From the Diary of Doorag Marzipan

cthulhu42

Explorer
In 2004 my rpg group wrapped up a pretty epic campaign that took us from level 1 to level 20 over the course of a couple of years. Until that time I'd been the only DM in our group to run a long campaign that actually reached a real conclusion. Then one of my players stepped up, and it turned out that she was a spectacular DM. Imaginative, fair, and fearless, she ran a truly epic, plane spanning adventure, and I was able, for the only time, to see a character all the way to the end. It was great.

She offered us bonus xp if we contributed to the campaign in some way, such as art or a character diary. Since I was envisioning playing a crafting wizard i knew I'd need all the extra xp I could get, so I started a diary for my character, Doorag Marzipan.

325 pages later it was finished. I posted it as I was writing it on another board, inspired by some other great story hours. But that board is gone now.

Anyway, I recently stumbled upon it again and gave it a reread. It was super fun to remember all the ups and downs of the campaign, and I thought, what the heck, I'll post in on the enworld boards, on the off chance that somebody might read it.

I should mention that the writing in the first ten to twenty pages is pretty sparse. At the time I really didn't know if I was going to see the project through, so they were just jotted notes in a journal. But as things progressed I began to find Doorag's voice a little more, and began to broaden the scope of the story telling.

This was a 3.5 game. The world was homebrew, although she used Greyhawk's calendar and a larege part of it's deity pantheon.
 

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cthulhu42

Explorer
Book I

Ptchwl 6

Have recently arrived in Toulouse, a town I have not visited for quite some time. I
believe the last time the Old Man and I came here for supplies and news it was my
seven-tenth summer. Not much has changed in four years. I don’t plan on staying
long; perhaps a day or two to pad my supplies and get my bearings before heading
to Havilah.


Ptchwl 7

My journey to Havilah has been postponed. Baron, the captain of the guard here
in Toulouse, has asked me to accompany a small band of scouts to check on the
condition of a monastery a days walk from here. According to him the monks that
reside there visit the town every year around this time. Thus far they have not come,
and Baran is worried for them. He has asked myself and four others to make sure
they are well, and has even added the incentive of a twenty-five gold payment. I
would do it without the coin, but I can’t say it won’t come in handy in the days to
come.

We leave tomorrow. Five of us in all. I have only met my new companions
briefly, but already I have a good feeling about them. There is Griffin, a human
warrior; Caribdis, another human, young, but he carries a bow. I hope he knows
how to use it. There is Taklinn, a dwarven priest of Clangeden; obviously devout
and zealous. Mayhap a bit OVER zealous, but one must admire faith. And last,
besides myself, is another small folk. Her name is Happy, and she’s a Greenie. She
packs a lot of blades, I’ll say that for her!


Ptchwl 8

The day has been a harsh journey to the east, into the forested mountains and a
winter storm that seems awfully extreme for this time of year. The end of the day
found us at the monastery where no life appears to exist. It is bitterly cold, so cold
that the door was iced over. We found a dead monk in the frozen pond in the front,
but that was to be the least of the horrors we’d face.

Upon entering the monastery Griffin was attacked by what I believe was a delver.
The ensuing fight was short, dark, and ultimately we proved victorious, but not
without some damage being done to Griffin.

Pressing on, we found the kitchen, and beyond it a dining room that showed signs
of struggle. Two skeletons dressed in the rags of monks robes suddenly animated
and attacked! My companions fought valiantly! Happy risked her life to help
Taklinn deal with one of the undead, and with supreme team work we were able to
dispatch them.

Stairs lead up to sleeping quarters, empty and cold. More stairs led down to a
basement and an odd furnace, and in that room were we nearly brought down! From
a pile of coal an undead hand slapped at me, nearly knocking me senseless! I could
do little but make my escape as my stalwart comrades stepped in to deal with the
atrocity. It was then that Taklinn was hit hard enough to be brought down. The rest
of the party fell upon the monkish zombie with vengeance in mind, and it soon fell
dead.

Which finds us here, back in the kitchen, warmed by fire and furnace, keeping
careful watch over the unconscious Taklinn. He breaths and sleeps peacefully,
which is a good sign. It has been an exhausting day and I must sleep. With all the
undead that seem to be in this place I think it would be a good idea to memorize
Disrupt Undead. Also, if I have time, I am going to try my hand at scroll scribing.


Ptchwl 10

Another days rest and we believe Taklinn is out of the woods. He is on the mend,
and we think that we’ll be able to move on tomorrow or the next day. My scroll
work is coming along nicely, but I don’t want to over do it. I am doing a bit of
healing myself.

I have had little time to talk about my companions, and certainly more will be said
later, but for now I must write a few small accolades.

I feel very lucky to have fallen in with this lot. Though Griffin seems fatalistic
and concerned only with finding the monks wine supply, he is a ferocious warrior!
Taklinn is a rock, and his healing spells have already come in handy. His axe is a
thing to behold, and with it he makes short work of undead skulls. I am quickly
seeing where Happy’s expertise lies. She is always eager to scout silently ahead and
check for traps. Yes, a roguish lass she is, but she seems more about the fun of the
caper than the actual loot. One can’t fault a small folk for natural curiosity. She is
also quite brave. And speaking of brave, Caribdis has the courage to recite poetry in
the heat of battle! Such courage have I rarely seen! He is also quite a shot with his
bow, and though he is young, I feel we’re fortunate to have him.

Unfortunately, for my part I seem able to do little more than lug a torch. Still, it’s
been only a couple of days. I’m sure a spell or two will come in handy when the
time comes.


Ptchwl 11

We head back out tomorrow. Taklinn is back on his feet, but needs a day to
recover his spells. Caribdis and Griffin scouted up the stairs briefly and reported a
hall full of foreboding doors. In the morning we will set out to get to the bottom of
this mystery and root out the evil that infests this once beautiful monastery.

My scroll looks good. I believe all has gone well and I now have Unseen Servant
on paper.


Ptchwl 12

Whew! What a day it has been! Full of combat, mishaps and flaming zombies.

We ascended the stairs this morning and the first door we opened found us face to
face with a pair of the undead that infest this place. I was able to apply a little
flaming oil to one of them while Griffon mopped up the second. All would have
gone like clock work had Happy and I not tried to help. We both hurled daggers at
the creature, but we both missed and ended up hitting Griffin! He was not badly
injured, and seemed to forgive us, but I wouldn’t blame him if he holds a bit of
resentment. Our clumsiness in battle did nothing to alleviate the reputation we small
folk have as troublemakers.

At any rate, soon after this fight, Caribdis suddenly became terrified and obsessed
with fleeing the monastery. He claimed to have seen a ghost or a vision of a woman
watching him. He swears that we are in terrible danger, more than we understand. It
may be a ghost, but I’m not so sure. The way he made it sound it could well have
been someone scrying us. I’ve seen the Old Man scry plenty of times. It could easily
have been Caribdis sensing himself being magically watched. Whatever the case,
the mystery deepens, and we will do well to be on our guard.

Back to the events of the day, we moved on, checking out the rooms on the upper
floor, discovering still more undead! One room in particular, the library, seemed
positively bursting at the seams with them. Courage, determination and fighting
prowess won the day, and I was even able to make use of all the Disrupt Undead
spells I’d memorized. Unfortunately, I would prove far less effective in our next
fight.

After clearing out the second floor we discovered a stair case leading up to the
third floor. The first thing we saw upon climbing them was a room with two doors
and as many statues. We were leery of the statues, but not leery enough! Taklinn
touched one of the doors and the two stone monks sprang to life! We have fought
battles, but nothing like this! The two statues moved faster than they should have,
and struck with powerful stone fists. Worse yet, the only one of us who seemed
capable of hurting them was Griffin, and even he was only just able to dent them.
My spells proved useless, and Taklinn, our only other strong fighter, was at a loss.
His axe simply lacked the power to breech their stone skin! I tried to aid Griffin and
perhaps redeem myself from the dagger throwing incident by helping him to flank
one of the statues and hopefully distracting it while Griffin concentrated his attacks.
I don’t really know if it worked, but in the end Griffins sword was the end for the
statue. Good thing, to, for one hit from the statue would surely have been the end of
me.

Badly wounded, Griffin turned to deal with the second statue, which Taklinn and
Caribdis had been managing to stave off, but the magic that gave the stone life must
have been finite, for at that point the second statue ceased to move and became
harmless granite once again. We took no chances, however, and smashed it to
pieces.

We were all quite the worse for wear after such a fight, and have decided to bed
down for a couple of days to regain our strength before breeching the doors. My
Unseen Servant came in quite handy for opening suspect doors. I believe I’ll make
another such scroll. I feel that my skills have benefited greatly from even this small
amount of real world work.


Ptchwl 16

Today we head back to Toulouse, for victory is ours and the murderous evil that
made puppets out of monks has been driven from the monastery. I can only hope
that more of their order will eventually come and repopulate the place and bring life
back to it.


I write this while we rest on the trail back to Toulouse. I haven’t much time, but,
extraordinarily enough, there is little to tell. Still, what there is to relate is gripping
enough!

We rested for two days, honing our blades and reciting our spells, all the while
glancing nervously upwards, knowing that we would soon face whatever dwelt
behind those last doors. Finally, with our loins properly girded, we fit the correct
key into one of the key holes and let the door swing open.

The creature within greeted us with the hiss of hatred that only the undead can
muster. This had obviously once been a high ranking monk, and he was the last
stand of evil in this place. He crouched low amongst the ruined room, eager to
pounce upon the first to come close enough. But it was not to be.

I know that clerics can have power over the undead, and I’ve seen Taklinn try his
hand at rebuking several of the zombies that we’ve crossed paths with already, all
with dismal results. He claims that manipulation of the undead is not his particular
forte, and until today he had done nothing to disprove that. But this morning, in the
face of the purest evil I have yet to see, Taklinn stepped forward, roaring the name
of Clangeden, calling upon the dwarven god to smite this abomination before him.

And Clangeden did!

The zombie monk suddenly whimpered and cried out in fear and frustration, and
fled before the glow that radiated from Taklinn’s holy symbol. The pitiful creature
sought a way to escape, but there was none. Taklinn backed it into a corner, and
held it at bay while it cowered before him. Griff and Caribdis wasted no time in
filling it full of bolts and arrows until it lay still.

Griff says it is time to move if we want to make it to Toulouse by sundown. I will
write more when there is more to tell.


Ptchwl 18

It’s been far too long since my last entry. The Old Man in the Pointy Hat would
not be pleased. He always said that the keeping of a journal is an exercise in
discipline, and discipline is at the heart of successful wizardry. I shall try to better
stay abreast of events in this log.

Our arrival back in Toulouse roused a sleeping Baron, it being well past dusk. He
gratefully received our report though, as well as the letter we had found addressed
to him. He read it with some concern and then sifted our story for details. It was
clear that he was much troubled, and I daresay it was no help that Caribdis decided
that it was an appropriate time to pump him for more money, reminding him
incessantly of our deeds and the fact that the job had turned out to be far more
difficult than the mere delivering of a letter. I was quite appalled, but he is young,
and Baron took it in stride. I do hope that our impetuous bard will one day soon
learn the fine art of subtlety.

Baron sent us to The Happy Merchant to enjoy an evening of refreshment and a
clean bed, courtesy of Toulouse, promising to meet us there in the morning with our
payment and more information.

Whether it was Caribdis’ hinting, or Baron’s own sense of fairness I don’t know,
but the following day he brought to each of us a pouch heavy with 40 gold! Fifteen
more than promised. We were all well pleased, and it certainly made us receptive to
his offer of further aiding him. Sitting down to dine with us, he told us what he
knew.

The abbot of the monastery, it seems, was a gruff piece of work by the name of
Alluzin who had split away from some monks order or another because it wasn’t
strict enough for him. It seems that he had, before starting his own order, raised a
sister whom Baron feels might have cause to resent him. She is a possible suspect
as the culprit behind the monastery murders, especially considering Caribdis’ tale of
seeing visions of a woman. The motive may be a bit tenuous, but it is still there, so
Baron felt it wise to at least tell us of her, and ask us to undertake a second mission
on his behalf.

He wants us to travel to Ravens Hollow to see Yigil Sakeri, a wizard of some
renown. I recall the name from The Old Man in the Pointy Hat, though not very
many details. Baron assures me that my having apprenticed under The Old Man in
the Pointy Hat will lend weight to our meeting, but I don’t know. It’s always been
my experience that wizards consider apprentices to be slightly beneath privy
cleaners on the importance scale. We shall see.

We have accepted the mission, though it pains me a bit. On the one hand, I desire
travel and the opportunity to see new things and face new challenges. But I worry
that I may become too involved in the affairs of this kingdom and lose the freedom
to follow my whims. Still, it’s for a good cause, and I must admit to a certain
curiosity as the mystery deepens. The culprit must be brought to justice, and to a
certain extent, I think it only right that we be the ones to do so.

On a side note, I’ve finally finished research on those new spells. At last, I have
Mage Armor and Sleep. While I find it difficult to make room for defensive spells, I
feel sure that the time will soon come when they will come in handy. Already I can
cast more spells than I could only a week ago. My learning has accelerated
dramatically. The Old Man in the Pointy Hat was right! There is no class room like
the real world! I find that I have very little time for study, but the research I am able
to get in seems to correlate far more clearly with real world examples than they do
in the lab. It’s as if the danger has forced my mind to respond to it by swiftly
grasping the nuances of my craft. The Old Man in the Pointy Hat said it would be
so, and it is.

And while Shield and Mage Armor may go unused for a bit longer, I’m very
excited at the prospect of Sleep. The Old Man in the Pointy Hat swears by this
spell, still preferring to have one about him even at his power. I’m eager to try it out,
my one reservation being its area of effect. I would hate to accidentally knock out
one of my fellow party members due to poor calculations of distance. I shall try to
be careful.

Note to self: See about buying some scrolls in Ravens Hollow. Now that I have
some money it’s time to supplement my own research with purchased spells, though
I daresay I hardly have the funds to copy them into my book. That may soon
change, however, as one of the spoils of our recent adventure turned out to be an
amazing book that promises to reveal to me the secretes of scribing at half the page
space and even less the cost! I have been pursuing it ravenously. This book could
save me many thousands of gold in the long run, though it is a slow and painful
read.


Ptchwl 23

We are on the road to Ravens Hollow, a week away from Toulouse. Not all of us
were so eager to lend our strength to Baron, but he hints that our solidarity may be
our best source of income, an already formed and cohesive party being quite
valuable. It remains to be seen, but in the meantime we have a weeks worth of
travel to gel even more. It’s a perfect opportunity to get to know one another better,
though I’m afraid I may be losing out on this time due to my studies. I have so much
to learn and read that it takes up most of my spare time. I hope my companions do
not think me anti-social. My research really is necessary.

Happy has bought a donkey, which she has named, Don Kay, and her (the
donkeys) back is broad enough for the both of us to ride. She wanted to purchase a
small horse with my financial help, but I convinced her to save some gold and go
with a pack animal. I’m a terrible rider, so it would be pointless for me to claim part
ownership in a horse. I am far more comfortable astride the slow but sure Don Kay,
where I am able to read and study along the road.

The rest of the party, with the exception of Taklinn, who says that he prefers to
walk, has also bought mounts, but none are worried that we’re slowing them down.
We are under no pressure, and were even able to spend a couple of days in
Toulouse in preparation before hitting the trail. I was able to scribe a couple more
scrolls (Sleep and Mage Armor), which is always helpful.


Ptchwl 26

Once again I have felt the sting of an enemy’s weapon! This life of adventure is
rife with reward, but the downside of its danger can be only too apparent
sometimes.

It was an ambush. Riding through a dense forest, we rounded a bend and for some
reason I looked up from my book. To my surprise I was able to spot several
creatures hidden in the overgrowth that lined the road. Hobgoblins! Nasty beasts
with foul tempers and wicked blades. As nonchalantly as I could, I slipped my book
into my pack and muttered to the rest what I had seen. Taklinn had also spotted
them, and he stiffened; his axe at the ready. Caribdis twirled an arrow from its
quiver and all hell broke loose.

The order of events is murky to me, but suffice to say, I was able to try out my
new Sleep spell. Zeroing in on a hobgoblin, I uttered the incantation, and to my near
surprise and great pleasure, he dropped into a deep slumber, effectively taking him
out of the fight!

And then I got shot with a crossbow!

I leapt from Don Kay’s back and scurried into the cover of the woods while
Taklinn and Griffin charged forward to meet the threat head on. Taklinn seemed to
take particular glee in the fight, and in no time at all he had split the skull of a
hobgoblin. Griffin took on another, and traded blows back and forth with the beast,
when all of the sudden Happy appeared behind the hapless hobgoblin and drove her
dagger into his blind side. She left a grievous wound, and Griffin was easily able to
finish him off. Caribdis continued to show his bow skills and dropped another
hobgoblin with a volley of arrows. With four of them taken down so swiftly, the last
two quickly fled into the forest.

We are now left with a prisoner, the hobgoblin that I put to sleep. We found sets
of manacles on each of the hobgoblins, and at first we thought they were slavers,
but our prisoner scoffs at the idea. We now believe they were trying to specifically
capture us. It appears that we have made an enemy!

We plan to turn the hobgoblin over to the local authorities in Ravens Hollow. I
need to rest now. Taklinn was able to heal me fully, but I can still feel the ghost of
the bolt in my shoulder, and it’s been quite difficult to study this evening. I look
forward to getting back on the road tomorrow.


Ptchwl 28

At last, a spot of peace and quiet. It seems that these moments are coming few and
far between lately.

I write this from the relative comfort and safety of the first floor of Yigil’s tower.
He has allowed us to stay the night, with promise of more information, and perhaps
a job in the morning. After the day we’ve had I’m sure we’ll all be able to use the
rest. Even Griffin seems more attracted to his bed than his bottle tonight, and
Ambros is already curled up asleep. I would join him, but the adventures of the day
still run through my mind, and I’d best get them on paper while they are still fresh.

But to do that I must back up a bit. I have been unable to update my journal since
our first run in with the hobgoblins on the road to Ravens Hollow, and much has
happened since. I would be remiss if I didn’t take up my tale where it left off.

After defeating the ambushing hobgoblins, we took our prisoner and set out again,
wanting to put as much distance between ourselves and the ambush site as possible.
But we were unable to outrun the surviving hobgoblins, for that night, as we lay
asleep, the two that had run away embarked on a daring rescue mission that ended
in disaster when they alerted Taklinn, who was on watch. And fortunate that he
was, for he is the only one among us who can see in the dark! He was able to spot
the marauders and set to work with his axe. His bellows roused us, but we could do
little but stumble around in the night while Taklinn settled accounts with the
hobgoblins by himself.

The failure of the rescue attempt seemed to be the last blow to the moral of our
prisoner, for the next day when I questioned him; he seemed far more willing to
deal.

It turned out that his ambushing group was about half of a band of scallywags
hired specifically to capture us. After some coaxing, he decided to trade his
comrade’s life for his own, and agreed to take us to his bands campsite in return for
his freedom and a sword. He also said that whoever had hired them in the first place
was a spell caster, but he did not know exactly where or who they were. We would
have to settle with taking out the remaining hobgoblins and their two bugbear
leaders.

We followed the road to Ravens Hollow until we were mere miles from the town,
then the hobgoblin led us into the forest to a small farmhouse not far away. There
showed no signs of movement, but he assured us that they were there, and after
some quick reconnaissance, he proved true. A hobgoblin was busy chasing chickens in
the back yard. We led our prisoner several hundred yards into the forest, and
freed him, and that’s the last we’ve seen of the traitorous fellow. I’d say it was a
good trade though, for we were able to mount an assault that laid many more of his
kind low that day.

Quickly formulating a plan, we crept around to the back of the farmhouse and
drew back our missile weapons, hoping to take out the chicken chasing hobgoblin
in a single, silent, volley of arrows, daggers and bolts. Griffin recently came across
a crossbow that suited him, and he gave me his old one. I decided that this would be
the perfect time to try it out. It was a shot of beauty! Most of us hit the hapless bad
guy, but my bolt took him right through the eye. At the time I felt quite enamored of
the weapon, and it would prove still more potent in the coming days.

The hobgoblin went down without a single grunt of alarm, and we crept forward,
toward the rear of the house. I snuck around the side of the house, hoping to get a
peek in the window and get an idea of what we faced before going in, but Taklinn
had other ideas. With a great dwarven war bellow, he kicked open the rear door and
waded into the fray. Nearly half a dozen hobgoblins sprang to meet his challenge,
grabbing up their weapons and quickly surrounding him. By this time I was peering
through the window, so I did what I was able to and cast a Sleep spell.
Unfortunately it was rather ineffective, and only one of the thugs went down. Still,
it took a bit of pressure off of Taklinn, and by that time Griffin had followed him in
and the two warriors set to work with sword and axe, cleaving a bloody swath
through the room.

I had little time to appreciate the skill with which my two friends fight, however,
for at that moment, around the front corner, came a massive hobgoblin, charging
right for me! What could I do but flee? He chased me back to the rear of the house,
into the goat pen. Fortunately Happy was back there as well, and she commenced to
harrie the brute with well placed daggers. Still, she didn’t drop him, and I ran out of
the pen and back toward the house where Caribdis stood, firing arrows into the fray
inside. And it was Caribdis who downed my hobgoblin pursuer when he chased me
a bit too close to Caribdis for his liking. The young bard and Happy filled the
bugger with enough steel to drop him, after which we turned our eyes to the inside
combat.

Taklinn and Griffin had mopped up the hobgoblins downstairs, but the gang’s
leaders had joined the battle now, charging down the stairs. One final hobgoblin and
two bugbears. I have heard of bugbears, but in the flesh, they seem impossibly huge
and strong. They swung their massive morningstars as if they were made of rotten
wood, and a single hit from one would surely do me in. Taklinn and Griffin stood
their ground, but it was a desperate fight. Things looked grim, but the turning point
came when it seemed that Griffin had met his end. Overstepping through one of his
sword thrusts, he was caught off balance, and the bugbear was able to grab him by
the hair while the last hobgoblin flanked him from the opposite side. The hobgoblin
tried to grab Griffin, as if to pin his arms, but our warrior was too slippery, and,
with his hair still clenched in the bugbears fist, he whirled and struck, downing the
hobgoblin, and then following through for a mighty backswing into the bugbear that
took the beast to its knees! With a heavy thud, the bugbear slumped to the floor.

Caribdis was able to fire his arrows, but Happy and I could do little as we
watched Taklinn and Griffin square off against the final bugbear. I toyed with the
idea of trying another Sleep spell, but was stymied by its area of effect. Happy
would not throw for fear of hitting one of our comrades. The lessons learned in the
zombie fight have stayed with us.

As it turned out, our warriors were more than able to handle themselves, and with
a mighty double team, the two struck high and low, axe and sword cleaving through
muscle and bone. The bugbear went down with a defeated grunt, and the house was
still.

Wounded, hurting and weary, we still had to secure the house. Griffin went
upstairs, and to our horror, he discovered two young human girls, tied to the beds
and obviously mistreated and ravaged. They were physically sound, but the hell
they had gone through showed on their faces. Griffin wrapped them in blankets and
Happy soothed them while Taklinn tended to their wounds. The girls were able to
tell us that the farm had belonged to an elderly couple called the McDonalds.
Hoping against hope that they might still be alive, we manacled the sleeping
hobgoblin (and a still alive but unconscious bugbear) and forced him to tell take us
to the McDonalds. We found them in a gully in the forest, heads bashed in and
tossed aside like so much garbage. Our hobgoblin prisoner was made to carry their
bodies back to the farm and dig proper graves for them. It was quite sad, even
though I didn’t know them personally. As Taklinn said a few words over their
graves, I couldn’t help but feel a sleight responsibility to these innocent farmers.

We toyed briefly with the idea of staying at the farm, hoping that whoever had
hired these curs would come to visit, especially after Taklinn discovered a cage full
of ravens, each with a tiny scroll tube tied to it’s leg and a couple of pre-written
scrolls obviously meant to be used as confirmation of the success or falier of the
thugs mission. Taklinn set free the ravens, one of them with a note stating that the
mission was accomplished, hoping to throw our enemy off the trail. In the end we
decided to hurry on to Ravens Hollow, the quicker to reunite the two girls with their
families and meet with Yigil.

We rounded up our gear, as well as the livestock from the farm, and headed out.
As we entered the small town, the populace began to pour from the houses and
shops as word spread of the girls rescue, and it was not long before their mothers
arrived, crying and wailing with relief and thanks. It was the best I have felt for a
very long time. Truly, such moments are the real reward for a life of adventure.

Soon after we met Adri Lawson, the sheriff in Ravens Hollow. Adri Lawson is an
untrusting sort, and though he was grateful to us for bringing the girls back safely,
he appeared guarded, especially after we told him we wanted to meet with Yigil.
Yigil, it seems, is, like most wizards, looked upon with great suspicion and mistrust.
Still, Lawson’s hospitality was first rate, and we spent the night in Ravens Hollow
as the towns honored guests, dining and dwelling for free.

Early the next morning we met again with Adri, and he gave us directions to
Yigil’s tower. It was a days travel through rough woods, he said, and urged us to be
careful, or better yet, to simply not go. But there was to be no turning back, and
after a fine farmer’s breakfast and a visit to the armoror for some business for
Taklinn and Griffin, we plunged into the forest.

The ride was pleasant, if a bit rough. Don Kay was sure footed and I was able to
get in a bit of reading from his back before harsh reality interrupted my study once
again.

We had ridden for roughly seven hours, when we began to spot movement in the
woods. It was a warning, but not enough to keep us from another ambush, as
suddenly the air was thick with javelins! The slender spears rained from the sky,
one of them piercing my shoulder. It did little damage, but the pain was fierce.
Casting about, it seemed that the woods had suddenly exploded with goblins! These
smaller cousins of hobgoblins may be half the size of their brethren, but they are no
less fierce, and their jibbering war whoops chilled my spine as I realized how many
of them there must be. A quick scan showed at nearly two dozen lining the road, all
of them well armed with wicked morning stars.

Our mounts panicked, and I quickly slid from Don Kay’s back, casting a spell
even as I dropped to the ground. Centering it in the midst of a tightly packed group
of goblins, I let fly with a Sleep spell, and it was a wonder! Half a dozen goblins
fell to the ground, deep in slumber! It was a good hit and thinned their numbers, but
they quickly fell upon us and chaos reined. Taklinn and Griffin found themselves
surrounded by goblins while Happy, Caribdis and I faced off with another six or
seven of the little beasts. I tried to Grease the area beneath the goblins feet, but was
hit for my efforts, and my spell fizzled. Wounded and dazed, I could do little but try
and distance myself from the melee. Caribdis fired arrows from point blank range
into a goblin while Happy threw daggers on the move, plunking one into the back
of a goblin that threatened Taklinn. I believe she was hit, but she is made of stern
stuff, and kept her feet. Griffin and Taklinn swung their weapons, keeping their
enemies at bay and connecting a couple of times, but they were quickly being
overwhelmed.

Finding myself clear of enemies for a brief second, I fired off a Color Spray at a
trio of nearby goblins in an effort to help Caribdis, who is no melee fighter.
Unfortunately only one of them was affected, but it helped a bit, and Caribdis was
able to get off another bow shot. A goblin seemed to pick me out and ran at me,
swinging his morningstar. The threat was immediate and deadly, but from the
corner of my eye I could see that Griffin and Taklinn needed relief, so I took a
chance. Reading a scroll while dodging the weapon of a crazed goblin is a very
tough proposition, but I was able to get the spell off, and with it centered just so, the
Sleep spell knocked out another three of the goblins that surrounded Taklinn and
Griffin. This brought their numbers down to reasonable levels, and it was the work
of a few seconds for Griff, Taklinn and Happy to dispatch the remaining few.
Caribdis took care of the goblin that was attacking me with a well placed arrow.
When I was at last able to look around without fear of being brained, the ground
was littered with dead or unconscious goblins. All of us were wounded, but there
was no time to rest. Despite reservations, we had to dispense some roadside justice
to the surviving goblins. I’d have preferred taking them to the local law, but it
simply wasn’t an option. In the end, it was Taklinn who, with typical dwarven
aplomb, "took care" of our prisoners. It left a bad taste in our mouths, but we had
little choice. Caribdis especially, seemed affected by the harsh reality of what had to
be done. Still, I would rather sleep uneasily than sleep forever.

We moved on. Taklinn and even Caribdis had used most of their healing, and yet
most of us were still wounded, which made the next encounter even more deadly.

It was an hour later and the woods grew thick around us. We felt that Yigil’s
tower must now be very near, but getting there without further conflict would not be
an option. We rounded a corner in the trail, and still more goblins blocked our path.
Only two this time, but mounted on worgs, huge wolves, bristling with teeth and a
malevolent intelligence that shown from their red eyes. Sensing our weakened state,
they charged us, not bothering to listen to Happy’s demands that they let us pass
(very fortunate that she speaks the language). One of them barreled into Griffin
while the second pair skirted us to attack our flank. It was a short and bloody fight,
and Griffin and Caribdis took the worst of it. I was out of spells, and thus fell back
to my new crossbow, putting it to good use. The worgs were some of the toughest
creatures we’ve yet faced. Happy hit one of them with dagger after dagger, and it
just wouldn’t go down until the very end. I must say, that girl plays hell with those
knives of hers. I’ve watched her study an opponent, look for his weak spot, and hurl
her dagger with deft ease that does its damage via placement, not force.

When the dust had cleared, two goblins and two worgs lay dead. Griffin and
Caribdis lay near death, bleeding and unconscious. Taklinn was able to staunch
their wounds, but he was as bereft of magic as I, and in the end all we could do was
put them on their mounts and hope that we’d soon find the tower.

The last half hour was the worst. Behind every shrub or tree stump we seemed to
see goblins lurking. Our imaginations played nasty tricks with the wind and the
shadows, and we knew only too well that we were in no shape to take on much
more. But at last, the forest broke into a clearing, and there it sat, Yigil’s squat
tower, beckoning to us with mystery, and hopefully, refuge.

A smart rap on the door (or two), and a shouted explanation to the servants as to
who we were and what business we had here, and finally the master of the tower
dinged to greet us. Yigil is a musty old bugger, but one can expect little else of a
wizard of any repute, and I get the definite feeling that Yigil is not one to be trifled
with. He was curious about my relationship with the Old Man in the Pointy Hat, and
I get the distinct impression that he doesn’t care for him. I will let that be between
them, however, as I have business to attend to. Once we’d given Yigil our letter of
introduction, he mellowed a little (very little) and gave us some small aid in the
form of potions to heal our felled comrades. It was a relief to see Griffin and
Caribdis come around. Yigil offered us his limited hospitality (a bit of the floor on
the first floor of his tower), and that is where we are even now. He tells us that we
will know more in the morning, and that is good enough for me. I am bone tired,
and my yawns are threatening to overwhelm me. The others are all well asleep. It is
unlike me to burn so much midnight oil, but our adventures need to be recorded.
Now that they have, I must bed down.
More will be written when there is more to tell...

Rdyr’t 3

Here we are, back in Ravens Hollow, with our feet firmly set on a new path of
adventure.

Yigil has given us a bit of a test to prove our worthiness to accompany him to
Havilah and to call ourselves a real crew, eligible to accept good coin in exchange
for dangerous services rendered. You would think that ridding the monastery of
zombies and battling dozens of goblinoids on the road would be enough, but
apparently not. To win Yigil’s favor, we must seek out and destroy a wyvern.

In my research while under the tutelage of The Old Man in the Pointy Hat I
studied many types of monstrous creature, and I recall briefly skimming over
wyverns. Fortunately Yigil is disinclined to send us on this hunt with such sparse
knowledge of our quarry, and has given us much more information, as well as a
scry of the beasts lair.

A wyvern is a cousin of the dragon, and while not nearly as fierce as one of those
terrible beasts, it is still a spine shaking terror. It is a winged lizard, some twenty or
thirty feet long, with six inch long fangs, clawed feet, and a tail stinger full of
poison! Fighting man sized creatures is one thing, but this, this is another matter
entirely.

According to Yigil, wyverns are fairly clumsy on the ground, unable to move
much faster than a dwarf or a halfling. Their hide is thick and leathery, highly
resistant to sword blows. Their teeth and claws are capable of terrible damage, but
their favored tactic is to sweep up their hapless prey in their talons, fly them high
into the air, and then drop them to their deaths. Yigil’s says that they hunt in the
daylight and slumber through the night, their dark vision being non-existent, though
they have keen ears and smell. This promises to be a dangerous undertaking, and
we are here in Ravens Hollow in preparation for this hunt. Happy has come up with
a clever idea that may well be the undoing of this beast.

Before we left his tower, Yigil brought us to his chambers and unveiled his
scrying mirror. With it, he showed us exactly what the wyvern’s lair looks like. It is
a cave, situated some forty feet up on the side of a sheer cliff face, though there is a
substantial shelf of rock that forms a lip beneath its entrance. Happy proposes that
we construct a net that we can somehow drop over the wyvern, and has even found
a craftsman in Ravens Hollow who is making it for us. It’s a fine idea, but I daresay
the logistics of getting the wyvern into the net would be well nigh impossible
without the new spells I’ve learned.

The morning of the 1st day of Readyreat, I awoke and, as usual, went about my
morning studies, and, as has often happened over these last days, finally came to an
understanding of two brand new spells! Only these two deserve special mention, as
they are both of the second circle of power, and are, arguably the best of that lot!
Levitate and Invisibility. Two spells that no mage should be without. The words to
the spells just fell into place for me on that morning, and I find my mental catalogue
of spells expanded. I memorized one of each of them, but had no time to try them
out until yesterday. The townsfolk in Ravens Hollow have been extraordinarily kind
to us. They regard us as heroes for saving their children, and have treated us as
such. We have a difficult time paying for anything, and truth be told, getting a bit of
privacy has been difficult, given their adulation. Still, last night I was able to sneak
out to the lot behind the inn and test out my new spells.

Casting levitate first, I felt little, until I mentally commanded myself to rise. And I
did! My feet left the ground with a lurch, and I must admit to a few seconds of
panic as I continued to lift into the air, seemingly leaving my stomach below! It is a
heady feeling to watch the earth recede below you, defying gravity through nothing
more than magic. The logical mind insists that it is impossible, and even though I
flew once or twice under the influence of The Old Man in the Pointy Hat’s spells,
this was a much different experience. Without him there to oversee, to assure me of
my safety, I had to will myself to remain calm and control the spell. Soon, I was
able to do just that, and the feelings of fear turned to euphoria as I rose higher and
higher, able to control my vertical motion with mere thought! Unlike the Fly spell
(which is still beyond me), I cannot move side to side. But the feeling of flight is
every bit as prevalent with Levitate, and every bit as exhilarating! Watching Ravens
Hollow grow smaller and smaller below me... well; the feeling is hard to describe. I
felt as though I’d truly crossed a threshold from apprentice to wizard. My stomach
did flip flops for several minutes after I’d landed, and I found myself giggling long
afterward. It appears that flying simply makes one happy! One thing though, I
must be careful. Currently I can only hold the spell for about a half hour, and it’s
vital that I keep that in mind. Should I allow the spell to dissipate before I alight, the
results could, obviously, be disastrous.

I set down from my Levitate experiment quite some distance from where I’d
started, as the wind shifted me a bit east. Still finding myself alone, I decided to try
out Invisibility. Though not so dramatic as Levitate, watching my body fade from
view was a curious sensation. Waving ones hand in front of ones face and seeing
nothing but the ground beyond, is disconcerting until one grows used to it. It gives
one a feeling of mischievousness, I must admit, and I can see how such a spell
could be misused in the wrong hands. I even snuck up on Griffin as he drank in the
tavern, and I do believe he was ready to draw his sword and swing wildly until I
assured him that it was just me. I believe he was duly impressed, but a bit
suspicious, nonetheless.

Not all research leads to enlightenment though. I cannot crow over my spell casting
exploits without confessing to a failure. While at Yigil’s, I purchased from him a
scroll of that staple of every wizards library, Magic Missile. I studied the bloody
thing all the way back to Ravens Hollow, and attempted to copy it to my book, and
failed utterly! I am disgusted with myself that I appear unable to comprehend what
should be so simple! How can I master Levitate when I can’t even grasp Magic
Missile? It is depressing, but I shant give up. Sooner or later I WILL cast that
bloody spell!

At any rate, I was talking about the plan to incapacitate the wyvern via Happy’s
net. It turns out that my new spells will enable us to do so (we hope). I can cast
Levitate onto the net itself and raise it into the air, the idea being to position it over
the lair entrance like a spider web. I shall also turn the net invisible, and one of us
will serve as bait, luring the wyvern straight into it. I’ve found that I can keep the
nets position as I want it with an unseen servant.

These past two days have been spent constructing the net while I write scrolls.
Nearly half of my gold has gone towards a pair of Levitate scrolls. Expensive, but
they will be vital, as I can only cast two second circle spells per day, and I figure I
will need at least two Levitates (one to get us up to the cliff, and a second for the
net), as well as an Invisibility.

We depart tomorrow for the wyvern’s lair, which is a days ride from here. We
must pass the remnants of the goblin tribe that attacked us earlier to get there
though, so we’ll have to be on our guard.

It is late, and I must be to bed, but before I did I must mention the generosity of
these fine folks of Ravens Hollow once again, for this evening they have showered
us with gifts. Each of us has received a fine gift from a craftsman here. A kind, old,
gnomish woman named Edie has given me a fine wizard’s cloak, complete with
pockets for components and Ambros! It is of beautiful design, and I wear it proudly.
I only hope that we live long enough to enjoy our gifts.


Rdyr’t 4

Another long day on the road, and another fight against goblins, though I daresay,
either we are getting better at fighting, or the goblins are getting worse, because
today saw us with fewer casualties than our last encounters with them.

Or mayhap it was because we were not ambushed this time.

We departed Ravens Hollow early this morning, thronged by townsfolk
assembled to see us off. They know of our mission and, being their patron heroes,
after a fashion, they wish us well and cheer for our victory.

Our path led us into the low foothills a days ride east of the town, and by late day
we had begun to climb, riding our sturdy mounts up ever steepening switchbacks or
leading them across shale covered slopes. And, around one particular bend, without
warning, there appeared the whole of a goblin encampment; this one fairly
permanent, there being several sturdy huts built onto the alcoves that pock marked
the canyon in which it was situated.

Griffin, in the lead, hissed back a warning, and I decided that now was the time to
test my new spells.

The Old Man in the Pointy Hat often said to me, "Doorag, in times of danger and
combat, the learned must endeavor to become airborne as soon as possible, and
remain unseen for as long as possible." Up until today I have been unable to heed
this advice, but at Griff’s warning, I remembered those words well. Casting quickly,
I vanished from beneath the nose of a startled Happy, and then rose into the air to
see what I could see.

The village spread out before me, and more than half a dozen goblins and several
worgs went about their business there. We had yet to be spotted, and I pondered our
strategy until Griffin made a command decision and stepped boldly forward,
marching right into their midst! He even gave a startled goblin a jaunty salute as he
passed like it was the most natural thing in the world. Knowing that these buggers
would soon regain their composure, I cast quickly, sending a Sleep into a throng of
them. Four, perhaps five, went down in peaceful slumber. And then hell broke
loose. The remaining goblins came to their senses immediately and Griffin soon
found himself surrounded. Happy had raced up behind him to lend support, and she
danced her way between goblins to position her quick blades. Taklinn sauntered in,
a grin beneath his beard with twin handfuls of axes. He was met with a goblin and a
charging worg at once. Caribdis, unassailed, was able to do what he does best: Lend
his support via word and arrow. His verse, while some might consider it doggerel,
has the desired effect, and no one can deny that he can split a horse hair at fifty
paces with his bow.

As for me, I could do little but follow Caribdis’ example. I landed upon a good
sniping position overlooking the camp and raised my crossbow. What a fine
weapon it is! I would think that some of Griffin’s fighting prowess has rubbed off
on it, for my shots fell true. I was even able to dispatch the goblin that threatened
Taklinn.

Unbeknownst to us, the goblins had among them a spell caster! The little bugger
set to work Dazing Griff and Happy, and, with the help of an exceptionally large
worg, attempted to do me in! The worg leapt nearly fifteen feet, nearly dragging me
from my ledge, and the goblin cast at me. I was able to resist his efforts and rose to
safety. Taklinn heard my shouts, and, as fast as thought, hurled his hand axe. Just
like that, the goblin caster lay dead.

At the same time Griffin, Happy and Caribdis were downing the final few, and the
huge worg lowered its head in supplication, surrendering to us. To my amazement,
the beast actually spoke, as would a man, albeit haltingly. We sent the worg on his
way. Finding nothing in the huts except several goblin infants, we roused the
sleepers and told them to hit the road with their offspring. Road side justice or no,
we had neither the hearts nor stomachs to wipe them out after they’d been utterly
beaten.

As the day wound down, we made our way through a canyon, and at last came to
a sheer cliff. A step back and a telescoped peek later, and we were sure that we had
found our wyvern lair. The creature wasn’t there, so we decided to double back to a
cave some forty-five minutes from the lair, that we might hide our mounts and gear
up for the coming battle. And we are here now, about to bed down. At least three of
us are. Taklinn and Griffin have gone back to keep watch over the lair, to try and
get an idea of when the wyvern leaves to hunt. I worry for them, but of us all I
suppose they are the most fit to spend the night so close to the wyvern. Still, the
morning cannot come fast enough for me.


Rdyr’t 5

Taklinn and Griffin have returned after an eventful morning! The wyvern flew
from his cave at the crack of dawn, and unfortunately, spotted our companions. The
huge beast landed quite near them, and the pair thought better of valor and ran like
thunder! I do not blame them a bit, and thank all the gods that they had the good
sense to flee. Alas, Taklinn is not built for speed, and the wyvern nearly caught up
with him. Good thing for him that the wyvern is slow on the ground. As it was, they
escaped through a narrow crevice. So narrow that Griff had to cut Taklinn free of
his armor to get him through! The wyvern could not follow, and flew away for
easier pray. Griff and Taklinn are back now, and we are whiling away the day,
waiting for tomorrow morning, and another exit by the wyvern. Our plan is to be
there at first light and net ourselves a flying lizard!

Caribdis is using this day to regale us with more of his rhymes and to practice the
gift he received in Ravens Hollow: A mandolin. It’s a beautiful instrument, and I
hope one day that Caribdis will make beautiful music with it. But for now, it sounds
like a hundred mice in a tin drum. I haven’t the heart to ask him to stop, but its
difficult to read and Ambros has threatened to sneak over and chew off his strings
in the night. Ah well, the boy is an artist. I suppose I can comfort myself in the
knowledge that I will one day be able to say that I traveled and fought alongside the
famous Caribdis!

Ha!

Well, stranger things have happened.


Rdyr’t 6

Victory is ours! We are back in Ravens Hollow this night, our quarry defeated
and our prizes safely stowed away from delivery to Yigil.

Our plan went quite smoothly. In the early morning, an hour before dawn, we
crept toward the wyvern’s lair, Taklinn leading us with his ability to see in the dark.
Once at the base of the cliff, we set to work. I cast a levitate on myself and each of
my comrades, in turn, grabbed hold of me and I flew them to the shelf of rock some
forty feet upwards that lay beneath the cave entrance. Once we were all there, we
quietly unfurled our net and spread it out. I quietly read off one of my levitate
scrolls and cast on the net. It rose into the air, and I quickly followed it up with an
Unseen Servant with which I was able to guide the net into position over the cave
entrance. Once it was just so, I made it invisible and we were ready to go. From
within the cave, we could hear the heavy breathing of a huge beast in slumber. It
gave us all the chills, and more than one heart was in a throat, I can tell you!

We moved into ambushing position and Taklinn took his place as bait. At the
signal, he began to beat on his buckler with his axe, bellowing dwarven war chants
and challenges to the wyvern. We heard the beast awake, and within only seconds,
it took the bait!

Even safely floating out of the way, the sight of it charging from the cave into the
dawns light was horrific and frightening! I feared that the net might not hold and
that Taklinn would be torn asunder or pushed from the cliff. But the net did hold,
and the wyvern was brought up short, much to its surprise and our relief. But even
in the net it was still a danger, and it managed to bite Taklinn with fangs that we
have now measured as some six inches in length. It also plunged it’s stinger into
Griffins chest, and we feared that the poison would be his doom. But Griffin is
made of tougher stuff. Perhaps all the alcohol in his blood served to dilute the
poison. Whatever the case, he survived. The same cannot be said of the wyvern, for
we set to work with axe, sword, arrow and bolt, and within a few short seconds the
beast lay dead.

And so we have taken our trophies and returned to Ravens Hollow where we now
rest before going back to Yigil’s tower. I am quite excited at the prospect of
returning to that mage victorious.

For now though, the events of the day have caught up with me and I must be to
bed.


Rdyr’t 7

Another day on the road, though this one was particularly uncomfortable. I
suppose I can’t complain too much, my discomfort being my fault, after all.

Last night, after my journal entry, I decided to forgo my usual practice of study
and bed for a bit of frivolity in the tap room with my companions. The excitement
of the fight with the wyvern was still fresh with me, and I wished to share it with
my friends, so I made my way to the bar, where Griff was already deep in his cups,
and asked him if he might not order me something.

The rest of the night is a blur and this morning brought the unduly loud pounding
on my door of Taklinn, who, not the least bit concerned with my aching head, bid
me make ready for our journey to Yigil’s tower.

It was not until much later in the day that I was able to eat anything, and even
now my temples throb unceasingly. I was able to study my spells, but only through
sheer determination and discipline. All I really wanted to do was stay in bed and
nurse these terrible drums that pound behind my eyes. The day spent jouncing about
in the back of our wagon did little to settle my rocking stomach, and I dare say I’ve
never been so happy to finally reach a destination as I was today when Yigil’s tower
came into view at last.

Yes, I believe that I will leave the drink to Griffin from now on and content
myself with returning his toasts with mugs of milk.
Fortunately we are not forced to do much more than rest through the night. Yigil
is not here. His servant has bid us enter and take up residence on the first floor once
again to await his return. Caribdis, curious as ever, keeps trying to convince us to
let him wander into the upper levels. Taklinn has told him in no uncertain terms that
this is not acceptable, and I have tried to gently assure him that one simply doesn’t
flail, pell mell, around in a wizards tower if one wants to keep ones head on ones
shoulders. Caribdis sits now, aimlessly plinking away at his new mandolin, as he
did throughout our day long journey. I must say, I admire his determination to learn
this new instrument, but with my head being in the state it’s in, it was all I could do
not to hit the lad with a sleep spell to shut him up.


Rdyr’t 8

We awoke this morning to the sight of a newly returned Yigil, standing over us
with a sort of malevolent benevolence, if that makes any sense. I suppose it’s a
matter of always keeping arch mages at arms length and vise versa. I suppose one
day I may find myself in such a position, though I hope not. As much as I admire
the Old Man in the Pointy Hat, I feel a bit sorry for him and the manner in which he
sequesters himself from the general populace.

But that is neither here nor there. The point is, Yigil had returned, and after a
quick bite of breakfast (my appetite had returned with a vengeance!) and an hours
wait for Yigil to freshen up, the six of us convened to turn over the spoils of our
wyvern battle and to discuss our future.

Yigil had watched our battle via his scrying mirror, so we did not have to regale
him with the tale, though I’m sure Caribdis was dyeing to do just that. He seemed
well impressed with our team work, giving special accolades to Happy for her net
idea. She blushed deeply, but I think she was well pleased with the notice.

Yigil has agreed to sponsor us as a crew if we go to Havilah and meet with one
Nivin Mottul, the dean of recruiting at the Academy. Nivin is an acquaintance of
Yigil’s, perhaps even a friend, and he assures us that we will be treated well once
we get there.

At last, we are going to the city! The capitol! I am beside myself. My feet have
been itching to get at the Queens Road for weeks now. I’ve always dreamed of
seeing the city of such legendary splendor, and it appears that that dream shall soon
come true!

Yigil also tells us that he is almost sure that it was, indeed, Alluzen’s sister who
was behind the evil at the monastery. Her name is Melisandre, and Yigil tells us that
she hated her brother. He thinks she hated him enough to murder him and his
followers. It seems awfully extreme for a simple case of sibling rivalry, but Yigil
believes that it may run deeper than that. Apparently, after leaving her brothers
care, she spent some time in Ebarium, a city who’s hedonistic and lawless
tendencies are renowned. Yigil says that the dark arts are practiced with impunity in
Ebarium. Necromancers and demonologists ply their dark trade there, and he thinks
that Melisandre may have fallen in with that lot. It would explain the undead that
infested the monastery.

Be all that as it may, Yigil cannot scry Melisandre and he knows not where she is.
For the time being, we shall have to let this mystery lie and get on with the job of
becoming a real crew.

