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  1. #51
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    They had made their way out of the former mess hall and had gone right, ignoring the burial chambers ahead of them. The bard had explained they had cleaned out the area before but their priest had assured them the undead would rise again, so there was little point to bother. They also ignore the former slaughter room, where they were told the unlucky group of adventurers had disposed off some dwarf ghouls. Zaza shivered at the thought. Now they were standing at the closed double doors of what the bard had guessed was a praying room of sorts, but he had just run past with the kids without giving it much thought.

    There were voices on the other side, speaking in draconic. Kronk had his ear pressed to the small opening between the doors and listened in to the seemingly upset kobolds on the other side. "They are unhappy with their unlucky king," the monk whispered. "I can hear at least 4 people, maybe more. One of them is preaching about how they keep dying off and their stupid king does nothing but putting them into more danger by capturing pink-skins and trusting an insane old shaman."

    "Maybe we just need to wait and they finish themselves off?" Zaza suggested.

    Jarrdreg shook his head violently. "Nono, Great Arrow-Stab Zaza. Only few go tsk-tsk at king. King still greats power, much shiney-shiney. And wives. Wives all go crazy crazy over him as long as he has them haves shiney. You not likes king, you goes in pot for big stew-stew."

    Kibbo agreed. "If we's to kick king in butts, we's best off to stir up slaves and makes the king haters comes with us, Great Liberator."

    "Now, there is a thought," the half-orc nodded.

    "Maybe Kronk should claim to be our leader and have come to liberate the Truescales from their dumb king?" Zaza suggested. "I know your tribes haven't gotten along that well but you could always blame it on their leader."

    "Yeah, good idea," Edawon agreed. "Make it sound like all the pink-skins know it is just their king that is the problem. And that shaman, whatever his name was again. Maybe say your tribe's spies know all about the situation and you've been watching them."

    Kronk seemed to smirk, although it was hard to tell with kobolds. "I like that. Alright." Without wasting more time, he pushed the door open and began addressing the 6 assembled kobolds, a bunch of green and brown ones and a blue leader, in draconic.

    It became clear very quickly that the small group of wannabe rebels was all too happy about the assistance. The blue guy – a weird one with an overgrown ear with lots of humanoid finger bones dangling from it – seemed happy enough to leave the main leadership to the strange yellow kobold. He talked very quickly, introducing the others but no one really got their names in all the fast draconic babble.

    "This is Kerrdremak, but we might call him Kerr," Kronk finally introduced the blue guy in common. "He's a mystic of the tribe and not at all happy with their so-called king causing the decay of their tribe."

    "Hello, Kerr," the half-orc nodded. "Nice to meet you. Cool earrings." He smiled a toothy smile, to indicate no one would go mad at him for having taken trophies from former victories.

    Noting the alchemist's fangs, the kobold grinned back. "Would have taken teeth but most humanoid's teeth are soo tiny and not pretty-pretty. Yes, I speak language of above-folk better than others down here. I been there before."

    "Yeah you speak our language very well," Zaza assured him. "But of course you must be clever to realize your leader is leading you only to ruin."

    The blue kobold fell for the obvious compliment. "Since he's been leading, we lost more than half our number. It's not only a bad sign, it is the middle of the cat-as-trophee," Kerr nodded. He had trouble with the last word, making Krell and Zaza grin. "We all die if we not stop him."

    "And we will," Kronk nodded. "Our tribes may not always get along well, but you are our dragonkin brothers, and if you perish there will be too many pink-skins and not enough of us. Not good for balance." The monk was so convincing saying that, it made Zaza frown for a second.

    At the mention of dragonkin, the mystic stood up taller. "Yes. What happen to guards for slaves? You free them, is fine for me. Them yours now. But the guards were friends."

    "They are alive, back there, bound and as safe as you can be in a dungeon," Edawon assured, rubbing his shoulder which was still hurting.

    "Oh, not so safe down here. Many rats." He turned to the 5 others and hissed at them. "They go bring them. They will be with us if I talk sense to them."

    The half-elf girl was getting restless. "We need to hurry to help Jurin," she reminded the others. "Our friend," she explained to the kobold. "something took him in the forge."

    The kobold seemed to pale. "Bad thing, bad thing that. Leftover from dwarf time. Undead thing steels your souls to make chain."

    "Undead, huh?" The half-orc's hand closed around the holy water he had taken with him, heeding the words of their paladin friend before they had parted. "We can deal with that."

    "We go when your group is back with the guards," Kronk decided. "Can't waste much more time."



    Zayel looked apologetically at Mook while he had one eye on the door of the girl's room to see if their new friends would come back. He had no intention of involving the summoner into this. "I really don't know more than what we've both been told," he assured the gnome. "There is a group of elves after the legendary drow, who really exist, and they want me to be part of it and help their only present member to dispose of them. You know how it is with prophecies, you make them yourselves every now and then."

    Mook looked a bit sad, and accusatory, and resigned at the same time. "S-so, those l-legends are r-real, and we've b-been told they a-are all bad. How c-can a race be all b-bad? Not even g-goblins are all bad, d-despite the w-way they were created. It's n-not possible, by the g-gods. And yet..." She chewed her lip.

    "What? You don't believe Amaran's story?"

    "On the contrary, I d-do b-believe... n-no, I kn-know it is true. A-and that's w-what scares me s-so. A whole r-race of e-evil beings? And they d-don't tell anyone th-they are there? E-even act-tively kill the kn-knowledge of them" Nervously, Mook twisted a strand of her hair, which had grown out quite a bit since they had left home.

    The three-quarter-elf thought about this for a moment. "You have a point, but remember, he said there aren't many of them. So they are possibly not that much of a threat if they can get them quick enough."

    "They are many, the drow." Mook's eyes took on the half-blind, milky look they always had when she was relaying the information of one of her gods or the other. "Too many for the Lantern Bearers to deal with."

    "The Lantern Bearers?" Zayel inhaled deeply. "That's the one information Amaran didn't want me to tell you. Their existence, well at least their name, is supposed to be a secret."

    "Well, you m-mentioned they exist, knowing their n-name is not that m-much d-different. A-and this must be s-something imp-portant for me t-to be t-told like that." The oracle forced a smile on her lips. "The gods w-want all us to be i-involved, so we w-will all 3 g-go with Amaran."

    "All 3?" Zayel frowned in confusion.

    "Of c-course," Mook chuckled. "You h-haven't g-gathered yet that T-Tiva is linked to us n-now?"

    Just then, the black haired summoner entered the room with a basket of dried laundry. Zayel had forgotten to keep watch for her. "Did I hear my name?" she smiled.




    A loud crackling sound filled the room. The smoke that poured from it was blistering hot and lit with a strange orange light. A massive forge responsible for the hellish atmosphere took up the entire far wall of the cavern. Between the forge and the entrance stood a massive anvil, and nearby rested hammers, prongs, and other blacksmithing tools. A faint whimpering sound was almost lost in the roar that came from the forge. The sound of hammer on anvil eachoed through the room.

    "Jurin?" Kimi called out without thinking. "Where are you?" She coughed as more smoke entered her airway, despite the wet scarfs Zaza had suggested they'd use. The scarfs helped only so much, and they were mostly out of water now.

    "Shhh, don't call it's attention too soon," the half-orc, hand with a bottle of holy water raised, whispered.

    Krell was the only one not affected by the smoke; from the looks of it, he was half in the shadow realm right now, with the meager light vanishing even further around him, and tendrils of shadow sneaking out from his form every now and then. He stood next to the alchemist with an expression that was almost a grin. The others knew that he would try to pull the undead thing into the shadow plane, but how exactly, they didn't know, or if it could be even done and if it could, how big a danger this was for Krell.

    Suddenly, the sound of the hammering stopped. The light of the lamps the former slaves carried had gone out just a bit before, and the torches seemed to be partially extinguished by the smoke. The hellish fire from the forge was the brightest light source, and against, the mixed group could not see a shadow moving. The blue kobold gave a warning cry.

    The choking odor of smelted steel tinged with burnt hair and flesh sifted across the room on a foul wind, mixed with the acrid smoke. The jangling of heavy chains echoed ominously. A hulking dwarf wrapped in heavy steel links approached. Its face, hands, and body were riddled with glowing hot hooks and half-melted razor wire. Black smoke arose from its smoldering beard, framing its freakishly contorted face in ashy darkness. The tormented thing hefted a black iron hammer and as it charged the chains draping its form sprung to life like metal serpents.

    Zaza growled while Edawon gave a little shriek of surprise. Kibbo let lose an arrow which bounced off the chains without any effect. Jarrdreg was hiding behind Majek, and the other kobolds stayed even more behind. The children were held back by the bard, who had hefted a replacement sword Krell had carried to try and protect them. The half-elf girl was not happy about being restrained, but with her club she would stand no chance whatsoever. Majek hesitated, waiting for the undead to come closer. While he was really good at throwing things, he wanted to be sure he would get the full effect of the holy water. Kronk stayed at the back, being sickened by the smoke more than anyone else and not effective against an undead like this with his martial arts skills.

    "Can't you sing again?" Kimi asked the halfling bard.

    "My voice is still tired from before," he answered regretfully. "Asides, undead are not swayed by music."

    One of the chains attempted to wrap around Edawon's ankle as the ranger landed an ineffective bolt in it's hand. The halfling sidestepped it at the last moment. "Now would be a good time," he hissed at the half-orc.

    Th hammer of the dwarven hulk came down at Edawon, leaving its hideous face open to attack. Majek launched the first bottle, and it broke right at the hulk's nose. The alchemist was relieved; hitting the chains wrapped around the form would have likely brought no result at all.

    The face of their foe sizzled and hissed as the holy water acted like an acid burning into unholy undead flesh. A sickening smell rose from the point of damage, and with a gurgle the twisted shape grabbed its face, dropping the hammer right next to Edawon.

    "This won't destroy it," Kerr hissed. "We needs to break the chains."

    "Seriously?" Zaza shouted. "And how are we going to do that?"

    Krell stepped forward and hacked at the monstrosity's left hand, barely missing the twisting thing which was trying to find the hammer again while clawing its face still. The second and last bottle of holy water hit the back of its head, and more bad smell drifted towards the group. Savram vomited behind the group just as Edawon was pulled down by a burning chain, unable to sidestep. His bolt flew wide. The halfling screeched in pain as the hot sizzling chain burned into his flesh. His eyes fell on the links and he paled. Each link seemed to have a face contorted in terror on it. The captured souls of the undead victims.

    Zaza jumped forward, rolled under the propelling arms and grabbed the heavy hammer to drag it out of the undead's reach. She managed to move it only a little, despite the momentum she had. It was way too heavy for her. As she lost grip, she rolled behind the anvil and bumped into the prone form of a boy. She coughed, the smoke was worse here despite her being on the floor. The boy, Jurin no doubt, seemed to hardly breathe anymore. He was loosely bound in chains, and the girl quickly began to untie him.

    Majek pulled Edawon out of the way of another searching chain and got scorched in the process. He took the small handaxe he carried at his belt and started hacking at the sizzling chain. With some effort, it broke. A ray of frost hit the monster from behind the group and hit it in the already badly damaged head. The blue kobold chuckled madly. The large hulk of the thing swayed back and forth before dropping to the ground in a loud clatter of chains. Nothing was left of its head.

    Now the half-orc grabbed the heavy hammer of their adversary. "This should do it," he growled and started destroying the links of the chain. Edawon shook the remaining chain off his injured ankle and growled as well, though more in pain. His shoulder wound was bleeding again, too.

    "Help," Zaza shouted. "I found Jurin but he is barely breathing."

    "Get him out of there. Quick!" Majek ordered before being overtaken by a coughing fit despite the scarf.

    Krell, undisturbed by the smoke which got lighter now that the acid contribution of the undead had ceased, went forward to where he could barely make out Zaza. He lifted both the boy and the coughing girl up and moved back towards where Kronk was. He found the monk breathing heavily still, sitting just outside the smoky area. "He'll need some healing," the shadow man shouted as he checked over Jurin. "Anything against poison might do. We were just in time."

    Kerr appeared out of nowhere and grabbed the boy's throat, mumbling a prayer of sorts Krell and Zaza didn't understand. Jurin gasped and took a deep breath, but then fell unconscious again. He was breathing fine now, though, and it seemed color was returning to his face.

    One by one, the others showed up, Majek last. The half-orc was thoughtful. "Each broken chain releases a soul, it seems. I broke the chain in lots of small pieces but it will take time to finish breaking them all, later when we have the time."

    Krell looked at him doubtfully. He didn't like the idea of carrying that thing, now bot burning after the undead dropped, around with them. But he could not see leaving it here to be used again, and with all the souls still trapped, so he nodded, too.

    "What now?" Zaza asked wearily, watching Kimi trying to rouse her rescued friend.

    "Down we go," the blue kobold said almost cheerfully. "Let's un-king the king."
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    Not been around to GM the conclusion so it is in diary form again.

    -------------------------------------------------------------

    Part of Edawon's diary, 29th of Kuthona


    ...so we went down the shaft to the next level to the kobold caves. Krell and Majek had some trouble, considering how big they are compared to the kobolds, but the rest of us did fine. I was glad to be a halfling, for a change.

    Kerrin, all his blue mystic glory, assured us he could sway most of the tribe to our side. Well, for a big part of the Truescales, this was, well, true. Most of the others, we could surprise. We met a slave driver who thought he could turn his slaves on us, but after they saw we freed two of theirs and those two... I keep forgetting their names... helped us, they turned against their master and ripped him apart. For all they had already witnessed, I'd have loved to spare the children the view, but there was no chance of them looking away, and I thought I saw the girl rather enjoy the little revenge.

    We also found the hatchery, and the midwife – if you can call it that – begged us not to hurt the eggs and kids. Why would we? After she found out we weren't unfriendly, she told us about the shaman's planned sacrifice in the sacrifice chamber.

    Before we could get there, we encountered the king's loyal guard, calling themselves Bloodscales while riding on hideous mutations of giant toads or the like. Yikes. They don't seem to be the safest mounts either because one of them still had a kobold corpse stuck on it who had its head smashed in. I guess the thing jumped too high in the close quartered tunnels.

    Talking of close quartered – fighting under such conditions is tedious. You always have to worry about not hitting your allies, even without ranged weapons. I hate it. Especially when the light all goes out because everyone drops their torches – except for the kids, who used the torches we gave them like clubs. Which made the remaining light tricky and flickering and shifting and all in all very unpleasant to look at. Some kobolds, Krell and the Mikra boy got injured, and one of our kobold allies and two former slaves died – but at least they died free, as the other slaves assured us in their annoying pidgin language.

    After that, we developed a plan. It involved Kronk pretending to be the emissary of his clan, with Krell and Majek as his bodyguards, Zaza as his slave and me as a supposedly willing sacrifice following some sort of god advocating a sacrificial death. They picked me for that because I was quick with a dagger. I was to kneel at the king's feet, then stab him once he was distracted. Our kobold allies would take care of any loyalists after that.

    The idea was fine, because Merlokrep was deranged enough to believe all of it while grinning his one eyed evil grin at us from a throne that looked like it was made from a giant centipede. But was the biggest red kobold... or biggest kobold period... I've ever heard of. He was taller than Kronk or Zaza. Plus, he was standing on the throne. So I had to jump up quite a bit to gut him, and my shoulder and my ankle were bothering me. It was a close call, and the claw marks on my back will probably leave some ugly scars.

    The crown fell down with a loud clang and rolled right toward our blue friend, who stopped it with his foot and proclaimed that this was the sign that he would be the new king. This actually made sense as he was a big, strong, experienced kobold with magic ability. While a pandemonium of chittering voices broke lose, we had to free the captives. The mystic went ahead to try and distract the shaman. Didn't quite work out. The deranged old kobold tore the heart of the captured elf out with some sort of ceremonial knife just as we got there. There was no chance to save the bard's friend. Galesong flew into a rage like a barbarian of legend and decapitated the shaman despite his obvious lack of sword training with one strike. I dreamed of the flying head a few times, seeing it sail through the rank air of the room in slow motion.

    We recovered the catatonic main sacrifice, though, the missing boy. He was under a spell or a drug, but it eventually wore off. Something strikes me weird about the boy though. He was shocked and withdrawn, but now that we are back, he recovers quickly.

    We could not go back by shadow walk with the kids and the bard still in shock. So we took the long way through a wintery wood. Luckily, the snowfall had stopped. The former slaves went back to the mountains, except Kibbo and Jarrdreg, wo were so impressed with Kronk's fighting that they wanted to become monks. Kronk took them to his monastery, so we will see the yellow guy again once thaw starts. Greypelt and his wolves protected us on the way back, so save some funny encounter with a lost giant, we didn't get into anything.

    Falcon's Hollow is sure a nest of evil, as we quickly noticed when we got back. I mean, we knew it before, somehow, but now it was more obvious. That creepy Hollin boy's mother was thankful but avoided us, and we soon found out why. Seems like all widows of the place who aren't ugly, she needs to work as a prostitute and thus isn't allowed any contact to anyone who might wanna do something about it.

    This Lumber Consortium is almost worse than those crime syndicates. Actually, it is organized crime, just looking legal. The Jurin boy's dad kind of owns the town, and he sure is a piece of . The poor boy, on the other hand, seems to have a good heart and just acts tough to please the family. Some piece of work, that bunch. The boy keeps hanging out with us, and Zaza developed some acting scheme, were she and the boy let his dad deliberately listen in on some staged conversations where she supposedly understands his dad and tells him how good he has it or some such, and how his father knows how to keep the money together. I don't know the details, but I jumped right in the one time I met the dad alone, I actually complimented him on knowing how to tech his boy to make his way in life. I'm a good enough actor, and I'm especially good at playing tough types, so he seemed to buy it. I know Majek staged something similar. Dad is quite happy about us since then, especially after I made some offhand comments how the boy picked all the right friends – a ruthless, strong half-elf girl who protects him, a necromancer apprentice who would come in useful, the son of a whore who does what he is told and an imbecile as a token charity – although said imbecile now develops magical powers and will no doubt soon be seen as a tool by Jurin's dad.

    Personally, I would like to kill this shiny example of a father before we leave, and I just might do that no matter what the rest of the group thinks.

    Talking of dads, Savram Vade's father fits the category, too. The young wizard is forced to specialize in necromancy because that is what his father does. Now I know not all necros are evil, but this one sure is. Unfortunately, after his experience with the kobolds, Savram does not want anything to do with the undead. It is Krell who now slowly convinces him that knowing about undead means being safer from them. We have heard his old man threatening to kick him out of he continues to "weakling around" as the father put it. It was more or less an act for the dad who we knew listened in – heck the whole place feels like we need to put on acts all the time. We are thinking of taking both Savram and Jurin, who wishes to become a paladin of Iomedae, with us once the winter has gone. Likely the other kids and Hollin's mother, too. I'm not sure what this means for us. We can't rescue the world, but then, with what I usually do, helping out in this forsaken town is only natural.

    Can't wait for springtime.




    The few hills around Augustana were only barely covered in snow, but the rain that fell almost each morning lately was icy, and the terrain was slippery on the rubble and frozen snow that mostly made up the trail. Mook, Zayel and Tiva followed the elf carefully, Zayel's familiar circling high overhead. Mook's wolf scouted a bit ahead every now and then, but was not keen to leave the gnome's side, and Amaran assured them it was better that way.

    They had learned how the Lantern Bearers – Amaran wasn't aware Mook knew about them, and they hadn't told Tiva anything yet – heard of drow in the area. It all started with the cult of a "mute god" who was one of the mainy failures of the Starstone. Yet the silent priests still clung to the faith, claiming their god not responding was part of the doctrine or something like that.In any case, they kept making pilgimages to somewhere in the hillside, and kept coming back with not spells granted but magic items with such useful abilities as healing and other cures. Thus, people flocked to them. Among the drow hunting elves, rumors had spread that the place the worshipers made their pilgrimage to was a place of interest for a demon worshiping group of drow. A few Lantern Bearers had tried to follow the priests of the muted god to see if this was true, but were never heard of again.

    A few miles back, they had found their remains. It was unsure what exactly killed them, but Zayel had found signs of an ambush, and Amaran said an arrow head found in all the rubble seemed to be drow.
    They had followed the trail marked in a diary one of the elves had with them.

    Just as they were rounding a big boulder which was blocking the way, several crossbow bolts came down from top of the boulder. Two were reflected by the mithril armor Amaran was wearing, and in no time the elf had an elegant looking sword with a shimmering blue light in his hands. Another missed Zayel and Mook by a hair, and one got stuck in Mook's new hairdo.

    Mook saw Zayel mumbling a spell just when her inner eye opened. She hadn't told anyone about this new ability of hers yet. Her inner eye allowed her to see all magical connections of things, and she was often confused by the view. It would take time to learn to use it well. But today, something stood out very clearly.

    The glimpse of a black face peering over the boulder made it all the more clear. Those were some of the drow they had come for, no doubt. And Amaran had been right. They were evil. The whole damned race was evil. And the reason for it shocked her gnome being to the core, so for a long moment, she was unable to act.

    Amaran was levitating in the air, his shield radiating an aura pressing back the waves of evil emanating from their enemies. Zayel had produced a shield for the girls and himself reflecting the crossbow bolts, but he seemed at a loss what else to do when Mook came around again. "D-don't you have an o-offensive spell, s-say, one of those f-firework types you sometimes d-did?"

    For a moment, the Wizard was confused. Then, as the sound of sword against sword came from up the boulder, he realized his friend meant magic missiles. "Ah, that's not one of my spontaneous spells yet, and I haven't prepared it."

    Mook groaned. It was typical of the young man to pick the wrong spells, as they had learned on their childhood explores. She should have helped him select them. "Anything e-else offensive?"

    A dead black skinned drow came sailing down, his throat cut clean and still shimmering in the same blue light of Amaran's holy sword. Zayel thought that he looked remarkably like an elf.

    Zayel thought for a moment, all the time hoping the elf could deal with their enemies alone. He could not even see their foes, who kept shooting crossbow bolts and arrows at them. Before he could think of anything, he was distracted by the sound of Mook mumbling a spell of her own, and a moment later, the oracle seemed to swim through the air. While she left the protective zone of the shield he had created, she was remarkable swift in avoiding two bolts, and then she was high enough to see their foes. Then she uttered a sentence in a language Zayel did not recognize. It sounded dangerous, evil if anyone would have asked him right then.

