond, and soon the sound of scratching, digging claws began to echo forth in the chamber.

The remaining elves all dived for cover beneath the workbenches as our party took up positions around the room, casting spells to empower us before the fight, Jorven summoning griffin after griffin, Aldo’s crossbow at the ready. After ten or twenty seconds, a great claw rent through the sand, and then the dragon burst forth in flight into the room. Aldo’s fired a bolt into her wing as soon as she appeared, which took her off-guard and seemed to wound her mightily, but she shook off the surprise and blasted the group from the air while remaining in flight, luckily our shielding from before held, and the battle began in earnest.

I am not so ashamed to admit, dear reader, that in this battle I did nothing. My axe was as brightly glowing and as infused with the sun’s power as I could possibly make it, but Sandy never came back to the ground before her death, and I could not reach her to land a single blow.

All praise, truly, must be given to Jorven’s griffins, who flew at the dragon in a flapping, shrieking pack, tearing away at its flanks with claw and beak, and distracting the dragon so much that it barely got a chance to attack a real target while Ducky, Aldo, and Oz bombarded it with missile fire and Kemanorel tried unsuccessfully to force it to the ground or wrap up its wings with his black tentacle spell.

Soon enough, after a loud, chaotic battle, Sandy gave one last roar and then collapsed to the ground. Eager to have done… something, I swung my axe into her neck with a mighty shout, but in truth that was more to teasingly deprive Oz the chance to behead it than to actually finish off the already-dead dragon.

With Sandy Claws dead, the Elves were free, and while their attitude towards their freedom was maybe roughly split between fear of the unknown (and us?) and relief, one of the more welcoming craftsmen pointed out a buried cache where Sandy kept her most treasured items from the hoard, and in addition to searching her inner lair, we left that mesa weighed down with much reward.

Of course gold is nothing compared to the prize of righteousness and a rescued innocent, and after an uneventful trip back through the mountains (though of course slower with the lack of mounts), we returned to the foothills on the other side and sent Delimbiyra on the way back to her family. Our band has still not been granted the tribal friendship necessary to actually visit their village, so I cannot tell you, reader, what that reunion was like, but I’m sure it was a glad one.

Finally, then, we arrived back at Aiwan after nearly a full week away, one of our longest adventures to date. We returned to the Tasty Pig richer in almost every way, and piled into the common room to share with the townsfolk all the wondrous sights we had seen, and to drink heavily to Ducky’s continued existence, long may The Great Bard of Aiwan live!

View
The Orb and the Eddy
The Vortex Orb-jection

Party:

  • Kemanorel
  • Bing Bong
  • Snorri

While the Hill Giants corpses lay still warm on the ground, I rushed back to Aiwan for reinforcements while the rest of the party remain behind to protect the orb. I summoned my faithful steed and rode with all haste to town and found Snorri and Bing Bong and called them into service. We quickly picked up some basic supplies and I procured an empty whiskey barrel.

We hadn’t yet determined where the how the Hill Giants were able to so quickly ascertain that the orb had been retrieved, but thought that it might have been it’s resting place under the water. We filled the barrel with water and placed the orb into it before hosting it back up the sink hole, hoping that the water and the barrel would continue to hide its presence.

A small party was formed, consisting of myself, Bing Bong, and Snorri, hoping to travel quickly and with less chance of being detected, in a way a larger party couldn’t. The rest of the party would return to Aiwan in order to warn them of a possible blast from the wastelands.

With an extra pack animal to carry the barrel, and the magic carpet should we need to fly it to safety, we headed directly towards the wastelands, but weren’t even out of the woods before we were ambushed by a pair of Soul Sparks. These annoying little buggers not only packed a decent punch, but also were incredibly hard to hit. It didn’t help that Snorri’s evil blade seemed less effective against these sprites, but they seemed apt to dodge almost every spell and attack Bing Bong and I threw at it. It didn’t help matters that even when we did hit, the things also seemed to heal some of the damage. It was a war of attrition, but eventually some rage and big hits by Snorri disposed of them.

Having wasted more spells than Bing Bong and I would like to admit, we decided to camp for the night in the plains. Snorri built an structure good enough to protect us from the start of the winter without requiring a fire to give away our position. Bing Bong took the first watch, followed by Snorri, and then myself. Part way through my watch, I heard wolves in the distance. Over time they were getting closer… Coincidence? Or, were they tracking us? I awakened my comrades-in-arms, deciding we best be on our way before the howls got to us.