Bidding Yigil farewell, we hit the road, once again, back to Ravens Hollow,
which is where I write this from. We have gathered our wagon full of captured
treasures in hopes of selling them for a decent price once we get to Havilah, and
plan to leave first thing in the morning. I am so excited that I don’t think I’ll be able
to sleep!


Rdyr’t 9

Looking back through the pages of this journal, I see that the majority of entries
find us either on the road or fresh in from the road. This entry is no different, but I
find it special anyway, since we are on the Queens Road, headed for Havilah!

We left Ravens Hollow this morning with bounce in our stride, and I think all of
us sense that we have entered a new chapter in our lives. Before, it was as if the
fates had conspired to bring us together and throw us in the face of danger. But
now, there is a feeling of purpose, of a goal. At the end of this road lies the capital
city of Havilah, with its Academy, and our future!

I must say, be it fate or the hands of the gods, or pure coincidence, I find myself
glad to be in the company I now keep. Who could have known that a simple
expedition for Baron could have turned five strangers into a group of fast friends?
Our differences are many, but despite them, we seem to share a common thread of
decency. Even Griffin, who adamantly claims to have no interest in anything
beyond drink and coin, has a gleam in his eye, and I believe that he is as excited as
the rest of us.

He is a strange one, our Griffin. On the outside he is all bluff and blather, and it
would be easy to assume that he cares little for anything but strong drink, loose
women, and cold coin. Unlike Taklinn, who will gladly fight for a principal, Griff
oft times must be dragged into a battle if there is no reward immediately in sight. I
believe he considers himself a true mercenary, without conscience or kingdom. But,
I think he runs a little deeper than he lets on, and is of a far more complex nature
than he would have us believe.

He is unlike the knights that I remember seeing riding through our woods on
patrols. They were all gleaming plate mail and gaudy standards with plenty of
pompous attitude. Griffin is none of that. His way is down and dirty, with little
room for pomp, circumstance or chivalry. Yet, if one watches him closely, one can
see chinks in his armor, and I think that he may be growing attached to some of us.
He seems to have a particular soft spot for Happy. The two have become a team of
sorts, or perhaps, partners in crime might be a better way to put it.

Personally, I think Griffin is a much deeper chap than he pretends to be. As much
as he threatens to clobber Caribdis, I get the feeling that he likes the boy and would
protect him, or any of us, should the need arise.

One other thing that belies Griff’s heartless exterior is the fact that he is
remarkably patient with those of us who are unfamiliar with the ways of battle. I
still recall, with much chagrin, how Happy and I both accidentally stabbed him in
the back while he was trying to fight a zombie at the monastery. We could have
killed him! Yet he never said an unkind word toward us. I would think that most
warriors would have had little patience with a couple of halflings brash enough to
pitch daggers wildly into combat. I think that when we get to Havilah I will gather
up Happy and see if she will accompany me on a shopping trip to purchase a gift for
Griffin. A thank you, of sorts, for his forgiving attitude and willingness to put
himself between us and harm.

Perhaps a nice flask...


Rdry’t 11

The road still stretches out before us. The trip to Havilah would normally take a
week for a mounted man, but we ride only as fast as Taklinn can walk. And while
our dwarven friend is seemingly tireless, his legs are still only so long. He refuses to
get onto a horse. Claims to have no truck at all with them. I can’t say as I blame
him. A full sized horse is a frightening beast to me, that much is sure. I like Don
Kay, she is small enough so as to be manageable, but the horses are not my cup of
tea.

Taklinn plods down the road, hour after hour, tireless. He is every bit the dwarf,
even more so for his faith and devotion to Clangeden. He is fastidious in his
appearance, and I think that he considers himself an ambassador for all dwarves.
His beard is always groomed, and he spends much time with polishing his armor
and axe. Even now, as I watch him walk on ahead of us, his grooming is perfect,
and the dusty miles have done little to dishevel him.

Oddly enough, I find that Taklinn may be the member of our little band with
whom I have the most in common. The two of us are often times the moral voice
within our group, and it is sometimes left to us to convince the others that a fight is
worth the risk for the simple sake of quashing evil. Griffin is no coward, that much
is sure, but sometimes, if there is no immediate reward apparent, he would rather
circumvent a battle and allow baneful beasts to go on their way rather than to quell
them in the interests of protecting the nameless innocent. Taklinn and I have had to
play on his pride from time to time to convince him that a particular foe must be put
down.

I have learned much from Taklinn over this past month about concepts like pride,
honesty, trust, respect, and devotion to an ideal. While I have always been in favor
of doing the right thing for its own sake, Taklinn serves a higher calling and his
stalwart heart is a shining beacon for us all. I think he makes us all better. Without
him, we would be just another band of roustabouts looking for trouble. Taklinn
gives us purpose and direction. He is our conscience. Our heart. I don’t know what
we’d do without him. He is our standard bearer, is Taklinn, and a credit to his race.

My spell research continues. I’ve been working on Fox’s Cunning and Mirror
Image. While there are other spells that might be more offensive, I think a good
defense will serve me better in the long run. Mirror Image will see to that. Fox’s
Cunning will make my spells harder to resist, and that is always good! I’m also deep
in study of this blasted Magic Missile scroll! It still galls me that this wretched spell
thwarted me!

I’ve also been working my way through the Arcamagus book. It is a grind of a
read, no doubt, but the concepts are starting to take hold with me. If I can figure out
the finer points of it, this book will save me a lot of coin.

Speaking of coin, our wagon is filled nearly to overflowing with the spoils of our
battles. Breast plates, swords, crossbows, javelins and shields clank about back here
with me, not to mention the gems whose value we still don’t know. A couple of the
stones have been appraised by Caribdis and he swears that they are worth a king’s
ransom, but Happy disagrees with him. I’m a bit doubtful myself. We shall see what
the merchants in Havilah have to say about them.


Rdry’t 12

We stayed in a tiny village called Lamsted last night and witnessed the start of the
Days of Dedication festivals, and that always marks the turning point of autumn. As
if by clockwork, today feels colder, and it wouldn’t surprise me to know that flurries
of snow are already falling further north. Fortunately we still have the winter gear
given to us by Baron, so I am able to bundle up a bit. Still, the chill wind whips at
me and makes it that much more difficult to write as it threatens to tear the pages
from my journal.

But there is little else to do on the road, and when my mind needs a rest from
constant reading I find that the jotting of notes is soothing, even if I must fight the
wind for the privilege.

I have been using my entries to sing the praises of each of my companions thus
far, and as I watch Happy bounce along the trail, I am hard pressed not to include a
few passages about her.

Happy is every bit the halfling, and every bit the greenie on top of that. While my
own clan can frolic with the best of them, the greenies have raised it to a fine art,
and they would be well pleased with their Happy.

Could there be a more suitable name for her? I doubt it, for I have yet to see her
frown. She is utterly kind, ever optimistic, always ready with her infectious smile,
and while she can be irreverent, she is also surprisingly thoughtful, and I get the
idea that her outward frivolity camouflages her strategic mind. I could easily see her
enemies underestimating her because of her size and good nature, but I’ve watched
her fight, and can say with no irony that she is not to be trifled with.

Happy, like many of our kind, has the kind of grace that is usually reserved for
elves. I envy her dexterity, for I could never pull off the kind of tricks that she
makes look easy. She somersaults and flips like a born acrobat, and it is nothing for
her to walk a rail as thin as my finger. I’ve watched her spin and dive between the
legs of a foe to end up on their blind side in the blink of an eye, and once she has
you at a disadvantage, you will no doubt feel the sting of her daggers, of which she
seems to have a never ending supply. Watching her hurl her blades, it is as if time
slows down for her, and she throws them with a careless ease that turns into deadly
accuracy.

I like her very much indeed, and so does the rest of the crew. It is difficult to be
down in the mouth with Happy around to lift your spirits. She and Griff are thick as
thieves most of the time, and I dare say they probably share much of the same
roguish philosophy.

And though I’d be willing to bet that Happy is not above helping herself to ill
gotten gain, I can’t help but trust her. Perhaps that is another example of her
disarming personality.

I have only one other to write about, and that is Caribdis. But it is time to return to
my reading. We still have much road to walk, so I shall get to him in due time.


Rdyr’t 13

Apparently my thoughts on Caribdis will have to wait, for it turns out that danger
follows us.

It was noon and the sun that shone on us did little to warm the crisp air. But,
bundled in our good fur coats, it was easy to enjoy the ride and chat as the wind
foretold of winters coming and brushed swirls of leaves across the road. We had
just crested a small hill and begun the gentle decent into a valley. To our left we
could see the Tein River as it snaked toward us from the west. This time of year the
river is low, and what nearly intercepted the Queens Road was little more than a
stream, easily wadable if one had to. We could see from our vantage point that it
flowed lazily toward our road until, at the bottom of our hill, it changed course to
run parallel to us, and we knew that it would be our companion for the rest of our
journey.

Griffin smiled and gave a satisfied nod. "The Tein," he said, "We’re half way
there!" This immediately lightened our mood and put a bit of bounce into our steps,
for we are all anxious to get to the city. Griffin is the only one among us who has
actually been there before, and it’s good to have him with us as a guide, or at least to
tell keep us abreast of our progress. With renewed vigor, we headed into the valley.

Along the riverbank there grew thick strands of oak and elm, and were it not for
the fact that autumn has stripped the trees of their leaves, we probably would not
have spotted the hobgoblins. About half way down the hill I saw a flash of
movement through the trees, as if someone wading along the river bed. Happy
agreed that she too had seen something. "Taklinn," I said, in hushed tones, "Let me
have the spy glass." He looked at me quizzically, but handed the ornate telescope
over to me and with it I scanned the trees, searching for the flash of color I’d seen.

Yes, there it was. And again. Something... somebody... trodding through the
Tein’s low waters. And there, another. And yet another. It was difficult to see
through the screen of branches, but what I did see gave me pause. Muscular limbs
and iron weapons. I decided to get a better look.

"Something’s on the river," I told my companions. "Wait here, I’ll be right back."
Without waiting for an answer, I quickly cast my two (and only) most powerful
spells, and within seconds I was invisible and rising high into the air, the feeling of
leaving my stomach behind, still gripped me, but I concentrated on the work at
hand.

I rose still higher, getting myself above the trees for an unobstructed view of the
river, and there I saw them. A ragged column of figures marching with the river.
Even from my distance I could tell that they weren’t men, for their gait gave them
away as humanoids. Pressing the spyglass to my eye showed me the truth.
Hobgoblins. A quick count showed sixteen of the buggers, and worse yet, trailing
behind them were a pair of bugbears. Our raid on the farmhouse flashed through my
mind as I quickly descended. The wind had blown me a bit off course, so I had to
hurry to catch my friends, who started a bit when my voice came from no where,
explaining what I’d seen.

At my report, the shift in Taklinn’s stance and the knit in his brow gave away his
intentions even before he said, "Hobbers n’ bugbears! Lets be at ’em then!" He
shifted his axe and touched his holy symbol as I have seen him do before battle, and
it was obvious what his plan was. But Griffin was not so sure.

"They haven’t seen us yet," he said, coolly, "I say we let them pass. We’re
outnumbered and we’ve nothing to gain by taking them on." His steely eyes showed
his resolve on the issue, but in this case I had to agree with Taklinn.

"Griff," I implored, "What if they’re a raiding party, come to wreak havoc on
innocents down river? Remember the farm house? Those were hobgoblins and
bugbears there too, and they murdered an old man and his wife, and ravaged two
young girls! If this new group does something similar without our trying to stop it,
it’ll be on our heads! Also, don’t you find it a bit coincidental? Another group of
hobgoblins, prodded along by two bugbears? Something is afoot here, and it could
relate to us somehow. Besides all that, you’re right. They haven’t seen us. If we
hurry we can beat them in that grove of elms at the bottom of the hill and set up an
ambush. That should even the odds a bit." I strode purposely over to stand beside
Taklinn to show my solidarity with him, though I’m afraid the effect was largely
lost due to no one being able to see me.

Griffin scowled and opened his mouth to say something, but thought better of it.
Happy and Caribdis looked from him to a very grim Taklinn. This was not the first
time they’d had to listen to Taklinn and I convince Griffin that a fight needed to be
fought, and though Caribdis, especially, wore a worried look, I felt confident that he
possessed the sand to do what needed to be done. Finally, Griffin sighed and
loosened his sword in it’s scabbard. "All right then, lets be about it." he said, though
obviously against his better judgment. He spun on his heel and started off down the
hill.

We hurriedly hitched our mounts to a nearby bush and hurried to catch Griff, the
five of us trotting at a quick pace in an effort to reach what appeared to be a fine
ambush spot. Thus far it appeared that the hobbers hadn’t spotted us, and we needed
that element of surprise. I used my levitate to cross long stretches of ground by
running and pushing off, allowing myself to glide down the hill effortlessly. Once at
the bottom, we quickly surveyed the thick strand of elms that lined the river bank.
Having little time to discuss our strategy we quickly hid ourselves. I rose up into the
branches of a thick old tree and positioned myself on a hardy limb in such a way as
to have a fine view of the river while still affording myself the cover of the trunk,
which I knew I would need once my invisibility was dispelled by offensive spells.
Caribdis did the same, climbing a tree near my own and balancing precariously, his
trusty bow at the ready. Taklinn hunkered down amongst the thick weeds that grew
alongside the river, while Griffin and Happy quickly waded across the river and
positioned themselves behind a deadfall there.

We did not have long to wait. Within minutes the first of the hobgoblins rounded
the bend, splashing through the waters, their weapons at the ready. As more of them
appeared, they choked the stream with their hulking forms, and I realized that there
certainly were a lot of them! The two bugbears that followed did little to bolster my
confidence when they appeared, but it was too late to turn back now. Looking down
from my branch, I could see Taklinn, coiled like a spring, ready to pounce, and I
knew that he was going to have at these villains weather there be 16 or one hundred
and sixteen.

It was not until the first line of hobgoblins were directly beneath me, and not more
than a few feet from Taklinn’s hiding spot, that I realized that we’d not made any
plan as to who would initiate our ambush or when! For a moment I wondered if we
might not all sit there frozen, waiting for another of us to make the first move until
our quarry had passed us by. I needn’t have fretted though, for Taklinn was not
about to lose his opportunity, and with a mighty roar, he sprang from the tall grass,
hurling himself at the front line of hobgoblins, his axe a blur in the cold sunlight.

From that point on things moved very quickly. No sooner had Taklinn made his
attack than the rest of us were in motion. From his position on the opposite side of
the river Griffin leapt into the fray, laying about with his sword in the very midst of
the surprised hobgoblins. From the deadfall I saw a brief flash as Happy hurled a
dagger that downed a hobber, and I hastily cast as, from the corner of my eye, I saw
an ashen faced Caribdis begin to let fly with arrow after arrow.

The river began to boil with blood as Taklinn and Griffin set to work, and within
seconds at least three of the hobgoblins lay face down in the water, and still others
were pierced with dagger and arrow. For myself, I could do little but try to thin their
ranks with Color Sprays and Sleeps. Unfortunately, those hobgoblins that went
under due to Sleep fell into the water where they quickly revived, though it did keep
them from combat for precious seconds and kept our warriors from being
overwhelmed through sheer numbers. As it was, Griffin was surrounded and his
blood mingled with that of his enemy as it flowed from several wounds. Even the
stalwart Taklinn was feeling the bite of hobgoblin blades as they pressed in around
him.

From his perch to my right, Caribdis chanted his verse and loosed arrows as fast
as he could draw his arm back. I had already exhausted my most powerful spells
and shifted to my trusty crossbow, leveling it at a hobgoblin who had spotted Happy
and was now hacking away at her while she bobbed and weaved away from his
blade, desperately trying to get a hit in of her own. My bolt took the hobber
between the shoulder blades, and down he went. She flashed me a grateful grin and
went back to doing what she does best, chucking daggers into soft spots.

Nearly a dozen hobgoblins lay dead in the crimson waters, but the bugbears had
advanced by now upon our very wounded warriors. I saw one of them draw back
his morningstar to take a swing at Griffin. I quickly cast the last of my first circle
spells, Grease, upon the handle of his weapon, and as he drew back, it slid from his
grasp and into the murky river. I prayed that it would buy Griffin the time he
needed to dispatch the last of his hobbers that he might concentrate on the bear.

Shifting my attention to Taklinn, he was in much the same fix, badly hurt and still
outnumbered with a bugbear looming over him. I was down to cantrips, but I had to
try. Rattling off the brief incantation, I cast Daze at the bear, and to my happy
surprise, the brute fell under it’s effect, standing there stupidly, trying to get it’s
bearings and leaving Taklinn free to dispatch another hobgoblin. I hastily followed
the first Daze with another, the last of my offensive spells, and it too worked,
keeping the bugbear off balance. It bought Taklinn just enough time.

Hobgoblins dropped like ripe wheat under our steel and soon there were none left
but the bugbears. With one of them unarmed and the other dazed, it was quick work
to put them down. Griffin and Taklinn spun wildly, caught up in battle lust,
scanning for more enemies. But there were no more. The Tein ran thick with blood
and we were victorious.

But our victory came at a price, for both Taklinn and Griff were badly wounded.
It was all Griff could do to make it to the riverbank where he leaned upon his
sword, panting heavily and bleeding from a dozen wounds. Taklinn hauled himself
from the river and saw to his companion, treating Griff’s wounds first as Caribdis
and I came down from our branches and Happy joined us. Long moments passed as
we caught our breaths, but at last, after Taklinn had brought himself and Griff a few
steps away from deaths door, we looked about at the carnage and could do little but
laugh weakly at each other, such was the relief of having survived such a battle.

In short order we set about the business of searching the dead and retrieving our
mounts. Unfortunately there were no survivors whom we could question, but we
felt confident that we had saved blissfully unaware innocents from murder and
mayhem by stopping this band from getting to where ever they’d been headed.

Within an hour we were back on the road, leaving the row of dead humanoids
behind us on the riverbank, food for scavengers now.

We rest tonight in a tiny hamlet, the name of which I do not even know. The inn
here has only one common room with hard cots, but to me, it is a night in paradise,
as I am bone tired from the exhilaration of battle, and weary of the road. I shall
sleep hard tonight.


Rdyr’t 15

***Note*** This entry involves Taklinn’s dream. I need to ask Cheri/Ron a few
details about it before I write it.


Rdyr’t 16

We are all a bit quieter today. The fight with the hobgoblins, Taklinn’s dream,
coupled with our find today leaves us all wondering how the fates conspire to move
us to their whims.

It was getting on toward late noon, and we’d decided to take a short break to water
our mounts and stretch our legs. I did just that, pacing a length of riverbank while
watching Happy give a lesson in stone skipping. I swear, the girl can make a flat
rock positively dance across the surface of the river for a mile!

At any rate, Ambros crawled from his nest in my belt pouch and dropped to the
ground, scurrying off into the grass, presumably to answer the call of nature. I
thought little about it until he returned some moments later, dragging behind him
the sorry looking corpse of a raven. My favorite rat told me that he’d found it a few
yards down river, obviously washed up on shore. What made it a worthwhile find
was the tiny tube attached to its leg and the peculiar dart that still protruded from
the birds body. Freeing the dart, I could still detect a thin sheen of black ichors the
consistency of tar clinging to it’s needle like tip. A strange weapon, and not one that
I’ve ever seen before. Too small and flimsy to be thrown, it must be a blow gun dart
of some kind.

Within the tube, a message that deepens the mystery that seems to follow us.

"Bugbears, goblins, hobgoblins. Bands 20-100. Unknown goals."

This simple, yet telling, message was signed simply, "- Janek".

Who this Janek fellow is we do not know, but it is fairly obvious now that the
lands of Havilah are experiencing an encroachment of goblinoids in large, well
disciplined bands. We have already encountered two such groups. Who knows how
many more lurk within our borders?


Rdry’t 17

Yet another night spent in the relative comfort of a tiny village on the road to
Havilah city, though Griffin tells us, and it is easy to see, that we are getting close
now. This little village (Duloch, I believe it is called) is a bit larger, more densely
populated, and I sense an air of sophistication here that, while practically smothered
in rustic hominess and uneducated boorishness, was not even evident in any of the
other villages we have passed through. Indeed, they are even willing to watch
Caribdis ply his trade in the tap room and listen with something almost like quiet as
he recites his verse. They show him a certain respect, as if they appreciate art, or at
least wish to appreciate it.

Which brings me nicely to the subject of Caribdis. I have promised to tell more of
him, and now, as I sit here in the tap room and watch him trying to hold his
audience while I scribble my notes at an unobtrusive table, it feels like the right
time to be about it.

He is just a boy, a fact that we often times forget, and a fact that we are just as
often reminded of at the most inopportune of times. He is... awkward. Caribdis is at
that most wonderful and terrible of points in the life of every man, the point of
becoming a man. He is still as gangly as a new deer, and he seems to have little
control over his own limbs unless he is actually giving thought to what he’s doing.

He is possessed of the artists heart, and he desires nothing more than to entertain.
He fancies himself a great orator, yet he possesses all the tact of an ogre with a
tooth ache. He can be counted upon to say exactly the wrong thing at the wrong
time, and more than once have I wished my legs were long enough to give him a
swift kick under the table.

He is every bit the young, human, male. Curious to a fault, friendly, loyal,
lumbering, and true. He has yet to find his step, as my Uncle Window would say,
but I think it will be most interesting and rewarding when he does.

At heart, Caribdis is an entertainer. A bard. An actor. A would be musician He
has a gift for lyrical poetry, a knack for crafting rhyme out of a current scene, and
with it he can even perform some small feats of magic. His healing verse can
produce effects that rival Taklinn’s, and I’ve seen the odd arcane bit here and there.
He is, of course, a spontaneous caster, lacking the discipline of true arcane book
work, but how can I fault a natural gift?

In combat he is surprisingly effective. His bow has made the difference in several
fights, and his battle rhymes have an effect on his allies that rival any spell I can
cast, for his words become a background noise that spurs us on, assuring us of our
victory and aiding us in battle. Griffin’s sword swings truer, Taklinn’s axe cleaves
deeper, and so on, even though his voice often grows shaky in the face of hand to
hand combat.

Sometimes Caribdis feels like the fifth wheel. He is the youngest, and therefore
ends up in the role of the younger sibling. Griffin sighs heavily and tolerates him,
Happy is amused by him, Taklinn fathers him, and I, well, I try to see what he will
be like in a couple of years. For while the four of us roll our eyes at his lengthy and
poorly told sagas, or reprimand him for being too open to strangers, I think we all
see a vast potential in him, and, like older siblings, we have developed a certain
protective attitude towards him.

At least I have.

I was not joking when I said that, one day, I will be able to tell people that I
traveled alongside that most famous of bards, Caribdis.


Rdry’t 18

We have arrived! Early evening saw us crest a small hillock and for the first time
our crew witnessed the sprawl that is Havilah.
The city stretches out for miles, it’s streets and alleys winding and intertwining
like arteries through which the blood of a great beast courses. It took my breath
away, for though I’d often imagined it, the sheer scope and scale of such a vast city
was overwhelming. My apprehension was easily overshadowed by my anticipation,
however, and we eagerly rode forward to fall in line with the rest of the teeming
masses that sought to enter Havilah.

Drawing nearer, we were awed by the height and obvious thickness of the great
fortifications and walls. Armed soldiers lined the ramparts, keeping watch, and a
company of soldiers stood at the mighty south gates, checking each entry,
presumably for contraband or to collect the toll that allowed entrance.

When our turn arrived we were greeted by a professional and curt sergeant who
collected our toll and bid us entry after a cursory glance. But once inside, we were
taken aback by the myriad of streets and choices that confronted us. Not knowing
where to begin, we flagged down our sergeant for directions.

A civil enough fellow, he explained to us that Havilah was built with the
Academy at it’s heart, and that all roads eventually led to that center of great
learning. We attempted to gather this information with a modicum of fuss and clues
as to what we were about, but no sooner had we said our thank yours to the sergeant
than Caribdis blurted out far more than was necessary.

"We seek Nivin Mottul!" he declared, "And by the way, have you heard of a man
called Janek?"

We groaned collectively and Taklinn favored Caribdis with a dark glare, but the
sergeant merely smiled and offered what he knew. "Janek is a common name, lad."
He said, "But Nivin Mottul is not. You may find him at the Academy. Simply
follow this road, for as I’ve said, it will take you there."

We accepted this as good and helpful news, despite the fashion in which it had
been acquired. Then, Taklinn had a thought. "Tell me, good sir, can you direct us to
the temple district? I have business with the order of Clangeden that cannot wait."
As before, our sergeant was most helpful, and he gave us fine directions. Within
minutes we were on our way. Some of us grumbled at having to take this detour,
most of us wanting to find an inn or head directly to the Academy, but Taklinn
explained. "Should we not first go to a place we can trust? Will we not receive the
best directions and advice from those with whom I share my faith? Surely
Clangeden’s servants in Havilah will help us stay out of the way of ner do wells and
charlatans who seek to fleece unwary travelers."

Grudgingly we acquiesced to his wisdom and followed the directions the sergeant
had given.

I had never dreamed that so many people could reside in one place, and for
awhile, as we led our mounts through the throngs that choked the streets, I felt a bit
of claustrophobia, a sensation of not having enough air to share with so many, for at
every turn the crowds milled and moved, shouted and hurried, bought and sold. It
was only through quick meditative exercise that I was able to keep my composure.

At last, after an hour of winding our way through the streets, we arrived at the
temple district, and from there, the temple of Clangeden. The temple was a strong
and simple structure, made entirely of stone. It rose three full stories, without frill or
superfluous decoration, a monument to dwarven architecture and lack of nonsense.
It was decided that Taklinn and I would enter while the rest watched our mounts.

The interior of the temple was much like the outside, and I felt a strange sense of
security once inside. A cold comfort of sorts, though Taklinn appeared to be right at
home. In due course we were greeted by a dwarven acolyte who, once we’d
explained ourselves, hurried off to fetch someone with the authority to help us.

The dwarf that next arrived bore himself with the regalness that only men of the
cloth seem able to convey. His simple clerical garb did little to quell the notion that
this was a considerably powerful figure, and I emulated Taklinn as he bowed low
before the new arrival.

He bid us rise, and introduced himself as Father Rheget, whereupon he and
Taklinn fell deep into conversation that I was content to be an observer to.

Taklinn had been right, for Father Rheget was able to provide us with thorough
directions to the Academy, as well as much information about what was safe and
what was not within the city. He also offered to safeguard our mounts and supplies
for us until such time as we had found a place. He also informed us that potential
crews were expected to reside within the walls of the Academy, and thus, we would
have no need of finding an inn. Last, but certainly not least, he offered to help put
us in contact with an honest merchant who will give us fair price for the goods we
have brought to sell.

Well pleased with having met such a useful and friendly source of information
and aid, we left the temple with many thanks, assuring him that we would be right
back with our wagon and mounts. But alas, as we exited the grand hall and stepped
into the street, our companions and horses were nowhere to be seen. Scanning up
and down the street showed us only faceless throngs, and Taklinn and I looked at
each other in disbelief. In the city less than a couple of hours, and already three
fifths of us, as well as our livestock and treasure were missing!

Still, there were no signs of fight or struggle, so we assumed that they could not
have gotten far. "I’ll go this way and you go that way," I quickly said to Taklinn.
"Go round the block and I’ll meet you back here." With a nod the cleric hefted his
axe and stomped off down the street while I did the same in the opposite direction.

I did not have to go far. Turning the corner, I spotted our wagon, the horses, and
the ever patient Don Kay hitched to a railing outside what was advertised as a pie
shop and brewery. I should have known, I thought to myself, and I squared my
shoulders as I marched toward our property, which was already being not so
surreptitiously inspected by a handful of youthful scallywags. With stern voice and
forceful presence, I told them to sod off, and climbed into the drivers seat for a look
around from high ground.

Sure enough, there they were. I could see Happy and Griffin through the shops
open window, she with a mouthful of mutton, and he with a lip covered in ale foam.
They saw me just as I saw them, and I did nothing to conceal my ire as I proceeded
to unhitch the mounts in an effort to lead them back to the temple.
Dealing with that many horses, plus our donkey, plus the wagon was no easy
chore, and thus I had not gotten far when the pair caught up with me, still wiping
crumbs from their faces.

"You couldn’t wait five minutes?" I asked tersely, not bothering to conceal my
anger.

"We were hungry." Griff stated with a shrug. Happy said nothing, but took Don
Kay by the bridle to assist me in leading the animals.

I glared at Griffin. "What, you think I’m not hungry? You think Taklinn just
finished a seven course meal? We’ve been inside taking care of business, and you
two decide to just wander off and have a snack, all the while leaving our animals
and treasure unguarded? I’m no big city fellow, but even I know that’s a bad idea." I
tossed him the reins of his horse and climbed into the wagon to drive it.

"We could see out the window the whole time." Griffin said, flatly, his seemingly
uncaring stoicism making me all the more furious.

By this time we had reached the temple again, and there was Taklinn, waiting for
us. "You couldn’t wait five minutes!" he bellowed, and Griffin rolled his eyes
maddeningly while Happy busied herself with picking a burr from Don Kay’ s mane.
Working up a head of steam, Taklinn tore into them. "We’re gettin’ information,
we’re doin’ the job, and you two go off..."

I cut him off. "Where’s Caribdis?" I asked.

The four of us looked around, but the boy was nowhere to be seen. "We thought
he was with you." Happy said.

"We left him out here with ye two!" Taklinn roared back, and for the first time I
saw a small glimmer of concern in Griffin’s eyes.

"You two let that boy wander off alone in a city this size?" I asked in disbelief.
"Are you mad? Caribdis is a danger to himself at the best of times! He may have his
head on a pike by this time!"

Taklinn, too, was beside himself, and I read real, almost fatherly, concern in his
words. "You two... why, if anything happens to that boy I hold you personally
responsible!"

"Calm down, the both of you!" Griff snapped. "He’s not a child. He has to learn to
deal with things someday, why not today? He’ll be fine!"

"Oh really?" Taklinn mocked, taking a menacing step toward Griffin. Both I and
Happy held our breaths as the warriors stood toe to toe. "Why not today? I’ll bloody
well tell ye why not today! Because today we have matters to attend to! Places to
be! People to meet! But all that doesn’t matter now, because our first priority has
just become finding a boy with more sand than brains in a city of thousands! Now
one of us gets to wait here and hope he comes back, while the rest of us..." Taklinn’s
stream of fury cut off in mid sentence, and he slowly looked to his left where
Caribdis now stood, munching an apple. "What’s going on? What’s all the yelling
about?" our oblivious young bard asked, looking quizzically at all of us. Griffin
rolled his eyes again while Taklinn choked on his words, his face turning red.

"Hmmm," Happy said to herself, looking thoughtfully at Caribdis, "Perhaps a
harness of some kind..."

So it was that we, at last, turned our mounts and valuables over to the safekeeping
of Father Rheget, and set out on the last leg of this journey, the short walk to the
Academy!

***Here we find several pages torn from Doorag’s diary, followed by his
explanation***


Rdry’t 18 (con’t)

Yes, a short walk to the Academy, but a long road to write about it, apparently.

I wrote a detailed and flavorful account of our journey to the Academy, a vivid
description of it’s architecture and all around magnificence (it really is an incredible
structure!), and our subsequent meeting with Nivin Mottul.

Then Ambros tipped my inkwell all over it! I have never seen a rat so humiliated,
and well he should be! An hours work and a cramped quill hand, all for naught!
Ambros is having a self imposed time out in his nest.

After cleaning up the mess, I just can’t bring myself to re-write the whole
business. The gods know that the Academy is a building that deserves more than a
passing mention, it being the center of not only the city of Havilah, but of the
kingdom as well, not to mention the fact that it’s architecture and scope dwarf
anything I’ve ever even dreamed of. But the day has been a long one, and there is
much to do tomorrow, so until such time as I can bare to write it all over again, I
shall have to suffice with a few quick passages to sum up the days events.

From the temple we made our way to the Academy where we were allowed entry
after showing our letters of introduction. A guide was brought to us and he took us
to meet Nivin Mottul, who is, apparently, a long time friend of Yigil’s, and probably
a good person to know in Havilah. We told him our story, starting with the
Monastery and ending with our arrival at Havilah, and he was able to shed a little
light on at least one of our mysteries. Janek, it seems, had been a member of a
sponsored crew sent out by the academy to investigate rumors of goblinoid
movement within Havilah’s borders. Judging by the scroll we found on the raven, it
would seem that he found some, but Nivin fears him dead, as this is the only
communication he’s received from Janek in weeks, and this, only through sheer
luck.

Nivin has agreed to enter us into the process of sponsorship, which apparently
involves still more testing, though he assures us that the Academy’s tests are a little
more scientifically conducted. We shall see, for I fear that this testing, scientific or
not, will probably take place on the gigantic field that the Academy is built around,
much like a massive coliseum.

But that will have to wait. For now, we’ve been shown to our quarters by a boy
named Crispin Reis who has been assigned to us as a sort of runner and guide.

Test or not, sponsorship or not, Taklinn has declared that we will investigate the
mysterious goings on that are taking place, and I would have to agree. I don’t know
how eager Happy, Griff and Caribdis are about it, but hopefully it won’t be an issue.

For now, there is yet some daylight and the city beckons us to explore.

OOC: OK, my computer took a freeze on me after I’d written four frikin pages,
and I just couldn’t face doing it again.


Rdry’t 19

A fine day today! Father Rheget managed to sell our goods for us and delivered to
us just a little under 4000 gold! I’ve never seen so much gold in one place! We
immediately set to shopping. I’ve purchased a fine parasol and a real wizards hat,
Happy got a miniature horse that she is utterly enamored of, Taklinn and Griffin are
upgrading their armor, and Caribdis promptly spent most of his gold on gaudy
jewelry. His fingers now glitter with rings, and his ears are studded with gems. The
boy never ceases to amaze me.

On a magical note, I have, at last, mastered Magic Missile! It finally came to me
in a flash of understanding, and I can now hurl two "skip stones" that will strike
unerringly. The spell is such a staple of spell casters everywhere, I am very happy
to finally know it.


Rdry’t 20

Another beautiful day in Havilah, and one left solely for us to explore and enjoy. I
fear that I shall never see the length and breadth of this magnificent city, but I am
surely going to try. The art, the culture, the architecture, it’s overwhelming in a
pleasant way.

I still miss my family, but I am already beginning to feel like this city is my home.

Nivin tells us that we shall face our trials on the 22nd. We are all a bit
apprehensive, but I’m certain that we will pull together and emerge victorious.


Rdry’t 22

Oh my. Well, we have indeed emerged victorious, but did we pull together to do
it? Today has been an eye opener in more ways than one!

We were called to the arena at early noon after being told to equip ourselves for
anything. Upon our arrival, we could see many people in the stands, there to watch
our trial. Yigil had arrived, and Nivin was there as well, of course. The stands
weren’t packed by any means, but enough spectators were there to make me a bit
nervous.

Another group also stood not far away, obviously another party seeking crew
status, for they mirrored us in many ways. They had with them three humans, a
dwarf and a halfling, and it was fairly apparent that at least two of them were
warriors, while two others looked like a cleric and a spell caster. They looked at us
and we at them, and we realized that they would likely be our competitors.

General Devon Murka, an aged and much respected administrator at the academy,
read his speech and gave the rules.

We were to undergo five tests of courage and ability to prove ourselves worthy of
sponsorship. In each test there would be a flag which we must capture. Our rival
team would be required to do the same. Each of the teams was instructed that
interference with the opposing teams flag would result in disqualification, though it
was implied that interfering with an actual TEAM, was not against the rules. It was,
however, made clear that finishing the test first was not a requirement for
sponsorship. The idea was to finish well.

Upon completion of the reading of the rules, we were given a half minute to
prepare. I did so by casting Mage Armor upon myself as well as Fox’s Cunning. I
saw that the mage from the rival team was doing much the same.

Then, the lights went out and we were thrust into utter darkness, but only for a
few seconds. When next the lights went up we saw that it’s source was a florescent
glowing moss that covered the interior of a massive, underground cavern. We stood
at one end while the opposing crew stood at the other. Near each of our parties,
along the east wall, was affixed a door with a target positioned over it, one red, one
blue. We had no idea how we’d arrived there, and no time to ponder the matter, for
we were immediately besieged by our first trial, namely, about two dozen animated
skeletons! The undead rattled toward us, and the melee was joined!

Realizing that I could do little against these fiends, I quickly cast levitate upon
myself and rose to safety. Once I found the ceiling, I began to push myself toward
the red target in hopes that a well placed bolt from my crossbow might open the
door, which seemed an obvious use for such a thing in a magical contest such as
this. But before I could get far, a magical keening started up that shook all our
senses, stunning several of us. It was a moment before Caribdis was able to counter
it with his verse, helping not only our party, but the rival band as well to shake off
the effects of the horrid sound.

As I scuttled along the ceiling I could see that my comrades were entrenched in
battle with the skeletons, and not faring particularly well. There seemed a never
ending supply of the them, and sheer numbers threatened to overwhelm both
groups.

At last I reached the red target and was just about to apply a bolt to it, when I
glanced down and saw that Taklinn had found a flag. A blue flag. Cursing to
myself, I hurriedly dropped to the ground and raced with all the speed I could
muster to the blue targeted door, praying that my hunch was right. Seeing that
Taklinn had won our flag, our crew began to fight their way toward the blue door.
By that time I had lifted myself to within a few feet of the bulls eye, and I quickly
punctured it with a bolt. As I had suspected, this was the key to opening the door,
and it swung ajar. I landed, ready to hurry through, but alas, it was not to be.

Seeing that the rival crew were now beset on all sides by skeletons, Taklinn
turned and charged to give them aid, swinging his axe in broad, skeleton rending
arcs. I swore under my breath, my competitive nature despairing as I watched our
lead slipping away. Still, I could not help but admire his honor and ferocity.

Then, their halfling broke free of the ranks of skeletons, a red flag clenched in her
fist! She streaked toward the red door, and it was at this point that the real test for
our group began. I watched, unable to stop him, as Caribdis drew back his bow and
took aim at the running halfling. He let loose twice, hitting her both times.
Horrified, I watched as she stumbled, nearly falling! She was made of tougher stuff
though, and rose to her feet, continuing on toward the door.

I was not the only one to see Caribdis’ rash action though. Happy ran at him,
waving her arms, putting herself in his line of fire, trying to ward off any more
shots. Taklinn took things a step further, charging at the befuddled bard and taking
a swing at him! Well, he took a swing at Caribdis’ bow, obviously hoping to sunder
it, but Caribdis managed to pull it away at the last second.

This was too much! I could not agree with Caribdis’ attack on the halfling, but
Taklinn’s attempt to violently disarm one of our own was crossing the line, and my
blood fairly boiled with fury! Disgusted, I turned away and walked through the
door.

Fortunately, the rest of my group were not far behind. Evidently the rival crew
were out of danger (most of the skeletons being destroyed by this time), and well on
their way to opening their own door. Griffin, Taklinn, Caribdis and Happy joined
me and the door slammed shut.

Before us lay a lengthy, torch-lit, hallway with another door at it’s opposite end,
but no one seemed the least bit interested in what dangers it hid, for emotions were
now running high.

Taklinn turned on Caribdis, seething with righteous indignation and stepping
quite close to the boy, lambasting him with angry words. Happy had a few choice
phrases for him as well, and Caribdis could do little but stutter out a few lame
rationalizations as he was soundly dressed down.

I, on the other hand, was madder than a wet hen, and I told Taklinn so. Drawing
myself to my full height, I stepped between him and Caribdis and assured him that,
yes, Caribdis had been wrong in firing at the halfling, but it was a rash act by a
young man. Taklinn, on the other hand, was old enough to check his anger, and to
attack another party member, or even another party members weapon, was simply
unacceptable, and were he to do it again, he would deal with me.

I’m not sure how seriously our dwarf took me, for his face was still dark with
anger, but he took a deep and rumbling breath and stepped away.

Griffin, ever the voice of stoic reason, reminded us that we still had four tests to
deal with, this hallway probably being one of them, and that we’d best get on with
the task. He was right, of course, and we all peered down the hall. Caribdis,
apparently having learned nothing of discretion, made ready to march on down the
hallway! Fortunately, Griffin grabbed him by the collar and drug him back.

"This place stinks of traps!" I muttered, saying what we were all (well, most of
us) thinking.

Happy bravely volunteered to go first to check it out, but I had a different plan.
My levitate was still going, and I postulated a means of traversing the hall without
touching floor, ceiling, or wall. I cast an unseen servant and then lay down, bidding
Caribdis to straddle my back and hang on. He tied a string to the end of his bow and
held it before us as a means of detecting any trip wires that might span our path, and
I then rose into the air with him on my back. I had my unseen servant push us
slowly down the hall, and before long we had reached the end safely. Once there,
we could see that the new door was red, and etched in flames. Getting near it, we
could feel sleight heat emanating from beyond, which gave us pause. But for the
time being, I concentrated on getting the rest of the crew through the hall. Returning
to the group, I did the same trick with Happy, and she soon joined our bard.
Unfortunately, Griffin and Taklinn would not be such easy passengers.

Taking Griffin first, we’d got no further than several yards when he promptly lost
his balance and fell off! Our fears were confirmed as he felt a stone beneath him
shift and we heard the faint click of gears within the walls as panels opened on
either side of us and huge hammers came swinging out! Fortunately I was between
them. Griffin got clipped by one of them, but managed to get himself into a safe
spot without too much damage. The silver lining to our having found this trap soon
became apparent though, for wrapped around the arm of one of the hammers was a
blue flag. I retrieved it and dropped down to Griffin. We decided to tie ourselves
together this time, and we again rose to the ceiling where we found a safe path in
the upper corner where the hammers did not reach. Soon, I dropped Griffin off with
Happy and Caribdis.

There was only Taklinn to fetch, and I did so quickly, tying him to myself as well.

Once we were all gathered at the far door, we took stock of it. It was defiantly hot
to the touch, and Happy decided that she needed to check it out in detail. I had no
spell to put her out of danger this time, so the rest of us backed up several feet and
let her do what she does.

She fiddled and examined the lock for several moments, and then one of her pick
wires must have tripped a trap, for from hidden vents in the door came a spewing of
molten fire that fanned out to a distance of nearly ten feet! Fortunately the rest of us
were far enough removed that we were merely singed, but Happy was directly in it’s
path! But with a tuck and a roll, she somehow managed to avoid the flame, coming
out of the smoke a bit brown around the edges, but no worse for wear.

Well, I’m sorry to say that it was at this point that we began to over think our
situation, and precious moments were lost as we tried to find an alternate route from
the hall, or something we had previously missed. I won’t go into detail except to say
that it involved setting off still more traps, losing my unseen servant, and finding
nothing. At last, Happy simply decided that the trap on the door was probably spent,
and she picked the lock.

The door swung open, and we saw what was creating such heat.

The room before us was a sweltering hot chamber, with a massive forge in one
end. Worse than that, dancing about the room were four figures made entirely of
fire! Their laughter sounded like the crackling of a campfire as they weaved and
skipped about the room, but as soon as we stepped inside, they were at us.

For me, it was again a matter of assuming a defensive position in the air while I
tried to lend aid where I could, for my spells could do little to affect such creatures.
The good news was, Griffin and Taklinn made short work of these elemental beasts,
cleaving into them with a force that soon silenced their laughter. Happy, Caribdis
and I did what we could, but this was the fighters show, no doubt. And when the
last of them had been dispatched, it left behind a blue, if somewhat sooty, flag.

We discovered a ladder leading up through the forges chimney, and though it
should have been far too hot to navigate, it was not, and we were able to climb
upwards, to our fourth trial.

Griffin led the way and found a trap door at the top of the ladder which he pushed
open without fanfare. Thank goodness it was not trapped! He climbed out and we
followed, finding ourselves in a small, well maintained room, well lit by streaming
sunlight that entered through two windows that afforded us with a view of a lovely
garden outside.

Inside, the room was sturdily furnished with carpets, plush chairs, fireplace and a
table that held five potion bottles, each labeled, enigmatically enough, "Drink Me".

I don’t know who first decided to follow the instructions, but it was soon found
out that the bottles contained potions of healing. Whoever had set up our tests must
have known that we wouldn’t get this far without suffering a few cuts and bruises,
and they were right. Most of us were beaten fairly badly, and the potions took much
of the edge off of that.

After drinking the potions, we began to search this seemingly friendly room.
Caribdis found himself an exceptionally plush chair and took a seat with an audible,
"Ahhh!". But his comfort was short lived, for no sooner had he settled within it’s
embrace, than it suddenly came to life, it’s arms pivoting inwards to pin him to his
seat while it’s legs began a hideous bucking! At the same time, practically every
other inanimate object in the room took on a life of its own and began to fly,
bounce, or trundle toward us! Chairs hurled themselves at us, Carpets flew at us,
dressers attempted to beat us with their drawers! In all, a surreal and dangerous
scene, and one that I wanted no part of. My levitate spell was nearly used up, but
enough time remained that I was able to lift myself toward the ceiling and
effectively remove myself from harms way, with the exception of the flying carpets.
Fortunately Happy pinned one to the wall with a well placed dagger before it had a
chance to come at me.

I took up crossbow duty while my earth bound friends fought the furniture at
ground level. Caribdis managed to extricate himself from the chair, but then
decided to ride it as if it were a wild horse! Happy dodged and thunked daggers into
dressers, while Griffin went toe to, uh, well, Griffin fought off two dancing
fireplace pokers. Taklinn engaged an armoire that seemed bent on his destruction,
but an axe is a fine tool for destroying furniture, and soon he had reduced it to
kindling. Within one of it’s drawers, he found our fourth blue flag. Once he held our
flag aloft, it was as if the rest of the room took that as a signal to return to normalcy,
and once again, all fell silent. We had sustained a few bumps and cuts, but nothing
serious. We decided to get out while the getting was good, and the only door in the
room swung open. We stepped into a beautiful afternoon where the sun shone down
on a walled in garden.

The garden was situated as a semi-circle, with it’s flat area being the wall of the
room we had been in. A bubbling fountain gurgled happily to our right, and though
it seemed inviting, our previous test had taught me to be wary. I didn’t get near it.

Along the far arc was positioned a trellis, entwined with a thick rose bush, and
tied within those vines, a blue flag. Before we could stop him, the ever impetuous
Caribdis raced forward to seize it!

Of course the true nature of the trial immediately made itself evident as our bard
made to snatch the flag, for the rose vine slithered to life, striking like a snake to
wrap around his waist, constricting and biting with it’s thorns! The hapless Caribdis
could do little but yell in pain!

Griffin raced forward and took a deep bite out of the vine with his sword, but at
that point the very grass beneath his feet began to writhe and twist, wrapping itself
around his boots in an attempt to pin him in place. He was not having it though, and
pulled his feet free. However, the whole area in front of the vine was now a mass of
seething grass, and we feared to enter it. Instead, I decided to use my new spell.
With a swift incantation, two magic missile streaked from my finger, smacking into
the vine causing it to jerk with what appeared to be pain! Griffin took advantage of
the vines distraction and came down with a mighty two handed cleave that lopped
the offending plant away from it’s supporting trellis! With the vine dead, the grass
ceased it’s writhing, and Caribdis hurriedly stripped the vine from him. As if in
victory, he leapt to his feet and grabbed the last flag, holding it aloft like a trophy!

And then, all went black again.

Seconds later the lights came up again, and we found ourselves back in the
Academies arena. "I knew it!" I cried, "It was all illusion!" I had little time to pat
myself on the back, however, for two things became readily apparent.

First, we could see that we were not alone in the arena. Our rival party had
completed their tasks at much the same time, apparently, for they stood not thirty
feet from us.

Second, about a hundred feet from both of our groups, there stood a circle of ten
posts, each with a hook on top, each just begging for a flag to be attached.

We looked at our rivals, they looked at us, and we both began to run!

They were already a bit closer than we, so we had to even the odds a bit. I quickly
cast grease beneath the feet of their human wizard and dwarven cleric, which
slowed them down a bit. Their wizard attempted a sleep spell on Taklinn and I, but
we shrugged it off. Griffin raced to the circle and placed his flag, as did Happy. A
couple of our rivals reached the circle as well and posted their red flags, and for a
moment it seemed that they might have us. But Taklinn must have some
competitive spirit, for he cast a spell which I later found out was Scare. All of our
rivals resisted it except their halfling (the same one who’d been shot by Caribdis,
ironically enough), and she immediately began to run from both Taklinn and the
circle of posts. Unfortunately for our rivals, she still had one of their flags tucked in
her belt.

