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Cormyr: The Smile of Chauntea

darkbard said:
excellent story! i'm new to it with today's posting but it's already among my favorites. it seems i've been steeping myself in your writing lately [i'm the fellow who was inquiring about more information about mulhorand on a thread in the general boards some weeks back and went on to download the ESD of the old empires and your 3e conversion]. thanks for the inspiration and here's hoping to some more frequent updates!
You're welcome Darkbard (you too Broc). I'm glad the GM's running again, and that people are getting a chance to enjoy the write-ups.

Scott Bennie
------
Coming in April from Green Ronin, the game of Old Testament role-playing! (check www.greenronin.com for more details)
 
WARNING: SPOILERS for Pool of Radiance: Attack on Myth Drannor ahead

24th day of Uktar, in the Year of the Standing Stone, 1372.
In the shadow of the Death That Grows

Dear Sister,

My apologies for cutting my last correspondence short - these days I've done so much running that I'm easily caught out of breath and barely have strength to lift a pen.

I would tell you that I'm foreshadowing, my dear, except that I know you're smart enough to fil in between the lines.

Kord lay at our feet like a bound pig before the feast. I rather liked the pose, but Ulrick insisted on untying him so we could speak with him freely. I wondered how he'd react to me, especially since I had planted the seed in Ulrick's mind that led to his dismissal, but his anger was mostly directed at the paladin. Elvish eyes, with their eyebrows jutting the wrong way through an evil glare, almost look comical when they're angry. Ulrick bore the resentment with surprising good humor, and was more than happy to embrace Kord and bring him back into our little fellowship.

Paladins and their ways are as obscure as the gods' fingerprints upon the cosmos, and sometimes more than that.

Kord was reluctant to explain what had happened to put him in such dire straits. Gradually we pried some interesting tales from him; he had fled Cormyr after he was outlawed, and returned to the Dales. (I believe he hinted that he had encountered some revenants). In the Dales he learned that the Dragon Cultists were despoiling elvish tombs - presumably searching for magic items to feed the Pool of Radiance so they could warp the Weave to their purposes. Travelling here to prevent that atrocity, somehow he had been ambushed, knocked unconscious, and bound and gagged (though once the bonds were loosened, the elf's pride and delusions became so great that he refused to believe that he had ever been knocked out, as though the unfairness of the universe could be remedied by simply wishing it away).

So Kord was with us once more. But that left the appalling question on how, in all Faerûn, did we manage to get back together at this Azuth-forsaken tower?

"Fate," Ulrick decided, and his words held the promise of an extremely uncomfortable truth. "It's fate that we're back together."

One cannot deny that great deeds sometimes mold men like clay, despite one's will and one's common sense.

Promising the gnome that we would rescue its comrade, we advanced on the tower. It lay huddled in the center of a forest glade on the outskirts of Myth Drannor, which cast a huge shadow directly to the east. The glade was tinder-dry from the summer heat, surrounded by long grass and dry shrubery, though on the northern side it was very close to the forest, The keep was constructed from granite, and looked like strong dwarf-work, with a square bailey that rounded to a circular parapet. Beyond the tower was a graveyard, and in the distance, we could see (and smell) the carrionated remains of fallen cultists, pressed into soulless labour without surcease, the perfect charnel workers for the Sammasterites.

"Let's avoid that for now," Kord suggested, though the sight of the undead made our Tormite leader's blood burn. Kord noticed a piece of paper tied to a tree. "Read me," it said in the common tongue. Drawn by curiosity like a small stupid child, Ulrick strode to the note before I could warn him, and read the inscription. I swear I could see his lips move.

The note exploded in a ball of flame. I hate it when someone gets cute with explosive runes.

Suddenly at least three Sammasterite patrols converged on where we were standing, swarming us from all sides. Seeing incredible peril encircle us, Ulrick did what every paladin would do - he charged straight ahead. There must be a handbook somewhere that tells them to do that. Suddenly a swarm of magical bolts issued from barely-shuttered windows in the tower, exploding all around us, a searing cauldron of bluefire bubbling over in our vacinity. Fortunately I had taken the (sensible) precaution of surrounding myself with dweomermirrors, magical illusions that walked as I walked, otherwise these volleys would have torn me to pieces as surely as if I were surrounded by the swords of a barbarian horde. Unfortunately, the bolts also shattered my illusions within seconds, leaving me practically naked, with only a wizard's armor spell to shield me from harm.

But far worse off than I was Ulrick, whose body was now covered in wounds - his charge had borne the brunt of the enemy attack - and he was forced to call upon the power of Torm to heal himself. Seeing a host of foes issue from a small ruin that had been dug in the hillside like a badger's hole, I cast several fireballs from my wand to incinerate them. They did, but they also set the grass on fire. Some of the advancing host were slain, but the bulk of their force continued to advance.

"Retreat!" Ulrick shouted, realizing we wouldn't make our way to the keep's front gate alive. So we retreated, even as the magic missiles continued to batter us, and Kord found himself in a sniper's duel with several of the Dragon Cult's rangers. Eventually - battered, beaten, and frightened out of our wits - we managed to retreat back to the gate of Mystryl (which in Aron's armor is a considerable feat) and from there we returned to Saerloon to catch our breath.

Once we finally regained our composure - and wasted our energies with the usual exchange of angry words - we determined that we could not abandon our quest, so we decided to return to the keep at the edge of Myth Drannor and fight again. Ulrick was determined that we wouldn't use the gates to return, for he was certain they were guarded. I was loth to take the time to travel there on foot, for I feared what was happening in Wheloon in our absence, and felt the press of time upon our errand. The others were willing to wait. I swear that my companions are like children who cannot stop themselves from playing in poison ivy - they care about nothing except their current itch, yet take no sensible precautions to protect themselves from it.

We hired a mage from the temple of Azuth (my patron deity, in case you thought I was still besotted by my brief dailliance with Mystraism) who teleported us back into the area. That is, everyone except Aron - the damn fool let go of the teleport chain just before the spell was cast.

"We go on without him," Ulrick declared, and so we devised a cunning plan that would compensate for our diminished combat strength (though if Aron kept missing the target with that damn flail of his, it wouldn't be diminishing us too badly).

So what was this cunning plan? At least it was a paladin's idea of cunning (which very much resembles other people's ideas of simple): this time we would ambush a Sammasterite patrol, steal their uniforms (the least bloodied ones, I assume), find a safe place to observe the front gate, and wait until another patrol approached the door, Hopefully, we'd then learn the password and use it to infiltrate our way inside the keep.

Unfortunately this brilliant plan failed when Kord instructed us to hide too close to the tower and we were spotted almost immediately by one of their patrols. Elven ranger prowess, ha! No wonder Cormanthor fell.

Seeing the trap close around us, once again Ulrick drew his weapon, shouted out something grandiosely silly and pious about Torm, and charged. Even now we hoped we might catch them off guard and press the attack to victory, but another barrage of magic missiles quickly shattered our hopes. Kord ran away almost immediately. Finally discouraged, Ulrick retreated as quickly as he could manage, and I followed him. Again.

Seeing a force coming away from the shrine to cut off our escape, we bypassed the shrine of Mystryl and retreated further into the West, not stopping for a day and a night.

And of course, it rained the entire evening. At least it put out the fires - the wand of fireballs that the Thayans sold seems to do a spectacular job of burning the landscape. Fortunately, I was firing them in the brush, not in the forests.

Ulrick and I were soon joined by Aron, who had either gotten himself very drunk, was a better liar than I had given him credit for - or had actually managed to persuade an archlich (one of those very rare good liches) that the situation warranted teleporting him to our location so he could rejoin our company. Again, Ulrick insisted that we could not abandon our quest (and I concurred), so we returned once again. This time we decided to attack the graveyard first. Unfortunately, we were spotted approaching the keep before we got within a hundred yards of our target, and once again the mages drew their wands, and (yet again!) a rain of magic missiles poured from the sky.

Suddenly it occured to me that our best way of getting into the keep was by allowing them to take us inside, so I feigned that a priest's spell had ensnared me, hoping they'd bring me inside for questioning, where I could catch them by surprise. Unfortunately, Ulrick, the big drooling lummox of a paladin - who was never quite as happy as when he had a chance to demonstrate that his code of honor as tight was as a virgin's belt - was determined that he would leave no one behind, so he grabbed me and pulled me out of the fray. So much for that plan. Once again, the barrage of magic missiles nearly killed Aron, and once again we escaped by the skin of our teeth.

We retreated back to the Cormanthyr road, where Kord once again joined us - he claimed he had been looking for us, though he had conveniently kept his distance from the keep.

So here we are again. And we realize that with everything at stake, we have no choice but to make a fourth attack on the tower. Ulrick's driven by his vision of the dracolich, Kord is driven by the need to preserve his precious elven artifacts (which, from their sheer elvishness, are so much more important than human), Aron's reasons are beyond the comprehension of even Ao and as for me, I cannot allow this undead filth to corrupt the Weave.

I'm girding myself with spells, and preparing for the inevitable. Again.

Doomed (but with love), Your Brother,
Ascarin Nevermoon
 
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Broccli_Head

Villager
I never realized how tough PoR:Attack on Myth Drannor was.

I guess your DM is playing the D.Cultists rather well.
When's the next letter due?
 

Morte

Explorer
I was rather tickled to find this, since I've just started running a campaign based out of Suzail with the party getting involved in intrigue between two Cormyran noble families, one of them the Wyvernspurs who produced your Aron. To add to the parallels, in their last adventure the party tangled with the Cult of the Dragon in a newly unearthed Netherese ruin in the Dalelands.