    Then he remembered he would be able to fly up there, too, as, thanks to his familiar, it was a spell he could always use. He did have some spells that might be useful, and maybe his hawk could help him in the attack, too. He cursed his slowness in making decisions. "I'll fly after her, just wait here," he began, but Tiva, being in shock still from being attacked the first time in her young life, immediately begged him not to leave her. "I can't make a shield on my own yet, what would I do?"

    Zayel looked up in despair to notice two of the dark skinned humanoids fighting with each other. One of them was close to throw the other one over the edge or even gut him with a dagger. Mook looked on in satisfaction. It must have been her spell causing this, then. The wizard felt even more useless. "Outspelled by an oracle," he mumbled as he resigned himself to the fact that he could only hope to protect the frightened summoner behind him.

    The next drow dropped, cut open from tight to neck, off the boulder. Mook by now had her crossbow in hand and proceeded to kill the remaining drow that had been affected by her spell. The bolt hit the back of his neck and sent him coming down, too. The gnome had not counted on the backlash, though. With no solid ground to brace herself on, the force of the shot made her tumble backwards. She caught herself and fired another shot at whoever else was up there still shooting at Zayel and Tiva. Again she tumbled back. But the shooting ceased. All that was to be heard now was the clang of swords up there.
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    Amaran stood in a pool of blood, looking exhausted. The others didn't really wonder about that, considering the length of the fight with the drow just a while ago and now this.

    It had taken him almost another quarter of an hour to dispatch the anti-paladin who had commanded the drow. It had been a personal matter, as he had fought that drow before and lost both times, barely escaping with his life. Mook had been wise enough not to do anything to help. He had needed the victory.

    But they should have rested after that, if just for a bit. The elf had been tired already when they had come to two abandoned watchtowers which once had been used to keep track of activities in the hinterlands of the city. The dead drow in the middle of the road had been their only warning before an already injured and very mad chimera had come down on them, knocking out Zayel in the first fly by. It was a misplaced beast to live here, no doubt it had been on its way to the mountains. Well, now it was on the way to the afterlife.

    The gnome had vanished into the tower ruins to check for any possible treasure. A chimera would not likely be without, even just passing through. The elf did not care though. He watched the human girl reviving Zayel with snow. The wizard was sporting a large bump on his head and looked dazed. "Can you walk?" he asked anxiously. He needed the miracle boy's arcane abilities.

    "Uh, what?" Zayel's disorientation did not vanish. "Where am I? What is going on?"

    Mook came out of the last tower to check over and put her hands on her hips. "So you mess up dodging a chimera's tail and now you're mess up remembering any." Then she grinned. "I'll fix y-you up but t-try to avoid a-apendages of large m-monsters now, please." In truth, the gnome was a bit shaken by the encounter, not only because she had never seen a chimera before but because she had not foreseen it happening. In the weeks since they had left the golden city, since she had changed, she had been able to foresee almost anything, if sometimes just seconds before.

    Zayel grimaced as she tended to him. The human girl – Amaran kept forgetting her name – frowned while staring up the path slowly going uphill. "How much further?"

    The elf checked the map they had found. "Not much, around that little landslide and around a bend." Not that he was going to admit it, but he was so exhausted and all out of spells that he would probably be useless in another fight.

    To prove he was fine, Zayel was the first to move ahead. With a slight shake of his head, the elf paladin passed him and too front again. "You remember your spells," he smiled at the young man.

    It was indeed not much further. They came around the bend where the path moved down into a small dent in the hill. 2 drow and an ogre were sitting in front of walls with double doors build inside the hillside. The drow seemed to talk among each other while the ogre played marble with some rubble, seeming bored.

    Without thinking, Mook mumbled a spell. A moment later, the lower area filled with a white mist smelling slightly of vanilla and the drow and the ogre vanished in it. "The ogre is j-just a slave," Mook whispered. "M-maybe we don't n-need to hurt him."

    The elf nodded and went forward, vanishing into the mist. "He shouldn't go, he's exhausted, everyone can see that," Tiva mumbled, breathing heavily from the exhaustion of all the walking.

    "None of us here can fight," Zayel said. "Hey, where did Mook go?" The oracle, too, had vanished into the obscuring mist with her personal vanilla touch. Zayel wondered what with up with the scent and made a mental note to ask her later. "You don't think she wants to talk to the ogre now, do you? He'd tear her apart before she could stutter out anything!"

    "Nah, he won't," Tiva replied between gasps for air.

    "And what makes you so sure?"

    Pointing into the mist, the summoner grinned. A dead drow came flying out, landing with a oud thud. "Seems they like to fly when they are dead."
    "Yeah, looks like she's got him free and on our side." Zayel sighed, feeling useless again. "Why was it again that Amaran wanted me to go along with him so badly? Mook alone would have done fine."

    When the mist cleared, the ogre was just leaving after giving Mook a careful hug. "You, friend," he announced. "Need help some, call for Agrim of Green Hill tribe. Agrim help." With that, the large humanoid man walked out of what they now could see was the base for a larger camp.

    "Seems they want to settle here, huh?" Tiva asked.

    "Could be, no one usually comes up here but those mute god priests," Amaran nodded. "Now, let's see what's inside here." Without any further delay, he pushed the double doors open.

    The solid outside doors silently opened to reveal a large, high-ceilinged room. The opposite wall held two enormous iron doors that appeared to be locked with a simple, enormous iron latch. On those doors was carved a human face, its expression one of silent repose, with a single finger poised over the lips.

    In the northeast and southwest corner of the room were fifteen-foot-square recessed pits from which jutted large black obelisks, faintly glowing blue and casting the rest of the room in a haze of murky light. Seemed to be a weird creature, the upper half that of a drow, the lower part all spider.

    "That," Amaran explained as the thing turned and screamed at them in an unknown language, "is a drider."

    Tiva let out a small scream as the drider moved his lips to a spell and suddenly turned tom leave the room. Zayel called after her but it was no use. That was when he saw something bird-like from the corner of his eye and turned back to the antechamber. "A vrock?" he said in disbelief. He had always considered the talks about bird-like demons to be rather stupid. But now he could see it was all true.

    Before Mook could take all the casting spotlight again, Zayel spread his arms and turned, spreading a thin line of powdered silver around himself and Mook while saying the magic words to erect a protective circle around them. He would still be able to cast inside here, but unless the demon or the drider were very powerful – and he dared to say they weren't – the two of them would be safe.

    Amaran stumbled backwards, stuck in strands of silk, the results of a web spell. "Oh just g-great," Mook growled. "What now?"

    Zayel pointed a finger and hissed two words. A spark flew towards the web and set it aflame. With a hissing glow and an awful smell, the silk burned off the paladin while doing little to no damage.

    The drider hissed again, and the vrock advanced on the paladin. "He's too w-weak," the gnome knew. "and I won't be able to get him to attack the drow."

    "Drider," Zayel corrected automatically. "He is half spider, can't you do your spider control stuff on him?"

    As the paladin got up to meet the demon in battle, Mook shook her head. "That's l-like c-controlling an elf with a m-monkey related spell."

    Zayel brought orth another spell, letting the vrock trip over nothing, which caused the elf to land a lucky hit. "Come on think! Do I know any spells to do more?"

    Once more, Mook looked at him strangely. She would never understand how her friend could turn so many spells into spontaneous castings like a sorcerer did, and yet forget many of them a lot of the time. "You should w-write a-all the spells you can d-do like that d-down, you know," the gnome growled. "That freezing thing, m-maybe? Did you b-bring any of those magic items w-with you?"

    When Zayel's face fell, Mook first took that as a no until she saw the wizard reaching into his backpack. He produced two wands. "Yeah," he said sheepishly. "Those would have so helped us down there, no? I'm so scatterbrained."

    "But that's w-why we all l-love you," Mook grinned. Better late then never.
    My Story Hour campaigns. What are they up to this week?

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    As the dust and smoke settled over the scene, Zayel dropped to the ground and stared at the used up wands. Both the vrock, who had left only a few feathers behind, and the drider had been ore resilient than he had thought. His head was spinning from some sort of sinic spell that had hit him. "I didn't think using wands wound require that much energy," he groaned. Vaguely, he remembered his father mentioning that to use certain magic items, you had to use some of your own magic, which was why such items could only be used by those able to use that magic without aid.

    "You used up a-all t-the charges?" Mook asked.

    Zayel nodded weakly and threw a glance at Amaran, who was sprawled on the floor after the drider had launched some bright spell at him. "I hope he's alive?"

    "Y-yeah, and p-probably n-not as bad off as it l-looks," Mook grinned. For some reason, the gnome seemed to be brighter than before and didn't look the slightest bit tired.

    "So, what now? Was that lall of those drow? Do we need to born the bodies or something?" Zayel stood up again, trying to shake the dizziness..

    "That, and find out what is inside there." Amaran's voice sounded even weaker than his own. "For them to be so far away from where they are usually found and so adamant on getting inside, it must be something really important. Maybe some old cult site."

    "T-those o-other cultists, t-they g-got magic up here s-somehow, yes?"

    "Yeah." Zayel went closer to the next door. "I see what you mean. If those mute god freaks could get magic, maybe the drow wanted that, too."

    "I think," Mook said, eyes half closed, "I t-think I know w-what is inside." Then she turned at pointed to the exit. "But one of you b-better be searching for T-tiva, the spell that sh-shocked her must have worn out by n-now. She's probably l-lost."

    Zayel closed his eyes and felt for his familiar. "Will says she is on her way back up the hill, but she is not alone. Someone small like a halfling is with her."

    Mook nodded. "I g-guess she f-finally called her e-eidolon back in a-all the panic."

    "I'll check." The elf vanished outside.

    "So what's inside?" Zayel pointed once the elf was gone.

    "Something a-ancient and s-silent," the gnome replied. "S-silence is the k-ey here. T-that's why the m-mute god followers c-could pull it off." According to Mook, the magic energy inside was very powerful, and any sound would shatter the place.

    As she explained this, Zayel's face showed total confusion. "What good would such a place do? Is is a site for a test or something?"

    "I d-do not know. I'm j-just an oracle," the gnome smiled. "P-ut a silence s-spell on me, yes? I w-will check it out."

    Zayel nodded and did so, ignoring that the elf would not be too pleased about it. But then, he had not been all that happy about the way Amaran acted about all this either. Soon after Mook vanished, the other 3 appeared in the door. Tiva had a weird companion at her side. The size of roughly a halfling, it looked like a walking mix of dog and pig, with long ears, droopy eyes, a pig snout but fine fingers and toes looking like it could be good at crafts. Its eyes looked very intelligent, but it appeared shy. The clothes of the thing were even weirder. They seemed to be made from an ever changing, shining material. It was impossible to see if it was a male or a female, or maybe neither.

    Noticing his stare, Tiva smiled weakly. "This is Onu," she introduced the being. "My eidolon."

    "I guessed." Zayel grinned. "Nice to meet you – it can understand me, yes?"

    "I'm a she... I think," the eidolon replied in a voice sounding like a talking pig. "Your world is so different. Tiva made me but never called me much." Onu sounded sad about it.

    "I'm sorry, Onu," Tiva whispered.

    "The gnome went inside?" Amaran's eyes flashed annoyance.

    "Yes, and we need to make no sound if we are not to destroy what is inside." Quickly, Zayel tried to explain what Mook had found, although he had the feeling he was confusing the others. But Mook was already exiting the strange place with a serious look on her face.

    Her wolf's ears perked up and he sat up. Until now, he had waited half outside, half inside, not having dared to come close to the demon or the spidery thing. Now that the danger was over and something had happened with his mistress, he was becoming more and more agitated.

    Mook pointed to the used up wands Zayel was still holding. Confused, he handed them to her and watched her gliding back inside, still covered by his spell. "What's that about?"

    "I have an idea," the paladin said. "The cult members came back with magical things all the time. Maybe the energy I can feel inside there is recharging items, or making them magic to begin with."

    "Now that would be useful, but why would the drow be so interested? I mean, it's too far from where they are, or so you have hinted. Seems pretty much useless, even with establishing a base here." Zayel scratched his head. "And they would be found out after having to contest with the cult members."

    "I don't know," Amaran frowned, but it sounded like only half the truth. Zayel decided not to press the matter though as Mook was exiting again, handing him the wards back. Zayel removed the spell and looked at her expectantly.

    "There's raw magic in there, somehow, recharging magical things," Mook lifted her finger to show the ring she had recharged. "Means I can save the ritual for later. It all has to be in silence though, not sure why this is. And I don't think it would be drow friendly. Drow use dark magic, and that's all light in there."

    Zayel knew his friend was lying, although she was very convincing. The others didn't notice, and he tried not to betray his insight on his face. "So they would have probably gone mad and destroyed the place?" he offered.

    "If they didn't plan to just do that anyway," the gnome nodded.

    "So, what now? Do we let the cultists come here and do their pretend thing? Or close it off, or what? Do we need to protect this place somehow?" Zayel talked fast, trying not to allow the paladin to jump in before he had turned the discussion into the direction he wanted, just as his bard father had taught him to do.

    "No, to them it needs to look like the place has been destroyed," Mook suggested. "Then the drow will stay away as well."

    "Just because it is ancient," the paladin managed to put in, "does not mean it needs to be preserved. There are many dangerous sites and artifacts my people have destroyed rather than risk it falling into the wrong hands"

    "But this can't fall into the wrong hands!" Without the stutter, Mook radiated a strange authority, one that made even Zayel feel uneasy. "If really needed, we can come back and destroy it later. The drow will not return. What we need is a permanent illusion. Do you know someone who could make an illusion permanent?" Mook asked the elf.

    "I can do that," Tiva piped up, flushing a bright red in the process. "When we weren't taught how to deal with our eidolons, we were told how to make the few other spells we knew permanent. I should be able to do that."

    "Oh?" The gnome nodded. "Very well, then, let's get to work. One less to know about this is all the better."




    Edawon's Diary, 13th of Abadius

    There seems to be no end of troubles in the world, no matter where you go. Not that I didn't know that already but anytime I am reminded, I feel like another weight drops on my shoulders.

    Winter is still in full swing, although the snowfall has dried up and the weather is great most of the time. This has prompted the Lumber Consortium to start a new lumber camp now, so that it would be ready in spring for the harvest – that's what they call the destruction of the woods. Seems something didn't like their actions though, as this morning, the taskmaster of the new cutyard came back in a desolate state. Something had attacked, and while ha had not waited to see what it was, he insists he heard the dying screams of the others. No other survivors appeared during the day.

    Kreed, the boss of this town, wants to send a considerable force of his men into the woods tomorrow, and he wants us to go along. This is weird because before, he was none too happy about our continued involvement with his son and our popularity, especially since he considers us children, except for Krell and me. My guess is he is planning something sinister, but short of leaving, which we can't do yet as we want to take the children along and need more favorable conditions for that, we had no choice but to agree. However, as Greypelt has visited me this night and informed me that it is possible the kobolds are back – however that figures in – we should probably check it out in any case.

    Thus, we will be leaving tomorrow at first light. I have told the others about my suspicion so everyone will stay alert.

    The fox I found in the forest has recovered, and it is time to give her a name, I think, as she does not want to move from my side much. I will leave her behind tomorrow though as I doubt she would be safe in the presence of those who destroy her living space.





    Edawon's Diary, 14th of Abadius


    The leader of the consortium thugs – can't call them anything else, really – is an annoying thick necked guy called Boss Teedum. I call him Tedious on purpose and it annoys him to no end. He brought 4 goons with him. One, called Flick, got issues with the dark, and so I've asked Greypelt and his wolves to howl close by, just staying out of the range of any weapons. It got them all nervous and they wonder how we can be so calm. I am thinking of asking Greypelt to remove Tedious and his goons once we are sure we won't need them.

    We are observed by fey, that much I am sure of. Krell has noticed it, too. But as we should be known as friendly to the forest, we should not be in problem. Even weirder than being watched was the meeting with two giants, a couple that seems to have some marriage issues. First we met him, looking for his wedding ring so we helped him find it much to the annoyance of the thugs. Later we met the worried wife and pointed her in the direction of her husband. Zaza whispered something to Morgsa – that's her name – but she refused to tell me what it was.


    We arrived at the lumber camp late afternoon. There wasn't much sunlight filtering in, and smoke was everywhere. They made a large clearing, tree stumps were everywhere. There were also a few log buildings looking somewhat unfinished. Everything that wasn't very solid was smashed. We could hear the fire and smell burning flesh and death – and something like from a tomb, or maybe only me and Krell could smell that. It was, to me, a clear sign of undead presence, and once more I wished we had the dwarf paladin at our site.

    Krell waved for the others to hold back while the thugs, cursing loudly, went to check out the camp, throwing looks at us likely meaning they would kill us if we touched anything. How stupid. Krell declared loudly he would scout the outskirts with the rest of us to make sure nothing was still lurking. Of course, with his shadow world sharpened eyes, he had already seen dead kobolds among the bodies and didn't want to trigger any traps. Him and me, we both know kobolds – at least the standard variety. Asides, Zaza felt sick from the view, and while Majek did not admit it, he didn't feel good either.

    We watched from the wood, using the thugs for trap spring and monster bait, something they probably intended to do with us, except for their stupidity. Surely enough, the dead kobolds were actually undead. We were shocked by this, but then, we weren't the ones attacked.

    Asides from the undead kobolds, there was suddenly a big log on a rope swinging around like a pendulum, throwing one of the thugs who had just disposed off a kombie – our new word for kobold zombie – into some sting nettles. Two others sucked into what must have been the office building, and both came out again with crossbow bolts in their backs.

    When Tedious and a bunch of certainly alive kobolds came running out of the office a bit later, followed by a swarm of angry centipedes, Krell decided that enough was enough and friend them with this electric spread he does, not quite like lighting and usually not very dangerous, but the insects, he got most of them with it. Also zapped the kobolds and Tedious a little, but that was more a source of amusement.

    Krell then went back onto camp ground, followed by us, and announced in a very serous voice that nothing was lurking around the camp. Yes, we had made sure of that, but the way he said it when he just saw what was going on with the kombies and kobolds was too comical. We laughed about it later. At that point, we managed to look equally serious. Then Zaza asked why they had not obeyed their own warning about the woods and camps being dangerous.

    I thought the thug would explode. He was about to say something when the last remaining of his goons came running out of the main camp building, followed by a swarm of what looked like flesh eating locusts.

    I have to admit I dislike insect swarms, I never know what to do about them, and from Zaza's screams, she felt the same way. Krell's lightning thing worked again though, if not in the way he had intended. Only about half of the locusts dropped off dead or paralyzed. The rest of them got very very pissed and went all over the guy they had been following. Not a death I wish on anyone, so I was quite relieved to see Krell helped the matter with a few more spells, including some poison gas of whatever it was. It smelled hell awful, and Zaza fainted for a moment. Sometimes, she is really girly.

    There were still some of those pests left, unfortunately, and somehow they had deducted who was attacking them. They left the body of their victim and came at Krell and, because he was standing by with gaping mouth, Boss Tedious.

    I never saw any humans run that fast as those two. Krell was lots faster, than the stocky Tedious of course. There was a big pile of timber logs nearby, and the two of them scrambled up on them as if that would help anything. The locusts got Tedious on his way up, but they didn't get to eat him, unfortunately. Because right then, a kobold we hadn't noticed – and a living one at that – loosened the pile's chains which were holding it in place. Before anyone knew it, the logs were coming down on us, with Krell balancing barely on them, Tedious tumbling down with them, the locusts vanishing or being squashed and a bunch of blue kobolds screaming and trying to avoid disaster. For some reason, they didn't split up and avoid the logs for good bun run ahead of them, like in bad stories. They dashed between the office and the watchtower, being lucky. Not so lucky were Krell and Tedious, who both managed to get into the tower. The door fell close behind them, and only now dd we hear the moaning of pain from above. A dwarf lumberjack was tied up and hanging to the side of the tower – obviously a trap we totally missed to begin with. But now Krell and the thug had gotten into it due to the logs. And the tower was badly shaken and in places shattered by the logs, it was lenaing over like a drunk sailor in a whorehouse.

    I heard a kobold cry out in panic and found Majek standing over the cause of the log avalanche. He said the kobold had tried to magically disappear when he got him. It was a large green kobold who thought he was about to be beheaded, and after all this I was about to advise the alchemist to just do it. But then, we have seen in the past how kobolds are easily coaxed into anything, at least those supposedly lesser ones, and so i went over to bind him. Then I told the others about the trap Krell was in.

    Just then we heard Tedious scream, and a chuckling hiss sounding like "brainsbrainsbrainssss." One of the kombies was obviously inside the tower. We heard Krell curse and more cried from Tedious, and Zaza and Majek looked at me as if it was up to me to decide what to do next. But before I could decide, the screaming blue kobolds were back, this time followed by about a dozen of kombies, all hissing for "braaaainsss" and going "meeeeerk." It was totally weird. I found myself wondering why those kombies followed their former clan mates, considering that they didn't behave as if they had any brains to start with.

    I probably didn't mention yet that I do not like zombies, and much less kombies, either. In some parts of the world they are used as servants, perverted as that is. Those, they were just ordered to eat, as it seemed. And I'm still not sure what it is about them wanting to eat brains, when they are neither in need of any nourishment nor would a brain be something so special. I will need to ask the paladin when we meet again.

    Now there were a lot of logs scattered around, and while the kobolds climbed over it quickly, the kombies stumbled around and lost their balance again and again, making them an easy target for us to pick off one by one. It was teedum, err tedious work, though, and we all got splattered by stuff we didn't want to think about. Suddenly, we were joined by a Krell who was positively grinning. We found out he had let the large kombie eat the brains of the thug – didn't take long, small brain and all – and then shifted the thing into the shadow world.

    Him and Zaza went back up to rescue the dwarf, when suddenly the now out of breath bunch of kobolds appeared again, this time followed by a swarm of spiders. No idea where they picked them up, but I got tired of them. I suggested Majek should use a bottle of alchemist's fire, and he did. I didn't think that one trough, though, because now the logs were burning and we had to run for distance. Luckily, nothing else could burn in the clearing – except the tower. So we had the rescued dwarf and 2 of our own up there and were beginning to panic.

    Krell, on the other hand, decided to shadow walk it, as there were enough shadows in the tower and under the trees. He appeared with the unconscious dwarf and Zaza just as the almost falling over kobolds came running again. They appeared out of the smoke, coughing and gasping, followed by a huge beetle. And I mean huge. As in, like a hut. And his mandibles were glowing, some energy crackled between his antenna and I kind not, there were jewels in its... well, whatever you call what covers its body! It seemed it had been hiding in the stable ruins. I can positively say, after this encounter, I hate insects.