Caribdis and I raced for the circle and hooked our flags, as did the unfrightened
members of our rivals. Only Taklinn’s flag remained for our side, and their halflings
flag, and she was across the arena. Victory seemed to be ours!
But I should have known it would not be so easy. Taklinn stepped into the circle,
his flag clenched in his fist. The opposing team members watched, but could do
nothing except watch as one of their fighters ran to retrieve their last flag from the
frightened halfling. Taklinn looked at Caribdis, then at the rival teams cleric, who
also happened to be a dwarf. And then he handed our last flag to their cleric!

My jaw dropped, and Griffin’s eyes practically spun in their sockets. But Taklinn
had some sort of weird dwarven method to his madness. "We will only take this last
flag from our rivals when Caribdis apologizes!" he thundered. I groaned, for I knew
that getting the prideful lad to give a sincere apology would be a tougher fight than
any wyvern was. Indeed, as I watched their fighter getting closer and closer with
their last flag, I could only curse as I heard Caribdis babble on about
misunderstandings and the rules of the game and so on.

But in the end, he must have seen the approaching fighter as well, for at the last
minute he gave in and shouted, "OK! I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry!"

Was there even a hint of sincerity in his hurried apology? No. But I decided that
enough was enough. I stepped up to the cleric and held out my hand. "That belongs
to us, I believe."

He could do little but comply with the rules of the game, and he handed our last
flag to me. I wasted no time and hooked it to it’s post, effectively ending the game
and winning our victory, albeit tainted.

***Note: Due to my recent computer crash I’m now a week behind in Doorag’s
diary, and I know from hard experience that that is tough to recover from if I wish
to stay current and not constantly be playing catch up. Therefore, the following
entries will probably be pretty succinct until I’m back on top of the story.***


Rdry’t 22 (Con’t)

There was much hushed murmuring among the crowd as we shuffled off the field,
and the creased brow on Yigil’s face further dampened my spirits, but I was
determined that we had done nothing technically wrong. A tad dishonorable,
perhaps, but I refused to let Caribdis’ rash act ruin the fact that we had won, if
nothing else, the race.

I could tell that Taklinn was not going to put such a positive spin on events
though, for he stalked away, his face dark with anger and perceived shame. I
thought to talk with him, but figured our exchange of words earlier might be too
recent to allow clear heads to prevail, and so I chose to let him be, trusting in his
wisdom, that he would see the logic in things.

A dinner was held in the evening to honor both crews, but when we showed up
there was no sign of the rival party. They snubbed us, and by midway through the
dinner I was furious! Even the words of Nivin, welcoming us into the fold of the
Academy as a bona fide crew, were lost on me as I fumed about the absence of our
competitors. I had been looking forward to toasting their bravery, but instead I
dwelt upon their pettiness, and later that evening, when we met in private with Yigil
to discuss the events of the day, I must admit that I quite lost my temper! I made
what, for most people, would be a fatal mistake. I spoke out of turn to an arch
mage!

He had only to raise an eyebrow to remind me to whom I was speaking, and I
immediately stood down.

Taklinn said little during the entire night, and Happy has favored Caribdis with a
glare or two. Only Griffin seems to have little opinion on the subject, and Caribdis
himself is either blissfully unaware of the turmoil he has caused, or completely
obstinate in his rationalization of his bow shots to the halfling.

As for me, I have decided to take Yigil’s advise, to step back, sleep on this thing,
and look at it like a wizard should. With logic, and a good nights sleep to put things
into perspective.
On a final note, though perhaps the most exciting, Yigil tells us that we are to
winter in Havilah! We are to stay here throughout the entire season, learning our
crafts and honing our skills that we’ll truly be able to serve as a crew for the
Academy.

I am beside myself with excitement at this news! Oh, the books I will immerse
myself in! The museums I will visit! The classes I will attend! Already I can hear
the voice of this magnificent city calling me to accept all she has to offer, and I
cannot wait for the sun to come up tomorrow so I can begin to do just that.

***And Doorag did just that. Through Suns’ebb, Fireseek and Readying, he toiled
diligently under the tutelage of the Academy and it’s teachers. In his spare time, he
devoured books, went to plays, studied, scribed many scrolls, and learned all he
could.

During those months the confrontation and bad blood between the crew and it’s
rivals were eventually ironed out, though not without drama.

The day following the trials confirmation as a crew, Taklinn shaved his beard in
abject, dwarven shame and moved to a room in the Academy away from the rest of
the crew. Furthermore, he sent, not only the braids from his shorn beard to the rival
crew, but the 1000gp credit voucher that had been his prize from the Academy as
well!

Doorag did not particularly agree that such histrionics were necessary, but he let
the cleric work things out for himself. In the meantime, Doorag had mellowed a bit
and decided that relations must be mended between two of Havilah’s crews, and to
that end, he write this letter and had it delivered to the rival crews wizard, one
Teppo Safford.

"Mr. Safford,
I have chosen you to be the recipient of this letter simply because you are, like
myself, a practitioner of the arcane arts, and as such, we share a common bond. This
letter is, however, open to the rest of your party, namely Ryton Safford, Finch
Severi, Lotte Spangler, and Kester Orban.

Gentlemen and Lady, I formerly extend to you the hand of friendship. The events
of Readyreat 22, specifically the crew sponsorship test at the Academy, were both
heroic and unfortunate. I would concur that mistakes were made, however they are
far from insurmountable. If I am mistaken, then I am afraid we have failed a much
larger test indeed.

We must look upon that contest as sport, as a game devised to teach us more
about ourselves. And, like children at play, we must pick ourselves up, dust off,
forgive the trespasses of our opponents, recognize their skill, and move on with the
much larger business of Academy business.

Your crew played well, with skill, and honor. I regret that my friends actions will
taint that. I regret that I was not able to tell you that in person, and to raise a toast to
you at the awards ceremony. I believe my regret is born of anger and
impetuousness. I say, let this be the end. I say, let us write a new chapter that has, at
it’s heart, the best interests of Havilah and the Academy between our groups.

Yours,
Doorag Marzipan"

This letter was answered by a visit by that same wizard, and Teppo and Doorag
were able to arrive at a meeting of the minds. The following is their exchange.

For a couple days you hear nothing, but then Teppo Safford seeks you out.
You’re checking out your new laboratory digs, which are a bit dusty and in need of
some homemaking. He knocks politely at the door and then steps in, taking a seat
unbidden in one of the three chairs arranged around the big table that serves as a
desk and work surface (there are also two long "counters" for the accoutrements of
a wizard’s office).

"We got your letter," he says. He is a frail man, his skin quite sallow, and he stops
for a moment while he catches his breath. The climb to your study seems to have
done him in. Finally he resumes.

"Logic and intellect are the stuff we wizards are made of," he says. "And logic
dictates that you are entirely correct. The events between our two parties were
unfortunate, and it is indeed my hope that we can come to an understanding. If it
were my decision alone, then we would join together this evening and clear the air
over dinner and wine."

He sighs and shakes his head. "Ah, but reason does not come so easily to some, as
much as we would wish it so. I must admit that Lotte has a bit of revenge in her
heart. Even your dwarf’s tokens did little to cool her head." He smiles. "Kester
nearly had his own beard ripped off after they came to words over his letter.

"You may take comfort in the fact that she is not in the majority, but actions can’t be
taken until Lotte decides to let things be.

"Your bard picked the wrong target, Doorag Marzipan. Finch is something of a
favorite of hers. They’ve traveled together for a very long time, long before they
joined up with Ryton, Kester, and me. She took it very personally when he plugged
her friend full of arrows. She feels...."

Teppo pauses, and looks nothing except...uncomfortable. "Finch and Lotte are,
well... they are close. Let us end it at that. Finch has forgiven and forgotten, but
I’ve heard those two battling about it every night since the contest. It was Lotte
who refused to go to the banquet.

"Myself, I would have liked to see my adversaries in more normal circumstances.
But like it or not we are a team, and we learned long ago that we always stick
together. We’ve been a crew long before coming to the Academy, and learned the
hard way what happens when we don’t act as one."

He looks uncomfortable again, and fiddles with his robe. "Kester says that Taklinn
has removed himself from your quarters. That is bad news indeed. I’d say that this
is your greatest test as a crew; that wyvern they say you killed will be nothing
compared to the harm a fractured party can be.

"I don’t mean to give advice where your own friends are concerned, so stop me if I
overstep my bounds, but I don’t know how much you know about dwarfs.
Especially those that follow Clangeden. I myself didn’t until Kester explained it to
us. Cutting his beard was irrational; I think both you and I can see that. But
dwarven pride is something that you just can’t ignore, and it appears that Clangeden
only exacerbates the problem." Teppo grins. "Kester offered Kurd’s path to him,
but I dare say that that offer won’t be taken."

He stands and offers his hand. "All is well between you and I, Doorag Marzipan,
and you’ll just have to be patient with my friends. My advice to you is to bring
Taklinn back into the fold as soon as you can. I’ve heard rumors around the
Academy that there is something big afoot in the kingdom, although I don’t know
what it is. Things are so hush-hush that my guess is that it is something serious.
The kingdom needs its crews, and I hear that your crew was somewhat....
impressive, if a bit fractured."

Doorag considers Teppo’s words thoughtfully when the man has finished. At last,
he sighs and says, "Yes, I suppose your right about Taklinn. I’ve been letting him
be, hoping that this will blow over, but the whole shaving of the beard, well! I can
tell you, it startled me, and no doubt about that!"

"The Old Man in the Pointy Hat used to say that the only thing harder than stone
is a dwarf, and I’m beginning to understand what he meant. At this point I’m getting
a little exasperated with him, so perhaps we would do well to share a cup and a few
words."

"As for us, I can’t tell you how happy I am that you came today, Teppo, nor how
gratified I am to learn that my hunch was right, that you are a logic driven chap who
won’t miss the forest for the trees. I hope that Lotte will one day come around.
Perhaps if he were to actually meet Caribdis, and perhaps if Caribdis we’re actually
apologetic... well, that will be a job for my crew. I swear, but that boy drives the lot
of us to distraction! His raw talent is too much to ignore, but there are many rough
edges that need polishing."

"As for we two, perhaps our meeting of the minds will sew the seeds of future
reconciliation. And if they don’t, well, at least we have forged a valuable
relationship. You can’t have too many friends!" With that, Doorag grins and taps the
side of his nose with his finger.

So Doorag and Teppo were fine, and Doorag was titillated by the fact that Finch
and Lotte (both females) were having -ahem- relations. Taklinn had arrived at his
own peace through his dealings with Kester Orban. Happy and Finch (the halfling
rogue) had met many times on the training fields and learned to get along. Griffin
just didn’t care, and Caribdis made amends in his own way, by taking both Finch
and Lotte out for what must be one of the most expensive nights on the town in
Havilah history. Lotte let him spend nearly every copper he possessed on them
before she decided to forgive and forget, but in the end, she, too, saw the wisdom in
putting the needs of the Academy before their own differences.

Caribdis’ birthday was celebrated, and the new year came, and with it, the
warming rays of the spring sun, as well as their first mission as a real crew.

On Readying 13 there were called before Nivin Mottul and told that they were to
travel to Kalendia, a city to the south, only fifty miles from the Wild Lands, a
border town where many sightings of Himrak orcs had recently been reported.
Himrak orcs are a particularly nasty breed, sure that they are the supreme race on
earth and only too willing to slaughter any who don’t agree. Nivin tells them that
another crew was recently sent there and had not been heard of in some time. They
were to investigate the orc sightings and the disappearance of the other crew.

On Readying 14 they hitched up their wagon and headed south.***

***Note: Forgot to mention that, in addition to their ultimate mission in Kalendia,
the crew are also to investigate sightings of another possible wyvern along the way.
Supposedly the small village of Vasain, which lies at the halfway point of their
journey, has been harried by wyvern attacks.***
 

cthulhu42

Explorer
Rdying 15

Back on the road again, and it feels good to be here. Spring is well upon us,
though there is a fine chill in the air.

Being here again, with firm direction in mind, it seems that we have once again
solidified into the crew we were before our trials at the Academy. A bit
scatterbrained, perhaps, but united as much as we ever were. Taklinn’s beard is
coming back in nicely and all the old bad blood seems to have thinned.

I must admit though, that three months in the comfort of Havilah has softened my
bum and the wagon is playing havoc on it. It will be awhile before my bones have
acclimated themselves to the road again. Until then I will surely spend a few sore
nights.


Rdying 17

Well, we may travel the Queens Road, but today has proved that even this main
artery across the land is less than safe, for as we traveled this noon, we were
ambushed by a group of ten orcs. Though we were outnumbered, our skills that we
honed in the Academy were more than enough to deal with such rabble, and in less
than a minute the would-be bandits lay dead, strewn across the road, bloodied and
burnt by steel and spell. We sustained a few wounds but nothing that Taklinn and
Caribdis couldn’t handle.

I fear that this is yet more evidence that Havilah is being slowly encroached upon
by humanoid hordes.


Rdying 19

We have entered Vasain, and apparently the reports are true. This town has
suffered several attacks from an airborne creature, and, in fact, as we approached
the village this afternoon we spotted the creature. It was high in the air, merely a
speck in the sky, but with our spyglass we were able to get a better look at it, and
I’m afraid that the reports of a wyvern were amiss. The beast we saw has four legs,
not two, and no stinger on it’s tail. No one wants to say it, but we are all thinking the
same thing: Dragon!

It was difficult to tell from our distance, and we have only seen pictures of
dragons in books, but what I saw looked an awful lot like those pictures. Caribdis is
already lobbying for us to return to Havilah and request the assistance of a more
learned crew.

Once in Vasain we established a base of operations in the inn and learned much
from the townsfolk. It seems that quite a bit of livestock has been carried away, as
well as two children and two adults.

Surprisingly enough, Griffin appeared quite affected by the news of the children’s
disappearance. He and Happy spoke with the parents of the children and found
further evidence of a dragon at the sight from which they vanished: A large circle of
burnt grass, which we can only assume to be the results of fiery dragons breath.

Griffins rage at the deaths of these two children is apparent, even though he tries
to maintain his stoic exterior. He has fortified himself even more than usual with
strong drink tonight. I believe we may have discovered Griff’s blind spot.

While Griff and Happy met with the parents, the rest of us sought out and talked
with one Rogan, a trapper in these parts. He tells us that he has seen the beast up
close and has an idea of where it may lair. He has agreed to take us there on the
morrow.

We are all a bit nervous tonight. The idea of taking on a dragon, even a small one,
is enough to turn my legs to jelly, and Caribdis is positively in a frenzy of trying to
convince us to return to Havilah for aid. But it will not be. We will do what we have
been sent to do, and that is that.

I pray that I will still be around tomorrow to make an entry in this journal. In the
meantime, I must rest and dwell upon which spells will be best suited to deal with
such a beast.


Rdying 20

We awoke early, and true to his word, Rogan was waiting for us. After a quick
bite (of which Caribdis was able to eat very little - the boy was a bit pale this
morning) we set out to find this dragon.

Rogan led us into the surrounding woods, of which he is intimately familiar, and
we followed him into the low hills a few miles from the village. He would not go
too near where he believed the dragon to be, but he gave us further directions and
agreed to wait for us.

We continued on, following his landmarks, until we had climbed a small bluff, at
the top of which was a large clearing that served as a porch to a dark cave. Any
doubts that this was the beasts lair were soon put to rest, for the clearing was littered
with bones, broken and burnt. I thought I could hear Caribdis’ knees knocking
together, and truth be told, my own voice was a bit shaky as I read off a couple of
protective scrolls. Most of the time I trust the others to protect me, as well as my
ability to simply stay out of harms way, but I was taking no chances with a dragon.
Neither was Taklinn, and he cast similar spells upon himself.

As we neared the cave entrance we could hear the heavy breathing of something
within, and I declare that raw fear nearly caused us to turn back. But we steeled
ourselves and entered, with Griffin and Taklinn leading the way. I remembered
Griffin’s description of the burnt circle of grass they had found and I hung back,
having a bad feeling that things were going to warm up.

We had not far to go. A mere fifty or so feet into the cave the sun shone enough to
reveal the hulking form of the wurm, newly awakened by our entry and uncoiling
itself to deal with us. It was small, by dragon standards I suppose, barely out of it’s
infancy, but still as big as a war horse and bristling with teeth and claws. It gleamed
a bright red, and it lay atop a pile of coin, the amount of which I’ve never seen in
one place.

To my surprise, it spoke!

"Who dares disturb me?" It demanded.

"I do, that’s who!" it was Griffin who answered, his sword point quivering with
anger as he addressed the beast, "We’ve come to extract retribution for the children
of Vasain! Prepare to die!"

The dragon seemed not the least bit worried by Griffin’s declaration and looked
down his long snout at us as if we were no more than minor annoyances. "How you
humans do bore me," it said, snidely, "Yet you come at an inopportune time and I
don’t feel like killing you right now. Leave me, and do not return, or I shall burn
you where you stand. Now go!"

Caribdis, standing not far from me, looked as if he were about to heed the dragons
command, but Taklinn simply reinforced Griff’s words with a hefted axe and a
prayer to Clangeden. Happy, well in the shadows, slid ever forward. The wurm,
seeing that we were not to be so easily dismissed, reared itself up to it’s full height,
it’s tail whipping behind it, it’s wings flaring out and sending buffets of wind at us.

"Then die!" it roared, and exhaled its flaming breath at us! A wall of fire emanated
from that toothy maw, engulfing all that stood before it. Luckily I had judged
correctly and was just out of range. I could feel the heat of the flame, but the fire
stopped only feet from me. When it cleared, we all still stood, but it was clear that
all had been badly burnt. Still, as long as we keep our feet we shall fight, and Griff,
Taklinn and Happy moved in for their strikes while Caribdis loosed arrows even as
flames still licked at his sleeves. I know the boy was terrified, but to his credit, he
held his ground.

Taklinn reached the dragon and drew first blood for our side with a tremendous
swing. Griff stepped up, but the dragon surprised us with a spell. "Flee!" it
commanded our stanch warrior, and before I know it, Griffin was running for his
life! I could see the shame in his eyes as he passed me, but he had no choice, for he
was well and truly under the influence of magic. Fortunately, it would not last long.

Trying not to stumble over my words, I cast glitterdust at the beast, hoping to blind
it, but it just shook its head and laughed! Taklinn and Happy laid into it again,
drawing a bit of blood, but taking their own lumps from it’s claws and teeth.
Taklinn reeled back, badly bitten, but refused to give up and hurled himself back at
the beast with renewed vigor. Caribdis fired arrows as fast as his arm could draw
back his bow, and I tried another spell, and to my great joy, this one worked!

It’s was Reduce, and to my great surprise it actually took, for the dragon suddenly
went from being horse sized to pony sized! I knew that he would still be
formidable, but perhaps his newly diminished strength would give us the edge we
desperately needed.

Then, a blur raced past me. It was Griffin. The spell that had forced him to flee had
expired and he charged the wurm with renewed fury, slamming into it with his
blade. The dragon flinched, obviously hurt and not prepared to deal with foes that
fought back.

Rallying now that Griff had returned, Taklinn and Happy hacked away. As for me, I
thought to myself that if it was good that the dragon were smaller, it would be better
still if we were bigger, and with that in mind, I yelled out, "Griff! I’m hitting you
with a spell! Let it take!" Hoping that he’d heard me, I cast Enlarge on him. Within
seconds, he grew to nearly nine feet tall, his sword almost twice its original length,
and it bit even deeper into the dragons hide.

Long seconds passed with only the sound of grunts, cries of pain, teeth ripping flesh
and steel biting scale. I hit the beast with Magic Missile, desperately trying to chip
away at it.

With a snarl, the dragon realized that it was outmatched and attempted to flee.
Unfortunately, I stood directly in its path, and I can now attest to the fact that there
is no more fearsome sight than a dragon barreling down upon you. It nearly
trampled me, but my protective spells paid off, and I was only tossed aside as it
exited the cave. Only a few more steps and it would be able to take to the air where
we would have no chance of catching it.

But it was not to be, for Griffin was hot on it’s heels, his newly lengthened legs
eating up ground as fast as the dragons, and with a final battle cry, he plunged his
bastard sword through the dragons back, piercing through organs and coming out of
its belly! Griff was thrown back by the beasts death throes, and we all stood well
away as it writhed and twisted, trying to drag itself from the cave. But it got no
more than a few yards before it slumped to the earth and breathed its last, Griffin's
sword still impaled into it.

In the ensuing silence we could only stand around its corpse, looking at each other,
barely able to believe that we still survived. All of us were wounded, bitten, burnt,
or clawed, but the relief at having slain the beast took much of the sting out of our
wounds.

And so Taklinn and Caribdis began their healing. Griff returned to normal size, and
we began to sift through the treasure. The amount of coin was impressive, but its
denomination disappointing, for the vast majority of it was copper. Still, we
managed to extract a goodly portion of gold and silver, as well as a handful of
gemstones. Best of all, my detect magic picked up several interesting items. We
found a beautiful bastard sword, an ax, a wand, a ring, a suit of leather armor, and
a pair of goggles, all of which glowed mellowly of magic.

The sword, especially, was an interesting find. Caribdis actually recognized it and
named it as Everyman’s Blade. Supposedly it was once used by a great hero in the
defense of Havilah city, but was lost after a great battle and had not been seen since.
A true treasure! Griffin appeared unimpressed (of course) with the tale, but he left
his old blade in the dragon carcass and hefted this new one with a shrug, slipping it
into his sheath.

I fetched Rogan and our mounts, and we headed back to Vaisan, our saddlebags
heavy with treasure and the dragons head strapped across Don Kay's back.

Upon entering the village, word of our victory spread quickly, and we were given a
heroes welcome that turned into quite the party. Only Griffin seemed unable to
enjoy it, for he still dwelt upon the loss of the two children and his inability to even
find their remains. He delivered to their parents the head of that dragon, perhaps as
a means of closure. He disappeared soon after with two bottles of strong liquor, and
we didn’t see him until the next day.

As for me, I enjoyed myself at the party for a few hours, but soon the excitement
caught up with me and I retired to my room where I now am, writing down these
events before I take my rest.


Rdying 21

Our third day in Vasain, and I have spent the better part of it working with a spell
that I picked up at the Academy but had not yet had a chance to try. Identify has
told me much about the items we found in the dragons lair, though a few details still
elude me.

The sword that Griff now carries, Everyman’s blade, remains an enigma with the
exception of what I already guessed, that it is enchanted to such an extent as to give
its wielder a minor advantage on the field of battle. Same with the axe, but unlike
the axe, I can sense deeper enchantment in the sword. Enchantment too complex for
my simple spell to reveal its secrete.

Perhaps only time will tell. Whatever the case, it fits Griff well, unless one
remembers that its former owner was a hero of the people. Hardly our lone wolf,
Griffin.

Taklinn took the axe, it was a natural fit, as was the leather armor for Happy. She
was delighted to find that it would shrink to fit her small form, and she now has a
very "black cat" look indeed, and seems well pleased. Her armor holds deeper
enchantment as well, but nothing I could put my finger on.

The wand is a wand of Cure Light Wounds, and the ring grants minor protection
from physical blows. The goggles provide dark vision, and both Happy and I looked
at them greedily, but since she had already fallen in love with the leather, she
grinned and slid them over to me.

It was decided that Caribdis should hang on to the wand, which left him with the
ring as the last piece of treasure. But with Caribdis nothing is ever easy, and he took
it into his head that one of the front line fighters should have it. Taklinn and Griff
shrugged and said that they’d be glad to have it, but I think they both wanted
Caribdis to share in the loot, and they protested.

But Caribdis would have his way, and it was ultimately decided to let Olidamara
decide with a roll of the dice (though we did insist that Caribdis at least play).
Olidamara must favor our Griff, for his dice rolled highest, and he reluctantly put
on the ring. Caribdis seemed pleased though, which, I guess, is what matters.

I think, however, that the next time we encounter a magical trinket that would suit
the boy, we will not take no for an answer. Self sacrifice is one thing, martyrdom is
another.

We get back on the road tomorrow. According to our calculations we should
reach Kalendia by the 26th


Rdying 26th

Its been another long day and I’ve got lots to tell so I’d best get started.

The last four days were spent in uneventful travel, but today brought us still more
action. We were only about three hours out of Kalendia when danger struck. We are
fast becoming experts in the fine art of being ambushed, for as we rode along we
spotted two hunched figures hurrying across the road. We only caught a glimpse of
them, but even from a distance we could tell that they were orcs. No sooner had
they disappeared into the woods than we heard the sound of hoof beats behind us.
Turning, we beheld yet another orc, only this one was mounted on a particularly
mean looking warhorse and was charging straight for us! We set ourselves to deal
with him, but before he’d even covered the distance, four more of them burst from
the woods, waving their huge axes and snarling war cries!

But they were little match for my sleep spell, and three of them never even made
it to the road. The mounted orc and his remaining foot soldier were easy prey for
Griffin and Taklinn, and they died swiftly, but the horse was another matter, for it
fought as if it had a personal vendetta against us, biting Taklinn and hammering
about with it’s hooves. Caribdis tried to mount the thing, but got only a hoof in the
face for his trouble. I used my scorching ray to fine effect, and after I’d softened it
up, the rest were able to take it down. I think killing the horse upset Happy, she has
a soft spot for the beasts, but there was no help for it.

The mounted orc was not dead, and we decided to take him prisoner along with
the other three that I had slept. We manacled them and tied them to the wagon while
Griffin and Happy went ahead on foot to scout around, figuring that there were
likely more orcs in the area. While they were gone we noticed that these orcs were
heavily tattooed and wore a sort of uniform armor. We deduced that they were
Himrok orcs. We had not even made it to Kalendia yet and already we were seeing
evidence of a Himrok invasion!

Griff and Happy returned with a report of a farmhouse not far ahead and sightings
of several more orcs around it. We could only assume that they had taken over the
house for a base, and I worried for the human inhabitants. For Taklinn and I it was
not a question of IF we were going to deal with these orcs, but WHEN, and HOW.
But again, the rest of our crew needed a gentle prod. Caribdis argued that we were
nearly out of spells and Griff muttered about it not being our business, and we
ended up arguing about it all the way to the house, but Taklinn and I were not to be
moved on this point. Neither of us could sit idly by while innocent folk were
potently held captive in their own home.

While we discussed it from a field adjacent to the house, we were suddenly
witness to a large burst of light that emanated from a nearby shed! The light
exploded silently and shot up into the air, giving us all pause.

But the farmhouse and its inhabitants were our first order of business, and we
assumed by this time that we’d been spotted, for all the orcs that Griff and Happy
had seen outside were nowhere to be found. We could only surmise that they had
retreated into the house.

Happy volunteered to scout out the house, and she quickly covered the ground
between us and it. By this time the shadows were growing long, and we were utterly
surprised to see her simply disappear into one of them! I think we can now safely
say that the deeper magic’s of her armor involve bettering her ability to camouflage
herself and blend into the shadows, for I swear, she seemed to simply vanish into
thin air and then reappear again a second later from another spot! Most impressive!

She circled the house and brought back a report that the orcs were indeed inside
and had barricaded themselves in. Caribdis, of course, took that as an obvious
indication that we should leave well enough alone and press on to Kalendia for aid,
but I was having none of that. Cocking my crossbow, I ran for the house. The
others, to their credit, followed.

Once at the corner, we decided to divide and conquer. I had already cast a levitate
on myself, so I rose to the second floor and found a window unlocked. It let into a
small, unoccupied bedroom, so I descended to pick up Happy. Taklinn had already
started toward the front door, casting enhancement spells on himself as he went.

Unbeknownst to me, as I ferried Happy to the second floor, Griff was fortifying
Caribdis’ courage with his own special brand of liquid steel. In other words, he let
the boy gulp down half a bottle of rotgut wine! I didn’t realize it until I took
Caribdis up and then went back down for Griff. He decided to go in another door
and made off for it. I rose back to the bedroom, only to find Caribdis passed out on
the bed! Happy was slapping him awake and he got up, already slurring! I clapped
my hand to my forehead in disbelief, but what could we do?

I opened the door to reveal an empty hallway full of doors and a staircase that led
down. I made my way to the half point of the stairs and beheld nearly a half dozen
orcs and several war dogs at the bottom. Fortunately, they were all watching a door
at the bottom, presumably the door that Griff was trying to break through. In the
distance, I could hear the sounds of battle, and I figured that Taklinn had made his
presence known.

I quickly cast from a scroll, and three of the orcs went down, asleep. That drew
their attention, but before they could act, Caribdis had stumbled past me and was
launching arrows at them. Good enough, I thought, putting the bard between myself
and the enemy as Griffin finally smashed through the door.

One orc tried to rouse his fellows, but another scroll from me put him and the
remaining orcs back to bed as Griffin laid about with his sword. The dogs proved to
be tougher than their masters, and they chased Caribdis up the stairs as far as I
would let him go.

Happy tumbled past us to help Griff on the floor, and I must confess to an
embarrassing moment here, for I fired my crossbow at a dog and missed, hitting
Happy instead! I was mortified, and she shot me an angry glance. By this time she
and Griff had dispatched the last of the dogs, and they both ran to aid Taklinn who
was busy with his own grip of orcs and dogs as well. Fortunately, our dwarf is so
well armored that he was well neigh impossible for them to hit. By the time Griff
reached him he’d already slain two of the orcs and had only taken a single bite from
a lucky dog. When Griff got there, it was all over for the bad guys, and he and
Taklinn flanked them with a vengeance, leaving a pile of dead orcs and dogs in
their wake.

Happy reported (as she removed my bolt from her arm) that she’d killed a
wounded orc upstairs and that the rest of the rooms were clear. We quickly tied up
our sleeping prisoners, though keeping living prisoners was a bone of contention,
especially after we’d witnessed the horror in the living area. The orcs had
transformed it into a torture chamber of sorts, and we found a human man there,
tied to a chair, obviously the victim of sadistic torture before his throat was slit.

We found a final door to the cellar, and after breaking it open, we discovered
more human prisoners. Four men, one of them, his name is Aif, the owner of the
farm.

Rdying 26 (con’t)

Aif and his fellow farmhands greeted us warily, which was understandable,
considering their recent run in with the orcs, but they soon realized that we were
liberators and not invaders and they calmed down. Aif related to us that the orcs had
descended upon them a few days ago and had taken over the farmhouse, keeping
the humans prisoner for torture and sport.

The cellar held another secrete, however, for under our scrutiny we found a
hidden panel in the wall that led into a room lined with weapons! An odd cache for
a farmer, but when questioned about it Aif explained that he had once been an
adventurer like ourselves and that the weapons were simply his collection from
those days long past. We accepted that, but not without reservation. Something just
didn’t seem right. I think that Happy, especially, did not buy his story, but he had
given us no real reason to distrust him. Still, as I close this entry and go to bed, I
know that I won’t sleep lightly knowing that he is in the room down the hall. I’ll
have Ambros take a watch tonight.

Later...

Well! It appears that our troubles with the orcs was not over. We’ve barricaded
ourselves in the farmhouse in case they decide to return, and it turns out that our
caution was not without warrant. Only a half hour ago I was startled awake
by the sounds of heavy bodies slamming into the doors. A dozen or so orcs had
rushed the house, hoping to catch us unaware, but Griff was on duty downstairs and
Taklinn was snoozing not far away. By the time I’d made it downstairs, the two of
them had already dispatched several of the orcs. It was quick work to mop up the
rest of them after Happy, Caribdis (still half drunk) and I showed up. Even though I
was low on spells, my scrolls came in handy, and we now have a few prisoners
thanks to a Sleep spell. We’d have had more, but Happy was not too keen on taking
live ones, and before we could stop her she sent four of them from sleep on to the
next world. Taklinn reacted strongly to her, but I wont dwell on it. I dislike the
notion of executing prisoners, but I also realize that we are simply delaying the
inevitable, for they will surely be hanged once we turn them over to the law in
Kalendia. In a perfect world justice would always be served, but folk like Happy,
Griff, and Caribdis follow different drummers, and I won’t hold them to the same
set of standards that I aspire to. The truth is, I often fail to satisfy my own
expectations, so I won’t lord them over others. These orcs certainly weren’t
innocent, so I will neither shed tears for them nor worry over the manner of their
demise.

In more practical affairs, Griff tells us that Aif departed earlier this night! Griff
was on watch when Aif came down with his pack, announcing that he did not feel
safe here and intended to flee for fear of further orc attacks. Griff, being Griff,
merely shrugged at the farmer and locked the door behind him. That was that.

Well, I believe I have sufficiently calmed down from the excitement, and I must
get some rest if I am to be of any use tomorrow.

Rdying 27

We have decided to investigate the strange goings on around the farmhouse
before proceeding on to Kalendia. There was the matter of the weird light we
witnessed shooting up from the shack built on the top of the hill behind us, as well
as Aif’s information that there was a cave on the hills opposite side, near its base.
We wondered if the orcs might not be using that cave as a campsite, so we reckoned
we’d check it out first.

We stole through the trees, making a quiet loop around the hill, but before long
we realized that there is a limit to how quiet a dwarf in armor and a hung over
Caribdis can be. So Happy volunteered to scout it out, and like that, she melted into
the forest.

She was back some fifteen minutes later, breathing hard and a bit shaken. She’d
had to dispatch an orc by herself with a single, well placed dagger, thrown from
hiding in order to get back to us. The orc went down without a sound and the alarm
was never raised. She reported a cave with signs of movement at its mouth, as well
as several orcs perched in the outlying trees, bows at the ready.

We followed her route back toward the cave, and soon, we made contact. Taklinn
charged into clearing, openly drawing their fire, and the air around him buzzed
with arrows. This gave us the opportunity to flank them, and we picked them out of
their trees one by one with spells and missile weapons. In no time, they littered the
ground beneath the trees like rotten fruit.

The cave turned out not to be a simple hole in a hillside, but rather a well dug
tunnel that led into a good sized chamber complete with another tunnel on its far
wall. We knew than that we would have our work cut out for us, and we set out to
uncover this mystery.

Happy took the point as we plunged into the tunnel, and good thing, too. I’d lent
her my dark vision goggles, and with them she found a nasty pit trap on the floor
before us, and we were able to circumvent it as well as another placed near the first.
That girl has a good eye!

Two more orcs waited for us at the end of the tunnel, and they took pot shots at us
until Griff and Caribdis rushed them and cut them down with blade and arrow.

We spent the next few hours dealing with a stubborn door or two and the
discovery of what appears to be a burial tomb for orcish heroes. Four massive stone
blocks seal four chambers that, according to the glyphs carved onto them, contain
four orcish warriors of lore, while a fifth chamber has been (unsettlingly enough)
broken out of! It looks as if one of the dead decided that he’d had enough of his
eternal rest and smashed free of his grave. Only an empty sarcophagus lay in his
tomb. It is still a mystery when this happened or where the creature is now. We can
only hope that it was long ago and that he is far away, but I fear that we don’t have that
kind of luck.

We have now returned to the farmhouse to rest ourselves for the further
exploration of the complex. Several doors remain unopened, and it galled the
fighters to leave them, but I am without spells, as is Caribdis. Even Taklinn is low
on his healing, so we’ve opted to rest.

Rdying 28

Our second day in the tombs, and almost too much has happened to try to fit into
a single entry. But I will try.

We awoke this morning, refreshed, at full health, and full of spells. Thusly armed
we dove back into the darkness of the tunnels that honeycomb the hill. Caribdis is
filled with curiosity about the four orc hero tombs that remain sealed, and it was my
mistake to think aloud that I could breach them with a simple Reduce spell. He
spent most of the morning dropping hints and wondering aloud what they might
contain in an effort to pique our curiosity. But we have bigger fish to fry, and plenty
of doors remained unopened that required only a trap scan from Happy and Griff’s
strong shoulder to open them.

It is becoming more and more apparent that this complex had, at one time, been
an orcish stronghold, but has been recently occupied by human forces. Now,
however, the orcs seem to have retaken their ancestral lair and have fought us tooth
and nail to retain it. Indeed, rather than desert the place while we rested, they have
dug in, fortifying their defenses and stand ready for us at every turn. Fortunately,
we have become more than a match for even a sizable group of the thugs, what
with my Sleep spells and the blades of my fellows. Taklinn, in particular, seems to
take great joy in hurling himself into the midst of a knot of orcs and laughing at
them as their axes clang, ineffectually, off of his shining armor. According to him
his people have a long standing feud with orcs, and he doesn’t even try to conceal
his joy at cutting them down. We’ve all had plenty of opportunity to do just that
today, for even the first door we opened revealed a half dozen orcs ready to die in
defense of this complex.

And die they did.

We soon found that they were merely the front line, guarding two more doors. We
forced open the one to the north and were shocked and disgusted by what we saw:
A prison, stoutly built of stone rooms and iron bars, the orcish jailor and his deputy
still standing at the ready. The jailor was a tough fellow, but down he went, and we
were saddened to find that the cells he had so fiercely died for were largely devoid
of life, though much evidence still remained of the prisoners who had once
languished there. Yes, they had all been slaughtered and tossed into a single cell
like so much refuse. The scene was appalling and we saw that nearly a
dozen helpless prisoners had been hacked to death. The worst of it was the
discovery of five bodies that still bore their Havilah crew rings. We have found the
missing crew, slain to a man. With heavy hearts we retrieved the rings for return to
Havilah and set the bodies of those brave souls aside for a proper burial once we
have sorted this place out.

Not all the cells contained corpses, however. In one of them we found four human
men, scared out of their wits and pleading to be set free. But we are a cautious lot
now, for we believe that the farmer (if he really is a farmer at all) Aif may have a
hand in all of this, and once these prisoners revealed to us that they had once been
Aif’s men, we thought better of letting them roam free before we’d found some
answers to our questions. Under questioning they told us little, and I believe that
they probably don’t know much. But they did say that Aif had, before the orcs
arrived, controlled this complex and had been amassing men and weapons here.
They knew not why, but perhaps the magistrate in Kalendia will get more out of
them. Either way, they sit, even now, in their cells, awaiting transfer to the city.

Another tunnel led from the prison and into a terrible, yet fascinating room that
could be classified as a torture chamber of sorts, though that does not appear to be
the reason it was built. Inside we discovered a strange machine of what looks like
gnomish design. It was built over a table festooned with restraints, and indeed, a
body still rested there, its face contorted with pain and an ugly hole in its chest,
obviously the cause of death. But the hole was not caused by some base weapon.
Perched over the table, like some alien insect, hung a bizarre contraption riddled
with gears and buttons and leavers, all of which narrowed to a tube-like protrusion
that came to a nasty point. Its angle still suggested that it had recently been buried
within the chest of the hapless victim on the table.

Within the machine we found a slot that could accept one of the many copper
plates that were strewn about the room. The plate within the devices bore a short,
engraved, message: "The temple is ours." We conclude that it is some sort of
message sending machine, and even though it seems mightily ponderous for so
simple a task, the ability to send words over distance without the threat of
interception may well be valuable enough to these orcs to warrant it.

Whatever the case, no one will ever use this diabolic mechanism again, for
Taklinn was quick to put it to the axe. I must admit that it pained me just a bit to see
such a mechanical marvel destroyed. I realize that it’s use could cause nothing but
pain, but still, it was a wonder of construction the likes of which I have never seen.
Fortunately I was able to make some sketches of it as well as keep a box of tools
laying nearby. I may never know what many of the tools are even used for, but they
will one day make marvelous conversation pieces for my laboratory.

At any rate, we soon left the "message room", as we dubbed it, and continued out
its exiting corridor. There was another door in this hall, but there was also another
trap. Fortunately Happy has eyes that would make an eagle jealous and she caught it
before any of us tripped the nasty thing. Upon opening the door we found a stair
case clogged with furniture, as if someone had attempted to block off the door that
we could barely make out at the top of the stairs. Caribdis was all for hauling it all
out and checking the door, but we decided that whatever it was would keep until
we’d cleared out this lower level. He seemed disappointed, but bounced back fast
when we reminded him of another door we’d left behind us.

We made our way to said door and, after a trap scan by Happy, opened it up to
discover a funnel shaped room filled with orcs and war dogs! Again, it was a short
but brutal fight. The orcs never even attempted to run. They must have feared
whomever commanded them to hold their positions more than they feared us. Too
bad for them, for they were soon laid low.

Yet another door led from the wide end of this triangular room, and it gave easily.
Inside we beheld a room with a maze of sorts, made of iron rail. I suppose it was to
keep an invading force from charging headlong through the room. At the opposite
end of the low maze, near the exit, stood an ogre. I’ve only read about these buggers
in books, but there was no mistaking the low brow and gangly arms that bulged
with muscle. The thing hefted a tree trunk of a club and howled his challenge. Well,
Griff and Taklinn are not the sorts to let such a thing go unanswered, and soon they
were ducking or leaping the railings in an attempt to close with the brute. Griff
struck first, and the bite of his big sword only seemed to enrage the ogre further!
Suddenly, as Taklinn closed the distance, another ogre charged in from the exit.
Griff found himself caught between the two giants, and I feared the worst for him.
Happy, Caribdis and I harried the two with what we could while Taklinn and Griff
went toe to toe. Happy even closed with the first ogre, darting in and thrusting with
her wicked dagger.

I have noticed of late that Happy seems to take personal offense to anyone who
manages to land a hit on Griff, and I daresay Griff tends to react much the same
way when Happy is threatened. The two have a connection, no doubt, though I fear
that not much will ever come of it should it blossom into romance due to their
rather dramatic size difference.

It was touch and go for a moment, but at last our stalwart fighters
dropped one ogre, then the second. When it was over we all stood there for a long
time, breathing heavily and wondering how many more of these things might lie
ahead. Taklinn and Caribdis set about healing the wounded, and we agreed that we
still possessed enough firepower to move on.

We did, heading north through the exit and into a hall filled with doors that led to
a veritable den of orcs. It appeared as if we had reached the barracks of the
complex, and each room seemed to lead to two more, all filled with at least half a
dozen orcs.

They fell like wheat before us. Our skills simply make them no match for us now,
even in numbers. I remember that not so long ago we were nearly felled by a dozen
goblins, but today we have mopped up over twenty orcs that easily weigh three
times what a goblin does. I hope this does not seem prideful, but it is hard not to
notice how far we have come.

We also discovered a series of offices, empty of life but brimming with interesting
finds. We have discovered a log book of prisoners once held in this complex as well
as a listing of supplies and contacts in Kalendia, not to mention further evidence
that directly links Aif to a treasonous bid to raise an army within the boarders of
Havilah , for what purposes we still cannot ascertain. To top it all off, we also
uncovered a fine cache of treasure. A chest fairly brimming with coin! True, most
of it is copper or silver, but enough of it is gold to make it more than just
worthwhile.

We searched out and put down every orc we could find within the barracks, and
soon we were left with a single door that graced the end of the hall. This one we had
left for last, for it bore malevolent orcish artwork depicting a gaping, demonic
mouth that warned the unwary to stay out better than any words could. Still, there
was no turning back now, and though it was tightly locked, Happy made short work
of it and Griff wasted no time in kicking it in.

They had been waiting for us. Nearly ten burly orcs surrounded a final orc, this
one bigger than all the rest we had seen. He was obviously a chieftain of some sort,
for he raised his great axe over his head and commanded his fellows to stand fast!
Griff wasted no time, charging directly into their midst and laying about him with
his bloody sword, but these orcs were apparently the cream of the crop, for where
others fell under a single blow from Griff, these stood their ground and returned his
attacks with deadly ferocity. Soon we lost sight of him as they closed around him,
hammering away. I heard Happy gasp in concern for her friend, and Taklinn plowed
into them, his axe cleaving a path of gut and bone through their ranks. But Griff
was already badly hurt, and I knew that something had to be done, and quickly.

I had been conserving my spells for just such and occasion, and I let fly with my
final Sleep. At one time I would have been taking an enormous risk casting such a
spell in the vicinity of my friends, but they have grown powerful enough to be
immune to its effects. Not so with the orcs. They may have been a stouter breed
than their brethren, but they still crumpled and snoozed like so many lambs at its
touch. Nearly half of them went down, which gave Taklinn and Griff some much
needed breathing room.

Happy joined the fray and Caribdis began to chant his calming verse as he sent
arrow after arrow into the crush. Griff, even badly wounded, would still do nothing
less than take on the most powerful of them, and he went toe to toe with their
chieftain. But I could see that he was in bad shape, and Taklinn was held back by
the orcish underlings who still stood. I chose that moment to try my very latest
spell, one that I have only just mastered.

Hold Person is from the third circle of magic and I’d been itching to cast it, but the
ogres had been too big, while the orcs we’d been fighting had been too weak to
warrant it. This big orc chief was just what I was looking for, and as he snarled out
a promise to eviscerate Griff and hauled his axe back for a mighty blow, I let it fly.

He stopped dead, frozen, his face still contorted in rage. But I could clearly read
the surprise in his eyes when he realized the state he was in. The surprise soon gave
way to fear as Griff took the opportunity and sheathed his long blade in the
chieftains chest, piercing his heart and slaying him with a single thrust.

The tide had turned with us and the remaining orcs knew it. They fought
desperately, but to no avail, for everywhere they turned there was a blade or arrow
to meet them, and one by one they fell to the floor until finally they were no more.

We thought that we could then claim victory, but our fight was not over, for
another corridor lead still further north from this room, and as I knelt to tie the
sleeping orcs we heard yet another challenge issue from its blackened depths. This
one was a deep and powerful growl, full of hate and boastful confidence. Without a
backwards glance or a thought given to the danger, Griff grabbed up his torch, drew
his gore covered sword, and charged headlong down the hall to meet it. Fortunately
Taklinn had had a few seconds with which to lay his healing hands upon the
wounded fighter, so Griff wasn’t at deaths door, but he certainly wasn’t at full
strength either. We raced after him.

I don’t mind being a halfling, in fact, for the most part, I prefer it. But the fact
remains that I will never be the fastest fellow round the track, and so it was that I
was the last to see what lay in the chamber.

Another knot of guardian orcs, already battling with Griff as Taklinn crashed into
their flank. These orcs were far larger and better equipped than any we had thus far
seen. These, I thought, were the elite guard.

And their ward? A hideous perversion of a creature stood near the rear of the
chamber. It must once have been an orc, I could see that, but where it had once
had arms it now sprouted writhing tentacles the color of pale death! Horrid boils
burst and streamed over any bare flesh on it, and coarse hair sprouted with no
rhyme or reason all over the beast. I had arrived just in time to see it reach behind a
statue in the room and do something that caused a low "clunk" to reverberate
throughout the chamber.

And then I heard the low rush of what could only be water from behind me. It
seemed that I was the only one who heard it. That, or the rest were too busy with
problems of their own. Griff and Taklinn savagely pushed at the ranks of orcs while
Caribdis recited verse and Happy seemed to be everywhere at once, thrusting,
drawing blood, and dancing away.

Knowing that I was nearly out of spells and would be largely useless anyway, I
raced back toward the previous chamber and peered down the hall. What I beheld
was a slow but steady stream of water pushing its way up from grates in the floor at
the far end of the tunnel and working its way it either direction. I had only a few
seconds before it reached my feet, and that was when I realized that I still had five
sleeping orcs laying all about me.

A moral dilemma was suddenly thrust upon me, for I knew that the water would
surely wake these sleeping beasts and they would be only too happy to join the fray
against my friends! I couldn’t tie them up fast enough, but what was the alternative?
With a sinking feeling, I realized what had to be done, and without thinking about
it, I unslung my crossbow, leveled it at a sleeping orc, and pulled the lever. The bolt
struck him in the throat and before he’d even rattled his last breath of air I was
loading a fresh bolt into my weapon.

My revulsion at slaying helpless foes was overwhelming, and my hands shook as
I fired again, killing a second. But the water was only a few feet away now, and it
was the only way. I killed a third before Happy suddenly burst into the room. She
spoke quickly as she surveyed the scene. They had slaughtered the orc guards, but
the tentacled mutant had slipped through a secrete door and escaped. Our fighters
were still engaged with a few guards, but she had come to see what I was
about. I pointed at the water, which now pooled at my feet, and nodded at the
sleeping orcs. She understood immediately, seeing the crossbow in my hand, and
what must undoubtedly have been a look of distress on my face.

"I’ll take care of it," she said, drawing her dagger and kneeling next to an orc,
"You see if you can find out how to shut the water off."

It was a kind gesture on her part, and maybe I should have taken it. But what sort
would I be to allow a friend to take on a task that I would not do myself. No, I
would not leave her to this grizzly business. I slew a fourth while she drew her
dagger across the throat of the last.

And that was the last of the action we have seen this day. We managed to find a
trio of levers hidden behind the statue which not only turned off the water and let it
drain, it opened up the doors again. Yes, the orcs final act of defiance was an
attempt to seal up the complex and flood it. It would have taken several days to do
so, but I gather that it would have eventually drowned us all had we not found the
levers in their hiding place.