It's also great fun to read. I very much like the author's style. Looking forward to more...
 
Broccli_Head said:
I never realized how tough PoR:Attack on Myth Drannor was.

I guess your DM is playing the D.Cultists rather well.
When's the next letter due?
It's a case where we'd just come out of a section of the campaign with a completely different style (the tragedy laden Cormyte political stuff) and we had problems getting back into "heroic" mode for the Myth Drannor stuff.

I'm about one write-up behind the current campaign date. It should be posted later this week.

Scott Bennie
 
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WARNING: SPOILERS for Pool of Radiance: Attack on Myth Drannor ahead

25th day of Uktar, in the Year of the Standing Stone, 1372.
The tower of the Sammasterites, Within Spitting Distance of Myth Drannor


Dearest Sister,

I have heard that one only gets three opportunities to perform any task, and then it is gone forever. It seems a sensible policy to me, a way to cut failures out of life, like culling benighted grapes from a vat that could sour an entire vintage. But it feels rather different when that standard is applied to you, and it's you who stares at one's shortfalls in the face, and feel the spittle of thrice-failures like serpent venom in the eyes.

After our third attempt to take the citadel of the Sammasterites failed, we fled on foot. After a day's retreat, we regrouped at the road, this time at full strength.

"I'm ready to give up on this," Kord said. But he truly wasn't, for the alternative would be to return to Cormyr, where a substantial bounty was on his head for his murder of the farmhand (Ulrick had initially set a price five hundred crowns on him, which I, knowing he'd be insulted by such a small sum, raised to two thousand crowns). For some reason, this mattered little to Kord now - or he hid his feelings behind such a wall of sociopathy that even I could not glimpse at his true face. For now we were comrades, and the Sammasterites were the threat.

We marched northeast through a sharply cut passage in a moderately dense forest. Once, a dragon passed overhead in the distance, and we fell to our bellies, stayed still, and continued on our way after it was gone. Or maybe that happened during one of the earlier retreats - acts of cowardice (and common sense) become highly indistinguishable after awhile. But, to evoke a more heroic demeanor, courage lay ahead of us, not to mention mortal peril. At times, when the road climbed to a ridge and gave us a clearer view of our surroundings, the far more forebiding woods of Myth Drannor loomed in the distance. There can be found demon dens, dragon haunts, and the forlorn ruins of the elves whose great magic, the Mythal, became as twisted and ruined as the pride of fallen Karsus.

I think we must have been quite weary after so much running, for we made far less progress in a day's march approaching the keep than we did in our retreat. Kord informed us he would keep watch for the bulk of the night, boasting to us about how little sleep the elves required to remain sharp-witted, more proof of their race's superiority. His smugness has gotten quite insufferable. If I wasn't convinced that they'd lead us all into certain suicide, I'd wish a plague of dwarves upon him.

Night in the forest was uneasy - I got a vague sense of malevolence out of the shadows, as if the forest itself were angry at me for bringing fire to its borders during our previous assaults. In fact, during the night, a vine of poison ivy crept toward me during my sleep, but Kord roused me and I warded it away. That's a good thing, for itching and spellcasting do not make for a particularly good mix.

We discussed our battle tactics, which closely resembled the battle strategies of a tribe of naked enraged Damarans. Strike hard, take no backward steps, and kill, kill, kill. Ulrick was determined to make a hard charge directly for the front gate and stop for nothing. I must admit that while it lacked subtlety, this plan had the virtue of getting us into close proximity with our foe and allowing us to kill many Sammasterites as quickly as possible, providing us all with what's sure to be a most welcome catharis. The front gate, however, would not fall from wishful thinking alone. Ulrick proposed that he fell some trees and build a battering ram. We asked Ulrick if he had any experience whatsoever in constructing a battering ram out of a tree. The answer: no. Kord advised us against cutting down any trees near Myth Drannor, even a deadfall. It's one of the few times I've ever heard the elf make sense. Our backup plan was equally crude but likely to be more effective; we would proceed to the north side of the tower, where the cover of woods was thickest. Ulrick, Aron, and I would charge the door, Aron with greataxe in hand. The brutish Wyvernspur, despite prefering his flail, is certainly the strongest of our company and offers our best chance at chopping through the door. I will erect a mystic shield spell to ward away arcane bolts, while Ulrick prepares to charge as soon as an opening presents itself. Kord is to remain at the edge of the woods, under cover, and fire on anything that shoots at us from a tower window.

For once, we encountered no patrols, and the enemy received no warning until a forest shaking crack, courtesy of Aron's axe, struck the front gate. It's strong wood, and barred, but the huge Cormyte ripped through it like rotten timber with his very first stroke, not only cleaving through the wood but striking the metal and loosening the planks that holds a bar in place. Two more axe-strokes, which I could swear could be heard in Myth Drannor, rattled the gate and ripped at the planks. Selune must shining on the mad Wyvernspur, because it only took three strokes to open the passage.

It is usually an excellent thing to have strong and stupid friends.

Immediately, two guards attempted to fill the breach. Ulrick stepped forward, probably imagining that he shines more brightly than he does, and wielded his sword with consumate skill. Two guards quickly fell. He issued into the keep and Aron followed, discarding the axe for his beloved dire flail. I whispered an incantation and entered, beckoning Kord to come. I'm half-surprised when I see the elf sprinting across the breach to join us.

Ulrick turned into a guardroom and immediately confronted a wand-wielding mage. I leaned closer, hoping to overhear him recite the incantation of activation, but instead of proudly shouting it at the top of their lungs, as any mage in Sembia would, he whispered the words. I swear he did it just to annoy me.

Kord moved into a barrack room, while Aron searched several small storage chambers. A pair of stone staircases are stationed in the center of the room, one leading upward, the other downward. Aron made the mistake of standing in front of the upper stairs, and suddenly a hail of arcane bolts shot down the stairwell and connected with him squarely in the chest. I smiled, drew my wand, and imagined the smell of Sammasterite acolytes roasting in an open fireball.

Then that idiot of a knight charged up the stairs and ruined my brilliant design.

I called Ulrick, who's finished dispatching the pesky wizard, and warned him of Aron's predicament. He sighed noticeably. In the meantime, Kord was happily wandering through the backroom barracks, dispatching those who were unfortunate enough to be caught napping. I wonder if Ulrick realizes what the elf is doing in his spare time?

But it's Aron's plight that most concerns us. Ulrick made his best time up the stairs - magical boots, which allow him to charge without breaking his stride, he's almost as proud of them as he is of those damn wands - and arrived to find Aron surrounded by more foes than we've ever seen in one small space at one time: zombies, skeletons, guardsmen, necromancers and Sammasterite priests are all crowded into a hall and the only thing either of us can see is the host reacting to Aron's flail like ripples on a pond. Aron is quite the mighty lad, but Ulrick's power was more puissant. He removed his right gauntlet, an elaborate worked lattice of steel, and held it upright, in the same pose as the ironshod hand on the holy symbol of Torm. His body held itself with an inhuman firmness, a figure of divine resolve that bears little resemblance to the man I've seen shivering next to a campfire in the middle of a rainstorm, or bantering with mild baudiness with tavern wenches. It really is a thing to marvel at, that here, even in this desecrated dessicated hellhole of a tower, the god of duty is unwavering and can elevate his servants to such a remarkable degree.

Ulrick had become a thing of power. The steel gauntlet glowed, and the look in his eyes must be terrible to behold. "Back!" he said, firmly but without shouting. "The pit awaits for thee!" Then there was a sound like the cracking of a thousand timbers being shorn apart by some titanic thing, a giant who strides across the Battle of Bones and pays no heed to the cracking sound beneath his feet, and suddenly the skeletons collapse intod clouds of powder thick enough to choke upon. Their comrades, the shambling stupid undead, shrunk back and hid their decaying faces from the light of the most insufferably righteous of gods. Whom I'm glad stood with us today.

Of course, the priests were dismayed, if not outraged. To necromancers, skeletons are one part child, one part doting sweetheart, perfect in their obedience, the ideal toy. No wonder every necromancer I've ever met has been utterly lacking in the social graces. From their cloaks, the priests drew black maces with skeleton heads atop four black phalanges, and cried for paladin's blood. They're too angry to realize they're badly overmatched: too many rituals rot your brain. Aron (who exemplifies the same principle but with a different god), almost spent and bleeding from many wounds, took advantage of the opening that Ulrick has created and staggered backwards and propped his back against a wall, where he drew a healing potion from his belt and savored it like a drunkard who's been divorced too long from drink. That's fine. The lad has had his hour. Now time has become vengeance, for both the hour, and vengeance, was mine.

Barely visible behind shining Ulrick, I nonetheless had a clear view of several priests, who are concentrating on the glowing beacon of Torm's light that just spoiled the jubilation of their summoning. Good, I told myself, ignore the true threat to your little necromancer's paradise. I drew my hands together, spoke words of power, and felt that indescribable rapture that comes when one masters the thunder in one's hands. Three of their priests, craning their necks in a line to survey the extraordinary chaos of this fight, are scorched by my lightning, and two of them fall. I followed lightning with winter - Snilloc's Death, the doom of ice, that swarms and fells another two acolytes. By this time Kord, blood trickling down his sword and mixing with his forest green cloak in disturbing lines, has joined us, and charged for the surviving priests.

I'm not certain when the battle ends. I'm breathing too hard to notice, even though the one attempt to deal me a wound was deflected harmlessly off my arcane shield. The true threat was elsewhere.