But, it was too late. A few hours later, flying high on the carpet, I spotted four large, white wolves in pursuit a mere few hundred yards behind us. We couldn’t outrun them anymore, and readied ourselves for a fight. For all their size, they fell much more easily than the Soul Sparks. A fireball quickly dispatched two of them. Bing Bong’s arrow, with carefully applied poison, fell another. The last was finally close enough to bark out at us, “Give us the orb!” As if this pitiful, solitary wolf posed any threat…

Bing Bong tried to gather some more information about who their “Master” was, but it was indignant, and earned an strike for its trouble. I gave it one last chance, and it’s response earned a scorching ray that turned it into ash. Snorri was disappointed as the lack of time to skin the beasts, but he still took one of their heads as a gift for Oz. Upon searching them, we found a few items: a crown, a jeweled collar, and earrings. These were someone’s pets, not random, wild beasts. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem like the water barrel was having much effect.

Without rest, we continued our trek to the wasteland. The snow covering the ground was thicker here and made it almost impossible to tell when exactly we had crossed into the barren land. Before long, there was no doubt; and we quickened our pace to reach our destination. We made our way up to a hill which Bing Bong remembered as the spot to wait for Durandia. Snorri made us another camp, and we prepared to stand our watch as we did the night before. Before our normal watch even started, we encountered was a simple ooze. It was much scarier at first, as an unnatural, icy cloud billowing around it threatened to engulf the camp as it came closer.  Nauseated by a stinking cloud, however, and it may as well have been a mouse walking into a snake’s mouth.

Bing Bong rode the carpet to higher ground for a last check before we started our watch for the night, and luck once again shone on our side when she spotted Durandia. We were a little off the mark, but our timing couldn’t have been better. We had cut into her path and met with her in only a few minutes.

We relayed to her our dire situation, and she wept. Learning that there was another charged weapon set to undo all the work she had done over the last centuries are nearly too much for her to bare. Bing Bong offered her comfort while Snorri and I continued to press her for information on how we might avoid the fate from times past. She offered that in the middle of the wasteland, there was a portal created by the previous calamity. She never went too close because it hurt her to do so, but throwing the orb in the vortex would either restart her efforts in the wasteland or destroy the orb.

After much discussion, we decided that we must risk throwing it into the vortex. At least that way we may control the destruction. There’s no telling what this “Master” might do if it got its hands on this weapon. Durandia showed us the way to the canyon that contained the vortex, and we gave her the pack animal and sent her away to safety.

The canyon itself was a giant cross, the four arms being deep canyons set in the cardinal directions, with our destination in the center.

We made our plans, and approaching on the top of the southern cliff of the western arm to avoid a potential ambush. We made it to the intersection without incident, and looked down into the center of the canyon. Both beautiful and fearsome to behold, the whirlwind at the center whipped around angrily. This clashed with the almost serene beauty of the eight surrounding crystalline trees. Behind the wind there was a barely audible wind chime-like song from the leaves ringing against each other. The most daunting of the view though, was a giant crystal colossus which paced slowly around the vortex in the same direction as if the winds were pushing it along.

Snorri used the carpet to fly to the canyon floor, while trying to engage the construct in conversation. It remained silent to every greeting and question that was posed to it, but thankfully remained docile. I granted wings to myself and Bing Bong, and we enacted our plan. A futile attempt was made to understand the magic behind the vortex, our spells merely creating bright bursts of light, we had to just roll the dice and see what happened.

Bing Bing joined Snorri in distraction while I flew above the vortex and released the orb. Gravity wasn’t enough. My heart sank as the orb was seemingly caught and flung before reaching the portal. It clattered and rolled near Bing Bong, but didn’t detonate. Meanwhile, Snorri had engaged the crystal giant. Even enraged, each attack only seemed to remove small chips and cause cracks that seemed to partially heal over time. At least it was distracted from Bing Bong and my efforts. Bing Bong picked up the orb and made her own attempt to show it into the vortex, but to no avail. Pushing on it with all her might, the orb and vortex acted like identical magnetic poles, eventually flipping out of her grasp and clattering to the ground yet again.

If greater strength than what Bing Bong had was needed, I would be worthless in attempting the feat. Snorri was the only option, so the construct became our new objective. Snorri had taken a few hits of his own at this point and was looking a little beat up, though still fighting with all he could muster. We started to beat it down with spells; negative energy, ice, force, and everything in between was as effective as trying to blow it over by sneezing on it. It was only now that we saw a few massive blows had almost rendered Snorri unconscious, and we rushed to his aid. Snorri took one last hit before attempting to withdraw… and it shattered into dust.

We quickly healed ourselves and glared at the whirlwind. Snorri boarded the carpet once again and flew so low few feared the vortex might unravel it without needing direct contact, and he pushed with all his might the orb towards the vortex. It was only when we all worked together, flying and pushing on the orb that it finally made contact with the vortex and was engulfed.

The vortex spun out of control, and our party high tailed it out of the canyon. We were just over the lip of the canyon when a burst of energy was released, followed by the sound of shattering glass. We covered our heads as small shards of crystal and dust briefly rained. Where there had once been roaring winds, we heard silence of the kind one usually only came across under the effect of magical silence.

