Aiwan

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.

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- 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.

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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

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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.

 

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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.

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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…

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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…

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Harvesting Victory
Give thanks to the adventurers in your life

“I begin and end with a curve, and in the middle is an em”

So went the riddle that had greeted us on the seal of the Fiend of Madness when our group last ventured into the Temple of Light. I had spent much time pondering that riddle, and the text that spoke of the “antithesis of madness” being the key, and not a few nights debating possible solutions with my friends in the Tasty Pig common room. At last, I believed we had settled on a solution. Ducky and I had discovered a spell spoken of in some of the more dry, medically-focused arcane texts of the Aiwan library, which its wizard inventor had named ‘Calm Emotions’. It’s effects seemed as close as any answer to the “antithesis of madness” and the name seemed to match the riddle quite exactly. ‘C’ and ‘s’ are both curves of a sort, and there was a literal ‘Em’ right in the middle! 

After a few nights experimenting (and a David Galloway somewhat irked by the drop in ale purchases on those nights, apologies!), Ducky had figured out a way to replicate the effect with his lute, if we purchased some pre-prepared components in advance, and we were confident this trick would open the door for us. Towards the Temple we departed, leaving BingBong and Oz behind, both of whom were a little too wrapped up in harvest festival celebrations to join us on this particular venture.

Yet again, though, our ride past Hightower was interrupted by a new an unexpected occupant. But this was no marauding band of hobgoblins. Perched atop the tor was the largest turkey I have or surely will ever see! Most have heard the legends of the rocs of the Great Desert, and this mottled bird must have been at least as large as those legends, the most colossal foe that we had encountered thus far. 

But we did not truly wish to make it our foe, it was simply a creature of nature, if an odd one, and we had genuinely evil prey to hunt. We tried to swing wide of Hightower, and not disturb its roosting, but with eyes as sharp as Horus it spied us in the grass immediately, and took wing straight for us! A battle it was to be!

The turkey dove from on high straight towards me, and with a colossal impact sent Aethon sprawling, and knocked me clean from the saddle. The blow was dazing to be sure, but the damage would have surely been worse had not Ducky acted quickly, immobilizing the bird with a spell so it froze with its talons inches from Aethon’s flank. The beast seemed to shake off the effects of the spell quickly, but Kemanorel followed up with a sickly ray of energy that sapped much of the creature’s strength, and in the confusion Aldo had ducked beneath its towering legs, and begun to bash away at its hindquarters, hiding behind the great fan of feathers that sprouted from its rump whenever it tried to spot him. Weakened and flanked, that great harvest roc soon fell.

We reached the Temple without any further incident, and quickly returned to the floor on which we had encountered the mind-flayed Ogres and the flesh golem abomination, and found the Fiend of Madness’ sealed prison. Not wishing to fight our quarry with unknown dangers behind us, we chose to clear out the rest of the floor before opening the door. We made our way beyond the laboratory we had wrecked last time around, and soon came to a most dreadful sight in the next room: the walls were lined with shelves, shelves stuffed full to bursting with jars, in those jars were brains floating in foul green liquid. 

Nothing stirred in that chamber of horrors, though another door led further into the dungeon, and we spread out to investigate before moving on. Jorven was telling us of similar sights she had read about, some ritual or other performed by certain types of evil magic users, but I must be honest when I say the details have escaped my memory. What I do remember was the overbearingly loud crash when Aldo accidentally knocked one of the jars onto the floor while searching for traps, and the horrid aura that filled the air as two of the jars began to vibrate and then lift from the shelves, floating out into the room to attack us, trying to slam into the party members. These brain-jars were surprisingly resilient for glass, and withstood many a blow from our band’s full fury before we finally managed to shatter them, and send them crashing back down to earth.

We had no time to rest though, for the sound of the fighting had alerted the masters of those foul creations, and bursting through the door came not one, but three of the mind flayer creatures Ducky had warned us to expect. They stood like men, in dark robes, but with sickly green skin and dead black eyes, and instead of mouths they had a maw of writhing tentacles They attacked us with some kind of magic, unlike any I have experienced before, which seemed to dig directly at our minds and blast away our sanity. One or two of us may have been dazed by the mental assault (I cannot recall for sure) but Pelor’s radiance protects from any who would dare to try and control my mind, and the abyssal foes seemed unprepared for an enemy who could fight back and withstand their magic. Their claws were no match for my armor, and Aldo, one of Jorven’s creatures (some outlandish, horse sized, four-legged bird with a fearsome beak, I don’t know where she gets these things from) and I cut them down quickly once they had been forced back into the next room (their lair, on later observation) and onto the defensive.

With the danger of the mind-flayers eradicated, we could see one last hallway stretching away and down into the gloom. Assuming (correctly) we had found the passageway to the next floor, we were about to turn back when Aldo stopped us. Breathless, we strained to listen and heard skittering, clattering footsteps rushing towards us out of the darkness. We took up arms once again as a great demon Bebilith reared out into the torchlight and attacked. Like a monstrous spider it was, but the size almost of an elephant and much more… spiky. It spat poisonous webs at Aldo, who deftly rolled clear of the attack, and assaulted me with its long spindly claws, trying to tear and rend away my armor. Its hide was tough, almost metallic, but the sun’s holy power can best the defenses of even the most wicked demon, and soon enough we had bested the monster with only a few deep gouges into my armor’s plates to show for wear. The magic in that suit still pulsed strong, and the damage seemed repairable enough, so we turned about, the floor clear at last, and made our way back to the inscribed metal door that guarded the next fiend.

