Tir Na n'Fir

Into the Tomb of the Lizard King - Part 6: Down the Stairs and Death by Rabbit
Thoughts from the point of view of Cora'sol "The Immortal"

cross posted from Cora’s Travel Journal

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
If you pardon, we will mend:
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call;
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.

- Midsummer Night’s Dream, William Shakespeare

.oOo..oOo..oOo..oOo.

With the stairway revealed and looming blackly into the abyss, the party continued to rest for a short while, discussing options and next steps. KelLyn crafted a simple circle in the ground to aid Lan in her efforts to heal the party’s injuries. With the aid of the additional power, Lan was successfully able to bring Fife back to total health. Sadly, Osman and KelLyn were still regulated to healing at a normal pace, but they did not have any additional injuries.

Once we had gathered our wits, and our supplies, we looked again at the black stairs. I recalled the riddle stating “…the stairs that cannot be climbed…” and guessing that every step could possibly be trapped, remarked quickly that we should check everything as thoroughly as we could before proceeding. I asked Tobias first to tell me what his night eyes could see, but his dark vision told him nothing else about the stairs. I also checked for traps, and finding none, was able to proceed slowly down to the first landing. Shalev, thinking quickly, turned around and grabbed the snake staff that he had taken from the dread paladin before following the rest of the party down. Once on the landing, we were able to see the stairway spiral down into darkness. We lit some torches and placed them in the sconces on the walls nearby to give me light to see by while I methodically and laboriously checked each step.

The steps were oddly dust-free and looked almost new or, at the very least, rarely used. Shalev insisted that I have a rope secured around me before I ventured down, and I agreed to the safety precaution and the concern. Taking long moments and exacting concentration, I checked over each inch of every step. The first four steps proved safe to stand on, and I moved down onto them to continue my labors. The second that I breathed on the fifth step, however, the trap activated and the stairs retracted into a long slick ramp. I grabbed quickly to the security rope, and noticed as I did that I now felt a massive wave of heat rising from the area below us. Shalev and Tobias pull me back up to the main landing, and I relay the information about the ramp and the heat. Ishmael stated calmly that for heat to be felt this far up, it would need to be intense at it’s source, and we all took note of this bit of information warily.

We discussed options on how to traverse the now treacherous incline, and I offered to use the security rope to scout ahead along the ramp while KelLyn used her magic to create rudimentary stairs for the rest of the party to follow. Shalev’s aptitude for being well prepared paid off once again, as he produced several extra lengths of rope to use. He and Tobias quickly tied together all of the rope until we had a coil that was about 500 feet in length, and Fife and Ishmael anchored pitons into the wall to use as anchor points. Before I made my descent into the unknown, Shalev handed me the ring he had acquired from the clerics we encountered earlier on, which KelLyn had said was enchanted to destroy fire. I noticed that wearing it did, indeed, help to mitigate the heat to a more bearable level.

KelLyn got to work creating rough stairs by destroying parts of the ramp to make footholds. I used these rough hewn steps and the ramp for balance, and the ropes to hold me steady, and managed to make it down 8 flights of the ramp until I ran out of rope. Each new section had a landing, so Shalev, KelLyn, and the rest of the party were also able to proceed only slightly behind me. I was looking for the best places to secure the ropes when I heard KelLyn begin cursing quite loudly. Cringing away from the sound, and as close to the wall as possible, I braced as much as I could against whatever spell misfire might have come my way, but thankfully nothing happened. I felt Shalev begin to pull on the rope, and I reluctantly allowed him to pull me up from the depths. When I made it up to the previous landing, I saw KelLyn still cursing, and the party’s skeptical concern at her apparent inability to stop. Hearing her curse is nothing new, but I also made note of her frustrated scowl, and increasing diatribe, and mentioned that perhaps someone should just knock her out to stop it. I attempted it, but was not strong enough to do more than just irritate her. Ishmael took the advice to heart, and apologizing for what he was about to do, thumped her on the back of the skull solidly. He was not trying to injure her greatly, and apparently only managed to give her a headache. Her cursing grew more vehement, and I raised an eyebrow in curiosity at the length and scope of her more base vocabulary. We decided then to just let the curse run it’s course, and since she was no longer able to cast spells, determined that I should continue scouting ahead with the ropes alone. Ishmael and Shalev brought the great coils of rope down to the 8th level of the stairway, and spent some time resecuring the pitons and anchor points into the walls.

Once again, down into the dark and the heat I climbed, and traversed another two entire levels before I saw at last the source of the great heat. A pit of fire, about eighteen feet across, with stairs that continued down either side to solid ground below. I easily made my way over to the stairs, and found it curious that the heat was not as overwhelming as I had thought it would be this close to the pit. Once on the stairs, it was little work to make it down to solid ground again, and I let the rope pool there at the base. I took a moment to observe my surroundings, and saw a plain stone wall off to the left, and a wide open plain of rock floor off to the right. Oddly enough, I heard water, as if there were a rushing river nearby. I closed my eyes in concentration and remembered the spell that the great oak tree had taught to me on how to locate sources of water. I knew that I did not yet have the ability to do that spell in full, but thought on it at length, and decided to use what I knew of the spell to try to perform a more basic version. I was successful in the attempt, but was not able to discern more information than my senses already told me. I climbed back up to tell the rest of the party about what I had seen and heard.

An argument broke out again on how to get Amit down using only the ropes, and KelLyn was still incapacitated by the cursing spell, so Ishmael offered to carve stairs. We quickly stopped his efforts though, when the force of his blows echoed through the chamber, threatening to bring the ceiling down on all of our heads. Ishmael then offered instead to just lower Amit down with a rope harness. We looked at the great cat, who was quite against the idea, and then back at Ishmael who simply shrugged his massive shoulders. I bribed the reluctant Amit with some leftover bacon pieces, and we managed to get him secured into the harness without a fight. I proceeded ahead to act as a guide, and Ishmael negligently shifted his weight and lowered Amit to the ground floor without even breaking a sweat. The rest of the party followed in short order and while they were gathering the ropes and settling back to flat ground, I returned the ring to Shalev, and continued to scout ahead a small distance.

There was a wall of complete and total darkness ahead to the right where I heard the sounds of the rushing water. I closed my eyes and trusted my other senses, moving through the darkness about 40 feet or so before coming straight to the edge of the vast river flowing from east to west. I made my way back to the rest of the party, and they joined me through the darkness at the river’s edge. A raft suddenly appeared on the river, and Shalev said that something felt wrong about it all. I recalled, again, the riddle from the tomb “…past the river of nothing…” and asked KelLyn to look through her gem of true seeing to determine if it was an illusion.

She did so, but because she was still caught in the grip of the curse, was unable to tell us what she saw. She huffed in frustration before spouting still more obscenities, and stomped right out into the water as if it didn’t exist at all. I trusted her observations, and followed her out into the water. The illusion affected me, however, and so I swam toward her instead of walking. Shalev walked up to the river’s edge and, still paranoid from previous encounters, put the tip of his sword into the water to try to destroy the illusion. At the touch of the holy weapon, the illusion vanished, and KelLyn and I found ourselves in a dry river bed with pots full of a glowing green viscous liquid peppered across the area in a treacherous array.

Shalev, thinking the pots might also be illusion, made his way slowly down into the river bed, using his sword ahead of his step to test for solid ground. He accidentally poked at one of the pots, and it shattered, spilling a wave of acid all over him. I turned to go to him as he screamed, when suddenly he was no longer there. In his place loomed a great white dragon as it launched itself into the air with a booming cry of fury and pain. I stumbled back in awe and fear, not knowing what had happened to Shalev, and completely unprepared to deal with another dragon.

As I searched quickly to see if I could find where the curse that hit Shalev came from, arrows suddenly flew from the far sides of the cavern where the army of lizardmen who had been lying in wait revealed themselves as they focused all of their attacks on the dragon-that-was-Shalev now roaring above their heads. Tobias used his night vision to pinpoint the fortifications and campsites, spotting several glowing figures on the battlements, and began shouting instructions at Fife to aim for those figures. Fife threw a spear, but it passed harmlessly through the glowing image and clattered to the floor. The glowing figures turned toward us, and began slowly floating in our direction, passing over top of the illusory river as if it were really there for them.

The arrow fire from the lizardmen drew the dragon-that-was-Shalev’s attention and ire, and he swooped down with a roar and a blast of frigid cold breath, freezing and destroying anything in his path. In the midst of the rampage, we saw a larger figure step out of a central tent and begin reading a scroll loudly. I saw the dragon-that-was-Shalev shudder, and guessed that the scroll was an attempt to gain some kind of control over the dragon. The dragon-that-was-Shalev shuddered again, and landed heavily in front of the larger figure, laying his head on the ground. The large figure stepped forward, drawing a flaming sword and raising it high to strike the dragon’s head off. As the blade began it’s deadly swing downward, the dragon abruptly turned, throwing off the effects of the control spell – if it had been affected at all – and with lethal cunning gleaming in his eyes, bit the large figure, grabbing him by the head and flinging the body skyward with a negligent twitch. The body flew into the air, and Tobias, Osman, Fife, and I all took aim and peppered the falling figure with arrows. I heard Tobias muffle a curse, and saw that his arrow had flown wide. I turned to look at him quizzically only to see, with some amusement, that he had been holding his bow upside down. I raised an eyebrow and muffled a chuckle, and he shot me a dirty look before making up some excuse about it being a while since he held it. I decided to let it lie, and laughed quietly to myself before turning to see what else faced us.

The dragon, now on the ground in the middle of the lizardmen’s encampment, let loose a cry of absolute fury and began a savage rampage which destroyed everything in his path. Tents, fire pits, lizardmen, and whatever else may have been over there fell under the enraged dragon’s onslaught as he raised up on hind legs and clapped his wings together in a buffet of wind. Spewing icy death and clawed vengance with each act, the dragon only stopped his attacks when nothing remained standing. Once he was satisfied thoroughly with the destruction wrought, the dragon-that-was-Shalev began nosing through the ruins and gathering what treasures he could find to begin hoarding.

Osman summoned a diminutive little fairy and asked it to create target lights over the enemies across the riverbed. It drew a shining sword and zipped away, agreeing to what he had been tasked to do. The three glowing ghost figures had finally made their way across the river, and were reaching out to attack us. Osman attempted a spell to destroy them, and one of the ghosts turned to flee, leaving the other two behind. Lan also made an attempt and succeeded in driving another of the ghosts away. The remaining ghost reached out toward KelLyn to attack, but she was able to dodge out of the way, still caught up in the throes of the curse and spewing obscenities. It attacked again, this time reaching toward Tobias, but misses again. Using my sword, I attempted to attack the ghost and was able to successfully hit it, though I did no damage. Lan stepped up and made another spell attempt, and this time was able to stop the ghost in it’s tracks.

Across the riverbed, the dragon-that-was-Shalev shimmered briefly, and then the dragon was gone and Shalev remained standing where it once had been in the midst of the ruined encampment. He looked around, and nodded once before drinking a healing potion and then he wandered slowly down into the river bed to look for the flaming sword that the large figure had wielded. Once down in the riverbed, he saw the three ghost figures as well as eight more wraiths coming toward him. He moved around until they were all gathered together in one group, and then destroyed them all with a negligent wave of his hand.

It was then that the little fairy that Osman summoned appeared over Shalev’s head waving his shining sword and jumping up and down, acting like a signal beacon as he had promised to do. Fife made to throw a spear towards the potential enemy, but upon seeing that it was Shalev, deliberately threw short so that the spear landed at Shalev’s feet. The fairy shouted out that Fife had missed, and Osman dismissed it with thanks, setting it free instead of banishing it. It looked at him with a quick tilt of his head, and then vanished through a hole in the wall where the non-existent river once flowed.

We made our way over to the demolished campsites on the opposite side of the riverbed, and began searching through the wreckage for additional treasures. We found:

  • 2000 gold coins
  • 1000 electrum coins (ancient pre-imperial currency worth about .5 gold)
  • 1000 silver coins
  • 500 platinum coins
  • 500 copper coins
  • a necklace worth about 400 gold

I managed to locate the flaming sword wedged into the far wall about 75 feet up. I pointed it out to Shalev, keeping a wary eye on my student, and he immediately set about trying to find a way to retrieve the weapon. Fife made a grumbling good-natured complaint about it and began trying to climb the wall to get the sword. He fell after about 10 feet, and after a few more attempts, threw his hands up in a huff. Tobias stepped forward then and also tried climbing the wall. After the first few failed attempts, Ishmael looked on with mild amusement and quipped that if a flaming sword was really what he wanted, that it might be easy enough to craft for him. Shalev took interested note of Ishmael’s commentary, but still wanted to try to retrieve this one, as he was convinced that it was magical. Tobias grumbled something under his breath about epic weapons, godforsaken stone walls, and Shalev owing him a huge favor, and renewed his attempts to climb the wall for several more moments. After failing and falling again and again, he finally also gave up. Shalev, still determined, also tried, but also failed, and the sword remained buried solidly in the wall. Shalev finally asked Lan to see if she could sense if it were a magical weapon at all, but she sensed nothing special about it. Fife then threw a grappling hook up and successfully snagged the hilt of the weapon. Ishmael grabbed the rope and gave a solid yank, finally managing to free the ensconced weapon, but destroying both the sword and the grappling hook in the process. Both twisted pieces of metal fell to the ground with a clatter, and as Shalev picked up the mangled grapple, Fife grabbed the remains of the hilt of the sword and tossed them into one of the green acid pots with a satisfied sniff. Ishmael confirmed that he could repair the grappling hook by straightening the warped metal with his bare hands, and also confirmed from glancing at the hilt of the weapon as Fife carried it away, that the sword was one like those he knew how to craft.

Shalev shrugged and apologized to everyone for the time sink, but maintained that it had been worth it to find out, as the large figure had been trying to wield the weapon against a dragon. I looked again, warily, at Shalev, searching his eyes for any remaining evidence of the dragon that had possessed him. He seemed as nonplussed as I was about it, and both he and I reacted with similar alarm when the KelLyn and Tobias nonchalantly said that the armor had been known to do that in the past. That the spirit of the dragon lived on inside the armor, and that if the wearer were seriously injured, that there was a small chance that the will of the living spirit would overtake the wearer and turn them into a dragon for as long as the spirit’s will held firm.

Shalev confirmed that he had felt the struggle against something, but had not been aware completely of his actions as the dragon. He also made a mildly irritated commentary about how that would have been useful information to know ahead of time. Tobias and KelLyn simply shrugged, and said that they weren’t aware that it was a property of the armor itself until recently, and that they had only seen it happen once or twice before, so had no way of knowing if it would happen again.