Peering over the edge again, the seen was far different. The crystal trees were all shattered, mostly to dust and tiny fragments, and where there was a vortex, there was only a vague round spiral caused by the erosion of the winds over time rather than the vortex itself. We landed back down in the center smiling tentatively, wondering if we had succeeded or were merely experiencing some kind of afterlife.

Our jubilation was short lived as the silence was cut by a sheik of agony, “Noooooooooo!” This was pure despair; not some performer, overacting their part for an audience.

We looked down the east canyon arm an spotted a female fey, humanoid. What color there might have been had run from her face, but was quickly replaced by a mix of fury and rage. With Snorri in a state of fatigue, we feared what this new arrival might do in retaliation without someone to defend against rage-enhanced attacks. She shouted at us through tears that her friend was lost in the vortex and we had taken that friend away from her. She started casting spell after spells, which Bing Bong and I identified as incantations to increase strength, dexterity, and defenses. Between her spell-casting, we pleaded with her, told her that we didn’t know about her friend, that we had to destroy the weapon, that there might still be hope to find her friend, and we might even be able to help by talking to the gods…

We finally broke through her rage, getting only her name before leaving her to grieve. Dolcienne warned us never to return, but I feel that her warning will be forgotten whether we return with a plan for retrieval or closure in that she no longer need wonder if her friend lives or not.

One last task before returning to town to inform the rest of the Adventurers of our success, Durandia was tracked down. With great joy and reciprocated happiness, we informed her of the good news, leaving her to continue her aeon’s long vigil with a lighter heart.

We returned to town triumphantly, and over a few flagons of ale, all of us debated what to ask the gods…

View
The Orb and the Aboleth
Digging Up the Past

Party:

  • Oz
  • Aldo
  • Jorven
  • Rost
  • Kemanorel
  • Ducky

 

The group lead the way to a place I have not traveled before. They called it the “Dome,” a place of ancient arcane power, retelling a tale of tragedy in ages past. They also recounted their own much more recent victory here against a beholder; a vile, many-eyed beast of mind domination and negative energies. I was glad to hear they had rid the world of it, and happier to return with them to make sure the entire area was clear of such evil.

We weren’t even to the the main building before the day got interesting…

Four trolls guarded the entrance to our destination. Their flesh was rotting, and filled the air with the smell of decay. They stood in the path to our destination, so their fate was sealed. Rost took point, charging into battle on his mount. Oz quickly followed, and the pair made a wall between the trolls and those of us that wear little armor. Jorven summoned a beast which I then polymorphed into a Hydra to guard one of our flanks, while Aldo, Ducky, and another of Jorven’s conjurations made distractions to the other.

We thought that were were well prepared against the undead crew, but they were just the appetizer. Our assault had only just begun when the number of our adversaries doubled in size. Four baleful wraiths flew out from the runes. They joined their troll horde in moments, with retaliating strikes that seems to drain those they touched; and our strikes that had seemed to hit their marks suddenly just… didn’t. These were tricky foes!

Rost called upon his magic to turn the unholy ghosts, sending two of them streaking back to the ruins. One of them was shot in the back during their retreat, and we had the upper-hand once again! It took many more blows than we would have expected, but our foes started to fall one by one, eventually leaving the party as the victors of the field.

The battle won, we traveled underground into the ancient ruins of the Dome, large portions of the architecture still in tact despite the calamity that took place here. As we moved though the next door, we found ourselves in a huge hemispherical room, the only light being what we carried with us. A short way in, a large, ragged-edged sinkhole appear at our feet. Despite magical light, the bottom of this pit was still in darkness, and many of us I’m sure, hoped that we wouldn’t need to make our way down it.

Our footsteps echoed loudly around the chamber, which was soon mixed with the sound of weeping. It was eerie because the way it echoed made it difficult to pinpoint where exactly it was coming from. The sharp-eyed dwarves saw the weeping woman directly across the pit from us, and the magical light was directed across to illuminate the disconsolate figure. Such an odd appearance put the party on edge; this was far too odd a situation to be true.

Rost spoke first, “Hello! What are you doing down here?”

She wiped her tears and responded, “I’ve been trapped here a long time.”

Needless to say, that was hardly as believable as a weeping woman being down here in the first place. So, before any of us could react, Oz had already heaved a stone at her… And, it went right through the apparition.

“You’re not really there, so where are you?” Oz asked.

“Actually, I’m down the hole in front of you,” she said. We didn’t get the feeling she was lying, but we remained suspicious.

Aldo joined the conversation, “I get the feeling that what you’re showing us isn’t what you actually look like…” His voiced trailed off.