We also found the secrete escape route that the mutant had used and it let out onto
the hillside overlooking Aif’s farm, but by that time he was long gone. I can only
hope that our paths will cross again.

We rest now, back in the farmhouse, tending to our wounds and counting our
gain. Caribdis has somehow convinced us that we should check out the four orcish
hero tombs, but we have agreed only on the condition that we check to see what lies
behind the door that tops the furniture clogged staircase I described earlier.

I must admit to a certain amount of curiosity about the tombs. Taklinn is our
biggest detractor though, for he feels it is a sin to desecrate the dead. I believe he is
splitting hairs, since we’ve looted plenty of dead orcs in the past three days and he’s
had no objections to that. What does it matter that they’ve been dead only a few
minutes or for centuries? Dead is dead as far as I’m concerned, and I’ll waste no
remorse at breaching orcish tombs. An honorable burial such as that is too good for
them anyway!

Still, I must admire Taklinn’s simple, if somewhat flexible, faith. His ideals are
pure, though perhaps a bit skewed and nonobjective. I admit to frustration when
unfounded faith staves off sound logic and reason. But without our sturdy dwarf we
would surely have never gotten this far, and, as the groups conscience, he doesn’t
always have to make sense. I will not fight him on this issue.

Though I’m sure Caribdis is, even now, wheedling away at him, trying to
convince Taklinn of what treasures must surely be buried with these orcish legends.

We will find out on the morrow. For now, it is late and its been a full day.

Cldevn 1

It’s been a long but satisfying day.

Reasonably certain that we had driven off most, if not all, the orcs in the
immediate area, we enjoyed a decent breakfast and lingered over tea before setting
out to mop up the rest of the caverns.

Our first order of business was to retrace our steps to the staircase full of
furniture. It took a little over an hour, but we’d unclogged the stairs well before
noon, and reached the door at its top at last. We were feeling full of confidence and
vim.

And then we opened the door.

The thing greeted us with a guttural howl that turned my knees to water. Because
the door was around a corner at the top of the stairs, I did not immediately see it,
but I could certainly hear the thing. It was immediately answered by Griff’s war cry,
and I could hear the thud of steel on leathery flesh, then a flurry of meaty thuds and
Taklinn’s cry of, "Griff is down!" as he flung himself from my view and at whatever
it was that had laid Griff low so quickly.

We were bottle necked into the corridor, the narrow hall and sharp corner
preventing us from dealing with the threat as a team. Caribdis, standing behind me,
was in a panic! "What’s going on? Doorag, what’s happening?" He finally shoved
his way past me as I considered my options, but once at the top he could not get a
clear shot. He pulled our wand of healing and dove forward. I could still not get
around Happy, who was doing her best to find a hole through which to hurl a
dagger, so I quickly cast Levitate and rose above her head. Once there, I pulled
myself forward, until at last, I could see what we were up against.

I failed to detail earlier the depictions we’d found upon the walls of the orcish
legend tombs. Faded murals on the walls show these four orcs, larger than life, each
engaged in their own particular specialty. As a matter of fact, one of them appeared
to be of bardish ilk, probably the reason Caribdis was so eager to breech the tombs.

But this was not the bard. Oh no.

I did mention that one of the tombs had already been smashed open. From the
inside. The visage around this tomb was that of a four-armed orcish beast, nearly
half again as tall as a normal orc, and throbbing with muscle, claw and rage.

This was the thing that Taklinn attempted to hold at bay, as he stood over the limp
body of Griffin, his axe biting and drawing blood, all the while taking a terrible
pounding from the creature. Taklinn’s armor was dented in several places, but he
showed no signs of stopping.

I unloaded everything I had. I followed a Scorching Ray with several Magic
Missiles fired over Taklinn’s head. Caribdis, with nary a thought for his own safety,
had crawled up to Griff and hit him with the wand, and our warrior opened his eyes.
He rolled painfully to his feet, and bore down on the beast.

We were finally beginning to wear it down. It was covered with burn marks and
deep gashes. Several of Happy’s daggers jutted from it. Griff lay a mighty slice
across it’s chest, and it stumbled backwards, reeling. Taklinn was quick to step in
and take its knee out with an axe blow, and in a matter of minutes it had been
thoroughly run through and lay dead.

And all this before lunch!

Taklinn and Caribdis tended to wounds while we searched what turned out to be
an empty room, except for a strange metal device that jutted up from the floor. It
was a while before we realized that this room was directly above the "message
room", and that a section of the machine from that room had indeed thrust into the
ceiling. We could still not ascertain how the thing worked, but in a way I am almost
glad of that.

Magic is a marvelous thing. Without it, it would have taken Griff weeks to heal
from his wounds, but with the divine power that coursed through Taklinn’s rough
hands, Griff was ready to move out again in only a few moments.

It was time to take on the tombs, though we were far less excited at the prospect
after having just faced one of the former inhabitants of those graves. But Caribdis
was adamant, and we came to a compromise. We would enter one tomb and leave it
at that. Taklinn was still not happy about the idea of "grave robbing" anyway, and it
was probably best not to press the issue.

In the end, the decision was mine since I was the only one who could cast the
Reduce spell on the blocks that sealed the tombs. Which, of course, I did. Small
surprise that we cracked the orcish bards tomb, no?

We translated the name on the huge block as Das Kobb, and a few words in an
ancient dialect of orcish went on to relate some of his more sinister deeds. With a
deep breath and a look to make sure that everyone was ready, I cast the Reduce.

The block shrunk to half it’s original mass, and it was an easy matter for Griffin to
push it over. The dry must of long ago death washed over us, and a black hallway
beckoned.

Exploring, we found a sarcophagus at the end of a short tunnel, and after still
more girding of loins, we pried off its lid. The mummy inside never stirred, even as
Griff ran it through several times and then lopped its head off.

We decided to burn it for good measure.

Caribdis’ hunch proved to ring true, for we did end up finding a strangely magical
dagger amongst the ashes. I think Caribdis was a little disappointed not to find a
more bardly item therein, and he showed no signs of disagreeing when Happy asked
if she might hang on to the dagger. She is, after all, our mistress of the short blade,
and it just seemed right.

We discussed which tomb would be next to fall, but by this time Taklinn had had
enough. His superstitions got the better of him, and he declared that we could carry
on if we wished, but it would be without him. He informed us that he would wait
outside, and off he went.

Well, in the end it was a vote of one for all and all for one. We decided that we
would not continue without him, especially if he felt that strongly about it. Caribdis
gave an aching look back as we left the last three tombs unmolested.

We gathered our supplies and prisoners and headed for Kalendia, some three
hours away. Once there, we turned our prisoners over to the chief constable, one
Hardy Jensen and presented him with our findings. He sent a small group of
guardsmen to watch over Aif’s farm, and then set us up in Kalendia’s finest inn,
where I will soon get the first night of real rest I’ll have had in a long time. In fact,
my bed is calling to me rather loudly at this late hour. Ambros is already curled up
on the pillow. I believe I shall join him.


Cldevn 2

Spent the day identifying some of the items we’ve found in the orc caverns.
Nothing too wizardly, but a few nice trinkets for the rest of us. Happy received a
Ring of the Ram, which she seems quite proud of, though I know she’d trade it to
me for the Goggles of Night, were I to offer. Alas, I can’t bear to give them up.

We were also able to send a magical message to Havilah today. We reported our
findings, and were ordered home without delay. We shall leave in the morning.


Cldevn 3

Back on the road and yet another night under the stars. I do miss a comfortable
bed, but there is much to be said for the crackle of a camp fire and the snugness of a
bed roll, especially surrounded by such fine companions. We made good time
today, and expect to be back in Havilah within two weeks if all goes well.


Cldevn 11

The plot thickens!

We arrived this evening in the tiny hamlet of Falla, a village only about three days
out of the capitol. Thus far our journey home has been without incident, but I knew
it was too good to last.

We decided to bunk in Falla for the night, and, after washing up, had joined each
other in the tap room for a meal and conversation. The place was empty, save for
the innkeeper, until an odd pair entered just after we’d eaten. A man and a woman, a
striking couple, and dressed far better than any commoner, strode in and took a
table not far from our own. We certainly noticed them, and they could not have
helped but to notice us, but they gave no sign that they did.

And then, Caribdis marched on over to their table and introduced himself! I don’t
know why, perhaps he hoped to earn a coin or two in exchange for a tale.
Unfortunately, the tale he decided to tell was ours! Before we realized what he was
about, he was going on and on about our adventures in the orc lair, Aif, the
farmhouse, the Himrock orcs, and who knows what he’d have spouted off had
Happy not rushed to his side and shut him up!

Griffin was only half paying attention to what was going on, and Taklinn and I
were more amused than concerned as we watched Happy trying to coax Caribdis
back to our table. But my own concern grew when all of the sudden, Happy seemed
to have a change of heart and sat down at the strangers table and made no more
moves to stop Caribdis’ blathering.

Something about the scene wasn’t right, and, on a hunch, I cast a quick Detect
Magic under my breath and scanned Happy, Caribdis, and the two strangers, who
had bid Caribdis continue with his story.

My hunch was right! My detection spell not only showed me a few trinkets that
the strangers carried, but also the fact that Happy had had a spell cast on her. It
looked like an enchantment to me, Charm, perhaps, or Suggestion. I haven’t had a
lot of use for those sorts of spells myself thus far, but I recognize them when I see
them, and I suspected that Happy had been magically influenced by these two.

Without wishing to raise an alarm, I stood up, giving Taklinn a look that told him
immediately that something was amiss. He sat straight in his chair and waited. I
clapped Griff on the shoulder to get his attention, and then walked over to the
strangers table with Taklinn not far behind.

"I hope our friend here isn’t bothering you," I said, politely enough as I reached
them, "His mouth takes on a mind of it’s own when he’s had a few, if you know
what I mean!" I gave them a knowing wink and tried to take Caribdis by the elbow
but out babbling bard would have none of it.

"What are you talking about, Doorag?" Caribdis protested, "I haven’t had a thing
stronger than well water tonight! I was just trying to tell these fine folks the story of
how we cleared out that orc complex back in Kalendia!"

"Yes, Doorag," It was the woman. She spoke in soothing tones, and her words
were like gauze around my mind. "Why don’t you sit and have dinner with us?"

Somewhere, far in the recesses of my mind, I knew that I had been enspelled, but
I was powerless to refuse her. The notion of sharing a meal with them seemed the
most natural thing in the world, and I didn’t hesitate to slide into an empty chair and
pick up a spoon.

Good thing Taklinn was there.

"What goes on here?" our gruff cleric demanded.

Well, the spell cast upon me had merely made the idea of supping with these
strangers a pleasing one. I found that I was in full control over the rest of my
faculties, and I had no trouble replying to Taklinn.

"Well," I said calmly, "I’ve been invited for dinner with these fine folks, though I
should mention that Happy has had a spell cast on her, and it wouldn’t surprise me
to learn that I’ve got one on me to!" I toasted Taklinn with a smile and prepared to
feast.

Taklinn’s eyes narrowed dangerously and he brought his axe up. And then, play
time was over. Caribdis looked genuinely confused when the man stood and drew a
wicked looking scimitar in the blink of an eye and slashed out at Taklinn. It rang off
his armor, but this attack was enough to put both Happy and I off our dinner, and I
found myself casting at the woman as she too got to her feet and went for her blade.

My Hold Person stopped her in her tracks. Griff had risen and was drawing near,
and Happy had rolled away from the table and come up with a dagger in each hand.
Taklinn was angling around the still befuddled Caribdis for a shot with his axe. I
guess the fellow new he was out numbered, for suddenly he touched the table and
all went utterly and completely dark.

Chaos erupted as we were all blinded by the spell. Taklinn told me later that he
tried a clerical light spell, but it had no effect. I felt my way toward where I had
frozen the woman, but, to my chagrin, by the time I got there she was gone! I asked
Ambros what his keen nose told him, and he replied, "Snakes! I smell snakes!"

This befuddled me for a moment, but I quickly drew on my studies and the pieces
fell into place. The smell of snakes, darkness and suggestive spells, it all added up
to one creature: Yuan-ti, a secretive and ancient race of evil snake-folk. I wondered
why they were here, but quickly realized that those questions would have to come
later. Right then, we needed our sight back.

I could hear Griffin near me, he had found his way through the blackness to my
side, and I enlisted his aid. First, I cast a Reduce spell on the table, as I had seen the
man touch it just before the lights went out. Once it was small enough for Griff to
lift, I guided his hands to it and bid him hurl it out the window! Fortunately the
couple had chosen a table near the window, and Griff found it after a second of
feeling around. With a great crash, he flung the offending piece of furniture through
the glass and into the street. He even managed to angle his throw so that the table
bounced around the corner, effectively putting the wall between ourselves the
darkness spell. And we could see again.

I scanned the bar and saw Taklinn charge for the back door with Caribdis and
Happy hot on his heels. Ambros seemed to agree with them, for he craned forward
to catch the trace whiffs of Yuan-ti that led in that direction. I utilized another new
spell, and soon I was air borne and flying over the bar to catch up to my
companions while Griff leapt through the window and braved the darkness again in
an attempt to secure the ally.

In short, we searched the grounds around the inn as best we could. I even flew
into the air to get a better view. But they were gone. Frustrated, we gathered back in
the tap room to discuss the attack.

Taklinn tossed the inn keeper a gold piece to pay for his window while I filled the
crew in on my Yuan-ti theory, which also nicely explained how the female had
escaped. I put forward the notion that my Hold Person had not blocked her from
being able to utilize the innate Yuan-ti ability to shape change into serpent form,
that she had shrunk to her viper form so that her male counterpart could snatch her
up, pocket her, and flee.

It was plausible, and the best theory we had. We resolved to keep our eyes peeled
for further signs of Yuan-ti trouble, as we were convinced that this was no chance
encounter. I am troubled by the realization that Yuan-ti are somehow involved in
the troubles plaguing Havilah.

Taklinn and I, and even Happy, had a few choice words for Caribdis regarding the
Queen’s business being the Queen’s business, but I did try to refrain from
lambasting him too hard. I have to keep reminding myself how young he is and of
my faith that one day he will learn to control his tongue.

We are now to bed, though we have set up a watch to ward off further attacks.
Ambros will be my eyes and ears tonight, as well as my nose. I fear I shall not sleep
well, but sleep I must.



Cldevn 12

Last night passed without incident, though not without many tosses and turns on
my part. As I suspected, the attack by the pair of Yuan-ti made for a restless night. I
can see it on the faces of my companions as well, and though we’ve spoken little of
it, I know that we are all concerned by this turn of events.

With any luck we shall be in Havilah within the next two days. I’ve never put
much stock in the gods, but if they notice us at all I hope they grant us safe passage
home.

I have great plans once we get to the city. I plan to expand my magical crafting
horizons and attempt to fashion an item that should assist me in my magical
endeavors greatly. It will be costly, and I may have to borrow some coin, but I feel
it will be worth it if I am successful.

***Whether or not the gods notice our heroes is a point of future debate. Suffice
to say, they did make it back to Havilah without further incident. Once there, they
gave their report to their Academy superiors and were then granted a much needed
rest.

The crew spent the next two weeks enjoying the comforts of the city, though
Doorag, as usual, spent more time in the laboratory than in the taverns. The bulk of
his time was spent crafting a Hat of Intellect (+4). The cost of construction put him
in considerable debt, but he deemed it well worth that burden, given the expansion
of spells it afforded him, not to mention the increase in his magical potency.

Soon after he had completed his project Taklinn informed them that he had
recently received a message from his cousin, Rumnar Talonskull of Talonskull
Keep, a dwarven stronghold quite some distance away. The message had been a
distress signal of sorts, and asked that Taklinn proceed there with all possible haste.
Taklinn, of course, hesitated not one second in his decision, and he informed his
friends that he would be leaving come the morn. He invited them along, but assured
them that they were under no obligation to do so.

There was never any question as to whether or not our steadfast crew would
accompany Taklinn, and on the 2nd of Planting they departed Havilah once again,
this time on a personal mission. They did, of course, ask permission from their
higher ups at the Academy, and were granted leave.

For seventeen days they followed the Queens Road north until they had to take an
arterial route that continued their course toward the mountains. For two more days
their luck held, and they made good time, until disaster struck.***

Plnting 20

Another day on the road, and how I miss the ruts and cobblestones of the Queen’s
Road! For they seem like pillows and blankets compared to this trail we now labor
upon as we press still further and further north. It’s been ten days since we left
Ravens Hollow, and ten days since we’ve had the luxury of a bed or a meal that we
didn’t have to prepare over a smoking fire while we stave off the chill of the
evening wind.

Every day, as we plod through mile after mile, we can feel the weather sharpening
itself. I’ve been reduced to huddling in my wool coat several times.

Griffin doesn’t seem to mind the nip in the air, and Taklinn appears to be in his
element. If not for his obvious worry for his cousin, he would strike me as more
robust than ever before.

Happy is a Greenie, and I guess she is not overly bothered by the cold, but
Caribdis is positively languishing! It is truly pitiful to listen to him recite his verse
through chattering teeth.

I suppose I should not complain. After all, aren’t adventurers made of sterner
stuff? Yes, I suppose they are. I shall try not to belabor my lamentations about the
weather from this point on.

On a happier note, our journey has been without attack or complication thus far.
I’d half expected to have been ambushed thrice or more by this time, but luck seems
to be with us.

Knock on wood!



Plnting 22

Tonight we bed down in a clearing that looks like it has been used by many
travelers before. It’s always good to find a spot with a pre built fire pit.

Caribdis regales us this evening with a new body of verse he’s been working on. I
find it endlessly fascinating that someone so chaotic can compose, memorize, and
deliver such calming poetics and tales. I realize that some of the effects of his words
have to do with their being interwoven with magic (which also fascinates me), but
the voice, the rhythm, the timing and the style are all his, even in the midst of his
childishness or excitement.

He is at his best on nights like these, sitting around the fire after a meal. I sit near
the fire and keep this journal as Caribdis’ voice fills the background. The words do
not matter, for it is a perfect tone that fills an otherwise distractingly empty space,
and helps me to concentrate. I find this to be true even when I am in deep study,
which is odd, as I usually prefer total silence when I am pursuing hard fact and
arcane learning.

Anyway, Taklinn is growing anxious to get to his cousins keep. He knows
nothing of the nature of the trouble there, only that it exists and threatens dwarves.
He tells us that we have another twelve or thirteen days ahead of us, and I know he
will have us up at the crack of dawn tomorrow to cover as much ground as possible.
That is alright with me, but getting our bard up with the sun can sometimes be a
chore.

I will be taking a watch tonight, as I have for the last few. I have had no call to
cast a spell for several days, so I need not worry about having to keep my usual
strict sleep schedule. I sometimes worry that the rest of the crew thinks I’m shirking
a vital responsibility by not taking watches, but in my heart I believe they
understand that I have no choice. It does feel good to be able to do my part during
this journey and give them all just a bit more rest.

So, I had best get my own rest now. I’ll be relieving Taklinn in only a few hours.

---

We have been attacked again! Something terrible has happened! Taklinn has lost
his arm! They cut it off! He lies now, in shock and unconscious on the ground, pale
as a ghost. We have decided to return to Yigil, as he is the nearest we can turn to for
aid.

Clangeden, hear my plea! I am not a religious man, but I know that you exist, for I
have been healed through your power many times. I ask you now to look down
upon your servant, Taklinn, with mercy and grant him the strength to survive this
awful tragedy.


I can write no more, I am too upset to properly hold the pen.


Flktme 4

I have written nothing in this diary for ten days. The sheer weight of recent events
has been too much for me to grapple with. I have avoided it, for to see them in ink,
by my own hand, makes them even more real.

But I know it must be done; recorded for posterity, and even though I verge on
exhaustion I have finally mustered the courage to record this thing once and for all.

I have thought us invulnerable thus far. Not consciously, but I know now that that
is what I’d believed.

I was terribly wrong.

I took my watch that night, as I recorded, without incident. I woke Happy to
relieve me and snuggled into my bedroll for some shut-eye, but I told Ambros to
stay alert, that he could snooze tomorrow. A good thing it turned out to be, for
about an hour later my faithful rat picked up a familiar scent.

Snake.

His high pitched warning filled my head and I sat bolt upright from a dead sleep
with visions of Yuan-ti attackers. Happy was there, awake, but had noticed nothing
and she looked at me questioningly. I threw off my blankets and hissed at her,
"Ambros smells Yuan-ti!" She was immediately on her feet in a coiled crouch, a
dagger gleaming in each hand as she scanned the woods. I rolled over to Taklinn
and gave him a swift kick in the behind, causing him to grumble and open his eyes.
He saw my look and, without question, reached for his axe.

Happy raced to wake Griffin, and then they were upon us. It was the Yuan-ti
couple we’d fought in Falla, and they leapt from the cover of the trees with scimitars
in hand!

Now I happen to know quite a bit about this species (at least the lowest of their
kind), and one of their powers is that of revulsion; the ability to cause one to abhor
serpents to such a degree that one will flee from their presence. Unfortunately, the
female of the pair was able to use this on me, and before I could raise a spell, I
found myself running from her cold gaze in a panic. Nothing is as frustrating as a
mind effecting spell!

I ran for several seconds before the enchantment broke. Thankfully the duration is
not very long, and I was soon hoofing it back towards our campsite, cursing myself
for not having memorized Fly. I could hear the sounds of combat and I pushed my
legs as fast as they could take me.

And then everything went dark. I found out later that the female had cast her
darkness onto a stone and cast it on the ground. But we have learned from the past,
and Happy happened to have been standing near her bedroll as she’d fought the
female Yuan-ti with Griffin while Taklinn went toe to toe with the male.

She grabbed her blanket and, in a desperate and incredibly lucky move, she tossed
it to the ground where she thought she’d heard the stone land. In a stroke of fortune,
it covered the offending stone, and firelight and moonlight and dark vision worked
again. Caribdis, just now waking up, hurriedly grabbed his bow and commenced to
fire at the male.

I arrived at this scene and tried to put my magics to use, sending Scorching Rays
at the female as fast as I could cast them. Despite her magic resistance, they burned
her anyway, and one could tell that she was hurt. She bore several gashes from Griff
and wore at least two of Happy’s daggers that I could see.

Meanwhile, Taklinn was having difficulty with the male. While our Dwarf is
usually incredibly difficult to hit, he is vulnerable in the evenings when he must
take his armor off. He is a slow moving target, and the male Yuan-ti made good
advantage of this, slashing again and again at Taklinn. Taklinn gave as good as he
got, and Caribdis harried the snake man even further, but our stout cleric was
beginning to fail.

And then it happened. The male feinted left, drawing Taklinn, then cut right, his
scimitar coming down in a blinding arc. And just like that, Taklinn’s right arm lay
on the ground.

Time seemed to freeze for a split second, and the only sound I could hear was an
agonized, "Noooo!!" from Caribdis. And then a great gout of blood jetted from
Taklinn’s shoulder. Our dwarf, the toughest of the tough, stumbled and fell.

Stunned, I watched as events unfolded in slow motion. Caribdis diving toward
Taklinn, shielding him from a coup de gras from the Yuan-ti. Griffin ignoring the
female as he charged the male, his sword gripped in both hands, his fury terrible to
behold. The female Yuan-ti shape changing to snake form and slithering for the tree
line. I could hear my own voice screaming, "Taklinn! Taklinn! Taklinn!"

Then I was running, closing the distance to the female as she crawled into the
brush. Black rage overtook me and I sought to kill her, to make her pay for the pain
that she and her counterpart had caused.

I heard a meaty thunk as Griffin connected with the male and drove his sword
deep into his belly. He lifted the Yuan-ti off the ground with his blade and slung the
dyeing body to the dirt and then hacking into it again and again.

Happy raced after me, her face full of revenge, and the two of us, with Ambros’
help, combed the woods for any trace of the female. But she was not to be found. At
last we had to concede her escape. It was a bitter pill, but we hurried back to the
camp site to see about Taklinn.

When we got there we saw him laying on the ground, his head cradled by a
shaking Caribdis who still clutched his wand of healing. He had already expanded
nearly ten charges into Taklinn in an effort to revive him, but our dwarf lay still as
death, growing paler and paler. "He won’t wake up! Griff, he won’t wake up!"
Caribdis looked at Griffin pleadingly, and the grim warrior gently took the wand
from him.

"You’ve done all you can do, boy." Griffin said, "It’s in his gods hands now."

Happy and I walked to them in a state of shock. How could this be? How could
Taklinn have been brought down? Yet there he was, his right shoulder leading to
nothing more than a bloody stump. I sat down hard, holding my head in my hands.
Happy knelt next to Taklinn and stroked his hair. Tears threatened to overflow her
eyes, but she held them back, instead turning to rage to deal with her sorrow. With
an animal like growl, she launched herself at the dead Yuan-ti, not stopping her
dagger work until she’d cut out it’s tongue.

There was no sleep to be had after that. We sat up the rest of the night watching
over Taklinn, discussing what to do. It was finally decided that we would turn back
and make for Yigil’s tower. He was our closest and most powerful ally, and if
anyone could do something it would be him. At first light we gingerly loaded
Taklinn into the wagon. His breathing was so shallow that we had to check him
constantly to make sure he still lived. Happy made him a bed of clover she picked
from the side of the road, and we set out for Yigil’s tower.

For ten days we traveled, feeding and watering Taklinn as best we could. He
stirred not once during that whole time.

We spoke little, each of us not daring to risk conversation that might lead to talk
of the possibility of Taklinn’s death.

At last we arrived at Yigil’s. Thank the gods he was home! We were let in and the
old wizard had us carry Taklinn into the upper reaches of his tower. He then bade us
go back down and wait. He gravely assured us that he would do all that he could.

And that is where I sit now, on the bottom floor of Yigil’s tower, grimly recalling
that terrible fight and wondering what is going on upstairs. It has been several hours
and still no word. I am so tired, but I simply cannot sleep without knowing
Taklinn’s fate.

But my eyes are so tired...


Flocktime 5

***The following morning Taklinn is led down the stairs, a bit wobbly, but with his
arm reattached. He appears somewhat shell-shocked by the events, so they decide to
rest another day. ***


Flocktime 6

***Taklinn’s arm is still weak, but they get back on the road.***


Flocktime 21

***For fifteen days they travel, until they reach the tiny village of Hallingsburg
which is nestled at the base of the mountains in which Talonskull Keep is located.
This is a human community, and the crew soon learn that a woman had come
through town only a few days before. Apparently she had bewitched nearly twenty
of the townsfolk and had led them away toward the mountains. Her description
matches that of Melisandre, and she was accompanied by a young girl. A Detect
Evil cast by Taklinn reveals residual evil still in the area, meaning that whoever the
woman was, she must have been pretty bad for her malevolent aura to last this long.


Flocktime 23

***They enter Talonskull Keep via a secret entrance known to Taklinn. Immediately
upon entering the cave they smell the familiar stench of death, and they do not
travel far before they are beset by some twenty zombies. The zombies are little
match for Taklinn though, and the cleric mows through them, his power to turn
undead causing them to dissolve into dust by the dozens. After mopping up the last
of the zombies it is quickly understood that these had once been the townsfolk of
Hallingsburg. One of them bears a scroll tube with a single name inked upon it:
"Caribdis." Inside is a note which reads:

"Looking for someone? -M"

The crew is mystified by the taunting note, but Caribdis seems nervous.

They travel still deeper into the mountain, and that night are attacked by a
gibbering mouther. Once the beast is dispatched, they rest.***


Flocktime 24

***At last they enter the halls of Talonskull Keep via another secret entrance, and
they soon meet Taklinn’s cousin, Rumnar Talonskull. Rumnar tells them news most
dire.

A woman matching Melisandre description has invaded the dwarven lair with an
army of undead. After having murdered most of the clerics and warriors of the
community, she has holed up in the temple that once had been dedicated to
Moradin. Apparently she still waits there.


Flocktime 27

***For three days they plan a course of action. The dwarves have already been
tunneling toward the temple, and they decide to attack from both the tunnel and the
front door. On the morning of the 27th the crew strides up to the double doors of the
temple. Meanwhile, Ambros is riding along with the tunneling dwarves in order to
maintain communications between the two groups and to synchronize the attack.

The doors swing open invitingly and the crew is greeted to the site of the
desecrated temple, filled to overflowing with zombies, including one particularly
tough looking zombified dwarf who still bears the tattered and sullied garments of a
priest of Moradin. It is obvious that this dwarf, once a noble priest, has become an
abomination, bent by the will of dark forces.

Melisandre stands on a balcony overlooking her army of undead. Next to her is a
listless girl over whom Caribdis gets very excited. He has left his armor off and his
bow is nowhere to be seen. He charges into the fray, shouting the name, Freya.

And the fight is on.

As the crew clash with the undead the dwarves break through the south wall and
flank them. The fight is short but brutal, with many dwarves being swarmed and
brought down by the zombie horde. Taklinn’s holy spells and turning abilities even
the odds though, and they are able to press through the mass.

Doorag concentrates on stripping Melisandre of her protective magic’s with
Dispell’s, while Caribdis tries, in vain, to reach the girl next to the witch. It is not to
be, for even as the fighters bring down the undead priest of Moradin and the tide of
battle begins to shift in the crews favor, Melisandre laughs, mockingly, and
disappears, though not before referring to Caribdis as "Grizwald" in her parting
words. She takes the girl with her.

When the dust settles the temple is once again in dwarven hands. None of the
crew has fallen, though there are plenty of wounds to be healed. Caribdis looks
especially stricken, and will not answer the many questions posed to him by his
friends that day. Doorag, frustrated by Caribdis’ lack of forthrightness, is ready to
insist on some answers, but cooler heads prevail and he consents to wait a day for
the young bard to come to grips with events.***


Flocktime 28

***The crew holds a meeting, and Caribdis comes clean.

It appears that his true name is Grizwald, that he had changed is upon embarking
on a career in adventuring (feeling Caribdis had a far more heroic ring that
Grizwald). It also turns out that one of his core reasons for becoming an adventurer
was to better himself, that he might one day return to his home and court his
beloved, Freya. Freya is the girl whom Melisandre now taunts the boy with.

Freya is also the reason Caribdis chose to go into battle with neither bow nor
armor. The boy had wished to present a more "heroic" image of a swashbuckling
rescuer than a simple archer/bard would provide.

It all makes perfect sense to Caribdis, and, of course, seems ludicrous to Doorag,
but what can be done? Their mission in Talonskull accomplished, they are rewarded
with a bit of coin from Rumnar and head out that very day, making haste toward
Havilah to report to their superiors. Alas, there are more surprises ahead of them,
and the road back to the capitol will be filled with strife.***


Wealsun 4

***The crew re-enters Hallingsburg, prepared to inform the townsfolk of the fates of
their fellow citizens, but it turns out that there is no one to give the news to.
Hallingsburg is eerily silent, and a quick look around shows that the town is utterly
deserted. All clues point to an orderly and mass exodus of some kind. Chairs are
pushed away from tables, food has been left on plates, and drink still waits in mugs.
In the constables office they find a journal that gives no clue about the
disappearance of the town, other than that the last mundane entry was on Wealsun
1, just three days prior.

At midnight Taklinn is able to pray for new spells, and he chooses as one of them,
Speak With Animals, for there is still plenty of livestock and domestic pets to be
found. He questions a friendly hound and all signs point to the involvement of
yuan-ti in this deed, though few details can be garnered.

They rest there that night, and in the morning Caribdis announces that he wishes
to learn how to sword fight. He enlists the help of Griff, but the rest of the crew is
doubtful. Caribdis insists that he must master the art of the sword to be of better use
in the rescue of Freya, but Doorag gently assures him that he might want to stick
with his specialties, that they are every bit as important as a skilled hand with a
blade. Griff waits impatiently to give the boy a lesson, but suddenly Taklinn strides
up to the boy and lays a healing hand on Caribdis’ ear!

Up until this time Caribdis had been (unbeknownst to all but Taklinn) deaf in his
right ear, hence his lack of enthusiasm for learning a musical instrument. But
Taklinn has recently been given access to a spell that can cure the boys affliction,
and he does so. Caribdis is so excited by the repair of his ear that he abruptly
forgets all about sword fighting. To Griff’s disgust, Caribdis mounts up and
prepares to ride out with all haste. On the morning of Wealsun 5, they do just that.

However, they leave with quite a caravan, for Happy refuses to leave the animals
of the village to fend for themselves. She loads the wagon with chickens and a litter
of pups she’s has found, and ties off a train of goats and sheep to it as well. Doorag
shakes his head in disbelief, but there is no help for it.***


Wealsun 7

***They enter the next village on their way back to the Queens Road, Yseult, and to
their dismay, they find it as empty as Hallingsburg! It is after dark by the time they
enter the village, but Yseult is obviously deserted. Deserted, except for a trio of
yuan-ti, waiting there to ambush them!

The crew dispatch the yuan-ti without major injury, and carefully search the
village. It appears as if the same thing that had happened in Hallingsburg has
occurred here. Another journal found shows the last entry to have been the 4th of
Wealsun.

Faced with the realization that yuan-ti are somehow emptying towns at an
epidemic rate, the crew know that they must reach Havilah with this news at once.
But their horses are tired, and they must rest in the empty village and wait for
morning.***


Wealsun 8

***Once the sun comes up they are faced with another problem: Speed.

Up till now they have traveled as fast as Taklinn can walk, and while the dwarf
can keep up the pace for hours on end, he will never be as fast as a horse. Neither
will Don Kay, for that matter.

The problem with Don Kay is easily solved when Doorag uses a new spell to
Polymorph the donkey into a full grown horse, but Taklinn is a tougher nut to crack.
He flatly refuses to get on a horse, and under severe scrutinization he finally breaks
down and confesses an utter and complete phobia of all things equine. It seems that
he was thrown from a horse at a young age and now cannot bring himself to get
back on one.

No amount of pestering, cajoling, logic or argument can seem to sway him, so
Caribdis decides to try a different ploy. He Charms the dwarf into getting onto the
newly polymorphed Don Kay. Doorag shudders, knowing that this will end badly,
but haste is of the essence. They gallop out of Yseult.

Their need for haste also precludes them taking their trusty wagon along, as well
as the column of animals that Happy had tried to rescue. They let them all go,
except for a couple of puppies that Caribdis and Happy have taken likings to.

As Doorag had feared, the Charm on Taklinn wears off several hours later, and
the unhappy dwarf suddenly comes to his senses in the most terrifying position he
can find himself in! Out of instinctive fear, he clouts poor Don Kay on the back of
the head causing her to throw him from her back. Happy nearly plants a dagger into
Taklinn when she witnesses this brutality to her beloved donkey. It takes Taklinn
only a few seconds to put two and two together and pin the blame squarely where it
belongs, and were it not for the fact that Caribdis still rode a horse and could easily
outdistance the infuriated dwarf, he may well have faced his last day. As it is,
Taklinn finally gets within arms reach of the boy when they break camp and
clobbers him a fine belt across the mouth, warning him against further trickery.

The rest of the party agree. Charming fellow crew members is simply not an
option.***


Wealsun 11

***For three more days they travel, until they reach Ravens Hollow. They had hoped
to tell Yigil of the disappearing towns. But Yigil’s tower is gone.

The crew stand dumbstruck at the site the tower had once occupied, now empty
except for a circle of dead grass. With fading hope, they make the short trek into the
village and find it as deserted as Hallingsburg and Yseult.

In the center of the silent town square they have a crew meeting. Obviously a
great evil is occurring at a frightening rate and they simply must get back to Havilah
with all speed. Their current rate of travel just will not do. Even were Taklinn to
have a change of heart about horses, it would not be fast enough, and drastic
measures are decided upon. Once again using his polymorph spell, Doorag
transforms Caribdis into the largest flying creature he has yet seen, a red dragon!
They lash Doorag to Caribdis’ scaly neck, and the "dragon" clumsily takes to the
air. Griff, Taklinn and Happy will catch up while Caribdis and Doorag hurry on to
warn the capitol.

Before they leave, Doorag has Caribdis swoop down upon their friends and he
tosses down his goggles of dark vision, knowing Happy may have more use of them
than he will.

The power of flight turns a week long journey into a days travel, and by mid day
on the 12th they arrive in Havilah.***
 

cthulhu42

Explorer
Reaping 12

***After flying through most of the night, Caribdis and Doorag begin to see evidence
of people again, with streams of obvious refugees streaming toward the capitol city.
By the end of the day they are nearing Havilah and can easily see that it is already
crowded with citizens fleeing the evil that nips at their heels.

Doorag turns Caribdis invisible so as not to cause a panic when the populace sees
a red dragon flying into their city, and the pair glide into the Academy to find Yigil
waiting for them. Happy to see their sponsor, they quickly spill all that they know,
to which Yigil can merely sigh and respond that he feared as much.

It seems that, A) the disappearance of Havilah’s citizens is taking place kingdomwide,
starting at the outer edges of the kingdom and working inward in an evertightening circle.

B) The same thing happened several hundred years ago. The evil
had reached the very walls of Havilah where it was turned back by a legendary
warrior named Roland who wielded Everyman’s Blade. Few details remain of that
battle except that Roland disappeared after its conclusion.

C) Only Havilah is in danger of this crisis. Kingdoms outside its borders report no problems.

D)Apparently the process of vanishing citizens is a long one. The last time it happened
it took nearly two years for the threat to reach the capitols walls. The same thing
appears to be happening in this case, though it looks like it may be progressing
slightly faster. At any rate, they have a little time.

Yigil and the Academy council are already hard at work seeking an answer to this
dilemma. Several crews have been sent out to find a solution, but none have
returned. There is little Caribdis and Doorag can do except await the arrival of the
rest of their crew.***


Reaping 18

***After watching Doorag and Caribdis fly off toward the capitol, Taklinn knows
that speed is of the essence. Nearly paralyzed with fear, but determined not to slow
the party down, he mounts up on Don Kay.

After a couple of days on the road, they at last begin to see some signs of human
life. They find themselves at the tail end of a stream of refugees heading toward
Havilah. There is much suffering and sorrow on the road, and the trio do what they
can to help, but in the end they must ride hard to catch up with their friends.

It is on the 18th that they ride into the city, now crowded to capacity with
humanity with still more coming every hour.

They head for the Academy where Caribdis and Doorag meet them. The pair are
overjoyed to see their friends, but there is little time for celebration. The late trio are
quickly filled in on the situation and also on Doorag’s plan.

Evidence suggests that the cities of Havilah are being systematically emptied one
at a time in an ever tightening circle, the center of which is the capitol city itself. It
would appear that this evil is not so much a wave-like inward ripple, but more a
town by town invasion by beings that facilitate the mass exodus. Doorag speculates
that the yuan-ti, with their suggestive abilities, might be behind it, though he also
suspects that Melisandre is the real evil here, and is somehow enabling the
disappearance of so many folk at one time. He knows that an interdimensional gate
would do the trick.

He proposes that the crew travel to an outlying city of decent size that has yet to
be emptied, and await whatever it is that is emptying these cities, and either stop it
there or at least find out how it is being done that they might better combat it.

The rest of the crews initial response to the plan is less than heroic. Caribdis
believes it madness to leave the safety of the city, and Griff has never been crazy
about looking for trouble. Speaking of Griff, Caribdis now takes to referring to him
as The Chosen, since he now wields Everyman’s Blade. Caribdis is convinced that it
is Griff’s destiny to stand and fight at Havilah’s gates and turn back the evil once it
arrives. Doorag must admit that it makes sense, but Griff calmly tells them both to
stick it where the sun don’t shine, that he "Ain’t no chosen nothin’!" But the fact
remains that he does carry the legendary blade and will not give it up, despite the
apparent destiny it means.

The whole "Chosen" business strikes a chord with Happy as well, and she fears
for Griff. She does not want him following in the footsteps of Roland, and is
adamant that he not put himself in any position to do so.

Only Taklinn believes that Doorag is on to something. The dwarf agrees to the
plan, but the vote is far from unanimous.

Doorag and Taklinn work on the others for the better part of a week before finally
convincing Griff and Happy that it is better to take the fight to Melisandre than to
wait for her. It is the thought of how many they can possibly save that convinces
Griff, and Happy will follow the stoic warrior anywhere. Caribdis is the last to be
swayed, for he is nearly paralytic with fear at the thought of the mere five of them
taking on such an unknown evil, but in the end, as Doorag and Taklinn sadly shake
their heads and tell him that they will miss him, Caribdis relents. His sense of
loyalty will not let the crew leave without him.

For nearly two weeks they make ready. There are spells to be learned and items to
be forged. Specifically, Yigil fashions for them a wand of Daylight with which to
combat the yuan-ti’s maddening ability to plunge them into darkness. He also loans
Doorag a book full of useful spells, not the least of which is Detect Scrying, which
Doorag casts at the first available opportunity.

Sure enough, at at least two points during the subsequent day he feels the magical
eye of someone watching him. He warns the rest of the crew, but there is little to be
done except keep the spell running and do any planning when not being scryed.

They decide to make for the city of Candice, a good sized town on the outskirts of
the disappearances that is due to be hit soon.

A couple of notes concerning these two weeks: It appears that at least a few
people did see Caribdis as a dragon, for many of the citizens have taken to referring
to him as just that. He is not terribly pleased with being given the nickname,
Dragon, but there is'nt much he can do.

Also, Doorag begins each day by polymorphing himself into a different humanoid
in order to know what it is like to be an elf, or a dwarf, or a gnome, or a human, or
what have you.

Last, but not least, Yigil loans a wand of Enlarge to Happy, and with it she makes
herself big enough so that she and Griff may, ah, consummate their friendship. The
two of them spend their last night in Havilah in each others arms, though this is
unknown to the rest of the crew.***


Richfest 3

***They depart Havilah.***


Richfest 7

***They travel to the outskirts of Candice and are immediately attacked by yuan-ti.
They defeat the snake men and enter the city, only to find it in the process of being
emptied out. In the village square they witness the last of the townsfolk being led
like sheep through a large, round, portal by five more yuan-ti.

The crew attack the yuan-ti and slaughter all but one of them. This last yuan-ti
escapes through the portal. Taklinn charges forward to chase him into the unknown.
Griff tries to stop him, but Taklinn bulls his way onward, taking Griff with him
through the portal.

A horrified Happy follows the two through. Doorag is beside himself. Never in
his wildest imagination had he dreamed that Taklinn would do such a thing, but
what’s done is done. With a shrug to Caribdis, the halfling enters the portal, leaving
the bard behind.

Caribdis, still shouting, "No! No! No!" finds himself with only the horses for
company and the portal slowly dwindling. At the last minute, he leads the mounts
through.

Once through the portal they find themselves inside a mighty city within a
magical circle. They are surrounded by dazed and wandering townsfolk and yuan-ti.
And they also see Melisandre, with Freya still at her side. The witch queen laughs,
and with a wave of her hand, the crew is sent away, teleported far from the city.
When next they get their bearings, they find themselves on a barren plain that
stretches in all directions. Worse, they need only look at the sky to see that they are
no longer on their home plane.***


Richfest 7 (con’t)

***The crew spends several minutes getting their bearings. Happy is none too
pleased that Caribdis has brought the horses (especially her miniature horse and
Don Kay) into such danger, but there is nothing to be done about it now.

Doorag already has a fly spell cast on him, so he uses it to ascend to a great height
to try and survey the area. In the distance he spies what might be a ruined city, but
its too far to tell. However, another sight quickly takes precedence. Less than a mile
away and moving fast, he sees a large dust cloud approaching them. Quickly flying
back down to the group to borrow the telescope, he heads back up for a better look.

The dust cloud is a result of a flock of earth bound birds. They appear ostrich-like,
but bigger, and with gnarly looking beaks that mean business. They are covering the
ground fast, and will soon be upon them. He shouts down this report, and the rest of
the crew make ready for battle.

The huge birds are upon them all too soon, and the fight commences. Doorag
stays in the air and manages to immediately polymorph one of them into the most
benign thing he can think of: a cow.

These feathered monsters turn out to be a tougher match than many of the beasts
the crew has fought thus far, and they give them quite a run for their money. But
with spell and sword, arrow and dagger, they are brought down one by one until
only the "cow" is left standing. As it turns out, cows have quite a nasty bite, and this
one manages to take a chunk out of Taklinn before they turn it into so much beef.

They decide to take a chance on potential civilization and head for the ruins that
Doorag had spotted.***


Reaping 1

***It takes them nearly two days to reach what had once been a sizable village, now
left to ruins. There is no sign of life here, but the town had been built at the base of
a mighty mountain range, and the main road appears to lead straight into a massive
tunnel cut right into the living rock. With no better prospects in sight, they lead their
mounts into the darkness of the underground.***


Reaping 2

***After a full days travel, they hear the familiar noises of battle ahead. Investigating,
they find themselves at the entrance to a large cavern in which a pitched battle is
taking place between a group of ill equipped humans and a band of the ever present
yuan-ti. With the yuan-ti is a horrid creature they’ve never seen before. Looking like
a cross between a giant scorpion and a giant spider, the massive insect is getting the
better of several humans who are trying vainly to bring it down with clubs and
spears.

Never one to shirk a fight, Taklinn charges. Not to be outdone, Griffin follows
suit, and the crew joins the fight.

They snatch victory from the jaws of defeat that day, and soon the ground is
littered with dead yuan-ti. Even the spider thing goes down, but not before plunging
its terrible stinger into Griffin at least twice. By the battles end the stalwart fighter
can barely stand, so drained of strength is he by the creatures poison.

The leader of the humans approaches them cautiously, and for a moment there
appears to be a language barrier, but Caribdis has a trick up his sleeve. He casts
Tongues, and is soon translating for the group.

The leader introduces himself as Nanden and, with a few sidelong looks at the
halflings and Griff’s sword, he fills them in.

It turns out that they have landed on a planet called Edik, a place that shares many
similarities with the crew home planet. On Edik a terrible witch queen named
Melisandre has enslaved most of the populace under her iron fist with the help of an
army of yuan-ti. She has captured untold numbers of humans and turned them into
undead. The capitol city of Anvie is where she rules from. Spell casters are unheard
of here these days since Melisandre has hunted them to extinction, and Nanden and
his kind have never seen halflings. What really seems to interest the leader is Griff
and his sword, though he says nothing about it. He invites them to accompany him
and the rest of his refugees to their base.

They follow the fighters for several hours through a honeycomb of tunnels until
they reach an underground base filled with human survivors of Melisandre evil.
Nanden gives them a chamber for their own and tells them that tomorrow he will
introduce them to someone who not only speaks their language, but will be able to
tell them more.***


Reaping 3

***The following morning Nanden brings a young woman to meet the crew and
introduces her as Adeede, his sister. To their surprise and pleasure, she greets them
in their own language, albeit heavily accented. Over a morning meal she explains.

475 years ago a great evil fell upon the lands of Edik similar to the one that
plagues it now. Thousands died, and most major cities were held under its sway.
From the ashes of almost certain doom rose a hero named Roland wielding a
strangely glyphed sword that came to be known as Everyman’s Blade. With this
legendary sword Roland made a final stand against the evil hordes that threatened to
bury the last good men of Edik, and turned it, breaking its back. The hordes of
evil were pushed back but Roland disappeared, along with his sword, and was never
seen again.

Most of the details of those times have been lost, but what is sure is that Roland
had left behind offspring. His bloodline lived on through the centuries, and Adeede
is his granddaughter with many "greats" before her title. What is also known is that
Roland spoke a strange language that was also passed on from generation to
generation, and Adeede still knows enough of it to communicate with the crew.

Adeede tells them that Melisandre controls Anvie city and that Nanden has
gathered many of the surviving tribes of humans together for a final assault on her
stronghold, though they have little hope as they are severely outnumbered and
under armed. Still, they have little choice and would rather go on the offensive than
simply wait to be exterminated one tribe at a time.

The tunnel that has brought them here continues on under the mountain range, and
was once a major trade route to Anvie, but now is blockaded by scores of yuan-ti.

Much discussion follows and the crew decides to lead the way and break the
blockade. They will take the point by a lead of several days which will give Nanden
time to gather his forces and march them through the mountain. Adeede offers to
accompany them as their guide.

Unfortunately the underground terrain is too rough for the horses. Here on Edik
the preferred means of travel (especially in these underground caves) are tame
axebeaks. Axebeaks are the common name of the birds which had attacked the crew
upon their arrival to Edik's plains.

Not willing to leave them behind, the crew waits through the next day so that
Doorag can put his polymorph spell to good use, transforming their mounts into
axebeaks.***


Reaping 4

***In the morning Doorag polymorphs the last of the horses and they head out, with
some difficulty, it turns out, for only Adeede is competent at riding an axebeak. To
make matters worse, the transformed horses and donkey are quite uncomfortable
going from four legs to two. But within a few hours on the road they all settle down
and progress is made.