Kord playedtracking games with the chief priest, who was slowly and cautiously being backed into a corner. Realizing that his best spells were useless against the elf's quick thrusts, he drews a wand and aimed several arcane bolts at the elf. Kord countered skillfully, and finally felled the necromancer with a quick thrust to the chest. Then the dying prelate screamed, and treated me to one of the most grotesque sights I've ever witnessed. The moment that the priest died, he exploded in a swarm of maggots that attempted to engulf his killer. The elf briefly managed to ward them away, then they encircled him and fell upon his flesh like locust on a grain field. Maggots must like the taste of fresh elf, as Kord quickly falls.

Realizing that the elf's death was imminent - and recognizing the maggot swarm as a simple summoning that was cloaked in a magician's trick - I cast a counterspell. I immediately realized that I'm facing a very powerful enchantment - the high priest's work, I'd guess - but I managed to overcome it. Then Aron dragged Kord over to our glorious leader, where he expended close to the entire contents of a single healing wand nursing the hurts of the twain.

"I'm surprised you haven't evoked your... what is it called... mirror images?" Aron remarked.

"The true connoisseur of magic calls them dweomermirrors," I replied, wondering why I'm wasting my breath correcting him.

I took a moment to inspect the room's stonework, which is well-fitted but otherwise unremarkable. We proceeded to search several chambers, leaving the collection of treasure for a later time. We discovered a chamber full of Sammasterite propaganda, roughly drawn tracts, stack upon stack of dirges and odes to the glory of moving bone without the prison of flesh. It took a major effort for me to resist burning them. We climbed to the third level of the tower, where we found the door to the fourth level is magically barred. Unfortunately I didn't have the spells to effectively counter its dweomer (which is a source of irritating banter and ridicule from my comrades). One door was barred by a lesser glyph, which Ulrick did not hesitate the walk through. He survived the flash of lightning to open up a lavish bedchamber, including a huge, fat badger plopped on a pillow.

It occured to us immediately that the animal is a familiar and thus a target of opportunity, but Kord kept us away and spoke to it in gnomish. It knew depressingly little about the tower, but as far as Kord's concerned, it's a pleasant conversationalist. Inspecting the room for magic, I discovered an enchanted tapestry on the east wall and a magical painting behind it. Alas, even Aron, though his arms are larger than most men's thighs and the envy of even a diligent blacksmith, is not strong enough to pry the painting from the wall.

"Must be magic," Aron said, stating the obvious.

Ulrick turned his attention to a far door. Opening it, we came into the main chamber of the third level - which was occupied by a swarm of zombies and several men wearing the livery of the Sammasterites, and one man with a pointed hat adorned with a dragon's skull.

The high priest has arrived.

Must dash,

Ascarin
 
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Broccli_Head said:
Wonderful letter, MS!

How do they get to your sister all the way in Sembia anyway?
Weasel Express. It's how I keep Willhih out of harm's way. :)

It's a framing device; the parts involving the sister are entirely my invention. Though I wouldn't put it past my DM to one day use them against me. :)

Scott Bennie
 
Just a slight clarification, Broc.

Thanks to your question, the DM has ruled that Ascarin and his sister both possess "Magic Tablets" to transmit letters between each other. I don't have a ruling from the DM on the exact specifics, but I'd suggest creating an object with the following properties:

Sembian Stêlôsis
Despite the name, this item actually originated in ancient Chondath, where it was used by bureaucrats to pass imperial documents between each other and maintain official sanction - and for spies to pass messages between each other without being scryed.

The Stêlôsis is a frame of metal, into which one places sheets of parchment or (originally) a clay tablet. Once per day, a writer can give a verbal command end magically send whatever's written on the page from one Stêlôsis to another; the writing vanishes from the parchment and appears instantly on a piece of parchment that's been placed into the other Stêlôsis. The writing remains on the other parchment until it is read aloud, then it vanishes. Only one message may be sent per day.

The message cannot be longer than 2,500 words and must be written letters: pictures and maps are not transmitted between the two Stêlôsis. Every Stêlôsis has a mate, and only the two Stêlôsis can communicate with each other; a person cannot write to another Stêlôsis except to the one that's mated to it. As a consequence, both Stêlôsis must be created at the same time and "mated" as part of the creation process. Only two Stêlôsis may be mated. If one is destroyed, the other becomes useless.

Significant transcription errors may crop up when the two Stêlôsis are more than seven hundred miles apart, and the devices cease to function beyond a range of twelve hundred miles.

Caster Level: 14th; Prerequisites: Craft Wondrous Item, sending, vanish; Market Price: 36,400 gp; Weight: 1 lb.

Scott Bennie
----
Coming in April, Testament, the game of Biblical role-playing by Green Ronin.
 
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WARNING: SPOILERS for Pool of Radiance: Attack on Myth Drannor ahead


26th day of Uktar, in the Year of the Standing Stone, 1372.
A tomb of a mad elf, not far from Myth Drannor


Dearest Sister,

We were inside the high priest's quarters in the tower of the Sammasterites, trapped like rats on third floor of that imposing structure. A bodyguard of nearly a dozen skeletons and shambling undead abominations surrounded the room, not to mention the high priest and his (living) bodyguard. The stench of rotting bodies had filled the tower like a charnal-house and I was so sick of that cursed smell that I wanted to raze the tower, storey by storey, stone by stone, until its foundations were naked to the sky, a rotting leprous pox on the margins of Myth Drannor, a wound left for the forest to cleanse if it could.

But much work needed to be done before I could realize that goal. Fortunately, my compatriots had become something to be reckoned with. Now it was the Wyvernspur's hour: a figure of beefy heroism with a slightly goofy grin, Aron strode ahead, flail drawn, rushing to the attack. "Hold back!" Ulrick (who never seems to appreciate the same dumb heroism in others that is found in such abundant quantities within himself) shouted a loud warning cry at his countryman. Unfortunately, Aron's idea of "holding back" is to take one unfortunate step into the abyss instead of two. On better days, it's almost entertaining.

I sigh and survey the entry chamber, which is a clutter of thrashing bodies engaged in melee. With Ulrick and Aron pressing ahead of me and blocking the door with their broad, six foot four inch frames - and one of them wielding a dire flail with such reckless abandon that it's an act of divine providence that he hasn't taken out my eye yet - picking an appropriate target is an act of utter futility. But then I catch a glimpse of the high priest, and even from a distance there's a look of madness on his face that makes me just want to smite him, so I grip the wand of fireballs and begin to move it into position.

"Do it!" says Aron. Surprisingly, he took a quick second to look backward, and realizing he'll be caught in the flames, instructed me to perform a tactic for the betterment of the group. Such a sturdy, stupid lad. I raise my wand, and with a slight smile, shout the command word.

(As an aside, sister: let it be known that I will have none of this "I'll whisper the command word because I'm paranoid that I'm going to die and I want to make sure the enemy has to waste a divine the properties spell to wrest the command word" tripe. I am a Sembian, a real mage, and if they want this wand, these festering, corrupt, besotted, dead-flesh-kissing pieces of swill, they're welcome to pry it from my cold dead fingers!)

In answer to the incantation, a spark of fire leaps from the tip of the wand, and a fireball encompasses the room.

Aron's at the edge of the blaze and I'm hoping the lad can take a quick step back to avoid it - but alas, girded by his heavy mail, which somewhat resembles a skinned dragon plated with extra bits of steel to provide additional encumbrance, he reacts just a second too late. The fireball catches him squarely, and he burns too. But the fortune of both Tymora and Selune shine on him - he'll live. Aron does take a step back, and I station myself to loose a second orb of flaming death into the undead host - and then the priest gives me the evil eye, makes a quick gesture, and suddenly I'm held in place as surely as I were encased in stone.

I hate that spell.

I'm forced to watch the rest of the battle in silence. The priest, who was burnt badly, swallows a potion to heal his injuries. "Hey!" Kord objected. "He's drinking the treasure!" I'm too busy worried about our survival to care.

Ulrick cut down the bodyguard, a burly fellow who's wielding a bastard sword in two hands, and motioned at the priest to prepare for battle. The arch-Sammasterite responded by touching the burly corpse and bringing him back to life. The bodyguard had a sickly smile on his face (not dissimilar to Aron's when he's drunk), and rose from the ground, sword in hand, shouting "Praise to the Dragon!"

"Death to the dragon!" Ulrick growled back, and he dismembered the bodyguard a second time with three swift strokes.

The high priest looked on his crumpled guard with an aghast expression on his bloated face. With his undead legions scattered around them - it must seem like he's witnessing the fall of his personal empire. "Curse you!" he snarled at Ulrick. "May death follow you where you go!" As far as curses go against paladins, it's hard to think of one that's less self-fulfilling (and thus meaningless). The priest tried to run past Aron and Ulrick and touch me with a death spell while I'm still magically ensnared, but Aron's flail caught him in the back of the skull as he runs past. The priest collapsed into a bloodied, crumpled, dead heap on the ground.

Give my regards to Sammaster, you perversion of the glorious arcane.