    I am not sure how the others brought it down, because at this point, I put myself in front of the kobolds and lead their running and screaming. I'm not even ashamed of that, there is something for everyone to scare them just a bit too much, and that was it for me. When me and the 3 kobolds, who strangely accepted me after that, got back, the monster was simply gone. I suspect Krell but didn't ask.

    We then set to use our healing potions on the lumberjack and interviewed the kobolds. Turned out that they were of the tribe we helped to get rid of the king, but then the kombies, minions of a now kombie king Merko... whatever his name is again... and some living kobold referred to as sting warden, a druid title given to masters of vermin what explained all the insects, tried to press them into joining them. They were of course terrified and just wanted to go home. The kombie king was out for revenge and we would be clever to run, they said.

    The dwarf, Thelgrin, told us of this sting warden kobold, describing him as green scaled menace. Most of the lumberjacks had been killed, but some had been taken, we think to lure us after them after we know what now know, and with the dwarf as extra bait. Thelgrin said they took the hostages to the west, but no one in their sane mind would go there as there is a place called Cold Marrow there which 'would crack your bones and freeze your soul." But I do not see that we have any other choice.

    We burned the rest of the camp, and then Krell used his last bit of strength to shadow walk the unconscious again dwarf to Falcon's Hollow. He couldn't take us all, like it would have worked with a teleport spell, and he couldn't come back the same evening so we feet even more lonely out here. We burned the rest of the camp and went a bit off the area to make camp. I took first watch so I am now writing this while watching Zaza sleep. From what I see, she likely has nightmares but I don't want to wake her. The kobolds are still with us but we won't trust them with a watch.
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    Small weirdness with the "revenge of the kobold king" adventure - why would only the destroyed undead guard have a sword worth taking? I gave the others swords as well.

    -------------------------------------


    Edawon's Diary, 15th of Abadius


    We found out from the blue kobolds that the other kobold we took prisoner was indeed the one who had set all the insects on the loose in the camp. Luckily, we found he had only agreed to help his undead former king because him and his apprentices had nowhere else to go. In the end he was happy enough to follow the blue guys to their new leader and take his remaining apprentices with him.

    Krell came back just after they left, and he brought a surprise. Edgrin Galesong had heard about what had happened, and after the thugs were no longer with us he decided to help us out, after all, his own party had died thanks to that rotting king. It is a welcome addition to our team. The bard said that the half-elf girl Kimi had also wanted to come, but of course Krell had declined that offer. She is too young yet and too inexperienced.

    Krell also brought news about the lumber consortium's displeasure about the deceased employes. Being good in such manipulations, Krell had explained that they had all put themselves in harm's way instead of listening to us and be careful, and how Teedum had always boasted about knowing the dangers of the wood.

    We arrived at Cold Marrow a few hours later, as we had some trouble pushing through the snow. It is indeed a grim place. Even the glum lifeless rock there was a dull gray, like the petrified skull of some mountainous god. But the most striking feature of the desolate site was the silence. If silence could have a form I'd say it was thicker than fog and as oppressive as thunder. No bird song or knocking of woodpeckers disturbed the noiseless din. The slightest sound t seemed to echo through the limp rotting trees for miles. If there is such thing as undead land, this would be it.

    We finally arrived at the side of a giant hill. There we found a mound of earth and clay. Symbols of unknown origin encrusted its entire exterior, although most were eroded by time’s careless caress. Ascending the mound were a series of broken stairs framed by two giant menhirs of white marble. In the middle of those stairs two enormous stone disks, each the size of a giant’s wagon wheel, rested one atop the other, their edges overlapping slightly. The disks were carved with thousands of runes in wild patterns that could make you dizzy if you looked at them for too long. Thew bard thinks it might have been a calendar once, but what exactly it did, we can't say.

    Several depressions in the disks marked the places where valuable gems or metals one were, but of course treasure hunters had removed them by now. Amazingly, Zaza found and recovered a sapphire left behind, a pleasant surprise. We may have to get it checked out once we meet Zayel again, as Majek guesses it might be magical.

    Another pair of menhirs framed the entryway to the barrow mound atop the hillside. Once, this entrance was probably smooth stone covered in wards and curses, but now this seal lies was all but blasted shards. Lying crumpled at the entryway were two kobold corpses, twisted and blackened. Their teeth were gone, their eyes hollowed, and horrific grimaces adorn their withered faces. Darkness beckoned beyond this cold welcome and a rasping hollow laughter echoes forth from the broken seal. Yes, only a fool could not notice that there were still some active curses. Thus, we had to shadow walk in with Krell again. Unfortunately, he would not be able to get all of us out by the same method so we hoped that the way out would not be a problem.

    The stairs down into the tomb were a lot less damaged than those outside, but that was to be expected. Then there was water at the bottom of the stairs. The sound of bubbling water echoed here and the air was dank and warm. By now, we had lit a lantern. In every corner of the room a fountain bubbled and smoked, with wisps of white-hot vapor rising from the carved needle-filled maws of some strange fish-like creatures. The stone effigies of this strange race were rendered in elegant repose, spouting water from their mouths into basins made by their cradled arms. The fountain in the northwest corner was smashed to bits. Rubble now mostly dammed the flow of whatever hot spring feeded it, but warm water pooled around its base, slowly frothing into the center of the room. The damage seemed to have been rather recent.

    That was all the warning we had before 3 water elementals jumped out of the other fountains and attacked us. I'm not sure what Krell did as I put myself in front of Zaza and thus covered our only light source, but there was a blinding light and heat, and then there was steam, and a lot of it. We didn't exactly get hurt, but it was very uncomfortable and we started to sweat on top of the already existing dampness. All the water in the room was gone. Zaza commented on getting badly sick if we would get out in the cold like this again, and Krell said he would fix this when we were done if he had any magic left.

    We next came to a chamber serving as crossroads of sorts. It was once an ornate room but time had ravaged it. Half crumbled carvings of cityscapes, some atop clouds and others below the waves, adorned the walls. Wispy cloud-stuff formed a ring of white vapor just below the ceiling. Four corridors branched off of this chamber in each cardinal direction. On the east wall, a cracked and crumbling portrait of a bearded man wearing armor made of coral and some strange glowing metal rested on the archway above the corridor there. More rasping laughter came from the room to the east, as well as the muffled moans of some tormented soul.

    "Azlanti?" Galesong asked in wonder, as he recognized who build this. Until then, we had simply not given it much thought. At the same time, Krell yelled "hold your breath!" and hurled a lighting spell at the cloud thing, which was now swooping down on us.

    I had no idea what was going on, so I pushed Zaza through the archway on the right in a full run. I saw the half-orc pulling something from his belt, then there was the stink of something alchemical just as we made it into the other room. I had to breathe, but it didn't seem to matter as that weird smoke creature was not near us.

    The chamber we entered had suffered a cave-in and now most of it was crushed beneath tons of rock, clay, and earth. One sarcophagus near the entrance, its lid carved with a vaguely feminine form, escaped destruction, although it had mostly crumbled away. It seemed safe enough until a ghostly white form of a beautiful human woman rose from the rubble.

    Did I mention enough that I dislike undead? I know a wraith when I see one, thanks to enough encounters, alright. Oh, I'm sure Mr. Undead-Bane paladin hasn't seen a single undead since splitting from us. He'll probably wonder why he has bothered to take up that specialization when there are hardly any undead around. I've got news, Bjön. They are stalking us instead!

    I hope running from something doesn't become my new past time or something, but there was little else Zaza or me could do. We ran back to the crossroad room where the remains of what I later learned was some sort of air elemental were just blown out of the tomb by a gust of wind spell. We must have been shouting like those kobolds yesterday because Krell turned and made this kind of face saying 'can't I leave you alone' and started in on another spell.

    This was different from his usual spells though. The shadows seemed to draw in on him, take form and then hurl off towards the female wraith. I didn't look to see what would happen, by that time I was tired of the whole adventure. Really, if those kombies move into an old tomb, the least you could expect is for them to clean it all out. Actually, you could expect the darn critters to stay dead to begin with once you killed them square and fair.

    But of course, we had to finish what we came here for. All I wanted was to make that former king thing fall apart, or rather, watch one of the others do the job as I felt pretty useless compared to an alchemist and fighter's opportunities and a sorcerer's magic. Or even a bard's music. I need to get myself some exploding bolts for my crossbow and train with the sword more. Maybe find some undead bane weapon.

    Because, to no big surprise, the room to the left had yet more undead guardians, this time they looked to be the former guards of whoever was buried here. Out of the 6 corpses, 5 had fallen to the command of the kobold kombie king (from now on referred to as the KKK), which was done with a sealstone, as we later found out, same way the kombies had gotten in to begin with. Anyway, the 6th corpse had killed... or is that re-killed... itself with his sword upon detecting the treachery.

    We had some problem turning them to dust, partly because Zaza froze up and partly because Krell seemed to be exhausted from using magic so much and had trouble with his parries and footwork. It had been so much easier had he been able to spell them all into a shadowy existence as well. That's the trouble with magic. Although, I guess, simply being exhausted physically is not all that different.

    We took their swords with us, as Krell was sure they were magically enhanced. Majek carried them, as he had the most strength out of us. Long swords can be quite heavy, especially if there are several to carry.

    The room straight on was a little deeper yet. I think I'm beginning to get claustrophobic underground, and it seems to be worse the deeper I am under. Anyway, this wide gallery was filled with dozens of elegantly carved statues, but what they once depicted could now only be guessed. Many were smashed and all were damaged to the point of being unrecognizable. The floor was littered with broken stone and rubble. It seemed that undead kobolds are a lot worse that living ones. Not a real surprise, I guess. Luckily, Krell was feeling a bit better and Zaza was back in the fray, so we disposed off 10 or 12 kombies before it all went quiet. Except for the moaning coming from the next room, that was.

    Within the next chamber was a single raised dais where a grand sarcophagus of carved coral rested. Around the chamber, the crumbling walls were covered with murals that were now little more than smeared paint and powder. Amazingly, the sarcophagus itself remained closed and undisturbed. But of course, Merlowhatshisname used it as a throne now.

    Someone had sewn him back together with different materials, and made a bad job out of it, too. He wasn't alone, he had two of his former bodyguards, big red kobolds like himself, standing next to him, rotten to the core in the literal sense. We could also see two lumberjacks behind the sarcophagus, but they were not moving.

    Krell was suddenly gone, but I had no time to contemplate this as the king thing got up and spoke in a creaky voice, suggesting that we could die quickly if we'd give him back his crown. Duh, well, we didn't have that one anymore, but the guy was already removed from reality when he was still living. I was just about to suggest an all out attack when Zaza spoke up. "We'd love to give back the crown," she said. "That's why we are here. But it was taken from us by who sewed you together."

    Clever trick, I have to admit. I hadn't thought about how it happened that the king was some sort of intelligent undead now. Well, as far as you could call him intelligent to begin with. Merlowhatever was totally shocked at Zaza's information, and his undead brain visibly struggled with the situation. Finally, he went into some sort of rage, giving conflicting orders to his last two remaining subjects. He mumbled a name we could barely understand. Drassmock, Drazmorg? But supposedly that was the name of whoever raised him as an undead.

    Before the undead guy could get his meager wits about him again and restore order out of the chaos he had created, Krell appeared behind the sarcophagus out of the shadow plane. The shadow around him spawned tentacles and grabbed the undead kobolds to drag them into the opening Krell stepped out of. From the look on his face, the sorcerer had been running from the thing. I still wonder what's up with that but he didn't want to talk about it. In any case, the tentacle thing succeeded, dragged the screaming and cursing kobolds into the opening and then the opening closed. Zaza screamed about Krell, and when I looked, the man had collapsed right next to the unconscious lumberjacks. Whatever it was he had done had cost him all his remaining power.

    The bard went to pick up the adamantine axe the former king had dropped as he was dragged and claimed it for himself, as compensation for the death of his comrades, as he growled. He looked somewhat dangerous in that moment.

    Zaza and Majek managed to wake the lumberjacs and give them the little on healing potions we had. Glad to be rescued, they managed to help Majek carry Krell out into the chamber where the water elementals had been. The room is dry enough now, and seeing how it would be impossible to carry the human any further and most of us are still too damp to go into winter cold, we decided with some apprehension to make camp in there for the night. It gives us a chance to dry our clothes and change into something clean, except for the lumberjacks of course who have no spare clothes. Edgrin entertains us with some music, which puts our minds mostly at ease for the time being. Krell woke up half an hour ago, long enough to get out of his old clothes and into something dry, but he was shaking and not talking and we worry for him. I hope we will have a calm enough night and Krell will wake up tomorrow with no lasting effects.



    At the time the group made camp, a certain bard and a certain paladin were sitting in the office of the new commander of the former baron's residence. One of the Andoran captains had been put in charge, and she seemed to know what she was doing, at least from the view of the dwarf and the human. Captain Melkon had just handed them a piece of paper watching their faces for recognition. On the table in front of her was a simple map showing a fishing village and 3 islands at the coastal region between Cheliax and Andoran.

    My dear baron,

    The power to put an end to Andoran is here. Send me six troops, a priest of Norgorber who will take orders and won’t proselytize, a holy symbol of Iomedae, and 30 feet of silver wire, and I will release the terrible treasure.

    Your servant, Poltur The Accursed


    The two heroes of Piren's Bluff, as they were now commonly known, shook their heads and looked back and the white haired woman. "Never seen this before," Bjön said. "If it was found on the baron, we've simply overlooked it."

    The captain nodded. "It was crumpled in his pockets. Anyway, something is up in this village, Chimera Cove, and we need someone to check it out., someone unsuspicious and with some experience. You seem to fit the profile."

    "You want us to go down there and check things out?" Teltz asked just to be sure. "All by ourselves? If you want us to post as the baron's men, we are at least short a priest and 4 more men."

    He might have said it with a bit too much force. The captain looked at him, with understanding in her eyes. "I know you just lost a comrade, and you are eager to travel on to meet other comrades. But this needs to be done, and likely before spring time comes. News travel fast, and if we wait any longer, the news of the baron's death will reach the village and it will be harder to find out what is going on or do anything about it. And it is not like we won't pay you for your services."

    "She has a point," the paladin admitted.

    "And no, you would not go alone. There is another half group of adventurers here, as they call themselves. They are eager to work with you two, as your deeds have already been noticed in the area. And then there is Pojali."

    She waved towards the back of the room and a beautiful young woman appeared. Not the type with almost no meat or slim as a rake in danger to topple over from the weight of their bosom, but with all "the meat in the right places" as Bjön's teacher would have said. Her skin was of a light brown, and her onyx eyes seemed to look right though them. Both men were immediately taken by the woman, and for the Varisian, something seemed to click immediately.

    "Pojali is a Vudrani priest of the Void," Melkon explained. "And as such, she can pass for a priest of Norgober at any time. She will be a great asset to you."

    "Of the void?" Bjön frowned. "I have never heard of such a faith."

    "You have probably not heard of any of our gods." Pojali's voice flowed like a river, or maybe a song in a summer night. Teltz had trouble not to stare. She did not seem to notice. "We have so many gods that some of our own people do not know them all, and no doubt some of them are just different versions of the ones you worship. I can tell you more about it on our journey." Her smile definitely brightened the room.

    If there had been any doubt in the two heroes' minds about going, it was all washed away. "When do we leave?" the bard asked
    My Story Hour campaigns. What are they up to this week?

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    Zaza's diary, exhausted and confused as she was she forgot to date the entry


    I don't even know why I bother writing this all down. I want to forget about it right now, and I may want to never be reminded again but with my luck, that's not going to happen. Ed suggested that writing down my thoughts might help getting them out of my head but that is not how it usually works for me.

    The night we camped in the chamber with the fountains, the kobolds we found dead at the entrance before returned as undead. Galesong called them bodaks, but I don't really care what they are called, I really had it with those things.

    I got shouted at to use the crossbow, well, I don't know if that ever does anything good against undead so I didn't bother. Only when Galesong started to sing a war chant did I feel confident enough to take the short sword Ed had dropped and stand watch over the lumberjacks and Krell, none of them could fight.

    Ed had taken up one of those long swords we got from the undead guardians, and so had Majek. Galesong was swinging the adamantine axe he got from the undead king. I didn't dare much to look but one of the undead heads came flying by me a few moments later.

    I have to say that Galesong scared me. I understand revenge and all that. But he raged like a barbarian, or a maniac. He seemed to miss most of the time; probably axes weren't his good weapon, but he did enough damage to help the others I was later told.

    I was shaken out of my thoughts by Majek, who simply suggested I should go back to sleep while they would clean up. Well, I thought I couldn't but somehow I fell into a nightmarish sleep anyway. Didn't fell all that rested when I got up early morning, of course.

    There was something else in my dreams I couldn't quite put a finger on, nothing to do with the undead or our situation, but it felt even more disturbing. I didn't tell anyone then, and I don't want to now.

    Krell had woken up at some point, and he looked better. He was shaky standing though, and he had not regained any of his magic abilities. So we had to walk back the way we had come, through the strange, undead-like forest. We moved incredibly slow, and it was already late afternoon when we arrived at our former campsite near the burned down lumberjack camp. We pressed on for a bit, until we met the kobold sentries from the Truescale tribe.

    They told us the tribe was on the move into the mountains, where Kronk's people were. They didn't fell safe under the monastery anymore, as the shadows, as they called them, which had driven them up into the building to begin with were now coming to upper levels. In their typical kobold way, they advised us to move out of the area as quickly as possible, too.

    By then it was almost dark so we made camp in the next clearing. And although nothing happened that night, I woke at every sound of the forest. Something must be wrong with me to be so scared lately. Or maybe I just wanted to escape my ongoing weird dreams.

    We returned to Falcon's Hollow the following afternoon. After briefly telling our story, we excused ourselves to the Sitting Duck – some prankster had added an H so it now read Shitting Duck and the owner wasn't happy about it – for a hot meal and some drink. All we wanted was to sleep in real beds, preferably after a hot bath. But we were barely done with our foot and hadn't ordered a second round yet – watered down ale only for me, of course – when a weird man we vaguely know entered the tavern. Verrin Tieruk, who served as some sort of independent undertaker, but was known to steal from the dead if he could.

    There was some sort of dread rising in me already. From undertaker and dead to undead it was only a small step in my mind, and I was right. For the guy babbled of rising dead in his graveyard and how they were coming to attack the town. And he kept shouting that it was not his fault, that he had nothing to do with it. Most people were laughing, but those who had listened in to our tale were worried.

    To save myself a lot of words, he wasn't lying. The town was soon under attack from different sides, and no one knew why. At first, they had thought visitors would come, but from up close it was clear that they were dealing with zombies and worse.

    With Krell still no help – he could barely walk on his own – the rest of us went to help the defenses. It turned out the Lumber Consortium was highly efficient in this task already, But we didn't want to just sit by, either, despite being exhausted.

    The town's only cleric was a great help in turning them and healing the – thankfully few – injured. The ghouls were the major annoyance, but I can't remember any details save that someone gave me burning arrows to shoot at them. Some when late at night it was over and I can only remember falling into bed eventually, still half dressed.

    I woke from the stink of burning corpses. The lumberjacks had dismembered the remains and were burning them on a field that was supposedly downwind, but just our luck that the wind had changed today. Ignoring all that. I insisted on my hot bath and a good breakfast. I was just done when Ed came to get me, accompanied by Kronk! The kobolds in the mountain had noticed the strange happenings, including some undead animals in the forest, and so Kronk and a sizable group had decided to come down and help the town out. They had been a day too late, but the townsfolk, after some hesitation, were glad to have the help in case it happened again.

    I mentioned my worry that whoever raised the kobold king could be behind all this. The rest of our group agreed. Two necromancers in the area, of such a power anyway, would be too much of a coincidence. We considered asking the town's necromancer, but he was still miffed at us because we had spoiled his son, so we decided not to bother.

    Of course, we had to run out to the cemetery and check it out. The undertaker's hut was messed up, and his mule had been killed. That was not surprising. What was surprising was the fact that the trail of trampled snow didn't lead south towards the town. It was going north. The undead, who seemed to have indeed dug themselves out of their graves on their own, were not those who attacked Falcon's Hollow.

    We just came from that direction. I didn't want to go back. But everyone pressed on to follow the aging trail, and I had little choice but go along. I was sticking close to Krell, who was feeling a lot better and had at least some magic back, and Kronk. Kronk, Krell, me and Majek were carrying holy water supplied by the town's cleric, Galesong had this new axe of his blessed in a temple ritual over night. Ed had a lot of burning arrows ready. And still, I felt we were so unprepared.

    It didn't take long for us to notice we were on the way to the ruined monastery again. Greypelt hooked up with us after a while, telling us about the undead things moving in the forest. His pack stayed away from them. We heard all the lumber camps had been attacked as well, but the lumberjacks were now moving back to town. We also found the remains of eaten animals several times. And a very old, long abandoned graveyard where we saw the same signs of undead activity as back at the town's graveyard. Here we saw that part of the trail went south, and some tracks went north with the others. That at least explained where the other attackers had come from, yet why those would attack town while they were so far away while those closer to Falcon's Hollow would not, I didn't get.

    We were watched that night by a pack of wolves and a fox – Ed had brought Mewina, so he had named his new companion, along this time. I was again surprised to be able to sleep at all in this situation, but maybe those weird dreams I am now having had something to do with that. And once more, I could not remember any of them when I woke.

    We found ourselves covered under a sheet of snow. The night had brought light snowfall that had lasted all night. The world looked really beautiful, and one could almost forget the peril the area was in. But the closer we got to the monastery we already knew and hoped not to return to, the more my hope that this would all end well died. We felt like being watched, and there were tracks looking somewhat like wolf, not from the pack accompanying us. The weird thing was they crossed the tracks of the undead, which were stll easily recognizable despite the fresh snow. Ed says it is unusual, because most living things avoid the undead. It is a survival instinct. Greypelt said he had an idea who the stranger was.

    Close to the monastery, we were hailed by the being that had left the tracks. It claimed to be friendly towards us and wanted assurance we would not harm it. We agreed, and a black furred wolf showed himself, claiming to be the former animal companion of a druid of Erastil. His name, he said, was Lucimar, supposedly transformed by a wave of energy running through the land. We then could see his paws looked a lot like hands, just like the tracks we had seen. Then he asked us to help with the undead plague and whatever caused it. He also said that, if we could not manage that, we should come back here and kill him as he fears the evil would take him over.