In what is always a welcome change from the usual hurry of battle, these doors always give us ample time to prepare before facing the enemy within, and while Ducky readied the components for the spell we were sure would open the seal, I cast every blessing I could think of, powering up to my full strength, and used a few of the spare scrolls and wands rolling around in the bottom of our bag to further strengthen myself and the party. Jorven summoned a celestial warrior with the head of a bloodhound and a large greatsword, Kemanorel readied a fireball, Aldo his crossbow, and we gave Ducky the signal to cast. A great hush fell with a whisper across the hallway as he played the last few notes, and after a pregnant pause, a deep click sounded in the door, and it slid away. Revealed behind it was not the incomprehensible landscape of confusion and madness I had been expected, but a lushly decorated library, scattered all about with tomes and scrolls, with two hallways leading further back (to what proved to be a sleeping chamber) and in the center of the room a large desk, where not a fearsome monster or an eldritch horror awaited us but a simple skeleton in a wizard’s robe! 

As we filtered into the room with our weapons at the ready, he remained seated and made a few unknown gestures with his bony fingers. At least, that’s all it appeared to me, but Ducky ever with the fastest reaction times, called out that the fiend had cast a spell, and cast one right back attempting to dispel the effect. It worked, and the sitting skeleton proved to be an illusion, disappearing with a pop just as the real fiend was revealed off to the side, already mid-attack! The battle was on!

Though the defeat of the Fiends is generally my quest, I will admit that this particular battle was primarily a duel of magic. Aldo and I, as well as Jorven’s hound-avenger, made our best efforts to cut down the unarmored foe, but he proved adept at retreating from our blows, and ultimately it was Kemanorel, striking the fiend over and over with his frighteningly powerful attacks, who eventually defeated the Fiend of Madness, knocking the bones apart with the explosion of a fireball into a heap on the ground. But not before our foe’s title could come into play, for just before he succumbed to the blast he managed to cast a spell of his own dazzling the minds of our party. K and I resisted its effects, but our three compatriots were not so lucky. 

We turned around from the fiend’s remains to find them staring slackjawed, swaying and babbling in place. Kemanorel had just enough time to warn that they had been magically confused, and could pose a danger to us or themselves, before Aldo seemed to start to raise his morningstar. Thinking quickly, I unstoppered the eversmoking bottle, and filled the room with a black cloud, one that was particularly choking this time since Kemanorel also summoned a fog of stinking fumes (which smelled just like the dretch demon we fought in higher floors months ago, a memory I was not happy to be reminded of) to help… incapacitate our friends without harming them. Blinded and unable do much more than wretch and stagger about, the effects of the confusion soon passed, and we all recovered with no permanent harm done after a very unpleasant few minutes suffering in the smoke.

Afterwards, we examined the fiend’s chambers, recovering a decent haul of gold and artifacts, while Kemanorel explained that we had likely just defeated some sort of lich. He identified the lich’s phylactery amongst his belongings, saying that the fiend’s life essence would persist until the phylactery was destroyed, a task he claimed to know how to do. Let the arcane amongst us deal with the arcane around us, I always say, and he reported the job done soon enough. We finished another successful adventure with one less fiend sealed away, waiting to wreak havoc on the wider world. My next target was The Fiend of Blood, but we had found no clues or further information about the “Signate of Acdenu” needed to open the next seal. With no leads to follow up on, we would simply have to pursue other threads, vanquish other evils, and trust that Divine Sol would illuminate the path to tread in due time.
 

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Fiorina, the Hydra's Bane
How are we not dead?

The Party

  • Kemanorel
  • Aldo
  • Oz

Oz, Aldo, and I sat getting our fill of drink, trying to decide what we might do with our little party, ill-suited as it was for heavy combat. We settled on the idea of trying to line our pockets with some extra riches for ourselves, remembering that there was an Eternal Flame not yet discovered after the party’s previous encounter with a fire giant in the Burning Hills.

Aldo and Oz mentioned an enchantress, Aevan who might have the knowledge we sought. I sensed some amount of aversion to this path from Aldo, perhaps to spending coin or favor when we might find what we need in the library. We spent a day among the old dusty tomes, but ended up walking out with nothing more than we already knew when we entered: it was a flame and it was eternal. Aldo and Oz were more quick to acquiesce defeat to the tomes and seek out Aevan, while myself, like a stubborn animal, continued in the library. I caught up with them at Aevan’s, long after they had made far better use of their time.

She informed them that the flame was the cause of the burning hills infinite smoldering, but that it would also grant protection from flame to all those who might stand in it and survive until the flame felt cool. How exciting! We had initially sought riches of gold, but permanent resistance to fire could be priceless! She told us that it would likely be guarded by elementals, but the real trial would be to stand in the flame without magical protection in order for the ritual to work. Challenge: accepted.