Shalev made a comment about the earthen mounds that dotted the area near the fortifications, thinking they were burial mounds, and wanted to see what was in them. I cautioned that disturbing the mounds further would likely be a very bad idea, as we did not want to risk bringing the ghosts back again. He nodded in agreement, moving away from them and saying that his brooch was out of power temporarily anyway. While he was cursed in dragon form, he had done quite a lot to damage the existing mounds anyway, and whatever treasures that might have been in them had been dug out when he had begun hoarding.

The party rested here for a moment to regroup, and then we ventured into the triangular fortifications across the riverbed. The inner walls were covered in murals and depictions of scenes similar to those loathsome images from the temple above. There were a pair of massive bronze doors on the far wall, with no visible hinges or handles. Osman looked at the murals on the walls with great fascination, as this was apparently one of the sole reasons that he left the comforts of his home. As he studied the images, he began reciting the legends of the lizard men that matched the scenery depicted. Shalev remembering the way the doors under the Oasis of the White Palm opened, turned to the doors and said “Open in the name of Sacatha.” but the doors remained tightly closed. We listened with interest and after Osman had completed his recitations, he mentioned that Sacatha considered “the Great King” to be a part of his name and a grave insult to leave off of any address to him. Shalev turned toward the doors once again, and this time commanded “Open in the name of Sacatha the Great King.” This was apparently the correct passphrase to gain entrance, because as soon as he had finished the last syllable, the doors swung open silently inwards.

We crept into the revealed hallway carefully to see doors to the left, to the right, and straight ahead, down short hallways. Fife and I noticed odd holes in the ceilings, and we caution that there were likely to be traps, seeing what we had already encountered. We looked again, and saw that the place where we stood was out relatively sheltered, and so Shalev asked Fife to use a grappling hook to snag the door handles on the door straight ahead of us. He noted that the hinges allowed for the door to swing toward us, and he pulled it open from a distance with the grapple. As soon as they opened, spears fell from the odd holes in the ceiling falling in a rain of deadly, poison tipped points. We all remained safely in the archway of the entrance, so were unhurt and completely unsurprised by the revealed trap. Shalev handed Fife a scrap of tapestry, and they both set about clearing a pathway down the center aisle. Fife noted that the spears were very poor quality, but the poison might be useful.

Shalev strode down the short hallway and through the now opened doors without checking for further danger first. Luckily there did not appear to be any additional traps, and he entered the room unscathed to see it bedecked like a grand dining room. A large table stretched across the center of the room, piled high with food as if for a great feast. The utensils, plates, and goblets were all made of gold. The chair at the end of the table was a grand throne like seat, and the oddly-tiled mosaics along the walls depicted scenes of a meal time in a great hall. As Shalev stepped into the room, one of the lizard men in the mosaic suddenly stepped out into the room, greeting Shalev and welcoming him to the feast. Shalev politely declined, stating that he was waiting for the rest of his party to arrive, and the lizard man demurred and stepped back into the mosaic. Shalev stepped back into the room again, and the same Lizard man stepped out once again and offered him a goblet of wine. Shalev took the goblet, and pretended to drink though did not actually do so. He thanked the lizard man, and then seeing nothing of interest in the room, and no additional doors, retreated from the room closing the main doors behind him as he went.

The party decided to check the left hall next, and Fife and I carefully made our way down the passageway to check for traps. As soon as we neared the door, however, the pit trap that had been concealed there triggered. I managed to dodge out of the way, but Fife fell into the gaping hole toward the pointed spikes that covered the bottom of the trap. He twisted as he fell, and managed to bring the green dragon scale shield up underneath him to help protect him from the damage of the fall. The shield held well, and stopped the fall completely protecting Fife from any injury the wicked spikes would have done, though the spikes did not penetrate the shield material, it was stuck fast to them, and could not be removed. As soon as he fell, the ceiling over the trap also began to lower to flatten the trap and smash Fife into the spikes. Shalev threw a grapple into the pit, but missed his mark, and Fife attempted to grab the rope but also missed. The ceiling continued to lower ominously, and KelLyn stepped up then, gathered her will in a massive flex of magical energy, pushing through the curse to cast a spell which allowed her to physically punch the falling stone slab and turn it into sand. Fife was buried with the sand, but not crushed, and Amit moved over to help us drag him out of the pit. We were able to get him about half way uncovered and KelLyn grabbed him and yanked him out of the sand trap completely.

The rescue attempt exhausted all of us, and so we made a camp and rested here. Osman created goat haunches, and the watches all passed uneventfully. When we woke, Lan made an attempt to cast a spell on the still-sleeping KelLyn to try to remove the curse that had been affecting her. There was no visible effect, and as this place seemed secure for the moment, we allowed her to rest until she awoke on her own. When she finally did, the curse had lifted, and she was back to normal. I brewed a small portion of the Philospher’s Tea that I had remaining from the visit with Matron and the elven city, and I offered her a mug which she accepted gratefully.

Sipping the tea brought to mind the tree and the quest that still lay before me to deal with the corrupted elves, and attempt to resurrect the tree in a safe place. There is so much to accomplish that I still feel adrift when I consider it too deeply. I will continue to pray, to study the book, and to study my own language in search of ways to complete my goal, but I can’t help but wonder how long the tree can hold out without the Maker sustaining it.

After we had rested and regrouped, we continued through the doorway down the left path. As soon as we entered the room, we saw a similarly odd-tiled mosaic, this time depicting a giant lizard figure wearing a crown, leading men against a group of hill giants. We all started in alarm as a mouth opened on the ceiling and stated “Great King, live forever!” With that, the hill giants stepped out of that oddly tiled mosaic, and turned towards the party to throw rocks at us. We dodged back into the corridor, but one of the boulders bounced through and struck Osman. His armor protected him from further damage, thankfully, and Amit growled and pawed at the boulder, using his massive paws to swat the giant rock down the right hand corridor. When the rock hit the floor, it activated the pit trap there, and the ceiling crashed down like it had with Fife and I. Amit kicked dirt towards the rubble and then turned with another growl to face the hill giants with us once again.

Fife and KelLyn immediately began working together to cast a spelled spear, aiming the deadly projectile at the closest giant’s knee. KelLyn said something in Fyrewerian, and Fife threw the spear which hit successfully, and the giant howled in pain. A second giant emerged holding a skeleton in plate mail armor, likely the remains of a previous adventurer who succumbed to the perils of this place. The giant tossed the corpse into the center of the party, and then a black circle opened directly above KelLyn’s head. A rod poked through the hole and a blast of light struck KelLyn in the top of her head, burning all of her hair off. She shrieked in fury and reached up to grab the offending rod, trying to pull whom-or-whatever wielded it through the hole. She missed her mark, and the rod withdrew, closing the hole behind it without a trace.

A third giant came to the door then, and Lan and Osman worked together to begin summoning something from the fairy world. Fife and KelLyn began once again preparing another spear/spell combo to throw. Shalev stepped forward and, drawing his layan great sword, attacked all three of the giants at once. Tobias shot the giant who was throwing the skeleton at us, and hit it in the eye. I shot the giant with the wounded knee, and though I hit successfully, I did minimal damage. Shalev’s attacks did a great deal of damage to the giants, and one of them fell backwards back into the room.

Lan and Osman completed their summon, and a swarthy figure stepped through their portal and said “Huh, well this is weird, the ceiling is back.” At that point the skeleton that had been tossed towards us landed on the backpack that it wore. There was an explosion of magical energy as something in the backpack detonated in waves of fire, ice, lighting and… rabbits. Rabbits??

The explosions would have been enough to knock me unconscious, but I gathered my willpower to ignore the injuries long enough to drink a potion which negated any hurt I might have taken. I looked around in confusion as rabbits began to bound away in every direction, more and more and more of them until they nearly filled the room. Another black circle opened up over KelLyn’s head, but she and Fife were prepared for it this time, and as soon as the wand tip emerged from the portal, Fife stabbed upwards, shattering the wand and causing another explosion of magical energy that blew up into the rapidly closing hole.

I saw Lan converse briefly with the swarthy figure, hearing her call him by name “Puck” and then he… Puck.. sank down to his haunches and called all of the rabbits over to him, talking to them in their own chittering language. Lan then moved over to Tobias to heal him of any residual injuries, and KelLyn and Fife worked to prepare a third spelled spear. Shalev continued to dodge and attack the giants, and catches a glimpse into the room beyond to see another ten lizardmen emerge from the mosaic.

Osman and I continued to fire arrows at the giants, and Osman was able to pinpoint his strikes to hit one of the giants in the eye. I heard that chittering language again, and turned to see the Puck-figure change into a giant brown rabbit, and all of the other rabbits also grow proportionally to the same size. The army of rabbits then sprang forward and mobbed around the corner, where we heard the sounds of a vicious fight begin.

KelLyn said something odd in Fyrewerian, and Fife’s spear suddenly doubled, as did the giant he threw it at. The spear hit successfully again, and it was apparently enough to take out both the giant and it’s new double. Both collapsed with a crash, and the other two giants also fell, mortally wounded. We ran around the corner to see a room full of carnage, the rabbits having battled with the lizard men to mutual extermination. We looked up at the mosaic then to see the large lizard figure wearing the crown step out of the mosaic and throw his trident, spearing the last remaining rabbit to the wall with a cry of triumph. We answered with a cry of horror, as the rabbit twitched, and then changed back into the swarthy Puck fairy that Lan and Osman had summoned before he died with a sigh.

…. to be continued

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I have been weighed, and am bring measured.
I pray I am not found wanting.

I am in a crucible. My path has lead me, through unknowing words, into a quest to defeat an ill which ravages a county. We have already faced lizardmen, a demon prince, a dragon, evil clerics, another demon, that same demon prince again, and a stair trap that but for Cora’s skill in detection and my suggestion for a solution would have sent us all spiraling to our fiery deaths. I have also made the discovery that my armor may, when I am wounded, turn me into a dragon over which I have limited control. Having just been made a paladin, I believe Ma’at is weighing my soul, deciding whether I am worth keeping or should be punished for my sins.

If Kellyn is the counterweight to me, as she prefers power while I prefer control, then as one of us increases in ability, so may the other. With my broach and my sword, I am a formidable force, and that does not count the power of the dragon, which my companions had neglected to mention to me. Perhaps they thought the power had worn off, or that it was unique to Declan, but as this never happened to Ahriman, mages may be immune the effect.

Ah, the dragon… Cora dislikes them immensely, though I wonder if that is from her druidic nature or if there is another reason. She looked at me differently after I returned to my usual form, and I wonder how much of the actions of the dragon were it, and how much were me. I did have enough control to choose when to revert, and I suppose I could have freed the dragon to have its way while still in the air, but my cold practicality suggested that it was better to let it obliterate any resistance before trying to end its rampage.

My brooch has no power currently, and I feel vulnerable. My connection to Ma’at feels tenuous at times, and I do not feel prepared for my responsibilities. When I return to the Count, after this adventure, I will be a very different person than when I left. I was called a Paladin before, though I do not think I was truly one at the time. As it stands, I still feel like I am more a ranger with faith and responsibility, but I suppose that time will tell what Ma’at makes of me, should I survive.

They say Puck is dead. A powerful Fae that Lan and Osmun summoned, I am unfamiliar with him, but presume from Lan’s reactions that he is a high dignitary. Given he died in aiding us, though not necessarily what doing what he was asked to do, there is no telling who will be blamed for his death or what the reaction to it will be. I can only pray that we will not be judged more responsible for his death than we are due.

Unless Sakatha was of a perverted bent, I do not believe the hill giants or lizardmen were the brides of Sakatha spoken of in the poem, thus we must hunt elsewhere to find him, and end his reign of terror.

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Into the Tomb of the Lizard King - Part 5: A Lesson in Irony
Thoughts from the point of view of Cora'sol "The Immortal"

cross posted from Cora’s Travel Journal

“Sometimes, some moments, you can actually feel the universe shift. Whether it’s because you’re on the right path, the wrong one, or merely causing history to be written by your steps in the sands.” – Cora

.oOo..oOo..oOo..oOo.

“She is the one who sent you here, we want her dead.” the mages said, pointing the demon prince toward KelLyn with condescending smirks of triumph.

Those smirks were short lived, however, as the warriors of the party immediately turned their attention to dealing with them personally. They began moving backwards into the billowing smoke in an attempt to use that as cover against the coming fight, but Shalev and Ishmael both engaged to prevent their escape.

The demon prince took a step forward, and apologized to KelLyn before reaching out to try and remove her heart. KelLyn quipped glibly that she was “90 percent sure she didn’t need her heart anyway,” and began quickly reading the Protection from Demons spell scroll that we had picked up earlier in the explorations.

Lan and Osman began a summoning together, and Fife stepped directly between KelLyn and the demon prince, taking his role of bodyguard literally, as he threw a spear toward the mage who had spoken the order for KelLyn’s death. I fired an arrow at the other mage, but missed due to the cover of the smoke, and quickly fired a second shot, this time hitting, but doing no damage. Fife’s aim was, as it always is, true to mark, and the spear pinned the first mage to the floor. Shalev took the opportunity to grab the pinioned body and throw it off of the spear and away, before drawing his sword and striking the head clean off of the second mage.

Killing the mages did not release the demon, much to the party’s consternation and immediate realization that the demon was not controlled by the two that came through with him, and capricious enough to continue toward the original goal of killing KelLyn.

Near Lan and Osman, a gate began to open as a result of their combined efforts in summoning. The army of fae that it revealed took one look in to see the demon prince, looked at Lan and Osman like the two of them were out of their minds, and promptly closed the gate. Nonplussed, the two of them immediately began summoning again, not to be deterred by the setback, and seemingly oblivious to the refusal of the fae.

Ishmael, recalling the fight with the dragon, eased his way around to flank the demon prince, and began to climb the 14 foot tall creature. Shalev moved in to attack, aiming for the demon’s knees as the demon again tried for KelLyn’s heart.

Fife, using the momentum and weight of the demon to his advantage, stabbed the demon’s hand with the flamestrike spear. The defense was successful, and the spear actually managed to cause damage to the demon, causing him to recoil in surprise and giving KelLyn the chance to finish reading the protection spell which crumbled into dust upon completion.

I, realizing that I would probably be more hindrance than help in this fight, moved over to search the bodies of the two mages in hopes that I might find something that would aid in banishing the demon back to it’s home plane. I saw that one of the poor fools was still struggling to breathe, and quietly put him out of his misery. Searching the remains lent only a handful of miscellaneous components, however, and nothing else of real value.