The wide tunnel cuts through the mountains, mile after mile. They rest that night
in a spot obviously used as a campsite by travelers for many hundreds of years. But
it is not to be a restful night, for the yuan-ti patrol this main tunnel heavily and there
is nowhere to hide. Before they even have dinner they are set upon by two of the
snake men and another of the kildebraun.

The crew, normally so dangerous, find themselves nearly taken down by this evil
trio! (OOC: This battle was a fumble fest of horrendous proportions. I’ve never seen
so many natural 1’s being thrown) Griffin and Adeede both fall victim to the
kildebraun’s poisoned stinger and are sapped of strength. Finally, however, the
enemy is brought down, though the injuries to the crew are such that they will be
slowed down considerably to give Taklinn time to help Griff and Adeede with his
spells. ***


Reaping 5

***They decide to rest through the day to give Adeede time to regain her strength.
Taklinn manages to heal Griff with his spells, but he ends up with none left to help
their guide, and therefore it must be left to nature, at least for another 24 hours.

But they will not have rest! By noon they are attacked yet again, this time by
another kildebraun and four yuan-ti. Fortunately the fighters manage to keep better
grips on their swords, and Doorag has access to his more powerful spells. He uses
Wall of Ice to fine effect, as well as several well placed Bolts of Conjuring. Happy
manages to land several fine sneak attacks. All of this, combined with Caribdis’
verse, leads to a victory in fine style. Better yet, this enemy had brought a fine
cache of loot with them. They not only find a goodly amount of platinum, but a bag
of holding and two rings of protection, one of them more powerful than any they
have ever seen. At first Doorag claims the much cherished ring, sighting the fact
that he has taken very little in the way of magic treasure up until now. But after
some thought he has a change of heart, realizing that the small bit of extra
protection would better help one of the fighters. He puts it back into the pool,
though he states that he thinks it ought to go to Griff, as he seems to always be in
the thick of things and constantly needs healing. The rest agree and Griff shrugs,
slipping on his new ring.***


Reaping 6

***The following morning they set out again. Adeede tells them that they shall soon
reach the yuan-ti blockade, and she is correct. Drawing near, they decide to leave
their mounts behind until it is safe to bring them along. They make their way
cautiously forward and soon enter a large chamber guarded by several yuan-ti and a
kildebraun. It is a bloody battle, but in the end the crew slay the lot of them save
one who flees. They delve deeper into the yuan-ti lair and discover the one who had
run away. He is dead, a strange dagger in his back.

Intrigued, they descend down a large shaft with a spiral ramp gracing its interior.
At the bottom they find a veritable honeycomb of yuan-ti caves. They manage to
surprise a group of the snake men sitting at a table about to eat dinner. Griffin leaps
onto the table and lays about with his sword and the battle is on.

Kildebraun and yuan-ti come out of the woodwork. There must be at least a dozen
of them and it takes every bit of skill, strength and magic they can muster to thwart
them. Not only are the yuan-ti fearsome warriors, their darkness abilities cause
Doorag to spend much of his time countering them with his wand of Daylight. Also,
the kildebraun, it turns out, can spout out webbing that hinder them to no end.
Several times the crew is forced to simply burn the stuff away and deal with the self
inflicted burns.

Toward the end of the battle they find that they have a surprising ally. Doorag
spots her first. She is a yuan-ti of great stealth, and she manages to bury daggers in
the backs of several of her fellows even before they know that she is upon them.
When the last enemy falls, the crew approach her with distrust. They are bloodied
and battered and low on resources and take no chances. The yuan-ti woman calmly
introduces herself as Sensesi. She is the one who slew the yuan-ti who had retreated
from the first battle and stopped him from calling out an alarm to those below. She
also informs them that she has no love for Melisandre and is more than willing to
lead them to her.***


Rping 6

...This Sensesi woman makes my skin crawl. I’ve always tried to believe that there
can be exceptions in every race that possesses a soul, but she is so cold, so... snake
like. Still, she has offered her help to us. After the huge battle with the yuan-ti in the
main living chambers we were ready to lick out wounds. But there would be none
of that. Sensesi informed us that beyond the next bend in the corridor lay another
series of rooms that held still more yuan-ti. Less than we had already fought, but
yuan-ti just the same, not to mention a couple more kildebraun. Thankfully they had
not appeared to have heard the fight, for they had not come to reinforce their
brethren. Sensesi assured us that the yuan-ti were split into two groups, one in a
room to the north, and a smaller group to the south. She told us that we had little
choice but to take them on now, as they guarded a portal that would take us directly
into the city of Anvie. Directly into Melesandre's tower, no less! She also pointed out that
there were prisoners being held; humans who had been treated shoddily already and
would not last much longer. That was all it took for Taklinn and I, and, despite how
few spells we had left, we pressed on, hopeful that the element of surprise would
help to win the day.

We followed the tunnel and ended up in a large chamber which looked like a
dining area. Two doors, one to the north, and one to the south beckoned. We hashed
out a quick plan and Taklinn flung the northern door open, charging into the room with
Griff hot on his heels. The rest of us poured in from behind as our two warriors caught a
knot of yuan-ti sitting at a game of cards. Taklinn buried his axe in the first of them,
and Griff lopped off a yuan-ti head before they’d even grabbed up their weapons.

To the south of the room sat a table, seated at which was a sinister looking yuan-ti.
He had a look of importance about him, and Sensesi had told us that the leader of the
group was here. In the north end of the room squatted a kildebraun, hate andmalevolence
glittering in its many eyes.

I flew in quickly and let fly with a Bolt of Conjuring at the leader without
hesitation. He stumbled backwards from the force of the magical energy, and
behind him appeared the secondary effect of the spell, my trusty badger. The little
bugger, as always, snarled and leapt for the well dressed snake man, not managing
to hit him, but keeping him off balance as Happy suddenly appeared, her
daggers held low and at the ready. With two quick thrusts she punctured the leader
in too many important locations for him to bear, and he fell, face first, onto the table
without an opportunity to even raise his sword to us.

Then the room was filled with web, for this is one of the kildebraun's favorite
tricks. Many of us were hung up in the stuff, but I’d been expecting this and had lit a
torch earlier. Its flame immediately caught the web on fire. True, the singing of my
robes and a few painful burns are a high price to pay, but compared to being stuck
in place and at the kildebraun's mercy, I find it justified. Before long I was able to
fly out of the morass.

Still in the web, Taklinn and Griff worked their way through the remaining yuanti
with the help of Caribdis, Adeede, and even Sensesi. Imight find her creepy, but she is
unafraid to mix it up,even though it be against her ownrace.

When the dust cleared they lay around us. Several yuan-ti, faces frozen in snarling
death, and the kildebraun, it’s head split in twain by Griff. We breathed heavy from
the exertion, but knew that there was still one more fight to be won. We made our
way to the southern door.

Again, it was Taklinn who opened the door, and before us lay a short corridor.
Happy set herself up to check for traps, but Taklinn barreled on ahead, rounding the
corner and running head on at a yuan-ti the likes of which we have learned are
"abominations". They are far more dangerous than the average snake man, and this
one put a pretty good hit on our cleric before the rest of us could reach him. I was
nearly out of spells, but had another trick up my sleeve. I Greased his sword handle,
and it slipped from his grasp, falling several feet away. Griff and Taklinn renewed
their efforts against the abomination as the kildebraun behind him scuttled forward
and cast the room into webbing. Again, the torches licked at the webs, and again we
took the burns. By the time the flames reached Griff and Taklinn, both the
abomination and the kildebraun lay dead.

Sensesi had been telling the truth about the prisoners. We found half a dozen
humans, ill treated and malnourished, imprisoned in tiny wooden crates. They were
pitiful, and Taklinn quickly set about laying them in yuan-ti beds and tending to
them. Though they could not speak our language, the look in their eyes was thanks
enough.

Searching the bodies and rooms brought us a fine haul indeed! Each of these
yuan-ti carry at least 60 platinum, and several of them have had items that glow of
magic under the detection spell. We have found a cloak, a rod, a necklace, several
vials of fluid, and a couple of very fine scimitars. Best yet, each of the yuan-ti from
the north room wore a matching ring of magic. Sensesi informed us that they were
rings of Non-Detection, that these particular yuan-ti had also been plotting against
Melisandre, and had used the rings to remain unfound. There is a ring for each of us
with one left over, and we wear them now. I hope that she is telling the truth, for it
will be fine indeed to not feel her baleful stare upon us at least twice per day!

We have decided to rest here for the night and through tomorrow to give me time
to Identify these items. We hope that they will provide us some assistance in the
coming battles. Sensesi has shown us the glimmering portal in the north room and
assures us that it leads directly into Melisandre’s tower, though it is heavily
guarded. She warns us to go in at our full capacity, and I have to believe that.

I sleep tonight in the leaders bed. He has his own room, and though it is little
more than a cot, its just a bit nicer than the rest of the cots strewn about the place. I
would feel guilty, but I am too tired. I have taken a fair amount of wounds today,
far more than I usually do. I have felt the sting of arrows and the hot caress of flame
too many times this afternoon, and Taklinn and Caribdis are out of healing. Taklinn
has tended to me though, and if I know him, he will continue to do so throughout
the night. I’m sure that tomorrow I’ll be right as rain.

And I am quite anxious to see what all these items are! Too bad the only pearls
we have have been appraised by both Happy and Caribdis at around 500 gold value!
Such a shame! But, it shall hopefully be worth it. Besides, we are richer now than
we ever have been. Each of us have already accumulated over 600 platinum pieces!
With this, I can pay off my debts at last! I only hope we make it back. We have only
been on Edik for less than a week, but it feels like much longer. My only wish is to
see my city again.


Rping 7

I have spent the last eight hours cloistered in the leader yuan-ti’s chamber, busily
identifying the items. Caribdis, with his wide array of esoteric knowledge was able
to shed enough light on some of the items that I did not need to use magic on them,
but several more of the things were unknown to him, so it fell to me to uncover
their secrets. We have divvied them up, and in a short while we will pass through
the portal that will, according to Sensesi, take us into Melisandre’s tower. The crew
has given me a few hours to rest though, and with this time I find it soothing to jot
down some notes in my journal.

I was only able to identify nine of the items, so I chose those that looked the most
interesting. I am now the proud owner of a Cloak of the Arachnid! I have no love
for spiders, and it’s a bit creepy to wear this thing, but according to my studies this
cloak will help me to overcome being stuck in webs from here on out, not to
mention the fact that it will allow me to cast a Web spell once per day, as well as
giving me the ability to Spider Climb.

Griff now wears a scarab much like the one that Taklinn has. It is a Scarab of
Golem Bane, and while Taklinn’s will help him defeat flesh golems, Griff’s will aid
him against clay golems. We have yet to confront a golem yet, and I fear the day we
do! I know little about them except that they are constructs, impervious to magic. I
can only hope that if we ever do have to deal with one of them it will be made of
either flesh or clay!

There were several other items as well. Happy now wears a Necklace of Fireballs
about her neck, and I have a Bead of Force in my pocket. There was a magical spoon
that, when inserted into a bowl, fills itself with a nourishing but bland gruel, and I
am also the proud owner of a vial of magical glue as well as a vial of it’s solvent.
But the most peculiar of the items is the one that Caribdis now carries, much to my
dismay.

It is a Rod of Wonder. A very odd and chaotic item which I have to wonder why
anyone would craft such a thing in the first place. Apparently its effects are too
numerous to mention, but there is no control over which effect the rod will produce
at any given time. As far as I can tell the wielder utters the command word, and the
rod might spout a fireball, or it might fill the room with butterflies, or it might cause
it to snow, or, or, or... well, you get my point! There are a hundred different things
the rod might do, none of them controllable! The very last person that should have
such a thing is, of course, the person who now wields it! Caribdis began drooling
over the rod as soon as I announced what it was, and he held off on laying claim to
any of the other items until the rod came up for grabs. I fear that no good can come
of his having such a thing, for I’m positive that he will begin firing it off at the first
opportunity, the results of which could be disastrous.

Please read a heavy sigh here, for it is not my wish to make Caribdis sound like a
dolt. I fear my patience with him has grown short of late, and I must remind myself
to curb my tongue, for despite his impetuous ways he really is coming along. His
verse and rhyme has reached a new level, for when he recites his battle poetry these
days we can all truly feel its benefits. Our aim is defiantly truer, and there is no
doubt that our weapons bite deeper. The fact that he can have this effect on all of us
is invaluable! He is, of course, still Caribdis, and still has the attention span of a
ferret, but he is learning. It is a slow process, but it shows. I only pray that he
doesn’t kill us all with his new toy. Taklinn has already warned him that it will be
taken away the first time he hurts a crew member with it.

Speaking of gaining knowledge and power, I, myself, have had a major
breakthrough this morning! I have been spreading myself thin as of late, researching
more spells than I normally could or should, but the understanding has come so
naturally that I haven’t fought it, and today has brought a fine pay off to this study!
As I poured over my notes and studied spells this morning, I suddenly realized that
I now grasp spells of the fifth circle of power! Not only that, but I can understand
four of them! This is a major breakthrough for me, for these are very powerful and
useful spells, and usually I can only come to grips with one or two newly
researched spells at a time. To be able to learn four of them is tremendously
exciting.

The spells I have learned are Wall of Force, Feeble mind, Hold Monster, and Fire
Bird. The last is a very esoteric and rare spell that I’ve been grappling with for some
time. It takes a while to cast, but once I do it will summon forth a mount for me that
will last most of the day. The Fire Bird is a giant eagle formed of solid flame.
Riding it will grant me immunity to most fire, as well as a flying mount that is even
faster than a standard Fly spell! True, maneuverability will be a factor, but I am
excited at the prospect just the same. I haven’t been able to test it yet, but I have it
memorized for the coming day.

They are calling for me. Seems that it is time to move on. We know only what
Sensesi has told us of what lies beyond the portal, and I hate diving blindly into the
unknown, especially on the word of a yuan-ti. But it is our only option. Melisandre
has brought down the tunnel from this point on, so there is no way to physically
traverse the mountain. We must enter the portal.

We are leaving our mounts here in the care of the resting humans we freed
yesterday. They look much better today, thanks to Taklinn’s attentions. We have
told them to fill Nanden in on the situation when he arrives, and hopefully our
trusty steeds will be taken good care of. Happy is nearly in tears at the prospect of
leaving Don Kay and her horse behind. But she agrees that they will be safer here.

Very well, with any luck I shall continue this entry later today.


Rping 7 (Con’t)

As I’d hoped I would be able to do, I am now updating my journal from the
relative safety of a chamber within Melisandre’s tower. It is not the best place to
rest, but we don't have much choice, for the day has brought many perils. With any
luck our new rings of non-detection will shield us from the witch queens unwanted gaze
and we will be able to stay here, unmolested, until we are ready to move on. I fear
that we will lose whatever advantage of surprise we might have had, but, as I said,
our choices are few.

But I get ahead of myself.

After completing my identification tasks and resting a bit from the strain, we
decided to brave the portal. There was much discussion as to how we would enter
the thing, and what we would do afterward. Too much discussion, I fear. The crux
of the argument was how Taklinn would behave once we’d entered Melisandre’s
tower. Sensesi cautioned us against a headlong approach, assuring us that there
were far too many of the enemy within the tower to take on all at once. We all
nodded, but some of us seemed sure that Taklinn would charge through doors at
every opportunity and attempt a one dwarf siege of the tower. I think we’re a little
unsure as to the cool headedness of our cleric after his impetuous move of hurling
himself through the portal that brought us from Havilah to here in the first place. I
admit that I hadn’t seen that one coming, though in hindsight I suppose I should
have. Taklinn’s view of the world is quite black and white, as is appropriate for a
dwarf, I suppose, and for him discretion was simply not an option when faced with
evil such as that. So, Griff and Happy wondered aloud about whether or not he
could control himself once in the belly of the beast, as it were.

The argument swelled and continued for what seemed a long time, and I fear that
I grew a bit snippy with the whole thing. Still, we have come this far with Taklinn,
and sometimes we’ve needed his straight forward tendencies to give us the kick in
the pants in the right direction. I dare say I probably could not have convinced
Griff, Happy and Caribdis to have undertaken our current adventure by myself. And
as far as impetuousness goes, Taklinn is a study in strategic planning compared to
Caribdis! So from my point of view it seemed that we would do what had to be
done. We would enter the portal and deal with whatever lay on the other side, and
so long as blatant wrongs were not being committed under his very nose, Taklinn
would conduct himself in the manner he always has. In other words, he will deal
with trouble where he finds it, and where it is best dealt with rather than look for it
in obscure places.

All of this led me to take the reigns. Interrupting their heated discussion, I simply
said, "Well, I’m off then!" and stepped through the portal, sure that they would
follow.

Stepping into the unknown without vital preparatory spells and without my
companions was not, I’m sad to say, my finest move. Fortunately my friends are as
stalwart as I believed them to be, and within seconds they stood beside me, though
not before I caught the full view of what we had to deal with.

The portal exited into a large entry chamber with three doors. Along each wall
three yuan-ti sentries, and at the back of the room a yuan-ti captain and lieutenant
hovered over a simple desk. All eight of them looked at me as I popped through the
portal, and their scimitars were swiftly drawn.

I had never cast Fireball before that day. In most circumstances it is a poor spell
choice, for in nearly all cases my party is well embroiled in hand to hand combat
with our foes before I can use it, thereby putting them within the area of effect.
Rather than subject them to damage I usually stick with spells that target only one
or two enemies. But this morning I’d had the feeling that I may finally get the
chance to use this nifty spell, and lo, that chance had come! Before the yuan-ti
could get their bearings, I unloaded a Fireball on the trio to my left. The one nearest
to me managed to leap clear of the blast, but the other two took the full brunt. One
of the snake men went down in a heap of burning flesh, while the second managed
to put himself out. He’d been sorely injured though and I hopped he’d be easy to
finish off.

By this time my friends had joined me, and they raced forward to meet the enemy.

Have I described the clang of swords too many times? Has the description of
Caribdis and his bow lost its impact? There have been so many fights that I fear any
reader must surely grow tired of their constant relation. Perhaps I simply cannot do
them justice. Whatever the case, I can only assure the reader that this was a brutal
and bloody fight. Griff, Taklinn, Hap, Adeede and Sensesi waded into battle,
hacking away at yuan-ti while doing their best to avoid retaliatory blows. Caribdis
stood at my side firing off arrow after arrow and reciting his verse. As for me, I
feared that this would not be our only battle this day, and I vowed to conserve my
spells, using less powerful magic’s to harrie and distract our foes.

Speaking of magic’s, I have related many times that the yuan-ti have plenty of
their own innate magical abilities that we’ve had to contend with, but it appeared
that at least one of the yuan-ti commanders knew a little about spell casting himself,
for I later learned that Taklinn had been Cursed, making it far more difficult to hit
with his axe. Our cleric suffered through this during the fight and still suffers with it
now. He tells us that upon the morning he will be able to free himself from it, but I
can tell that it’s slowed him down considerably.

Griff and Taklinn carved a path through the sentries and charged to deal with the
commanders. Caribdis, Adeede and Sensesi mopped up the remaining sentries
while Happy and I made our way through the fray to help the fighters. I cast a Wall
of Ice across the corner of the room to block the three doors and ensure that none
could escape or call for help, but the spell casting yuan-ti Levitated himself to at
least try to stay out of our reach. It was not to be, however, for Taklinn leapt up and
grabbed hold of him. The two hovered there, each grappling with the other. I can
tell you that it is not a pleasant experience to wrestle with a yuan-ti, for the
creatures can excrete an acidic substance that can melt flesh. It is quite painful, and
I could tell that Taklinn was feeling its effects. But he refused to let go. Meanwhile,
Griff was doing his best to hammer away at the yuan-ti without hitting Taklinn.

The second commander still had to be dealt with, and I chose to put myself in
harms way to facilitate Happy’s strike. I snuck around behind the yuan-ti in an
attempt to distract him. It worked, for he turned to face me just as Happy reached
him. She swiftly sank two daggers into his vitals, and he yelled in pain. As for me, I
figured my job had been done. I scurried beneath the desk and came up on its far
side, casting Magic Missile as fast as I could. The magical bolts struck him, and it
was enough. Down he went.

Suddenly we were cast into darkness! Now, I have no real reason to believe that
this darkness was not yuan-ti induced. It is, after all, a favorite tactic of theirs. But
Ambros did spot Caribdis as the bard raced forward and pointed his new rod at the
fray and mouthed its command word. So, was it yuan-ti darkness, or was it
Caribdis’ new toy? Likely, we shall never know, and as it turns out, its a moot point
and we shan’t be bothered by the rod again. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

By the time I’d found my way out of the darkness, Griff and Taklinn had
pummeled the yuan-ti to death. We were left with a roomful of dead snake men and
three doors to contend with.

From where I was I could make out the entirety of the room. It was fashioned in
nearly seamless stone the color of alabaster. The architecture was unfamiliar to me,
and for the first time since I’ve been on Edik I was acutely aware that we are truly
not in Havilah anymore. There is a foreignness about the wall carvings and accenting
that makes me feel quite out of place.

I could see Griff and Taklinn standing over the dead yuan-ti commander, their
chests heaving from the exertion of battle. Happy, as always, was quick to make
sure Griff was not too badly injured. I have an odd feeling about those two, but if
there is anything going on other than stalwart friendship, they are good at masking
it. Besides, the size difference would be a major difficulty to overcome.

Still...

Ah well, none of my business anyway!

Caribdis let his voice fall and his verse end as he quickly put his rod away
and strode forward to retrieve his arrows. Adeede did the same, and Sensesi
quietly wiped her scimitar off on one of her dead brethren.

The woman gives me the screaming creeps!

We collected ourselves and Taklinn and Caribdis healed those that needed it. I
decided that I’d had enough of being land bound, and began the rather laborious
process of casting Fire Bird.

Now I had only know about this spell in theory. That is to say, I had never seen it
cast. It’s a rather rare spell that I’ve been working on for some time, and I thought
that I’d had it pretty well figured out. But the creature I summoned as my steed was
far more than I had counted on! The Fire Bird is just that, a massive eagle-like bird
made entirely of fire, much like a fire elemental, which, I suppose it must have
some relation to. The thing is nearly as big as a horse, and when it suddenly
appeared in the room with an accompanying roar of flames, my startled companions
nearly fell all over themselves pulling weapons, ready to take it on!

I pondered my new servant, as did Ambros, now perched on my left shoulder,
stroking his chin thoughtfully at the eagle shaped inferno before us. I looked at him,
and he at me. How in the world was this thing going to travel indoors with us? Yet
it had a saddle upon its back, and it seemed a shame to just dispel it when it would
last for nine hours. I decided to try and use it anyway. There must be SOME use for
a fireball that walks clumsily and preens itself.

As it turned out, it DID have an immediate use. My wall of ice still separated us
from the three exits from this chamber. Gingerly, I touched the bird, and to my
great relief I felt no warmth, just the wing of a very real feeling bird. I had known
that the spell grants its caster virtual immunity to fire, but I never get over the
nervousness at trying a new spell out for the first time. One misspoken word in the
casting, and I could have suffered a nasty burn!

Ambros scuttled under my hat as I finally got a foot into the stirrup and mounted
the bird. I’m sure I was quite a sight, wreathed in fire and all. Soon I was
commanding the bird to peck away at the wall, and I saw that it is capable of
inflicting a goodly amount of damage. The wall was breached.

We looked at the three doors, one on the east wall and two on the north. "Well,
Sensesi," I asked, "Where to now?"

The yuan-ti woman flicked her tongue at me and motioned to the eastern door and
the far door to the north. "Those will be quarters and temple." She nodded to the
final door. "That," she said, "Is where we need to go."

She walked forward, her body fairly slithering in it’s skin, and addressed us. "I
don’t know exactly where Melisandre is, but she has a helper, an assistant of sorts,
from your world. He’s a mealy little runt named Albert. He may have valuable
information, or even know where she is. He’s her book keeper, an accountant, you
might say, and getting to him is a swift step toward Melisandre." She smiled her
unsettling smile. "And I know where to find him."


Rping 7 (Con’t)

With only one door leading to anywhere of significance, we hadn't much option but
to take Sensesi’s lead and follow her to Albert.

We did, of course, search the other two rooms, and, as she had said, they were
quarters for the yuan-ti and a temple to a god I had never heard of. Sensesi called
him Illugi and said that Melisandre and all who follow him are worshipers of this
most vile deity. Within the temple was a visage of Illugi sculpted from deep, black,
stone. It hurt my head to stare at it too long.

We did find a few trinkets and coin, as well as the ever present gems and pearls
these yuan-ti all seem to carry. We also found a set of unique and beautiful clothing
that Caribdis immediately took a liking to. Hap said that the cloths could be sold for
quite a pretty piece of coin, but Caribdis begged to have them for his own. I balked
a bit at this at first, since any find of real value is considered party treasure, but then
he made a surprising offer. Pulling out the rod of wonder, he offered to give it to me
if I let him keep the cloths. How could I refuse a chance to get the cursed thing
away from him? No one else had a problem with the deal either, so now it is I who
posses the rod, never to be used again, and thankfully so.

We breached the last door and beheld a stone hallway leading north. I rode the
fire bird, painfully aware of how much space I was taking up in the corridor, but
still refusing to let it go. At the very least it would protect me from any potential
fire damage.

We walked only a short distance to where the hall emptied into another chamber,
and it was there that we first faced drider. Sensesi had told us that many drider
served the witch queen, and my studies had prepared me a bit for them, but
actually seeing one of the half-spider, half-humanoid horrors was a ghastly
experience still. There were three of them on guard, and they skittered forward to
engage us.

I’m afraid I wasn't of much use in this fight, for being atop the fire bird made it
impossible to maneuver or move fast enough to even enter the room without fear of
knocking down my friends. It’s a good thing my friends can look out for themselves
most of the time, for they hurled themselves at the drider, weapons glinting. Again
and again Griff and Taklinn drew their blades away covered in black drider blood
while Hap and Caribdis let fly with dagger and arrow. Sensesi and Adeede fell upon
the driders as well, and within a moment all three of the things lay dead on the
floor, curled up in death in that strange way that spiders have.

We took the rooms exit and proceeded onward and up a flight of stairs. At the top
we found a room with a couple of doors, but Sensesi assured us that one of them led
only to more yuan-ti clerics of Illugi. She nodded at the other door, and Happy
quickly scanned it for traps. When she gave the all clear, Griff pushed it open,
stepped through with his guard up, and was attacked immediately by driders. The
rest of the crew plunged in to help, but as I was about to wobble the fire bird into
the room so I could see what was going on and possibly lend a hand, Caribdis
stepped in front of me and stopped to fire arrows, effectively blocking my way.
Again, my part in the battle was sitting atop the bird, cursing.

But our fighters were having a good day, and they made short work of the two
driders, leaving us free to enter a northern door. The hall beyond cornered sharply
after about twenty feet, and continued on to yet another drider filled room, only
these drider could cast spells! Fireball, to be precise, and Griff, Taklinn and Adeede
felt that burn. Happy was caught in it too, but she is so fast that she was able to
dodge away at the last second and escaped without a scorch.

Four of the spider things held us off here for long, combat filled, seconds.
Another fireball went off, as well as a couple of web spells. It was an inferno in the
room for a brief time, but our fighters pressed forward, taking down one drider, then
another, then a third, and finally backing the fourth against the wall where it died
with a piercing shriek.

Injured, but unwilling to stop, we pressed on into the next room, which was a
round affair with a massive wooden portcullis on its east side that Sensesi
told us led outside to the city. But that is not where we needed to go. She pointed to
one of several doors with her scimitar and said that Albert was not too far beyond it.
She did warn us that the hall beyond was heavily trapped, and that’s where Happy
was able to put her expertise to use.

After opening the door to find a wide, plushy carpeted hall, lit with odd and
fragile glowing orbs set in wall sconces, our plucky friend was crawling gently
forward on hands and knees, scouring every inch for suspect trip wires, pressure
plates, and what have you. She found several too, and was able to disarm them, and
a good thing, for they were nasty traps indeed, most of them pits that only led to a
long drop and certain death by spikes set into the stone below. All the while she
searched, Griff looked on worriedly. We all had concern for her, but I think it
especially troubled Griffin to see her in harms way and not be able to do anything to
help her.

The hall turned a corner, and we followed gingerly in Happy’s footsteps. She
continued on until she reached a door flanked by two statues of leering, winged,
creatures that crouched on pedestals and bared stone teeth at us. Happy looked at
them uncertainly as she began to comb the door for more traps. Even as she touched
the door, the statues sprang to life, leaping to attack her. I knew immediately that
they were gargoyles.

Gargoyles can be tough and destructive creatures, but with Griff there to defend
Happy, they had little chance. Even as they scored a painful hit on her, Griff was
bringing down his vengeful steel to split one open with a great gout of gray blood.
Taklinn followed this with an axe blow to the second, and before long we had
overwhelmed it. It fought to the bitter end, but at last it lay dead.

A little shaken, Happy went back in to check the door, disarming still another trap
before announcing an all clear. Griff led the way, and we found a square room
beyond with a door on each wall and a spiral staircase shaft dominating its center.
Happy went back to work, checking first the door to the north. She found no traps,
and what looked like a plush waiting area was revealed. Another door led east from
that room, but we decided to check the staircase room first. Happy proceeded to the
eastern door (of the first room), and found another trap, only this time she found it
the hard way, and as quick as she is, she could not avoid inhaling some of the
poisonous gas that was expelled from the door lock. She staggered back, turning
quite green. I feared that she would be sick, but she straightened up, assuring us that
she was ok, even though it was obvious that she wasn’t. I saw the frown of concern
on Griff’s face, but she would not be deterred, and at last announced that the door
was safe.

Griff opened it to see a large and officious looking room hosting several
bookshelves and desks. He and Happy took a few steps into the room, and whistled
low in their throats as they looked to their right. We couldn’t see it, but we could
hear it. The heavy footsteps vibrated through the stone floors, and I heard Happy
wonder aloud, "Is that a golem?"

And then there were more gargoyles. They came leaping and chattering forward,
slashing away at Hap and Griff before Taklinn could lend his aid. And by the time
he did, he had his hands full, for the golem plodded into view, swinging its long and
heavy arms like twin hammers. One fist thudded off of Taklinn’s mail, leaving a
melon sized dent. Taklinn was wearing the Flesh Golem Scarab, so he turned to
face the thing as we tried to get the gargoyles off of Happy.

Our rogue was in a bad way, for a gargoyle had knocked her to the ground and
stood over her, ready to maul her with it’s terrible claws. But Griff closed the
distance with cat-like speed, and with one long swipe of his blade, sent the
gargoyles head sailing, end over end, across the room. He cleaved into another,
bringing it down as Sensesi and Adeede teamed up on the third.

It was then that I had a not so bright idea. My research had told me that golems
could not be effected by magic’s, but that fire effects slowed them down
considerably. Hoping that the third door in the staircase room might mirror the first
we’d checked, and would lead to a room with a door that might lead into the golem
room, I raced for it.

And of course it was trapped. I got a snoot full of the same gas that Happy had
inhaled, and immediately felt ill, as if my stomach were going to try to escape from
my body by any means necessary. But I pressed on, throwing open the door, and to
my pleasant surprise, it opened up directly into the golem chambers. To my left I
could see it locked in battle with Griff and Taklinn. I swiftly judged distance and
cast my remaining fireball in the room, careful to only get the gargoyle in the edge
of its blast and spare my friends from the flame. It worked, and the golem seemed
to fight from then on in slow motion. Taklinn and Griff hacked away at it, and soon
it fell heavily to the floor.

As I walked around the corner to step over the body, I heard Happy. She had
already begun to search the chambers and had opened a cabinet door. There, curled
up in a frightened ball, was an old man. "And you," Happy said, "Must be Albert!"


Rping 7 (con’t)

The old man looked up from his protective fetal position and blinked warily at us.
I’m sure we presented a fearsome sight, but it was the sound of Happy’s voice, or
rather the language in which it was spoken that drew his attention. His fear turned
to a toothless smile of relief. "You...you speak my language!" He gasped, crawling
stiffly from the cabinet with Happy’s help. He was so thin and frail that even she
could support him as he straightened up with an audible creak.

His eyes found our rings and he grew even more excited. "Your from Havilah!"
he exclaimed, "Crew members of Havilah! Bless my soul, I never thought I’d see
the day! Welcome! Welcome all of you! And yes, my name is indeed Albert. How
did you find me?"

Needless to say, it was Q&A time for Albert. We had much to ask, and the old
man was quite forthcoming with his answers. He had, he told us, been brought here
from Havilah some ten years ago in the same way that so many Havahlians have
been brought to this place. He confirmed what we’d already suspected, that most
people who are kidnapped by Melisandre are transformed into mindless walking
undead to be used as cannon fodder in her unrelenting quest for power and
domination. Why Albert was not thusly transformed, he did not know. He surmised
that it may have been because of his record keeping background and mental
dexterity with facts and figures. Whatever the case, she put him to work keeping
track of her armies and their supplies, and so forth. At first he had resisted, but, with
downcast eyes, he admitted to finally giving in under threat of painful death.

One very interesting fact that he was able to give us was that time here on Edik
flows much faster than our own world. His ten years here match only a single year
in Havilah, which means that we have not been gone from our home world for a
very great length of time at all. This gives me hope that we will be able to make it
back in time to stop Melisandre.

He also told us that we are not the first crew to have come here. He told us that
one other had arrived, but had failed to complete their mission. However, there
were survivors of that crew that were in contact with a small resistance group
within the city. Better yet, he assured us that one of these surviving crew members
was in hiding right here, deep within the secret recesses of the tower! It is good to
know that there are still a few secrets that escape the witch queen.

Albert was quite excited at the prospect of rescue, and offered to take us to the
surviving crew member. He warned us, however, that she was badly injured, and
had been for some time. He feared that she was slowly dying. With this news we
resolved to make haste to find her, in spite of our thinning spells and injuries.

Albert led us back into the trap littered hallway and revealed to us a very well
hidden door behind a tapestry. He explained to us that Melisandre had taken over
this tower when she conquered the city, and that she had not yet learned all of the
secretes of the place which was how he had been able to hide a crew member right
under her nose.

He closed the door behind us and led us down a narrow spiral staircase that
penetrated deep below the streets of Anvie. At the bottom we followed a hallway
that looked like it had seen little use for some time. At last we came to a door on
our right side, and Albert gingerly opened it, as if trying not to disturb whoever was
inside. We were on our guard, still fearful of treachery, but caution quickly turned
to wonder and concern at the sight of the rooms occupant.

It was Lotte Spangler!

The ranger who had once thought so ill of us for Caribdis’ actions during our
Academy trials now lay gasping and pale upon a dirty pallet in a tiny cell, empty
save for evidence of meals past and a chamber pot. She looked up weakly as we
entered, and I read disbelief in her eyes. It was obvious that she had long since
given up hope of rescue. She was able to rally a grin as we closed the door behind
us and rushed to her aid.

Taklinn checked her wound as we tried not to all talk at once. Her belly was an
open mass of brackish blood and smelled of rotting meat. It was immediately
apparent to Taklinn that she was barely clinging to life. When asked if she’d been
treated with clerical magic already, she could only shake her head and tell us that
there were no clerics to be had in Anvie. Taklinn cast healing spells upon her that
did nothing to close the wound, but they did give her a bit of comfort and strength.
Caribdis was beside himself at the sight of her. This was the woman, you may
recall, upon whom he had spent a small fortune trying to placate in the interest of
goodwill between our crews, and he tapped her several times with his wand of
healing before it was obvious to all that the spells were being wasted. Stronger
magic’s were needed, and Taklinn vowed to pray for just that as soon as night fell.
In the meantime, she was able to speak with us. The story she told was a sad one
indeed.


Rping 7 (con’t)

Lotte grimaced through the strain of talking, but she told her story.

She and the rest of her crew, Finch, Lotte’s halfling lover, Kester, the dwarven
cleric of Moradin, Ryton, the human warrior, and his brother, Teppo, the wizard
with whom I had come to befriend after our crossing of swords during the Academy
trials, came to Edik on Planting 21, which, as I look back, is the same day Taklinn
got his arm chopped off. They came in much the same fashion that we did, by
following yuan-ti kidnappers through their portal. Instead of being teleported away,
they were able to fight a path through the ranks of yuan-ti and transformed
townsfolk, and make good their escape into the depths of Anvie. They hid, with the
whole city looking for them, but eventually they were able to make contact with
Albert and to find out some vital information from what was left of the scattered
resistance in Anvie.

According to them Melisandre possessed two orbs given to her by her terrible
god, Illugi. The orbs are quite powerful, and somehow allow her to move vast
armies from Edik to Havilah and back as needed. She carries one of them at all
times while the other stays in Edik, guarded by minions of the hellish realms. At
least that is what Teppo was able to piece together. Teppo had a theory, via his
research on the matter, that the orbs are powered by both divine and arcane magic,
and that between himself and Kester they should be able to control or destroy the
orb should they be able to get it.

But they would never get to put that plan into action.

Several days before their proposed raid on the tower, where the orb is kept, Kester
went out to gather some needed supplies and components. He returned a monster.
When the cleric of Moradin came back to their hideout, he reeked of death, wore a
crown upon his head, and attacked his fellow crew members without warning. With
a single blow he decapitated Finch. Lotte’s tears ran unchecked when she related
this part of the tale.

Kester managed to score a hit on Teppo and Ryton as well before Lotte ran him
through with her sword. But Kester hammered at her with his last breath, and
delivered to her side a gash that felled her. Teppo and Ryton thought her dead, and
they fled, fearing that more of Melisandre’s troops must be close behind.

Lotte awoke shortly thereafter with Albert trying his best to save her life. She has
been on the brink of death ever since.

Lotte fell back, exhausted at the effort of telling the story, and Caribdis did his
best to ease her pain, tapping her again with his wand and shooing the rest of us
away, except for Taklinn, whom he begged to change her wounds dressing.

I felt as tired as Lotte looked, and lay down for some rest, knowing that I would
need it to regain my spells. That is where we sit now, here in Lotte’s room. Albert
assures us that he can take us to the orb chamber, and we will make our assault at
first opportunity. Taklinn is waiting only for the sun to go down so that he can pray
for spells that will finally bring relief to Lotte. I send my warmest regards to
Clangeden in this matter. The woman has been through too much, and I hope
against hope that our cleric will undo the damage that hers did.


Rping 7 (con’t)

My, but this has been a long day! One thing after another!

I had only been asleep a few hours when Ambros suddenly forced me awake by
intruding into my dreams in that way he has. I sat bolt upright, immediately aware
that something was wrong.

The sight that greeted me was that of Sensesi, backed into a corner, her hand on
her scimitar. The rest of the crew stood on the opposite side of the room, looking
from her to Taklinn, who had his axe out and ready for use.

"I’ll ask you just one last time," he was saying, "Drop your weapons and surrender
or face my steel!"

"What the devil is going on?" I cried, rolling from my blankets and shaking my
head to clear it.

"She’s a spy!" Taklinn growled. Sensesi laughed at him.

"Your crazy!" she hissed, "Haven’t I brought you this far? What would tell you that
I’m a spy? Where’s your proof?"

Happy, Griff and I looked from Taklinn to Sensesi in confusion. All Taklinn
would say was, "She’s a spy. I’ll explain how I know later, just believe me, she’s a
spy!" He took a step forward.

I made a fast decision. Taklinn had no proof, and this was out of the clear blue
sky, but if it came down to his word versus hers, there was simply no argument. I
cast my remaining fifth circle spell, a Wall of Force, to block the door. Sensesi felt
it behind her when she stepped back, and knew that there would be no escape. Her
eyes flashed and she flicked out her tongue at Griff, then at Happy. "I should have
killed you when I had the chance!" she shrieked, and drew her blades, rushing at
Happy!

Griff and Taklinn were there to meet her, and Adeede tried to get in a swing as
well. But before she could be brought down I cast again, and lo and behold, it
worked! I polymorphed her into a turtle!

In a flash she used her yuan-ti abilities and shape changed into a snake, and
crawled beneath Lotte’s pallet. Caribdis swept up Lotte while Griff hauled up the
mattress. There Sensesi was, in snake form, trying to squeeze through a crack in the
wall. Taklinn reached down and grabbed her. She did her best to bite him, but her
fangs were no match for his armor, and in a flash she was in the bag I quickly held
out. I gave her back to Taklinn with a shudder, and sat down heavily. There was
much to discuss. How has she been communicating with Melesandre? Will
Melesandre still be able to get reports from her while she was our snake/turtle
prisoner?

Taklinn tells us that he had cast a powerful spell that would allow him to
communicate directly with Clangeden. All of his question had been used to
ascertain what spells he could use to aid Lotte and the order in which they had to be
cast, save one. His final question had simply been, "Is Sensesi a spy for
Melesandre?" Clangeden had said, "Yes." That was that.

We fear that this hideout is not safe, but we have little choice. I am going back to
bed now, for I must get some rest. My spells are exhausted.
 

cthulhu42

Explorer
Reaping 8

I awoke to a crew in very poor spirits. I could tell right away that something was
wrong by the frowns on the faces of Happy, Griff and Caribdis. Taklinn had a dour
look to him too, but its hard to tell with dwarves.

"What’s been going on?" I thought to Ambros. He naps when he can, and he was
already curling up under my hat now that I was awake. I knew that he would have
been keeping watch while I slept and that he would be able to fill me in.

I could hear his yawn in my head when he answered. "Lots of talk about what to
do with Sensesi. Caribdis and Hap want her dead. Taklinn wants to keep her. Griff
doesn’t care. Oh, and Adeede is all for killing her too. That girl REALLY hates
yuan-ti! Lotte’s all better though. G’night master, wake me if something good
happens." With that, he curled up in my hair and was fast asleep within seconds.

Sighing, I knew that I’d soon be drawn into this argument, but first things first.
After having a sip of tea and a bite of bread, I sat down to select my spells. Had to
go with a couple of Greases, and you can never have too many Magic Missiles. It’s
also become habit to burn a Mage Armor and a Dark Vision per day.

I keep an Invisibility in the back of my head always, and a See Invisibility, just
because I know that some day I’m going to really need that spell!

I can’t stay away from Scorching Ray! What a marvelous offensive spell! I’ve
taken to memorizing at least three of them when I know we’re going to be in the
thick of it.

A Fly, of course, and a Bolt of Conjuring. I’m also taking Hold Person today. I
haven’t used that spell much as of late, so I’ve decided to dust it off. I’m also taking
a Dispel Magic. I have a feeling in my bones that the closer we get to those things
important to Melesandre, the more we might need that particular spell.

Moving up the chain of power, I do so love Polymorph Other! I don’t feel like I’ve
even scratched the surface of that spells usefulness! Two of those and two Walls of
Ice.
And last, but certainly not least, my most powerful spell. This morning I
memorized a Wall of Force and a Hold Monster. It’s very difficult to choose only
two, but that’s part of being a wizard. I’m coming very close to being able to
memorize three 5th circle spells though!

I record all of this for no reason other than to settle my nerves a bit, for the
conversation with my fellow party members that followed my studies was
unpleasant, to say the least, and it still upsets me to remember it now.

As Ambros had told me, the crew was bitterly divided as to the fate of our captive
yuan-ti spy, Sensesi. After closing my book and packing it away, I stretched and
finally addressed my friends.

"What’s going on?" I asked.

Happy and Caribdis immediately talked over each other, but eventually I got the
story that the two of them were indeed ready to execute Sensesi, but that Taklinn
would have none of it. Caribdis was positively passionate about the matter, and he
paced back and forth, gesturing excitedly toward Taklinn, who simply stood there,
arms crossed, the bag containing Sensesi tied securely to his belt.

"She tried to kill us!" Caribdis shouted, "And because of her Melesandre knows
what we’re up to! What if Melesandre can still spy on us? Sure, we’ve got the rings,
but if she’s a spy she must be able to get information to that witch some other way!
Its not worth the risk. We kill her now!"

"No." Taklinn’s voiced boomed through the room, resonating with resolve. "I will
not kill an unarmed opponent! She stays with us, and that is that! We will hand her
over to the proper authorities as soon as we can."

My eyebrows raised a bit at this, and I read a strange glint in our clerics eye. He
seemed quite dead set on the matter, but the idea seemed ludicrous to me, and I told
him so.

"Taklinn," I said, "I never thought I’d say this, but the boy speaks with wisdom!
Taking her with us is absurd. She poses far too great a risk. Caribdis is right, she
may still be able to communicate with Melesandre somehow, and that is simply
unacceptable." Taklinn regarded me with a fiery stare, but I pressed on. "And what
do you mean, you won’t kill unarmed foes? Do I have to remind you of the goblins?
What about the orcs!"

"That was different!" He shot back. "We were in Havilah, abiding by Havilah’s
laws. We were within our right! And we had no other choice!"

I gaped at him. "Executing the enemy is okay only if we’re in Havilah? Taklinn, I
don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we’re at WAR here! We are a Crew of Havilah,
and we represent Havilah! We have every right to do whatever it takes to secure
Havilah’s safety! Oh, and by the way, the local law here happens to be
Melisandre’s! I’m willing to bet that she’s all in favor of killing spies, and I’ll bet
you a gold to a shaker of salt that she’d do one of us in a lot less humanely than we
will to one of hers."

"Kill her!" Happy interjected. Her eyes were fastened on the bag at Taklinn’s hip,
and I could tell that our roguish friend would have no problems doing the job
herself. "She tried to kill me, Taklinn! Me!" Griff put his hand on Happy’s shoulder
and she calmed down a bit.

"What do you think about all this Griff?" I asked.

He scowled and spat on the floor. "I’m with Taklinn about killin’ prisoners. Ain’t
no honor in it. I don’t like it." And with that, he spun on his heel and walked out
into the hallway. Happy followed him and it was left to Taklinn, Caribdis and I to
work this thing out.

"She’s a spy!" Caribdis cried. "A spy for Melesandre! You're out of your mind if
you want to keep her with us!"

I said, no!" Taklinn roared. "We are not on Havilah’s soil, and I will not impose
Havilah’s laws upon this foreign land!"

I was flabbergasted by his bull headedness! "Taklinn, what do you think your
doing here?" I asked him. "You ARE Havilah! Caribdis is Havilah, and so is Griff
and Happy, and so am I! Havilah doesn’t just end at a border somewhere. It’s always
right here." I thumbed my chest. "Havilah exists as long as we do, and we carry it
with us wherever we go. Taklinn, think of the lives at stake! I don’t like executing
an unarmed prisoner any more than you do, but we can’t afford to make mistakes.
Right now there are thousands of people counting on us. Right now there are people
being led through portals by yuan-ti! We can stop this, but we cannot let emotion or
a misplaced sense of justice cloud our view. We must keep our eyes on the prize,
Taklinn, and Sensesi is a loose end we cannot afford."

Taklinn glared at me, his brow deeply furrowed. "Very well!" He thundered,
"Take her! Do whatever you want! Just don’t ask me to take part!" And with that, he
tossed the bag at our feet.

Caribdis paused for only a second. The boy made to stomp on the bag! I threw
myself at him, grabbing him about the legs while Taklinn quickly swept down to
grab the bag again. "Caribdis, no!" I yelled. "If we do this, we do it correctly, and
we do it with the full consensus of the whole crew! We must get Griff and Happy
back in here and vote on this thing, and then we will decide what must be done"

"You have no honor, boy!" Taklinn snapped, re securing the bag to his belt.

"No honor?" Caribdis retorted, "Where is the honor in letting something like that
live?"

And then Caribdis did a very bad thing. He began to rhyme.

"Hear me Taklinn, hear me well,
for when this story bards do tell,
the people will have heard
how the dwarf did finally heed my words!"

Or something like that. The point is, Caribdis was trying to charm Taklinn, much
as he had done to get him to ride a horse not so long ago!

My eyes widened in horror, and I yelled at him to stop! "Caribdis, no!" but it was
too late.

Taklinn almost seemed to drift into Caribdis’ words for a second, but then he
shook his great head and the next thing I knew his axe had been slung around to
come to rest in his hands. His voice was low but there was no mistaking his words.
"I told you, boy, never to do that again." He took a menacing step toward Caribdis,
but I leapt between them.

"He didn’t mean it, Taklinn!" I babbled, absolutely certain that Taklinn meant to
kill the boy. "He’s out of his mind! He didn’t know what he was doing! Don’t kill
him, Taklinn! Don’t kill him!"

Taklinn looked at me and took a huge breath. I could see the internal struggle, but
at last he took a step back and spat on the ground at Caribdis’ feet. "I thought you
were learning, boy, but I see that you have learned nothing! You have no honor!
You are not a man, you are a sniveling child! I’ll have my braid back. You do not
deserve to wear it!"