We discussed at length what precautions we might take with us for spending an extended amount of time in the Burning Hills and how we might deal with elemental guardians. We settled on purchasing several scrolls to protect us from flame as well as wands of healing, and set off for the Torch and Campfire. Aldo informed us, despite the drinks he had imbibed, that he remembered elementals should have a stomach and so be vulnerable to nauseation. Oz was incredulous, but it was the best strategy we could hope for.

While our adventure might be for ourselves, figuring running some errands for the rest of the group wouldn’t go amiss, we delivered the Skymetal to the Dwarves so they could ply their trade. They told us what they might make with a lump of metal that size, and then turned to less cheerful matters. The dwarves told us a sad tale of a missing scouting party, and we conferred with them about the possible location of the Flame while vowing to keep an eye out for any signs of the lost dwarves.

With no new information, the road took us to the hot springs were the fire giant was slain, hoping that the giants frequented the location of the flame. Surprisingly, the massive corpse of the fire giant was no where to be found. Oz sent Horus to scout from the sky, and tracked the giant’s feet in the ground. Oz found two sets of footprints; one heading east and the other north. He determined that the tracks heading north were a bit deeper, probably due to one giant carrying the other.

While following the road traveled by whomever was carrying the fallen giant in hopes that he would be laid to rest at or near the Flame, Horus soon informed us that there was something up ahead. Aldo scouted to Horus’s mark, returning with news of a stone house with another Red Giant outside, sitting the base of a large crater. Interestingly, this giant had the distinct features of being female. After correctly surmising that this Giantess was the spouse of the previously slain, I confess that I felt sorrow for the widow. This unfortunately got us no close to determining where the flame might be. It crossed our minds that it may even be in this giant’s stone house! Because a direct confrontation was likely out of the question, we discussed other tactics.

Owing to a need to prove myself to my new companions, and a fairly large dash of foolishness and stupidity, I suggested that I might spin a tale in hopes of having this beast of a lady simply tell me where the Eternal Flame resides. My comrades took up hiding positions along the road in the event I needed to remove myself from the vicinity in a hurry, and I set my plan in motion. Taking care to disguise myself with burn scars and tattered clothes to help sell my story, I summoned my Steed and made my way up the road. I stopped atop the lip of crater hoping that in the event I needed to make a hasty retreat being at the high ground might afford me some protection. Now, I’m not a novice adventurer, but after putting myself in a situation this precarious, I’m sure that would have been what they put on my epitaph had my ploy ended poorly. Surely, the tale of woe would eventually include the line, “I got this. Hold my ale."

I took a deep breath and composed myself, controlling the steady flow of adrenaline before calling down to her, “Greetings, lady!” in as friendly and respectful a manner as possible. I pointed to Oz’s Horus still circling in the sky, “He told me someone was here!"

She responded, rather gruffly with a hint of melancholy, and in much deeper tones than one might expect of a female, “What do you want, Halfling?”

I chuckled a moment, thinking that if she thinks that I'm a halfling, what would she call Aldo, but I digress. “I am tracking some people. I thought you might want to help…”

That she might “want" rather than simply "be able" to help, piqued her interest for just a moment, and the tale weaving began.

I told her of a group of adventurers who we might both have an interest in finding. I explained that this group of people had burned down my village and killed my family. I had tracked them to the local town, but had just missed them. She took this information without question, and a fair bit of disinterest, but she started to hang on my every word when I told her that by using coin for information, the locals told me the group was heading into the Burning Hills to find the Eternal Flame, boasting that it would be easy since they had already slain the Fire Giant protecting it!

She was incredulous, “How do you expect to take them all on yourself if together they were able to kill my husband? Would you have been strong enough to take him on your own, tiny one?”

That caught me flatfooted. I stammered, “Certainly not. I am quite sure I would have not a chance against neither you nor your husband. While I am strong, I suppose I would have to try and find a way to separate them. First, I need to find them. Can you tell me where the flame is? It's my best bet.”

Surprisingly, she seemed to accept this explanation. What happened next, was far more surprising, and futhermore had not been predicted…

Rather than just telling me the location of the Flame, she decided to take me to it personally. Traveling with a fire giant was about as expected as finding mimic that looked like a boat… We had not discussed this possibility at all. Aldo, Oz, and I had planned for every possible outcome to the situation at hand, except this one.

I dared not refuse the offer, and could only hope that Aldo and Oz followed without alerting my new traveling companion. With distance between myself and the giant now at, literally, her arm’s length, any chance of running was miniscule. My skull would be crushed like a ripe melon before I could utter a single spell.

She led the way south east, eventually coming to huge, round basin, with a temple at the center. It was a simple domed structure with entrances at the cardinal directions, and sitting on the top of that temple, was a hydra as red as a blood moon. One, two, three, four… EIGHT?! Eight heads?! Then it dawned on me, and I assume to Aldo and Oz as well, that if we had simply gone east at the hot springs, we would have found this place. Granted, we would still have an eight-headed hydra to face, but now our destination was also being watched by giant. And, not any ordinary giant; one who was out for blood.