Ishmael continued his stealthy climb, and Lan and Osman finished their latest summoning, this time creating a vortex from which a strange creature emerged. It looked like a skeletal humanoid made purely of dust and rocks. At that moment, Shalev located and began reading the Banish Unholy scroll that we had found in an attempt to return the demon to it’s home plane.

KelLyn began to visibly gather her willpower in preparation of continuing with her formidable defense against the demon; and the demon, seeing that Fife was still standing between them, reached out to swat him aside. Fife made an attempt to dodge out of the way, but wasn’t quite fast enough, and was thrown against the far wall and wounded. Lan tried to control the strange skeletal dust elemental that she and Osman had summoned, but failed, and the creature turned to attack them both.

Another fairy portal opened up then, a result of yet another attempt to summon from Lan and Osman. A hand reached through the new portal, handed Osman an ash wand, and then withdrew, once again closing the portal behind it. Osman looked at the wand curiously, but then realized that the dust elemental was attacking him, and turned to focus his attention on dispelling the creature.

Shalev completed reading the Banish Unholy spell, and the demon prince screamed and turned to run out of the room, throwing Ishmael clear of his back in the process. Shalev then turned and cast a quick dispel undead at the elemental attacking Lan and Osman, causing it to collapse into a pile of filmy dust before it could reach them.

I moved over to check on Fife, who had bounced off of the far wall, and found him injured enough to require healing. I gave him one of the draughts of pure healing which was enough to get him back on his feet. KelLyn tried then to peer through the still-open portal that the mages emerged from earlier, and she saw faint figures moving on the other side. She rolled a copper piece towards the portal to see if it was two-way, but discovered that it would not allow things to pass back through.

The demon prince peered around the corner of the doorway, said with mocking laughter “I can’t believe you fell for that!” and then opened up a gate to the neutral plane in the center of the room. Lan tried to disenchant the portal, in hopes that it would collapse, but failed, and the spell rebounded into Ishmael. He shimmered for a moment, but appeared otherwise unaffected, though I heard him mutter something about feeling physically stronger. Osman also attempted to destroy the gate, but he also was unsuccessful, and he retreated toward the edge of the opposite hallway to get out of the way.

Two wraiths emerged from the neutral gate, and Shalev moved to attack them as KelLyn worked to try closing the gate so that nothing else could come through. The demon prince laughed again and opened a second gate to a Lawful plane, and I heard Shalev curse darkly. Fife took a moment to examine the smoky gate that the mages had originally emerged from, but could not go through.

I was keeping myself well clear of the fray, knowing that it was too tight of a space for me to really be any use. The hidden stairway to the lower levels was still to be found, and so I used my skills to try and locate it. Instead of the stairs, however, I discovered a low frame of mist on the far wall, where 4 translucent gold ravens worked to drag the bodies of the two mages we had killed through the misty portal. I silently crept closer to the misty portal, following the strange ravens, and saw three more mages through the mist, chanting and piecing the bodies of their fallen companions back together again. I carefully tried to reach through the area where I had seen the ravens pass, and discovered that I could do so without harm. There was a thick pedestal or reading stand of some sort on the mage’s side of the misty opening, and I used it as cover to stay out of sight in order to give myself time to contemplate what my next actions could be.

Osman suddenly remembered the magical lock that we had taken from the desk in the captain’s quarters earlier. He took it out and tossed it towards the neutral gate, and newly forming lawful gate, and it landed on the floor in the middle of the two. He then tried to shoot the lock with an arrow, hoping that the impact would cause the lock to explode and destroy the gates, but he missed, and the arrow skittered across the floor harmlessly.

Ishmael stepped forward then, and with an odd look of concentration on his face, he reached out to try to push the smoky gate closed as if it were simply a door that needed to be shut. He pushed on the gate with an unbelievable strength, and the fabric of the entire universe flexed around him in a visible and nauseatingly physical ripple in reality. Everything stopped for a heartbeat, and we just stared at Ismael in awe. He kept up his attempt for another moment, completely unaware that what he was doing was normally impossible, and intently focused on his task.

Shalev’s attacks on the wraiths were unsuccessful, and he found himself unable to hit them directly with his sword. Osman failed another attempt to hit the lock, and KelLyn still worked frantically to close the gates that were forming around us.

Two evil knights emerged from the Lawful portal, and Ishmael, seeing that his attempt to close the smoke gate wasn’t working, abandoned the effort and moved over to deal with them. The demon prince, seeing that we had still not been defeated, said something uncouth and began opening a third gate, this time to the plane of fire. Lan cast a pacify spell on the wraiths, convincing them to leave Shalev alone, and KelLyn began casting a spell to try once again to destroy the gates.

I reached again carefully through the strange mist-portal that I had discovered, and felt some papers on the reading stand. Keeping a wary eye on the chanting mages and the strange ravens, I grabbed the paper and pull it back through the portal without being detected. I looked at what I had grabbed and saw a piece of paper with an odd multidimensional writing on it. I thought it looked similar to what I had seen KelLyn working with when she used Fyrewerian, and was able to make out some part of it that said “varanuraman also known as ermaralurazar”. I tucked it safely into a pocket, and then ducked out of the way just as Osman was finally able to successfully strike the magical lock with a heavy arrow.

The lock exploded, as hoped, with an implosion of magical energy that caused the gates to buckle, and the knights and wraiths to disappear. KelLyn’s spell completed successfully, and the buckling gates were completely destroyed. As soon as the gates crashed down, I ran over to KelLyn to hand her the scrap of paper that I had filched from the pedestal in the misty room. She glanced at it curiously saying that it looked like the demon’s name and that this could be most helpful, and began studying it in more detail. While she studied, I moved back over to see what else I could find in the misty room, but found that I could no longer reach through the portal when my hand met cold stone.

The demon prince, hearing the explosion, looked around the door frame again and blinked in surprise to see us all standing there mostly unharmed. He grumbled “well hell” and then withdrew around the corner once again opening another gate across the doorway. Tobias and Ishmael who had charged toward the demon the second he showed his face, instead found themselves amidst six red-robed figures emerging from the new portal.

Tobias, reacting with a speedy reflex, shifted his attack toward the first of the robed figures, swinging his mace with deadly precision. The impact of the mace caused it to explode, however, sending shrapnel flying and causing minor damage to everyone within range. Ishmael shrugged off the damage from the mace, and reached out to snare one of the other robed figures in a crushing bearhug.

Lan and Osman moved towards the rear of the room and worked together to begin, once again, summoning something from fae. Fife, seeing new targets in the robed figures, threw a spear at one of them as Ishmael, Shalev, and Tobias engaged with the others.

The demon, hearing that we were not dying in agony as he had hoped, reached through the purple portal and began moving his arm in an obvious incantation to open yet another gate. Seeing the rest of the party otherwise occupied, I snatched up the flamestrike spear and ran over to stab the demon in the hand, hoping to disrupt his concentration. My strike was true, and the spear caused enough damage to the demon to cause him to jerk his hand upward just as he finished the incantation before withdrawing his hand with a cry of surprised pain. The portal which he had been trying to open on the floor underneath us instead opened up to a gaping, starless void in the ceiling.

Expecting another attempt from the demon, I waited there by the new portal, poised to strike him again when he reached back through. Instead of another attack, however, the party heard the demon begin cursing vehemently against something on that side of the portal.

The demon’s cry of pain, and the now cavernous hole where the ceiling once was, was enough to cause all of the other robed figures in the room to stop and stare, giving the party members the opportunity to attack them. Fife’s spear hit one of the robed figures, and the spear exploded much like the mace did, sending shards everywhere, and causing enough damage to knock me unconscious.

Tobias continued to grapple with the robed figures, moving them away from where I lay on the ground, and Shalev stepped in with a furious cry to strike all of the robed men with a flurry of attacks. Shalev’s attacks were lethally accurate, and with each strike against the strange foes, he gained a little more precision and a little more of the deadly calm that he shows when he is focused so. His brooch of Ma’at began to glow visibly with gathered energy, and his strikes were the only things that were obviously doing damage to the creatures they fought. He told me later that during the attacks he felt a power stir within his sword, and felt that he would be able to access it, if he could figure out how to do so.

Lan and Osman’s summoning spell completed successfully, and again, a gate to fairy lands opened up to reveal that army of fae waiting beyond. A voice cried out that “they had already provided help, and what more could they do!” before tossing a hawthorne bush out into the room and pulling the gate shut behind them.

Shalev continued his attacks on the robed figures, his brooch glowing brighter with each successful strike, when suddenly he paused and took a step backward. His eyes narrowed in concentration, and he tilted his head to one side as he observed something only he could see. He continued this appraisal for a moment, and then grinned – much like I have seen Amit look right before he pounces – and stepped in to renew his attacks, seeming now to somehow know exactly where to hit them and how to do the most damage.

Tobias, seeing that I was still down, ran over to pick me up and carry me out into the hallway where Lan and Osman were waiting and attempting, yet again, to summon something together. Fife ran to retrieve the flamestrike spear, and he also retreated out into the hallway. Ishmael, seeing the robed figure that he had trapped in a bearhug was no longer moving, dropped the body and grabbed for the next nearest enemy with the intent of tossing them up into the vast emptiness above us. The rest of the robed figures began to converge on Ishmael, and Shalev moved in to protect him and renew his attacks against them.

KelLyn decided then that reading the strange scrap of paper was getting her absolutely nowhere. Throwing both her caution and her reading to the wind, she tucked the scrap into her robes and grabbed the dragon scale she had imbued with power shouting “I have had enough!” to where the demon hid behind the portal.

There was a tremendous crashing noise, followed by what sounded like some sort of explosion behind the portal. A brass censer, incandescent with magical energy, tumbled through the portal, billowing incense smoke around the already hazy room. A huge gust of wind followed the smoking brazier, and we could hear the demon shouting in an odd language. We caught a glimpse through the faltering portal to see the demon prince engaged in a violent argument with a djinn. KelLyn’s spell completed at that moment, and a beam of energy shot from her hand through the portal to strike the demon square in the chest right as the djinn also punched him in the face.

Ishmael, who was still grappling with the robed figures, picked one of them up over his head and threw it into the void above him. As soon as the robed figure vanished through the void portal, the remaining figures shrank inward and disappeared. Shalev, now freed from his defense of Ishmael, looked into the room where the demon and the djinn fought. He moved over to the wall next to the doorway, and closed his eyes in concentration once again, and he focused his will on determining the best ways to defeat the demon prince.

Lan and Osman’s summoning spell completed then, but there was no effect, the fairies evidently deciding that they had done quite enough. A clam did appear in front of Lan, though, and she took a moment to enjoy the delicacy humming softly and happily to herself before moving over to check on me. I was still unconscious, and so she performed a basic first aid which was enough to wake me up again. Osman shrugged and looked at the hawthorn bush tossed into the room earlier. On a whim, he picked up the bush and threw it at the portal across the doorway. KelLyn cast a dispel to also attempt to close the portal, and her spell caused the portal to begin to buckle so that when the hawthorn bush struck, both portal and bush disintegrated completely, clearing the doorway into the room beyond.

Fife, noticing that the brazier was still smoking on the floor, picked it up and began gently swinging it, watching the incense billow out of it with a somewhat dazed look on his face. We looked into the now visible chamber beyond to see the demon and the djinn locked in a massive battle of wills, gusts of wind still blasting through the doorway. Ishmael, seeing the demon so occupied, charged in to attack the demon, in an attempt to break it’s concentration. His first hit did not have any visible effect, though it looked like he struck with the force of a mountain, so he swung again.

Tobias moved in as well, swinging at the demon with his mace, and Shalev continued to concentrate on finding weaknesses in their defenses. KelLyn walked over near the demon and began tracing circles in the floor, drawing power in with each concentric ring she created.

Still wounded, I remained by Amit, but when I moved to go back into the room with the void-ceiling, Amit rigidly remained behind, staring up into the void with clear concern. I still needed to find the hidden stairs, though, so I ventured carefully into the room to see what I could find. The further in I moved, the further away Amit creeped, edging backwards until he was against the wall on the northern end of the hallway. This was odd behavior for him, and seeing that he had backed himself into a wall, I returned to his side and tried to ease his obvious worry.

Shalev straightened up then, and suddenly turned to Fife with a shout that should he stop swinging that censer, the djinn would kill him. Fife, wide eyed, nodded his understanding, and kept swinging the brazier in a high arc. Each complete swing of the censer made the djinn visibly more resolute, as if Fife were adding his willpower to the ongoing battle between the demon and the djinn. Ishmael continued to hit the demon prince again and again and again, but though the hits fell like hammers, they had very little visible effect. Shalev stepped forward and swung his holy avenger down towards the demon with a cry, hitting the demon’s arm at the wrist and shearing off it’s hand with a crackle of energy. Ishmael, seeing the new wound on the demon, began striking the stump of the arm instead.

The demon’s hand fell into the center of the circles that KelLyn was creating, and she looked at it with a smirk saying “Yep. That will do.” She reached down and picked up the hand of the demon, and began drawing power the same way she had when she leached the essence of the dragon down into a single scale. Sparks began to radiate off of the circle around her from the sheer amount of power she was calling up.

I was still over with Amit, checking the wall behind where he crouched. and I noticed that when he shifted position, the wall behind him seemed to warp. Osman created some goat parts with a spell in order to try to get Amit away from the wall, and he was successful in distracting the great cat. While Amit kept Osman busy creating food for him, I checked the wall again more carefully to reveal, at last, the hidden stairway to the lower levels. I opened the door to see a spiral staircase made of stone leading down into the darkness. I lit a torch to see what I could observe – if anything – about the stairs themselves, but could not make out much in the way of details.

Back in the main chamber, KelLyn continued to pull power with a shower of sparks, drawing the essence of the demon down into it’s severed hand. Ishmael continued his hammering attacks on the demon’s arm, and Shalev swung his holy avenger once again in an attempt to sever the demon’s other hand.

The demon and the djinn were still locked in a massive battle of wills, but the pain of it’s wounds plus the added benefits to the djinn were finally enough to overpower the demon. The djinn laughed in wicked triumph and with a wave of his hand banished the demon back to it’s home plane. The djinn then reached down, plucked the hand out of KelLyn’s grasp, and squeezed, distilling the remaining essence of the demon down into one single scarlet gemstone which he handed back to a wide-eyed KelLyn with a “congratulations. This is what remains.”