A long and chilly moment passed, but then Caribdis, with more anger in his eyes
than I have ever seen, hastily unbuttoned his shirt to reveal a braid of hair worn
around his neck on a leather string. He tore it from his throat and threw it to the
ground in contempt. With a last look of fury, he stormed from the room.

As Taklinn picked up the braid, I understood. The braid had been Taklinn’s from
when he had shaved his beard in dishonor after our trials at the Academy. He had
sent one to Kester as an act of contrition, and he must have given one to Caribdis as
a reminder to never again bring such shame upon himself and his fellows again.

I was speechless. Taklinn growled and stuffed the braid into his pocket. He
looked at me with an utterly unflinching gaze. "Here’s how it stands," he stated,
"I’ve got Sensesi, and she stays with me. If anyone doesn’t like it, they can try to
take her from me!"

His words hit me like a fist to the stomach. Was he serious, I thought? Would he
really raise his axe to anyone who tried to take Sensesi? Would he raise his axe to
me? Never before had I heard this from one of the Crew members. Never before
had I heard such a veiled threat, such an assertion of leadership, of superiority.
Would Taklinn really go to such extremes to get his way in this thing? Would he
really disregard the wisdom of his friends so out of hand?

"You didn’t just say that, Taklinn." I whispered. But he only scowled at me. I
opened my mouth to speak, but no words came out. I simply turned and walked out
into the hallway.

Once outside the room, even more harsh words were flying as Caribdis told Hap
and Griff what had gone on.

"You did WHAT?" Griff exploded.

"You tried to charm him? Are you insane?" Happy stood there, her mouth a
perfect "O" at the shock of what Caribdis had done.

"I was just trying to get him to settle down!" Caribdis said in a defensive tone. "I
was just trying to get him to see the truth!"

"The truth?" I snapped, cutting him off, "Very well then, Caribdis, allow me to
help you see the truth! Let me charm you! I’ve got the spell, all you have to do is
accept it! Come on, Caribdis, I promise you, you’ll see things my way!

Caribdis sputtered, "But that’s not the same... but I was just..."

"Don’t you get it, Caribdis!" I raged, "If you charm him, it makes his opinion
invalid! Maybe I don’t agree with him, but he’s still one fifth of this crew, and as
such, his voice is every bit as important as the rest of ours, and his voice must
remain clear, without magical influence!"

"But..."

"No, Caribdis!" I cut him off, "We do not cast such spells on each other! It is that
simple! We. Do. Not. Cast. Such. Spells. On. Each. Other! I understand your
position with regard to Sensesi, but you have no right to deprive Taklinn of his free
will! Do you understand?" I looked at him, exasperated.

Caribdis opened his mouth to speak, but found nothing to say. He looked at the
ground in shame as his anger turned to understanding. He turned away from me, his
shoulders hunched and his head low.

"Ah, to hell with this!" Griff rumbled. "The rest of you can sit around and talk all
day if you want to, but we’re going to get this orb!" With that, he strode away,
leading Happy, Adeede, Lotte and Albert with him.

I cursed under my breath at Griff’s impatience. We still had matters of great
concern to deal with, and it galled me to not put them to rest. But we had to stick
together, and I made to go back into the room to fetch Taklinn. But Caribdis
stopped me. "No," he said, "I’ll get him. We’ll catch up, just wait for us at the top of
the stair."

Seeing the look in his eyes, I nodded, and made off down the tunnel. Ambros
awoke with a start and yawned, "Did I miss anything?"

"I’ll tell you later." I said, hurrying to catch up with the others. Ambros smacked
his lips sleepily and was out again in seconds.

I caught them on the stairs and told them that Caribdis and Taklinn would be
along shortly. Griff merely grunted and continued his climb, but he did wait once
we’d reached the top of the stairs.

It took quite a few minutes, and I feared that Griff would leave the pair behind,
but just then we heard their footsteps coming up the stairs. What we saw when they
arrived stunned us all into silence.

Caribdis had shaved his head!

I could tell that he had done it hastily, probably with a dagger, and without benefit
of a mirror, for odd clumps of hair jutted this way and that from his pate. Our bard,
once so obsessive and vain about his appearance, had hacked away most of his hair!
I surmised that it must have been done as penance to Taklinn, an act of contrition
and apology, for Taklinn seemed to have no more anger in his eyes toward the boy.

"What?" Caribdis challenged our shocked faces, "Haven’t you ever seen someone
whose gotten a haircut? C’mon, lets get on with this!"


Reaping 8 (con’t)

We all looked away from the shorn Caribdis and shuffled our feet a bit. We
decided at last to get back to business and formulate a plan. It was decided that
Adeede would lead Lotte and Albert to a safe place and hopefully rendezvous with
Nanden and the forces he was bringing, while we would follow Albert’s directions
to the orb room and, with any luck, wretch it from the grasp of Melisandre’s
minions. Adeede told us to meet them in the towers prisons, which Albert was also
able to tell us how to get to. We parted ways, and Griff, Happy, Taklinn, Caribdis
and I made our way further up the stairs into unexplored territory.

We did not have far to go, for the next landing emptied into a bare room with a
hall leading from it. Down this long hall and around a corner we met with the first
of Melisandre’s guards. They were two drider, though these two were magically
toughened, and though we bested them, it was a hard fight, and I mainly stayed out
of it except for a Magic Missile finisher on the last drider. I feared that my spells
would be much needed. As it turns out, I was right.

Another hall led from this room, and Happy led the way, her eyes peeled for traps.
Instead, she found a secret door midway down the hall. After announcing that it
was clean, Griff swung it open, and we beheld a narrow hall that emptied into a
triangularly shaped room, this one containing a door that could not be missed, for it
bore the visage of that strange and terrible god, Illugi, and it positively reeked of
danger and evil. Taklinn cast a quick detect magic, and reported that a powerful
magical source waited for us beyond the door. He could see streams of it’s dark
power leaking through the door cracks, and all of us could feel a sense of unease. I
quickly cast some preparatory spells while Hap skulked forward to examine the door.

It was trapped. And dangerously so. She asked us all to move back, and we did,
though Griff stayed a little nearer to her than I think she approved of. We watched
her in silence as she concentrated, and the tension was utterly palpable. I could
almost feel the sweat dripping off her, as I imagine it must have been, trying to
deactivate a delicate magical trap without setting it off. After what seemed like a
long time, she breathed a heavy sigh of relief and stepped away from the door. She
turned, and with a smile gave us the thumbs up.

She had done it.

And so we came to our greatest challenge yet. Griff swung the door open and we
beheld a sight that weakened even our battle hardened knees.

The room was simply massive. Round and domed, I could barely see the other
side through a haze of murky torchlight. Its walls writhed and moved, and after our
eyes adjusted to the light, our minds had to adjust to the horror, for the walls
stretched and swelled with the faces of the dead/undead as they swam in agony
before us. We saw plainly the faces of Kester Orban and Teppo Stafford.

In the center stood a massive statue of Illugi fashioned of reflective, black, stone.
It raised at least forty feet into the air, and clutched an object. Sandwiched between
its two massive hands shone a black orb, the size of a small pumpkin.

At the statues feet there was still more horror awaiting our eyes. Upon a dripping
alter was lashed the naked and tortured body of Ryton Stafford. He had been cruelly
gutted and terrible things had been done to his appendages.

And then, from either side of the statue they came. The guardians. There were
only two, but their sheer size and appearances gave me pause, and for the first time
I wondered if we’d bitten off more than we could chew. The thing on the left was a
demon, a half spider creature born of the underworld. It scuttled forward, looking a
bit like a drider, but roughly the size of a small house. It gnashed wickedly hooked
mandibles and chittered a challenge at us.

The thing on the left was also a giant, though obviously undead. A walking
skeleton, its eyes shone with intelligence and hate as it swung hammer-like fists
before it, awaiting the fight.

Without a word, Griffin charged the demon while Taklinn raced toward the
skeleton, bellowing prayers to Clangeden that were swallowed up in the howls of
the tortured souls that writhed in agony all around us. Griff brought his sword down
with enough force to fell a ogre with a single hit. It glanced off! The demons hide
was incredibly tough, and even Griff found himself thwarted by the armor. The
demon seemed to laugh, and with a single thrust of its mandibles, lashed out and
tore Griff’s breast plate cleanly from his body! It exposed him as easily as one
would rip the paper from a package, and I knew that the next hit would strike flesh!

Taklinn was having his problems too, for his axe met with stiff resistance. The
skeleton was obviously magically protected, and it ignored our clerics slashes and
pounded down a rain of blows that staggered even our stout dwarf.

Happy raced around, trying to get into flanking position with Griff, looking for a
weakness, a spot to slip a dagger. Caribdis unleashed a barrage of arrows at the
skeleton while I tried to help Griff with a Hold Monster aimed at the demon. The
beast simply shrugged off my spell, and I feared that I might never affect such a
creature. But I had to try.

Griff, Happy and the demon danced around each other, waiting for an
opportunity. Griff slashed and stabbed, and may even have drawn blood, but
Happy’s daggers simply bounced off of the thing. I took a deep breath,
concentrated, crossed my fingers and shouted out the words to Polymorph Other.
To my great shock and amazement, it worked! One instant Griff and Happy were
fighting a massive demon, the next, they were looking as a fluffy, white, rabbit that
hopped about uncertainly for a moment, quite dazed to have found itself so
suddenly neutered. With a cry for blood, Griff brought his sword down on the
bunny, but it was already gone, gating itself back to its own plain. I can only
imagine its reception upon arriving back in the abyss!

Meanwhile, Taklinn and Caribdis had worked their way through much of the
skeletons magical protection, and it was starting to show signs of damage, though
the same could be said of Taklinn, for he bore many a mark made by the heavy fists
that pummeled him again and again. Griff and Happy raced to his aid, but I was
already casting. My Bolt of Conjuring slammed into the undead thing with
tremendous force and it clattered to the ground in a pile of still bones. I’m quite
certain that Caribdis and Taklinn had weakened the skeleton considerably, and full
credit must go to them. Mine was simply the killing blow, and a lucky one at that.


Rping 8 (cont)

Taklinn reeled back from the pile of undead bones as an eerie wail made by the
trapped souls within the dome rose and fell. He was already healing himself even as
we joined him at the base of the statue. Looking up, it was a malevolent and
obscene figure, inky black and cloyingly evil. In its ebony hands, thirty feet above,
it held our prize.

Climbing the thing was out of the question. Every bit of good sense told us that
touching it was not an option.

We wondered aloud for a second about how we would retrieve the orb, but I knew
that the answer was obvious.

I already had a Fly spell cast on me. I emptied a sturdy sack and rose into the air
with my friends watching, helpless to aid me. Happy, bless her soul, asked me to
Levitate her so that she could do it, but I didn’t happen to have it memorized, and,
truth be told, I don’t know that I’d have cast it on her even if I had. Sometimes we
must all face risk, and Clangeden knows the rest of this group has taken more than
their fair share. Today was my turn.

I flew up to the orb, where it rested between the statues two giant hands. I paused,
still not certain that the statue might not simply spring to life and bat me down, but
there was nothing else for it. It would be tricky getting the orb into the bag without
touching the statue itself, but I felt confident that I could do it.

Overly confident, it would seem. Apparently my sack had a small hole in it, and
as I grasped the orb, my finger slipped through and I must have touched that foul,
black, stone, for all at once, all the spells I’d cast on myself in preparation for the
battle suddenly blinked out, including my Fly spell!

I fell, slamming into the statue on the way down, and each time I touched it I
could feel the icy shock of undiluted evil course through me. It hurt nearly as bad as
the floor did when I finally came to rest.

But I had the orb.

Groaning, I held up my hands and announced my success. I was barely able to
hold onto the thing, and Taklinn quickly wrapped the sack around it and stowed it
away while Caribdis and Happy helped me to my feet. My head throbbed and my
body screamed in pain from the fall, but worse, I felt fundamentally drained,
weakened. My mind was muddled, and I realized I couldn’t even remember my fifth
circle spells! As Taklinn healed my physical wounds I described my plight to him
and he nodded in understanding.

"We’ve been drained, my friend," he explained, "The skeleton did the same to me.
We’ve both felt the touch of pure evil and have been sapped of energy, knowledge
and ability." I was aghast, but he smiled and clapped me on the shoulder. "Not to
worry! At sundown Clangeden will grant me spells that can right these wrongs! He
will see to this, I assure you! Nice job getting the orb, by the way." With that, he
gave it back to me, for I wanted to closer examine this artifact.

But that would have to wait, for as I took it from him, there was a strange ripping
noise, and a terrible creature tore its way from the abyss into our world!

It was another demon spider thing, similar to the one so recently turned into a rabbit. It
skittered into the room and immediately settled it’s glowing red eyes on me.

"It’s a retriever!" Taklinn yelled, leaping to stand between me and the demon as it
closed the distance with terrifying speed. I’d never heard of a Retriever, but the
name alone said it all. It obviously meant to retrieve the orb!

My comrades understood this too, and Griffin joined Taklinn as a blockade for
me while I quickly cast Levitate from a scroll and rose into the air (ok, well I did
have Levitate on scroll).

The retriever was a nasty opponent, and Griff, without his breast plate, felt its
sting, though he did manage to bite deeply with his sword, drawing an enraged
shriek from the demon.

We unloaded everything we had at it, and soon it was pock marked by arrow,
dagger, axe and sword. The burns of magic scorched it, but it fought on, hitting
Taklinn with a jolt of electricity fired from it’s eyes. Taklinn sagged to his knees,
but hauled himself up again to slash away with his axe. He and Griff dodged
between the demons legs and tore into it’s abdomen as Happy, Caribdis and I helped
as much as we could. And the whole time, I felt as if it were staring right at me.

At last, it fell, frustrated and dead in it’s pursuit to retrieve the orb.

It’s carcass was fascinating, in a horrific way, and we appraised it while Taklinn
and Caribdis took care of wounds. Perhaps that is why we didn’t see Griff stroll
over to another door in the chamber and grasp it’s handle. We heard his gasp of
pain, though, and when we looked at him he returned our stares with a smile forced
through a grimace of pain. He stepped back from the door, trying to whistle nonchalantly,
as Happy lambasted him for tinkering with doors before she’d had a chance to check
them out.

After doing just that, she opened this one and we beheld a library! Row after row
of books lined shelves in neat, orderly rows. I salivated at the very odor of all these
old tombs, and I could not help but to hurry down the aisles, reading spines as I
went.

In all, I managed to select twenty-seven books of interest or value, and two of
what I believe to be Melisandre’s personal spell books! I have yet to open them
though, for I don’t even want to imagine what heinous protections guard her
spells. I will have to wait until we return to Havilah to pursue them under safer
conditions.

Another door led from the library, and while I read esoteric titles, Happy checked
it for traps. She declared it safe, and opened the door.

She was wrong.

The bolt of pain hit her like a hammer, and she doubled over on the floor, face
going pale, her mouth open to scream but no sound coming out. Griff, still acting a
bit odd himself, knelt at her side, looking from Taklinn to myself, his face pleading
with us to help her.

Happy fought back tears of pain as she shakily regained her feet. I could tell that
it wracked through her body even as I recognized the symptoms of a Symbol of
Pain. There was nothing to be done for her except wait until we had spells to get rid of
it. Until then, we knew that she’d be at a considerable disadvantage. But we had to
go on.

Behind the trapped door was a length of empty hallway. It was such an obvious
place to put a secret door that we had to at least check it. Happy, putting on a brave
face over her grimaces of pain, stepped into the hall, her watering eyes peeled for
danger. She found the door near the end, and with a touch, it pivoted to reveal that
we’d just gone in a circle. The door emptied into the room where we had fought the
two drider.

At least Taklinn, Happy, myself, and possibly Griff were injured beyond
immediate repair. We’d gotten what we’d come for, and needed to heal badly. We
decided to hide in the secret hall where we’d found Lotte until we were ready to
brave the towers prisons. We made our way down to that small room, and we
dropped to the floor, our backs resting on the walls. The orb in its bag lay at my
feet, and I could almost feel its pulse emanating from within. I decided to examine
it more thoroughly later. We had things to discuss right now.

I cleared my throat, getting their attention. "Friends," I said, "There is a matter to
talk about that we can’t put off. That of what to do with Sensesi. Is it agreed that we
will discuss it?" I looked around the room and saw four heads nod. I continued.

"Before we dive into it, however, there is one thing I must say." I looked straight
at Taklinn. "There is no one of us here any more or less important within this circle
than any other. We are all one fifth of a Crew of Havilah, and none among us can
make this decision on their own. Taklinn, when you said that whoever wanted
Sensesi would have to take her from you, you may as well have slapped me in the
face. Never have I feared your hand, and you have no right to place it above me." I
stared at him, and Taklinn met my eyes with understanding.

"You are right, my friend," he nodded at last, "I spoke then out of anger and pride
and in a misguided attempt to protect my ideals. But you are right, none of us
should have to bow to the other, and I apologize if you will accept it." He stretched
his hand out to me, and I got up to shake it.

"Apology accepted." I said, and I felt as if a great weight had been lifted from
both of us.

"Now then," I said to them all, "Here is what I suggest. We each say our piece
regarding what we feel should be done with Sensesi, afterward will be a short
discussion, then a vote. I submit that we demand a unanimous desiccation. This
may mean the difference between life and death for Sensesi, and such a thing
should be agreed upon by all of us. I will start."

I took a breath. "Sensesi is a spy. She tried to kill Happy, and she was one of the
two yuan-ti that cut off Taklinn’s arm. For all we know she may still be able to
communicate with Melesandre. I take no pleasure or pride in executing prisoners,
but we are at war, and we are a Crew of Havilah. We are well within our rights to do
whatever needs to be done. It is a simple matter of practicality. She is too great a liability,
and she must die. Too many lives hang in the balance to afford a mistake at this late hour."
Having said my piece, I sat down. "Happy," I said, "Want to go next?"


Rping 8 (cont)

Happy took her feet and I could tell that she was as passionate now on the subject
of Sensesi’s fate as she had been earlier.

"She tried to kill me! Me!" She cried vehemently. "She’s a spy and a yuan-ti, and I
have no sympathy for her. I say she dies!"

She sat back down again, her point made in short but firm sentences.

I looked at Griff, and though I could tell he was made uncomfortable by the idea
of giving his opinion, he did so anyway.

"Look," he said, "I don’t give a crap about this war and whether or not she’s a spy
and blah, blah, blah! I just don’t like killin’ unarmed foes. It goes against my grain,
that’s all. Frankly, I don’t care if we turn her over to the law or let her go. She
doesn’t scare me either way. I just don’t want to be the one that has to stick her
when she can’t fight back."

"Duly noted." I said. "Caribdis?"

Caribdis leapt to his feet and we could tell that his bardish loquaciousness was
about to take hold. It was as if he was taking the stage when he expounded, "Doorag
is right! Sensesi may still be communicating with Melesandre for all we know! Too
much is riding on this decision for us to take it lightly! Havilah is depending on us!
Countless lives hang in the balance! Will any of us ever be able to bear the
knowledge that we failed in our mission because of misplaced compassion? She
dies! Yes, and immediately!" Caribdis’ actual speech was far more lengthy and
verbose, but that was the meat of his argument.

Taklinn went last. He stood and addressed us in his deep rumble. "I can still not
agree to the out and out execution of a prisoner, especially on foreign soil. But that is
a personal qualm. My true reasoning is one that I have only just thought of over the
past hour or so. While it is true that Clangeden revealed to me that Sensesi is a spy,
the question I posed to Him was, by necessity, of the simple yes or no variety.
There is still much we do not know. We have no way to be certain that she is still
actively working for Melesandre. Perhaps she has some ulterior motive. Perhaps she
in no longer loyal to the witch queen. These are questions that cannot be answered
now, but as soon as I am able to ask for new spells, I can cast a few that will reveal
the truth of these matters. I would ask that we wait until that can be done. Her life is
on the line, and thus she deserves any benefit of the doubt that we can give her,
otherwise this cannot be considered a fair shake. Also, I’m with Griff. I cannot
condone, nor do I see the honor in killing helpless foes. True, I have done so in the
past, but only under the most extreme of circumstances. As things stand now, she is
our helpless prisoner. True, she may be communicating with Melesandre, but if that
were so, why aren’t there a hundred yuan-ti storming this room right now? I say we
wait until I can cast my divining spells and learn the truth. There may yet be things
we can learn from her."

He took his seat again, and I nodded solemnly. I passed out a stone to each of us.
"The vote is on weather or not to kill her right now." I said. "We shall hold out our
fists and reveal the contents. A stone is a vote for death. An empty palm means life.
The decision must be unanimous. All agreed?" Four ’ayes!’ sounded, and we hid our
stones behind our backs before holding our fists out to the circle. As one, we
opened our hands. As I suspected, the vote was not unanimous. Three stones lay on
outstretched palms. Happy, Caribdis and I had all voted for her execution, but her
death was staved off by the empty hands of Taklinn and Griff.

In my heart I had known that they would not vote for her death, but I had felt that
this small act of democracy was needed to focus us again, to solidify the fact that
each of our voices must be heard. I was disappointed with the result, but pleased
with the act itself.

"Very well." I said, "Tomorrow Taklinn will cast his spells, and perhaps a new
vote will be taken. Until then I pray that you are right Taklinn, and that she can no
longer report to Melesandre.

We spent the rest of the day in rest, healing, and study. Every once in awhile my
eyes would stray to the orb on the floor, but I abstained from dwelling upon it
overly much. The artifact was far too powerful to tinker with without some sort of
road map for its use, and I wanted no part in accidentally setting it off without
knowing how to turn it off again. A worse case scenario might have us Teleporting
Melesandre and her entire army directly to us! That would never do.


At sundown Taklinn entered into meditation, as he does every evening, and soon he
opened his eyes, replete with spells that would, hopefully, reveal the truth about
Sensesi. His first order of business, however, was to deal with the lasting wounds
we had received, the energy draining taint of the statue I had touched, and the blow
from the skeleton. In mere moments he had laid his huge, calloused hands upon me
and recited his prayer. Just like that, I felt good as new. Powerful magic’s indeed,
my friend! Powerful magic’s indeed!

He then turned his attention to Sensesi. To question her in her current viper/turtle
form, he had to first cast Speak With Animals upon himself, after that he cast his
divinations and for several minutes we heard no sounds save an almost inaudible
hissing exchange. We had given him our questions, and he asked them without fear
of lies.

When he again spoke to us in recognizable tongue, he had this to report.

"I could only ask a few questions," He said, "But this I know: She is no longer a
spy working for Melesandre. In fact, she has no loyalty to Melesandre at all. She
aided us for her own reasons, though what those might be I cannot ascertain. Also,
she is unable to communicate with Melesandre."

He shrugged, looking at us all.

Much discussion followed. Griff and Taklinn were now not to be swayed on the
matter, and even Happy and Caribdis now raised empty palms when next we voted.
I found myself the only holdout.

I don’t know why, but I have a deep foreboding about Sensesi, a feeling that there
is far more to her than meets the eye. My fear is so great that I must admit that I
would see her dead rather than give her even a chance to wreak havoc. It defies
logic. On the surface, she is a turncoat from Melesandre, and I suppose, could even
be of use to us. But my heart tells me that, though she might be against Melesandre,
that does not mean that she is loyal to us.

I have no real evidence upon which to base that. It is a moral dilemma that I have
fought with myself now for the past several hours. I must now admit that she dose
not deserve execution. Yet the thought of her fills me with such dread that I find
myself wishing that I possessed a less rigid set of ethics.

It has been ultimately decided that she will remain our prisoner for the time being,
but that she shall be released when this nasty business is over. It galls me that I will
be the one who has to Polymorph her back to yuan-ti form. But I will do it. It is the
will of the crew, and I know that no matter what evil she may cause in the future,
we will defeat her. If the four people I trust most say she lives, she lives.


Rping 9

Well, this has been a busy day to say the least.

We set out as soon as possible. Rested, healed, and full of spells, we delved
deeper in to the tower, following the path described to us by Albert. Through taking
secret passageway we were able to enter into the prison level without dealing with
yuan-ti patrols. Yet, we had more things to worry about that a few yuan-ti.

A spacious and empty room greeted us when we stepped from the spiral staircase,
and we quickly made out way through it toward the exit on the far side. We had not
gotten more than half way across, when a quick look behind saw another retriever
claw its way into this dimension and rattle forward, a huge and hellish spider with
lava in its eyes. I looked at it. And I realized that I still held the bloody orb!

I didn’t even have time to react. The demon hit me with twin rays of magical fire
shot from its eyes, and I felt the world slip away. I could barely keep my feet as I
felt the life run out of me in a single, huge, second. I sagged against Caribdis, but he
was already there, laying his hands on my shoulders and infusing me with his most
powerful healing verse. Just that quick, I was nearly fully healed! It was an
incredibly odd and frightening experience, but I had no time to dwell upon it, and,
almost by reflex, I threw up a Wall of Ice that effectively blocked the creature.

Happy and Griff ran to the wall, getting into position, for the retriever was already
hacking away the wall in big chunks. In mere seconds it had breached the wall only
to find Griff standing there.

"Come on!" Griff roared, his sword brandished and his body bereft of armor,
"Come get some!"

But the Retriever still had its eyes locked on me, and it charged forward, heedless
of the Ice Wall's freezing damage and Griff’s blade. It took hits from both Happy
and Griff but sent Griff spinning to the floor in its headlong rush to get at me. But
they had bought me a little time, and Taklinn still stood between myself the demon.
I cast Fly on myself and shot toward the ceiling - only to find it a mere fifteen feet
high! The retriever could easily reach that with it’s hooked legs!

It became a race, with me doing my best to lead the thing toward my companions
and still not get caught.

I failed to mention in my account of the first retriever we fought that the things
regenerate, and only fire seems to be an effective method of keeping them dead. In
the end, we wore it down and overwhelmed it, and a flask of alchemists fire
finished the job. The only serious injury had been mine, and I must remember to
thank Caribdis for pulling me so swiftly from the brink.

Sometimes I am reminded of how physically frail I am compared to our
swordsmen. Griff or Taklinn probably would have shrugged off those fire blasts as
if they were minor annoyances.

The day was far from over though. The exit from the large chamber was a lengthy
hall. Happy took the point by some thirty feet or so until she came to a doorless
room. Cautiously, she stepped in.

Right into an ambush! Half a dozen yuan-ti waited here with drawn bows, and
they unleashed a full barrage of arrows at our hapless girl. We heard her cry out in
pain before we even saw the black arrows thunk into her body, and she reeled,
barely keeping her feet.

We acted quickly. I hurried forward and threw up a Wall of Force down one side
of the room, blocking off three of the yuan-ti. After that it was a matter of
supporting Griff and Taklinn as they mowed through the other three. Griff made
them very sorry that they had harmed his favorite halfling. Alas, the yuan-ti trapped
behind the wall blacked out that section of the room and escaped by changing into
viper form and slithering through small holes at the base of the walls obviously
meant for travel in serpent form.

"They know we’re here!" Griff rasped, and he set out through the opposite exit at
a quick jog. We feared that the yuan-ti might slay prisoners rather than see them
freed, and thus we hurried down the hall straight into another mass of yuan-ti.

Seven of them waited here, and again they stood with bows at the ready, only this
time it was Griff who met their barbs, and though they scored hits, Griff was
amongst them in a split second, his sword carving a path through the serpentine
ranks with meaty thuds. Taklinn came in behind, his axe bringing death and
dismemberment to them in great swaths.

Our steel, as well as our spells and arrows brought them down, and when it was
over not one yuan-ti breathed life.

We were faced with five doors, two north, two south, and one east. The southern
and northern doors lead to barracks and kitchen for the yuan-ti soldiers, and though
Griff urged us on, we could not help but be captured by what we found behind a
secret door in the barracks. Swords, longbows, armor, arrows. Hundreds of sets of
weapons, all of very fine craftsmanship were stacked along the walls of this room.
Taklinn took one look at it and pronounced it worth a fortune! That, and the notion
of deriving the yuan-ti of weapons, set us to pitching as many of these weapons as
we could into our bag of holding.

But we did not tarry long, and in short order had opened the eastern door to find
another corridor that led to a stout pair of business like double doors. Griff wasted
no time in shoving the unlocked doors open, and we beheld the antechamber of the
towers prisons. The room was large and lined with weird sarcophagus-like
chambers, each of which had a dozen or more tubes running through it. All seemed
to leak a green, viscous, liquid, and, still dripping that same liquid, there staggered
ten undead zombies toward us. We would soon learn that these were no run of the
mill zombies.

Toward the back of the room stood a rack, and upon it was stretched a broken
wreck of a man. Behind the rack stood a caricature of all that is good and right. A
cleric of Illugi. He cast a spell even as the doors swung open, and Taklinn would
later reveal that the spell had made him a magnet for the undead. Immediately all ten
of the zombies turned their attention to our cleric and stumbled toward him.

Griff charged through, slamming zombies out of his way as he did, to come toe to
toe with the cleric, but I had other things in mind for this servant of hell than an
opportunity for more magical hijinx. Flying up to see over the converging mass of
zombies, I let loose a Hold Monster that stopped the cleric in mid motion. He froze
as still as stone, and Griff was showing no mercy in the heat of battle. With a swift
roundhouse swing, he sent the clerics head sailing from his shoulders.

In the meantime Taklinn was getting a chance to show off the raw power of
Clangeden, and pure holiness seemed to radiate from him in waves beneath which
the zombies crumbled. Within seconds he had destroyed the lot of them, but more
streamed from a door to the south. Lots more. They came at Taklinn in a stumbling
tide, and again he cried out to his god, and again a full half of them were turned to
dust.

But there were five zombies left and Taklinn’s ability to call upon Clangeden to
destroy undead is finite. The last of these things would have to be dealt with the old
fashioned way.

We quickly found out that they were somehow at least partially immune to most
forms of damage. Taklinn, Caribdis, Happy and myself all scored tremendous hits on
zombies. I hit one of them with a Scorching Ray that would bring down an ogre, but
the undead just ignored it!

On the other side of the room Griff was also having problems. Two quasits,
apparently the clerics pets, had appeared on either side of him, bent on revenge.
They attacked him with a fury of blind rag, and he sustained several poison filled
bites that would plague him later in the day. But they were no match for his
sword, and soon he was joined with us in a maddening fight against seemingly
impervious zombies. We had brought a couple of them down through either lucky
shots or just a mass of damage that tore the things apart. I was able to polymorph
one of them into a fish, and apparently they had a weakness for force spells, and
Magic Missiles proved their worth again as it turned out to be one of our only sure
ways to damage them.

Mindless, on and on they came, pounding away at Taklinn until the last one fell to
my final volley of Missiles. Taklinn, Griff and myself stood there for long minutes,
trying to figure out how they had sustained so much damage. In the meantime
Happy was busy trying to bring comfort to the still surviving torture victim on the
rack while Caribdis was happily opening the only other door in the room.

What he found behind it has changed the whole scope of this mission!

Rping 9 (cont)

It was the cells. Caribdis had located the still living prisoners who were held in
this hell hole and there were lots of them. On and on the rows of cells went, and
Caribdis, who had found the keys somewhere, ran merrily down the rows,
unlocking doors and singing the praises of our crew. They walked, staggered, and
crawled out of their cells, and before I knew it the main antechamber was filled to
capacity, and then overflowing, with newly released people, many of them speaking
excitedly in Havilahian. It was music to my ears!

On and on they came, most of them stout men, eager for leadership, a weapon,
and a chance to take revenge on Melesandre. We counted 450 of them in all, several
of them Crew members come to Edik in the same way we did, only captured upon
arrival. They looked to us for guidance, and we took the role, using the Crew
members as lieutenants and organizing them into groups. We emptied our bag of
holding of the weapons and armor we’d found and sent others to retrieve the arms
we’d not been able to carry. Within a short time we had at our command a sizable
force, considerably armed.

And Nanden had yet to arrive with his people.

To find so many survivors filled me with joy, but I couldn’t help but feel heartsick
at the thought of how many thousands had been lost and now served Melesandre as
her undead minions.

The organization of these people has taken up the whole of the rest of this day. I
sit now in an antechamber guarded by three wizards we found amongst the
prisoners. They are all Crew members. It appears that all spontaneous casters such
as clerics and sorcerers were killed out right, but those spell casters who could be
rendered inert by withholding their spell books were sparred. I opened my own
books to them and they eagerly memorized select choices. They take my privacy
very seriously and each of them take turns standing guard at the door to make sure
that I am not disturbed during my study and rest. I am both amused and
uncomfortable with being put in a position of reverence, but I suppose it would be
rude to reject their gratitude. I guess I’m just not used to being looked up to.

I should mention that there are also some twenty-four yuan-ti prisoners held here
as well in specially designed cells to keep them from escaping as vipers. Though
they are more than likely turn coats against Melesandre, we have chosen to leave
them where they are. We cannot trust them.
 


cthulhu42

Explorer
Rping 10

Nanden has arrived. He has brought with him nearly fifteen hundred more men,
women, and children, half of whom are potential combatants. Albert and Adeede
are with them, and Albert has given me three books he was able to retrieve that
have helped us formulate a plan.

One of the books is Teppo Stafford’s journal, and it contains vital information
about the orb. It tells how to power the artifact with arcane and divine spells, and
goes on to say that, once charged with this magic, a Plane Shift spell cast into it will
teleport any touching the orb, and any in contact with it through flesh to a point
within a few hundred feet of the second orb.

The other two books are Melisandre’s personal journals, and after dispelling the
protective magic’s on them we were able to read her diabolical plans.

She is obviously mad and utterly devoted to Illugi. Her goals appear to be to
spread chaos and evil, with specific emphasis on the downfall of Havilah. She has
used Edik as a base of operations. It was an easy mark, and she has done her best to
destroy this land, stripping it of people and resources to build an army that can
crush Havilah. Though it is difficult to figure exactly, given the time differences
between Edik and our world, her time line would indicate that her direct assault on
Havilah grows near.

Albert has also given me a crystal ball that was formerly Melisandre’s, and, after
identifying it tomorrow, I may be able to get a look at her and see just how close
she is, should this be an actual scrying device.

Griff, Happy, and a troop of men went into the city today to scout around. While
it appears that Anvie is largely devoid of Melisandre’s troops, a few yuan-ti patrols
still linger, and they found one. The two groups clashed and slew several yuan-ti,
but the snake men used their darkness ability to force our force to retreat. It is good
news that the city is, more or less, ours though.


Rping 11

Another day of intensive study into the mind of Melesandre through her journals.
I have discovered why the zombies we fought were so difficult to bring down.
Apparently Illugi grants Melesandre the power to create undead that are unusually
hardy. They can withstand nearly any blow to their bodies, short of hacking off
important limbs. The best means of dispatching them is to take their heads off. It
disturbs me to think that she has raised an army of these creatures.

The journals do give a hint as to their destruction, however. It seems that the
powers infused into Melesandre, and hence her zombies, through Illugi is keyed to
her unholy symbol of the god. I believe that if we can destroy this item it may
destroy her undead, or at least weaken them to the point where the armies of
Havilah can deal with them.

Another quirk of these undead is that any living thing they slay will arise as one
of them!

The journals also tell of Melisandre’s dealings with other races sympathetic to her
cause. It mentions the yuan-ti extensively, of course, and indicates a connection
with the Himrok orcs as well.

Excitement today came in the form of yet another retriever suddenly appearing
out of no where. We have secured the orb within our bag of holding since the last
one, and Taklinn holds the bag. The retriever could apparently still sense the orb
even within its extra dimensional space and ran straight at Taklinn.

But we have had some practice fighting these beasts by now, and our combined
skills quickly dispatched it, though not before it nearly tore Griff in half.

One other thing: Caribdis took it upon himself to free the yuan-ti prisoners this
afternoon. They caused quite a stir when he led them out, and about a thousand
swords were suddenly leveled at the snake men. Even Griff couldn’t deny that we
could not trust these yuan-ti, and Taklinn and I gently herded them back to their
cells. To their credit they didn’t try to escape.

I plan to cast a couple of Identify spells tomorrow. We have several items, many
potions, and the crystal ball to check.


Rping 12

I cannot sleep, yet I cannot seem to write either. I identified the crystal ball as a
scrying device and learned how to use it this afternoon, and what I saw in it left me
in a state where sleep eludes me.

I decided against trying to scry Melesandre, for I must assume she wears
protective magic’s against such things. So I chose to try to find Freya instead.
Melesandre has hauled Caribdis’ long lost love around with her all this time; I had
no reason to suspect that she was not near her now. And Caribdis still had her scarf,
which allowed me a better chance to scry her.

It worked. Freya’s image in the crystal ball slowly came into shape, and I beheld
her frightened form standing atop a hillock overlooking the once lush fields that
surround Havilah city. As I pulled my view back from her I could see Melesandre!
The witch queen stood not far off, surveying her armies. Suddenly, she whirled
around, and I could tell by the look in her dark eyes that she knew that they were
being scryed.

But I could not break the connection. The scene beyond Melesandre froze me in
place.

Undead. As far as I could see through my small window. They milled about in
loose ranks, an ocean of mindless fodder awaiting Melisandre’s orders to slay their
former countrymen. They were rolling in siege equipment and setting up catapults
under the orders of yuan-ti. There were thousands and thousands of them. The
magnitude of that army made my heart sink. Our force will be a mere drop in the
bucket against such an overwhelming mass of undead.

Then my attention returned to Melesandre, for she was looking right at me. Her
once beautiful face was twisted in a knowing smirk, and I knew that she could not
have cared less if we wanted to spy on her. She believed her plan too far underway
for us to stop. And from the looks of things she was not far off. Her armies looked
as if they might be ready to attack and lay siege to Havilah by tomorrow. Time is
short; we have decided to return to Havilah at first light.

Griff approached me today and asked if he might have a word in private. I was a
bit surprised at this since Griff usually plays his cards pretty close to his vest, and I
wouldn’t consider myself high up on the list of people he’d confide in. So I was
curious as I shut the door to one of the ante chambers to give us some privacy.

He paced the room several times, as if deciding just how to say what he needed to
say. At last, he turned and laid it out.

"Look," he said, "I’m telling you this ’cause I think your the only one who won’t
think I’m crazy. There’s something you have to tell the others, and I think they’ll
take it better coming from you, or at least you’ll know how to explain it."

"Your pregnant?" I quipped. He scowled.

"It’s Roland!" he finally blurted.

"Roland? You mean Roland who used to wield Everyman’s Blade?" I asked.

"Right! That Roland." Griff nodded. "He’s in the sword; part of it somehow, and
he talks to me in my head! He’s been yapping at me for months now! He never
shuts up! He’s worse than Caribdis, always callin’ me the chosen one and such!"

"Interesting!" I exclaimed. "Interesting indeed! It would appear that you are, in
fact, the Chosen One, Griff. And it can’t be too bad, otherwise you would have just
gotten rid of the sword."

He grimaced. "Don’t you think I’ve tried?"

"Oh." I said.

"Anyway, the point is, he’s told me something about that unholy symbol you told
us about. The one that’s supposed to keep Melisandre’s zombies so tough."

"This sounds promising." I said.
"Yeah. Well, according to Roland, Everyman’s Blade is the only thing that can
destroy it. So you gotta tell the rest of ’em to leave it to me. It’ll kill anyone else that
tries to touch it." he paused. "I don’t want the rest of ’em knowing where this came
from though. Okay?"

"Ah, well," I said, "I’m not sure why you don’t trust your friends to take you
seriously, Griff, but I suppose I could tell them that this is some new information
I’ve gleaned from her journals."

"Gleaned. Yeah, that sounds good." He nodded, satisfied with that as a cover
story. He scowled again and walked out the door without another word.

So I’ve done as he asked and told the rest of the crew and our men to leave the
symbol to Griff.

I must lay my quill to rest now and try to get some sleep. This may well be the last
entry in this diary, for tomorrow will see either the liberation or the fall of Havilah.
I say a small prayer tonight to Clangeden, for he is the only god I really know well
enough that I believe he may hear me. My prayer is for our Crew, and our men, and
our city. My prayer is for the safety of us all, but in the end, if we must die, so be it.
So long as we may be buried beneath the soil of a free Havilah.


Rping 13/5

There was little sleep to be had the night before the battle, and still I awoke early.
My spell selection this day would be critical, and I had dwelt upon it even during
my slumber.

The rest were not far behind. Taklinn went about his morning prayers as usual,
but there was a somberness to his tone that I hadn’t heard before. Griff was stoic as
ever, and you’d never have known by his expression that today was different from
any other. I suppose for him, it wasn’t.

Happy chewed at her thumbnail and ate very little of her breakfast. Her eyes went
again and again to Griff, worry creasing her brow. Caribdis chattered nervously, yet
he managed to brighten the morning at least a little.

We broke our fast with Nanden and the crew members who led our motley bunch,
and we hashed out the last details of our plan. The women and children and elderly
who could not fight would be left behind with a small contingent of Nanden’s
people to protect them. The rest of us would use the orb to teleport back to Havilah,
hopefully only a short distance from its sister orb. Then, we would face Melesandre
on the battle field, once and for all.

A thousand pairs of eyes watched us as we broke camp and made our final
preparations. Our lieutenants took command of their groups, and the five of us
walked to the center of the prison antechamber to stand by the rack, once an
instrument of torture, now a table upon which to set the orb. Havalihians and Edik
born pressed in around our small circle, and we could hear their weapons and armor
clinking in the stone chamber. They looked to us for leadership. And we looked to
Griff.

Griff scowled, but oddly enough, did not hesitate to climb up on the rack to
overlook the throng. Silence descended. Caribdis quickly cast Tongues on himself
and translated for the benefit of Nanden’s people as Griff began to speak.

Even the dead rock of this accursed prison could not deaden Griff’s voice, and as I
looked up at him I saw not my old friend Griffin Dorjan, scruffy mercenary and
roustabout. No, that morning I beheld a man that people would follow. A general. A
leader. A hero. His words were simple and direct, and he said them matter of factly,
but each one was a diamond of hope to us as we prepared to plunge into certain
death.

"Listen!" he said in a voice made of steel, "I know your scared. Hell, I’m scared.
So what? Our backs are against the wall and now we fight! She’s destroyed one
world, she’s trying to destroy another. It ends today! Just remember, were not going
out there to fight the thousands she commands. No, we’re out to take down one
person! Melesandre! And from where I’m standing, she’s outnumbered!"

A great cheer swelled and filled the hall. Hundreds of scimitars and bows were
raised. It was deafening, but I found myself yelling as loud as any of them. Griff
stood there like a grim statue, accepting the chorus, letting himself be the focal
point of their hope. I don’t think it was where he wanted to be, but he knew they
needed a figure to believe in. I admired him very much at that moment, and Happy
positively glowed.

"All right." he said and stilled the crowd, "Let’s get this over with." He dropped to
the floor and nodded at Taklinn and I. It was up to us now.

We cast our final preparatory spells. I cast a Fly on Griff after asking his permission
and receiving a shrug. I just had a hunch. I also cast a Polymorph Other on Albert,
changing him into a giant eagle. He was too old to fight, but would not be left
behind. He was to fly to the city and deliver a note to the guard there that we were a
force come to help.

I gathered the three spell casters we had rescued from the prisons. Each man and
woman put a hand on their neighbor so that we were an interconnected group. Each
of us had a connection through flesh with the other, and according to what I had
figured out about the orb, that would send us all back to Havilah.

I glanced to my right as the wizards began to cast spells into the orb at Taklinn’s
signal. Happy stood there touching both Don Kay and her horse, both of whom I
had polymorphed back into their normal equine states the day before. I wished them
luck, and did not envy them. Ambros braced himself within my hat, and I cast an
Ice Shards on myself as Taklinn cast his divine spells into the orb, which was
already beginning to pulse and glow with a dark inner light. It’s glow filled the
room as he cast the last spell into it and followed it with a Plain Shift. And then, all
was blinding white and our stomachs seemed to drop.

The next instant our world was gray sky and the stench of a battle field ruled by
undead. We landed like the wrong end of a magnet in a pile of iron shavings as
zombies were displaced and thrown hundreds of feet from us as we suddenly
appeared among them. They hit the ground and tumbled and splattered, but their ilk
swarmed in to take their places. We were surrounded on all sides by thousands and
thousands of them, and they stumbled and hurled themselves at us in mindless
obedience to their master.

We were at the center of our circle, and we shouted commands to get our bearings
as our outer ranks fielded the first wave of undead. I flew straight up and looked
around.

I saw her. Only a few hundred yards to the east, flanked by her personal guard of
yuan-ti and drider. Our entrance had not gone un noticed by her, I do believe our
eyes locked for a second across the war torn field.

"There!" I cried, pointing with my parasol and flying to the edge of our circle as it
shifted and an entrance parted to allow Griff, Taklinn, Happy and Caribdis to
charge from within and take the lead. Zombies awaited them, and they met with a
ferocious clash. Undead fell, but more stepped in to take their places, despite our
army. Still, Griff and Taklinn pressed forward and we surged ahead, plowing into
the zombies ranks to gain a few precious yards toward Melesandre.

At that point I took a chance and flew forward until I was within range and cast
my Dispel Magic, and I could tell by the look in her face that I’d just deprived her
of several magical enhancements. But I paid the price, for I was only about ten feet
above the heads of her undead army, many of whom carried simple bows and
crossbows. Mindless undead they may have been, but they were certainly able to fill
the air around me with barbed shafts, and despite the Ice Shards protection, I was
hit a couple of times.

My friends fought on, gaining ground as fast as they could against an enemy that
knew no fear. As I flew back to them I saw Melesandre cast a spell that I recognized
as Improved Invisibility, and she winked out. Cursing, I cast See Invisibility on
myself watched her fly forward under the power of her own spell.

Then Taklinn cast. It was a cone of diamond dust that seemed to strip the flesh
away from our enemy and rend their bones. Dozens and dozens dropped before us,
and with a surge our forces charged forward. But still the undead washed in upon
our flanks like ocean waves, and I watched many brave warriors go down, and I knew that
they would only rise again as zombies themselves. We had to hurry.

More arrows found me, but I gritted my teeth and cast a Hold spell at Melesandre.
She laughed as she ignored it, and answered with a terrible casting of her own. All
around us it was as if the very darkness of the abyss itself slithered up through the
earth and caressed us with sickly tentacles. It even reached me, and I felt the world
go gray and then black.

Caribdis tells me that I fell unconscious, but he leapt up to reach me and infused
me with healing. I shook my head to clear it and focused on the witch queen again.

Taklinn cast his spell again, and again the diamond dust blasted zombies into
oblivion. The field before us was suddenly nearly clear of undead, and Griff spurred
his horse on, galloping through zombies on his own to close with the drider. The
two met at the top of a low hill, and I could see their silhouettes as they wheeled
and fought to kill each other. Melisandre’s yuan-ti guard closed around Griff as
well, but Taklinn was already casting another cone of diamond dust.

I tried a polymorph spell on Melesandre, hoping to end this thing with one lucky
spell, but it was not to be, for despite my Dispel on her, she was still well protected.
I could see her fortifying herself still further with clerical enhancements, and I
cursed. All she had to do was out last us. Soon we would simply be overwhelmed
by her army. Worse yet, I knew that I was the only one who could see her. I needed
to somehow get Griff on her.

I resorted to damaging spells and hit her with a Bolt of Conjuring, but she
followed with a volley of Magic Missiles that nearly put me out of commission
again. Still, I flew toward her, determined to point her out to Griff.

Happy darted forward, wanting to help Griff, but she was quickly hemmed in by
undead. Caribdis yelled a warning and fired his bow, but again it was Taklinn’s
spell that cleared a swath through the zombies, and by this time he was close
enough that his cone hit the drider and yuan-ti as well. Several of the yuan-ti fell,
and the remaining ones turned and charged toward Happy.

Caribdis suddenly raced forward, dodging around zombies, his eyes locked on the
figure tied to a chair on the hill. Freya was there, and he meant to rescue her at long
last.

I flew to within ten feet of Melesandre and screamed at Griff! "Here! Griff, she’s
right here!" I pointed at the invisible witch, but she just laughed and peppered me
with another handful of missiles. I groaned, and new I could not take another hit
like that. I fumbled for my potion of healing, desperate to remain conscious so that
at least one of us could see her. "Griffffff!!" I screamed.

And then Griff charged his mount past the drider's flailing arms and delivered a
powerful blow that split its dark body from shoulder to sternum. He wheeled his
horse and it rose on two legs for a second, pounding the air with its front hooves as
Griff raised his bloody sword over his head. His dark eyes fastened on Melesandre,
and I knew that somehow he could see her.