It was some amount of comfort that I noticed that Aldo and Oz had taken up hiding positions on the opposite side of the bowl, but began to fear that my disguise may not last much longer, and neither would my life. I told Fiorina that I was sorry my weak body couldn’t stand in the environment of the Burning Hills much longer and asked if west would take me to the hot springs so I could find my way home. She affirmed my direction, but before leaving I assured her if I ever killed any of them, that I would let her know her husband was avenged.

As my horse headed west, she seemed intent on keeping watch for a while, but Aldo and Oz were able to make there wait back to the hot springs soon after I did. What a relief to be out of the company of such an imposing creature. But, we were soon back in the frying pan as we concocted a plan to have the fire giant do some of the hard work for us. That pyrohydra was nearly as imposing as the Giantess. We prepared again, taking a path east-southeast so that we could loop around the basin to the south. With Oz and Aldo once again taking up hiding positions, I was once again about to hop into the frying pan.

As I came over the lip, she had already noticed me, but I had cast Ghost Sounds spell already, trying to make it sound as if a group of people had snuck into the temple. I quickly ran my mount around the edge to Fiorina, waving wildly for her to be quiet, pointing to the temple. I hopped off my mount, and in frantic whispers I told her I had tracked them back from the hot springs, and that they were in the temple right now. She could get in, but if I could get in then I could flush them out, but there was no way I could get in without provoking the hydra.

It was about as weak a lie as I had yet told her, considering she would be putting herself at risk. I was about ready to present her my head, but instead of taking it, she charged the Hydra! If ever I had seen such a fine display of swordsmanship, I couldn’t remember it. She was magnificent! There is no other way to put it. Oz, Aldo, and myself would have been never been heard from again had we tried to take her. She might be about as beautiful as a half-eaten, rotting bear carcass, but compared to her onslaught, I may as well have been throwing pebbles rather than spells.

The hydra didn’t stand a chance. For every blow she landed, she had also dodged three or four or five or more attacks from the hydra. She was as graceful as she was ugly, and as fierce as she was intimidating. After just two flurries, she had removed every head and it fell in a heap on the group, the heads rolling a short distance away. As she stood over her prey, I could only stare in awe and fear, hoping that I never end up on the receiving end of her aggression.

The fire spell used to attempt to cauterize the heads before they grew back was utterly futile. Fire wouldn’t work on this beast, but I didn’t have time to do more. She had already moved to the north entrance of the temple and was hurling questions about why the guardians weren’t alerted despite the sounds inside the temple? A deer caught in a fascination spell would have been better equipped to answer her question. This was it. The lies weren’t going to hold up anymore, and I would be minced in just a few more moments… I knew it was coming.

A clatter from the south entrance; Aldo, that amazing quarterling! Aldo stood on the southern ridge to give Fiorina a real target in place of my fake one. A perfect bait and switch! She charged after him as I got on my mount in preparation for a chase, but Aldo was quick to disappear from view before she got to the top of the southern side of the basin.

Oz was similarly hidden already, I suppose petting his hammer to keep it calm in Fiorina’s presence. As I rode to join her at the top of the ridge, Oz must have also been watching my bumbling signals meant for Horus and directed him south, giving chase to the fake group of adventurers. I followed Horus until Fiorina disappeared from view. After waiting for time, I returned with as sheepish a look possible, relaying my failure at tracking the group. "They must have cast an invisibility spell or something, because Horus wouldn’t have lost them otherwise!" That was the last lie needed, and I held my breath until she showed signs that she believed it. Her reaction thereafter nearly as scary as if she had attacked directly, cursing with the skill of a seasoned pirate. You didn’t need to understand Giant to guess exactly what she was saying.

After more profuse apologies, which were rather easy to fake because of how sorry I felt for having used her in such a way, I proclaimed that they would not slip through my fingers again. I turned to more neutral topics, complementing her on her prowess against the hydra, stating unequivocally that her swordsmanship was legendary. Rather belatedly, I finally asked for and learned her name.

As she returned on her way home, I made another vow that after all was done to her and how we had used her, that if there was any way possible, that she would be left alone. I felt that we owed her that at the very least, making a note to talk to the dwarves to determine if, while cooperation might be out of the question, if at least a pact of non-aggression might be possible.

Meanwhile, Aldo and Oz cleverly ran back to temple and poured a bottle of acid on the severed necks of the hydra, preventing it from ever coming back. One thing is sure though: Aldo can never be in the presence of Fiorina without provoking her fury. I joined them as they finished searched the corpse of the hydra. Finding very little left, I relieved one of the heads of a fang, placing it in my haversack as a trophy.

I moved quickly to scout inside, fearing that Fiorina may return to check the Eternal Flame. Whatever favor I may have accrued in the adventures with the Giantess was mostly lost as I provoked the attack of four flame elementals. It was only after this point that every word of warning about elemental guardians floated through my mind. The hydra wasn’t the guardian, just a beast basking in the magical glow and heat emanating from the Eternal Flame's brazier.