He then turned his attentions to Fife, who was still swinging the censer. He pointed at Fife and said sternly that he would not serve him. Fife shook his head quickly, still swinging the incense, and replied that he didn’t want him to. The djinn then demanded that Fife order him to go and Fife hastily agreed that he was free to go. The djinn nodded once, and then vanished, and Fife dropped the brazier – now extinguished – with a sigh of relief. KelLyn agreed to identify the brazier, and an argument broke out among the party members as to whether or not it should be left here or taken with the party. Shalev and KelLyn actually agreed with one another that the thing should be left alone, thinking that Lan or Osman might not be able to control anything that could be summoned, and that was enough to make the others pause and consider; but Lan and Osman eventually won, agreeing to be responsible for the relic.

I called the party’s attention to the now revealed passageway down to the lower levels, and we all agreed that we should rest here and recuperate before venturing further below.

The demon prince is vanquished. Ironically now imprisoned within a stone that he himself gave KelLyn the power to create. KelLyn is happy, Ishmael is reveling in his newfound strength for however long it may last, and the rest of us are tired. Shalev immediately went into a meditative prayer, sitting with his sword gently placed across his knees. I know not what his goddess revealed to him during that fight, but it was profound. I can see a change in his demeanor, his confidence, and his power. He is much changed from the wayward wanderer that I encountered so long ago. I am happy to see that he is growing and learning well.

As for what lay below us? We know that Sacatha still awaits, but beyond that, it still remains to be see what we may face. I only hope that we can continue to work together as we have, to make it out of this place alive.

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Shalev's thoughts, post battle
Outclassed, but passed the test

It is a conceit from those who live in an Oasis or a forest, that one goes into the desert, where there is nothing, in order to be alone with yourself, and to become pure. Where then does someone in the desert go, to have that which is not important sanded away?

I am Ozymandias, King of Kings, look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair.

I saw this carved onto a stone in the desert, before I left it, and in leaving, I went to new places, and am learning new things. I am a foolish youth, and a condescending ass, as Kellyn, called me, but I am learning. There are different forms of power, and a balance is necessary for all to coexist. Not all who are of chaos need to be removed from the board, for there will always be extremes. I was prepared to die today, to burn, but to do so saving others, despite in not creating the Law needed to balance my scales. Perhaps that selflessness is what allowed me to survive, which guided me to new abilities with my broach and sword, and to strike the demon’s hand from him, so that Kellyn could defeat him.

Sakatha will be slain, but the lizard men perhaps should not be, save that they stay in our way. So long as they live here, so long as they are part of the balance, perhaps there is a place for them. We have found the door we could not find, and will soon descend to another level, to perhaps face Sakatha and some other monsters which inhabit this place. Time permitting, the power of my broach permitting, I must check Amit to see what the blades have done to him, to see if what he has done.

We have sufficient food to mount an expedition of this place, although I have seen none come up or down yet, which raises the question of what traffic exists. I don’t know how long we have before the dead dragon is discovered, before the god tells his other priests about that which we have wrought here. If the villagers are alive, we must try to save them, for there are few bodies here, and the soldiers of the Count’s armies may be down here as well, and may be useful allies. If so, we will need to create additional rafts to get out of here. We have enough money acquired that we will be able to afford warhorses, to repair our equipment and to equip ourselves for the mountain journey which will come next.

We need to speak to the diviners as well, for I need to know, who killed my father, did my brother try to poison me, where may we find the components needed so Ishmael may create his hammer to repair my sword, where are the pieces of the staff that Kellyn seeks, where is the healing cup the elf spoke of, what must be done with the table and cup to remove the immortality of the healing orcs, are there any on this continent who may teach me the ancient fighting arts, where might I learn the ways of Ma’at, where is Egypt, and what may I learn of its people, gods and their customs, and what must we do to purify the temple under the Oasis of the White Palm?

When we return the book, save the sylvan tree, defeat the healing orcs, retrieve the cup of healing, and then return so that I may be married, then may we rest for a time, while clearing the temple, before we face the dark elves to stop their army lest they conquer the desert in their wrath. I am feeling kinder toward the princess, in my travels, as perhaps she did what she could to protect herself, and like me, acted rashly without the intent to harm. It is possible some affection may someday be between us, but it will take time, and I am still in the stage of anger, and will allow my pride to be wounded before it’s time to be an adult and let it go.

When we return to the count, I will tell the tale of what has happened here, and let it be known so that better bards may sing better songs than the one in that tavern. So far, we have a story involved a dragon slain by a blacksmith who proclaimed he was not a mage, a demon dismissed, a demon captured, a patriarch slain because he wounded one of my companions, and the battle with Sakatha himself has not yet begun. This may very well be a long and glorious tale.

Ma’at has been good and patience with me, protecting me from my enemies and being patient as I learn what it is to serve her. I have looked on my works, Ozymandias, and I do not despair. I resolve to do better, be better, to improve, to be worthy, so that my memory will be a blessing to those who know me. The next time I meet a rulers, I may very well ask them, “For ten years I have been practicing the art of the sword; my edge has been put to the test. Now I am holding my sword and showing it to you, sir: Is there anyone suffering from injustice? “

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Into the Tomb of the Lizard King - Part 4: KelLyn gets a visit from Karma
Thoughts from the point of view of Cora'sol "The Immortal"

cross posted from Cora’s Travel Journal

Time moves differently underground. Unending darkness broken only by the light we create from our torches and camp fires. No way to tell sun rise and sunset aside from our natural rhythm.

I look forward to being done with this place. The dank walls, dripping hallways, and ceaseless miasma of evil makes me weary. We still have no idea about what we might face ahead, or how much more there is to this. I miss the touch of sunlight on my face. I miss being dry. I miss the touch of green, growing, healthy things around me.

My thoughts wander again and again back to the Maker, and the tree that he had been sustaining. How much time is left? How much longer can the roots of the tree survive? Is it even possible to restore it? It is difficult for me to reach out to the sacred here. It feels distant, probably as a result of so much wrongness.

The sooner we can deal with Sacatha and return to the surface, the better.

.oOo..oOo..oOo..oOo.

Once back in the main camp area, KelLyn turned to Shalev and quietly asked if he would like to help her destroy the book that she had picked up in the library a few days prior. He looked at her with some suspicion, but agreed to help her get rid of it, mentioning too that it might be a good idea to leave it here in the room with the other treasure, just in case carrying it around might prove harmful. She agreed, and placed the book in one of the empty chests

While the rest of the party rested and recovered the damage done from the exploding book, I decided to scout out the narrow corridor underneath the trap door we had discovered in the room we used as a base camp.

The hallway was slim enough that movement was slightly restricted, and very dark. I do not have my Tobias’ ability to see in the dark, so Shalev followed as quietly as he could a little way behind me carrying a torch. After only about 50 feet or so, I came upon a wooden ladder that lead up to another trap door.

The small square door was not trapped, but the lock was quite a complex little puzzle. After more than a few moments the lock gave, and I slowly and silently opened it upwards. I spent a moment listening for movement, and hearing none, peeked up into the room to see what was there. I saw three moderate piles of debris: one of coins, one that looked like a whitish pile of bone, and another pile of leaves and plant debris. As I looked, I gently extended my senses out into the room to see what they could tell me. I smelled the ever-present scent of moldering decay and swamp and death, rusted metal, decomposing plants, and humidity, but nothing more. As I observed the room cautiously, the pile of leaves began to move slowly over. The moment it began to move, I withdrew from the room, closing the trap door behind me.

I told Shalev what I had seen, and on a whim asked if he could bring me an arm or a leg off of one of the bodies of the enemies we had slain. He left the torch with me, and came back after a moment with a handful of various limbs. I tossed one up into the room to observe if the plant pile would pose any threat. To my confirmation of curiosity, it shambled over and consumed the limb noisily. I tossed another up to keep it occupied while I thought, extending my druidic sense again to try to determine what this was. It looked like a plant, but sensed more like an animal, which was confusing. I have never run across a creature like this in all of my years, and Shalev had no experience with what this could be either. I tried once again to reach out to it directly, but got neither sense of intelligence nor alignment in the beast.

I tossed another limb up to the creature, and then made my way back down the ladder to where Shalev waited. Loathe to kill such an extraordinary creature, but wary of the danger that it might pose to us, I asked if he would mind using his skill at handling animals to help control it while we scouted out the rest of the room. He agreed, and with sudden inspiration, laced the remaining pile of limbs with three of the sleeping potions that he had picked up from our travels. He made a quick jog down the corridor to inform the rest of the party on what we found, and what we planned to do, then made his way back over and up the ladder. The mound of plant-animal crawled over to the pile of limbs and devoured them, showing no obvious effects from the potions that laced them. It moved again toward Shalev, and as he made it chase him around the room, we could see the effects of the potions taking effect in the slowness of it’s movements.

Ishmael came up the ladder at that point, and upon seeing the strange creature, attempted to use his shield to scoop underneath it in order to topple it over. This proved to be a mistake, however. The moment he got within reach of the thing, three tentacles lashed out from underneath it to wrap around Ishmael in order to pull him underneath where the mouth of the beast was. Ishmael pulled back to try to dodge the vice-like arms, but was not able to get out of the way in time, and was entangled. Seeing this, and seeing no other alternative, I reluctantly drew my sword to help free Ishmael. I hit the creature, but as I did, I felt the bulk of it’s mass shift to direct the force of my weapon downward, causing my sword to glance off of the floor. I mumble a curse as I retrieved my blade and noticed the damage done to it, knowing that it will most likely be impossible to repair.

Shalev continued his attacks, and Ishmael continued to struggle to get free. Tobias joined the fray then, tossing a torch at the creature, but it fizzled out in a puff of steam with no effect. I made an attempt then to use my druidic abilities to exhaust the thing, and saw that it had moderate effects on the speed of it’s movements. Shalev managed to free Ishmael then, Tobias attacks the creature just as new tentacles emerge from beneath it. I called then on the destructive side of my druidic powers, in an attempt to destroy the beast from the inside. I felt the spell hit the thing successfully, but there was no visual effect.

Fife also joined the fight then, spending a moment to study the creature in an attempt to find a weakness. Ishmael took up the task of leading it around the room, and called down to KelLyn – who had come down the hallway and waited at the bottom of the ladder – to tell us what she saw when he lead it over the opening at the trap door.

In an attempt to get out of the way, as I could do nothing else at the moment, I moved over near Shalev and we made our way over to the other two piles in the room to discover that the whitish pile was indeed bones and rusting pieces of useless armor. The other pile was a small pile of copper coins, as well as a handful of a strange reddish coin that appeared to be made of iron. The room was small enough that I could not use my bow without risk of injuring one of the other party members.

Ishmael moved to lead the mound over the opening of the trap door, and I could hear KelLyn’s voice down in the hallway, but could not make out what she was saying. At that moment, Fife moved to attack, having finally found a weak spot to strike. He speared the creature, and it convulsed spastically and collapsed in a heap of rotten bile and ooze down the trap door and all over poor KelLyn who had no idea what happened until it was too late.

Shalev found a scroll tube buried under the pile of copper, and I found an empty potion tube, but nothing else could be found in the remaining mess. Ishmael wondered aloud how such a creature got up in this little out of the way room, as it could not have fit through the trap door.

The ooze and ick made KelLyn understandably very irate, and she grumbled about causing harm to the first person that came down the ladder. Shalev made his way down the ladder, and seeing her ire, and her current state of being covered in mess, hastily held up the scroll tube to show it to her. It is enough to keep him from getting punched in the face, and we all make our way back over to the main room to rest and to allow KelLyn to clean herself off.

Once we were ready to continue, we made our way over to the main worship area to examine the door that Shalev had seen behind the tapestry. Fife stepped forward to check the door for traps, and finding one, attempted to find a way to open the door. He could find no way of gaining entrance, however, and I also checked the area there to discover a very old latch where a lever used to be. The mechanism is extremely complex, and I spent quite a bit of time to examine it. I was able to pick it open, but when the panel slid ajar, a wall of debris from the hallway behind it fell into the room. I still had my hands occupied with the locking mechanism, and was unable to dodge out of the way of the falling rocks. I was only slightly injured though, and Lan came over to check my wounds, determining that there was no major hurt.

Being in this room still made me feel nauseated, and so I turned to leave in order to go out so that I could meditate. I stopped abruptly, however, and stood stone-still when I saw a huge winged being standing in the doorway. He said with a voice rumbling with amusement “well, that door is blocked.”

The rest of the party turned to see, and I could see Shalev readying to attack the being outright. I noticed that it had not attacked us, but simply observed, and I held my hand out to stay Shalev’s action. I asked the demon politely if it knew of another way down to the next level, he said that he did. He said somewhat grumpily that he was trapped here, since the person who summoned him here had been killed – referring to the dark paladin that Shalev had killed earlier.

Shalev asked the demon his name, and the demon laughed at the naive question, saying that he knew well the power of names, and would not be so easily fooled. He also said that he wanted nothing more than to go home, and would be willing to trade information for the favor. I looked at KelLyn and Osman, and they in turn look through the book that Osman had pilfered from the library room. KelLyn finds a spell that would allow her to return the demon to his home plane, and she shared the information with Lan who had the magical capability to perform the spell.

We all moved over to the summoning chamber – the circular chamber where the robes still hung on the wall hooks. KelLyn created a circle for Lan, whether for protection or extra power, I am not certain, and Lan was able to successfully cast the banishing spell, using sulfur from Ishmael’s stores, and the powdered diamond from the alchemist’s lab as components. The demon looked somewhat surprised that she knew what she was doing, and only slightly impressed that she was able to perform the complicated ritual. Before the demon departed, he turned to Ismhael and said:

“In the Hall of the Patriarchs, on the southern wall is a door you can not see. Underneath that is the passage to below.”

With his part of the bargain fulfilled, the demon vanished, and we looked at each other with a little relief that everything had gone so well. Lan made note of the name of the demon, which had appeared in front of her in a flash as the gate sealed itself, saying that you never knew when such information might become useful. The party made it’s way over to the dead-end hallway where the remains of the paladin still lay in a heap of crushed metal. I examined the room again, but discovered nothing more than we had before. I went out then to the southern wall to check, and find the secret door, as the demon promised, but could find no obvious mechanism to open it.

Lan and Shalev take a moment to examine the remains of the paladin, and they discover a ring of mangled keys, a crushed holy symbol, and a signet ring. I ask KelLyn if she has a spell for opening, thinking that this door might be like the one we found in the alchemist’s room. She said that she did not, and then Shalev asked if she just wanted to destroy it. She almost squealed out loud with glee, and happily did just that. The door fell into a pile of crumbled pebbles, to reveal a passage going off to the left and right.