It took about a minute for my eyes jerk in their sockets, the first sign that the priest's spell has worn off. It left me with a stiff, arthritic feeling in every muscle. I felt like walking over to his body and spitting on it - but Kord's already gone over to a hatch and pried open a trap door that leads to the roof. Hoping there were no further glyphs or other surprises in store for us, we hoisted ourselves through the opening and found a large altar set in the high place. And here I thought necromancers would perform this grisly ritual underground, in a charnal pit closer to the Hell that empowers them! Prone on the altar, a small figure struggled in his bonds - it's a gnome, the same one we were warned was being held prisoner here - and Tarbash, the gnome we had met earlier in the woods, was perched upon the large stone slab, precariously balanced, straining like a mad thing with nimble gnomish fingers to pry apart the constraints that bind his comrade. It was a sight of such devotion that it breathed even upon the faint embers of my compassion, not a quality I'm known for. But Ulrick who must (of course) be the principle player of this great drama, set things aright the moment he first beheld the gnome's plight. Raising his hallowed blade so the sun, which bore down upon us with its full midsummer's wrath, briefly alit this bloodied rock of the Sammasterites, he let the steel fly, and the gnome's bonds were broken. The freed forestling nearly crumpled; he cradled his rope-burnt wrists and wrestled with a mingling of gratitude and pain. "Thank you!" he said - repeatedly - even to me. I must confess that the sound of gratitude, so rarely offered when I deserve it, is honey to my ears. Tarbash could not keep himself from performing a short gnomish dance. So this was victory? Who'd have thought it.

Kord craned his long elvish neck (the one I thought was perfectly suited for decapitation after the farmboy incident) and briefly surveyed the lands surrounding the tower, the despoiled elven crypts and burial grounds, and determined that none of the Sammasterite troops stationed outside the keep have spotted us yet. Good, we still have time. They probably won't return to the tower until nightfall, which (in high summer) is still ten hours hence. We can probably take a (guarded) breath.

I looked down on the priest's body and sneered, wondering what his precious Dragon had in store for him now. But it's another dragon - a purple one (or one who ought to be) - who determined the corpse's fate. Ulrick lifted up the priest's limp body, and clove his head from his shoulders with a vicious stroke. Then he did the same to his bodyguard, and finally stuck their heads on spears so they could be placed outside the keep.

"My, we are a vicious little paladin, aren't we?" I smiled at Ulrick.

"These people performed human sacrifices," Ulrick was visibly trembling when he spake the words. "I am giving them a taste of their own cursed medicine. And I hope they choke on it."

I cannot argue with the sentiment - though I would regret it greatly if Ulrick fell into blackguarddom, for he'd far more dangerous to control - but the more practical side of me would rather gather up these misbegotten swine into a pile and make a pyre out of them so that no necromancer could ever be able to turn them into undead.

Kord moaned that we should not tarry, but there was a time for spoils, and that time was now. So, ignoring the elf's pleas, I began to rummage through the high priest's drawers, while Aron struggled with that magical painting. He placed his fingers around the frame and we heard a "click!", but the painting still wouldn't budge. The dire badger, comfortably arraigned in princely fashion on his dire badger-sized cushion, laughed at Aron's attempts - yes, sister, we now have definitive proof that Aron's intelligence is less than that of a large forest creature. Kord, still upset that we haven't secured our position - acting more like an elven general instead of an elven wood-sneak - conversed with the badger, who informed us that by simply moving your fingers around the frame from top to bottom, you can open a small vault. We followed his instructions, and discovered the priest's hidden treasure store, in which a glowing page, written in Old Elvish, was secured. Within the drawers, I found the high priest's journal. I quickly leafed through it, but I did not have the time to give it an adequate amount of study. More pleasingly, I discovered the cult's spellbook, with numerous spells (unfortunately, most of them are the necromantic variety - not that, by Azuth, I scoff at knowledge, but the spells prized by the Sammasterites hold less fascination to me than those that evoke greater powers than simple mockeries of life).

Ransacking a level at a time, we returned to the lower levels. Kord insisted on taking the badger with us, and the badger won't budge without his cushion. Guess who, in addition to his heavy pack, must now carry a giant badger cushion on his back? I swear sister, that if you mention this to our family, I will plot a sweet revenge.

At the doorway, Kord decided to leave caltrops, small spikes, in the shadow of the gate. We also removed the wreckage of the door so that anyone who observed the keep will think that the door has been left open by its denizens, not hacked to bits by an invader. Once we did that, Ulrick urged us to descend down the stairs into the unexplored depths of the tower. This time Aron led the way.

The stairs were a tight, narrow winding spiral, irregularly spaced and awkwardly uneven, more likely by design than by weathering, for the dwarves wrought them. The summer air, still as a dead body that's chained to a rock and rotting in the sun, cultivated the dust that rises into our dry mouths like some sort of funerary crop. I'm still annoyed that I succumbed to the priest's holding spell, in addition to the other injuries I suffered in the three previous attacks on the tower. Severed heads on spear points, offered like love tokens to flocks of local carrion, may not be enough to assuage my hate.

Aron arrived at a landing, and we investigated a series of empty kitchens, storage rooms, and a single empty cell, which probably housed Tarbash's friend. Aron opened a chamber which reeks of death, a necromancer's paradise where a skull with a steel crown hovered in mid-air. But when Aron entered the chamber to get a closer, better look, a host of zombies rose from the ground and attacked him.

Ulrick quickly took stock of the situation and determined that Aron was quite capable of handling a small host of zombies, though the big Cormyte fluttered about, debating whether he should employ the greataxe or the flail. I moved closer to investigate when suddenly a unexplored locked door opened beside me, and I found myself face to face with a necromancer and his skeleton-guard, one of whom sliced my right arm with a swift scimitar stroke. Howling, I retreated, while Ulrick moved in, and I did my best to stammer through my pain and inform Kord about the situation. Ulrick took several volleys of arcane bolts from the necromancer (does every mage in this miserable tower have one of those wands?), was badly wounded, and retreated. Kord moved into his place, but Ulrick, whose retreat was only temporary, was a little late in returning to his assigned place, and Kord is hard-pressed. Gradually the skeleton-guard is reduced, and Kord waded over the once animated corpses in a quest for necromancer's blood. Pressed against the wall, the necromancer sent out a whispering wind, calling for assistance from remote quarters. Hopefully he called the high priest in Hell.

With Ulrick and Kord engaged against the necromancer, I turned to assist Aron. The mighty boy was hewing zombies left and right, but they were managing to get in enough blows to slowly wear him down. Realizing he needed support, I raised my wand, shouted the word of command, and the zombies burned. I felt exuberant, but that's when I turned around and found a dark-cloaked figure trying to impale my back with a skillful short sword thrust. The whispering wind had been answered. A patrol of blackcloaks and blackguards had hurried back to the keep and joined the fracas. Unfortunately, with Kord and Ulrick busy against the necromancer, I'm left almost alone against this assault - and given a choice of targets between a mage and a man with a big flail, the mage is invariably the target.

Quickly I surrounded myself with dweomermirrors and retreated. I have no offensive magicks capable of dealing with this horde - I'm not about to start casting fireballs into such a tight space - so I bolstered myself with a haste spell, drew my dagger and launched futile attacks against my enemies. The mirrors lasted only a few scant seconds before they're shattered, though the spell saved my life - one armored brute clove an image with such a perfect blow that I would have died, had it actually marked my skull with equal vigor. Aron, finally free of the undead horde, interposed himself between me and my attackers as best as he could, but unfortunately when one is willing to risk being hacked apart just to rid the world of the magnificence that is Ascarin Nevermoon, there is not much a protector can do except to grit one's teeth and hope that your best intentions translates into better results. The Wyvernspur's dire flail smashed one of my attackers' skulls and dropped him to his face with an accompaniment of crimson spray, but the second attacker caught me squarely in the ribs with a sword thrust. That when everything went red, the world seemed to slide around me, and I, propped desperately against the wall in a futile posture of defense, began a slow, painful - dying - descent to the dungeon floor, and I was left to wonder how many breaths I had left to take.

####

Of course it does not end there, sister, but rarely have I passed up an opportunity to take my life and give it an evil twist, so I shall end this letter here, and leave you waiting on the particulars of my fate. The matter of Pellendaryll, and how I passed from the tower of the Sammasterites into the tomb of a mad elf (and the difficult matter of the disposition of lost loreworks obtained from the hunting elf) shall await my next correspondence. My will, like my blood, is spent this day.


Still alive (barely), with love,

Your brother Ascarin
 
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LuYangShih

Villager
We discuss our battle tactics, which closely resembles the battle strategies of a tribe of naked enraged Damarans. Strike hard, take no backward steps, and kill, kill, kill.


LOL. This story hour rocks. Keep up the good work.
 
Spoilers for Pool of Radiance: Attack on Myth Drannor
(Continued from last correspondence)

I live a fool's life, and I know it. No sane wizard should willingly stick himself in the thick of battle, for the fundamental tactic of even an addle-brained enemy must be to target the wizard before all others, for we're capable of dealing with a greater number of enemies than even a skilled swordsman or (despite what Kord may say) a bowman. Unfortunately, while I've always tried to strike a sensible balance between caution and foolhardiness, often when you're fighting in close quarters, that balance topples. And, because I should expect this, I am a fool.

So here I was, watching the cult soldier extract his blade from my abdomen, and suddenly feel a burning sensation in my bowels. This pain I cannot describe, though detached from its horrific reality, dying is a rather interesting sensation. Slumped against the wall, I'm unable to move my limbs; my breathing, though labored, continues, but I'm fully cogniscent that it could end at any moment. Each heartbeat feels like a hammer stroke against my chest. However, my few remaining spells are still in my head, and I catch a clear view of Aron's armored buttocks as he turns to challenge the man who smote me. A few seconds later, and the attacker's severed head bounces over my legs. I wish I felt well enough to muster a smile.