Aldo and Oz jumped into action, while all I could do was try to prevent myself from being burned alive. They shouted for to get on top of the temple again, using the hydra as a barrier against our back while casting flame resistance from scrolls we had purchased in town. After the initial onslaught, Oz had moved against the hydra, valiantly defending against two of the elementals. I prayed that Aldo’s drunken philosophic waxing wasn’t just babbling nonsense and loosed a Stinking Cloud. Success! One of the elementals near Aldo’s back seemed about ready to hurl up whatever it is a creature of that nature might, and there was a glimmer of hope that we all might yet escape with our lives.

Our party took some blows, dampened significantly by the resistance spells as we took control of the battlefield. Oz and Aldo continued to their assault on the guardians while I threw down more nauseating clouds, leaving but a small path for Aldo and I to retreat against the hydra. Despite their initial surprise attack, they soon succumbed to Aldo and Oz’s weapons, leaving us free to finally look into the Flames of Eternity.

The runes around the edge of the flame detailed the ritual and the effect. The ritual could only be done once per month, and, to our vast disappointment, would only last a month. It was something to hold in reserve should we ever knowingly need the protection, but since we were already here…

We readied ourselves, Oz and Aldo gripping wands of healing, and leapt into the flames. It was bordering on torturous to stand in the flames, melting flesh magically restored only to melt again. Aldo and Oz were more stalwart in the pyre than I was, several times it crossed my mind to jump out, but each time I was ready to give up, a wave of healing struck staving off the growing wave of panic building in my chest. How Oz and Aldo were able to concentrate enough to even use the wands while standing in the flame I do not know, but soon enough the flames felt more like warm bath water than the blistering tongues licking up our flesh that they had been the moment before. We stepped out of the fire, grinning to each other reaching back in to play with the flame as a child might had it been filled with water instead. I speak only for myself, but I would only stand in those flames again if I knew the resistance would be necessary in the coming adventures.

After all of this, as much as we wanted a flagon and a bed, our day was not yet over. As we made our way back to the Torch and Campfire, keeping a sharp eye out for the Fire Giant, we instead came across a pair of overly large insects, towing a pair of dwarves behind them. Aldo recognized them as Formians; nasty creatures who enslave the minds of others.

We tried speaking to them at first, hoping for an opening to free the enslaved dwarves, but they took the first attack. For the next few moments, what exactly happened, I can’t say for sure. It was like being in a dark room with a disembodied voice directing your actions as a puppeteer might command a marionette. When it commanded that I attack Oz, I pushed back against the voice and was conscious again.

When my senses returned, all I could feel was embarrassment as I realized that of the three of us, I was the one that had fallen prey to the Formian mental trickery. They would pay…

I yelled at Oz to let me go. I may as well have been trapped under a boulder for all I could move with him grappling me. Apparently, during the time I was out of my senses I had fallen into step with the mind-numbed dwarves. In a successful attempt to prevent my advancement with them, Oz had tackled me and was holding me down. He complied, and we all rained hell upon them.

Fiorina may be semi-evil and hideous to look at, but I’d sooner share a meal with her than any slaver. It made my stomach queasy to think about their encampment. Merely destroying them was too good a fate. The sooner they are all removed from this plane, the better I’ll sleep at night.

Thankfully, the rescued dwarves weren’t completely unaware of what had been happening. As we escorted them back to T&C, they revealed that the Formian camp was north of the lava tubes. Someday soon, I plan to see their camp in ruins, and a bonfire of their corpses burning on the horizon; but, for now, we all needed a rest.

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The Trials of Unjory
Sometimes, two wrongs do lead to a right.

It had come time to answer the question of Jory. For too long had our band of adventurers left him to his machinations, as we killed the occasional thrall and watched the goblins slowly disappear from the land. Our first encounter with the vampire he had become had… not gone well for us, but Bing Bong’s power grows with every passing journey, and she had discovered a spell to shield us from the energy drain that made Jory’s attacks so fearsome. Along with the new abilities granted me by Pelor’s light, we felt we were more than a match for the erstwhile fallen monk.

We set out from the gates to the north, past Hightower towards the ruined keep. Having come prepared and supplied for once, when we reached the stairs into the depths, we surrounded our group with a sphere of invisibility and silence. Jory would not detect our approach this time.

….that said, our technique did leave a few things to be desired. A light source would be visible from outside the sphere, and communication within the silent zone was impossible. That left Oz to be a shepherd to the blind, guiding us in a train holding onto the person nearby, the seven of us squeezed tight within the magical effect, and communicating only through abstract drawings on my arm. 

In the main hallway of the keep dungeons, Oz signed the presence of a handful of goblin thralls, who he later said had been practicing martial maneuvers, while a few dire wolves slumbered nearby. Enemies to be defeated before we left, but not our main quarry. We continued past, leaving the goblin’s somewhat confused as the sound of their exercise quieted and returned. Down the hallway along which Jory had run off the day of his fall, we found only a few small rooms, but within one we found a number of coffins, most likely the origin of the original vampires who turned Jory and then were destroyed by him in turn. Risking a little light, we set to work destroying those coffins, and found a stash of gear hidden beneath one. Here, much to our concern and curiosity, we found a note, which read:

Friends I have left for the lost Mountainside Monastary. I hope to see you there. Head north-east to the first stream you find. Follow the branches left, right, left to find the start of the Path of Enlightenment. Beware the trials. Fist is the walking stones. Second the unsure foot. Third is the sting of fire in your veins. Be prepared to pierce the heart of evil with good.