We followed it around to find the pile of rocks blocking the way through to the temple, and then traversed back the opposite direction to find another door. It is not trapped, nor is it locked, and it opens into a room with doors to the north and south.

Fife checked the north door first, and yelled out in surprise as the door fell off the wall to wrap itself around him, not a door at all, but some form of creature that could mimic the appearance of other things. The party rushes over to try to find a way to remove the creature without hurting Fife in the process.

Lan, KelLyn, and I all cast spells to see if we can remove the creature, and the other party members try pulling and tugging to tear it away. I managed to wound the creature, and KelLyn’s spell finished it off. We moved Fife to safety, and checked finding him uninjured, but covered in slime. He spent a moment cleaning himself of the corrosive ichor, and while he recovered, I checked the other door to find that it was also fake. I discovered a hidden door on the eastern wall, leading to a dead end with another hidden doorway, and another room with fake doors.

Fife poked all of the doors at a distance with his spear, not willing to repeat the battle with the mimic. All of the doors toppled over to the floor, and he urged KelLyn to set them all on fire. She did so, and the doors began producing an unusually large amount of smoke. The room quickly filled, so we went through the one real door back into the hallway. Shalev insisted that the hidden door was BELOW, and should be here in this room somewhere.

So KelLyn worked to put the fires out, extinguishing the flames, but producing more and more of the billowing smoke. Ishmael sang his songs of water to help her in the process, but still more smoke clouded the area.

At that moment, a circle of fire appeared in the center of the room. Two men, dressed as mages, stepped through the circle with a demon prince in tow. The very demon prince that KelLyn had gated through to the Fyrewerian mages who had made themselves a nuisance to her before. They stated grimly, pointing directly at KelLyn: “SHE is the one who sent you here. We want her dead.”

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Into the Tomb of the Lizard King - Part 3: KelLyn learns of explosive runes...the hard way
Thoughts from the point of view of Cora'sol "The Immortal"

cross posted from Cora’s Travel Journal

Past the doors you cannot find,
Down the steps you cannot climb,
Across the river of nothingness
You’ll find your way.
Beware the marksman and his prey.
Shun the royal brides.
Then find the place I lie in eternal feast.
Past glories I despise
The light of vengeance fills my eye.
Treasure I give my servant dragon,
Guardian loyal of this, my reborn feeding lair.

- riddle found on a scrap of paper in the first level of the tomb of the Lizard King

.oOo..oOo..oOo..oOo.

Once we made it back to the room we had set up as a base camp, the party relaxed for a while, using the time to rest, recuperate, and discuss our next moves. Since all of the supplies had been moved from the kitchen, pantry, and wine cellar to this room, we took some time to go through the various foodstuffs, and enjoyed a decent meal as well as opening up one of the casks of wine. It was a welcome reprieve from the travel rations, and having a good meal did much to improve our spirits. While we ate, a discussion broke out about whether we should venture down into the lower level via the trap door in this room, or if we should instead continue to explore this level first.

The consensus was that this level should be cleared completely before going down, so after we had rested, Lan used her new sight to see what living things she might be able to see still on this level. She said that she saw a large winged humanoid figure, possibly a demon of some kind, walking across a room some distance away. I took the opportunity to scout ahead, using stealth and skill to remain undetected. I checked the doors for traps, and explored down the corridor until I came up on what was obviously a place of vile worship. Simply walking into this room made me feel nauseated, so I returned to the party to let them know what I had found.

The rooms revealed appeared to be the captain’s quarters, as the furnishings were simple, but of obviously better quality than those found in the barracks. There were two chests in this room, and Ishmael knocked the hinges off to open them without setting the needle traps off, to reveal about 800 silver and several standard sets of clothing. There was nothing else of note in this room, and we continued to explore, discovering a common room, and then finally the worship area.

The worship area, for that is clearly what it was, was repulsive. The idol in the center of the room boasted the repugnant face of the demon god that we had seen elsewhere, and the altar was soaked with congealing blood. The tapestry on the wall was disturbing in it’s intensity, and depicted scenes of utter cruelty. The sheer evil here overwhelmed me, and I got physically ill. I said a quiet prayer to my god and goddess to ask for guidance, but the act of simply thinking their names was enough to cause the evil to pulsate in a nauseating fashion, making me ill all over again.

After I recovered myself, I urged everyone to either destroy everything here or leave now. They helped me move out of the room, promising that we could come back and destroy everything once the lizard king was dealt with. Further explorations revealed the central room for the priests, where incense burned on the table, and robes hung from hooks on the walls. Again, I resisted the urge to destroy everything here, and we eventually discover a small library.

The theme of the books in the library was primarily evil, and more than a few of the books were specifically about dealings with the undead. The subject matter of the books here was enough to make my skin crawl, and I wonder yet at what we still may face. Much to my surprise Shalev and Osman took a few books off of the shelves. Shalev chose a book about identifying undead, probably in hopes that it might reveal clues about what we face, and potential weaknesses it might have. Osman chose two books, one on summoning demons, and another on knowing the true names of the undead. KelLyn immediately went to look at a book that was chained to a pedestal in the center of the room. She began reading the book to herself, and then as she read, her eyes widened, and she made an audible comment about taking the book.Ishmael offered to cut the chain for her, and immediately an argument broke out between the party members about it. Rather than listen to them bicker and snipe at each other about it, I left the room to keep watch in the hallway for potential enemies, continuing to scout quietly ahead.

It is KelLyn’s choice, ultimately, about her path. Her desire for power may eventually be her undoing, but she must be aware that all power has a price. If she is willing to pay that price, then so be it. Shalev is concerned for her, though she sees it more as an annoyance and the two of them argue and misunderstand each other on a nearly constant basis. He has taken her actions quite personally on more than one occasion, and he is quite concerned about what might happen should she delve into the darker arts. He feels, rightfully so, that she is not always careful with her power, although he does forget at times that she is responsible for her fate, and not him. If she ignores the signs and warnings that she gets, and pursues her quest for power to it’s ultimate end, then that is her choice, not his.

My efforts to scout ahead revealed nothing further, so I returned to the library to see that KelLyn had indeed taken the book, and Shalev was glaring at her pointedly. I raised an eyebrow in silent comment, and then informed the party of the rooms ahead that I had discovered. One of the rooms proved to be a second captain’s quarters, again with two chests with more basic clothes and about 1000 silver.

We decided to carry the empty chests as well as the treasures we had found so far back to the base camp before continuing our explorations. We checked our belongings there, made sure that the trap door was still secure, and then went back out to the hallway I had discovered.

There were several rooms here, and after checking the doors for traps, Ishmael opened the first one to show a small room where a black robed man was studying. He looked up in alarm and began to chant, and Shalev and Ishmael immediately rushed in to attack. Shalev’s attacks missed, and the robed man was able to cast his spell successfully. Ishmael succeeded in his attack, and smashed the desk into the man in the chair, pushing it into him. The priest looked surprised that he was hit by anything at all, and Ishmael continued his bludgeoning attacks on the furniture. Shalev swung again, and missed again much to his frustration. The priest shouted out an alarm, and the other four doors opened as the priests inside them curiously stuck their heads out into the hallway to see what was going on. Upon seeing us there, they all stepped out into the hall and began casting various spells. They never got the chance. Tobias, pulling both of his maces, raced down the hallway in a deadly wave of attacks. KelLyn reached out to touch the closest priest, casting a spell with her contact. Osman shot an arrow at the next closest priest. Fife speared the priest in the back of the hallway, and I used my bow to put an arrow in the other’s face.

The priest in the room with Ishmael and Shalev tried then to cast a drain life spell on Shalev. Shalev’s brooch flared to life, protecting him completely, and causing Shalev’s aura as a paladin to pulse in a flex of spiritual muscle that we could all feel. The priest went wide-eyed, and began casting yet another spell, and Shalev rolled out of the way, and out of the room. Fife and I used the opening to our advantage, and were both successful with spear and arrow, hitting the offending priest in the face as Ishmael simultaneously charged bodily into the priest, taking him out finally. The other priests go down easily after that, and both bodies and rooms are empty of anything of interest.

There is a gruesome painting at the end of the hallway, but though I examined it closely, I couldn’t find anything of note. It was a hidden door, however, and when we turned away from it to head back down the hallway, it opened silently and an armored man stepped through. The only warning we had was when KelLyn suddenly fell over, apparently dead. Shalev ran over to her, to remove her pack, thinking that it was the book she picked up from the library that had caused her collapse. As he shoved it away from her, he glanced up to see the dark paladin looming in the shadows. Ishmael rushed to give her a potion, and Tobias grabbed her and dragged her into one of the now empty priest’s quarters. Lan and I followed to try to find out why she had collapsed, and see what we could do to save her.

As we moved out of the way, the armored man threw a stick at Shalev which changed into an adder in midair. Shalev didn’t even blink at the deadly serpent though, and it fell harmlessly to the floor as he charged at the enemy shouting that he hadn’t worked so hard at not killing KelLyn only to have someone else do it. He swung his holy sword, aiming the powerful blow a the armored man’s neck. With a screech of metal, the strike hit home, shearing through the thick metal gorget at his throat, and killing the unholy paladin with a single dreadful impact. The unholy paladin fell to the floor, and Shalev used his foot to pry his sword from the remains. He swore softly when he saw that the deadly strike had damaged his blade, but stopped short when he heard the sound of crumpling metal. He looked down in time to see the armor of the unholy paladin crumpling and cracking, shrinking in on itself and crushing down into nothing. The implosion covered Shalev in the gory remains of what was left behind, and he shook the blood off of his blade with an irritated sniff.

Meanwhile, Lan, Tobias and I were struggling to save KelLyn. Lan and Tobias worked to keep her alive, while I tried to locate the reason for her collapse. Shalev walked in then, covered in gore, and showed me the stick that had turned to a serpent. I recognized the description Shalev gave of the poisonous reptile as an adder, as they were fairly common back home in the desert, and was quickly able to pull together the components for an antidote. Once I was able to get the antidote down her throat, the results were fairly immediate. She regained consciousness, and was quickly able to be up and about with no lasting effects from the toxin. As soon as she was awake she rushed over to the book she had acquired from the library, flipping through pages and muttering to herself about inept spell casters and something about an attempt against her, when suddenly she exclaimed loudly “a lich?! They were trying to make me a lich?!” and began both laughing and swearing sulphurously.

None of this made much sense to the rest of the party, however, so we let it go as the mysteries of magic users, and went in to examine the room that was revealed by the secret door. This was the paladin’s personal chamber, and it boasted opulent furnishings and a basin of water, and a small alter to the demon god. Shalev purified the water in the basin, and then used it to clean some of the gore off. He commented that the carpeting in this room was quite valuable, and we rolled it up to add to the treasures we had already discovered. He then took some time to tear down the tapestries on the walls, eventually revealing a hidden door. Fife offered to check for traps, and I let him take point. He found no traps, but the lock on the door proved to be beyond his skill, so I took care of the lock to reveal a small vault with three chests.

The chests held:
50 gold plates
20 platinum plates
2 ornate ivory scroll tubes with ivory stoppers

KelLyn offered to use her slate to identify the scrolls, and was successfully able to identify the first one as a scroll of protection from demons. The second, however, had some sort of enchantment upon it, and as soon as it touched the slate, it drained all of the magic from it. KelLyn went white with fury, and we all wisely left the room, lest in her anger, she lash out at the rest of the party. We carried the treasures – the carpet, the plates, and the scrolls (safely back inside the ivory casings) back to base camp.

Once back at base camp, we deposited the rug and plates near the chests, and sat down with some relief to rest. Shalev took detailed measures to make sure that he was clean after being coated in such gore for most of the day, and the rest of us followed his example, taking the time to refresh ourselves as necessary. Watches were set, and the first two passed uneventfully. Shalev and I were on third watch, and during the small, quiet hours, we saw a group of 4 robed figures approaching us. As soon as they saw us, their eyes glowed red, and fangs extended from their mouths. They glared at us, and Shalev slumped over in an enchanted sleep. They looked with surprise at the fact that I had not also fallen over, and it was the last act they had a chance to make. I shouted to the rest of the party, and drew my sword. Bow and arrow would have proven useless here, so outnumbered. I swung the sword in a deadly arc, hoping to take one or two out before having to seriously engage. My worry proved pointless, however, as my aim was truer than even I knew, and the arc of the sword screaming through the air took all four out with deadly precision. The corpses were identified as some kind of were-creature, and they had nothing of interest on them, so they were drug over to the room where KelLyn had ignited the volatile fires earlier in the adventures. The room was still radiating with heat, and when the bodies were thrown in, they burned to ash.

The rest of the night passed uneventfully, and the next day we go to explore the remaining rooms of this level of the tomb. In one of the rooms, I discover a hidden compartment containing a chest, and Shalev, having taken note of the traps we had previously faced, wrapped a heavy tapestry around the chest to remove it safely.
He felt the impact of four darts, but the tapestry proved enough of a protection, and there was no harm done.
Inside the chest was:
a bag of silver (about 3000 pieces)
a bag of gold (about 4000 pieces)
about 200 platinum pieces
6 gold brooches (worth approximately 500 gp each)

Ishmael helped to appraise the jewelry, and claimed one of the brooches for himself, which he put on.
The next room was hidden behind a secret door covered by the bas relief of the demon god, much like the entrance to the tomb in the dragon’s lair. The room revealed appeared to be some kind of study, with a sturdy desk. The desk had one drawer that continually re-locked itself, and after several attempts at unlocking it, I finally gave in, and stepped back so that Ishmael could gleefully smash the desk to pieces. The drawer, now easily accessible, contained written notes that looked like spell research. We called KelLyn over, and she grabbed up the notes, looking through them with surly interest. One page held a scrawled riddle on it:

Past the doors you cannot find,
Down the steps you cannot climb,
And across the River of Nothingness
You’ll find your way.
Beware the marksman and his prey.
Shun the royal brides!
Then find the place I lie in eternal feast!
Past glories I despise;
The light of vengeance fills my eye.
Treasure I give my servant dragon,
Guardian loyal of this, my reborn feeding lair.

After reading it out, Osman asks to see the page, and then spent a moment translating it into the language of the lizard men. He mentioned with some amusement that when translated thus, it actually rhymed, but nothing else was revealed by changing it to it’s intended language. Once the desk was reduced to rubble, there was nothing else in the room, save a pair of heavy gold candlesticks, which Ishmael picked up and placed in his pack.