“That’s true. I thought with this form it would be easier to get help,” she  responded, sounding hopeful.

“Our group is rather diverse. We don’t tend to care about our differences,” he responded.

The apparition wavered a moment and then changed, as one might expect to see one object switched for another in a magic show. The fish-beast that remained in place of the woman was surprising. Recognized as an aboleth, our guard was raised again. These creatures are normally mind-controllers, which seemed at odds with the honesty she had been expressing so far.

“I’ve been trapped down here for around 300 years. There was an explosion and there’s an object down here blocking my way that zaps me if I get too close.”

While it meant little to me, several in the group gasped. On their previous excursion to the dome, they had found an orb and learned that if it had been charged, it would have been a great weapon. As it was, the uncharged object was only worth the precious metals that it was made of. This one that Manae, as she called herself, described sounded active. We may very well be standing on a bomb capable of untold amounts of destruction. This weapon could not fall into the wrong hands.

Asking for more details about what we might expect down the hole, and she told us where the artifact was, how long it would take to reach it, and that we should prepare for a fight with some automaton. We formed a plan: how to attack, supplies we’d need, how to retrieve the orb from the hole, and so forth. Finding a lack of certain magics, and returned to Aiwan for the night, stocking up on supplies and getting some scrolls of underwater breathing magic. The return to the sinkhole was without incident, and we put action to our plans.

It was a long drop into the water at the bottom of the pit, and we moved as quickly as one might under the water to reach the orb. The darkness was once again absolute, supplies only by magical means. It threw disconcerting shadows along the cave corridor and grew suspiciously absent when we entered the chamber, the light beams illuminating into nothingness. We could see the glowing orb on the opposite side of the chamber, and prepared for battle when we saw our lights pass over a form that must be the construct Manae spoke of.

Ducky lead the way into the fight hoping a sonic blast might yield a weakness in the robot. It was a good start, but not as effective as we’d hoped, so Oz and Rost rushed in to shield him from the awaked construct. Aside from it being extra tough to dodge his blows and taking a lot of hits, it was nothing for our party to dispatch, and was soon a crumpled heap on the cave floor.

Jorven summoned a school of sharks to transport the orb to the base of the sink hole once Oz had dislodged it from its resting place. We felt the electrical crackle as we transported it, but our planning had paid off and it was nothing but a mere annoyance compared to want it might have been if we hadn’t cast magical protections.

Exuberant at being free after so many years, Manae only took a moment to thank us and let us know that she would return periodically to see if we needed her help before rushing away from the orb, and we hoped that she find her family soon.

We extracted ourselves and the orb from the pit and discussed what we should do with the orb. Durandia had been a source of knowledge about these things, so she was to be our next stop. For the time being, the orb was secured on a rope and placed back down into the water in the sink hole.

Just before exiting the ruins, Oz stopped in his tracks owing to his hammer. We could see his face in concentration for a few moments before he informed us that just outside were several giants. Well, I had luck talking with giants before…

The rest of the party hid behind barriers near the entrance and I pushed out the door to greet the intruders in the common tongue.

“Give use the orb!” one shouted in giant. My stomach sank. While I could understand the orders they barked at me, they couldn’t understand anything I said in response… and they grew irritated. I motioned for Jorven to step out. They might not like her race, but they at least liked that she spoke to them in their own language.

“What orb?” she innocently responded. “We didn’t find anything here."

“You know orb! Master said orb here. You give orb.” It was like a mantra these near-brainless hulks they repeated several times, growing more agitated as we didn’t comply.

Jorven probed them for information before the inevitable fight, “Who is this Master?”

“It no matter! You give orb!” This was going no where…

Jorven and I took a step back from the door and allowed Rost and Oz to jump the barrier into the doorway as the first giant charged. This was no feeble attack. This was a push to break our defense at the doorway, and it worked! Rost, Jorven, and I had just enough time to get out of the way while Oz was knocked to the ground. This was bad… We had four giants at our front, and a fifth now in the room behind us!

A stinking cloud cast by Jorven outside the doorway provided us with much needed cover at our front, as two of the giants looked suddenly like they had eaten part of the rotting zombie trolls we had dealt with earlier. I unleashed a flurry, dazing several of others. It was just enough to let Oz get back to his feet and Aldo engaged the giant at our backs. Rost had taken up post at the door again, the cloud making it impossible for another giant to overrun us. This wasn’t part of our original plan, but it was working.

I continued to unleash what I had left, as Jorven summoned one of her magnificent beasts to attack the giants outside from behind. The tide had turned, and our foes were in a heap of trouble now. Nauseated and dazed, they began to fall. Rost and Oz feeling so confident at the turn in our favor that they actually braved the stinking cloud to land the final blows on the giants outside.

We were exhausted, but the giants were dead and the orb was safe for now…

View

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.