It was addressed to us in Jory’s style, and when we compared it to some of his writing back in town later that night, it matched his handwriting. But before this analysis, there were his minions to cleanse. The sleeping dire wolves fell quickly to our ambush from stealth, surrounded before they even knew they were in danger, while Bing Bong vaporized the thralls with his holy power, a feat that remained impressive and welcome even now that it was becoming practically expected. Only the lowest level of the dungeon remained, a small room partially flooded with water, but all we found there were the decaying corpses of two creatures Jory must have laid low early in his ascent to mastership of the keep.

There was nothing to it but to follow the instructions of the note.

We set out once more from town, followed the instructions past the keep, along the waterway, up into the foothills of the mountains, and early one afternoon, Oz was alerted by Whelm of the presence of nearby giants. Around the next corner of the path was our first challenge. Two mountain giants had a campfire roaring, near the base of a waterfall from the cliff above. Aldo took up his new favorite giant-slaying ice storm wand, and Ducky took to the skies to harass the giants from the flying carpet, and quickly enough, the giants were down. With some irony, we noted that these were probably the very same mountain giants Ducky had heard rumor of when we went looking for a giant to slay for Oz’ ritual to awaken his hammer. Had we at that time chosen stone instead of fire, our path might have already been cleared. So it goes in these wilds.

Flying up to scout on the carpet, Ducky announced that up on the cliff at the waterfall’s head, a trail began and wound its way steeply up the mountainside. Chauffeuring us one by one to the trailhead, Ducky stuck to the air to keep watch ahead as we began our laborious ascent. 

After a few hours of hiking, the next challenge appeared out on the horizon. The keener eyed members of the party pointed out a pack of wyverns on the wing, which quickly spotted us back, and wheeled to attack. Jorven summoned two giant hornets to fly out and keep some of the creature’s at bay, while the group attacked with whatever ranged options we had available. Most of the wyverns were brought down in the air, but one or two unlucky beasts were sent crashing into the mountainside by Oz’s and my blades when they flew by to attack. Their poison seemed fearsome, but luck kept its effects to a minimum within the party. The danger past, Ducky’s scouting suggested that it would be nearing dark by the time we reached the top of the trail, and since none of us had a desire to encounter Jory without the protection of the sun close at hand, we decided to camp on the ledge on which we had made our stand against the wyverns, and I used my magic to cleanse away the lingering effects of the poison from those who needed it. 

We reached the doors of the monastery in the late morning, as the sun rose high. An eerie silence lay over the forest. Great doors stood closed before us, the monastery’s bulk stretching away back into hillside. We threw open the portal, and found that we had been awaited. Within was a large courtyard, packed with rows of monks, who turned expectantly towards us. Sunlight shone down within the center of the courtyard, but a ledge at the back, with doors leading further into the monastery, lay covered in shadow, and there stood the monastery’s leader.

He asked us our purpose, and we told of our hunt for Jory, that our trail had led us here, and that we had no quarrel with the monastery or its members if it would surrender him to our justice. But we didn’t have to hunt any longer, for Jory himself stepped forth from a doorway to confront us. We expected Jory to be their master, not their guest. A puzzling development.

A tense standoff followed, our party just outside the door, trying to gauge whether we could count on the monks as aid against the monster in their midst, or whether they were another obstacle in the way of cleansing our mistake from the world. Though the history of our conflict with Jory seemed to surprise his master, he did not seem to be siding with us. Rather, our presence seemed to be driving a wedge between the two men.

I stepped forward into the courtyard, urging Jory to join me in the sun and free his soul, but the conversation soon trickled out, and it was clear there was to be blood. The master nodded his head, and promptly vanished into the shadows, while Jory fled back into the monastery’s depths as the monks in the courtyard attacked us.

The fight to end that day was a grueling one, there were many monks arrayed against us, and though I urged them to surrender and be spared, they fought to the end. They were not much threat against Oz’s and my defenses, but there were many, and the most experienced in their group could disappear into the shadows of the courtyard, attacking us while remaining unseen, while we shot bolts and slashed blades at where we thought they might be. 

Eventually, all the monks succumbed to our party, and as the bodies fell silent, so too did the courtyard, until a spell blasted out at us from somewhere on the shadowed ledge. The master had made his move, but in casting a spell, he had revealed his location to Kemanorel, who unleashed his own force attack back at him, revealing him, and his true nature, to the rest of us. The master had taken on the form of some fearsome feline hybrid, with black and orange stripes and large clawed paws, while retaining the gait and form of his former human appearance.

Oz charged the creature, and a furious grapple ensued, Oz managing to get the upper hand and wrestling the master to the ground, while the rest of us attempted to cut him down, but his hide was beyond tough, and it seemed we could barely damage him.

In the midst of this struggle, Jory returned from the hallway he had fled down, and I moved to intercept him before he could attack the party. Weakened earlier from a few of Aldo’s silver bolts, when I unleashed my reserve of holy energy to disrupt Jory’s unholy form, he was blasted instantly into mist, and fled back to his coffin.