The riddle is interesting, and I feel as if it might shine some light on what might still lay ahead of us. With all of the traps we have discovered so far, and the pervasive evil that this entire place, it would not surprise me if more lethal traps awaited us. It bears researching more, I think, and serves as a warning – to me at least – of what may lie ahead. While we have a relatively safe space here in this room, I will try to teach my party members how to move more quietly. To be more aware of their surroundings, and to step carefully is going to be an essential skill for everyone. We have been incredibly lucky so far, in that our raucous explorations have not brought more enemies down on us, and I do not relish finding out what else may be out there the hard way.

The next room we discovered was some kind of alchemical laboratory. Long, low tables lined the walls with bottles and vials of components and powders. Most of it was fairly commonplace, and of no interest, but we did find one vial of powdered diamond, which KelLyn pocketed. The southern wall of this laboratory boasted a secret door, but I could find no way to open it up. I asked KelLyn to take a look at it, and she cast a simple spell to discern how the mechanism worked. After a moment, and in a fit of amused irony, she pulled out the unidentified scroll and touched it to the wall, draining it of magic, and causing the latch to release.

The room revealed was pitch black, and not even Tobias, with his dark vision could see inside. KelLyn discerned that it was a magical darkness, and cast a spell to revoke the magic inside. The darkness fell away, and showed a man in a black robe at the far end of the room, reading from a scroll. Ishmael immediately charged in like an angry bull, and hit the unprepared magic user with all of the force of a battering ram. The robed man was crushed by the impact, and KelLyn found the whole scene terribly amusing. Through her tears of laughter she revealed that he had, indeed, been casting a spell, but that it was defense against magic, not against brute force. So he never even saw it coming. As she recovered herself, chuckling and chortling the whole time, Shalev took a piece of tapestry and waved it around in an attempt to find trap wires or other hidden things. He was successful in revealing an invisible chest in one corner.

KelLyn easily removes the invisibility, still chuckling to herself, and we check the chest for traps. While we do that, she goes over to check the robed man to see what he may have had on him.

The robed man had a cloak, a ring, and a wand on him.
The chest contained:
3000 silver pieces
500 gold pieces
500 platinum pieces
a book

Since KelLyn’s slate was drained of power, she used her magic to basically identify the objects as being magical. The ring was spelled with move/control human with a subrealm of water. The cloak was spelled with move/control magic. The wand was spelled with create mind. The book was spelled with a variety of things, but primarily with destroy magic with a subrealm of fire.

Shalev cautioned her to check the book before she read anything, but KelLyn ignored him, reading the title of the book regardless. The book was spelled with some kind of explosive rune, and the second she read it, it exploded, injuring Ishmael, Fife, KelLyn and myself. KelLyn gave me a potion to bring me back to health, but sadly the book was completely destroyed.

KelLyn shrugged and commented that it was no big deal, but I could see that the loss of potential power and knowledge was a pain to her. She claimed both the cloak and the wand, and then stalked away in an increasingly bad mood. I added the ring to the stash of treasures to be checked later, and the party decided that since there were injuries to be healed, that we would go back to base camp one more time before venturing beneath to the lower levels and beyond.

We still have not revealed the main passageway to the lower levels, but in our conversations about the evens of the day, Shalev remembered seeing a door underneath the tapestries in the center worship area with the idol of the demon god. Perhaps that is the way we seek. There is still the trap door under the room we use as base camp, and the narrow corridor beyond. There is still the prowling demon figure that Lan saw. There is still Sacatha himself, wherever he may lie.

Much to be done, and much to do. The pile of treasures we have discovered grows exponentially, and I can’t help but wonder how we will transport it all back to the count. We each get our share, of course, but the vast majority should go towards rebuilding this broken town, and rekindling hope in the beleaguered folk here.

But that will be after we escape this wretched tomb, and if we survive the battles to come.

For now, I will say a prayer to my god and goddess for continuing to watch over us. I feel the press of the evil here like a constant ache, and I need their touch and reassurance in my mind. Like a child who runs to her parents when they’ve had a nightmare, I wish to do nothing more than to run to them for comfort and protection. During my meditations and contemplation, I will continue to ask for their guidance. They may not be able to reach me here, but I will still continue to do what I can.

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Into the Tomb of the Lizard King - Part 2: Osman learns about traps
Thoughts from the point of view of Cora'sol "The Immortal"

cross posted from Cora’s Travel Journal

“Oh go on, open the footlocker. It’s safe enough.”
.oOo..oOo..oOo..oOo.

We rested for a time in the room where we had killed the clerics, barring the door, and setting watch while we recuperated from the fight. Shalev used his powers as a paladin to cast a healing spell on me, which was enough to bring be back to full capability.

While we convalesced, we examined the equipment that the clerics had carried in greater detail. KelLyn used her magic to identify the items of interest, and she discovered

  • a ring imbued with the magic to create fire
  • a ring imbued with the magic to destroy fire
  • a scroll of Protection from magic with 1 day duration
  • a staff aligned with the cleric’s pantheon which will strike at those it is pointed at with divine power (has an unholy feel to it.)
    The rest of the armor and weaponry was exceptional quality, but otherwise unremarkable. Tobias, Shalev, and Osman claimed a mace each to use as a backup weapon if necessary, and Osman also claimed one of the sets of chain mail armor, though wearing it hampered his movement somewhat. Shalev took the ring with the magic to destroy fire, wearing on his left hand ring finger.

After rechecking that everyone was mostly healed and able to continue, we ventured out of the room and continued to explore the tomb. The next rooms we discovered were the kitchen, pantry, and wine cellar – all of which were fully stocked. Since Osman was making a rudimentary map of our findings, we earmarked these rooms to return to later to restock and resupply.

Continuing our not-so-stealthy explorations, we discovered a basic armory that held only low quality weapons, and it was speculated that this was where the lizard men were equipped from. Further down the hallway was a door that lead to a barracks with 10 sleeping men. A whispered argument broke out among the party about whether or not Kellyn should put them to sleep, or if we should just kill them outright. I had no problems killing them outright, but it was argued against, and KelLyn went to the door to try to cast a sleep spell. The moment she began to cast, she was shot with an arrow by one of the men in the rear of the room who had been awake and watching the party argue. The arrow did no damage to her, thankfully, due to her incredible strength, and only succeeded in making her angry. Osman immediately returned fire, and KelLyn threw off the sleep spell an began to cast in Fyrewerian, using the word we had all come to recognize for “fire.”

As she was casting, Tobias used his speed to dash into the room and brain the second guard at the rear of the room who was also awake, and then dash back out to safety before KelLyn finished her spell. I shot both of the enemies with arrows as well. Fife and Lan stepped out into the hallway to guard against potential rear attacks, and KelLyn’s spell detonated with cataclysmic effect. The fireball in her hands turned incandescent and liquid, a hovering ball of fluid, flaming destruction. She released the fireball into the room with an almost negligent flick of her hands, and Shalev rushed to yank the door closed to protect us from the backlash of the explosion.

Good thing he did, too, because an instant later the room, the doors, and everything inside was vaporized in a thunderous clap of white hot implosion. KelLyn turned to us then, and we saw that her eyes had turned a strange amber color as an after effect of the spell. She shrugged with a small smile and sauntered away from the smoldering room with a disdainful sniff. The fearsome flames had done their work well, and there was nothing left in the room at all except for a doorway (which had been concealed previously) to the main hallway. The stones were radiating so much heat that we could not enter the room, and so the party continued on, following the hallway around to another door which lead to another set of barracks.

This barracks was much larger, holding cots and small footlockers for twenty-four guards. I could hear snoring coming from the door at the other end of the room, and I used my stealth to walk silently through the room to the other side, where I discovered one lone soldier, sleeping on the floor where he had rolled out of bed. I took him out silently and without effort, and motioned to the rest of the party that I was going to check the door as well. Shalev then attempted to make his way over to me to act as back up should it be needed.

Alas, though, my diligent student has much to learn in the ways of stealth, however, and only succeeded in making a tremendous amount of noise. I looked at him in exasperation, and shook my head resignedly before trying the door. Thankfully it only lead back out into the main hallway, so no harm done. I should probably remind him gently that I am quite capable of avoiding situations if I am undetected, and while his effort to protect me was appreciated, he needs to trust that ability if I am going to be on point checking for traps and using my stealth to scout ahead.

Since there was nothing else of note on the one soldier that I killed, it was suggested that we go through the footlockers and personal chests here to see what else we might be able to find. I warned that they might not be safe, and that they shouldn’t be touched until I had a chance to check them for traps. Despite my warning, however, Osman foolishly began opening the footlockers, and set of the poison needle trap within the third one that he opened. The needle pierced his finger, and he immediately stiffened and collapsed in death like coma. KelLyn, Lan, and I instantly went to work trying to keep him alive. KelLyn and Lan worked together to preserve his body and prevent the poison from spreading any further. I went into a deep meditative ritual to work to remove the poison from his blood and bring him back from the brink of death. The poison was virulent and strong, but after an entire day, an entire bag of the priceless salts from the deep desert, and a bottle of the highly potent moonshine from the farmers, I was able to draw enough of the poison out of his body to revive him; though it nearly exhausted me to do so.

While KelLyn, Lan, and I were striving to save Osman’s life, Shalev and Tobias stood watch, and Ishmael and Fife returned to the room where the clerics were to retrieve the armor and weapons that were left behind. They made a horrible racket as they returned, seeming not to care who they might alert to our presence, and the raucous din disturbed a mass of flying rat-like creatures that Fife said were bats. The bats chittered and chirped and flew out down the hallway, presumably to the swamp outside, for we didn’t see anything else of them after they flew past.

When they returned, I wearily thanked KelLyn and Lan for their assistance, and told the rest of the party that morning would tell if I were successful in saving Osman’s life. I took the poultice that I had made with the salts and moonshine, and threw it into the still smoldering room of the opposite barracks, where it instantly vaporized into a lethal green cloud of smoke. I returned to the room, to do one final check on Osman’s progress, said a sincere thanks to my god and goddess for their guidance with the attempt, then sat down and retreated mentally into the deep meditations that work as restful sleep for me.

Morning showed that I was indeed triumphant. Osman was groggy, and having some trouble moving his left arm, but he was alive and awake. Shalev used his daily gift to cast a healing spell over Osman, and I said a second, quiet prayer of thanks for the success of the work. Osman asked what had happened and Shalev told him of the poison, that I was somehow able to neutralize it, and then of his healing spell that brought him up to mobility. I raised an eyebrow, but let it pass. I do not think he meant to leave out the exhaustive work we did to make sure he woke up in the first place, and I was still weary enough to just let the oversight be. Osman is still very weak, and will unfortunately be relegated to healing naturally for a period of time. I warned him that he should not over tax himself, and that healing would take time. There are plenty of small tasks within the party that he can do to help regain his strength, and help him feel useful while he improved, but that when we found ourselves in battle, his safest place would be back behind us all.

Ishmael used his hammer to knock the hinges off of the remaining footlockers in the deserted barracks, and searching the containers revealed 2 decent sized bags of various gems, and 40 silver pieces. We added these to the stash of things we had found before, and since Osman was weak, but mobile, we decided to push on, keeping him near the rear of the party in a more protected position. Perhaps he has learned his lesson to check first, then act? We shall see.

Shalev made a motion to cast another detect evil spell, but I cautioned him against casting it again, as we already knew there was evil in this place, and reminding him that every time he cast the spell, it rang like a bell to any who might be searching for us. He agreed with my counsel, and before we continued our explorations, I cast a quiet druidic ritual to bless the party moving forward. I felt like my god and goddess answered my request, and I thanked them for their aid. I do not know exactly what the blessing did, but here, in this place, every boon counts.

As before, I scouted somewhat ahead, searching for traps and listening at doors. The next hallway we discovered had doors to the left and right, and when I listened, I heard muffled voices to the right. I motioned to the party members, and stepped out of the way as Shalev kicked the door in to reveal a group of 7 men in armor, playing dice around a table. Shalev immediately moved in to attack, and Tobias – much to my surprise – began to berate him for foolish action, despite the fact that 6 of the armored men were also moving to attack. I wonder at the sudden venom that Tobias showed Shalev. His actions were no different than they had been in previous encounters, and undeserving of such vitriol. I also wonder if Tobias and Shalev need to have words with one another when this is through. Tobias should know better, that there is no reason to be jealous, and that taking out his frustrations on Shalev was unwarranted, and poorly timed.

KelLyn moved to cast sleep on the 7th man, and he turned to grab a trident to attack her in return. Tobias moved into the room to group brawl the 6 others, in an attempt to divert attention off of Shalev’s attacks. I used my bow with success to put two arrows into the 7th man, who was apparently the leader of the crew. While KelLyn was casting, Ishmael stepped between her and the leader, acting as a physical block if needed. The leader’s attack was successful, though barely making it past Ishmael’s guard, and it was enough to interrupt KelLyn’s spell. Thankfully, there was no ill-effect from the disruption, save KelLyn being doused with water from an unknown source.

Fife took the opportunity to throw a spear at the leader then, and Shalev engaged with the rest of the group using his ability to do multiple attacks with great success, wounding four of them. KelLyn stepped around Ishmael, and laid her hands on the leader’s armor, saying the Fyrewerian word for “Fire!” The leader took a panicked shot at her face in an attempt to break her formidable concentration, and I retaliated by throwing a dagger in his, diverting his awareness long enough for KelLyn to successfully complete her spell. Where her hand had rested against the leader’s armor, a red-hot handprint appeared, and his eyes went wide when he realized that all of his armor was heating quickly to uncomfortable levels.

Shalev and Tobias remained engaged with the other 6 men, when out of nowhere, a leprechaun appeared. The little man took one look at the table, and the gold laying there from the dice game that had been in progress when Shalev kicked the door in. The leprechaun said aloud “You’re right, there IS a lot of gold here.” and then promptly vanished, taking all of the gold with him. All 7 of the men we were fighting stopped and stared, then started running towards the door to try and locate all of their missing gold. Fife kicked the door closed, preventing their escape, and used the opportunity to throw an oddly shaped dagger at the leader.

His aim was, as it always is, deadly true, and the dagger pierced the leader’s armor where the glowing handprint had melted through, and embedded up to the hilt. KelLyn had the leader up by the throat, and both Ismael and Shaelv took successful swings against him while he was held immobile, earning a purring comment from KelLyn that she felt loved right then.

I drew my sword then, and closed for combat, as my arrows were useless at close range. The sword cut through the air with a scream of shattering sound, and blue waves sparked down the blade as I swung at the nearest foe. My cut was true, and cleaved through the air, and the foe in front of me, as if I were slicing through butter. The whole room stopped to turn and look at what the sound had been, in time to see the person I had attacked fall into two pieces, as I slung blood drops off of the gently curved blade. I took a moment then to look at the graceful blade with new admiration. I had never used it in combat before, and it felt as if it were an extension of my own body, a part of my arm, and I smiled a deadly smile as I re-engaged, moving and turning with effortless, lethal grace, blue waves of energy sparking along the blade, and across my body as I did.