    That was when Greypelt and his pack, who had been scouting, caught up with us. They immediately attacked him, and Grepelt shouted that Lucimar was a liar, an undead former human. Then something really weird and scary, at least to me, happened. The black wolf sat up and moved his paws, mumbling a spell!

    Krell shouted a warning, but for some of the wolves, Kronk and Galesong, it was too late. A ball of fire washed over the area, burning the hairs of Krell's and my face. Ed had ducked behind some boulders just in time, and Majek was still behind us so he didn't even lose any hair. And the wolf-thing was going into another spell again.

    From behind us came a snowball and hit the thing right in the eye. Whatever spell it had planned to prepare, for now it had lost concentration. This also broke my senseless staring. Without conscious thought, I took one of the flaming arrows, lit it and hit the thing somewhere in the back. The burning arrow bounced off from an unseen shield, but by then Krell was next to the not-so-wolf and attacked it with one of the longswords from the tomb. Majek shouted for him to go out of the way, and the remaining pack wanted to attack again.

    Our foe had regained his concentration, and the wolves and most wargs dropped like flies, seemingly sleeping., Greypelt, two of his wargs and Krell were the only ones unaffected. They didn't leave the abomination a chance for any more spells. It was not even able to lift another of his hand-paws again.

    By then, I saw Kronk getting up from where the middle of the fireball had been. I was astonished to see him uninjured. I later found out fire immunity was his bargain from his first time turning into a dragon the way Brenn had turned into Krell and kept some of his shadow abilities. Galesong crawled out from under the kobold, all his hair burned off and his face red, and of course covered in dirt. He hesitated only a moment before he, with his axe, joined the fray and gave the wolf-thing a good going for.

    The thing bit Krell in the leg, and a second later it seemed to be perplexed about something. Krell later said it had tried to suck his life out of him, some form of vampiric touch. But as Krell being part shadow creature, it had a different effect on the attacker. I'm not sure what exactly, but they had little issue to finish the thing off after that. Krell was, of course, still limping.

    The end result were 5 dead wolves, 2 badly injured wargs and some not so badly injured wolves. We found one of the wargs was the animal version of some sort of shaman – I have no idea how magical beasts call it – and could treat them somewhat. The pack would not, in any case, go down with us so after we helped with 2 healing potions – much to my worry as we didn't have that many to begin with, they cost a lot in Falcon's Hollow – and treating Krell's wound, we moved on. Kronk looted the dead thing's body, something I could not bring myself to do. We left Ed's fox with the pack for safekeeping, she was scared beyond being useful.

    I walked as if in a dream like now. The world around me felt unreal. It was, for some reason, made worse by the empty tunnels and corridors of what had been the truescale tribe's home. Yet as we came to the cave in that used to block the way below, we felt watched, and it was not long before we saw shadows poking out of the walls, watching our every move. They didn't attack, but that didn't make their presence any easier to bear. And then we found the cave in had been dug out, and there was now a tunnel leading to a hole in the ground. That's where the undead tracks were leading.

    Under the hole, we could see water reflecting our torch light. It didn't seem deep, or else the undead wouldn't have been able to get out. Of course we had brought ropes and, with Krell and Galesong going first and me last, we went down to what could very well be our doom. We left the rope where it was, in the hopes it would be still there upon our hopeful return.

    The round room we were in now smelled musky and was somewhat slimy, and the water was definitely not clean. We turned to the only exit leading south. My mind focused on being happy about waterproof boots at the time. Strange what one remembers in such evil situations.

    That's when the hissing started. We saw the dead eyes set into the wall of the shaft the same time we saw 3 strange, skeleton-like things with the tentacle things coming from their bodies rising from the water. As we hurried out of the water, Galesong and Krell covered our backs, but the bard was still not good with the axe and Krell had trouble finding balance with his injured leg. We somehow made it to dry ground in the corridor. Galesong fell down, the back of his clothes torn, and he was bleeding. I remember vaguely that one of the tentacles had grabbed him. Majek was right next to him forcing a healing potion down his throat, and I was thinking that the day would not end well if we had to use those all up right at the beginning.

    Majek threw a bottle of acid right after he had helped the bard. It hit the first 2 of the things right in the chest. At first we thought it would not work, but then sickly smoke started to rise and the things began to dissolve. I didn't see the rest of the fight because I had to vomit rather violently at the stench and the view. Next I knew I was being pulled into the next, cone shaped room where there were large iron gears at the entrance. I could hear the low clicking sound, and all I could think of was TRAP.

    I was almost right. It seemed the trap had been sprung before, but the the undead horde was now using the mechanism to fight us. 6 huge pendulums with blades sharp as death's scythe were swinging down on where we stood. Ed, who had pulled me, Galesong, Kronk and me were able to duck under them and move backwards out of their reach. Our two larger friends only had the opportunity to jump forward into the room. We were suddenly separated. There were 6 undead between two large statues at the other end of the room, but before I could try and identify them, they must have done something to trigger the next part of the trap, because spikes were shooting out from above the statues. We are mostly lucky, as the pendulums blocked most of them, only scratching Kronk in an ineffective way and tearing a hole in Galeson's tunic, which was already ruined anyway. But we heard the sound of the projectiles hitting Majek's armor, sticking in the leather and bouncing off the helmet. Some were also bouncing off Krell's armor, but we knew at least one must have hit because we heard him cry out.

    I had a clear feeling of doom, of being hopelessly outnumbered and probably outclassed. If only Mook, Bjön and Zayel would be with us. Self pity? Maybe but it was what my mind was focusing on. So much that I hardly noticed Galesong rolling under the pendulums to join the big ones, or Kronk following him a moment later. The two made it seem so easy, which was part of why I didn't notice first as my eyes were fixed on the swinging blades. There was blood on them, I was sure of that even in the dim light.

    The stench of ghoul was in the air, and I remembered the holy water we brought. But to use it, I needed to get past the pendulums. Judging by their motion, they would take a while to stop, at which point it would be too late. I heard Ed grumble next to me, and then he, too, dived between the pendulums, almost getting cut in two. I think I might have shrieked at that point because there was a high voice coming from somewhere.

    I closed my eyes, slowly counting to 5, but the loud sound of something big falling down confused me. Between the advancing horde, I could see some wall or door was now blocking the other way out. Now they had us locked in, too. But I also heard hissing sounds and saw the rotting meat of two of the abominations melt away. Right, the holy water. I should have done something then but suddenly told myself it was fine to sit this one out, because there would probably be a lot more of them and we would need some of the holy water later. I closed by eyes like the coward I sometimes am and tried to pretend the others would be fine in any case.

    I couldn't shut out Galesong's voice though.

    "You'll never take us by surprise
    We will poke out those undead eyes
    Who woke you up when you were dead?
    Here, try to walk without your head.
    Forever sleep, forever sleep."


    It sounded as if he was making it up on the spot. But it was giving me something to focus on, and once I did that, I could push the panic back long enough to lay flat on the floor and then roll under the blades to where the others were.

    The awful stench seemed even worse where we were now. But I guess seeing the ghouls just made it feel more real. I also noticed Krell bleeding from several wounds, and his ability to cast any spells was out of the window. I could see that from the look on his face. The bard was trying to stop the bleeding and assess the damage, while Kronk and Majek had found a wheel behind one of the statues which would open the door to the south again. I guess I had somehow hoped the door would not open and we could turn around, but it opened easily and a moment later, it was Krell who said we'd need to move on and be quick about it.

    We came into a large room with a grid of pillars surrounded by benches and 6 statues at the end. There was writing on the pillars, and in some places where mistakes had been made, some square slabs of stone had been put over the errors to wipe them. It somewhat reminded me of my school days. Both Galesong and Krell tried to decipher the words, but all they could find out was that it was connected to the Shining Crusade somehow and talked of the battle. Weird thing to find down there, I thought.

    To the very back of the room was a headless corpse of a dwarf, moving only a little. Galesong and Krell agreed that it was not really animated, but something must have stirred it. Krell guessed some negative energy outburst while Kronk took it as a spell gone wrong. We ignored the thing, not wanting to waste any time or risk a trap of a sort we couldn't fathom.

    A door to the right was closed off, but to the left, which was eastward, was an open corridor. There was also a smaller corridor going southwards. Kronk and Galesong insisted we'd check out the locked place first, so to not risk anything to fall in our backs. Good advice, I think, but I was shaky and needed several attempts to open the lock mechanism. And then I wish I hadn't. The undead thing behind in a small room will probably give me nightmares forever.

    In the middle of the room stood the disfigured corpse of what, by the tattered robes, looked to be a cleric of Nethys, its eyes and mouth were stitched shut with coarse cord. In one of its desiccated hands, it clutched a weird metal cage with a rotting dwarf’s head bolted within. We knew we had found the missing part of the body outside. The room was otherwise empty, as if the creature were imprisoned here or locked up for safekeeping. And I was willing to turn back and lock the door again for good. Yet, Majek and especially Galesong, who was really scaring me with his reckless behavior, had other ideas. They rushed right past me and bumped Kronk out of the way, too, and began hacking the thing to pieces. It was unarmed save for the horrid sounds it made which made me freeze in place. The cage with the head knocked the bard on the head and he dropped unconscious. Krell shouted a warning and Majek barely escaped being scratched by the thing. Mummys, and this was one, spread diseases, so being injured by one was to be avoided. I tried to move backwards but bumped into Krell, who concentrated on a spell but couldn't focus. However, Majek managed to decapitate the corpse just them and it turned to dust.

    There we were staring at the cage with the head while the bard came to with a groan. Krell took the cage and turned it, and we saw it had opened up, which caused some weak jokes about head to head combat and hard halfling skulls. Krell ignored all of it, took the cage and went out to the corpse. As he neared it, a headless ghost of sorts appeared behind him, reaching for him. But the moment the head touched the body, both crumbled to dust and the ghost vanished. If anything, I remember thinking, our actions had brought someone rest.

    We decided to keep going south and ignored a corridor going east a few meters in, too, although we kept glancing back. The passage emptied into an octagonal chamber. Vaulted crawlspaces sealed with iron bars were in the northwest, northeast, southwest, and southeast corners. In the center of the room stood another statue, it was of a priest, dressed in formal robes with his head bowed. A set of double doors exited from the southernmost side. As we went through, some shadow things attacked Krell and Majek, who were front. Majek, who was by now sure the long swords from the Azlanti tomb came with a boon against undead – which is really funny considering how we found them – stabbed right through them and indeed caused them to shriek back. They could not touch Krell at all, and i don't know if they were in any way intelligent but it seemed to confuse them. Strangely, I felt no fear this time, just some impatience to move on. Majek was done soon enough.

    The smaller crawlspaces were ossuaries for the bones of four workers who perished during the Seal’s construction. It was written there in an old dialect but Galesong could read it. They had been risen as skeletons, but posed no threat as they had no way to get past the iron bars locking them in so Majek just smashed them to pieces. The doors at the south end of the room opened to a staircase that lead down. Again it was decided we would need to check out all of this level first to not be ambushed later. So we went back to the corridor leading east before going back to the pillar room. Kronk guessed that it would eventually lead to where the wide eastern corridor had gone from that place. As a kobold, he knew how such places were usually constructed so we trusted him.

    Eventually, the corridor split in three directions. To the east was an alcove with a small waterfall spilling from the open mouths of four carved human faces, collecting in a small stone pool beneath. To the north a massive ten-foot-square slab of solid granite rested in a wheeled track permitting it to slide left or right to allow or deny access to the northern hallway. It was slightly ajar. The south passage ended in an iron-reinforced wooden door emblazoned with six prayers of Aroden, as the bard and Kronk explained. That was a good thing, it meant whoever build all this was not an evil sort.

    The water in the fountain was holy water. Krell could identify it by looking at it. He says it is the shadow plane taint making it look very bright to him. We could replenish all the used up holy water ammunition as Majek, as always, had plenty of vials with him. It calmed us a lot knowing that we weren't without our best defense.

    We moved north first, past the stone slab and carefully closed it behind us, trying not to make too much noise. We were all exhausted, and we guessed it was already late evening. Krell and Galesong, who had a headache but refused a potion on the grounds that sleep would fix it all, needed rest most. It was now impossible to not make camp down here.

    But first we came to a kaput room. Toppled scaffolding and shelves filled what seemed to have been a workroom with their skeletal wreckage, and miscellaneous tools were scattered across the floor. Extensive structural damage had collapsed the east wall, entirely transforming it into a pile of rubble leading to a natural cavern beyond. Shards of metal sculpture poked from beneath the rubble. Beyond the hole in the east wall we could hear the eerie sounds of suffering. I felt ice cold, and I think at least Ed felt the same way.

    To distract myself and to not have to follow if the others wanted to check it out, I searched the rubble. To my surprise, I actually found something. It was a beetle shaped large pin shimmering in silver and gold. Krell knew what it was, a golembane scarab. I had never heard of such a thing before. He said it could detect golems close by if the wearer concentrated, and it would help fight them, too. We didn't expect any golems down here and guessed it had been crafted in this shop and been caught in the explosion. Krell said to give the scarab to Kronk, as it would help battle golems unarmed. Kronk's face lit up in this weird kobold way as he pinned it to his monk robes. I guess he had felt somewhat useless as undead are not good to fight with shuriken and fists. Now he was probably hoping to find a golem down here to show it who is boss.

    But first he went scouting out the cave. When he came back, his eyes were wide with horror. It was an unusual sight, as he normally was calm and facing anything coming at us as if fate had no surprises for him. But he was shaken now. I didn't even want him to tell, but of course he did. He said he had seen a a pit where undead workers shoved bodies and half dead people into, and when they came out again, they were undead, too. He had seen two climb out, and there were enough of them to be more than a threat. He said it looked like the next bunch would come out soon and we would need lots more holy water to deal with them. And he also pointed out that, would we defeat them, we had no way of healing the poor victims. Plus they would create new undead anyway, if this strange pit was to remain. He was looking at Majek when he said that.

    Majek can more incredibly swift and work with good precision when he had to. He moved left and right to the damaged wall, climbed on the rubble, too, and fixed small vials with a reddish liquid with this very sticky glue he creates from bones. Alchemist's fire, I knew. Then he put some other vials in the corner of the room, produced some oil flasks and waved us back to the northern exit. "I really hope this leads back to the pillar room," he said. "Because if not, we might have trouble finding a way out."

    As we were all in the north corridor, he threw the oil flasks through the broken wall – we heard them burst – and then came running for us. "Just to speed thing up," he said. A moment later, the first undead came over the rubble, and Majek used his sling with the small metal ammo to fire at the alchemist's fire vials. He missed once and had to redo it, but it worked, the undead caught fire and rushed either back into the cave, causing the spilled oil to burn up, or into the room where they eventually would make contact with what was in the corners. "Run," our alchemist suggested and so we did.

    We passed through a wide corridor and came to a crooked T-section where we could indeed see the pillar room through the western corridor. I was about to comment Kronk's sense for the layout when the explosions started. We were almost all knocked off our feet, save for Kronk. Even the corridor behind us was caved in when we got up covered in dust and looked around. There would be no more undead created in that pit.

    Despite our state, we checked out the corridor leading northeast, which brought us to a small group of ghoul things and into a weird room. Stone partitions divided this chamber into a series of interconnected rectangular-shaped rooms. Mounted to several places on the walls and floor, great iron gears were spinning slowly. Toward the back of the room a 5-foot-diameter wooden turnstile blocked a shallow alcove.

    The holy water dealt with the ghouls well enough, as everyone was too tired to fight. I was too numb to pay attention and still didn't want to use my own vials anyway. Selfish, maybe, but it later came in handy.

    The turnstile was locked and I couldn't get it to open. "Maybe better that way," Krell mumbled, and I could not agree more. There was no need to go where nothing could come out of, so we went back to the pillar room, then to the small room where the mummy had been – although I refused to go back in there at first – to lock ourselves in and rest for a few hours. And now I'm sitting here, after having volunteered for first watch so I'd escape the unavoidable nightmares for a bit longer, almost scared stiff. Maybe in a few years, if I live to get out of here, I'll laugh at my cowardice. Or maybe I at least understand how come that me, of all people, who was always first in our not altogether harmless childhood adventures, could freeze up like this. I feel shamed and too worried to tell anyone how I really feel.
    My Story Hour campaigns. What are they up to this week?

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    Summer, vacations and archeological digs slow this campaign down a bit, but I was at least able to get the notes from the last session, which happened without me.

    --------------------------------------------------------------


    Mook had been in a bad mood since the early afternoon, from the moment on the Pathfinder emissary had shown up in their inn. As it sometimes happened, the gnome knew immediately what this man wanted and didn't like it, despite the offer in gold they got in advance for "just checking out the sewers."

    It was a bit more complicated than that, of course. An older man with an obvious mental deficit had shown up at the Pathfinder lodge a few days ago, calling himself the Prince of Augustana, which was nonsense as the city never had had any prince. What was even weirder was that the unknown man, calling himself Gandros, had a wayfinder, one of those compasses Pathfinders got, and he considered the Pathfinder symbol the sign of his father's empire. Supposedly, he had been attacked by some sort of otherworldy killer when he was gathering "his army" and barely made it to the surface for the first years in what must be decades judging from the look of him. At least that was what the emissary said.

    It was clear to all of them that the Pathfinder Lodge considered this more of a nuisance than anything else. Except that the self styled prince also went on about a supposed gateway to "the otherworld." To make it nor their business while still getting the info, they just wanted to hire someone to check into it. And the 3 of them had been picked because of a certain elf who happened to know the Venture Captain had casually mentioned how helpful they had been in eradicating "some evil in a hill cave."

    Going into the sewers didn't sound appealing, but the pay was. After all, Zayel's father had kept most of their valuables in the inn with him when he didn't accompany them to the island – that seemed a long time ago all of a sudden, even when it was just a few weeks – and their friends had kept most of the treasure from the island in a bag of holding Majek or Zaza usually carried. Their new friend Tiva had little money to begin with. Somehow, they would need to feed themselves, as Mook's divinations wouldn't raise enough, and work for the exhibition was scarce in winter.

    After Zayel had accepted the mission for them, Mook had been withdrawn and silent. Since she was using the magic ring most of the time, she usually talked a lot, just like most gnomes. Very unlike the time when she was stuttering. The oracle insisted she knew there was no portal and that it would be a waste of time and energy, not to talk of putting themselves into harms and filth's way. But she was coming along, of course, if just to make sure nothing happened to her friends. But Zayel thought he had heard her muttering about "not our destiny" and "too much to do to waste time like that" under her breath while they had made their way to the sewer entrance later the afternoon. He would have to inquire about the meaning of that later.

    They had been warned about a gang called Steel Wyverns, a once mighty group now fallen into disarray who had taken to the sewers. Supposedly, that was the only real concern, and they had been assured that "with a bit of magic and show" those elements could be chased off.

    "So this is where we go in?" Tiva asked confidently. Ever since she had reunited with her eidolon, she was different, more outgoing and curious.

    The three-quarter-elf stared at the door leading down to the setting pools and took a deep breath, knowing it would be the only clean air he would get for a while. "Yeah, let's just get it over with, Maybe it won't take too long."

    Mook was already slipping through the door she had pushed open a bit. As most entries, it wasn't locked. Still not talking, the gnome's eyes stared at them from the shadows, and so the others followed with silent sighs. It was not pleasant when their friend was in such a mood. Even her wolf had refused to go with her.

    Slippery stairs were leading down only a short way, and then they were already at the settling pools. The smell of waste and rot was strong in the large chamber where filthy water flowed in a series of cascades between tiered stone tanks. A raised platform along the east wall was connected to the passage’s walkways by several thick wooden planks creating a makeshift bridge. On that platform was what looked to be a makeshift alchemy lab on a rough-hewn table. Beakers, glass vials, dirty bottles, and moldy buckets covered the entire surface of the table.

    And they were not alone. Immediately as they entered, heads turned towards them from where 2 rugged humans were sitting on a wooden bridge; a tall human with greasy brown hair in tattered robes was bent over the table, slowly pouring two mixtures together. "Firedrake," one of the men in rugs alerted what seemed to be their leader. "We got some rats visiting us. Let's get their stuff and chase them out."

    This wasn't starting too well. "You are some of those Steel Wyverns, right?" Zayel asked in an attempt to ease the situation. "We have no issues with you, we just need to pass through."

    "No one passes our territory. Hand over your stuff and run, or else." The two had gotten up from the bridge and were going around the pools towards them. Their leader had finished with his work and slowly turned, grabbing hold of a bottle. It looked like he had the means of alchemical attacks.

    "Or else what?" Tvia's eidolon, who was accompanying them, asked innocently. "You will fall into the sewers to never been seen again?" As they had already noticed in the past few days, Onu had a way to express its thoughts that could infuriate anyone. Especially thugs.

    "Get them," Firedrake said with a grating voice.

    But Zayel had already readied a sleep spell. When the two thugs noticed the glittering air in front of them, it was already too late. Tumbling over one another, they came to rest at the foot of the wooden stairs. One of them almost fell into the dirty water and would surely have drowned.

    Unfortunately, their alchemist didn't look like he'd be so easy to take. He frowned in disgust and then a small bag was flying through the air, right at Zayel. "Watch it," Mook growled, but Zayel was already jumping back. The bag burst open, revealing a sticky mass which would have surely glued him to the ground.

    "Oooh, it's throwing toys," the eidolon squealed in its weird voice. Sometimes Zayel wondered if the magical being was voicing the secret thoughts of its mistress. "Lookit lookit, it throws another!"

    The alchemist hesitated, noticing the eidolon for the first time. He frowned, then he quickly grabbed a bag´of old stained leather with his free hand, the alchemist's fire – for that was what Zayel took the liquid in the flask to be, having seen his friend making it several times – outstretched in the other. Quickly, he stowed a book and several flasks and ingredients into it, which was difficult to do. Mook used the opportunity to jump over the sleeping figures and limping towards him. She pointed the brand new cane-like staff at him she had acquired earlier today from a magic shop downtown.

    The nerves of the gang member were already tight, with knowing that there was an arcane caster of some kind and a definite summoner in front of him; he recognized the oracle for what she was and threw the flask at her. Then he threw another flask down right in front of him and seemed to be caching away more of his things.

    Smoke was rising around him as Mook deflected the alchemist's fire with his staff back at him. Right when they saw him running over the bridge, which creaked in a worrisome way, the flask turned the makeshift table into a mass of flames. Whatever had been left on there was now lost.