Meanwhile, Ulrick is dancing with a pair of rogues, desperately trying to dispatch them before they can flank him, while in a far chamber, beyond the edge of my vision, Kord is fighting for his life against another necromancer. From what I gathered later, the corpse-fondler attempted to damage Kord's life force with some sort of deviltouch, but the elf successfully evaded his attacks and cut him down with a flurry of short sword strokes. When he was slain, the necromancer once again explodes into a swarm of death maggots, but this time Kord managed to ward them away before he can be engulfed. The swarm fades from existence after about twenty seconds, much to the elf's relief. We've won. The tower is ours.

After the battle comes healing, a respite that's never been so desired or needed. Ulrick touches us with his healing wand and restores our strength. The others begin to ransack the tower, while I take an hour to curl up with the high priest's journal. It's abominable reading, full of so many admonitions to "praise the dragon" and "proclaim the dragon" that I swear a devotee of Loviatar is less whipped by their religion. The high priest is named Ryngoth, which I believe means "idiotic fanatic" in the tongue of Vaasa, and if it doesn't, it should.

I do, however, find two things of interest nestled in these dry, yellow pages. First there's a reference to not one but two adventuring companies who have been attacking the tower, one of whom is clearly not us, and in fact dispatched that red dragon we spotted overhead a few days earlier. Second (and more ominously), we uncover a reference to "Pelendralaar awaits the completion" near the end of the journal. I gather that's the name of a dracolich, a realization that makes me wonder again, what cosmic force appointed this little ragtag band as the upheld hand to oppose such a force.

I'm quite tired and almost spent of spells, but there isn't time for rest and contemplation at the moment. Returning to the roof of the tower, Kord spots numerous patrols moving in, the distance. From what we know of these patrols, they'll return to the tower and report at dusk - and once they've discovered that we've wiped out the tower, I'm sure they'll send everything they have to destroy us. We need to be well beyond their tracking range.

So we say good-bye to this old dwarf-wrought tower, of which my principle regret was that I wasn't leaving it encased in a swath of flame. The burial grounds around the tower are littered with old elven mausoleums. Each tomb, if Ryngoth's journal is to be trusted, has two keys: a rune, and an ancient elvish incantation, a word of opening. We can probably get by with the just the runes.

Outside the keep, we encounter a patrol. A horde of zombies advances on Ulrick (there's no fool like an undead fool, except perhaps for an undead lover, like a necromancer), giving the shining Tormite a chance to display the white sheen of his teeth and dispatch the zombies with a gesture into that hole of Velsharoon where undead venture once they've broken. There's also a pair of scouts who perform one of Kord's favorite tricks, summoning a vast network of tanglevines and then shooting us full of arrows as we attempt to advance. But these measures are temporary - there's not even the slightest hint of the defeatism that marred our first three attempts to attack the tower, and they're dispatched with remarkable ease. I think even I could have stabbed one of them to death. One of them is left alive; Aron attempts to intimidate him and pry information out of him by propping one of his dead comrades against a tree, then forcing him to watch while the burly Wyvernspur uses that Tempus-cursed flail to pulp his former comrade's skull. Unfortunately, we haven't particularly chosen the most knowledgeable prisoner to interrogate, so we lock him in one of the tombs and seal him inside.

We make our way through several tombs, most ransacked and abandoned. The most imposing tomb on the west side is marked "Tomb of Rothilion, Judge of Myth Drannor", a tomb marked with a star rune (which we do not possess). I will confess with an utterly inappropriate humility that the sight of this place almost struck me down. I have ambitions and desires for greatness (of course), but here was the tomb of one of the ancients whose power probably far outstripped anything in my dreams and yet died a tragic, unholy death. Nothing is as unsettling as having the clarity of life's uncertain nature thrown in your face like a cheap harlot's cleavage, which manages at the same time to be both completely unexpected and yet utterly obvious.

"Keep searching," Ulrick instructs, and Kord is in rare agreement. They interpret my desire to renew my spells as a sign of hesitancy on my part, but I have no desire to back away from this course - I simply find it harder than they do to place my common sense in a strongbox and hide the key from the world.

We finally come to an open crypt, which is marked with the inscription: "Crypt of Orbakh", a wolf runeholder and a warning from the Sammasterites: "This place is too dangerous for now. Wait for Shamoor to return and perform the appropriate ceremony.

"It's probably just dangerous for evil people," Ulrick says.

"Or non-elves," Kord adds. I suppose if I said "non-wizards" and Aron said "non-idiots" we'd complete the joke.

We use what was left behind to enter the crypt. There's a room full of statuery, and ominous scorchmarks left on the floor; from the angle and intensity of the blast, I'd wager that they were emitted from the statues and triggered by floor plates. Armed with that knowledge, we managed to navigate the floor without setting off too many traps, which (given that we counted Aron among our number) was no small miracle.

We proceeded to discover a tomb in a sarophogus - unfortunately, it was a trap, and we nearly drown in a deluge of water. Given the poor condition and lack of splendor of the sarcophogus, Kord is convinced that he was not in fact Orbakh - an elven hunter with a reputation as a homicidal lunatic (I'm convinced he must be Kord's ancestor), so we search the tomb more carefully and find a much more elaborate crypt. We open it up and we discover Orbakh clutching an elven sword and a star rune to his breast. We pray to the fallen elf to allow us to take the items to keep the Sammasterites from throwing them into the Pool of Radiance, but as soon as we touch them, he attacks. While Kord attempts to negotiate (to no avail) with the elven wight, the rest of us attack (except for one lackspell mage of your blood, who watches and nervously clutches his wand). Ulrick is nearly killed, but in the end, the elf is defeated and the treasures of Myth Drannor are now delivered into our safekeeping.

Now comes a moment of misfortune. Fearing that Kord would be killed too easily and the treasures fell back into the Sammasterites' hands. I find Ulrick's desire to possess these treasures a little too uncomfortably covetous, and I argue that if these had been the treasures of dead Cormyr, I doubt any force would keep them from his possession.

"Your mouth is open and your tongue is wagging," Ulrick mocks. "Stop that."

How dare he! The little Cormyte twerp, a little man of a little fallen nation, who has stumbled through every piece of fortune that has come his way, dying an idiot's death not once but twice, addressing me in such a tone of low regard. Were I not shocked at his impudence, I would have slapped his face. How dare he fail to show a modicum of respect for those who had served along side him? Is this the true son of Torm, paragon of loyalty, or has he already fallen and become that name which I would later hear all too often in Cormyr, the Blackguard of Wheloon?

I am angry now, and I should not be, not when I am shorn of so much of my strength. But my courage he may mock, but not my council - I do swear that I will teach this man, be he paladin or blackguard, a lesson in humility at a proper time.'Tis a promise from a Sembian with a wagging tongue - and the wagging tongue of a wizard is a thing that one ignores at their peril.

The wolf-elf was defeated and some scant treasures of the elven tombs were ours. But the wolf-elf's wight was nothing compared to the horror that would soon await us, a creature so terrifying that even I cannot believe we survived. Ulrick and Kord felt that we had not struck the Cult a heavy enough blow, and I reluctantly concurred. So we pressed on - into Bane's darkness, and Lathander's light.

More shall follow,

In Love, Thy Benighted Brother,

Ascarin Nevermoon
 
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Broccli_Head

Villager
MulhorandSage said:
The high priest is named Ryngoth, which I believe means "idiotic fanatic" in the tongue of Vaasa, and if it doesn't, it should.

or has he already fallen and become that name which I would later hear all too often in Cormyr, the Blackguard of Wheloon?

First quote: My favorite line from the post! Ascarin cracks me up

second quote: that's a bit ominous...
 
Spoilers for Pool of Radiance: Attack on Myth Drannor by Sean K. Reynolds
(Continued from last correspondence)

I am reluctant to relate this part of the episode to you sister - for one thing, the previous portions of this tale has backed up the Stelosis to its limits, and I'm almost tempted to go to the end, rather than tell you what abomination I faced, and how close I came to brewing potions in the alchemy tables of Azuth's divine laboratory for the rest of time.

Still, even in the land of the living, my life was noSo here I stand, Ascarin Nevermoon, in the tomb of mad elf, drenched in swill water and my own sweat, my body scored in a score of scars which, while magically healed, had not yet lost their markings, and my robes tattered like a tapestry in a centuries old mansion full of moths and rats. All while Cormytes leered at me and my exposed skin, and mocked my "prissiness", as though I shared their barbarian credo to respect things worn and marred. It made me wish I knew a good plague spell.

With the tomb of Orbakh now defeated, we took the star rune from the wolf-elf's chest and proceeded back to the crypt of Rothilion the Judge. A large boulder lay in front of it, and Ulrick and Aron, both working like big Cormyte horses, sweating and snorting, attempted to budge it. After a few minutes of listening to them grunt like a pair of pit wrestlers, I tired of the sight, so I cast one of my last remaining spells - an invocation of levitation - and allow us to enter the tomb. It's a foolish expenditure of a spell, I know, but sometimes seeing certain expressions on otherwise smug faces justifies a little folly.

We enter the tomb, which is surprisingly well lit - Rothilion the Judge was not fond of darkness, even in death. The tomb is well constructed, stones fit with such cunning that belies dwarven work. And of course, what would any tomb be without the obligatory horde of skeletons rising out of alcoves to attack us?

From the moment we enter the tomb, Aron and Ulrick receive plenty of opportunity to exercise their swordarms. You know, why is it that we call the Cult of the Dragon "evil" for their fixation with the undead, but any time anyone goes into a so-called "good" tomb, you're up to your armpits in skeletons which are (of course) undead? A veritable feast for thought.