Tobias kneecapped one of the fleeing men, and used a second attack to take him out completely. KelLyn then threw the body.. or what remained of the body, as Shalev and Tobias’ attacks took both knees and head off.. of the leader at the rest of the fleeing men, screaming out “I AM THE MAGE!” with a battle cry that made them all nearly wet themselves. After that it was short work to kill the remaining soldiers, and we did so quickly. Fife had backed away, into the closed door, staring wide-eyed at me, and he opened the doorway to continue out into the hall, when he suddenly stopped short, feeling the garrote there at his neck where Osman and Lan had strung the wires across the entrance to prevent escape.

He gently felt along the wire until he came to the edge, where he carefully worked to remove it before he hurt himself on it. Lan and Osman helped him remove the wire, letting him keep an arm’s length of it when he expressed interest in it, quipping still wide-eyed that if he were going to be successful as a body guard that he would have to take the enemies out before we even got there.

The weapons and armor of the men we had fought was all but destroyed completely, and nothing save the trident remained of interest in the room. KelLyn used her skills to identify the weapon as a pre-Fyrewerian artifact used by an underwater civilization (which Lan confirmed with more than a little disdain in her voice.) It was enchanted to be used under water at speed, and would give the wielder an idea of their opponents actions. Fife and Tobias both expressed a keen interest in the weapon, and so KelLyn handed it to Fife saying that they would have to work out who got it between the two of them.

Shalev spent some time removing wall hangings and searching the rest of the room, revealing a latch hidden behind one of the tapestries. He took one look at the latch, and stepped away hastily, saying with wary amusement, “See Osman, this is how you get to the treasures without dying.” and looked my way in a plea to check it for traps. I chuckled bemusedly, and checked the latch thoroughly revealing a door into a rather gaudily appointed bedroom. This was apparently the leader’s resting place, and had rather horrid paintings on the walls, mismatched rugs, and a sword in a scabbard that hung over the shabby bed. KelLyn once again identified the weapon as being a cursed bastard sword. The wielder would attack all in an opposing army with great vigor. Fife commented that it was a “suicide” sword, and the description of the curse leads me to believe that the horrid thing should be destroyed.

We checked the rest of the room, and when we rolled the carpets aside, discovered a trap door. I picked the lock to the portal, and opened the door to reveal a 20 foot rope ladder leading down to a hallway that is only about 5 foot across. This, then, is the way to the next level of the tomb. I closed and re-secured the door, and the rest of the party agreed that we should set this room up as a secure base for the time being. Shalev, Ishmael, and KelLyn worked to move all of the food supplies from the kitchen and pantry into this room, as well as the barrel of water, and one barrel of wine. We cleared out space on the floors, and made a rather comfortable camp using the carpets and bed hangings, as well as other furniture we found there in the room.

We will rest here, resupply, and then make the decision on whether or not to finish exploring this floor, or venture down into the dark.

I do wonder, cautiously, at the seeming emptiness of the tomb so far. The groups that we have encountered have been small parties, and I fear that the bulk of our enemies still lie before us either in undiscovered rooms, or below us. For who knows how deep this decrepit tomb delves beneath the odious swamp? The supplies that were in the kitchen, and the layout of the barracks suggest much larger numbers than we have currently encountered. The noise that the party has made has been enough that it should have alerted others to our presence, and yet we remain – so far – unmolested in our explorations, save for those groups we have encountered individually. But why would they not attack? I feel like the bats should also be a clue, but I have nothing in my memory, or in any legend that says what they might foretell.

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Into the Tomb of the Lizard King - Part 1: Shalev the Paladin
Thoughts from the point of view of Cora'sol "The Immortal"

cross posted from Cora’s Travel Journal

.oOo..oOo..oOo..oOo.

With the great black dragon slain, the party spent a bit of time camped out on the outer edge of the temple. There was much to do, and we used the time given to us for healing wounds, repairing equipment, and taking the time to thoroughly explore the upper area of the temple.

Fife, Osman, and Tobias scaled the outer walls of the temple proper in order to scout out the area, and to see if it were possible to discern a pathway back to the main land. Without Stephen to guide us through the morass, I fear that we would become quickly and hopelessly lost. This was the consensus that the party reached as well when we discussed the possibility of going back for the rest of our things.

I do agree with KelLyn that leaving our things there is asking for them to be stolen, and that having some of those things with us would be helpful; but until we can find a way to safely retrieve them – it was at least a two week journey one way to the temple – they are safer where they are. We discussed several options for trying to go back, including trying to use magic to translocate them.

I remembered then, what the Maker had told me before he left us all of those months ago. I remembered what he said about remembering who I am, and remembering to sing. I recalled the symbols that he etched into the stones, and I also recalled – briefly – the ritual that he did to open the gate. I also wondered, in that moment, if I had it within myself to do such a thing; and I felt a very faint surge of something inside me that told me that I could and would… but not yet.

Though the memory was sharp and bittersweet to me, I did not mention the recollection to the party. I do not feel confident enough in my own innate power yet to attempt such a feat, and I dare not risk it now, with such evil surrounding us. I do not know how vulnerable it would make me, nor do I know what calling such power might bring out of the deep miasma of the swamp. This is something that I will think more on, and perhaps in time I will find the answers I seek.

Fife, Osman, and Tobias returned from their scouting then to say that the mud mound of the temple continued on behind us, making a small mountain. Fife also mentioned that he saw four water dogs – like Lan – carrying a house on sticks through the swamps, but when the rest of the party looked, nothing further was seen. Lan had been staring into her crystal orb for a while, when she suddenly looked up with a perplexed expression on her face and quite simply stated that she could see through walls, and everyone looked like skeletons.

Lan is flighty on the best of days, so we all looked at her curiously, but when she said nothing else, we left her to her contemplation of the shiny orb. Osman, Fife, Shalev, and I set about to pull what useful materials we could from the carcass of the dragon, and the rest of the party began to gather our supplies and clean our camp to continue our search for Sacatha’s tomb.

Shalev tried several times to find a way to cut through the tough dragon hide, but ran into difficulty as nothing seemed to work efficiently to the task. He eventually asked if he could use the sword that I carry – Toshi’s sword – and found that it was able cut through the hide with little effort. After that, it became short work to take sinew, wing, scale, bone; taking care as well to remove the skull, feet, and claws.

The skull, we will carry back to the court of the count, as proof of deed accomplished.

Osman and I each separated out the ribs to use for bows, the wing leather to use for quivers, bags, sails, cloaks, and other containers; teeth and claws for arrowheads, spear heads, and blades. The rest of the party may make light of the fact that we are from a desert culture, but that culture gave us the knowledge that allowed us to reduce the carcass to usable or trade-able materials in a matter of a few hours.

Shalev mused aloud that he wanted to take some of the skin for clothes, as balance to his white armor, and because it would look more regal, as appropriate to his new position. The meat was not very palatable, though Fife and Shalev tried some after a quick purification spell, just to say they did. Amit curled his nose up at it – so we left the rest of the mass there for whatever scavengers may want.

We explored the main area with great care, and found a cache of 2900 platinum coins as well as a selection of jewelry, in the pools where the water elementals had been. We split the coins among the party, put the jewelry in a bag to appraise later, and continued to search for other ways into the mound. Fife and Osman were both wide-eyed at the bag of coins they were each handed, and Fife stated with numb disbelief that this was more money than his entire family had ever held in their entire lives. Ishmael quipped with a smile “welcome to being an adventurer with this group.” and clapped him on the back good-naturedly.

I tend to forget how much coins are worth, so I rarely pay attention to what I have on me at any given time, regarding the amount of coins in my purse. If I need to buy something, I generally will ask Shalev – whom I rely almost exclusively on in these matters – to either exchange, bargain, or buy outright when necessary. I trust him implicitly with monetary matters, and would imagine that those seeking to cheat or gain the upper hand in a bargain would think twice about swindling the highly armored, towering persona of a paladin of a Goddess of Balance.

The great stone bas relief had swung open when the dragon first emerged, and it lead to the great open-air cavern where we had seen the glimpse of the treasure hoard. When we we looked into the great room again, however, it was completely empty save for a slime covered corridor off to the left. The vast hoards of treasure that we had seen had been an illusion – most likely crafted by the dragon to lure adventurers in. When the dragon had died, the illusion died with it.

Lan spoke up then, and said that she could still see us as skeletons, but also saw a pile of shiny rocks beyond the slime covered passage. There was nothing else in the great room at all, so we approached the passage, and the slime with caution. Considering the slime carefully, we saw that it covered the walls of the corridor in such a way that made it impassable. Shalev used one of the dragon’s scales to try to scrape the slime away, in an attempt to create a pathway. He was successful in scraping it off of the wall, but discovered that it was dangerously corrosive, and that even the tiniest bit would eat it’s way through armor, cloth, and flesh alike.

During Shalev’s attempts to scrape the slime away from the walls, he discovered – much to Ishmael’s keen interest – that the dragon scales would cause sparks when they scratched against the walls. Ishmael took a few moments to try to discern what the wall was made of, but only succeeded in damaging the tool that he used to pry pieces off. The wall was virtually indestructible, and Ishmael swore and muttered under his breath when it became apparent that he would not be able to take away a piece of the strange material.

It was Ishmael who discovered then that the slime retreated away from the skin of the dragon. With this revelation in mind, the party tried to find additional ways to clear the corridor safely. Ishmael took a section of the dragon’s tail, and swung it in an arc, which caused the slime to withdraw enough for us to see the corridor clearly. We fashioned rudimentary shovels out of the dragon skin, and used these to clear a safe path into the adjoining chamber.

The room beyond held the treasure we had seen in glimpse before, although not nearly so much as the illusion originally showed. There was a pile of copper and silver coins which the dragon used as bedding, and scattered around the room were a collection of various items:

  • A suit of armor, still containing the gooey remains of the unfortunate adventurer who wore it previously.
  • a crushed holy symbol of Ma’at, bent possibly beyond repair
  • a flail
  • a sword bearing the mark of a set of scales holding a heart and a feather – the symbol of Ma’at
  • a moldy spell book
  • a moldy scroll case
  • a tattered and shredded cloak containing an old potion bearing an image of a fire breathing dragon
  • a crumbling satchel containing an old potion bearing the image of a man standing in front of a seated dragon
  • 100 thumb sized sapphires
  • 20 thumb sized aquamarines
  • 30 thumb sized tourmalines
  • 35 thumb sized emeralds
  • 10 pieces of robin’s egg sized black coral with gold centers

Lan’s eyes lit up when she saw the black coral, and she said that it was a highly prized gemstone in the northern icelands where she comes from. Fife asked for a gem, and when he did not specify, Shalev gave him a piece of coral and an emerald as well, when Fife requested it. Lan chimed in and asked for one as well, and he handed her a piece of it for her personal stash. The rest of the gems were placed in a satchel to keep safe until they could be appraised later.

I may ask Shalev to trade some of my platinum coins for a handful of the jewels. I admire the gemstones far more than I do coins, especially the sapphire and emeralds, because they are like a distant memory of a home almost forgotten for me. But I will agree that they are absolutely safer in his possession until we can get out of this Stygian crypt, and to a city where they can be properly appraised.

KelLyn asked to see the spell book, and carefully tried to read through the tome to see what it might contain. As soon as she touched it, however, it tore into pieces, and a Fyrewerian symbol etched into the book was broken. We looked on helplessly, as the spell released and KelLyn turned ashen. The remains of the book fell out of her hands, and she fell over then, shattering into a hundred pieces.

Lan and I gently gathered the shards together and worked to piece her back together slowly. Once we had found all of the pieces, and put them back in reasonable order, Shalev gave her a draught of pure healing, which was enough to bring her back to life. She appeared weak and woozy, but alive and whole. Shalev offered to try to repair the ruined book, and she shakily agreed, saying that it was safe to touch now that the spell had discharged. He warily took the pieces of the book into the main cave area to work in safety, with Ishmael following behind with a potion if needed. He was able to repair a small part of the book to a readable state. It described a frightening spell called Infinite Void, which would cause grievous harm if cast on someone. The power word and specifics were lost, however KelLyn said that the knowledge she had would be enough to work with.

She then turned her attention to the moldy scroll tube, but we cautioned her to be wary, as she might not survive if she were grievously wounded again. Shalev graciously offered to help her open the scroll tube, with her explicit instruction, and she agreed. With careful instruction and careful movements, the scroll tube was opened to reveal a very old scroll written in desert common. This scroll invoked the power of the divine pantheon to banish creatures of unholy origin from a space. Protection from Unholy.

This is something that might prove highly useful here, considering what perils and undead things we might be facing further in the dank depths of this tomb.

KelLyn mentioned then, as we continued to pick our way through the chamber, that the armor was magical, as she could see it glowing. She agreed to use her slate to identify the benefits of the plate pieces. As she studied them, she noticed that they would shift size slightly – indicating that it would adjust to a certain degree to fit whomever wore it. After a period of time studying the armor, she was able to successfully identify it as Plate of Invulnerability. The armor was enchanted to be completely impenetrable, and would adjust itself to some degree to exactly fit the person who wore it.
She was also able to identify the flail as being enchanted to have additional accuracy.

We all agreed that Ishmael should take his pick of the treasures we found, and he shyly asked for the armor and flail. We bade him go ahead, and he gathered up the plate armor so that he could clean it thoroughly before trying it on. Osman helped him clean the ichor off of the metal pieces, and when Ishmael tried it on, we could indeed, see the armor shift to be a better fit for it’s new wearer. He exclaimed that it felt like he were barely wearing armor at all, and Shalev offered to help him test it out later on to see what it could do. Hidden in the ichor and muck was also a crushed and warped holy symbol bearing the standard of Ma’at – barely recognizable due to the damage. Shalev gently retrieved it, cleaned it, and asked Ishmael’s help to repair the item, so that he may use it. As a paladin, it would only be appropriate for him to have such a symbol of office, and Ishmael agreed to aid him however he could with the repair.

KelLyn then turned to the sword, and Shalev cautioned her not to touch it, remembering the damage Ma’at caused to her the last time she touched a holy item. KelLyn looked annoyed, but vaguely grateful for the warning, and managed to work her slate underneath the sword without touching it. She spent a long time identifying the weapon, and was finally able to do so, though the process nearly exhausted her.