Finally, I summoned all of the sun’s fury I could muster, and smote the master with my blade. Combined with Kemanorel’s magical damage, it was enough even with his great toughness to bring the master to his death.

The monastery lay still except for our party’s breathing. What had begun as a hunt to right a single mistake had turned, unfortunately, into a massacre. But our exploration of the now-empty monastery revealed that, at least, Jory had still had some decency left within him. Within the master’s sanctuary were plans and notes making clear that the monks of this monastery had been planning an attack on Aiwan, one we would have been completely unprepared for. The whole town might have been destroyed. The puzzle pieces clicking into place, it seemed Jory had taken to converting the goblins in an attempt to raise his own fighting force to counter the monks. But both groups had been silenced now. 

At the end of our searching we at last found found ourselves in front of Jory’s coffin. His form lay motionless within. We destroyed the body as the rituals decree, and finally released Jory’s soul from the unholy creature he had become. It was done. One less shadow, well intentioned or not, lay on the land.

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A Throng of Ice and Fire
Stay frosty

The Party

  • Aldo
  • Rost
  • Oz
  • Ducky
  • Snorri

The Adventure

Once again I was approached about our journal not being kept up to date. Once more I shuffle through the scribbled notes in my field notebook, attempting to piece together the story of the week prior.  Things have been pretty hazy since I almost died several weeks ago.  I’ll retell that story at some point.

We set out to find the fire giant, because of stuff involving Oz that I apparently slept through. (NB: don’t fall asleep at anymore party meetings).  It was in the direction of the flaming hills, which was promising, because we parted on good terms with the creatures that were mining their depths.

The party made the trek out and reconnected with Torch and Campfire, who said they could point us in the right direction… if we cleared out a lava tube that they wanted to migrate to.

Being an accommodating bunch, we agreed and entered the lava tube.  All went well until we opened a door and were set upon by a fiery cloud, followed by some strange gnome-like creatures.  We managed to fell one, but the hallway chokepoint was a bit much, and the other fled back into the room.  We regrouped and pursued…

… only to be ambushed by a larger group of fire creatures lurking on the other side of the steel door.  More fighting ensued and more enemies feel, with one succumbing to a brutal one-two combo from Rost and your’s truly.  Just when we thought we were out of the woods, we were set upon by a gigantic dude that immediately raised a wall of flame, splitting Rost off from the rest of the party.  Unsure as to whether or not our protection spells would spare us from the flames, we cautiously passed through the wall to engage the enemy. Thankfully, we were undamaged.  After killing the giant, who turned out to be the last of the opposing force, we looted the tube and returned to the mine in the flaming hills to claim our reward.

Torch and Campfire were pleased with the news we brought (including that the tube appeared to be flush with ore), and promised us a boon in the form of crafting a special item out of a piece of skymetal we had in our possession.  We took an IOU since it wasn't on hand.  The imps provided us the location of the fire giant and we bid farewell as we set out for his location.

The terrain around the giant’s lair was unimpressive, if not scorched.  I crept over a hill that appeared to overlook the epicenter of his domain, and sure enough, there he was in his pale, crimson glory, taking a soak in a natural spring.  It looked quite welcoming.  Sadly, such luxury would have to wait as we had business at hand.  I returned to the party to inform them of the situation, and we set about strategizing.  Rost et al. were encouraged by my burgeoning magical abilities, and entrusted me with the frost wand!  I immediately pointed the business end at the giant and let loose a storm of ice and snow with great efficacy.  Meanwhile, Rost, Oz and Snorri moved forward to engage the giant in melee combat.

The combination of their brute strength and my frozen volleys quickly slayed the giant.  Oz performed the ritual he needed to perform, and we set out for Aiwan – it was quite the exhausting day, and the sun was getting very low.

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The Sightless Halls, Part 1
This isn't your average everyday darkness. This is... advanced darkness

For the first time, our band of Temple-delvers set forth forewarned of the dangers we would seek not just from a fiend we hunted, but from the Temple itself, for my next foe lay beyond a section of the depths known from the scripture as The Sightless Halls.

In some ways, we were more apprehensive, listening to Ducky recount the tales he had heard of that place, a place of powerful darkness. Rare is the light, they said, that could pierce that darkness, and even those able to bring light to the depths would find enemies yet unseeable. There were whispers of creatures too that should not be gazed upon in the darkness. Monsters whose sight would turn us to stone. And stronger devils and demons too, whose unholy bodies could only be truly wounded by weapons intrinsically aligned with the forces of Good.

We spent much gold in Aeven’s shop, stocking up on useful scrolls of protection, spells to purge the darkness of the halls, and to reveal our hidden foes.

As we descended the stairs from the previous level, the darkness did in fact grow deeper and deeper, swallowing up the light from my crown as the descent reached its nadir. Even Snorri could see no further. We cast forth a great magical Daylight spell then, from one of our scrolls, but to my surprise, it seemed to have no effect. To Snorri, however, it was as if a veil had been lifted, and he reported that he could finally see around the next corner to a door ahead of us. His Dwarven darksight was working, but despite our magic counteracting the effects of the Halls themselves, my crown was yet dull and provided no relief to the rest of the party.