We slice our way through skeletons, a host of foot-tall terracotta elven soldiers come to life, then scour the ruins looking for finds. We find another page from the Book of Lathander on the body of a gnome (presumably a thief) who's impaled on a spear trap. Gingerly we remove the page (and the gnome) and continue onward, only to discover that Aron, bored with such bewildering concepts as party unity, staying close by to protect one's comrades, and the need to be careful in a place full of traps, has wandered off again. We notice he's missing when we hear his screams: he's gone into a room with a sword suspended from a glass pedestal and suspended in a beam of jet-blue flame; Aron stuck his hand into the flame to grasp the sword and was badly burned. What a surprise that was.

Aron rather liked the sword, but Ulrick was transfixed by it. I swear I've met Sembians less covetous than the oaf.

We complete our circuit of the level (including another drowned level that leaves me smelling like a sewer rat). We discover a library which includes Rothilion's journal and books of martial lore, but our major find is a glowing book, left in a hidden panel in a library - it's the Book of Lathander. Ulrick seems quite eager to read it, even though I warn him that godly lore must be approached with caution. (No, as much as I appreciate lore, I haven't forgotten what happened after our uncle Hesharron read the Cyrinishad -what a horrible mess that was!)

So now we have the book - the perfect time to be confronted by a Sammasterite War Party. They're at least courteous enough to thank us for opening the tomb and clearing out the dangers. We respond appropriately to such a display of good manners, with violence. Tymora favors us once again, and the Cultists are forced to retreat. Naturally Kord believes that no one should escape alive, but for once I'm inclined to agree with him, so we track the necromancer who led them. Kord is faster than any normal mage, so we finally corner him in the brush. Eventually Kord puts him in his place - six feet under, for if the wight-raising bastard's so enamored of death, let him experience it first hand. We wrest another rune key from him, the final missing page from the book, and a letter:

####

Nevessam,

You must break the seal on the crypt of Rothilion as soon as possible. The Weavers of the Purple grow anxious and I have been told by Mordrayn that the phylactery has arrived for the contingent ceremony. We shall soon have our hands on the items within the Crypt of Orbakh so we may include them in the immersion ritual. Take care little brother that you acquire the Rune of the Sun or Mordrayn and Pelendralaar will be displeased.

Oh, and by the way, I'm planning to put a pox on that pet Ryngoth treasures so much.

-- Shamoor

####

Ha! So it didn't like the badger. These necromancers have no appreciation for the simple things in life, or life in general for that matter.

Victorious, we return to Ulrick and Aron, and Ulrick restores the book to full form. But that's not enough - we haven't discovered Rothilion's crypt yet, so we return to the tomb. A pair of statues guard a great door. Naturally, Ulrick draws their attack, failing to notice that the door had a pair of short sword-sized impressions that could have been effortlessly unlocked by a pair of shortswords we'd found an hour earlier in one of the alcoves. After judicious application of our failing wands of curing, we proceed through the opening, We discover a large workshop, with numerous scattered notes on woodcraft and gemcutting. I make some quick notes from the gemcutting manuals, and we push ahead through the opening. We finally find the sarcophogus in an elaborate antechamber. Beautiful elven paintings, a stone figure of an elf holding a staff, a book, and a grey disk, normally they would elicit our complete attention, but we were rather distracted by a tentacle faced creature in purple robes that stood over the tomb.

Illithid! Illithid! Kill it quick!

The mind flayer looks at us, and the world shudders. I look back at Aron, and he's standing straight, almost lifeless, drooling. I throw a fireball and duck behind a corner, Ulrick charges, Kord notches his bow. The tentacles wave again, and suddenly my knees buckle, I find myself swallowing sweat (I must've lost ten pounds in this dungeon alone) and Kord screams, drops his bow, and runs like a mad thing as far from the illithid as possible. I hurl a fireball into the chamber, but the mind flayer resists it, and it has no impact on him whatsoever. I really must learn how to gird my spells.

Ulrick charges, flails at him furiously, but his blows glance off the abomination's sleek, amphibious hide. It suddenly raises its hands, mumbles an obscene incantation, and suddenly I'm awash in fire. My prayers of thanks to Azuth at surviving the attack are mixed with a new, terrifying realization: that's no illithid, it's an Alhoon, a mind flayer lich. I may as well have lit a candle in the sanctuary of Shar and cursed the darkness!

If Ulrick realizes what this thing really is, he doesn't show it; instead, he continues his futile battle. The Alhoon looks hard at Ulrick, and suddenly he finds himself unable to move. Finally, he turns to me, as there's no one left to defend me. With a sleek, impossibly swift motion, he rushes toward me - then runs past me, Aron, and heads for the exit. In what may be the wisest decision of my life, I do not try to stop him. Fortunately, it just wanted to escape. Good. Play with the cult. Have fun, little alhoon. If you play with the Sammasterites, you have my blessings.

So we regroup again, and wonder how the Alhoon came to be trapped in the tomb of Rothilion in the first place. I'm certain there must be a good reason, but that's a question I'll have to put to a good lorist on some occasion in the far future when I can actually catch my breath. In the meantime, we take an account of the treasures we discover. I take Rothilion's staff, a ring, and a pair of bracers. Another tomb has been cleared - but there's at least one more major tomb to be explored before nightfall, even if I'm still damnedably short of spell.
 
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Spoilers for Pool of Radiance: Attack on Myth Drannor by Sean K. Reynolds

Continued from last correspondence:

We recovered from our encounter with the Alhoon as best as we could - and were quite thankful it was so eager to escape that it didn't see fit to participate in its usual Underdark cruelty, Ulrick seemed unusually distracted by the Book of Lathander. It was a pretty thing on first sight, although its gilded, illuminated (in both senses of the word) pages were gaudy to the point of ugliness. Lathander is a showy and obnoxious deity - one more suited for elves than for men, and knowing the strength of his cult in my homeland only made me the more resentful of it. Ulrick, mind you, had no idea of my opinions, but the more I saw him taking a quick glance inside the book, skimming a passage and nodded in agreement, the more I regretted that the Sammasterites hadn't already cast this tome into the Pool of Radiance.

"We're going to get so much treasure for this book and the holy sword!" Kord declared gleefully. "Divine artifacts are worth at least 150,000 gold piece apiece each!"

"How are we going to carry all that?" Aron wondered.

"I am certain that promisary notes from the church of Lathander should be of some value." I stated. Ulrick raised an eyebrow, and Aron is openly skeptical. I crossed my arms and smiled. "I realize that the economy of your beloved Cormyr distrusted anything that wasn't cool and hard, but some nations have progressed well beyond the 11th Century.

My argument is not persuasive, but I can hardly expect a pair of muscle-for-brained Cormytes and a psychotic elf to understand even the basics on economic theory. But the argument is but a momentary distraction; while it would be good if this expedition were to result in the establishment of our fortunes, I'm not expecting it to do so. My hopes are placed on controlling the portals we found near Galath's Roost and using them as a conduit for trade - as the Zhentarim and my Sembian brothers know well, there is no wealth quite equal to that gained through the control of commerce. The book and the sword are nothing compared to that.

In any event, we proceeded to the next crypt and inserted the sunrune into the proper spot; the door crumpled to dust. So much for any protection we might have had wandering Sammasterite patrols. "Our only security lies ahead," Ulrick declares with a glance as intense as a sheepdog - a fitting metaphor, given how he sometimes treated us. "Sally forth!" he declared.

I took a step into the tomb and my nostrils bristled. "I think that's ammonia," I said, identifying the smell. The vacant expression on Aron's face typified their reaction. Ah, to be a lorist amid the barbarians!

At Ulrick's instance, Aron was put at the head of the company, a decision that produced mixed results. On the one hand, we constantly had to heal him, for the young Wyvernspur suddenly developed the gift for uncovering every pit trap that had been dug within a dozen leagues of Myth Drannor and falling with the reckless abandon of a naked Chessentan clown. I swear he was impaled so many times with spikes that even a Loviatarite or a Zhentarim torturer would wince at the injuries. After the fifth or sixth pratfall (if one can call falling headfirst in extraordinarily heavy plate armor down a thirty foot drop a"pratfall"), we tore off a wooden door and laid it over every intersection, and suddenly the falls stopped.

We encountered a bizarre assortment of monsters here: undead tigers, gorillas, naked men (I know shouldn't mention them, given your particular excesses, but he was hardly equal to Ulrick or even Aron in looks). Of course we slaughtered them.

We came into a room where a bugbear was staring at its own reflection in a pool of water. Hardly a sight I'd want to see. Perhaps guilty over some of our excess bloodletting, Aron offered him a piece of dried meat, which the creature, being a bugbear, devoured greedily. Kord attempted to recruit him as a follower, but he was far more interested in escaping the tomb than to become the indentured servant of an elf. He informed his entire clan that the front door was open and that many of the monsters that blocked the way were slain. Before we knew it, a small army of bugbears was abandoning the tomb for the wilds of Myth Drannor.

I hope you have a chance to have a nice little chat with the Sammasterites. Have fun, fellows!

We come to a chamber with many alcoves where four shining scimitars were encased in glass and hung from a high ceiling, beyond the reach of the denizens, more of the naked men (who, oddly enough, looked identical to each other). We scattered them and seized the scimitars for ourselves. For some insane reason, the idea occurred to us that, given that we had four scimitars and that there were four people in our company, we had stumbled upon a destined coincidence and that we should each take a scimitar, brandish it, and see what happened. What happened was that four cursed scimitars were hopelessly stuck to our hands and that we couldn't wield our main weapons. Aron, realizing he wouldn't be able to utilize that Tempus-cursed dire flail of his, almost broke into tears. We needed to test the curse, so with my permission Ulrick clove the scimitar that was stuck to my hand and rent it asunder. Cheap Orc-tempered steel. It did lighten my load, but hardly provided a viable solution to the problem, as my hand was still hopelessly clutching the ruined scimitar's hilt.