Happy was now surrounded by yuan-ti, and I feared that Griff would ride to her
rescue, but this time he did what had to be done, and he spurred his mount in a dead
charge in our direction. He needn’t have worried, for Taklinn cast his final diamond
dust spell. The beauty of this spell is that it only effects evil, and Happy stood in its
midst as yuan-ti were stripped of their flesh and fell to the ground.

With renewed hope, I cast my own set of Magic Missiles at Melesandre to keep
her off balance as Griff closed the distance. For the first time, I saw fear in her eyes.

Griff was still some thirty feet below us, but he grinned wolfishly as he left the
back of his horse under the power of my Fly spell and closed the gap between
himself and the witch queen. She tried to fly backwards in an attempt to escape, but
he caught her with a great slash from Everyman’s Blade, which now seemed to
glow with eagerness at being in battle with her at last. Her fear turned to
disbelieving terror as she realized she couldn’t get away from Griff. The blood from
her wound ran hot and free, and I suddenly knew that she had not let herself believe
that this could happen, that she might be defeated and need an escape plan. I held
my own casting, hoping to disrupt her with another volley of missiles should she try
to cast. I needn't have worried. She was within Griffin’s reach now, and despite her
magics, she was no match for his fury. Down and back, once, twice, three times,
Everyman’s Blade slashed at her. The first cut took her across the chest, and she
screamed in pain. The second pierced her belly, and it was with a final mighty
backswing that Griff opened a bright gash beneath her chin. Her last expression was
of utter surprise as her head fell backward, nearly severed from her body. A great
gout of blood shot into the air. Griff hovered there, his blade held at a ninety degree
angle from his body, blood dripping from it in slow motion. He did not cut her
again, for she was already dead.

"The symbol, Griff!" I cried as her body began to float to the earth. He settled on
the ground next to her, and brought his sword above his head in two hands. With a
mighty thrust, he brought it down to pierce the symbol hanging at her side.

A great clap of thunder emanated from it, and Griff was sent reeling. The
wave seemed to roll out from Melisandre’s body, and undead simply went from
fighting to falling as it passed through them. Just like that, more than fifty thousand
bodies lay on the fields of Havilah city, lifeless and harmless.

I looked at Griff and he at me, then at the sword in his hand. It was broken.
Everyman’s blade lay in pieces on the ground next to Melesandre. Griff shrugged
and tossed aside the handle. He searched the area for Happy, found her, and began
to walk to her.

We could see yuan-ti break and run, hundreds of them, outnumbered now, and
without leadership or the courage to continue the fight. We heard a great roar erupt
from the direction of Havilah city, and I realized it was the cheer of a people
delivered as the gates of the city opened and first soldiers, then citizens poured out.

Of our forces, only half stood, but they raised a cheer of their own that rivaled that
of the city. Nanden joined Taklinn as he neared me, and Caribdis came toward us,
leading Freya, his eyes glowing with pride.

I settled my feet on the earth again, still woozy with loss of blood. I looked down
at the body of Melesandre, now twisted and hacked apart. A hundred emotions
washed over me, and it was as if the cheers of our men came from very far away.
We had beaten the witch queen at last. It was over, and the five of us still stood. I
looked to the sky and breathed a silent thanks to the powers that be, and began to
walk toward my friends.

The End: Book I
 

cthulhu42

Explorer
Epilogue

The days that followed the end of Melesandre were filled with celebration,
rebuilding, and acclamation.

The crew were, of course, regarded as heroes and adulation was showered on
them. Idas Whitestock, king of Havilah, rewarded them with key items of near
legendary magical status, as well as a sizable sum of gold.

They were also given, at long last, some much needed time off. The next seven
months were spent in the city, though their rest was not without productivity.

Doorag had been awarded very special new accommodations within the academy
that included a state of the art wizards laboratory sized to fit his small stature. He
would spend the better part of his vacation locked away in his lab pursuing the craft
of making magical items. Flush with gold, Taklinn and Happy both took advantage
of Doorag’s offer to fashion items for them as well. Perhaps the most interesting
build was a special request from Happy. She wished for something to make her
bigger, and for as long as she wanted, hinting that such a thing wasn’t so much for
field work as it was to facilitate romance. Five days later he presented her with a
bracelet that would add two feet to her size, putting her just on par with a small
human. She was delighted, and after that she and Griff seemed to become even
closer. The rest of the crew wondered about their relationship, and some even asked
outright. Happy would neither confirm or deny anything, and Griff would simply
ignore the question.

Doorag was also able to visit his family, as well as see The Old Man In The
Pointy Hat again. The pride he had won in his mentors heart was, perhaps, the best
reward Doorag could have hoped for.

Doorag and Taklinn also took on the task of retrieving the remaining people from
Edik, and it was discovered that it was indeed possible. Magic’s were used, and
within a day they had returned the women, children and elderly to their families.

Caribdis became a very busy young man. As he had hoped, Freya was utterly
swept away by his heroism and gallantry. Only days after her rescue Caribdis was
puffing his chest and declaring himself a man. He bought her a fine house, then a
tavern he dubbed the Broken Blade. Griff even went so far as to give him the
remains of Everyman’s Blade which Caribdis displayed in a place of honor. The
Broken Blade was soon the premier meeting place and performing theater in all of
Havilah.

Caribdis and Freya were inseparable. This was the young girl who had once
ignored Caribdis when he was a boy, and here she was, the realization of his quest.
He had tracked her across two worlds and had rescued her, and had won her love.

And yet, Caribdis found out that sometimes the dream is better than reality. As the
end of their time off grew near, his friends began to notice that he always seemed to
be at the Broken Blade, working day and night, and sleeping there as well. They
wondered if he might not be trying to avoid Freya. When pressed about it he
confessed. His vision of Freya had been one of perfection, while the actual young
woman was, in fact, not perfect. He found her a bit short sighted. She was intent on
day to day things that offered security and routine while Caribdis began to yearn
for the open road and the adventures that lie there. She also hinted incessantly
about marriage, children, and his possible retirement from the Crew that he might
better focus his talents to business propositions. And she...well, she nagged.

By the time Caribdis finally spilled all of this to his friends he was well and truly
tired of Freya, and wished nothing more than to never see her again. He was
probably the most eager of them all to go when duty finally called again.

Taklinn left Havilah to return home for a good long stretch. It was a time for him
to be under the stone again, to live with his family and to see his fiance. His deeds
had certainly not gone unnoticed by his clan, and his name was carved into the
Stone of Heroes. He was frugal with his money, and talked often of opening his own
temple to Clangeden one day.

Griff and Happy spent most of their days together, enjoying the city and each
other. Griff trained new recruits in both Havilah’s army and the academy.

One of the more sad casualties of the final battle with Melesandre had been Don
Kay. Happy’s beloved donkey had found herself in the area of one of the witch
queens more foul spells, and the poor beast had been overcome, dieing on the battle
field. Happy mourned her passing, as did the rest of the crew. They all raised their
cups to the staunch animal, and Taklinn gave Hap a rare apology for having once
clouted Don Kay on the head.

Griff also spent considerable time with the people from Edik.

Nanden’s people were strangers in a strange land, and their acclamation took
some doing. Because Griff spoke their language (Everyman’s Blade had instilled
this knowledge upon him) he was able to help them in this.

It was soon obvious, though, that the natives of Edik were ill suited to city life.
For the most part they were tribesmen and herders. They missed the once lush hills
of their home and most of them wished to find a place of their own within Havilah.
With Griffin’s help, Nanden took his plea to King Whitestock, and the king,
appreciating full well the part that Nanden and his people had played in freeing his
own kingdom, granted them their choice of several sites within his borders. They
had only to look them over and choose one. It was this task that was set before the
Crew. King Whitestock asked that they accompany a representative of Nanden’s
people to these locations that he might decide which would best suite them. They
readily agreed, for all of them were beginning to chafe at their inactivity. Even
Doorag, content to while away endless hours tinkering in his lab, was eager to
serve Havilah again, and this seemed like a perfect and worthwhile peacetime
assignment.

Nanden’s people cast their lots and chose their representative. It was decided that
Nanden would stay with his people to govern them, so they chose one of their most
trusted to go in his stead.

He was called Mardath of the line of Roland, and he wore his name with pride.
The crew had noticed him during their fight on the fields of Havilah, for none
among his people had fought so fiercely. He had put himself between crew member
and undead time and again, and both he and his greatsword had been coated with
gore by the time Melesandre fell.

He was tall, and his arms were corded with lean muscle. He bore a wild look
about him, but was surprisingly polite and soft spoken in social settings, as if he
were embarrassed at his broken command of the language. He had only been
learning for seven months, but had caught on quite well, proving that he possessed
intelligence as well as strength.

On the last day of Growfest celebration they strapped on their well worn gear,
mounted up, and rode out of the city in search of a new home for the people of Edik.



From the Diary of Doorag Marzipan: Book II

Prologue

They departed Havilah on the first day of Growfest, and though the idea of
leaving without first properly celebrating banapis did not agree with all of them,
Mardath, at least, was eager to be off, having had quite enough of city life. He was
the first to arrive at their meeting place near the city gates.

One by one the crew arrived, except Happy and Griff, who showed up together.
All arrived with mounts, save Doorag, who had other ideas. Glad for the chance to
use the blasted spell for its intended purpose, he cast a Firebird, and mounted up.
There was some consternation caused by the sudden appearance of the flaming
eagle among the city guard, but these were, after all, the heroes of Havilah, and
they raised not a finger to stop Doorag, who appeared quite oblivious to the panic
he had caused in the nearby equine population. He mounted up, commanded the
bird to lift off, and flew in an ever widening spiral that leveled out to follow the
north road. Griff rolled his eyes a bit, but spurred his mount along to follow. The
rest did likewise, and with that, the Crew took to the road again.

The ride was a relaxing jaunt through the crisp air that smelled of a coming
spring. All around them the earth was waking up, and they could already see
sprouts pushing their way upwards through the destruction left in Melisandre’s
wake. Even seven months had not been enough time for the earth to heal itself from
the damage she had caused, but there was ample evidence that it was on the mend.

Taklinn, Happy, Griff, Caribdis and Mardath rode their mounts on an ever
northward path, talking all the while, laughing at what being back in the saddle
could do to a behind gone seven months soft. Mardath proved to be an amicable
companion, and though his command of the language was far from fluent, he
enjoyed listening to the banter between the crew, sometimes chiming in himself with
a surprising sense of humor. Now and again, they would look overhead and spot the
soaring dot of red that was Doorag on his bird.

For the little wizard, watching the world unfold below in a breathtaking
panoramic view was something he never tired of. He would fly in lazy circles above
the crew, scouting for danger, and grinning at the wind in his face. He did not have
to pick very many bugs out of his teeth before he realized that a scarf to cover his
mouth was a prerequisite of this flying business.

At times, Taklinn, who could cast Firebird as well, would cast his own and soar
alongside Doorag. The two of them amused themselves with races, though it was
obvious that Doorag was the more comfortable in the air. Though Taklinn could
appreciate the exhilaration of flight, he was forever nervous when his feet were not
fully planted on terra firma.

They left the north road after two days, and struck off overland, northwest. At
night Caribdis would employ a new spell he had acquired. It was a long lasting
Leomund’s Secure Shelter that provided them with beds and fireplace. A far cry
from their old tents and campfires to be sure! They spent long hours after dinner,
sitting outside beneath the stars, retelling stories and enjoying each others company
as they had not done for what seemed like a very long time.

Or at least most of them did. Caribdis had taken to bringing a bottle of strong
drink with him to the fireside, and he would brood over it, taking long swallows and
adding little to the conversation until he would fall into an alcohol induced
slumber. Taklinn always carried him into the shelter and put the boy to bed.
Caribdis had also, apparently, stopped shaving or combing his hair. By the fourth
day on the road his beard was showing signs of life, while his appearance was
steadily declining. Taklinn made a comment on this at last, but Caribdis merely
grunted and shrugged, obviously not caring what the dwarf thought.

On the fifth day Caribdis’ appearance was forgotten, for they came at last to the
first of the plots of land being offered to Nanden’s people by the king of Havilah.
They followed their map to a lush valley that rippled with spring grasses. A clear
river flowed through ripe farmlands and pasture while miles of oak, elm, and fir
bordered the valley. It was a prime plot, and Mardath nodded appreciatively as
they let their mounts meander to a campsite located near the river. Doorag
settled his mount some distance from the horses, and was about to dismount and
join his friends when it became apparent that the valley was not without
inhabitants.

From a grove of trees a stones throw from the campsite stepped five monstrosities
the likes of which they had never seen. They were giant sized and grotesque. Each
of them sported a third arm swinging from their chests, and each of them was
festooned with copious amounts of gaudy jewelry. Their size was such that they
wore necklaces as bracelets and bracelets as rings. They carried crude clubs and
tree trunks which they held menacingly.

The two groups eyed each other for a long moment, neither of them sure of the
others intentions. It was, of course, Caribdis who broke the stalemate. The bard
stepped forward, uttering a particularly chilling poem of death and slaughter.
Doorag could practically see the magic flowing from the boys mouth.

The creatures felt it, the fear as it welled up inside them, but was, apparently,
pushed back down again. These monsters were made of sterner stuff and they
howled their disapproval at having been the target of such a spell. Clubs were
raised. Griff’s sword appeared in his hand. Taklinn stepped up, angling to get
between the three-armed giants, and Caribdis, who said, "Uh oh." and reached for
an arrow. Happy stepped into Griff’s shadow, shielding handfuls of daggers from
the eyes of the giants. Doorag spurred his bird and the great flaming eagle heaved
into the sky, banking around to circle the clearing. And Mardath. Mardath broke
into a dead run, charging one of the giants, his greatsword held away from his
body. His teeth clenched into a gate, opening only to allow the escape of a tribal
war shriek that caused one and all to snap their heads to follow him for an instant.

The clash of flesh and steel echoed above the tree tops as Doorag surveyed the
battle from thirty feet in the air. He pulled the reins of the bird, and it banked hard,
coming around to let him see that these giants were not to be trifled with. He saw
Taklinn head off one of them that had been making its way toward Caribdis, but
another slipped by. It took three arrows, point blank, from the bard, and never
faltered. The giant slammed Caribdis with the business end of a tree trunk, and he
was sent reeling, franticly drawing his sword.

Doorag put the heels to his bird, and it swooped in low as he let fly a
Hold Monster at the giant. It stopped in its tracks, and Caribdis waved his thanks to
Doorag before picking his bow back up. He did not have far to look for a target.

Griff and Happy flanked a third giant, the warrior keeping the thing busy with
hard cuts to its midsection while the halfling dodged between its feet to deliver
crippling stabs to vital organs. The giant sagged and faltered, but a second giant
soon joined the fight, and the duo suddenly had their hands full.

Mardath and a giant stood toe to toe, swinging, being hit, swinging again, making
contact, breaking bones and spraying blood. Mardath gave not an inch. The
muscles on his neck stood out like sail rope as he pressed his much larger and
heavier opponent. He forced the giant back a step with a long gash across the leg,
but the giant gave as good as he got, smashing Mardath again and again with a six
foot long club. As Doorag circled around, he could see that Mardath would not last
long, and he readied another spell.

Taklinn seemed somehow at ease with his giant, as if he took particular delight
with the trouble the giant had hitting him. Again and again the dwarf either dodged
or angled himself so that the club merely glanced off his armor. Then Taklinn would
answer with his pair of axes, shattering a kneecap, hacking open a thigh. Blood
flowed unchecked down the giants lower extremities, and it was failing fast, for
Caribdis had begun to fill it full of highly potent arrows. The bard was now capable
of greatly enhancing his shafts, and it showed.

Griff and Hap finished off one giant and focused on the second. The monster beat
away at the fighter, but Griff merely grunted and rushed in to close with it, stabbing
deep with his sword while Happy hamstrung the giant from behind.

Mardath was in real trouble, though one would not have known from the look on
his face, which was still contorted in rage and battle lust. Again and again his
greatsword bit into the giant, but the fact was, he was losing. Doorag could hear
the crunch of bone as the giant hit Mardath, finally sending the warrior stumbling
back a step. He knew that Mardath would not likely survive another such blow. He
decided to try a long shot, knowing that the odds were against him, but the prize
was high. The Polymorph spell caught the giant in mid swing, and just like that, it
was a kitten; a furry, tabby with a look of utter shock on its face.

Doorag turned to see how the rest were doing just in time to watch Caribdis fire
an arrow into the forehead of the giant he had held. The monster died instantly.
Happy and Griff had already killed theirs, and Taklinn’s lay dead as well. Mardath
seemed to come out of his frenzied state. The tall warrior staggered across the
clearing, reeling drunkenly and supporting himself with his sword. He made it to
where Taklinn stood and said, in his broken Havalihan, "So, I hear you can heal!"
And then he fell over, unconscious and losing blood. The dwarf was quick to kneel
over Mardath and pull him from the brink of death.

 

cthulhu42

Explorer
Grwfst 6

This has certainly been an eventful day!

After having defeated the grip of three armed giants we decided to camp for the
night. Caribdis cast his shelter and we bedded down. Unbeknownst to us, Taklinn
was paid a night time visit.

I am unsure whether our cleric was visited in a dream or if his vision was more
"real", but in any case when I awoke early the next morning I was surprised to find
him already up, his bearded face locked into a dour grimace as he absentmindedly
poked the ashes of our fire from the previous night. Thinking nothing of it, I chirped a
pleasant good morning to him and went about my morning rituals. From time to
time I would catch him from the corner of my eye as he sat there, stoically,
apparently lost in deep thought. I resolved not to bother him, and as it turns out, my
questions were soon answered anyway.

An hour later the rest of the crew had risen and breakfast was well under way.
Caribdis washed down his rations with something that smelled oddly of alcohol,
and I glanced to Taklinn for the disapproving frown that should have been there, but
he was still in a world of his own. His eyes seemed not to focus on anything beyond
his own nose, and I began to wonder very much what was on his mind.

I did not have to wait long.

Our stout cleric sighed and pushed away his half eaten meal. He stood up,
brushing away the dust, and cleared his throat with a gravely rumble.

"I must take my leave of you." he announced, without fanfare.

A bit of milk shot out my nose at his declaration as it took all of us off guard.
Even Griff raised a questioning eyebrow, and Caribdis, though he seems to have
been distancing himself from Taklinn a bit of late, looked as if he had been pole
axed by the statement.

"Leave us? What do you mean, leave us?" I asked.

"Just what I said. I have business to attend to that I cannot ask you to help with. I
hope to rejoin you, but I don’t know..."

Happy had leapt to her feet, real concern on her face. "This is awfully sudden,
Taklinn," she said, "Maybe you should tell us what your talking about and let us
decide if we can help you or not."

I was surprised to hear Mardath chime in on this, but his words were full of
simple wisdom. "Yes," he said, struggling to put the words into our language, "Are
we not brothers in arms? I will help if I can."

Taklinn sighed again and began to pace slowly across the campsite. I could tell
that he was trying to put his words together. "You remember when I lost my arm?"
he asked after several minutes.

"How could we not?" Griff grunted. "Yigil had to reattach it."

"Yeah, well, Yigil didn’t exactly put my old arm back on," Taklinn explained, "He
sort of... replaced it. Or rather, he asked a favor on my behalf of some very
powerful beings. They granted the favor and gave me this limb, but Yigil told me
then to expect a price to be paid for it one day. What could I do but agree, though it
galled me to owe a favor to an entity I know nothing of. All Yigil could, or would,
tell me was that those who gave me the arm are celestial beings of sorts. They are of
the light, so I fear not the infection of evil, yet they share no direct connection to
Clangeden, and therefore I have never been entirely comfortable with the bargain.
Still, what could I do? By the time I awoke the arm was already attached to my
shoulder, and I could not bare the notion of serving Clangeden at half strength. To
have lost that arm forever would have meant my leaving this crew and returning
home a failure."

"’They’?" I asked.

"Yes, there are more than one. I do not know the nature of these beings, but
according to what little I do know we are talking about a consortium of beings who
dwell outside the ken of mortal men. Yigil assures me that they seek only to foil the
plots of evil in this and all realms. I have thought little about it as of late. It has been
a long time, and I wondered if I were ever to be asked to repay the favor, but last
night I was visited with a vision and told me that payment is due." Taklinn glanced at
the sky to check the time. "Supposedly, when the sun has reached noontime today,
there will come an emissary from this cabal to explain all of this in detail. Yet the
point remains, this is my debt to pay. I will not ask the rest of you to risk yourselves
for it."

Griff rolled his eyes and barked a short laugh. "Ever noble, Taklinn. Fat chance
we’re gonna let you have all the fun!"

"He’s right, Taklinn," Happy interjected, "We’re a Crew. More than that, we’re
your friends! Of course we’ll help you!"

A chorus of ’ayes!’ sounded from all of us. Even Mardath showed no hesitation at
plunging into unknown danger. Taklinn sighed again. "Thank you." he said. "I
feared that such would be the case. I cannot force you to not follow me, but first we
should wait until the emissary has given us more information. Also, it must be taken
into consideration that we already have a job to do. We are currently under orders to
find Mardath’s people a home. I feel that my debt usurps that, but it doesn’t for the
rest of you."

And so we waited, nervously sitting around the campsite, all eyes continually
watching the sun crawl across the sky, waiting for it to reach its zenith, not knowing
what noon would bring.

When, at last, the sun hung directly over our heads, the emissary came. It was as
if every dappled beam of sunlight suddenly coalesced into a figure so bright that we
could barely look at it without shielding our eyes. It took the form of a man, yet its
visage was that of oil on water, for its body shimmered and swam with every color
of the rainbow. Light radiated from it with fierce intensity, yet we were all strangely
calmed by its presence. It’s voice resonated and seemed to echo within us. It was the
voice of not one, but a chorus of many within one body. I was immediately
fascinated.

"Taklinn." It spoke without fanfare, "Are you ready to receive your direction?"

"I am." Our cleric answered bluntly.

"And your companions?" The being intoned.

"They have resolved to accompany me.

"It is as We have foreseen. This is good. You will need help in your coming trial."

I could stand it no longer. My curiosity got the better of me and I strode forward,
eyeing the things mirror-like, rainbow patterned surface closely. "What do you
mean, ’We’?" I questioned.

"Doorag..." Taklinn tried to interrupt.

"How many of you are there?" I asked, ignoring Taklinn.

"Doorag!" the dwarf tried again.

"And for that matter, just exactly who are you? And how did you attach that arm
to Taklinn, and what’s it made of? Oh, and where do you come from..."

"DOORAG!" Taklinn’s boom finally cut me off and I flinched sheepishly.

"Fear not, Taklinn," the emissary cut in mildly, "It is natural for the little one to
have questions. It is his nature. We are sure that many questions must be
forthcoming. We will answer what We must, but know that not every question will
be satisfied, not every answer will be clear, and there is much that We must allow to
remain unseen. As for who We are, We can tell you only that We are celestials,
outsiders, who seek balance and truth, not only on this world, but on all worlds. We
are many, yet We are one. We work in unison to advance a greater good where ever
evil seeks to insinuate itself. As for Taklinn’s arm, We do not wish to reveal its
secret, though its origin is of little immediate importance."

Griff, having had enough of this Q&A, decided to get right to the point. "Just tell
us what we’re supposed to do already." he stated.

Though the being had no facial features of which to speak, I felt its smile at
Griff’s words.

"We feel a great evil presence upon this world, an evil with which you are
qualified to contend. We ask that you seek out this evil and put an end to it. It’s
name is Acessiwall, and it is a dragon. The creature resides to the far north, encased
in a lair of ice and snow as befits one of his ilk. He could be considered weak for
his species, for he is a white dragon, and therefore technically inferior to his
cousins. Yet Acessiwall is quite ancient and ambitious. He possesses an intelligence
far beyond the ken of his kind, and he seeks to spread his influence across
the realm through machinations even We have been unable to ascertain. We would
have you seek him out and destroy him. That is your task."

Silence followed this announcement, broken at last by Caribdis, who had been
strangely silent thus far.

"A dragon?" he gulped. "A dragon! You must be out of your mind! Or minds! We
fought a dragon a long time ago and it nearly killed us! This dragon sounds a lot
bigger and badder than that one!"

"It is." the emissary answered blithely.

"Consider it done." Taklinn said bluntly.

"Now just a dog gone minute..." Caribdis began, but Taklinn cut him off.

"I told you that you didn’t have to go, boy. This is my debt, and it will be repaid.
One way or another." Caribdis bit back his words and visibly sulked.

"A dragon?" Mardath intoned wonderingly, "I have heard of such beasts on my
own world, but have never seen one. They are said to be the most dangerous of all
enemies. I will fight with you, dwarf."

"Yep." said Griff.

"Umm, well, I guess so..." Happy chimed in, though she didn’t sound nearly as
sure about it as our two fighter friends. As for me, there had never been a question
as to whether or not I would follow Taklinn into the very pits of hell. Still, the
notion of taking on an ancient white dragon was a bit disconcerting. We are a
powerful Crew, no doubt, but a dragon? Still, I nodded and resolved to help Taklinn
in any way I could.

The emissary seemed satisfied with our responses. "Acessiwall is a powerful
creature and cannot be defeated by your lot without aid. To this end We provide
you with this." In his hand there appeared an amulet of strange stone which glowed
mellowly. It’s dull light faded as the emissary handed it to Taklinn, but I knew that
its shimmer was just beneath the surface. My curiosity was piqued anew. "This
token will help in your battle, though its secrets must be uncovered. About it We
will say no more. Acessiwall holds his council many months ride from here in the
frozen wastes of the north. We will transport you closer to his lair, though there will
still be much travel before you find him. We will take you to the village of Finch
where you will meet another who will ally with you against the dragon. Are all
agreed?"

"Meet with someone else? Who...?" Caribdis began. But Griff was getting antsy.

"We’re agreed already!" he rasped, "Do what your gonna do!"

"Gather your belongings and your mounts." The emissary said. Make haste, for
my time here is short.

Silently, and a bit uncertainly, we did so, bringing the horses together and
shouldering our packs. The emissary instructed us to clasp hands, to form an
unbroken chain of man and beast, and I knew we were about to be teleported. There
was that feeling of the ground dropping away beneath our feet, a flash of blinding
light, as we passed through the dimensions of time and space. In the next instant,
we felt the knife like blast of a wind so cold I feared it would tear my cloak straight
from me! All around us was snow covered forest, and Hap and I immediately sank to
our thighs in the powdery stuff. The emissary was nowhere to be seen, but it was
evident that he had left us on a path of some kind that meandered through the trees.
And we were not alone. A straggling caravan, heading the opposite direction,
shared it with us. They were humans, heavily bundled up against the weather, and
our arrival caused great chaos within their ranks.

"Gods save us!" cried one old woman, "More of them have come to slay us!
Cirilli! More demons!"

We looked around franticly, weapons at the ready at the word, ’demons’, but soon
realized she was referring to us as she made the sign of the forked horns at us and
scurried away. We made to call out and assure her that we were certainly not
demons, but she and the rest of the caravan of folk were in a panic, plunging into
the forest in an attempt to flee. At last, a short fellow with a bulbous, red, nose
approached us. He pushed his hood from his face and I could see that he was
probably a gnome. His stature was roughly that of mine and Happy’s, but he
appeared a bit more robust. He gave us the once over and spat onto the snow.

"Yer no demons!" he announced.

"No. We’re not." Griffin agreed wryly. "Who are you and what’s going on?"

"I’m Cirilli Treetrapweaver, sheriff of Finch. Right now we’re fleeing from a
demon that has taken over our village! It’s back that way about half a mile! If I were
you, I’d come with us! The beast is hideous! Dead set on killing us all! Quick,
follow me and I’ll lead you to shelter!"

"Hmph!" Taklinn sniffed, hefting his axe, looking down the trail in the direction
of the village.

"A demon?" Mardath repeated, "I have never seen a real demon! I should like to
kill it!" He grinned an unsettling grin and swung his greatsword in a lazy swath.

"We’ll take care of your demon." Griff said to Cirilli, and without another word he
made off through the snow.

"Your crazy!" the gnome cried at our backs. "It will kill you all! It will..." but his
words were lost in the howl of wind and snow. We marched through the forest,
huddled in our cloaks, and presently we rounded a bend that allowed us to see the
tiny village of Finch, blanketed in thick snow, and utterly silent. Everyone had
apparently fled, and the village was eerily quiet and covered in white. We spread
out a bit and entered the village cautiously. I cast a Fly on myself just in case, and
Caribdis softly whispered a rhyme as he knocked an arrow. Griff, Mardath and
Taklinn strode forward, weapons at the ready, while Happy pressed herself against
a building, sliding along its length for maximum cover, her daggers pressed against
her inner arms.

Presently we discovered a set of tracks in the snow that did not match any of the
booted prints we’d seen leaving Finch. These tracks certainly looked demonic
enough, what with their claw markings. They led to the door of what appeared to be
a general supply store. Hap pressed her ear to the door and nodded, signifying that
she could hear movement within. We looked at one another and readied ourselves
to face an unknown foe. Griff took a breath, and with Mardath and Taklinn flanking
him, he kicked open the door.

Grwfst 6 (con’t)

An instant before Griff kicked open the door I reached out and cast invisibility on
Hap. As she faded from view I pitied anyone she blindsided.

The door gave way easily under Griff’s boot. He followed it in, sword at the
ready, with Taklinn and Mardath following. I knew that Happy would slip in behind
them. Caribdis went in last, while I stayed outside for the moment, not wanting to
put all of our eggs into one basket. I listened closely for a moment, heard Griff ask,
"Who the hell are you?". I could not hear the reply, but a short laugh followed it. I
could wait no longer, and attempted to slide into the store with as little fanfare as
possible.

There I beheld the Crew standing in a rough semicircle around a creature whose
type I have read about, but never dreamed of actually seeing. He was a half-dragon,
and stood well over seven feet tall, not even taking into account his folded wingtips
that arched above his back. His flesh was leathery white, with little body hair to
speak of. His hands and feet were bare and taloned, and it was easy to see how the
lesser educated could mistake him for a demon.

The half-dragon was standing near the store counter, a pile of goods stacked there,
and more in his hands. He dropped a coil of rope and some hard tack, raising his
hands in surrender. Mardath looked from the half-dragon to Griff and back again, as
if for a command. "So we kill him now?" he finally asked.

"I told you, I’m no demon!" the half-dragon spoke, with surprising eloquence. My
name is Taigel, I am dragon spawn, but I mean no harm!"

Griff did not sheath his sword, but he did lower it a tad. "Hmmm, probably not
this time." he answered Mardath. I could detect just the faintest hint of
disappointment in his voice. Griff glanced at me and I nodded.

"He’s telling the truth about being dragon spawn. I’ve studied his kind in the past,
and he fits the description of an advanced example of his species to a tee."

"That’s because its exactly what I am." the half-dragon snorted indignantly. My
father is a white wurm, my mother, a human seduced by him in the form of a man.
But I am not my father! I wish only to live in peace, which is why I reside in this
forsaken wood. I come to Finch only for necessary supplies. The folk here are
superstitious and will not be swayed in their belief that I am a demon. Every time I
come here they break into panic and flee, so I take what I need and leave payment
behind. See?" He jingled a purse at his side to signify that he possessed coin.

Griff scowled and I knew we were all thinking the same thing. Taklinn put it into
words. "A white dragon, you say? Does your father have a name, Taigel?"

"As a matter of fact, he does. It is Acessiwall."

Caribdis groaned at this news and Happy laughed sardonically.

"It would appear that your celestial friends have put us here in Finch at a most
fortuitous time, Taklinn." I said. The dwarf grunted a reply at me.

"Taigel," Taklinn said, "How do you get on with yer old man?"

"Well, not that its any of your business, but since you are the ones with swords,
I’ll tell you that I don’t get on with him at all. He is evil to the core and was the
cause of horrible pain to my mother. I would see him dead, but I am no match for
him."

"Really?" Griff stepped in, smiling dangerously, "And do you know where old
Acessiwall lives?"

"Yes." replied Taigel, innocently enough, "About three hundred miles north of
here in the mountains of ice."

I clapped Taklinn on the back. "Taklinn, my friend, I think we have found
ourselves a guide!"

Grwfst 6 (con’t)

As it turned out, Taigel not only hated his father, but had actively sought out a
means of his death. He would never be a match for the old wurm himself, but given
the possibility of assistance, his interest was piqued.

We rolled barrels onto their ends to use as stools while we came to a mutual
understanding. Taklinn produced his strange amulet and contemplated it. "It must
be consecrated in dragons blood." he stated flatly.

"It does?" I asked, "How do you know that?"

"I just do!" Taklinn gave me a look.

"Ah. Forgive me, I am not as used to celestial visions."

"Dragon’s blood!" Caribdis piped up, "You don’t think it’d work if we used his
blood, do you?" He eagerly looked at Taigel. The half-dragon’s reptilian/human
eyes narrowed, and he showed a glimmer of snow white fang. Caribdis did not
suggest such a thing again.

Though I must admit, the idea isn’t so far off base. Taklinn did not say, and
apparently doesn’t know exactly how much dragons blood is required. Could a pin
pricks worth of blood possibly empower the relic?

Still, we do not even know what the amulet does. I shall have to study it further.

Happy tossed a dagger casually into a knothole the size of a silver piece from
fifteen paces. It thunked satisfyingly as Griff got to the point. "Look," he laid it out
for our new friend, "We’ve been, err, commissioned to slay Acessiwall. That amulet
is supposed to be able to help us do that. Now, you also want him dead, and you
know where he lives. It wasn’t coincidence that dropped you in our laps, so join us
and lets kill this bastard!"

Taigel could hardly argue the wisdom of Griff’s words. We had been paired by
forces far larger than ourselves. The hands of immortal beings was at work here, and
I, for one, felt a certain foreboding because of that. Still, it was a good match. In short
order Griff had found the shopkeepers selection of ales and was pouring not only
for himself, but Mardath, Caribdis and Taigel as well. By this time Cirilli returned to
find out what had become of his town, only to find the heroes cavorting with the
demon! In the end, the gnome was made to understand that Taigel meant no harm,
possessed gold to pay his supply and drink bill, and would be leaving in the
morning with us. The sheriff still looked at Taigel distrustfully, but it beat spending
the night in an old bear cave. Taklinn escorted him to retrieve the townsfolk.

We paid our bills and arranged for them to stable our mounts for the coming
weeks. There was no inn, per se, but we managed to rent the common room at the
villages only tavern. I gathered everyone about me. "Before you boys get too much
further into your cups and your warrior talk, we have a couple of things to address.
For one thing, we are still under obligation to Havilah to seek out a home for
Mardath’s people. Nanden provided us with much during the war with Melesandre,
and we owe him our attention in this matter. Still, this is a personal debt owed by
Taklinn. He cannot devote himself to our appointed task until he completes this one.
Without him, we are at a severe disadvantage. Without us to aid him against the
dragon, I fear that he will be at an even greater disadvantage. No offense, Taklinn."

"None taken, lad."

"Therefore," I continued, "It is our duty to petition the Academy and the King to
release us from our current mission, or to at least postpone it. It should be
understood that there is a very real possibility of our request being denied."

I let that sink in a little, sighing inwardly. I knew that if Havilah bid us stay our
ordered course, we could be looking at a very serious situation indeed. Taklinn
would certainly still seek to repay his debt. Loyalty to a kingdom was one thing. A
debt to a dwarf is, apparently, an entirely different matter.

If Taklinn went, odds were that Caribdis would go. And it was hard to see Griff
and Happy waving goodbye to those two while they elected let someone else tell
them what to do.

Still, perhaps it wouldn’t be an issue.

"There is another point." I said, "I know a little about dragons, but not nearly
enough to properly be prepared against an ancient wurm the likes of Acessiwall. I
need access to the Academy library. To those ends, I’m going to teleport to Havilah
and hopefully resolve both of them. If all goes well I’ll be back in several hours.
Agreed?"

"Yer right, Doorag." Taklinn nodded. "I follow Havilah’s law and know we need
to do what is right. I trust Nivin Motel’s judgment on this matter. And if he does
give us the stamp of approval, we’ll need all the information about these lizards you
can cram into yer little head!"

The others agreed, and I wasted no time. Stepping back from them, I waved
goodbye, pictured the Academy courtyard, and said the words.

And I was there.



Grwfst 6 (con’t)

In the blink of an eye I was standing in courtyard on the east side of the Academy.
Several people gawked and I startled one old woman rather badly, I’m afraid, but I
am now well recognized among most of the citizenry due to the bards and artists
who have had their way not only with our story, but with our images.

I’m not overjoyed to have been made an icon, but I suppose it comes with the
territory.

The change in weather was dramatic. Even with the fire stoked in Finch’s Inn the
wind had still cut right through the stout wood walls. Here in Havilah, the birds
sang in the trees that lined the wide path that led to the Academy’s east entrance,
and the sun baked away the bit of chill that remained in the air.

I made my way directly to Nivin Motel’s office and informed his secretary that I
needed an audience with the Dean. The old man noted the set of my jaw and hurried
to relay my message. Unfortunately I was told that I would have to wait an hour, as
Nivin was attending an audience with the King. I told the secretary that I
understood and would return.

With a bit of time to kill I returned to my chambers, making sure that everything
was still the way I’d left it. I had an unseen servant clear away the dust while I
pursued what information I could about dragons from my own library. My
bestiaries told me what I already knew and clarified a few points, but I knew that I
would still need to visit the schools library.

A short time later I was back in Nivin’s antechamber and presently was ushered
through his office doors.

The old man greeted me warmly as I entered, and despite the fact that I was
supposed to be in the field on Academy business, he seemed genuinely happy to see
me. He tugged his beard and poured me a glass of something that crackled a bit as I
sipped it before we both took our seats, he, behind his massive, oak, desk. His tom
cat familiar sat serenely and still as a statue on top of a small pile of books. I sat in a
comfortable leather chair on the opposite side. I had to use a pillow to sit on so I
could see him.

"Now then, Doorag, what brings you back to Havilah?" He asked with a twinkle
in his eye, "I trust everything goes well on your surveying expedition,"

I took a deep breath. "Well, sir," I began, "Actually there has been a bit of a
snag..."

And I told him everything. Taklinn’s arm, Yigil’s aid, Taklinn’s debt, his vision,
the visit by the celestial emissary, our detour of many hundreds of miles to the
northern wastes, Acessiwall, Taigel, and so on and so forth.

"So you see, sir," I finished my fifteen minute diatribe, "We have a bit of a
situation where Taklinn is torn between his loyalty to Havilah, and his honor. His
dilemma carries over to us all, and therefore I must petition, on behalf of myself and
the entire crew, Mardath included, a suspension of our current mission so that we
can aid Taklinn in satisfying his debt. We also wish to point out that slaying this
Acessiwall would probably be in the best interest of the world as a whole."

Nivin looked thoughtful and tugged his beard a bit more. He scratched himself a
bit, coughed, looked thoughtful some more, and at last said, "Doorag, it appears that
your crew has already made their decision. You are already far beyond Havilah’s
borders, and with the obvious exception of yourself, they have no readily available
means of returning." He picked up a battered old pipe and began to fill it with
smokeweed.

"Ah, well, yes, there is that." I replied, "That was a rather spur of the moment
choice, I’ll admit, but Taklinn, at least, was going to go no matter what."

"So it was a matter of duty verses friendship?" Nivin asked, tamping the weed
into his bowl with a thick finger.

"I suppose it was, sir." I admitted.

"Tell me, Doorag, what do you think your crew would do if I were to tell you that
they must return and fulfill their appointed task?"

I cleared my throat. "Well sir, honestly I’m afraid that Taklinn would ignore your
order. It would break his heart to do so, but in the end Clangeden and his family’s
honor will always usurp his loyalty to a human ruled government. I don’t think I
have to tell you what Griffin thinks of other people telling him what to do. He’ll
follow an order as long as it’s what he wants to do, but I think, if pushed, he’d shrug
off the Academy in about two seconds. Same goes for Happy, not to mention that
she and Griff are quite close. I think she would take his lead. And Caribdis, well, to
be quite honest, I don’t even think he knows what he’s going to do at any given
moment. I might just as well flip a coin to give you his supposed answer."

Nivin had gotten his smokeweed packed just so, and lit it with a flame from his
finger. He drew deeply and leaned back in his chair. "It sounds as if you're not
terribly confident in your crews loyalty to Havilah, Doorag."

I shrugged. "They are who they are, sir. I can’t fault them for their individualistic
ways or sense of honor. Perhaps it’s their strong sense of identity that makes us
work so well together. I’m not sure, but I do know that I wouldn’t change them if I
could."

Nivin pursed his lips and drew on his pipe stem before considering me through a
thick cloud of blue smoke. "And you, Doorag?" he said, at last, "What would you
do? Would you choose your friends, or Havilah?"

I stared at him. "Sir, its hardly fair to ask me this. Even my suppositions about my
friends could well be wrong. Your asking me to confirm my loyalty, when I would
hope that it would be unquestioned!"

"No one is questioning your loyalty, Doorag," Nivin smiled his grandfatherly
smile with no hint of malice, "But I am within my right to ask, and ask I shall."

I swallowed hard. "Is that an order, sir?" Nivin raised his eyebrows in surprise,
and seemed to chuckle at the idea.

"Well, yes. I suppose it is."

I nodded glumly and got down from my chair so that I could go to the open
window and look down on the courtyard. I stood there, my back to Nivin,
considering the question at length. Finally, I whispered, "Havilah. I would choose
Havilah." I regretted the words as soon as they came out of my mouth. I felt
ashamed, as if I had betrayed my friends, but I knew that they were true.

Nivin stood beside me and rested a hand on my shoulder. "Do not be glum,
Doorag. You simply see a different picture than your friends. You hold a slightly
different set of values. Yet they are not so far removed that they invalidate each
other. I know that you consider the people of Havilah your family. You have made
the Academy and this city your home. There is no shame in loving your home and
family enough to forgo all others. Havilah is lucky to have protectors such as you.
And she is still also lucky to have friends like Taklinn and Happy and Griff and
Caribdis."

I sighed and straightened a bit. He continued.

"Doorag, I grant you your request. Your crew may follow it’s own instincts as you
have in the past, for that is how you seem to best serve Havilah. You have the
blessings of the Academy and the court. Fear not, I shall inform the king. He will
understand. I will also speak with Nanden, and perhaps another crew can be put to
use in finding his people a home. I wish you well, and will expect a full report upon
your return."

"Thank you, sir." I said, bowing low and saying no more. The hard question as to
where my heart lay still hung heavily upon me. I bid him farewell and closed the
door behind me. Once in the hall, I took a deep breath and resolved to focus on the
task at hand. I walked toward the library.

Grwfst 6 (con’t)

As it turns out, dragons are an oft studied species and there was an entire shelf
dedicated specifically to their reference material. I was soon sequestered in a
reading room, flanked by stacks and stacks of books that focused on dragons. Their
ecology, diet, variances, strengths, weaknesses, life cycles, history, and on and on.
Many of the tomes contradicted each other, but several offered reputable and
invaluable information. Gwostell’s, Dragons By Their Color, Bindibat’s, Wurms of
the World, and Aaron the Blind Sage’s, White Dragons: A Complete Study were full
of hard fact that I could use. Even a small treatise called, So You Want To Kill A
Dragon? by someone called Hadrian Epfhresure contained a few choice iota’s of
white dragon weak spots and gave a strategic tip or two on fighting them.

I filled several pages with notes. It took me the better part of five hours, but in the
end I was satisfied that I now understood our enemy much better than previously.
Unfortunately, what I had learned filled me with dread.

With my notes secured in my haversack, I made for the courtyard once again,
eager to return to Finch. Once in the fading daylight, I walked to a spot under an
ancient oak, pictured the interior of the tavern, and disappeared.

When I arrived back in the inn, it was quiet. All were well asleep except for
Griff, who sat leaning back in a chair, his boots on a table with a bottle nestled on
his hand. Caribdis was at the same table, still in his chair, passed out. His hand still
gripped an ale mug. Happy snoozed in a makeshift hammock suspended from a
beam, while Taklinn, Mardath and Taigel all used tables as beds. Obviously
Caribdis had gotten too drunk and had passed out before he could provide proper
shelter and beds via his Leomund’s shelter. Still, compared to many of the places
we’ve slept, it could have been far worse.

Griff raised an eyebrow at my entrance and tipped his bottle toward me in salute. I
walked to the table and helped myself to a mug of water from the clay pitcher there.

"Everything go alright in Havilah?" Griff asked, matter of factly, taking a pull
from the bottle.

"Not bad." I replied, "We’ve been released from our mission for Nanden and I
found out a few things about white dragons. I’m tired, but I got what I went there
for." I did not mention Nivin’s pointed questions, and I felt another small wash of
shame. Perhaps I had been wrong, I thought. Looking at Griff now, it was hard to
picture him turning his back on Havilah. I hoped that I was wrong.

"I still have some work to do." I said. Griff grunted and took another swig. I made
my way to a table near the fire, lit a candle, and began this diary entry.

It has indeed been an eventful day, and I believe that tomorrow will bring more of
the same. We are slated to traverse an impossibly large expanse of tundra in search
of Acessiwall. I suppose I will want to be sharp for that. It’s time I got some rest.
 

cthulhu42

Explorer
Grwfst 7

Today began on an dangerous and unsettling note.
We spent the morning gathering our supplies for the journey ahead and arranging
stabling for the mounts that Griff, Happy, Caribdis and Mardath had brought along.
The horses would not survive the frozen waste that awaited us, so our four riders
paid handsomely to have them sheltered.

I let Caribdis eat a bit of breakfast to take the edge off of his hangover before I
gathered the crew around a table in the Inn. I took out my scrolls of notes and
unrolled them.

"As I told Griff last night, Nivin has given us leave to follow our own instincts.
We are on our own until we return to Havilah. Mardath, Nivin assures me that
another crew will be dispatched to secure land for your people." Mardath nodded.

I carried on. "I spent several hours in the library and came away with a pretty
good idea of what we’ll be facing, though I have a feeling that Acessiwall is an
exception among his kind. You see, there are many varieties of dragons, as you
already know. We fought a young red way back when, and I’m sure you all
remember how tough that was. Trust me when I say that Acessiwall will be a far
greater challenge. The red we faced was barely a hatchling. It was still a long way
from its ultimate power, while Acessiwall, if I understand things correctly, has
already surpassed the apex of power that most whites dragons reach."

"Let me break what I have down for you point by point: White dragons are
generally considered one of the weakest of the species, both in terms of raw power
and intelligence, no offense, Taigel."

"Go on." the half dragon said stoically.

"Physically Acessiwall will be very strong and he will command many attacks.
His jaws, claws, wings, and tail can all be used to devastating effect. We also have a
breath weapon to worry about; a cone of frost which can freeze a man in his tracks.
He should be able to use it about once every ten to thirty seconds, give or take a
few." I noticed Caribdis growing a bit pale as I described the beast we were to take
on, but I paused only for a breath.

"Apparently whites can also make surrounding ice extremely slippery. You’ve all
seen me use ’grease’ spells, so we’ll have to figure out a way to combat that. Then
there’s the matter of their innate spell like abilities. I still have a bit of research to
do, so I’ll fill you in on that later. Lets see, what else... ah yes, Acessiwall will be
extremely tough to hit. I’m imagining that it will take a weapon with an
enchantment at least as powerful as that of Griff’s sword to make a dent in this
thing. Fortunately, I believe Caribdis can see to that. As far as spells go, dragons of
all ilk’s are extremely hard to affect. Acessiwall will have spell resistance that will
stymie much of what I’ll try to do, not to mention their abilities to simply shrug off
or avoid most spells. I get the idea from my research that spells that require an
opponent to dodge to avoid their effects will be the most useful, as they are
extremely resistant to mind affecting spells, and it should be obvious that things like
’polymorph’ will be next to useless against him. On top of all that, we can expect
him to be able to cast spells in much the same way as Caribdis, that is to say,
spontaneously, and last but not least, there is the matter of an aura of fear that all
dragons manifest. Griff can attest to this all to well." Griff scowled at me, but I
ignored it. "All in all, we are outmatched. We must find out what the amulet given
to Taklinn does, for it may be the only thing that gives us a fighting chance."

We talked for awhile longer, but at last decided to get underway. The journey
would be a difficult one, for most of us had no steeds. Fortunately Taklinn could
provide us with comfort from the cold via his clerical magic, and Caribdis would be
able to raise his Leomund’s shelters when we rested. Still, I foresaw a long and
arduous journey, though I, of course, planed to ride my firebird. To that end, I
stepped into the street while the rest gathered their supplies and began the casting.
They gathered near me as I brought the bird into being. It immediately melted the
snow beneath it.

No sooner had I summoned the firebird than we were attacked! Flying in low,
they came over the rooftop of the tavern and landed not twenty feet from us. There
were two of them; skeletal creatures made of ice, some nine feet tall with nasty
claws at the ends of long arms. They plodded toward us with uncanny speed.