    "To think they'd only have to let us pass," the eidolon squeaked again. "What a silly bunch."

    "Onu has a point," Zayel grinned to overplay his nervousness. "Now, if those were all we had to worry about we should be fine."

    "There'll probably be more of them," Mook mumbled, more to herself, before moving on deeper into the sewers. Rolling his eyes, Zayel grinned at Tiva, and they followed.

    A bit ahead was a junction where a smaller sewer line once joined the main passage. The ceiling of the smaller passage had partially collapsed, filling most of that tunnel with rubble. The surface of the rubble pile seemed to shift strangely and closer examination revealed thousands of tiny vermin fleeing into cracks and shadows.

    "Not that way, for sure, this has been caved in for a long time," Zayel pointed out. "Let's move on ahead."

    Tiva shivered. "I don't like creeping things too much, so we better move quickly lest they come after us."

    Soon they reached another intersection. Graffiti covered the walls here. Some of it was a repeating picture of a badly drawn wyvern in grey paint, probably the symbol of the gang they had encountered. There was also a skull with insects warning of the cave in place. The last one remarkable was the image of a bowl with a coin in it, with a key painted under it. The arrow drawn on the key pointed south.

    "A beggar's sanctuary, I guess." They had heard of those existing in almost every larger town. "What if that wannabe prince came from there? Or maybe they would at least know them?"

    Tivva frowned at the idea of encountering smelly beggars but she didn't say anything. Her dislike was visible on her face as she held their glow rod up to see better. "As you said, let's get this over with." Holding her nose, she moved into the direction of the arrow.

    Slowly, they got somewhat used to the terrible smell, as long as they didn't look to closely at what was drifting in the water. Eventually, taking some turns and twists, a faint light was starting to grow in the dark. Slowly it resolved into a crude lantern held by a toothless old beggar who held a chair leg in his other hand. Beside him stood a scrawny youth, similarly armed but obviously terrified. Behind the two derelicts was an open door bearing the symbol of the beggar’s bowl, coin, and key. The old man eyed them warily as they approached.

    "Hi, there," Tiva smiled while trying to ignore her own worries. "We are looking for some information, maybe you could help?"

    “If yer intentions be peaceful, Abadar makes you welcome.” The old guy squinted at them and pointed inside. Looking at each other and shrugging, the 4 of them entered.

    Beyond the door, a short flight of steps led up into what appeared to be the basement crypt of a church of Abadar. Perhaps two dozen beggars huddled among sarcophagi, some sleeping, some haggling over bits of junk or scraps of food laid out on blankets. Tiva's face fell. For all her dislike of unclean people, she also pitied them.

    A tall man in clean robes wearing a plain copper mask walked among the desolate group. He turned as he heard them and regarded them coolly. “If you respect this sanctuary, I offer you what sanctuary I can. Otherwise, begone!”

    "Not the friendliest chap," Zayel mumbled so that only they could hear. Tiva was not frazed, playing on her natural ability to make people feel at ease and not threatened. "Hello," she smiled again. "We aren't here for sanctuary, just for information about someone who was wandering the streets of Augustana."

    "A lost soul? Some confused member of this flock, maybe?" With a bit more interest, the masked man came closer.

    Taking over from Tiva, Zayel began to retell the story of Gandros and his royal attitude. Recognition seemed to appear in the man's eyes, but with the mask it was hard to tell. "Gandros," he said. "Know him, have helped him. Unfortunate, sad story, all of it. I could tell you all about it if we had time."

    "See, that was not so hard," Tiva turned to the still sour Mook.

    "If we had the time," the masked man repeated. "Which we don't. Unless you could help us, maybe? You have an eidolon, so you must be a magic type, and that gnome is an oracle if I have ever seen one. The Steel Wyverns will be here in under 2 hrs to ask for more protection bribe than we could ever afford." He basically spat the words. "They would destroy all we build, and us on top of it."

    "They didn't seem so tough back at the setting pools," the eidolon squeaked up. "But then, you are a ragtag bunch, not like us!"

    "Sorry about his rudeness," Tiva blushed. "Onu hasn't learned about when to shut up yet."

    "Those people, they are sick." The oracle was standing at the blankets in one of the corners where 3 men were shivering from fever.

    The masked man nodded briskly. "Filth fever. I can't bring a healer here, and I'm not good at it, unfortunately."

    Mook sat next to one of the men and grabbed her staff. A mild yellow light was flowing around her, the staff and the sick man. "What is she doing?" the masked man asked.

    "I am not sure," Zayel admitted, as Mook was keeping a lot of secrets lately. "But usually, when there is this golden light, it turns out alright." He grinned at the thought of what had happened on the island with the undead dragon.

    "So, this gang who bullies you," Tiva interrupted. "They will be here soon, yes?" Her eyes danced around the room. "We might want to make a nice little surprise for them. Do you still have some of the paint you used to paint your signs in the tunnels? And are the covers of the sarcophagi removable?"

    "Yes, but what...?"

    "Show me the paint," the girl grinned. "You'll see."



    Some time later, laughter and footsteps could be heard approaching from the west. A voice called out. “Almsman! What say you? Are you resisting or giving us what we want? I hope you’re resisting!”

    "That's dumb," Onu whispered to its mistress. "If he wants them to resist, they already give him what he wants, and that.. that... that's confusing!"

    They were mostly huddled together with some of the beggars and the masked man – who was, as they knew by now, known as the Almsman – behind the last sarcophagi in the room. Everything smelled awfully of blood, thanks to a whole lot of dead rats who had donated their innards to decorate the room with. Leftover red paint made it appear as if there was a lot more blood.

    "Hey, boss? Where are they? What's that smell? "Randalan? What happened here?" The thugs hesitated, not seeing any light and entering a scene that looked highly suspicious.

    "I don't know," the voice they heard first answered them. "But I detect no magic. Wait, let me cast some light..."

    That had to be avoided, so Tiva and Zayel gave the agreed on signal to the others. With a high pitched sigh, Tiva got up, exposing her body and especially her heavily make up covered face – it pays when a girl has all her utensils with her, as she always said – to the meager light coming from one cast aside glow rod. Zayel, equally masked, stood up from behind a pile of rugs, waving a red painted arm around. And a moment later, the lids of the sarcophagi shifted, revealing paint covered beggars also dressed up like zombies.

    Randalan, the leader of the Steel Wyverns, heard his people cry in panic and found himself alone, the echoes of running feet still in the tunnel, before he could do anything with his bardic abilities. For a moment longer, he seemed to be ready to face the supposed undead alone, but then he forgot about casting light or doing anything else but following the rest of his gang, cursing loudly after banging the door shut.

    Silence fell as the people inside listened for any sign of them returning. Then they broke out in cheers and laughter. The Almsman lit the light again, staying rather calm. "I guess that worked for now," he stated the obvious. "But the clean up will be annoying."

    "Not so much," Zayel grinned. "I have a few spells for that."

    "We will have to face them again, though."

    "Yes," Mook said, still frowning. "But by then,you can summon up a better defense, maybe some real spells and bells."

    Not too much later, the cleaned up group had gotten directions to where the so-called prince's place was. Apparently, they had known the mad man for decades down here, and many beggars and other mad men believed his nobility story. The Almsman’s directions led to a heavy wooden door. A sign
    on the door was partially obscured by grime and moss, and the word “Skytower” was still barely legible. Zayel pushed the door slightly and found it unlocked. "Shall we?" he asked, sounding a bit worried this time.

    They now entered a room which was once clearly the basement of a building above, but the stairs in the far corner were now choked with charred rubble and seemed to lead to a new stone foundation of the new building above. Odd furniture and knick-knacks of all description filled the remaining space, and strange winged effigies made of wood and broken pottery were arrayed in a bizarre diorama. The focal point of this display were a pair of chairs standing on different-sized piles of old crates like thrones on a dais. A charred and shriveled corpse dressed in rotting and burnt finery and wearing a tin crown was propped up in one of the chairs while the other, lower chair, sat vacant.

    "Now that is strange," Tiva mumbled, barely able to not show her disgust at the corpse. The eidolon had no such reservations and went right over, reading what was written on the tin crown. "Emperor Relios." It grinned. "Hey, maybe this was some ruler after all."

    "With a tin crown? Unlikely." Zayel refused to come nearer but instead checked out a desk with partially rotten logs and journals. "Seems this was once some sorts of trading place called Emporium. My guess is the so-called prince got a lot of things wrong. If he's been down here for decades, then he must have been a child when this happened." He pointed to the corpse.

    "Probably the old building burned down?" Tiva suggested.

    "Yes," Mook agreed. "So much confusion here. So much..." She grabbed her head for a moment and shook it. "Not our destiny," she repeated almost inaudible.

    "I think this is a diary of sorts," Zayel said, holding up a tattered volume. "From the dead guy, it looks like."

    They were able to pinch the story together. Wealthy businessman and former Pathfinder, who doubled as drug dealer supplying something called yellowcap dust produced from mushrooms to nobles. Eventually, his past caught up with him and his enemies burned everything down, with him and his young son still inside. So here they came, and the father, as obvious with the corpse, died an unpleasant death leaving his son all alone and too scared to go topside ever again.

    "What a sad story." Tiva looked around a bit more. "Look, the other rooms are full of those mushrooms."

    "And I bet the boy ate some of them, causing delusions and his eventual madness. We should burn them," Mook decided. "Even if they are out of fashion they might still harm someone."

    "And I can't detect any magic here, except for those few items," he pointed at a assorted mix of debris and some stuff that looked useful, "so just let's take the journal and this stuff and go," Zayel agreed.

    "Did you hear that?" Mook pointed to the rooms with the mushrooms.

    Now Zayel could hear it, too. Some sort of growling. As he stepped closer to see what it was while securing everything he thought could be of value, he nearly slipped on an empty piece of paper looking surprisingly like a used scroll. "Uh... someone cast something, and not too long ago as there is no dirt on the paper," he said, pointing to the now useless scroll.

    "You don't think this prince guy..." Tiva started, but right then the growling turned into a howl.

    "Out!" Mook ordered. She had absolutely no idea to wait for what was coming – from the heavy steps more than one being – when they didn't have a single real fighter among them. The eidolon stared for a while longer, then it followed its master.

    Large , pale shapes clearly looking like monsters not from this world came out of the back rooms. The only thing Tiva, who was looking back for Onu, could really make out in the mushroom dust now coming out of the rooms, were large red eyes and a whole lot more teeth than a decent being should have. She banged the door close and leaned against it for a moment. "Will they follow us?"

    "Don't ask, just let's go!" Zayel was already on the way back where they had come from.

    "We can't leave those things down here!" Tiva and Onu were bringing up the rear.

    "Normally," Mook gasped, trying to keep up with the larger folk, "I'd agree with you. However, we don't even know what those are, and it is not our problem! Let someone else handle this!"

    Noticing the things didn't follow, Zayel slowed down. He could barely breathe anymore in the stink down here, and he felt dizzy. "I agree. No telling what spells would work on them and which wouldn't, and if I'd have anything ready to deal with them anyway."

    "Look at the bright side," Mook told Tiva, who looked somewhat defeated. "Maybe they'll eat the rest of the Steel Wyverns."

    "It is just..." Tiva hesitated, feeling silly.

    "I know,'" Mook said. "You were made to run back up the hill with the drow, and you certainly didn't want to come over like a coward again."

    "Yes, somewhat." The human girl was surprised the gnome understood her so well. "I'm supposed to do better than this."

    "No, you are not." Mook, still at the rear, kept looking back as they walked on. "Not everyone can do everything perfect. By the gods, I can't even talk straight without magic help! You did just fine, sister, and Onu, too. Look at it this way .- drow supposedly do not exist, so there was no one you could have ran from."

    "At least, there is no portal down here anywhere, I'd have felt that." They passed the beggar's area and went back towards the setting pools. "Maybe you were right, Mook, and we shouldn't have done this to begin with. I hate sewers."

    Mook shook her head. "No, you were right, Zayel. We need to get money from somewhere until we meet up with the others. But let's stick with stuff we can definitely handle. And maybe, you could stock up on some spells usable in fights. Or scrolls with them."

    "You know what happens when I try to make scrolls or potions," Zayel mumbled.

    "I don't." Tiva looked curious. "What happens?"

    "You see, he wanted to be such a great wizard right when we were very young, so scrolls and potions was something he tried right away. It all started on a rainy afternoon in autumn, when..."

    Zayel sighed inwardly, wishing that Mook's ring would somehow fail, but of course it did not and the gnome was able to relay the whole of the embarrassing story.
    My Story Hour campaigns. What are they up to this week?

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    Zaza's diary, 9th of Abadius, a few days after the described events.



    We went down to the next level after a fitful rest. I thought I had gotten over my worries from yesterday, at least I tried to convince myself that I had. But this level was something else. It was like the air was thick with evil, as if we were breathing it in. To do anything at all was a much harder task than a few steps up. Except Edawon and the bard, we were all thinking of going back and find someone better than us to take care of it.

    We were now in a bell-shaped foyer that opened into a broad rectangular chamber with wickedly spiked walls. The rectangular section recessed into the floor almost five feet below the foyer, creating a tiered section of ledges adorned with rows of statues. In the center of the room, a three-foot-tall iron furnace stoodds atop a marble dais belching out gouts of toxic-looking smoke. A moat filled with a curious bubbling liquid surrounded the smoky brazier.

    Me and Majek went to disable the furnace – Majek because he's almost completely immune to toxic smoke thanks to a spell from a long while back, me because I'd just good with disabling or enabling devices. It sure paid to hang out with gnomes a lot.

    So far, so good. We checked out the south exit of the room but after we heard some strange noises and smelled a lot of candles – or so it appeared to me anyway – we decided to go west instead. We had to walk through a puddle at an intersection were we could have gone south again, but we decided to stick with west for now. Edawon says it is not good to keep changing your direction in an unknown complex and I guess he's right with that.

    By the time we entered the next room, we felt a bit paranoid thanks to the atmosphere. Majek was sure we were watched, Kronk was at one point sure someone was even following us. None of that was true, it seems, but were were all very nervous. Ready to jump at shadows, as Mook's mom used to say. I wish Mook had been around, I'd felt less confused.

    Well, this next room – with no other exit so we had to go back later – held the strangest thing. In the center of a maybe thirty-foot-diameter antechamber was a large green transparent crystal. Large iron chains extended from the crystal into the ceiling, holding it a few feet above the floor. Within the crystal was a heavily tattooed man we quickly identified as a priest of Pharasma, dressed in a hooded robe of archaic style. A piece of the crystal was broken off, exposing the man’s hand, and tiny fragments of the broken crystal were scattered about the floor.

    At first we thought the man had been caught in a trap, but then we felt a presence in our mind talking to us. The man was actually alive, and immortal, too. He identified himself as the Hanging Seer. No name, if you ask me, but maybe he had forgotten his name and part of his other faculties in the long solitude. Because a mind can just not stay sane in this. Because, well, he had been down here for a very long time, guarding a Seal of sorts, one of many to keep the Whispering Tyrant in. Still I cannot wrap my mind around us finding trouble connected to the Whispering Tyrant! Having been at the isle where Aroden killed him had been a big thing already, but this?

    In any case, he was desperate. Some necromancer calling himself Drazmorg, an undead with no lower body, broke in here and stole all of the priest's powers and then broke the seal, a fact the Whispering Tyrant, who seems to not want to stop existing, is aware of it and might use the fool necromancer to break the others, too. What was worse for us was that the seer said he was also possessed by an undead spirit Drazmorg bestowed on him to keep him under watch. Which meant, of course, that we weren't so paranoid now to think we had been noticed.

    We had just come to that conclusion when the seer twisted and grimaced, and something came out of his mouth. I have later been told it was a wraith of sorts, because I fainted. Edawon tells me that is because the thing went for me first and actually touched me, but I do not remember this. I feel weak and shaky, but I was assured it would pass over time. It did not make me any more confident then, and even now I am wondering what we were doing. We aren't up to deal with such things. At least not without the dwarf. I wonder where they are now?

    If anyone else but me ever reads this, you must think I'm constantly whining over very little, but then, I am the one going through all this. So better not shake your head at me. I am the one in my shoes, and I'm just a young girl out in a world I underestimated. Maybe I'll laugh at those lines later myself, but I doubt it.

    Majek seemed to be so strong in all this. When we managed to rouse the seer again, who had fallen unconscious, he was the one who promised we'd seal the caverns, as he had brought a lot of explosives just in case. And it was him and Krell who went to do just that, as we went back to the southward tunnels as the seer directed. The tunnel they collapsed led to a storage vault of undead of different kind, but they couldn't come out fast enough. Imagine a necromancer with so many undead to just store them somewhere in case you needed them!

    Sure that the explosion must have caused Drazmorg to have noticed us, we waited. But either he was too busy with whatever he was on to notice, or too confident to succeed. All that happened was that the door the southern passage ended in opened and out came a mummy of some sorts, which strangely enough had what looked like new armor. There were so many flies around it that it was hard to see though, and the buzzing of them made me very irritated. Krell, Majek and Kronk took it on. After they hit it a few times, the flies died, which was a strange sight, all of them dropping down from one second to the next.

    The thing didn't smell any better once it was down, and I had to vomit again. Curse my weak stomach, I need to find a way around that.

    We went into the chamber the thing came out from. It had curved walls on the north side and square corners on the south. On either side were two copper braziers partially filled with a sour-scented oil doing little to mask the nauseating scent of rotting flesh that seemed to seep from the shale stone walls. We left the outter door open so the scent would dissipate eventually. Nothing else was in there except another door to the south, which opened easily.

    Beyond the doors stretched an about 25-foot-long hallway. On either side, iron sconces lined the walls set five feet apart. The candles in the sconces were unlit, though wax droplets beneath them seemed to indicate they were recently extinguished. Centered on the far wall rested a five-foot-circumference stone plug, slightly recessed into the masonry. A pair of crossed iron bars mounted onto the western wall near the plug’s face formed a handle. Spiraling runes carved into the plug read “DEATH” in at least a dozen different languages.

    This, at least, is where all sensible people would run, but as I have been told as a small child already, adventurers aren't sensible people, even if they do not qualify as heroes. So I went over to look at the handle and the plug, and found out how to turn it to open the thing. Of course, it needed a lot more strength to open than I had, especially after being weakened. We got it open of course, and passed through. Majek said he would probably collapse the tunnels behind it, but we were in for yet another surprise.

    The doorway bisected a huge curved passage. Its carved cylindrical walls had thousands of Hallit runes and sigils. Galesong readily identified them. But that was not the strange part. The strange part was that there was no gravity. We started floating up, and some unseen force pulled us in a counter-clockwise drift. We could resist this, but moving against it would have been difficult so we didn't. chances were we'd end up in the same place anyway, with the passage being curved and all.

    My stomach liked the loss of gravity even less than the stench before but I had nothing left to vomit out, lucky for all of us that was.

    There were some orbs in the passage, made of some sort of crystal and carved with runes. All of us knew this could not be a good thing when we saw them so we kept our distance. As they floated at the same speed than we moved, this wasn't too difficult. Kronk, Ed, me and Galesong could grab the carved walls to maneuver, Majek and Krell were too heavy to hold on to the walls long though.

    The ghouls that appeared to stop us were unable to maneuver. When the first came close to a sphere, it suddenly zoned in on it, pushed it out of the way and exploded with a strange, high pitched sound which, although almost not audible, made my head hurt. Majek did away with that ghoul with some luck in maneuvering after that, as it appeared almost done for anyway. The floating around ghoul parts were very hard to avoid, though.

    Krell found this incredibly funny, and with what seemed to be a lot of enjoyment he directed the other spheres we encountered at the ghouls. We just stayed ahead of those abominations and went around the whole circle twice before they were done for, passing a door opposite the one we had entered through in the process. Later Krell explained about the game called ghoul ball they had played at his magic academy. Except for the lack of gravity, the description came close enough to what he had done here.

    The door on the opposite had the same kind of plug but it was harder to open because of the weightlessness. Th good thing was that once inside yet another longish corridor, we were all back on our feet again. Now it was all the way back to the opposite side again, where we found yet another plug entrance.

    Majek was about to prepare his explosives here when we heard a muffled. We couldn't make out the words, but for some reason, Krell was drawn by them and started to open the plug. Before we could stop him, the darn thing opened and exposed us to a sight I could have once more done without.

    The opening led into a rotunda formed from tremendous limestone blocks. A ten-foot-tall dais rose from the center of the room, supporting a concentric mini ziggurat of layered, rune-covered gear. Even those of us with no magic could feel the supernatural energy pulsing from the thing.

    On either side of the dais, a half-flight of stairs ascended from the floor to the largest gear. Colored chalk streaked the walls, floor, and ceiling with arcane symbols and patterns, and sickly-scented oils burned from careful placed braziers made from human skulls. Scattered throughout the room flopped the decaying parts of dozens of battered undead corpses, all bearing bloodless gashes and sundered limbs These flopped and undulated unnaturally, scattered like fish in a net.

    Above the strange seal hovered a horrifically decomposed humanoid. The lower half of his body was gone, leaving only guts and his dangling spine encased in a weird, glass-like receptacle filled with sickly-colored fluids bolted into his chest. Tubes made from intestines and other compounds rose from the fluids attaching to his face, neck, and arms. He preached loudly, bellowing obscene liturgies from a strange book to a worshipful audience of rotting corpses. Dark energies seeped from the ziggurat, caressing the surrounding undead.

    I counted 8 of those gears and wondered if they could be fixed to close the seal again, although I had no idea how it had been opened in the first place. I barely noticed the dreadful thing ordering his undead to attack, or Krell being drawn by the device the same way I was. Maybe my mind tried to block out everything else to be able to deal with it.

    The mechanism was, in essence a combination lock. You could turn the cogs separately in any direction. That was good and bad at the same time, good because it meant the seal was likely still functional, and bad because we could not easily know what the combination had to be set to to close the evil energies back in.

    Krell turned to throw a spell at the advancing ghast and ghouls, and I heard Galesong starting up a song to aid us. I don't remember the details, but it was a funny song about undead stumbling through a dungeon.

    I could see where the gears had been moved. But it looked as if all of them had changed position, so again I couldn't do anything with that. But as Krell cursed next to me for discovering the same, I had an idea. "The shadow world looks like a parody of ours, didn't you say that? A darker version with different life – or unlife – forms?"

    "Yeah, why?" Again, he fired a spell, but I barely noticed the heat from it.