"Do you know how to remove curses?" Kord asked.

"Of course he doesn't," Ulrick said in a serious tone that still mocked me.

"Indeed I do not. That talent is more of a priestly evocation," I reply, getting rather tired of the mocking.

For a moment, I wished we had one at our side, which prompted an old memory. Some time after our arrival in Ashenbeneford, our attacks on a wandering band of raiders led to an inadvertant campaign against a brigand stronghold on the edge of the Anauroch. Ulrick died his first death there - he was inadvertantly caught in a tanglevine spell cast by Kord and cut down by a huge half-orc. After Ulrick's death, we recruited a large and obnoxious Mystraite prelate into our company. To say he was overbearing would be a mild understatement - Mystraites believe they have the Realms in their back pocket, one of several reasons I venerate Azuth and not the Weaver.

The priest, whose name I've forgotten, served with us for a brief time, and then he was blown away in a fell wind (in fact the very same wind that resurrected Ulrick after his recklessness led to the first of his deaths). At the time, I thought it a curious departyre but I have not pondered the cause for his absence nor regretted it for a long time. Now, suddenly, I wished he served at our side.

We had no choice but the press ahead, accursed though we may be. We discovered the final crypt, where an almost indescribably odd monster sat like a cat over the sarcophogus - if a cat were a bloated ovoid form like a beholder, but with many dangling tentacles. I recognized it as a deepspawn, a creature which devours creatures and then spits out copies of them. The creature asked: "do not hurt me!" Naturally - as none of us cared to see more than one version of any of the other members of our company walking the world - we attacked.

It was a long and hard battle, made much harder because we were forced to fight with cursed scimitars grafted to their hands. Finally, battered, and scarred, we managed to take up our true weapons into our "off" hand and took the battle to the Deepspawn and its servants. Though Aron was nearly slain by the aberration, we emerged triumphant.

The corpse was clad in a beautiful blue silk mantle and clutching a bone scepter. When I took hold of it, the tomb abruptly shook and I swallowed a curse that was harder than hardtack or iron rations. That was but a prelude to a much more fateful event. A spirit rose above the crypt; it was an elven protector ghost, a baelnorm. Aron recognized it as the creature that helped him get from Saerloon to Myth Drannor when he was stranded without a teleport spell.

"You have come at last," the baelnorm stated, speaking in reverential, beautiful tones that was as solemn as death but not as joyless. "Almost it is too late, yet there is still time to defeat the Sammasterites."

"You're relying on us to save the world?" Kord exclaimed. "What a mistake!"
 
Last edited:
Spoilers for Pool of Radiance: Attack on Myth Drannor by Sean K. Reynolds

Continued from last correspondence:

Somewhat to our relief, the baelnorm explained that the burden of the world's fate would not rest entirely on the competance of our little company. The larger and more powerful adventuring company that Ryngoth had mentioned in his journal had been recruited by the baelnorm - eternal protector of Myth Drannor, the poor bastard - and was about to launch an assault on the dracolich.

"You actually found fools who were willing to accept that job?" Kord wondered aloud.

The baelnorm treated the remark and its speaker as they deserved - by ignoring them with utter contempt. The air seemed to chill as it spoke, as we found ourselves more firmly wrapped into its designs - I've heard that the drow, to alleviate their perpetual boredom, breed fighting apiders and place them on a web and wager on which one will survive - and now I knew exactly how those spiders must feel. We were about to be placed on a very big web with very large spiders.

"When the dracolich is slain, its spirit will be transferred into a phylactery, and their deeds will be for nought," the baelnorm explained. "But if at the moment of transfer, the phylactery were destroyed before it could find a replacement body... then the dracolich would be forever dead."

"And then the threat to Cornyr from the Cult would be ended!" Ulrick said.

"And the Weave would be safeguarded!" I proclaimed.

"And although we're almost certain to die in the process, if by some miracle we survived, we'd be rich!" Kord declared. I could swear the baelnorm gave him a dirty look.

The Baelnorm gave me the code-words for the bone scepter - a powerful if distasteful item - and instructions on how to reach a refuge into Myth Drannor itself. We were directed to take the one long passage that we found under the crypt that led to Cormanthor. Once we arrived, we'd seek a predetermined refuge. There the badly injured Aron could rest on healing moss while I finally replenished my spells.

Thus we now left the tower outside the Mythal for more dangerous confines. We crept down the long tunnel we'd discovered earlier that day - the one that Kord was so frightened would take us into the heart of Myth Drannor. The only things who watched us were rats, who scurried without purpose or malice over the loam-soaked floor. All the while, we were silent, knowing our dreadful purpose. Ulrick's right hand, empty of its weapon, periodically reached around his body and fingered the place in his backpack where the Book of Lathander was kept. It appeared to be an involuntary response, which I found quite troubling.

Finally, after time unspoken and unmeasured had past - for in the midst of any deed that the heart deems great, the importance of time is greatly diminished - the long tunnel abruptly shot upward, and we came to an old half-rotten wooden ladder that was embedded in the earth. The way above us was sealed, but Aron, hoisted on Ulrick's shoulders, managed to break through the seal, and we carefully shifted the rotten, earth-soaked timbers that sealed the exit and pushed them aside. Aron crawled out and told us the route was clear. This was something of an overstatement. Several shafts of waning sunlight peered through the window, warning us that we might be observed from beyond the walls.

"It looks like some sort of barracks." Aron observed. We were in a stone building with a solid wooden fram, an oak floor and numerous beds. They were all abandoned, and many of the bedframes had become a feast for termites.

"Kord, see what's outside," Ulrick instructed. The elven scout nodded, did a quick check through the windows, and when he spotted no one observing us, he opened the door and took a more thorough look. Once he was certain we were safe, he motioned us to quickly follow him.

And there it was. Castle Cormanthor, once the heart of the great realm of Myth Drannor and the center of elvendom on earth, now loomed ahead of us, a mile in the distance and yet all-too-close. Its ancient spires filled with an unspoken dread that belied their elven beauty. Its battlements zhot skyward like eagle's wings beneath a great shadow, its walls, aged and scarred, reflected only a pale reminder of what it must have been, the citadel of elven moonlight, a glorious mystery reduced to an accursed ruin.

I suppose only Kord and I could appreciate what we saw, and Kord more than I, if his heart weren't so tightly governed by the mercenary impulse. We're in a large courtyard, and we quickly scuttle across and look for the opening to the baelnorm's sanctuary. Kord expected to find it easily, but somehow, I spot the opening and lead us through a curtain of ivy into a mossy den.

We're in a green cage, alit by moonlight and the subtle candle of stars. At the far end of the chamber is a raised bed of purple moss, whose healing properties were well proported by the baelnorm. Uneasily, Ulrick helps Aron slides out of his massive body sheathe of an armor, and sets the Wyvernspur's badly injiured body on the moss-bed. The lad needs it, as do we all - for without question, today has been the hardest day of my entire life. I've been closer to death more times in one day than even the average elf gets during their entire lifetime. Some day, provided that the remainder of our errand goes well, I will look back on this day and laugh, because -for a brief time - I lived a life when the drama surpassed the level of even hysterical melodreama and entered the realm of the absurd.

But reflection was best left until our errand was over. I fell asleep almost as soon as I close my eyes.

I awaken with shafts of morning breaking through the ivy, and the chamber lit by its own dawn's light: Ulrick has the book of Lathander on his lap and is stooped over like a monk, transfixed by the gods' own pages. Again, I'm disturbed by the sight. I love lore, and will pry into the far corners of the world to seek it, but man should be lore's master, lore should not be the master of men.

And then, jubilantly but perhaps hypocritically, I prepare my spell arsenal for the coming battle. I start a discussion of our battle tactics, but the others (quite correctly) advise me to wait until after our final instructions from the baelnorm. Kord decides to give us an incredibly inspired speech on how noble we're being, and how we should feel honored to be walking into certain death and dying for such a glorious cause. I openly ridicule him. "What kind of fool are you?" I sneer. I don't deny that a certain fatalism is among my qualities, but "inspiration through recognition of one's purpose" is a farce of extraordinary measure, "I have absolutely no intention of dying today, or any day in the foreseeable future." The other agree, even Aron (which, of course, worries me). Kord sighs and looks at us like a pack of dumb children refusing to listen to the august wisdom of a sage among sages. Which he most certainly is not. We continue to argue the point until the baelnorm arrives.

The baelnorm congratulates us on our already impressive accomplishments and then briefs us on the castle's layout. After being given advice on how to infiltrate the gate, There is a ground level, and three subterrtanean levels. We were to enter the ground level.and proceed as quickly as possible to the subterranean level. The first level was an artificial elven skyline, which we should be able to infiltrate quickly until we found a secret door. That would take us down a set of stairs into the middle of a large cavern on the second level, which were patrolled on the north side by skeletons and on the south side by some sort of Dragon-Men; the description made them sound like half-dragons. We were instructed to avoid these patrols at all costs, travel northeast and look for another secret passage. There we would travel down to the lower level, where the dracolich's phylactery was kept under guard in a magical prison. There we would break through the prison and destroy the phylactery.

"So we destroy the phylactery in the Pool of Radiance?" Kord asked,

"No." the baelnorm told us. "Simply break it out of its prison and smash it. You will need magical protections. These I can provide, but they will be detecting magic on anyone who enters. So I will provide you with this..." he said, and a magical cream appeared. "Smear it over yourselves and your items and they will be hidden from their scrys."