But we were not slow either. Mardath, already carrying his bow, loosed an arrow
that I had earlier enchanted with a ’shocking bolt’ at one of the skeletons, but he
missed. He drew his sword as Taklinn stepped forward, holy symbol raised high,
commanding them to flee. They ignored him, and I got the feeling that these were
not undead.

None of us had yet closed with them, so I took the opportunity to hit them both
with a fireball which seemed to scorch them badly. Ah, I thought, they don’t like
fire!

Taigel drew two swords, one long and one short, and rushed at one of the
creatures. He lashed at the thing, but his blade merely glanced off of those icy
bones. Both of the skeletons fell upon Taigel, scoring hits and nearly downing our
new guide. Long stripes of blood appeared behind their claws as they ripped open
Taigel’s flesh. Griff was right behind the half dragon and threw himself at one of the
skeletons, but he missed as well.

Caribdis raced by me, running up behind Taigel and shouting out a rhyme as he
touched the half dragon, healing many of his wounds, while at the same time Happy
let loose with a pair of daggers. But these things were very well armored. She
missed as well!

Mardath finally managed to land a blow from his greatsword. He had dropped his
bow and charged. His steel bit deep, shattering several rib bones on one of the
creatures, though it still stood in the wake of his attack.

Taklinn, having seen the damage my fireball did, summoned the power of
Clangeden and brought forth a pillar of flame that engulfed one of the skeletons for
a brief second. When the fire had disappeared, the skeleton was gone as well,
leaving behind only a few icy bones and a pile of glimmering stones where it had
stood. I added still more fire of my own with a well placed ’scorching ray’ that hurt
the remaining skeleton. Taigel slashed away at it, hurting it still further, but not
before it landed a pair of furious blows on him that nearly downed him again. But
the skeleton was near death now, and a two handed swing from Griff shattered it
into pieces.

"What the hell was that all about?" I wondered aloud.

We found a surprise in the spot where one of the skeletons had been. A small
scattering of diamonds! Eighty in all, each valued at around one hundred gold!
Most fortuitous, though I was still more concerned with what they were and why
they had attacked us. After examining their few remaining bones, I ascertained that
they were probably constructs.

We could find no more clues as to their origin, and it was obvious that the people
of Finch were now more anxious than ever for us to depart their village. We
complied, and within twenty minutes we could no longer see the town behind us.

I flew, the rest walked, and before long the only view for as far as the eye could
see was an expanse of white. The snow formed an unbroken blanket that seemed to
stretch to the very edge of the world. On top of that, the weather plotted against us.
Toward midday Griff said that there was a storm coming, and though it looked calm
to me, I didn’t argue when he suggested we get out of the open. Caribdis cast his
shelter, and we settled in.

Within an hour, Griff was proved right, for even as I write in my log our shelter is
being pounded with winds the likes of which I have never heard. A peek outside
reveals blinding snow and nothing else. We are in the middle of a blizzard, with no
way of knowing how long it will last. Taklinn has conjured food for us, and his
spells keep us from succumbing to the cold, but the shelter is small, we are
cramped, and I hope that the storm ends soon. We are all eager to be off.


Plntng 1

Marvelous. Less than ten miles from Finch and we’re caught in a bloody blizzard!
The wind still howls outside, and is a vortex of snow.

I had not noticed before just how small Leomund’s shelter is, but now that there
are seven of us, and going outside is practically an act of suicide, our cramped
quarters is only too apparent.


Plntng 2

The blizzard finally died down around noon today and we did our best to make
some time, though getting through the fresh snow proved a challenge and we
probably only made a few miles. Happy was forced to ride on Griff’s shoulders,
though he didn’t even seem to notice her weight.


Plntng 3

Another day of this hellish expanse of snow. Our progress is painfully slow.
Taklinn cast his own ’firebird’ today, but near the end he elected to dismiss it and
walk with the others, since he cannot ultimately go any further than they can. In the
end, my own mount is good for little more than a means for me to not have to be
carried by a taller member of the crew, and to scout ahead.

We are probably only making about ten miles a day thus far. At this rate it will
take us a month to get to the mountains. There must be another way! I can only
teleport myself, and even between the two of us Taklinn and I cannot cast enough
firebirds for all of us to ride. I will have to give it more thought.


Plntng 5

No entry last night. The days here have quickly fallen into a routine of slogging
through the snow. We spend the nights in the shelter, perpetually on top of one
another. Caribdis and Taklinn appear to be especially grating on each other.
Caribdis continues to drink each night, and here in these cramped quarters it’s
impossible not to watch him methodically plow through a full cup of hard spirits,
get sloppy drunk, and pass out. Taklinn has tried to breach the subject, but has been
told, more or less, to sod off. Caribdis took great offense tonight at Taklinn
referring to him as ’Boy.’ Caribdis is adamant about his having achieved manhood,
and demands the title that accompanies it.

His hygiene leaves something to be desired too. I understand that we are on the
road, and certain concessions must be made, but Caribdis has become a bit lax
altogether, if you take my meaning.


Plntng 6

We were attacked today! I think, deep down in us all, when we spotted the huge
wolves we were secretly glad for the opportunity to take them on. Anything to
break up the tedium; the endless view of the tundra, was welcome at that point.

They came bounding across the snow. Three of them; huge wolves of pure white,
nearly twelve feet long, lips curled back into a snarl, breathing clouds of frigid
breath as they closed the distance.

But it proved to be a difficult battle. Happy was at a distinct disadvantage due to
her height, and she struggled to move into strategic position after she leapt from
Griff’s shoulders.

I spurred my firebird upwards to hover for a second at thirty feet before veering
around in a tight circle to drop a fireball onto them. Again I found that creatures of
this land are susceptible to fire, for the wolf I hit yelped and faltered for a moment
before catching up to his brothers.

They closed. Mardath hit one twice in its broad flank with a pair of ’shocking bolt’
arrows. Caribdis roused our spirits with his verse, and let fly his own volley of
arrows which disappeared to the fletching in another wolf.

One of the wolves leapt at Taklinn while the other two flanked Griff. They
breathed cones of cold before tearing at our friends with flashing teeth, grabbing
them, shaking their huge heads and tossing them aside like rag dolls, only to pounce
again. Griff, knocked off his feet, slashed at a wolf muzzle and drew blood, nearly
cutting the wolf’s nose off.

Taklinn cast ’diamond dust’ before closing with his wolf. Happy saw that Griff
was in trouble, and ran to his aid, only to be nearly bitten in half. I rained fireballs
and scorching rays upon them, doing terrible damage, but these wolves could take
the punishment. They just wouldn’t go down, and Griff and Taklinn were swiftly
being bled to death. Neither of them could seem to keep their feet long enough to
put together a solid attack. Taigel hacked away again and again at one of Griff’s
wolves, while Happy crawled away, bleeding badly, turning to hurl a dagger over
her shoulder.

And then Taklinn went down, as his wolf grabbed him in its jaws, breathed his
cone point blank, and tossed him to the bloody snow. Mardath charged in, trying to
drive it away from Taklinn while I unleashed two scorching rays directly onto its
back. It was burnt and cut to ribbons, but it still stood.

And then Caribdis began his fear verse. It radiated from him and affected half of
us and half of the wolves. What followed was a chaos of our own crew either
fleeing along with a winter wolf or two, and then turning to rejoin the fight as
Caribdis would end his effect and begin another one, starting the process all over
again.

It was an odd, frustrating, but ultimately effective tact, as it gave us a bit of much
needed breathing room as the wolves broke off and fled for precious seconds. The
wolves, already terribly wounded, were finally brought down with spell and arrow
as they tried to charge back in at us.

I landed quickly as Mardath checked Taklinn. "He lives." The barbarian said
simply. We brought him around with a potion, and he climbed to his feet, still
wobbly, looking for his wolf.

Griff stalked back to where we were, very wounded himself. "I hate that!" he
snarled at Caribdis. Griff had shared the fear effects of Caribdis’ verse, and I doubt
there is anything Griff hates more than running from a fight against his will. He spat
in the snow and went to look after Happy, who was barely standing.

Taklinn and Caribdis healed, and we decided to take a short side trip. It was easy
to track the wolves back to their lair through the snow, and not a mile from where
we’d been attacked we found an empty den with a few choice treasures there. Two
diamond rings and a winged shield that glows of magic made the trek worth it.

From the den we set out again, putting a couple of hard miles between us and the
wolf bodies before turning in for the night.

I have formulated a plan to speed us up a bit, but I don’t know if it’s going to
work. I shall have to broach the subject at dawn.


Plntng 7

My friends are humoring me, I think.

This morning I discussed my plan to speed up our travel and was met with mixed
reactions. More or less, my wish is to summon as many firebirds as I can, and then
‘polymorph’ at least two of us into rideable flying mounts. However, I
underestimated the mistrust which some of my companions view magic. Only
Happy would let me transform her into a small dragon. Mardath, Taigel, Caribdis
and Griff flatly refused, and though I grumbled a little, it was at last decided that
Taklinn, Mardath, Caribdis, and I would ride firebirds; Griff would ride Happy in
her dragon form, and Taigel would fly under the power of his own wings. This all
seemed a reasonable plan, until I realized just how slow Taigel flies. He is clumsy
in the air, and I find us still able to go no faster than our slowest companion. True,
we have nearly doubled our former rate of travel, but it is still a comparative crawl.

I suppose it can’t be helped though. At the very least we may circumvent some of
the dangers on the ground. Unfortunately this mode of travel exhausts the upper
reaches of my spell repertoire, and I fear I will be ill prepared should trouble arise.


Plntng 8

Another blizzard, and we are snowed in again for another long day. How in the
world can it snow so much!


Plntng 9

The weather cleared late last night and we were off again at dawn, all of us
gliding in slow circles around Taigel, his wings rapidly pumping to keep him aloft
as the ground crawled by beneath us. He is exhausted now, and lies in his cot trying
to recover from the exertion. I feel for him, but I do wish he’d just let me
polymorph him. I suppose I can’t blame him. He does hardly know me, after all.


Plntng 10

Yet another day forging through the air. We spied another pack of winter wolves
below us today. They padded along beneath us for several miles, waiting for us to
land, but they gave up and broke away at last.


Plntng 11

Well, I suppose we can’t stay in the air forever!

Another hard day of flying over this ocean of snow brought us a few more
precious miles toward our goal before we landed for the night. It was dusk, and I
was just about to dismount, when suddenly a massive snow bank erupted! A furred
worm of incredible scale, with monstrous mandibles reared back on its coils like
some monolith serpent, and I recognized it from my studies. A frost worm!

I pulled back on the reins of my bird franticly, willing it to lift me into the air and
out of reach as I hurriedly tried to remember what I knew of these things. The crew
were already in motion, and though the worm dwarfed them, they bravely hurried to
meet it with drawn swords and knocked arrows. Griff and Mardath both drew long
slices in it’s flank, and Taklinn plowed through the snow to get a shot at it as well.
But the worm seemed not to even notice. It’s huge head swayed back and forth,
preparing to strike.

Then I remembered.

The terrible thing about frost worms, aside from their awful attacks, is that even
when slain they are not through wreaking havok. According to what I could
remember, once killed, an internal combustion occurs within the body of the worm,
resulting in a massive explosion! I screamed this information towards my friends,
yelling at them to flee from it, though I knew they could not possibly out run it.
Desperately I tried to answer the dilemma, and came up with only one solution. I
had just one ‘polymorph other’ left, slated to turn Happy back to halfling form for
the night. It was a long shot, but I would have to hope it worked.

Banking my firebird around, I activated my wand of Greater Magical Flow
Enhancement and felt heightened awareness and power surge through me. Diving
straight down towards the melee, I saw Taigel stab the worm twice, and Happy snap
at it with her dragon jaws while Caribdis drew back his bow. Before he could let fly
his arrows, I held my breath and cast.

By all rights, the worm should have easily ignored my spell. Perhaps it was the
Enhancement, perhaps I just got lucky. Whatever the case, I released the energy at
the worm, willing it with all my might to change...

Into a turtle.

I franticly twisted in my saddle, pulling my bird around so that I could see below
me. The worm was gone, and as I sailed lower I could see that, in its place, was
indeed, a small turtle. It had worked!

“Don’t kill it!” I yelled over the wind, landing my bird clumsily and sliding off
into the slush. I hurried to where my bemused companions stood around the small
reptile.

“Leave it alone!” I cried again, “Don’t kill it!” I ran to pick it up, gingerly. “This
thing is still a bomb waiting to happen! Kill it, and it blows us all to kingdom come!
I’ll get rid of it!” I dropped the turtle into my haversack and remounted the bird,
willing it into the air. I set a course several miles from our camp and landed once I
was safely away. I set the turtle down in the snow, releasing it and remounting to
fly away. Something, I thought, is likely to get a nasty surprise when it bites into
that turtle! I chuckled to myself.

Once back at camp I had to give Happy the news that I had used my last
‘polymorph’, and that she would have to remain a dragon throughout the night. That
meant that she could not enter the shelter, and though Taklinn’s spells would
protect her from the cold, it did nothing for her comfort, and she glowered at me.
Not willing to let her suffer alone, Griff and I both elected to spend the night
outside with her.

***

Ye gods, will these monsters never cease to harrier us? No sooner had I drifted off
into a snooze than Ambros woke me with a warning. He smelled wolf. Sure enough,
I just had time to cast a fly on myself and rouse Hap and Griff than they came.
Three of them, launching themselves through the darkness. One was upon me
before I could react, taking a deep and painful bite out of me before I was able to
lift off to a safe height. Two of the wolves busied themselves with Griff and Happy
while the third tore open the shutter to the shelter and poked its nose through, trying
to bite at those inside who were now awake. I believe that Mardath gave him a
snoot full of arrows for its trouble.

In a split second both Griff and Hap were severely wounded. I mustered my fire
spells, pelting the wolves with fireballs and scorching rays that would have killed
dozens of men, but left the wolves still standing, burnt, but alive.

Just as it looked as if Griff would fall, Caribdis exited the shelter voicing his fear
verse. This time it worked as he hoped, and only the wolves were effected. All three
of them broke and ran, but I was not willing to let them go just to return later. Two
more fireballs and a scorching ray later, they were all dead.


Plntng 12

I have decided that using all of my most powerful spells to facilitate flight is
simply too dangerous and puts me at a disadvantage should events like the ones last
night occur. I will no longer force the issue of flight. Instead, I’ve tried a different
tact. This morning I cast my allotment of lower tier spells to create enough ‘tensors
floating disks’ for all to ride. I then polymorphed myself into a dragon and loped
across the tundra, the disks following me. As it turns out, we actually make better
time this way. Still not as fast as I’d like, but nearly the road speed of a riding horse,
and I still have plenty of powerful spells to draw from should I need to.


Plntng 15

Bah! I have not even bothered to make entries in my journal over the last three
days other than a few arcane notes to myself. All entries would look much like
this…

“Snow, snow and more snow!”

Why belabor the point?

Today has been fraught with some danger and at least some change in Caribdis,
so it warrants an account.

Toward the end of our traveling today Griff sniffed the air and announced that yet
another blizzard would soon descend upon us. I groaned at the news, but resolved to
put at least another mile in the books before we broke for the night. Alas, it was not
to be. No sooner had Griff made his prediction than we spotted two figures flying
toward us, closing fast. As they drew nearer I could see that they were two more of
the icy skeleton constructs. I wasted no time in unleashing a fireball at them while
Mardath and Caribdis did the same with arrows. The pair slowed not a whit.

The two skeletons landed in our midst, one of them striking Taklinn who replied
with a devastating blow from his axe. The other joined in battle with Griff and
Taigel, it’s gangly arms flailing about and tearing flesh with sharp talons. Caribdis’
voiced his bardic encouragement above the fray as both he and Mardath attempted
to use their bows to good effect. As for me, I had, two days earlier, decided to
Empower a ‘scorching ray’ for just such an opportunity. I let fly with it, striking
Taklinn’s foe with twin rays of devastating fire. Steam boiled off the skeleton and
several bones dropped away. It still stood, but barely.

We fought in fine unison. Griff, Taigel and Happy bore down on their enemy,
surrounding it and bringing it down. I attempted a ‘magic missile’ on Taklinn’s, but
as I suspected, the spell merely fizzled. The failed spell had little bearing on our
victory however, for Taklinn bashed the thing again and again with his axe, sending
splinters of freezing bone flying. At last, it fell to the snow with a clatter, leaving
behind it’s pile of diamonds. Taklinn touched his wounds and made them disappear
before tending to the others.

“If I didn’t know better, I’d think someone was out to get us!” Happy said with a
wry laugh as she went to investigate the piles of diamonds left behind.

Caribdis had produced a green bottle from his pack and began drinking deeply
from it. I could sense the ire in Taklinn before he even said anything.

“Drinking already, boy?” our cleric asked in a disapproving voice. “Maybe you
should lay off that stuff until we’re safe for the night!”

Caribdis screwed up his face and took another exaggerated quaff before unloading
on Taklinn. “I’ll drink anytime I damn well please, cleric!” He spat, with venomous
emphasis on his last word. “Your not my father, so quit acting like it! And
furthermore, for the last time, I am not a BOY! I’m a MAN!”

This was too much for me. I had been keeping quiet about Caribdis’ behavior
throughout this trip, but I could contain myself no more.

“Then quit acting like a spoiled child, Caribdis!” I snapped. “Look at you! Drunk
half the time, throwing tantrums, letting your appearance go to pot; need I remind
you that you are a representative of Havilah. The least you can do is conduct
yourself in a manner becoming of such a title.”

Caribdis rolled his eyes and assumed a much put upon visage. “Ah, to hells with
the lot of you!” he cried, and stormed off across the snow. Taklinn watched him
walk away, seething.

“Let him go.” Griff said. “He’ll be back.”

But he did not come back. An hour passed and we saw no sign of him. Griff
predicted the blizzard within only a couple of hours, and we began to worry.
Taklinn, who had been pacing with worry, at last made to follow his tracks, only to
be stopped by Happy.

“Not you!” She said firmly, “You’ve done enough!”

“What does that mean?” Taklinn replied indignantly.

“You treat him like a child,” Happy pointed out, “You’re the reason he’s gone off
out there, and he won’t follow you back. Griff and I can get him.”

“Like hell you will!” Taklinn fumed, and I could tell that his anger was very near
the surface.

“Oh for the love of… I’ll go get him!” I said, exasperated. I still had a polymorph
spell on myself, and assumed the form of a large eagle. I quickly flew off
low across the snow, following Caribdis’ tracks.

I found him less than a mile from the party, struggling gamely through a snow
bank. I landed in front of him and changed to my normal form.

“What do YOU want?” He sulked.

“Caribdis,” I said gently, “I have come to apologize and to ask you to return with
me. Griff believes that another of those accursed storms is on the way, and we can’t
have you caught in it.”

Caribdis stood before me, his face twisted in frustration. “I’m not a boy!” he
cried. “I’m a man! I’m tired of Taklinn speaking down to me all the time!”

“I know. And I know that I am guilty of it too. You must forgive us Caribdis, for
we, especially Taklinn, think of ourselves as your guardian, an extended parent of
sorts. And like any parent, it is difficult to let go. Also it is hard to watch you do
harm to yourself with that bottle night after night and say nothing.”

“Griff drinks all the time!”

“Griff is another matter. He chose his path a long time ago. You are still at a
crucial fork in the road. And besides, lets face it, Griff’s constitution allows him the
luxury of alcohol.”

Caribdis stood for a moment, shaking with unfocused anger. “I am a man!” he
shouted at last.

“Yes, you are.” I replied.

“I am!” he shouted again, as if to convince himself.

“I shall endeavor to treat you like one.”

A moment passed and the rage seemed to flow from him, replaced by weariness.
With a sigh, he turned and followed his own prints back towards the crew. I
followed him as best I could through the snow.

“Doorag,” he said after a moment, “I’m not so sure I like it.”

“Not sure you like what?”

“The responsibility!”

“Ah, you mean back in Havilah.” I nodded.

“Yes. I mean, I got everything I wanted! I got the girl, I opened my own bar, I
bought a house, but I’m not… it’s not what I expected.” He lapsed into a brooding
quiet.

“Caribdis, you may be a man, but you are still a young man. You have taken on
an enormous amount of responsibility because it is what you thought you wanted.
So perhaps it turns out that the chase was better than the catch. Perhaps living the
sedate life is not what you really want after all. Who knows? What I do know is
this: Freya and all of your responsibilities are a long way from here. It has done you
absolutely no good to dwell on them thus far. We have a mission to accomplish, and
my advice to you is to forget Havilah for now. These matters will keep, and time
away from them will give you perspective. For now, focus yourself on the task at
hand. We are on the road, headed into the jaws of a dragon. For all we know, we
may all perish and your worries will be moot. Why waste time on concerns that may
never come to pass?” I offered him a reassuring smile, and for the first time in many
days, he replied with a genuine smile of his own. “And now, if you don’t mind, I’m
going to transform myself into something more suitable for traveling across this
bloody snow! I could become a horse if you’d like to ride?”

“No,” He said, “I think I’ll walk.”

I shrugged and polymorphed into a wolf, padding across the snow next to our
bard in silence until we reached the others. The sky had already begun to boil with
clouds full of snow, and Caribdis quickly cast his shelter.

It is now late, and the winds outside are terrible. Gusts rattle the shutters and find
their way down the chimney, sending clouds of ash and snow all over us. Caribdis
has not touched his green bottle tonight, and sleeps now without the aid of alcohol
for the first time in weeks.


Plntng 16

Caribdis, usually the last to roll out of bed, was up with Taklinn and I this
morning. We watched, saying nothing, as Caribdis neatly laid out fresh cloths,
cleaned himself as best he could, shaved, and combed his hair. Our bard whistled a
tune as he got himself ready for the day, and I marveled at how quickly this young
man’s mood could turn.

We set out again. Taklinn decided to cast his firebird today and fly instead of
riding a disc. Most of the day he would fly on ahead, scouting out our way, then
come back to circle us for an hour or so before taking off again.

Toward late noon he soared back, landing his bird within several yards of us. He
dismounted, and I stopped, thinking we were just taking a break.

“We’ve got a situation ahead,” He stated, “Maybe three miles on. Four trolls, if I
recognize them correctly. Big ones. They’re guarding a pass into a mountain range
we must go through, and they are demanding a toll of one-hundred gold per
traveler.

“A toll?” I laughed. “You can’t be serious!”

“Right,” He answered without humor, “A troll toll. And they seemed serious
enough to me that I wouldn’t take them on alone.”

Griff spat on the ground and Happy hummed softly as she picked her nails with a
dagger. “Let’s go see about this toll.” Griff said flatly, remounting his floating disc.

We sped on, Taklinn flying above us, until I spotted the trolls; four big fellows
bundled in fur and hides against the cold. They stood staggered out across our path
into the foothills. I stopped about fifty feet from them, changing into my own form.
Taklinn landed beside us, and soon our two groups stared each other down. Though
we out numbered them, the trolls seemed not at all afraid.

One of them, the largest, stepped forward. “Ah! You’se back!” he hollered at
Taklinn in broken common, “You’se have brought your fellas to pay da toll, no?”

I’m sure that Taklinn was about to say no to that, but before he could, Caribdis
began to rhyme in a sing-song voice. He spouted some ribald poem about a jester
and the queens handmaiden. His timbre and rhythm were such that I could almost
see the eyes of the trolls glaze over. They stood, utterly transfixed, fascinated by
him. He took a few more steps toward the trolls, and we followed him cautiously.
“No spells or attacks,” he said, inserting instruction for us smoothly into a new
series of limericks, “Or the gig will be up!”

“Dat sure is a funny poem!” One of the trolls yelled, clapping his breastplate with
glee.

“Ya! Ya! His leader agreed. “But you’se still gotta pay da toll!” he added, still
smiling at Caribdis.

“What now, maestro?” Griff growled.
But Caribdis seemed not at all worried, and I noticed a subtle shift in the pitch of
his voice. I recognized his ‘suggestion’ at work.

“Listen now good trolls, and you will see! We simply should not pay your fee!”
Our bard rhymed.

The troll leader seemed to consider this for a moment, then brightened. “Ya, dats
true!” He grunted, “You’se don’t gotsta pay!

Caribdis bowed low and ushered us ahead. Still not fully trusting in our bards
ability to con our way past this lot, we were cautious in our approach. The three
other trolls, though still hypnotized by Caribdis’ verse, looked a bit troubled at the
thought of letting us pass. Still, they would not challenge the word of their leader,
and we managed to nearly get beyond them before Caribdis decided to up the ante.
Still rhyming his way through a new tale of royal debauchery, he began to insert
another suggestion directed toward the troll leader.

“At last we’ve passed without tax or toll, perhaps, good sir, you should give us
YOUR gold!”

I gritted my teeth when I realized what Caribdis was up to, and Taklinn had to
visibly restrain himself from wringing his neck, but to my astonishment, the troll
agreed!

“Ya!” He crowed happily, “You’se a mighty fine fella! You’se kin have da loot!”
With that, the troll trotted into one of two nearby hide tents and returned in seconds
with a bulging sack that clinked of coinage. He made to give it to Caribdis, but this
proved to be too much for the other three trolls.

“Bah!” One of them cried, “Tag’s done gone ‘round da bend! He’s gonna give
‘em da loot!” With that, the three trolls forgot all about Caribdis’ rhyme and
bounded toward us, filthy claws and tree trunk clubs brandished.

“Aw, screw this!” I heard Griff mutter. I heard his sword leave it’s sheath, and
that was enough to break Tag, the troll leader from his own fascination. The big
fellow shook his head and looked down at the bag of gold, surprised to find it there.
With a bellow, he dropped the bag and raised his own club.

Things happened very quickly. I had already cast a ‘fly’ on myself, and so bore
straight up to a height of thirty feet. I looked down to see Caribdis take a heavy
smack across the body from a gnarled tree trunk held in the hands of a troll. Taklinn
and Mardath intercepted another. Taigel drew his blades and took a third by himself
while Happy and Griff flanked the leader. I made to pelt Taigel’s troll with a
‘scorching ray’, but changed my mind at the last minute, electing instead to save
Caribdis’ life with a ‘hold monster’. The dim witted troll froze in his tracks.
Caribdis winked a thanks at me and drew his bow, launching a series of arrows to
aid Taigel.

To be sure, we were more than a match for the remaining three trolls, even though
I was unable to overcome unexpected spell resistance from the lead troll. But even
that did not save him from Happy and Griff. The two of them spilt his guts over a
five yard span. I had better luck with the lesser trolls, finding them easy marks for
scorchers and magic missiles. Taklinn waded into the threat range of his troll, his
axes slicing green flesh and cracking bone. Mardath pincered the troll with Taklinn,
his greatsword hacking into it again and again. As they downed theirs, Hap and
Griff raced to help Taigel, and the last troll soon fell into a heap. There was still the
matter of the held troll, and Caribdis killed it with a single arrow to the forehead.

“Don’t stop hacking them!” I cried, “They regenerate! We need fire to keep them
dead!” I flew into one of the tents, hoping to find oil or other combustibles while
our warriors continued to stab the bodies.

“Humph!” Taklinn grinned. He had just the ticket. He led his firebird to a troll
body and had the creature sit on it. Within seconds there was little left but a mound
of putrid flesh. He repeated the process with the remaining three bodies, and at last
the threat was over.

“Caribdis, why?” Hap moaned, her eyes rolling in exasperation, “Why did you
have to push them for their gold? We could have walked right on by them!”

Caribdis grinned and pushed a lock of hair from his boyish face. “Well, we
couldn’t just leave them here to rob other travelers,” he said, “And besides, they
might have a few goodies we can use.” He could barely conceal his mischievous
smile as he went into a tent to have a look around.

As it turned out, Caribdis was right. The trolls had apparently had good luck
fleecing hapless travelers, even in this desolate waste. Their tents were ripe with
some very select treasure. Not only did we find a substantial sum of gold, but
several items of magic as well, not the least of which is the armor that Tag, their
leader, wore. This cache is good enough that we have decided to stay here an extra
day so that I can identify our finds in hopes that they can help us against the dragon.
I must rest now, for tomorrow will be a long day for me.


Plntng 17

An arduous eight hours after sunrise I was able to shed some light as to the nature
of the magical treasure we’ve found. These trolls were rich by any standards, and I
am now quit happy that Caribdis would not be satisfied to simply let us circumvent
them. Of course he did have a point with regard to not leaving them behind to
harass other travelers, but from a standpoint of pure greed, I can’t help but admit
that I’d have been loath to leave such treasure behind. The armor alone would have
been worth the battle! My voice shook a little with excitement when I told the
others what it was.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if it has a name,” I said, holding the studded leather, “But
I don’t know what it is. What I can tell is that it holds a maximum enchantment,
much like the bracers and ring we found on Melesandre. On top of that, it provides
spell resistance!”

Beyond that, I ‘identified’ a ring of warmth, several potions and scrolls, a picture
frame that can hold a small illusion permanently, and a wand of silence with several
charges left in it. No wonder they had no fear of magic!

I also tried to identify Taklinn’s amulet, but I met with limited success. All I
could get was an esoteric clue that it can ‘trigger an unquenchable rage in a white
dragon’. I sense that there is much left to uncover within the amulet, but it will
require a much stronger dweomer than a simple ‘identify’. I have thus decided to
cast ‘analyze dweomer’ on it at the first opportunity. It’s a spell that I have only
recently learned, and until tonight had not even possessed the material component
for. I announced that I would be making another teleport jaunt to Havilah to pick up
the component, and within seconds I was gone.

The lens I needed was expensive, but I deemed further knowledge about the
amulet worth the cost. I also decided to treat the crew to a fine dinner that night, and
after my shopping I went to The Golden Crow, one of Havilah’s finer eateries, and
had them crate up a smorgasbord of delectable dinners, complete with roasted boar,
bisque, fruit, fresh bread, wine and pie for dessert. I teleported the whole affair back
to the shelter with me and we dined in style that night. Happy looked at me agog, as
if she had only just understood the potential of ‘teleport’.

“You just blipped back to Havilah?” She asked, mouth open.

“Well, yes.” I replied.

“And brought all this back?”

“I’ve done this before, Hap…”

“And you can do this anytime you want?”

“Well, technically speaking I can only teleport so many times per day, but
basically, yes. Understand though, teleporting is not an exact science. There is a
slim but very real possibility that I could end up far away from my intended
location. I have to be quite careful, and it is always wise to have a back up teleport
in case I need to try it again.”

Much of my explanation was lost on her. She still seemed utterly awed by the idea
of instant transportation, and I think it was just dawning on her how powerful
wizards can be.

“I don’t suppose, umm, maybe you could pick up one or two things for me next
time you go?” She asked, somewhat shyly.

“Of course!” I laughed. “I’d be happy to, though I don’t know when I’ll be going
again. I don’t like to press my luck, but if I do, make me a list and I’ll take care of
it.”

After dinner I approached Taklinn.

“Ah, Taklinn,” I began, unsure how to phrase my request, “Do you, er, happen to
have an extra holy symbol of Clangeden on you?”

He looked at me, surprised. “Yes, I have one. Why do you ask?”

“Well,” I said, “I was wondering if I might wear it, unless you think it might be in
some way sacrilegious.”

He looked quite perplexed. “No, it would not be. But why, Doorag? Are you
thinking of converting?”

“No!” I laughed, “Not at all! It’s just that, well, Clangeden has healed me more
than a few times, and while I have little use for the gods, I would be the last to deny
that I’d most certainly have been dead ten times over if not for him. I merely wish
to show my gratitude by wearing his symbol.”

Taklinn nodded in understanding. He produced a simple symbol of unassuming
steel and placed it around my neck. “May his strength and wisdom guide and
protect you, my friend.” He said.

I write now with a belly full of The Golden Crow’s finest, though I am terribly
tired. We have elected to march on to Latona, a small city supposedly located only
two days from here, before I attempt to ‘analyze’ the amulet, as the spell is most
taxing.


Plntng 19

I have been sitting here for an hour looking at the blank page, unable to write the
truth. My pen has dried up three times. To scribe the events of the day is to make
them real; permanent.

Caribdis is dead. Swallowed by a rhemorez. Only hours from Latona, nearly
within view of it’s walls. Senseless. Meaningless. My heart feels like dead stone
within my chest.

Caribdis is dead.




Plntng 24

I am in Havilah. Ostensibly the reason for my being here is to craft a few items; a
pair of gloves of strength for Griff, a periapt of wisdom for Taklinn, and a belt of
many pouches for Hap. A more oblique reason, though probably more important, is
that it has given me an opportunity to immerse myself in work; to clear my mind of
the shock of Caribdis’ death, or at least to work out the emotional tangle it has
instilled within me.

I have tried several times over the last five days to relate the events of his death,
but I have been unable to do more than stare numbly at the page. I have resolved to
try again.

It was the 19th.. We had been traveling most of the day and by our reckoning
Latona should have been only a few hours away. We were all eager to make the
city, to finally have some relief from the endless miles of ice and snow.

I was in the form of a small dragon, making steady progress across the snow with
the rest of the crew seated on their disc’s behind me.

We never saw them coming.

The ground directly before me suddenly heaved and burst open. A horrific and
huge head burst from the earth. Heat radiated off of it in terrible waves, and it’s
mandibled jaws snapped at me before I had a chance to even think about reacting.
The mandibles tore into me and I reeled back, near death. The head was followed
by a centipede-like body. The thing, which I instantly recognized as a rhemorez,
scuttled from it’s hole with a speed which seemed impossible for something so big.

Two more of them burst from the snow on either side of us.

The crew leapt from their disc’s, weapons flashing. Happy hurled a dagger into
the flank of the one on our left. Taigel charged for the same rhemorez and sunk one
of his swords into it to the hilt. He pulled back nothing else, as the metal of his
blade simply melted away.

The rhemorez to our right scuttled forward into our midst. It towered over
Caribdis, who had yet to react. With a single terrible bite, it struck, biting him
around the waist, hoisting him upward and swallowing our bard with apparent ease.
One minute he was standing there, the next, he had vanished down the things throat.

Taklinn screamed in anguish. He and Griff reached the rhemorez simultaneously,
Griff with his sword and Taklinn with a spell. But our luck was still bad. Griff
overdrew himself, falling against the creature, and I could hear the sizzle of his
flesh against it’s body. He grunted in pain and pulled away, leaving charred skin
stuck to it’s hide. Taklinn reached out and touched the rhemorez, casting his spell.
Even through his gauntlet the heat seared his hand. He commanded it to die, but the
rhemorez ignored him.

Knowing that I could not withstand another bite, I pumped my wings and flew
straight upward until I was out of their reach. Unfortunately I could not cast in
dragon form. I concentrated on changing to my own form as I invoked a contingent
‘fly’ upon myself.

By the time I had shifted to my true nature, it was over. The rhemorez are vicious
and can mete out tremendous damage, but they can take little of it themselves.
Taigel and Mardath took down one. Griff and Taklinn hacked the one that had
swallowed Caribdis furiously. It died from a long gash in it’s flank cut by Griff.
Steam and lava-like ichors gushed from it, and I saw a booted leg jut from it’s belly.
Griff followed through with the same sword slash to finish the last, which had
already been wounded by Happy. Even as the final rhemorez collapsed, Taklinn
was dragging the charred body of Caribdis from the rhemorez carcass. In shock, I
landed next to his body. I did not even have to ask if he was dead. His cloths were
burnt away, his jewelry melted, his bow immolated. Taklinn clenched his fists in
rage and sorrow and raised them to the sky as a scream of impotent rage tore from
his throat. He looked at me with stricken eyes, touched Caribdis’ body, uttered a
word, and disappeared. He had taken our dead friend with him.

Stunned silence followed. The attack, the death of Caribdis, even the knowledge
that Taklinn could somehow teleport; it all combined to send us into utter shock.
Mardath, in his simple barbarian logic, did not seem to comprehend the gravity of
what had happened. “Too bad about the dandy fellow.” He said, blithely. “At least
he died a fine death!”

A rage tried to well up within me. I wanted to tell Mardath to shut up, to tell him
that he had no right to speak of such a death with frivolity, but shock and sorrow
overwhelmed all other emotion, and I could do nothing but stare at the melted slush
where his body had lain.

A tiny voice of logic still spoke in the distance of my mind. I knew that there were
magic’s that could bring Caribdis back. I knew that Taklinn possessed such
magic’s, but I also knew that the spell must be cast within a very short time of
death. I had to assume that Taklinn had not prepared the spell, and had somehow
shifted himself and the body to a place where it could be done. I had been
considering teleporting Caribdis to the temple of Clangeden in Havilah in a
desperate bid to get him to a powerful cleric there before Taklinn had gone, but was
beat to the punch. A tiny glimmer of hope blossomed within me. Surely Taklinn
would know what to do. Surely he would get Caribdis’ body to a worthy priest in
time to have the ‘raise dead’ cast. Surely he would return with our friend, a little
worse for wear, but still alive. I held onto that small glimmer, though I dared not
voice it to my friends, lest I give them false hope.

Griff was grim, his face ashen, but he was ever pragmatic. “We should be on to
Latona.” He said. “This place is not safe. We will have to hope that Taklinn can
somehow contact us.”

We did not argue with his logic. Wordlessly we picked ourselves up and began
the last leg of our journey.

Within an hour we sighted the city walls. Taigel made an announcement. “I will
not enter the city.” He said. “They are very prejudiced against my kind there, and I
would not be allowed entry. I will wait for you here. Don’t worry, the cold will not
affect me.”

I didn’t like the idea of leaving him to fend for himself, and told him so. “Stay
here until noon tomorrow, then take your ring off and I’ll scry you. I’ll come and
get you when we’ve found an inn. I can make you invisible and we’ll get you
inside.” He nodded in agreement and sat down to wait.

The rest of us made our way to the city gates. As we neared them I received a
‘sending’. The voice of Taklinn spoke in my mind, “Use the bracelet. Bring me
back. No Caribdis.”

I returned the message. “Soon. Take your ring off.”

I was referring, both in Taklinn and Taigel’s case, to the rings of non-detection
that they wore. Earlier we had wondered about the separate attacks by skeleton ice
constructs. I hypothesized that Acessiwall was somehow scrying his son (though I
had seen no sensors), so Caribdis had given Taigel his ring, reasoning that
Acessiwall had not seen him, and therefore would not scry him.

Latona is a rough and ramshackle town, filled with mostly humans, all of them of
hardy stock to live this far north. We were allowed entry by suspicious guards who
told us of a decent inn not far away. We made for it and purchased rooms as fast as
we could. Once inside, I drew forth my crystal ball and scyed Taklinn.

I found our cleric in a tomb carved from living stone. Torchlight from two
sconces on the walls threw back only a little of the shadow on his face. Behind him,
another dwarf dressed in clerical garb passed my line of sight and disappeared
through a door. Taklinn sat in silent vigil over the body of Caribdis, now covered
with a blanket and lying atop a stone slab. I hung my head and the rest of the crew
watched as I reached into a pouch and withdrew the Bracelet of Friends that I had
crafted in Havilah. Around it’s length hung seven charms, each keyed to an
individual. Taklinn was one of those. I pulled his charm loose from the bracelet, it
seemed to melt into nothingness in my hand, and then he was there, standing in the
room with us. He looked as if he had aged several years, and his armor still bore the
stain of battle, an unheard of occurrence for our fastidious friend. He looked around
the room at our faces, saw all of the questions that we could not bring ourselves to
ask. He spoke.

“I did not have a ‘raise dead’ prepared.” He said with unusual quiet. “I used a
‘word of recall’ to transport Caribdis’ body and myself to my mountain home, into
the temple of Clangeden that lies there. I knew that there would be priests there
capable of casting the spell, if not from memory, then from a scroll. At first they
refused. Caribdis is…” He stopped, drew a ragged breath, and started again,
“Caribdis was not a dwarf, and my brethren felt no compulsion to raise him.
Precious time was wasted, but I was most insistent. At last, they complied, and the
spell was cast in time.”

Taklinn walked to the table and poured himself a cup from the bottle that Griff
had left out. He drank deeply before continuing.

“When an attempt to return one to life is made, the spirit of that person is
contacted and invited to come back. The spirit has free will to accept or refuse the
offer.”

“Caribdis declined.”

My jaw dropped. “What? Why!”

“I do not know.”

“But… but…” I sputtered, “Why!”

“I do not know.”

Happy slid off of her chair. “I need a drink.” She said, tersely, and slammed the
door behind her as she left.

Taklinn sighed. “You are still wounded,” He said. Indeed, all of us still bore
wounds from the rhemorez. I, myself, could barely stand. Taklinn reached toward
Griff, voicing a healing spell that we can repeat almost as well as he can.

Griff cut him off. “Don’t touch me.” He spat. “Keep your god, Taklinn. I don’t
want Clangeden’s help.” His words were measured, quiet, and hard as steel. Taklinn
looked stricken, as if Griff had slapped him in the face. Griff stood and left the
room without another word, still bearing his wounds, and a rage that was almost
palpable.

Taklinn looked at the rest of us helplessly, cut deeply by Griff’s words. “Perhaps
Happy is right,” He said, “Perhaps a drink is in order.” He left for the inns common
room, and presently, Mardath followed him, shrugging at me as he left. I was alone
in the room. I spoke a word, and disappeared.

***

I appeared inside the stone chamber I had scryed earlier. Caribdis still lay on the
stone slab and the torches still flickered, but the tomb was otherwise empty. I
climbed up on the slab and sat cross-legged on it’s edge, next to his body. He was
still horribly burnt. His hair was gone, and most of his features were badly
disfigured, but I could still make out face.

Why?

Again and again I asked the question. Why, Caribdis? Why did you not come
back?

Finally, I just sat there with him. I was not disturbed, and three hours later, I
teleported back to the inn.

I did not sleep that night, but no one returned to the room and I was disinclined to
leave. It was not until late morning that I discovered what had become of my crew
that night. Happy, Taklinn and Mardath had gotten deep in their cups. They drank
until the alcohol overcame them and they slept in the common room.

Griff had apparently stalked the city streets until he found a fight of some kind.
The details are unclear, but the city guard was involved, as was a small fine and a
night in the Latona jail. At noon I scryed Taigel and went to find him. I had still not
memorized my spells, for my night had been less than restful so he had to agree to
being polymorphed into a human as a disguise to enter the city. He was not pleased
with the idea, but it was preferable to spending the long nights hidden on the tundra.

A short time after, we had all gathered again. It was late noon, and we were seated
on floor, chairs and bed in one of the rooms we’d rented. I looked at Taklinn, his
face was motionless, but his eyes bore an expression of profound guilt and sorrow.
Griff was stone faced. Happy busily ran a stone over one of her daggers.

Taigel was the first to break the silence.

“Caribdis is dead. I am sorry. He seemed a well intentioned lad, and you were all
obviously fond of him. I grieve for his passing. Yet we still have the question of
Acessiwall to contemplate. We are one less now, and we grow nearer to his lair. I
believe we are only a hundred and fifty miles, give or take, from his mountain. Are
you still confident that we can take him?”

I groaned inwardly. It seemed almost blasphemous to already be talking about our
mission in the recent wake of Caribdis’ death, but Taigel was right.

“I don’t know.” I answered honestly. “Caribdis was not only a hell of an archer
and a great combat healer, he also made us better at what we did. His verse was
indispensable. I don’t know that he ever realized how important it was. It will be a
tough go without him.”

“Furthermore,” I said, “I’d still like to do some more research on dragons,
specifically Acessiwall. I would like to try to determine his age if I can. That would
give us a much clearer picture of what we’re going up against. He has been referred
to as ancient, but I hope to narrow that down a little. But before I do that, I want to
try to ‘analyze’ the amulet. I am hoping that it somehow holds the key to
Acessiwall’s defeat. To that end, I will need space, quiet, and time. I intend to retire
to the next room and rest, after which I will begin work. I should be casting by nine
o’clock, and the spell will probably take up most of the night, if not much of
tomorrow. Once I have determined the amulets powers, we will be able to better
gauge our chances against the dragon.”

Taigel considered this. “Very well then. We should post a guard outside your
door. We will reconvene when you have more information for us, Doorag.”

I went into the next room and shut the door. I suddenly felt incredibly tired, and as
my head touched the pillow I fell into a hard slumber.

***

Exactly eight hours later I awoke. It took me a moment to remember where I was
and what had happened. I realized once again that Caribdis was gone and felt that
sharp sorrow anew. Sighing, I went about my morning ritual. In due course, after a
bit of breakfast delivered by Mardath, I asked Taklinn for the amulet. I locked
myself in the room with no other company than Ambros and went to work.

‘Analyze Dweomer’ is a potent yet taxing spell, and like ‘identify’, takes a fair
amount of time to cast. In the end, I had to cast it twice in a row. The whole process
took nearly twenty hours, and by the time I stumbled out of that small room I was
exhausted, but flush with knowledge.

I gathered the crew about me and explained what I had learned.

The amulet had several functions, at least one of which still eluded me. I was
quite frustrated by that fact, and hoped for one more opportunity before we met the
dragon, but I had uncovered much. The results were less than promising.

The amulet can be used against white dragons and half-white dragons. Apparently
it was crafted specifically to deal with Acessiwall, for it requires either his blood, or
the blood of one of his descendants to activate. As I had hypothesized before, a very
small amount of blood is required. As to what exactly it’s function is, the amulet
will drive the targeted dragon into a frenzy of rage, similar to that of Mardath when
he is in battle. The down side of this is that it actually increases the dragons
physical strength, as well as a few other factors. The supposed up side is that the
dragon cannot flee and will fight until either it’s death, or the death of the amulets
wearer.

Finding out the amulets secrets did not give us much hope. All it appeared
capable of was to insure that Acessiwall would not flee while making him all the
more strong!

But Taigel reasoned that it may prove valuable. His father was a spell caster, and
as such, would certainly use magic to escape at the first sign of the battle going
against him. I was still doubtful. The odds were heavily against us actually turning
any such confrontation in our favor, and I had hoped that the amulet would
somehow be the key to doing that.

Taigel delivered still more bad news when he told us of at least one ally of his
fathers that he knew about. A wizard of no small power named Helious is in
cahoots with Acessiwall. I groaned at this news. Not only a dragon, but a wizard as
well?

On a hunch, I scryed first Acessiwall, then Helious. My chances of finding them
were slim at best, given only their names, but luck was with me. My first scrying
revealed a sheet of white scales. As my sensor pulled back, Acessiwall came into
view and I gaped. He was massive. With an irritated gesture he dispelled my sensor,
but not before I caught a glimpse of his lair. I was also able to find Helious, though
he dispelled my sensor just as easily with a wand.

My next order of business was two-fold, I explained to the crew. One, I would
return to Havilah to research more about Acessiwall and dragons, and two, I would
pick up whatever gear we felt we might need. Happy gave me her list, and in a short
while I was gone.

Unfortunately my research revealed little. It was near impossible, given my
limited information, to narrow down the age of Acessiwall. I found only one
reference to him in an old tome, a poorly written account of his attack on a caravan
many years before that left few survivors and was particularly brutal, even by
dragon standards. It was of little value. After a frustrating day in the library, I
shopped for Happy, then returned to Latona with the seed of another goal in mind.

I explained to the crew that we were obviously outmatched in this coming
confrontation, but that perhaps we could even the odds a bit given the judicious
application of a few magic’s. I volunteered my services as an artificer once again,
explaining carefully (especially to Griff) that I could craft items which would
enhance them. In the end Taklinn, Griff and Happy parted with enough gold to
facilitated the items they needed made, and the following day (the 23rd) I ported
back to Havilah once again and got to work.

I heave an inward sigh as I write this, for had my friends taken me up on this
same offer during our seven month sojourn in Havilah, not only would the items I
could have crafted been far more powerful, they would not have cost me my
personal essence. Still, I feel that the need for them is worth the cost to myself. I am
crafting Griff a set of ‘gloves of ogre power’, Taklinn a ‘periapt of wisdom’, and
Happy a ‘belt of many pouches’. They have recompensed me with gold, which is
always desirable.

The crafting process will take several days. I can only hope that my friends can
stay out of trouble. I also hope that Taklinn and Griff can somehow work things out
between them. Griff still refuses Taklinn’s healing touch, and I can sense a great
strain on their friendship.

As I began my work today I thought more of Caribdis. Why? The question keeps
up it’s incessant nagging in the back of my mind. Why did he elect not to return? I
cannot overcome this desire to speak with him one last time, to ask him that
question. I fear that I have become slightly obsessed with it, and to that end I have
begun some research into the area of communication with the dead in what little
spare time I have.

I have also resolved to go to Freya tomorrow and break the news of Caribdis’
death to her. No matter what Caribdis’ final disposition towards her may have been,
she has a right not to hear it from the mouth of strangers.
 

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