    "What happens if something gets changed in either world?"

    "In the shadow world, it will reset itself to however it is here. If something is changed here, the shadow world will adapt eventually." Somewhere, like through a veil, I heard Edawon shout out a warning, and then Majek let out a cry.

    "So, how long to adapt? Would the shadow world still have the gears in the original position?"

    Krell's eyes went wide, and a moment later, he disappeared into the shadow. Galesong's voice got louder, as if he was desperate, and then there was a small explosion and the stink of burned undead flesh. I zoned out even more, because if we could not close this we would probably all be dead anyway.

    Krell suddenly appeared again and pointed at the gears. "We need to move them not only to specific positions, but in a specific order. It keeps happening over and over in the shadow world but it hasn't stabilized there yet."

    One day, I think, i want to see this shadow world myself. For now, I was just glad my idea worked. The necromancer had floated off the gears and to where the battle was. I think he hadn't even noticed us in doing so, which was just perfect. Krell gave directions, and we started moving the gears. At first, we still didn't get noticed, but then, Drazmorg let out an eerie cry and turned his cursed attention on us.

    However, we were almost done and the magic missile attack that hit Krell didn't seem to do much damage to him at first sight. He was probably still half in the shadow world to be able to see the gears there – something that took a lot of energy, he had once said, but it also protected him somewhat from injuries on either side.

    The gears turned back into place, and all of a sudden, the terrible oppression of the negative energy was all gone. It now felt like a normal, dangerous, almost suicidal dungeon exploration. Drazmorg's screeching stopped, and then there was another explosion, closer this time. I ducked out of the way as the contraption which had been the down half of the necromancer flew right at me. Majek let out a triumphant shout just before I saw him faint from a wound in his chest. Everything else was unclear until I came to my senses again in the room of the Hanging Seer.

    The seer had used his powers, which were now back, to heal the wounded and disease infected among us, which´meant everyone. Majek and Kronk had been especially bad off. He could not do anything about my weakness, but also assured me it would pass. He had not expected for us to be able to destroy the necromancer, and even less to close the seal again. And he made a prophecy about us and our many friends being the destined ones, chosen to restore the world in many ways, and not always being appreciated for it. Something along those lines. I saw Kronk nodding in my direction and heard him mumble something about the thief of thieves. Majek's reaction was more like mine: "We don't need that."

    But then, doesn't this mean that we, me included, will really be heroes? Maybe I need to stop worrying.

    As I write this, we are finally back in Falcon's Hollow. There are still undead stragglers but they are taken care off one by one. The tunnels to the seal are all collapsed now, so we should be safe. For a while. Such things tend to come back to haunt the world.

    We are preparing to leave here with the children we had rescued and some of their family. Edawon, Majek and Krell all agreed it would not do to wait to spring. In a few weeks, with some luck, the snow will have lessened enough. Our only worry is how the others will find us now, but from what Kronk says his people's prophets said, we will find the others in Absalom, of all places. We'll see soon enough.





    Dwarfed by the bluffs behind and to either side, a dozen pathetic wooden buildings huddled along the shore within a small protective curve of the rocky coastline. Three imposing islands faced the settlement through the fog. The largest, a nearly cubic block of stone, squatted in the water like some stubborn beast. The second island sent columns of foam arcing high into the air with each breaker impacting its far side, focusing the onrushing wave into a vertical channel, and a sizzle echoed across the cove as the spray returns to the sea. The last and smallest island was remarkable only for its silhouette: two pointed boulders near its crest give it the look of a horned animal head.

    "So, this is Chimera Cove," Bjön said, shivering slightly. The weather down here was warmer than in the mountains, of course, and there was little to no snow at the coast. However, the rain was icy cold, and water had a tendency to go deeper into clothes than snow, which could be shaken off.

    "It's not much," Teltz stated. "I wonder what anyone could find here that would be of any importance." He huddled into his dark blue coat as if he wanted to vanish into it completely.

    For all her being used to a much warmer climate, Pojali didn't seem to feel the cold. "Looks can be very deceiving.And we're being followed."

    "What?" It was all Bjön could do not to turn around. "Any idea who and how many?"

    The priestess concentrated for a moment, eyes half closed. "Just one, and a large one. Smells like bear, somehow, but then different."

    Before the others could make something out of this confusing statement, a deep, grumbling voice spoke up from behind a boulder as the owner of it came into view. "That would be me. I need to talk to you before you go down there. I'm Targas, and as you can probably guess, a werebear."

    Light brown fur covered a massive bear form, clad in basic leather armor and wielding a really really big axe. Targas' eyes looked friendly, but worried, and Bjön put the axe away he had drawn on instinct. "He's not evil."

    "My apologies for not showing up in human form," Targas said and pointed at the sturdy but fast horses the party had been given back in the mountains. "I can't keep up with those as a human. In any case, Chimera Cove is in trouble, has been for a while, and I need help to solve the problem."

    "Very direct," Pojali smiled and got off the horse. "Do you have a place nearby where we could talk?"

    Not too long later, they were sitting in a comfortable cave around an even more comfortable fire, drying their things and drinking herbal tea while listening to the werebear's story. Part of it seemed like a fairy tale, one of those that almost always had a solid foundation in truth. A long time ago, the village had been founded to protect a dark secret. Recently, however, a man named Poltur, grandson of the village's founder, decided to betray the cove's secret to the now deceased Baron Vendikon, having gotten tired of sitting on a barren shore. The baron had sent some troops but it ended in disaster with Poltur barely surviving. It took a while to find out what was really needed to succeed, which is why he had sent the map the party now had and some requirements along with it. And what was worse, the village was now occupied.

    "By whom?" the priestess asked, getting herself more tea. "The baron hasn't sent anyone, he's dead."

    "The traitor returned with a score of hobgoblin soldiers, the village was completely unprepared. He rounded up everyone, and his hobgoblins are still holding them in the boathouse. I think that they’re still alive, but they must be nearly starving at this point.”

    "A bad situation. Couldn't you try and get them out?" Bjön started fumbling with his holy symbol.

    "Poltur left six hobgoblins behind when he sailed off to the islands. Two of them thought they would make a patrol of the village one night, looting whatever they chose, and I killed them. Now there are four. But four is still too many for me, when the villagers are within their reach.”

    "Good point, but how come they didn't get you in the first place?" the bard wanted to know.

    The werebear, now in his human form and changed into winter robes, looked sad now. "I… am not exactly a member of the village anymore. I made the mistake of telling Poltur of my… family’s secret. I should have known better, even then. Poltur killed a woman and made it appear as if I were the one responsible, and the elders believed I was guilty. I have lived as an exile since then, and pieced together the truth through years of watching, but I have not returned to the village. I think many of them know I’m here, and that the woman’s death was not my doing.” He looked at the paladin. "He wants the islands’ secret. There can be no doubt. I tell you this because the village has failed in its mission to watch over the islands and what they hold, and you may be the last remaining hope. The village elders tell each of us, when we reach our 13th summer, that the islands hold something dark and dangerous, and that it is our duty to watch over them and make sure the evil remains undisturbed. They likely know more. Poltur, as the grandson of the village’s founder, probably knows more as well. That secret is undoubtedly what he seeks, but I have told you all I can offer of it. Poltur, while completely reprehensible, unfortunately is also quite a swordsman. Do not duel with him. He will kill you.”

    "We are here to take care of it, one way or the other," Bjön said for all of them. "Now, how fast can you change shape? I have an idea..."



    From behind a shallow ridge close to the shore, the group was watching the boathouse. This long and narrow building, easily the largest in the modest village, stretched sixty feet long and twenty-five feet wide. Simple wooden planks comprised its walls, unbroken by windows. While its front entrance was at ground level, its far end extended out over a drop off into the choppy waters of the cove, supported by thin wooden pilings. A narrow dock, tethered to the supports with stout lines, banged back and forth against them in the chop below the overhang, and two of the pilings sported regularly spaced horizontal planks, which likely served as ladders to allow access to the dock from the building. Apparently, much of the floor of the extended section was open to the water below, as the keels of three boats, slowly swinging from side to side, were visible below the bottom of the building’s walls. It appeared that the villagers hauled their boats out of the water when they were not in use, rather than trusting them to the waters of the cove.

    The woman was now dressed like a priestess of Norgober, and she really looked the part. A thin, brown leather mask covered all but her eyes, and the dark brown robes she was dressed in obscured most of her figure, barely letting it show that she was female. Several daggers were hidden in her clothing and her left hand rested on a long coiled whip. On the way here, she had demonstrated her skill with this weapon a few times, and both men had been sufficiently impressed.

    The men all dressed like simple soldiers, in uniforms they had gotten from the baron's tower. The spare one they had put Targas in was a bit too short and stretched at the shoulders, but the hobgoblins were unlikely to notice. The werebear had refused to get a haircut, but that was something else the humanoids would probably not find strange.

    Nothing stirred at the boathouse, so Bjön nodded to the priestess. Pojali got up and rounded the ridge, followed by the others, who stayed several steps behind her as if she was the only one in charge. "Is someone here?" the woman said in a stern voice. "The rest of the village seems to be empty, and I would hate to have made the whole journey for nothing. The baron wants this to be seen to quickly!"

    After a few seconds, the door opened a little, and a hobgoblin head peeked out. "You are the replacements?" he asked in a raspy common. "We thought there would be more of you."

    "There are more of us. The rest is making camp in a cave up there." She vaguely pointed towards the cliffs. "I didn't want to bring everyone and everything down here before I knew things were fine. Things are fine, are they not?"

    The hobgoblin opened the door a little wider and nodded. "Yes, we've rounded up the villagers in here so they wouldn't make any trouble. Bit boring watching them but it is at least dry."

    Teltz chuckled. The rain had only stopped an hour ago. "The journey here wasn't fun, but we were all promised promotions for this. Are there any comely women among the prisoners?"

    "Now now," Pojali picked up the rehearsed lines. "Work first, fun later. Let us in and tell us what you know about our job, then we decide if we can do it right now or need to get the others."

    A moment later, they were allowed to enter the boathouse. Nautical gear cluttered the interior of this narrow building. The section closest to the door was full of benches and tables covered in tools and rope, and rolled-up sails and planks were stacked against the walls and in the rafters. Beginning 25 feet from the doors, the east side of the building was open to the waters of the cove below, and three boats hung above the opening from lines running through pulleys bolted to the rafters. Two of the boats were sailboats perhaps 12 feet in length, their masts stepped, while one was a simple 8-foot-long dory. The place smelled of fish and tar, although the wind whipping past the open floor section ameliorated the stench somewhat. The prisoners were bound together into two groups of twelve and loaded into the suspended catboats.

    "We were 6 before," the commander of the hobgoblins admitted. "But something's killed off our patrol. We haven't been outside since, and we ran out of food. Maybe you can take care of whatever it was?"

    Pojali found hopeful eyes on her and pretended to consider. "Did this something leave any hints as to what it was?"

    "Something big and with claws. We found the patrol torn apart."

    "A predator, maybe?" Bjön came closer to the hobgoblin leader, pretending to want to confer with the priestess. "Should we send the others to comb the village and surroundings?"

    "Sounds like a plan," Pojali agreed, and then waved to the werebear. "Come on, give our allies something to eat and drink for now, it won't do for them to keel over from exhaustion."

    The eyes of their foes lit up as they were handed dried meat and a bottle of rum the group had taken from one of the houses. "Now, where is the man I am supposed to report to?" Pojali looked around.

    One of the noisily eating hobgoblins pointed out over the water. "We are to pick you up and sail with you into the cove and lower that holy symbol of Iomedae into the water on that silver wire," he explained. "Only one of us is to stay and watch the villagers." He sounded very worried.

    "That would mean we'd need 2 boats, 3 if we bring the others," the werebear spoke up. "It will be difficult enough with one. I grew up on the shore, I know what I'm talking about."

    "Yeah, it would be better if we'd go alone," the priestess agreed. All of the hobgoblins looked very relieved about that.

    One of them suddenly swayed, as if drunk. "Hey," he mumbled. "Something's wrong with the rum, can't be drunk from..."

    Before any of the others would get suspicious, Targas transformed, ripping the uniform apart. At the same time, Teltz' short sword went right through the bugbear next to him while Bjön's axe came out, decapitating the stumbling leader of the gang. Targas ripped the other two apart. Some of the villagers, who had barely had the energy to look up, shouted in surprise now.

    "We got what we needed from them, anyway," Pojali said, already moving to free the captives. Not too long later, the villagers stood, shakily and most of them crying, on the planks of the boathouse. It was easy to prove the party had come to help, and they recognized Targas, understanding he hadn't been a killer and was part of the reason they were rescued. Before they went off to their houses to rearm themselves and get food and rest, they confirmed the method to open up a secret port. And the elders explained that what was hidden there was an undead dragon turtle called the Terraken, created by the Chelish as a weapon of nautical warfare.

    Now things began to make sense. The baron would have loved to present this Terraken to Cheliax again. It was, however, not any less dangerous now that the baron was dead.

    "It is still early in the day," Pojali suggested. "We could get out there and start right away."

    Bjön wondered about the energy the little priestess had, but he, too was eager to continue. An undead turtle was right up his alley, after all. "We didn't expend too much energy so I'm all for it."

    "I'm coming with you," Targas announced.

    Teltz shook his head. "Poltur knows you. It might give us away too early. I'm sorry."

    "Suppose you are right," the werebear growled. "But I really want to help."

    "You can help by watching over them." Pojali pointed at the exhausted villagers now filing out of the boathouse. "They won't be able to watch out for themselves for a few days at least."

    "So," Bjön stated, eying the sea suspiciously. "While I now know a bit about sailing on a river and along a shore, I'm not so confident out there."

    "No need." Pojali brought out a little flask which had a blueish, swirling mist in it. "This will take us all the way there and we won't even need to touch the water but glide a few feet above."

    "What is it?" Bjön stared at the bottle, intrigued.

    "It's called Mist of the Seawind. Expensive, but I found a whole box of them a while ago, and they don't conserve well so I better use them up when it makes sense. Shall we go?" Her eyes sparkled, and the dwarf suspected she was grinning under her mask.

    Floating in a boat several feet over the water was a strange sensation for everyone but the Vudrani. But they reached their destined spot, confirmed by the villagers, without incident. Pojali fixed the holy symbol to the wire and lowered it as necessary. Almost immediately, the winds and waters calmed. The spray gradually ceased and waves that were crashing against rocks now lapped placidly against them. Although the fog remained, where gaps between the shore and the islands were once visible leading out to the open sea, now stone seawalls were becoming visible, slowly rising. It quickly became clear that the seawalls were only rising a short distance and thereafter it was the water level in the cove that started to fall. More and more of the steep, rocky sides of the islands became visible, until the three islands appeared as a single connected mass. The retreating water left the dock below the village’s boathouse lying in muck. The southwestern face of the largest island revealed a large cave mouth below the low-tide mark.

    "Wow," Bjön exclaimed. "Now that's something you don't see everyday."

    "That neither," the bard shouted, pointing to a giant octopus, obviously disturbed by the change in the sea level.

    "No worries, it can't reach us." Pojali was simply allowing the boat to float a bit higher and faster, and directed it into the new harbor.

    This huge stone cavern reached over one hundred and fifty feet back into the heart of the rocky island. The murky waters of the cove cover the cavern’s floor to a depth of at least fifteen feet. The space was alive with the sounds of dripping water, and the walls glistened where just a short time ago they were submerged. Barnacle colonies dot the walls, and seaweed hung limply elsewhere. While the arch of the cave mouth stood thirty feet above the water, the roof of the cavern rises as it ran into the island, reaching a height of at least seventy feet at its far end. Likewise, while the cave mouth was only thirty feet wide, the cavern expanded to several times that as they entered. To either side of the cave mouth, stone ramps five feet wide rose out of the water and clung to the cavern walls, gradually
    rising upward to end at a height of thirty five feet at the far wall. At that wall the west ramp opened into another chamber from which faint light emanated.Thick ropes hung into the water here and there, some anchored to rusting cleats set into the walls, others lying in loose coils.

    Dominating the far wall were gigantic wooden double doors, twenty-five feet in height and forty feet in width, composed of planks which could be ships’ timbers, heavily reinforced with rusting steel. The top of the doors were flush with the top of the wall, while the bottom was ten feet above water level. The many barnacles indicated the door was typically submerged to a depth of twenty feet. No hinges were visible, making it appear the doors open inward.

    Standing atop the far wall to either side of the giant doors was a pair of wooden and steel contraptions which resembled small siege engines. A stout wooden base supported a pivoting mechanism enclosing an open chute ten feet long and one foot in width, with attached gears used to adjust the angle of the chute. None of them could make sense of it.

    Spearfishing from the top of the lock doors were 3 hobgoblins, who now looked up as the boat slowly lowered to the water. "Hey," Pojali called out to prevent them from seeing them as enemies. "We're here on command of Baron Vendikon. I'm Pojali, Priestess of Norgober."

    "Finally," one of them called back. "We've been expecting you for a while."

    "We were snowed in," Pojali offered an explanation. "Winter is a bad time to travel from the mountains."

    "Well, you are here now. Come on, the boss would want to see you." They pointed to where the light emanated from and barely waited for them to follow.

    The other cavern was only slightly smaller than the previous one, measuring over a hundred feet long and nearly as wide, with a natural stone ceiling over forty feet above. Aside from a twenty-foot-wide flat stone shelf running along the northwest wall of the cavern and a much narrower shelf to the southeast, the cavern was filled with perfectly still water, forming a most unusual port, with a fully intact fifty-foot-long ship expertly tied to the stone pier, and a narrow gangplank leading aboard. There were no signs of activity on the ship beyond flickering, unnatural light at half a dozen points on the mast, clearly the product of magic. A plaque near the bow read “Silver Reign.” The dockside was relatively bare beyond a plenitude of rope. The water was contained at the far end by a low wall with open space beyond; like the previous cavern, the ceiling of this one extended even further into the island, angling steeply downward past the low wall as the floor dropped off into some unseen space.

    "Impressive," Pojali admitted.

    "Yes, indeed. Welcome to Chimera Cove. I'm Poltur." Poltur stood on the pier at the end of the gangplank, with a slight frown as if he was listening to something else. He was a tall, tanned man in his thirties with a black eye patch over his right eye, wearing the flashiest clothes available in Piren’s Bluff, as the party immediately noticed. Despite the garishness of his outfit, his every movement conveyed a precise sense of balance.

    "I'm priestess Pojali," the Vudrani answered. "I was told to report to you."

    "Yes, no doubt. What I need you to do first is get into the ship's hold and bring out any valuables. Can't get any more hobs to go in, and there are some things there needing the attention of a priest."

    "I see." Pojali winked at the others, indicating she was expecting a trap, or several. Bjön tied their ship to the Silver Reign, and they climbed on board. The deck was completely bare under the flickering supernatural lights attached to the mast, with shadow-nets cast through the rigging dancing across the planks. Two hatches, each with a steep ladder, stood open to the hold below.

    The priestess came closer to the traitor. "You wouldn't try to trick us after we came all the way just to serve you, would you? We are supposed to be on the same side, and asides, Baron Vendikon would take it very amiss if anything would happen to his future wife, if you get my drift."

    Teltz almost laughed at the presentation of the Vudrani. Poltur took his grimace as the priestess having mentioned her importance to them a bit too often as well, and took a step back. "I had no idea the baron was so interested in this that he would send his lady."

    "But of course he is. This is an important turning point in his plans for the future. Now, do you still want us to go down there, or would you rather I make the hobgoblins do it?"

    Poltur grunted, then he chuckled. "If you can make them, I'd like at least 4 of them down there."

    "We only saw those 3." Teltz pointed to the group that had gone back to their fishing.

    "There's more," the traitor said in a voice that left no doubt that he thought all hobgoblins replaceable. He shouted at the fishers to stop and get the others.

    Not too long after, all 6 of the hobs, as Poltur kept calling them, were assembled on the ship, looking uneasy. The Vudrani started talking to them sweetly, in a singsang voice and a language none of them, least at all the hobgoblins, understood. Their reaction was obvious as their eyes lost all expression to a blank stare. Still the priestess kept singing to them until they turned one by one, making their way 3 in a row to the entrance points to the ship's belly. "Whatever you need cleaned out," Pojali said, "they will do it or die trying."

    Again Poltur chuckled. "One is as good as the other," he announced.

    A short while later, muffled shouts and the sound of fighting could be heard, then a loud, desperate cry. "It's not going too well," Bjön commented over some equally muffled curses and a loud bang. "And you wanted to do that to us." Then the dwarf remembered he was supposed to be an evil person of sorts. "I like devious thinking, but should we not be worth more than... hobs?"

    "I usually know the hobs are loyal to me," the traitor snorted. "Couldn't say that about you. However, having the lady of the baron around changes everything."

    "I bet," Teltz whispered over more fighting noise so only the paladin could hear. "Especially when he hopes to uses her as a hostage of sorts if the negotiations won't go his way."

    The noise in the ship abated, and something feline looking came out of the hold. "A hellcat!" Bjön exclaimed, instinctively gripping his axe handle.

    Poltur was not surprised. "That's Zasril. He got what he needed, now he can take what he wants and leave us be." He stared at the fiendish being, who returned the gaze before giving a quick nod. Then the hellcat turned and vanished through the hole in the ship again. The sound of someone going through some stuff could be heard, and then there was silence.

    "I'd say to hell with it," Pojali remarked drily. "But that's where it probably went anyway." Teltz managed a chuckle at this. "So, what do you really need a priest of my faith for?"
    Last edited by Lwaxy; Wednesday, 4th July, 2012 at 03:53 AM.
    My Story Hour campaigns. What are they up to this week?

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    This part took some weeks to do over email. Everyone will be back home middle of September or so.

    ---------------------------------------------------------------


    They had been following a sour looking Poltur down to the lock doors of the lower canal which was currently dry. The channel was running off into the darkness, with a narrow ledge alongside several feet high. Poltur hadn't said much, and the party guessed he would have preferred to see them killed by that hellcat – although the purpose of calling them here just to be killed wasn't clear.

    Pojali had tried to engage the man in conversation to learn more, but it had not worked. Teltz had been little more successful by asking if Poltur was a follower of Asmodeus, thereby playing his part as a newly converted from the Baron's men quite well. By the evasive answer it was clear he was not, in fact, a follower and neither would he consider becoming one.