Aldo, ever the quick thinker, pulled a regular old torch, so long unused, from his pack, and thankfully, when lit, we could all see the flame. It seemed we were to be stuck relying only on non-magical forms of light in The Sightless Halls.

Ducky enchanted our sight with the scrolls to reveal the invisible, we slowly opened the door, and crept forward into the next hallway. To our puzzlement, we found no enemies, but a handful of paintings, lining each wall, depicting varying scenes from mountain hamlets to deep forests to crowded marketplaces. Amazingly, these were no ordinary artwork, but as we paused and craned around for better angles, ever wary of traps, the scenes within the paintings moved too, giving an exceedingly realistic appearance of depth, as if we could step through the frame and enter the scenes within. That this was not the case was proven only by the nearest frame, and the image within, which had shattered like a pane of glass, revealing a small pouch of gold that Aldo carefully retrieved. Paranoid that gazing directly into any of the other paintings might cause some attack to spring forth, or worse, trap us magically in the scene within, we crawled slowly along the ground past the rest of the frames, hopefully out of sight of any dangers that lurked within.

Around the next corner the hallway continued as before, lined with more paintings, but in the other directions lay two doors. Aldo pressed his ear to one, and reported that he could hear howling wind beyond, and we chose to investigate. We threw open the door to reveal two whirling elementals of pure air, who attacked at once. Formless as they were, they still seemed surprised that we could see them when our battle cries rang out and we charged directly towards them. It seems our preparation had been worthwhile, and, the advantage of invisibility countered, they quickly fell in battle.

The danger over, we took stock of our surroundings, and noted that the door we had come through led out of the stonewrought dungeon hallways and into a more natural cave. We slid down a steep, scree-covered slope into a lower section, and soon came upon a placid lake lying mirror-like in the darkness.

The calmness was not meant to last though, for, as soon as our group approached, the surface rippled and out from the water rose two shambling humanoid forms, like zombies but bloated and blue-skinned, the wispy remnants of their hair floating about in the air as if they were still submerged. Instantly an oppressive aura attacked our lungs, all the air in the room pushed out, and we felt we were drowning despite standing on dry land. We rushed to attack the creatures and put an end to the danger before we all succumbed. Fighting with no breath was as exhausting a task as any I have ever performed, and Snorri and I came dangerously close to passing out from the lack of air while we fought. Luckily, BingBong quickly revealed with her attacks that one of the drowners was an illusion (I don’t think we could have survived long enough to cut down two) but the real drowner was still fighting back despite numerous successful attacks. BingBong could not withstand the aura any longer and fell unconscious, as Aldo and Ducky retreated back up the slope and back into safe air. Only through Ducky’s bolstering magic was I able to stay on my feet and help see the foul creature to its end, but end it we did, and spent some time aiding BingBong’s gasping recovery before moving on.

As the cavern continued, and soon blended back into the stonework of manufactured dungeon in a large open chamber, we came upon our next foe, a hellacious demon in the form of a horse, but twice as large, with smoldering eyes and nostrils and flames dancing along its hooves. This nightmare steed proved a dangerous foe, But Snorri and I managed to flank it, and though the clouds of smoke it belched out were quite choking, they were nothing compared to the incapacitative power of the drowner aura and we defeated the demon in due time.

The door from this creature’s lair led back into the main hallway, but on the other side of the second set of paintings, making a full circuit. We decided we had made things safe enough to investigate the images now. With our weapons drawn and ready, I smashed through the nearest one, revealing a small chamber beyond in which stirred a terrible beast, a man-sized lizard with a fierce maw, and scales like stones, whose flashing baleful eyes quickly darted in our direction! A fearsome basilisk! Snorri and the rest fought in fear of its petrifying gaze, keeping their eyes averted and having a hard time landing solid blows, but I trusted in the sun’s divine grace, and kept the creature’s attention on me. Several times it attempted to turn my form to stone, but I resisted the magic each time it washed over me, and soon we had killed the beast.

In our curiosity, we went to smash open the next frame, anticipating another enemy within, but found only a small cache of treasure. It quickly dawned on us, that in our circuitous route we had bypassed a cunning trap laid by whoever had built these depths. We had been expected to smash each of the paintings in turn, finding naught but treasure behind each, lowering our guard in greed until we broke through the final image and were caught off guard by the basilisk left in wait. Clearly the Sightless Halls’ master had not anticipated a group of adventurers as stalwart and cautious as the Adventurers of Aiwan! Now we had beaten the guardian, and quickly claimed the rest of the treasure behind each image.

The main hallway stretched along further into the darkness, but one more door remained to a room that lay in the center of the circuit made by the natural cavern. We burst open the door and encountered within a great armored revenant, but battling the undead is second nature to us by now, and it was quickly dispatched.

By now we had not fully cleansed The Sightless Halls, but our bags were laden down with much gold and artifacts, and by our measure our protective spells were close to running out, so we decided then to return to town and leave the rest of the Halls for another day.

 

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