"How do we escape?" It didn't take Kord to ask the ultimate in Kord questions.

"There is a tunnel branch on the far west side of the cavern, beyond the Pool. Take that, and it will lead to a sanctuary," the baelnorm explained. "Do not take the northernmost passage - that leafds to the dracolich."

We take a careful note of that statement, "Why don't we just take the escape passage and head there directly?" Kord asked.

Good question. "The passage leads through a Null-Magic Zone," the baelnorm explains. "You could not enter Cormanthor with any magical protections if you took that route."

That's a very convincing argument.

"And once we arrive down in the Pool of Radiance, we throw the phylactery into it?" Kord repeated, oblivious to the fact that the baelnorm had told us not to do that only ma minute earlier. Even Aron gives him a mystified look. Once again, Kord stubbornly refuses to accept any factual statement, however grand or trivial, that doesn't meet with his worldview.

The baelnorm departs, wishing us good fortune, leaving us with a great task and an immense weight. To infiltrate Castle Cormanthor, pass unseen amid the Sammasterite Cult, make our way to the bottom, destroy the dracolich's phylactery, and escape - hoping the other adventurers, whose names we don't even know, can slay the abomination. Otherwise, we'll have an adversary beyond imaging on our heads.

"That's it," Ulrick says, looking at each of us in turn. "Let's go."
 
Spoilers for Pool of Radiance: Attack on Myth Drannor by Sean K. Reynolds

Continued from last correspondence:

Somewhat to our relief, the baelnorm explained that the burden of the world's fate would not rest entirely on the competance of our little company. The larger and more powerful adventuring company that Ryngoth had mentioned in his journal had been recruited by the baelnorm - eternal protector of Myth Drannor, the poor bastard - and was about to launch an assault on the dracolich.

"You actually found fools who were willing to accept that job?" Kord wondered aloud.

The baelnorm treated the remark and its speaker as they deserved - by ignoring them with utter contempt. The air seemed to chill as it spoke, as we found ourselves more firmly wrapped into its designs - I've heard that the drow, to alleviate their perpetual boredom, breed fighting apiders and place them on a web and wager on which one will survive - and now I knew exactly how those spiders must feel. We were about to be placed on a very big web with very large spiders.

"When the dracolich is slain, its spirit will be transferred into a phylactery, and their deeds will be for nought," the baelnorm explained. "But if at the moment of transfer, the phylactery were destroyed before it could find a replacement body... then the dracolich would be forever dead."

"And then the threat to Cornyr from the Cult would be ended!" Ulrick said.

"And the Weave would be safeguarded!" I proclaimed.

"And although we're almost certain to die in the process, if by some miracle we survived, we'd be rich!" Kord declared. I could swear the baelnorm gave him a dirty look.

The Baelnorm gave me the code-words for the bone scepter - a powerful if distasteful item - and instructions on how to reach a refuge into Myth Drannor itself. We were directed to take the one long passage that we found under the crypt that led to Cormanthor. Once we arrived, we'd seek a predetermined refuge. There the badly injured Aron could rest on healing moss while I finally replenished my spells.

Thus we now left the tower outside the Mythal for more dangerous confines. We crept down the long tunnel we'd discovered earlier that day - the one that Kord was so frightened would take us into the heart of Myth Drannor. The only things who watched us were rats, who scurried without purpose or malice over the loam-soaked floor. All the while, we were silent, knowing our dreadful purpose. Ulrick's right hand, empty of its weapon, periodically reached around his body and fingered the place in his backpack where the Book of Lathander was kept. It appeared to be an involuntary response, which I found quite troubling.

Finally, after time unspoken and unmeasured had past - for in the midst of any deed that the heart deems great, the importance of time is greatly diminished - the long tunnel abruptly shot upward, and we came to an old half-rotten wooden ladder that was embedded in the earth. The way above us was sealed, but Aron, hoisted on Ulrick's shoulders, managed to break through the seal, and we carefully shifted the rotten, earth-soaked timbers that sealed the exit and pushed them aside. Aron crawled out and told us the route was clear. This was something of an overstatement. Several shafts of waning sunlight peered through the window, warning us that we might be observed from beyond the walls.

"It looks like some sort of barracks." Aron observed. We were in a stone building with a solid wooden fram, an oak floor and numerous beds. They were all abandoned, and many of the bedframes had become a feast for termites.

"Kord, see what's outside," Ulrick instructed. The elven scout nodded, did a quick check through the windows, and when he spotted no one observing us, he opened the door and took a more thorough look. Once he was certain we were safe, he motioned us to quickly follow him.

And there it was. Castle Cormanthor, once the heart of the great realm of Myth Drannor and the center of elvendom on earth, now loomed ahead of us, a mile in the distance and yet all-too-close. Its ancient spires filled with an unspoken dread that belied their elven beauty. Its battlements zhot skyward like eagle's wings beneath a great shadow, its walls, aged and scarred, reflected only a pale reminder of what it must have been, the citadel of elven moonlight, a glorious mystery reduced to an accursed ruin.

I suppose only Kord and I could appreciate what we saw, and Kord more than I, if his heart weren't so tightly governed by the mercenary impulse. We're in a large courtyard, and we quickly scuttle across and look for the opening to the baelnorm's sanctuary. Kord expected to find it easily, but somehow, I spot the opening and lead us through a curtain of ivy into a mossy den.

We're in a green cage, alit by moonlight and the subtle candle of stars. At the far end of the chamber is a raised bed of purple moss, whose healing properties were well proported by the baelnorm. Uneasily, Ulrick helps Aron slides out of his massive body sheathe of an armor, and sets the Wyvernspur's badly injiured body on the moss-bed. The lad needs it, as do we all - for without question, today has been the hardest day of my entire life. I've been closer to death more times in one day than even the average elf gets during their entire lifetime. Some day, provided that the remainder of our errand goes well, I will look back on this day and laugh, because -for a brief time - I lived a life when the drama surpassed the level of even hysterical melodreama and entered the realm of the absurd.

But reflection was best left until our errand was over. I fell asleep almost as soon as I close my eyes.

I awaken with shafts of morning breaking through the ivy, and the chamber lit by its own dawn's light: Ulrick has the book of Lathander on his lap and is stooped over like a monk, transfixed by the gods' own pages. Again, I'm disturbed by the sight. I love lore, and will pry into the far corners of the world to seek it, but man should be lore's master, lore should not be the master of men.

And then, jubilantly but perhaps hypocritically, I prepare my spell arsenal for the coming battle. I start a discussion of our battle tactics, but the others (quite correctly) advise me to wait until after our final instructions from the baelnorm. Kord decides to give us an incredibly inspired speech on how noble we're being, and how we should feel honored to be walking into certain death and dying for such a glorious cause. I openly ridicule him. "What kind of fool are you?" I sneer. I don't deny that a certain fatalism is among my qualities, but "inspiration through recognition of one's purpose" is a farce of extraordinary measure, "I have absolutely no intention of dying today, or any day in the foreseeable future." The other agree, even Aron (which, of course, worries me). Kord sighs and looks at us like a pack of dumb children refusing to listen to the august wisdom of a sage among sages. Which he most certainly is not. We continue to argue the point until the baelnorm arrives.

The baelnorm congratulates us on our already impressive accomplishments and then briefs us on the castle's layout. After being given advice on how to infiltrate the gate, There is a ground level, and three subterrtanean levels. We were to enter the ground level.and proceed as quickly as possible to the subterranean level. The first level was an artificial elven skyline, which we should be able to infiltrate quickly until we found a secret door. That would take us down a set of stairs into the middle of a large cavern on the second level, which were patrolled on the north side by skeletons and on the south side by some sort of Dragon-Men; the description made them sound like half-dragons. We were instructed to avoid these patrols at all costs, travel northeast and look for another secret passage. There we would travel down to the lower level, where the dracolich's phylactery was kept under guard in a magical prison. There we would break through the prison and destroy the phylactery.

"So we destroy the phylactery in the Pool of Radiance?" Kord asked,

"No." the baelnorm told us. "Simply break it out of its prison and smash it. You will need magical protections. These I can provide, but they will be detecting magic on anyone who enters. So I will provide you with this..." he said, and a magical cream appeared. "Smear it over yourselves and your items and they will be hidden from their scrys."

"How do we escape?" It didn't take Kord to ask the ultimate in Kord questions.

"There is a tunnel branch on the far west side of the cavern, beyond the Pool. Take that, and it will lead to a sanctuary," the baelnorm explained. "Do not take the northernmost passage - that leafds to the dracolich."

We take a careful note of that statement, "Why don't we just take the escape passage and head there directly?" Kord asked.

Good question. "The passage leads through a Null-Magic Zone," the baelnorm explains. "You could not enter Cormanthor with any magical protections if you took that route."

That's a very convincing argument.

"And once we arrive down in the Pool of Radiance, we throw the phylactery into it?" Kord repeated, oblivious to the fact that the baelnorm had told us not to do that only ma minute earlier. Even Aron gives him a mystified look. Once again, Kord stubbornly refuses to accept any factual statement, however grand or trivial, that doesn't meet with his worldview.

The baelnorm departs, wishing us good fortune, leaving us with a great task and an immense weight. To infiltrate Castle Cormanthor, pass unseen amid the Sammasterite Cult, make our way to the bottom, destroy the dracolich's phylactery, and escape - hoping the other adventurers, whose names we don't even know, can slay the abomination. Otherwise, we'll have an adversary beyond imaging on our heads.

"That's it," Ulrick says, looking at each of us in turn. "Let's go."
 

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