    The ledge above the channel widened soon to form an open platform about 50 feet long and 20 feet deep, and the steel cleats and bitts, as well as several coils of old rope, testified that this was once some type of dock for traffic in the channel. A pair of ten-foot-high iron double doors were set into the stone wall in the center of the landing, and three short iron levers sprouted from a foot-square iron plate set in the wall to their right. A cave-in from above completely obstructed the channel some distance to the south.

    Poltur hesitated. Teltz had the feeling he was waiting for them to do something stupid, but eventually he walked over to the levers. With a quick move, he pulled the top and the bottom lever at the same time. With a screeching sound, the doors opened. "Hurry on," he shouted. "There's a trap that'll come down in a few seconds."

    Pojali took a moment to determine if the man was speaking the truth – a gift from her god, so she had explained on the way here. She nodded and ran on, followed by the others. It was only when they were through the doors and in a narrow tunnel that they realized Poltur was not following. The trap, spikes coming down from the ceiling right in front of the doors, had not caught him either as he had taken a stap back. He was positively smirking. Then he grabbed one of the spikes, or so it seemed, and the spikes retracted and carried him upward. Before they could get out again, the door closed again.

    Teltz, who had been carrying the light in form of a piece of wood with a spell on it, cursed something vile. "He tricked us," Pojali simply said. "Though he had not been lying. I can only guess that this way holds something dangerous which might kill us while he can claim we were simply stupid."

    Bjön sighed. "I believe that is a pretty good guess. Any way to open the door from this side?"

    Teltz ran the light over the area. "Not a single mechanism."

    "Right, then, the only way is forward." The paladin took the lead, weapon at the ready. "Just remember, I'm one of the few dwarfs unable to see in the dark so don't stay too far behind with the light."

    The tunnel soon widened again and sloped downward into a small cavern. The floor and walls here were coated in a thin film of slime, and a few inches of still, briny water covered the floor. At the far end, several gaff hooks and other maritime detritus were lying in a pile.

    "This room gets flooded regularly," Teltz mentioned the obvious. "And someone has used all the rubbish to keep that part of the cavern open. To drown the water or flood more area?"

    "I'm much more interested in how this trap is triggered. Maybe... uh oh!"

    Teltz turned around from his inspection of the ground and walls. He stared, like the others, at the chimera suddenly popping out of the rubble. Its black dragon head rumbled, and for a moment it looked as if it would attack right away. But then it jumped into the middle of the cavern, causing a loud grinding sound.

    "I guess that answers my question," Bjön shouted. "We'll be flooded if we aren't dinner before."

    "Chimeras can't live in water. Look at it, that thing is undead." Pojali was getting into a spell already.

    Bjön drew out his sapphire amulet and groaned. Not expecting any undead was the main reason people died of them, he had so often been told. The amulet was glowing something fierce, which probably meant more of them asides of this hideous creature. "I can deal with this," he assured them and took a deep breath, quickly wondering how much time he would have left to breathe seeing how the water was rushing in from several points in the walls. He also tried to remember what type of breath weapon a black dragon had but he couldn't seem to remember in this situation.

    The others watched with interest as the paladin lifted the amulet to his forehead and began mumbling some sort of prayer in his dwarven tongue. The priestess was somewhat disappointed she could not understand what it was exactly, but they didn't have much time and she could ask later. "We need to move," she shouted to Teltz while her spell hit the monster, which immediately moved at half speed. "Through the rubble and around that thing."

    "Are you mad?" the bard snapped. "I won't leave Bjön, and it would put us right under the thing's noses."

    "Trust me!" she demanded. "Bjön has enough trouble to watch out for himself so he can't worry about us." Grabbing him by the shirt, she more or less pulled him into the rising waters and over to the other exit.

    The Varisian stumbled through water now reaching his shins. The woman had a point; if they would hesitate they wouldn't make it through to the other side before the water would toss them around like toys. He had to watch how he moved already, and he literally kept his eyes on his feet, but them bring and more obscured by sea foam, he decided he would just have to hope he wouldn't fall over anything.

    Looking up, he knew they should be right next to the monstrosity by now and wondered if the thing would change its attack and have a go at them. However, as he looked up, he couldn't see the priestess anymore, although he still felt her dragging hand pulling him along. He could still see himself but it seemed the monster missed both of them. Obviously, the woman had managed to make them invisible somehow. He could slap himself that he hadn't thought of this option himself. After all, he had a tattoo for it. But then, he would not have been able to include anyone else.

    Behind them, a sapphire light grew stronger, and there was the impression of music in the air, though none of them could actually hear something. It was a strange feeling. The bard had no time to think about it though, because they had reached the rubble on the other end of the cave and he needed to be careful not to fall into the churning waters, which were now up to his waist. Pojali let go of him, needing both hands to climb over, and Teltz decided he could worry about Bjön later. Right now, the rising water was beginning to terrify him, thanks to an old childhood memory he had thought overcome. His arms and legs were shaky, part from exhaustion and part from fear. He had long lost the wood with the light spell, but some sort of light emitting algae provided basic illumination.

    Somehow, he made it to the other, still mostly dry side. Water was leaking though, of course, but not in a substantial amount yet. As he was about to take a deep breath, he noticed the creatures. To the left and right of the exit to this cave, humanoid shapes were waiting. At first sight, in the greenish he thought them to be normal humans, but then he recognized the blank eyes, the partial decay, the seaweed stuck to them. Another pair of undead, though not as dangerous as the chimaera behind them.

    For a moment, he froze. Then he took his sword – which somewhat stuck to the scabbard thanks to the wetness – and sneaked up on the one closest to him. He had no idea where the priestess was, but the surprise of his invisibility was to be used. And it seemed Pojali had had the same idea. Right as he decapitated the strange undead in front of him, he heard a piercing cry and a slashing sound. Turning just in time to see two short, curved blades in the woman's hands, he couldn't help to notice how attractive she looked when she was in such a fierce mood. The head of the second abomination joined that of the first, and Pojali, spell broken by her attack, actually chuckled. "Now that was a good way to get rid of them."

    "Nice timing," Teltz commented.

    "I could still see you. It was my granted prayer allowing us to pass unnoticed, after all." Putting her weapons away, she pointed to where the water rushed in quicker now. "Those are strange undead, nothing I ever saw or heard of before. So maybe Bjön needs help after all... or not," she finished, sounding amused.

    Again, the bard turned to see a certain dwarf, still bathed in the glow of his sapphire pendant, being washed over the rubble together with what looked to be the tail of the chimaera. The wave carried the paladin way into this tunnel before he rested in a large, growing puddle, coughing and gasping. Then the glow disappeared and Bjön started shivering.

    Only now the others noticed how cold they were. While the sea water had been warmer than expected, probably kept from freezing temperatures by some underground heat source, it was still far from comfortable, and the air in here was not much warmer than it had been outside. Being soaking wet in their winter clothes was not a good thing.

    The bard reached into his wet shirt and pulled out a marble pipe, an instrument unaffected by most elements. I had done a good job staying alive over the years. It could store simple arcane spells, and the Varisian usually used it for only one type – mendings of various natures, partly invented by himself. It had no great sound but it didn't need to. Unless you had very sensitive ears, the slightly off sound didn't bother. Gathering the others around himself, Teltz started playing a repetitive waltz-like melody. One downside of this spell storage was that it took a few minutes to work, which was why the flute wasn't of much use in action, but he felt they had a moment.

    Bjön, looking slightly cross-eyed, held his head while he kept on shivering and coughing. He seemed to have swallowed a lot of water. Pojali winced a bit – likely her ears were quite good – but waited patiently. The water seemed to be drawn away from them, including what was still in the dwarf's lungs as it seems. The dry out bout, as Teltz called this little melody, did a good job removing wetness that was not supposed to be there. There was still water rushing in, though, and would soon be knee high, so they kept moving in haste.

    "What happened there?" the priestess asked as they rushed went on to the next cave.

    "I'm not sure. The amulet did its job but it was as if something was binding the chimera to this place, something strong enough to temper with this kind of divine magic. It touched me with it's tail and bumped me against a wall despite being so slow, then it pinned me there and suddenly my lungs filled with water. I had to hack its tail off to be able to breathe again. A bit longer and I would have drowned. I think all that protected me was the amulet. And I lost my axe in the fight, too!" Still shaken, the paladin managed to look very angry about that. He hadn't noticed until now that his utility belt had also been torn from his waist. It caused a growl none of them had heard from him before. But there was nothing to be done about it, the chances to find the lost items were slim even if the water would retreat.

    The floor of the next cavern was already submerged beneath several feet of standing water. Fresh water from the cave they just left began to slowly tickle in. It appeared that something lived here, as the tops of several crude tables stood just above the water’s surface. Rusted and barnacle-encrusted weapons, armor, and other odds and ends were stacked in corners. "My guess is this is where the other undead came from," Pojali said.

    "Other undead? Humanoids?" When they nodded, Bjön's face took on a thinking expression, but whatever it was that he seemed to almost recall, he could not bring it up and shook his head apologetically.

    "They looked somewhat like those," Teltz said drily and pointed to where 2 of the same sort of undead emerged from under one of the tables.

    Luckily, even without the help of the weaponless dwarf, the two of them had no problem with the clumsy and somewhat unfocussed foes. They knew not to let them touch them, but that was a general rule with all undead to begin with. But when they were done, the cold water was quickly filling up the cave. They had to press on and find dry ground before it would make sense for Teltz to play his flute again.

    Getting out of this cavern was not so easy. The only other exit was a dwarf length up and slippery from the algae of this stagnant pool. They ended up pushing Bjön up, then the priestess and then pulling up Teltz last. After that, the tunnel soon went left, then right, then left again and they found themselves in need to wade through a puddle of foul smelling water before entering another, more rectangular space.

    This large cavern’s floor was dotted with small, muddy pools, none more than a foot deep. At least a dozen wooden boxes and chests could be seen in the dry areas, most open, with coins and weapons clearly visible within. "Now, what do you say to that," the dwarf beamed. "I might just find a replacement weapon. Even a sword or a mace would do."

    "I wouldn't trust that," the bard cautioned. "It's not like we haven's seen other traps before."

    "Good point." Bjön scratched his head while the bard played his flute once more. "What type of trap could this be?"

    "I'd look up," Pojali pointed. "Not sure but doesn't this look like something heavy is designed to fall down?"

    The eyes of the other rose up, but before they could deny or confirm the woman's suspicions, several things happened. A terrible stink was suddenly around them, making Teltz and Pojali retch. Bjön just held his nose, looking surprised. Something acid smelling bumped against the dwarf, hissing and burning a hole into his cloak but being stopped by his armor. A second such missile found the back of the bard's leather armor after burning through his cloak and shirt. The leather got damaged and stopped the rest of the attack. Pojali had been in the motion of stepping sideways to allow the others a better look, and suddenly found herself sliding on very slippery ground that had not been there before. Mocking laughter came from somewhere, and there was the sound of a strange language being spoken rapidly.

    Teltz reacted on instinct more than anything else. They were under attack, and he had no idea by who. None of them could see well in this light. He didn't want to be seen if he could not see them. Unable to cast any spell or play one of his special instruments due to the retching, he reached into his clothes and for the invisibility tattoo. A moment later, he vanished from everyone's view. Stumbling backwards to one of the walls, he tried to get out of the range of the stinking cloud.

    The paladin jumped forward, trying to avoid the area Pojali had pointed out so no9thing would fall on him. He needed a weapon to fight whoever attacked, and the chests in the middle of the room at least had some form of defense. But he slipped on the grease as well and, instead of reaching the chests, bumped into the wall close to where Teltz now was. A bump was quickly forming on his forehead and he felt slightly dizzy.

    Pojali barely managed to avoid the trapped area, but then lost balance completely and fell to the ground. Her eyes caught 2 strange looking creatures chuckling and pointing at her. But before she could make them out clearly, they disappeared behind some crates again. Some liquid substance hit the puddle close to her and vanished in a hiss.

    Bjön ducked a similar attack, gliding to the floor in the process. He heard a familiar voice next to him. "I think those are mephits." He couldn't see the bard but he was glad someone had managed to get out of range of those things. "Don't care what they're called," he huffed, holding his nose. "They are the enemy. If I just had a weapon."

    "Here." A short sword was pressed into his hands. "I can't fight well while invisible. I have another idea though."

    Grunting, the dwarf looked around and found one of the strange winged creatures appearing from behind one of the crates, targeting Pojali with a spell, as it seemed. With a dwarven battle cry, he pointed the sword at the back of the thing and lurched forward. He gave it ample warning to turn around, but the spell it had tried to weave was interrupted. Instead, it was knocked out with the broad side of the dwarf's sword a moment later. Bjön had no intention to kill if he could avoid it, maybe those... mephits, or whatever they were, were just trying to defend their homes.

    Pojali had managed to roll out of the way of the grease spell effect, lest she wuld tirgger the trap after all. The stinking cloud was dissipating, but she felt still too sick to do any spell, or to pray for more help from her deity. She noticed that the attention of the leading creature seemed to be focused in the dwarf now. A thudding sound on the other side a moment later was evidence of where the bard had gone to. That she could still not see him must mean his way of becoming invisible was superior to hers.

    A few whispered words later, the last of the creatures tried to wiggle its way out of a net spell from the bard. From the way his words now sounded, it was quite angry. But they could still understand nothing. The paladin seemingly ignored the trouble and finally went over to the crates in search of a new, hopefully somewhat good, weapon.

    Carefully getting up, Pojali flinched. Her backside hurt, and the lingering stench still made her eyes water. "Well done, you two," she coughed.

    After a moment, the bard became visible again. "I wish we could open a window in here," he grinned.

    "What do we do with those now?" the woman wanted to know. "If we let them go they will bother us again later, I worry."

    "Good question. I have no idea. Maybe..."

    "Hah, praise Desna! Look what I found. A dwarven cold iron axe, if I have ever seen any. And a rapier that looks to be alchemical silver but I'm less sure about that. The rest is a bit of money I took and mostly rubbish." Beaming, the young dwarf showed his new treasures. "Any objections to keeping both for now?" He had some trouble stowing the axe handle into his normal belt which luckily had enough hooks for such purposes. The rapier he kept in hand for now, tossing the sword back to the bard.

    "No, but I'd not mind exchanging that sword for it eventually. I'm better with a rapier," Teltz explained. "And it looks to be a good weapon. I wanted to switch weapons a while back but we never got the chance to do so."

    Bjön nodded. "Sure thing. I just want to try it out for a while."

    "Guys?" The woman smiled sourly. "Your new toys are all fine, but what do we do with those creatures now?"

    "I'd say run for it. If they are only defending their home, they'll leave us alone once we're gone. Those two will wake up eventually and... how long does the spell hold?"

    "15 minutes, maybe," Teltz answered the dwarf's question. "I augmented it with something." He didn't want to define "something" obviously, and no one asked.

    "Then let's go." The paladin went ahead to what was, again, the only other exit. Teltz quickly cast a new light spell on one of the otherwise unusable rotten torches in one of the crates and they followed.

    This time, they didn't have to climb although the tunnel went up until they reached another puddle of stagnant water where it evened out. A bit after that, they could see yet another cavern. With a sigh, wondering for how long they would have to wiggle their way through the undergrounds of those islands, Bjön continued leading them into it. His stomach suddenly growled somewhat fierce, but he ignored it and the bard's jokes about it.

    This roughly spherical chamber was mostly dry, and the stone walls appeared to be unworked. A passage in the east wall wound away to the northeast. They were about to just pass through, away from the mephit cavern, when suddenly an insubstantial human figure appeared in front of them. Taken aback by the ghost at first, they quickly deducted that it was harmless. Its features were continually shifting between those of two men - one was stern and stooped, while the other was young and energetic and dressed in sailing attire. The two share common traits and it took no genius to realize it was the same man, once as a strong youth and once as old geezer.

    "Who are you?" Bjön and Pojali demanded at the same time.

    “Greetings, sailors. My name is Pelastour, and I built this place. I am ashamed to say that I am also the grandfather of Poltur, who seeks to sell our family’s honor to the highest bidder. My only hope is to help you destroy him.” With a grim face, the ghost rushed through an explanation of the Terraken, including mentioning it as shielded from scrying.

    Teltz cut the tale short by telling the ghost they had already gotten information from the villagers and mentioned that they were in a hurry. "Where's your treacherous grandson now?"

    “Yes, yes, you must make haste. He is very close, as the spirit flies. He is in a chamber known as Fluxhold, almost directly above us, and he remains there because Fluxhold offers a view of the Terraken and other locations within the islands through a scrying pool. An elemental is bound into the magic of Fluxhold, required by magical oath to lower and raise the water in the cove and the locks in response to certain signals. The scrying pool allows it to do this while remaining in Fluxhold. Take the passage to the north, through the chamber, then northwest, then climb, and you’ll be there.”

    The ghost looked as if he would disappear again,but Teltz called out. "Wait! Where is this Terraken now? Why isn't it under Poltur's control?"

    "Just where I left it 50 years ago - trapped in the oubliette, and unable to climb out as long as these tunnels remain dry. There, too, lies the amulet which controls it - the treasure Poltur is undoubtedly seeking even now. This may be my only success with Poltur to date. He has yet to locate the amulet that controls the Terraken, and is reluctant to make any further moves until he’s done so. Instead, he monitors the situation, too close to his goal to take a step back and find new allies, too concerned with you nipping at his heels to give the matter his full attention. The stage is set for you to confront him in Fluxhold." A smile appeared on the ghost's face. "Hurry, now."

    While the other two rushed on already, Bjön hesitated for a moment. "Is there no way to destroy the beast?"

    "It is hopeless to fight it directly. Its defenses are too strong and its weapons too dire. Retrieving the amulet from the bottom of its prison and taking control is probably the only hope if it escapes, although it would need to be sequestered in some new hideaway, or it would undoubtedly eventually find its way back to its Chelish masters.” A grave and frightened expression appeared on the shot now. "I'm worried all my work was for naught, so please hurry."

    The dwarf was already on his way, having trouble to catch up with the others thanks to his shorter legs. It didn't help that the tunnel went up again after he turned right. Soon enough though, he heard first voices, then some commotion from the next cavern. This one was filled with a roar every dozen heartbeats, similar to the sounds of surf, but amplified. A large pool of water filled the southern half of the chamber and extended shallow fingers almost to the northern wall.

    In front of Teltz was one more of those strange undead, clearly a female this time, and clearly this one had her senses together and was not in any way mindless. Teltz and Pojali were talking to it, and the cause of the commotion seemingly was Pojali being hit by a spell from her. The Vudrani looked confused and seemed unable to move, leaning against a wall for protection. Teltz was berating her for it, claiming they worked for the same side. Bjön was about to ask, but then decided to leave the words up to the bard and just listen.

    "Look, she's the baron's mistress, so yes, she is clearly on the same side. The whole plan to conquer Andoran hinges on being able to get a strong sea presence. Either you help us regain the Terraken or we'll find a way to destroy you."

    "You can't control it without me! I'm bound to it, it is my magic that controls it!" the undead shrieked. The latter was clearly a lie.

    Bjön grimaced, then composed himself and decided to play along with the charade. Anything better than having to waste time in a fight. "You aren't the best liar," he began in a grumpy voice. "We know about the amulet. In any case, that old spirit will give us no trouble no more. Can we deal with this and move on?"

    The undead turned to face him, then relaxed. "Prove you are Chelish!"

    "Look, we have no time for that. That fool traitor Poltur took money from the baron and now wants the Terraken for himself," Bjön grumbled. "Can you get out of this pool and stop him? No? See!"

    "The baron doesn't suffer traitors," Pojali said, still sounding weak. "I'll need to kill this man for him."

    Undead eyes went from one face to the next. "Alright, but don't you forget that you need me to control the weapon, with ot without the amulet."

    "I'm sure you'll be a great help when the time comes," Teltz bowed, the n moved towards the next exit.

    "Quick thinking there," the paladin chuckled once they were in the next tunnel. "I may have to go back and destroy her later."

    "If she is bound to it, maybe it'll do to destroy the Terraken," Teltz suggested.

    "Yeah about that... the ghost said we wouldn't be able to..."

    "A shame. But look, there we are!"

    Radiance pouring out of a giant water droplet suspended from the roof filled this chamber with more light than a noon sun. The fat droplet was fifteen feet in diameter and just as long, and quivered slightly in the still air. Within it, something serpentine and translucent undulates slowly. "The water elemental," Pojali said in disgust. "Binding lower creatures like that is despicable."

    Ten feet below the giant droplet was a shallow, square pool 10 feet across and perhaps 3 feet deep, bounded by a stone walkway 1 foot wide. Images of other places appear on the pool’s surface and then were quickly gone. Passageways opened to the chamber from each of the four corners of the room, and a narrow stone path lead to the central pool, with four trapezoidal pools formed by the intersecting pathways. The walls and ceiling were smooth, worked stone, glistening with moisture. All of it reflected the brightness. And they had to squint. Teltz dropped the old toch.

    "Where's Poltur?" The paladin's eyes searched the room. "I thought he was supposed to be here."

    Pojali was making her way to the scrying pool and the elemental already. She did ignore a giant, 2 headed snake showing up right next to her. The snake seemed to sniff the air, then seemed to consider her no thread. Instead, it turned to focus on the two men. With an aggressive hiss, it rushed over the walkway towards them.

    "Elemental, can you hear me?" Pojali shouted. "If you can stop the snake, please do, we intend no harm. We just want to help. Don't you want to get out of there?"

    Bjön mumbled something about the naiveté of some women, when the snake did indeed slow down and finally stop. "Thank you," Pojali bowed. "Where is that bad man named Poltur? He is at least as bad as those who bound you. We want to stop him."

    The voice of the elemental was like a mixture of rushing water, falling raindrops and blubbering bubbles. Pojali listened intensely, then nodded. "Yes, I believe we know how to free you. But would you please help us first?"

    Again the weird language, then the scrying pool showed a new image. Bjön and the bard had made their way over, around the snake, and could see it showed Poltur, who was seen standing with his face to a wall that looked half fallen in. "What's he doing?" Pojali wondered.

    "He, uh, is taking a leak, I think," Teltz said.

    "Using watercraft on the stones. Splashing the dust," Bjön helped out as the woman looked confused. "Everyone heed's nature's call eventually."

    "Oh." The priestess blushed slightly. "But that's good, as it gives us a few moments. Pelastour?" she called. "I know you are around."

    The old ghost manifested again. "I heard. I'm sorry." The spirit was talking to the water elemental. "My mage assured me we had a fair deal. I had no idea you didn't want to be down here. You are released from your bounds once my grandson is dealt with. And we'll find a way to reward you."

    Irritated, the two men looked at each other. Not having understood even half of the elemental conversation, they could only guess the ghost could speak its language and that it had complained about its lot. Teltz swore to himself to find a way to understand, if not speak, more languages.

    Right then, the man in question came out of the north east runnel, adjusting his garments. It took him a moment to realize he wasn't alone anymore, and another moment to understand that the ghostly shape in the chamber was his grandfather. That was a moment too long, as he could suddenly not move anymore.

    Pelastour's ghostly face showed immense concentration. "Quick, bind him!" However he did it, he was holding his grandson in place.

    Teltz didn't hesitate and rushes, without even being in danger of slipping on the wet surface, over to the shocked foe and grabbed a semi-dry rope from his pack. It took mere moments and a special knot to bind the traitor. "Shall we kill him right here or give him a trial?" he asked, and it sounded as if he was in favor of the first.

    "I know not what will happen if he dies," the ghost explained. "This all may start to crumble, but then, it also will when the elemental is gone."

    The elemental's voice started up again, even quicker now. "Yes that would be good if the Terraken could be destroyed. But it cannot..."

    "Never say never." The paladin's face had taken on a serious impression. "I am positive I can do it – with the help of Desna and this." He held up his sapphire amulet. "Where do I go from here?"

    "Follow me." Pelastour went right through a wall before he remembered the dwarf couldn't do that. Looking a bit sheepish, he reappeared and followed a corridor leading back to the lower canal. Teltz ran along, but Pojali shook her head and pointed to Poltur and the elemental "I'll stay with Shirqual and the prisoner."

    "The elemental has a name?" Bjön wondered as they rushed on.

    "Well, it's intelligent, why wouldn't it have one?" Teltz gasped, beginning to feel the day's stress on him now. "I hope it isn't far."

    It wasn't. The channel opened into a huge pit at least one hundred feet across. It was almost dry save a shallow puddle. At the bottom of the pit drifted the partially decomposed corpse of an enormous beast. It hardly stirred, lacking the drive to do anything, much like a zombie.

    Before he could be asked what he wanted to do, the paladin lifted the amulet up again, and its eerie glow filled the area. This time, he wasn't speaking dwarven. "Desna, Light of the World, grant us the power needed to destroy this abomination. Guide with your divine grace and undo the machinations of evil."

    The light intensified and grew brighter than in the pool room. Teltz had to close his eyes; the ghost was, of course, not really affected. When he opened his eyes again, he saw the Terraken beginning to disintegrate, the sapphire light all around it. There was a crunching noise, as if the un dead material was crushed together. Despite the wetness, the bard could see dust falling to the ground.

    And then it was over. The area fell dark, and none of them could see anything for a while, except the shimmering form of Pelastour. Bjön's amulet was completely dark, something the bard had never seen before, there had always been at least a little light. Bjön seemed dazed, so Teltz carefully guided him back, closely following the ghost.

    "We saw it!" Pojali pointed at the pool. "That was magnificent. Absolutely stunning. A victory for the good in the world." She kissed the surprised dwarf on the cheek. Poltur was weeping in the background. All he had worked for had crumbled in just a few hours.

    "No matter what you do to this failure of my family now," Pelastour said, "my time here is over, nothing holds me anymore. I can finally move on. Thank you all..." With that, he simply faded away.

    They decided to think about the man's fate later. Dragging him back to the surface was a bit of a problem, but taking the short way out above the doors, they managed in time to avoid the coming flooding of the caverns. Shirqual had agreed to wait until they were at the edge of his scrying area before he would leave. It had sent the old snake with them, too, which had become something of a pet, as it seemed. They would leave it at the village so the elemental could find it again. Pojali said she wanted to talk to it again later, but the others truly didn't care. A hot meal, some ale and some sleep was about all that was on their minds.

    The weather was still very bad, so they had to use a second installment of the priestess' Mists of the Seawind. Darkness didn't mage navigating any easier, but the village had light, so they did not lose their way. The villagers wanted to celebrate their great victory right away, but asides from the woman, who didn't seem to tire, none of them felt like relating the story now. The men went to bed in one of the village hut's roof chambers shortly after.

    "Say Bjön?" Teltz asked before he blew out the candle. "The amulet, will it recover? I never saw it dark before."

    "Me neither. I don't know. I hope so. It is a useful tool to someone mainly out to destroy undead. Although..."

    "What?"

    "When Desna told me that I should use the amulet, she also said that my destiny was more than hunting undead. So I guess if it matters, it will recover and if not... I'll find something else. Just like my lost axe."

    "Desna spoke to you? In the caverns?" Teltz bumped his head at the low ceiling in surprise. All the answer he got was a loud snoring, and he had the feeling it would be a while before his paladin friend would share any more details than that. But he could not help but feel a slight pang of jealousy.
    My Story Hour campaigns. What are they up to this week?

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    Several weeks later...



    In Falcon's Hollow, winter didn't seem to want to surrender. Snow and ice kept returning between thawing ice and cold rain, and no flowers or other greens wanted to poke their heads out of the ground. It was, so everyone agreed, an unnatural cold, but after the recent happenings around town, the residents were happy enough for no more danger but the daily perils.

    Despite the lasting cold, the Company of Chaos, how the party now named themselves – owning to the fact that they usually weren't sure what they were doing – was making preparations to leave, together with the children they had rescued from the kobold king the year before.

    To everyone's surprise, a message had arrived a month ago, brought by Zayel's Hawk familiar Will. The hawk had been late, having had a little trouble finding Falcon's Hollow. The relief of hearing from their friends and their adventures and the new companion they had made – or two, counting the eidolon - gave everyone fresh energy. Like themselves, their friends had used winter time to learn a lot of useful things, especially spells and some self defense. Mook insisted, though, that Zayel might be good with a bow – no doubt thanks to his elven heritage she said – but any attempts to make him better with a staff or anything else had caused so many injuries, including one she had to heal considering Zayel might want to have children some time that they had given up on it. They had sent Will back with news of their own, which had become an even longer letter than the one they had gotten.

    While they were ready to move on, there were some lose ends to tie up and an event to attend. The lose ends had to do with the criminal way the settlement was run. Kronk had been the first, during one of his frequent visits, to suggest they do something about it, after all, they had dealt with worse monsters. And there were a few people in town ready to help, including the son of the Lumber Consortium boss. That was the good part of their idea. The bad part was that it might involve a lot of violence, and the killing of some of the bad guys, including said Consortium boss. It was one thing fighting monsters, or even obviously evil cultists. It was something else to go against a company that was, at least at its face, operating legally.

    The event to attend was the a carnival returned to town, the owner being from around here originally. The owner of the caravan, a local, seemed to be of the opinion that it was time and the town did not disagree. They had been through a lot lately, and anything to take their minds off that was welcome. The same could be said for the party, especially of Zaza. In some ways, the halfling girl was incredibly tough and fearless, but facing so many things, especially undead and close quarters, had changed her somewhat. Still, she was bossing Majek around when no one but the group could see – after all, he was her half-brother. She had started doing the same to Edawon, claiming that if he was to pretend to be her brother, she would treat him accordingly.

    Majek had been helping setting up the carnival as they were getting short of funds, and he said he had met all sorts of creatures there. Something was, he said, a little off with the owner, one half-elf by name of Namdrin Quinn, former adventurer. The man seemed distant and somewhat depressed, with bouts of crazy energy. But the show itself would be good, the alchemist insisted. He couldn't wait to see it, and he had gotten free tickets for them and their new friends as part of his payment. The carnival was to open this weekend, which was in 2 days, and they could hardly wait.




    Down in Augustana, things were not going quite as well since the hawk had returned with news from their friends. Spring was coming, the snow was thawing, and the troupes quartered in the Tree Top Inn were ready to move on. Oldtown was getting new attractions by now, and even Mook didn't get many people to come around asking for their futures anymore.

    This left them with a money problem. They would have to pay to stay at the inn to wait for their friends, who would take a few weeks to come down to here. Mook's savings and Zayel's meager income from helping mages with potions and such were barely enough for himself, as he was mostly paid in spell components, and Tiva, who had decided to stay with them, didn't have any sort of income save getting them free food and quarters for helping at the inn while she was here. Madame Velomina had given them their share of helping to run the caravan already, and Zayel guessed that if they needed little, they could make it until the others, who had a little more money it seemed, arrived. But it would be difficult.

    By chance, one morning before sunup, they overheard two travelers talking at the table closest to the bar while they helped Tiva setting tables for the morning crowd yet to come.

    "Airk Jarigan hasn’t reported in for two weeks," a stocky swarf was saying to his half-elf companion. "He’s supposedly close to finding the artifact. If he hasn't been dreaming, that is. I shouldn't have drusted that old drunkard with retrieving something valuable, even if it is just a family heirloom. As the sun isn’t even up yet, he’s probably still asleep. I need you to go down to the Lusty Mermaid, drag Airk out of bed, and find out why he hasn’t been reporting in. More importantly, I need you to get that artifact. You’ll recognize Airk by a gold amulet he always wears around his neck. It’s of an owlbear clutching an amethyst. He should also be with his protégé, a whelp by the name of Dargo Mar. That’s all."

    The half-elf shook his head. "You know I like helping an old friend if needed, but in this case, I have to pass. Sorry, Hestram, but my sister is getting married this weekend and I have to be the one personally bringing the invitations. Seems like a petty reason to you, maybe, but it is tradition and I draw the short straw – literally. You know, family..."

    The dwarf's face fell. "S'alright, I'll find someone else to do it. I just hoped I'd not have to part with as much silver as even such simple jobs usually cost. I wish you a swift journey."

    As the half-elf left and the dwarf downed his coffee, Mook spontaneously stepped up to the man, in her typical gnome fashion. "We can help you," she said, indicating her friends and herself. "We've decided not to travel on with the caravan so we can use some little side job here and there. Dragging someone out of bed and finding out what they have been up to is something we're used to doing." She grinned widely. It was not even a lie, they had had to drag a few of the caravan's workers out of beds, usually those of women of ill repute, a few times during winter.

    The man looked about to shake his head, but then he shrugged. "As good as any, I suppose. You heard what I said, do you know where the Lusty Mermaid is?" When Mook shook her head, he began to give directions to the harbor, which the gnome had no issue memorizing. Asides, they knew town rather well by now.

    "I'll give you 20 silver and will pay for minor damages – not burning an inn down, mind you – as I do not have a lot of money anymore, the search for our heirloom has taken up too much of it."

    That wasn't much, but they had to start somewhere and it wasn't too bad for an hour or two of work, so Mook nodded. "We'll grab our stuff and be on our way immediately."



    Bjön and Rodawin Teltz had, by then, come to Augustana without knowing some of their party were there. After the affair at the coast, they had travelled here with some of the cavalry of Andor, where they had spent most of the winter in quiet and, thanks to them having most of the party's wealth, good comfort. As soon as spring broke, they had gotten an offer from Andoran druids in this area who had heard of them defeating the undead monstrosity.

    Something had gone wrong in the Verduran Forest a good distance to the east but closer to Falcon's Hollow, where they still planned on ending up. A wild-haired druid named Hemzel recently appeared at the Civic Library of Augustana and demanded access to the archive. One of the druid circle contacts followed the druid’s trail of manuscripts and discovered that Hemzel had found a lorestone, a minor artifact that when used properly in a druid circle gives the bearer all of the accumulated knowledge of the druids of the area, in this case, the Verduran Forest. This was important because the forest was said to hold treasures and the druids now feared that, with Hemzel being so cut off from anyone else, he might lose the lorestone and it would fall into the wrong hands. The Andorans were, after all, not known to treat their forests with a lot of respect.And they fey of the area were a bit of a problem as well.

    The two of them had accepted eagerly after they were told they could save a good deal of travel by using one of the druidic circles as teleportation circle – an information they were sworn not to reveal to any non-druids not of their party. The druid leading the Augustana group just outside the city seemed to be of the opinion that Bjön and Teltz were of importance to the future of the world, to which the paladin had replied that everyone of a good mind was of importance. Rodawin, however, sucked on is pipe looking very worried. "I don't want to be of importance," he reluctantly admitted. "It's why we had to run from home to begin with." Bjön had not been able to get anything else out of him.and had not been inclined to press the matter.

    At the same morning his son and his friends decided to help the dwarf for some little pay, the paladin and the bard found themselves waking up to the drizzle of early spring rain, cold and refreshing. And wet! It was far from a nice walk in the woods as Teltz had hoped. From the druid circle they had come out in, several days south of their destination, it had been a scramble through brambles, boulders, and biting insects and a misadventure of detours, torn clothes, and near falls. Fortunately, from what they could deduct from the map, this would be their last day of travel before they would arrive in the druid's place.

    "So," Teltz said as he gathered and magically fried their things as the sun came up. "What was that about gnomes again? Hemzel is friends with them?"

    "Yeah, but strangely, him and at least some of the fey folk in the area aren't friends, exactly. I am under the impression that there is some backstabbing and intrigue involved. I pray to Desna we won't get pulled into it too deep. If we're lucky, he'll heed our warning and hand the lorestone to the druidic circle of this area."

    "When do people ever heed warnings?" Teltz mumbled, but the dwarf didn't hear him, being busy with his morning prayers.




    Zayel had altered the appearances of himself and his female companions to appear older than they were. From their experiences in the city, young people were taken less serious, if heeded at all, not like in rural places where you were accepted once you've proven your ability to help the community and follow the rules. The disreputable inn they were going to was going to be worse, if anything, so they now seemed to be about 10 years older – although for Mook it was hard to tell, as with most gnomes she could have been any age but very young - and he had added a good sized beard to his own appearance. Her wolf appeared to be a limping large mutt dog with grey fur.

    The darkness had melted away, leaving Absalom in the gray grip of dawn. Rolling in off the sea, a chilling fog was hanging thick in the air like a cold, pale wraith seeking to steal warmth from the living. Cries of seagulls pierced the otherwise dull stillness of the Docks. A dim yellow light spilled from the stained windows of the Lusty Mermaid. The front door opened with a moan, and inside was a scattering of fisherman, returned from a predawn haul. The overwhelming stench of raw fish clung to these men, and it mingled with the savory aroma from the pot of stew hanging above a snapping fire in the hearth. The proprietor, a greasy-looking human with thick arms and an even thicker belly, looked up from behind the bar and says, “A little early for customers, isn’t it? I have stew cooking, but that’s it. If yer lookin’ fer anthin’ else, ya best shove off.”

    Mook who had, as long as her bracelet worked and she didn't stutter, taken on responsibility for the group as it seemed, threw a grin into the room, looking at the fishermen closely. Almost immediately, she noticed one of them, who clearly was not who they were looking for as it was an older man reeking of fish, wearing the pendant Hestam had described to them. Not a good sign, she thought, but maybe the explanation was harmless. "We're just here to pick someone up. One Arik Jaridan and his sidekick, Dargoi Mar. In fact, you must know them because you," she pointed right at the older fisherman, "have his pendant he always was so proud of for some reason. Did he get drunk again and couldn't pay his bills?"

    Mook was improvising, and Zayel added to it. "If he's been filling himself with drink again, he's due for another long lecture from you-know-who."

    "Not seen him in a while," the barkeep said, motioning with his head to the guy with the pendant. "In fact, when he gave me that t' pay fer his drinks it was the last time I saw him. Hasn't paid fer his room, either. Used the pendant to pay my own debts, I did. Now, yer can pay fer his room, if ye want, and have a look at his stuff, but that's all. I ain't the salvation squad."

    Zayel looked at the others and shrugged. "How much?"

    The keep showed a crooked smile. "A silver and 5 coppers. Ain't much of comfort here, ya see, but I ain't got no bugs or rats so that's something."

    The wizard fished for the coins they had been given for just such a scenario and paid the man, even one copper extra. "For being so helpful," he said, managing to sound sincere. "We know as well as anyone else how hard it is to make a living. Plus," he added with a crooked grin of his own, "these coppers ain't coming from our own pockets."

    The barkeep chuckled and pointed to his left. "If yer go through the first door, then take a right, it's the first door there. Be aware, Jarid ne'er cleans up. Might be a mighty mess in there."

    "Not a problem," Mook grinned at him. For some reason, the much taller man seemed intimidated by that smile.

    As they went to check the room out, they noticed that talks and laughter picked up again. They had not noticed how quiet it had become before. "Something is very much off," Zayel suggested.


    "Indeed," Mook agreed. "And that barkeep, he needs killing. Evil does not even begin to describe it." She opened the door to Jaridan's room and didn't notice the shocked looks of the others.

    "What do you mean, he needs killing? Do you suggest that we...?"

    "Yes," Mook said, her voice sounding hard, not at all like the young girl the wizard thought he knew. "All the gods seem to agree on that much." She seemed to be far away with her thoughts, and Zayel was wondering if it was even her talking, or if some deity of the other was talking through her. This part of her, this being an oracle, he had never been completely comfortable to begin with.

    "The only thing of worth here," Tiva said, having not paid attention to the others right then, "is this box with water breathing potions." She held up 7 bottles carefully. "Those could prove very valuable. Curious that he has them."

    "Take them." Mook turned to the girl, and her eyes seemed to glow for a second. "He won't need them anymore. He's not coming back. The barkeep and his thugs killed him."

    "How do you...?" Zayel started, but the stopped himself. Waving his hands in frustration, he looked like he was trying to fly off. "What do we do now?"

    "What thugs?" Tiva asked at the same time.

    "Those thugs," the gnome replied and pointed to the door which suddenly sprung open. Two black haired, badly shaved humans with rapiers which had seen better days flanked the barkeep, who was probably also the owner of the place. The man held a greatsword and seemed to be very confident with it.

    Tiva's eyes widened while Zayel sighed inwardly. In the stories about adventurers, there were always fighters, and every advice he had heard in their current residence was never to go anywhere without a fighter to back you up, no matter the spells you could weave. Without their currently absent friends, he found this all too true now.

    A growl escaped from Doodah's throat, and the wolf showed his fearsome teeth. Mook, however, seemed not to be perturbed. She turned almost in slow motion to face those foes, and as before, something in her presence was very intimidating. The three-quarter-elf remembered the happenings in the golden city, with the undead dragon, and suddenly had the feeling that it was not only Mook in there, that somehow the gods she was praying to and talking about had some sort of personal stake in this. Not that the idea of divine intervention in what seemed to be, effectively, a very mundane matter, made a lot of sense to him. It was more worrisome than relieving.

    The two thugs seemed to freeze for a second, looking to their boss for confirmation. The barkeep, however, stared right at Mook, wrestling with himself whether he should turn tail or not, so it seemed. Zayel knew that he would have run from the gnome, but then, he knew things their attackers didn't.

    One of the thugs lost his nerve and turned, but the door slammed shut right in front of him. Without wondering why Mook, if if had been her, had done that, or how, Zayel focused on the other thug, throwing a bit of sand in his direction while reciting a sleep spell. Confronted by the gnome, the human had no will to resist and dropped sleeping, the rapier slipping from his hand. Their boss, however, charged right at the oracle.

    Doodah jumped, biting deep into the man's sword arm. With a cry, but still holding on to his weapon, he tried to shake the beast off. There was surprise in his eyes, much like he had not registered the wolf before. He had no success, and blood started dripping to the floor.

    A bullet from Tiva's sling hit their wannabe assailant in the ribs – Zayel thought the girl had aimed for the hand holding the sword but the wolf and the man danced around too wildly to have been successful. Mook's oracle staff flew upward with a much better aim and hit the human right between the legs. The shouts of the man broke off, and he dropped the sword and slumped to the floor, his uninjured arm clutching his new injury. The oracle mumbled a growling sounding word to the wolf, who let go of the limb and turned, snarling, to rip the man's throat out. A moment later, only the thug who had tried to flee was still left standing, shaking and still trying to open the door.

    Tiva looked at the mess Doodah had made and started to vomit. She was pale as a sheet of paper. The wizard was less troubled, but the scent of blood and the ruthlessness of the act made him feel claustrophobic in the small room.

    The gnome went to the last man standing. "We won't hurt you if you tell us the truth. Why did you kill Jarigan? Where is his sidekick Mar?"

    "Mar p..paid us to k..kill the other guy. Don't kn...know where he is. Really!"

    "Don't lie to me!"

    "He... he left with some of Larro's f..friends." The man pointed shaking at the deceased. "Heard someone mention the Floatsam Graveyard. Don't know why, or wh...what they would want there. Please?" He seemed to shrink under the gnome's stare.

    Mook nodded. "Did Mar have a room here?"

    Nodding frantically, the human indicated the room right across this one. His eyes went to Zayel for help, maybe he thought as his friend had been made to fall asleep by the elf, he would have better chances of survival than with the gnome. "I don't know anything about anything else, serious."

    Mook seemed to believe him, as the door flew open and the man, who had been leaning against it, fell out of the room and onto his back. The oracle walked right over him to the other room, followed by her wolf "You might want to clean up the mess," she casually remarked.

    "W...what about..?" the man managed, pointing to the body.

    "Feed him to the fish, for all we care," Zayel answered, managing to sound like this would happen around them all the time. Maybe, he wondered, it would from now on. Tiva hurried by him, after Mook, not looking back at all. There would be nightmares, for sure.

    The other room was even more of a mess, with scattered notes all over. While the wolf was watching their backs, the 3 of them went through the information as quickly as they could. It was all about the family heirloom – an otherwise undefined statue - the dwarf was looking for. It also said where to probably find it – the shipwreck of the Vaydren's Maid, which was under, so it seemed, another ship called Iron Tide. Some descriptions of the Iron Tide and directions followed, plus a few handwritten notes they couldn't read.

    "Perfect," Mook, now more sounding like herself, commented. "Let's go statue hunting."

    "Why? We came here to find someone, and now we know both that he's dead and where the statue is. We did our job," Tiva dared to differ.

    Mook shot her an irritated look. "Someone got murdered for this statue, that should be reason enough to stop the killer. And, this seems to be a test for me. I get divine help in dealing with this folks," she indicated the other room, "to find out where it is and to get there before someone else could get their hands on it. So that's what I'll have to do." With that, she gathered the notes with the information and rushed out.

    The others followed. "What you have to do," Tiva mumbled, still pale, when Mook was too far ahead to hear. "Don't seem to need our help, though."

    Zayel didn't say anything. As uncomfortable as he was, he would not leave his friend alone. Mook seemed to be as confused about what was going on as he was and she might need their help, after all.
    My Story Hour campaigns. What are they up to this week?

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