The sword was identified as a Defender – aligned as Lawful Good, and specifically in the name of Ma’at. KelLyn said then that she was done, and needed time to recover her energy before anything else could be identified. We agreed to rest here, seeing as the room had only one entrance, and was easily defensible.

Shalev looked at the sword with a little bit of trepidation then, and spent time lost in contemplation of what lay before him. I know that the path of Ma’at has not been an easy one for him at times, but it does seem that his goddess has sent him some clear signs lately of what he needs to do.

I left him to his thoughts, and spent some time examining the area in the main cavern behind the shell curtain. The walls here were covered with carvings which depicted murals of the legends of the Lizard King. Images of battle between men and lizard men, a towering figure wearing a jagged crown, kneeling in front of a carved bas relief of a crouching, snarling demonic figure. The bas relief has a darkly stained altar stone in front of it, but I was unable to get close enough to examine it further, as the carcass of the dragon lay between the statue and the stone.

I returned to the inner chamber then, in time to see Shalev on his knees, holding the sword in his hands. He radiated Presence in a way that was entirely indisputable and definite. He almost glowed with power. When I had walked out to explore, it seems, the rest of the party had urged him to take up the sword. He protested, reminding them that he had recently been told by Ma’at that he would be punished if he died in his current state – due to an evil act that he had done. They apparently insisted, and he caved to their request, and took up the sword. The action took him to his knees, burning his hand significantly, and causing a wave of power to emanate out from him in a wave.

He stood then, shining with faith, and tried out his new power, casting a Detect Evil on the area. He discovered that there was a spot underground, just behind the altar where I had explored moments before. Apparently there was a hidden flight of stairs that had three lizard men waiting at the bottom. We decided to wait until morning to venture down below, and felt safe in our rest, knowing that the heavy carcass of the dead dragon covered the stairs and prevented anything from emerging.

Later that evening, as I helped him bandage his wounded hand, he confided in me that Ma’at had come to him in his mind to tell him that if he thought he was ready, then so be it. He told me of the new abilities that he was granted with his new position, and of his continued uncertainty that he was the right person for the task Ma’at had given. He elected to keep the wound to his hand, letting it scar, as a reminder. He told me too, that the entire conversation with his goddess took only a heartbeat, and at that moment when he touched the blade, she granted him the power I had felt radiating off of him in waves.

I gave him some salve for the burn in his hand, and cautioned that he would need to continue to stretch and use the muscles as they healed, lest the scar tissue stiffen and impair his grip. I am proud of him for following this path, and pleased to see that his goddess does answer him – though not always in the way he expects her to. This role suits him well, and I think, as he becomes more comfortable with the concept of balance, he will too become more comfortable in his role as Paladin.

The party rested well that evening in the main cavern, and began to make final preparations to head down into the slimy deeps and unmapped tunnels below us. We ate well and rested long, gathered items, tending hurts, and repairing armor and weaponry as we could.

The next morning, we discovered that all of the copper and silver coins had disappeared entirely, though strangely only the coins that we had gathered from the hoard. All of the coins that we had on us previously, as well as the platinum coins, gems, and jewelry remained untouched. We also took wary note of the slime now once again covered the corridor to the inner chamber, as well as marking of the fact that it had spread slowly out to the walls to the main cavern as well. We drug the carcass of the dragon aside to reveal the door to the lower stair case. With Lan’s new unique ability to see the skeletons, and Shalev’s new ability to detect evil, we were aware of the three lizard men waiting below. With all of the noise that moving the carcass of the dragon caused, it would have been foolish to think that they were unaware of us.

Ishmael opened the stone covering to the stairs, and three lizard men began the climb up, grumbling about the late arrival of their replacement watch. It was their last mistake. Shalev gave them no chance to even make a sound, killing them all with the quick, deadly efficiency of a warrior testing a new strength. They carried nothing at all on them, so we moved the bodies aside into the shadows, and made our way down the stairs and to a closed door.

Ishmael and Shalev took point, with Osman in the center, carrying a torch. Fife and I followed, he with a spear at the ready, and I with bow knocked. Lan was behind us, also carrying a torch, and Kellyn and Tobias took rear guard against attack.

The door opened to another corridor, and a set of closed double doors. Those doors opened to a large room with doors to the left, right, and straight ahead; and a group of 10 people in armor, who immediately bolted in fright towards the exits shouting out that they were being invaded. These bore no signs of being trained warriors or guards, and were most likely set there to shout warning to anything further in.

Ishmael and Tobias ran to block the doorways to the left and straight ahead, and Fife threw a spear with deadly accuracy to block the way to the right. KelLyn began casting a spell, but it went wrong, and her pouch of stargems exploded, wounding everyone around her, including Fife and I.

Shalev engaged the bandits to the left, Osman and I used arrows, and Tobias used his skills at brawling to take care of the rest. Two of them managed to escape under the spear blocking the right hand door, and ran out of sight, screaming. Their cries were abruptly cut off, and Shalev spoke quietly to say that the main source of the evil was off to the right. Lan used her new sight to look ahead a way, and said that she saw 3-4 enemies off to the left. The party decided, after some deliberation, to barricade the doors to the right and rear of the room, and proceed to the left, preferring not to leave enemies behind us in such a treacherous place. Shalev used his Detect spell once again to confirm the presence of enemies, and

Instead of 3-4 enemies, however, we encountered a group of 6. Dark robed, and chanting, these figures were attempting a summoning spell. Shalev, without hesitation, cast Dispel Evil to interrupt whatever dread thing they may have been trying to call up. One of the figures turned then, and said clearly “Kill the paladin first!”, and drew a black mace to engage. Shalev used his abilities to dodge the incoming attacks, and they turned then to engage Fife and Ishmael.

Lan and Osman both began summoning, at the same time, and it was with a tremor of uneasiness that I realized they both could summon fae. They complete their call, and a lady in white appeared, asking “Who is pregnant?” She and Lan have a brief conversation in the language of the fairy folk, and lan points to one of the cloaked figures who had drawn a hammer. Lan then handed her the warding stone that she had been given earlier during the battle with the dragon, and the White Lady appears to agree with the bargain struck.

One of the dread priests wielding a mace swung at Ishmael, hitting him with resounding force. Ishmael’s new armor allowed him to shrug off the blow, and then he returned the stroke, using his flail to similar effect. They both blinked at one another, shaking their heads simultaneously, and then engaged again.

The other priest attacked Fife, and Fife used his deadly skill with a spear to stab him through the mouth, taking him out of the fight but not killing him.

Two of the dread priests began to cast a spell, and Fife took action to spear one of them through the throat. KelLyn cast a spell on a second spear, and Fife aimed that one at the one who had first issued the commands, spearing him in the mouth. A spell goes off – whether it was KelLyn’s, or the enemy priest’s I will never know – and a massive wave of cold washes through the room. Shalev’s armor protected him, deflecting the power of the spell around him like a river around a solid stone. Unfortunately, in deflecting the spell, it hit both Fife and I. We were both wounded previously when KelLyn’s spell went awry, and it was enough to knock me unconscious.

Amit moved, growling fiercely, to guard my unconscious body, and Lan used her abilities to check my wounds.

The rest of the battle I learned about as Shalev, Tobias, and the rest of the party related it to me over the fires that evening.

The leader of the dread priests commanded them again, to kill the paladin, and turned in time to see the White Lady touch the hammer-wielder that Ishmael faced, turning him into a frog. Shalev wasted no time and stepped in to stab the frog and kill it.

Osman fired an arrow at one of the priests who was in the middle of casting a spell. Tobias used his speed to rush the other spell caster in the rear of the group, but was knocked flying back because of a reflection spell that they had successfully cast earlier. Fife threw a spear then, and was also taken out with the same reflection spell.

Ishmael and Shalev moved in to engage the remaining enemies, and Tobias also ran back into the fray, wielding his sword. Shalev took out one of the mace wielders, and Tobias took out the other caster with a solid blow to the face.

Ishmael went after the remaining caster near the back of the room, and KelLyn -who had been casting a spell – released her magic to chaos, causing one of the priests that Fife had speared earlier to disintegrate into dust. Shalev engaged the leader of the group then, who cast a spell causing a wave of fear to sweep through the room.

Shalev, however, used his brooch to ignore the effects of the spell. He looked at his enemy with some amusement at the attempt before stabbing the dread priest in the face with his holy sword.

Once all of the dread priests were dead, Fife and I were carried into the room, and the bodies of the priests were searched to find:

1 – a ring, a scroll, hammer, armor- highly damaged
2 – a ring, plate armor, mace
3 – chain mail, mace
4 – chain mail, scroll
5 – a staff
6 – chain mail, mace

and 117 gold pieces between them.

Lan gave me a healing potion, but I remained unconscious for a time. Since I was still being fiercely guarded by Amit, who refused to let anyone near me, Lan turned to Fife. she gave him a healing potion as well, which was enough to bring him back to full health.

Surrounded by unknown enemies and unknown powers, and a definite, lurking evil, we will rest here. Guarded and wary, we will continue to recuperate. I think before we proceed any further, I will see what blessings my god and goddess might be willing to provide. I tremble to think of what we might still be facing, and know that any advantage the divine might be able to grant us would be welcome.

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Ishmael earns the name Dragonbane
Thoughts from the point of view of Cora'sol "The Immortal"

cross posted from Cora’s Travel Journal

We watched the old man for a while to ascertain that he meant himself no more harm, and continued to talk to him to keep him calm. He relayed to us all that he remembered of his ill fated fishing trip, and told us all he knew – rumors mostly – about what lay at the heart of the swamp. There was a moment then, where he grew pale and balked at taking the party out into the swamps. We continued to speak gently with him though, and he reluctantly agreed once again to take us out on his raft and act as a guide through the swamp to the tomb. We made certain that the surplus of our supplies were secured safely and what we DID choose to carry with us was as water tight as we could make it, then we followed the old man out to the edge of the swamp where he had anchored his raft.

It was a large, sturdy structure that had a single bench where the old man sat to steer the craft. We all managed to get aboard, and the old man pushed off. We traveled south, against the current, for some time following the shoreline. Travel was slow, but any offer of help that we made was rebuffed by the old man, who told us his name was Stephen.

After several hours of laborious movement through the murky swamps, Stephen pushed the raft slowly away from the shoreline and turned the craft toward a large island off to the left. He grew noticeably more reticent and watchful the longer we stayed out on the water, and maintained that this was a “bad place.”

I have to agree with him there. The water here is dark, cloudy, and full of unknown creatures and terrors. The air is dank and heavy with moisture and a very real sense of oppressive dread. Even the trees, the cypress knees and towering trunks of the forest that so recently developed here are foreboding. Everything about this place seems off to my senses. There is no balance here. It is a place full of evil, and I do not like it. As reluctant as he was about being our guide, I am quite relieved that Stephen is here with the party, as we would undoubtedly have been lost several times over by now in the myriad of twists and turns and ever shifting land masses here.

Darkness fell quite suddenly over the swamp, and Stephen dropped the anchor of the raft bringing it to a halt between two ominous islands to each side of us. He warned in whispered tones that we had to stay in the center of the raft, and that we should not go into the waters. The party grew tense and expectant, instantly on guard for whatever might arise, and we saw the islands to either side of us begin to writhe with ghostly forms. Stephen quietly murmured that these were the shades of all those who had died in the swamp, but that the undead should have no reason to cross the waters unless you were a holy man.

The party shared a horrified glance then, as nearly everyone in the party radiated faith of one form or another, and we all turned our backs to the center of the raft as the shades began to creep towards us. We warned Stephen that we were in for a fight, and that he should stay as still as possible.

Osman asked if one of us could ready an arrow, and I showed him my already knocked bow. He nodded and said something like a prayer over the arrow then asked me to fire it into the center of the larger group of advancing shades. I raised an eyebrow, but did as he requested, but to no obvious effect.

KelLyn then tried casting a spell, but as usual, she lost her control, and the spell went awry causing wooden ramps to appear leading out of the waters towards the raft.

Shalev muttered a curse to himself under his breath – that I’m sure he didn’t think I could hear, and am honestly surprised that he knew – and began to audibly pray to Ma’at, using his brooch to cast a mass dispell undead. Ma’at heard him, and answered, and the spell that he cast managed to destroy twelve of the ghosts.

Osman then summoned and deftly controlled an elemental of air – something that I took alarmed and wary note of. I knew that Lan could do this, but then she is fae. To have another party member try to force order into the chaos of elemental magic makes me distinctly uneasy. But, control it he did, and he commanded it to destroy the closest shade. He was able to do this twice more, which showed a remarkable amount of control for someone appearing so young. Perhaps KelLyn should take note of this new party member and learn from him?

KelLyn attempted then to cast a spell that would affect the whole area, and managed to succeed this time, turning the remaining shades to dust.

No one was wounded, and Stephen remarked that travelling with us was both more frightening and more reassuring than traversing the swamps alone. We spent the rest of the night in peace, and the next morning, Stephen raised the anchor to the sight of eight large crocodiles sunning themselves happily on the wooden ramps near the raft. The party wisely decided to leave them alone – even Amit was staying well away from the fanged reptiles – and we continued on through the marshes.

We took note of several large birds standing along the shore of a nearby island, and we decided to hunt a few of them to replenish dwindling stores. Amit bounded off to hunt on his own, and Tobias, Fife, Osman, and I each manage to kill a few of the birds. Osman’s skill with a bow is remarkable, and I suddenly realized why he seemed familiar to me. He is of the Edabali family, and he himself is a renowned archer in the areas near home. I asked him quietly who was teaching his students while he was out adventuring, and he looked at me with surprise, then wryly answered “another student.” I smiled and then offered to teach him some survival skills in exchange for some archery tips. He agreed, and I look forward to being able to augment my ability.

Once the hunting was done, we made a camp along the shore of another island, and dressed the fowl for meals and rations. Amit returned from his hunt, obviously successful, and while still quite grouchy with the party, he is also noticeably in better spirits and healing well. He looked at the birds we had caught – and I could swear that I saw amusement in his eyes at our attempts to hunt – but then he made a sound of distress about eating them, and it was enough for Shalev to cast a purify spell over the meat with some obvious affect. I thanked Amit for his care, and though he still growled at me when I approached, it was less menacing and more long-suffering in nature.

We took the quiet opportunity to rest well, and then continued our trek through the miasma. After another four days of easy travel, Stephen warned us that we were in another “bad area.” We encountered nothing adverse though, and after a short space of time, Stephen offers to teach us how to fish with sticks and strings. It is an odd way to catch fish, as it seems to rely on tricking them into biting the hooked piece of metal at the end of the string. It is far safer, however, than venturing into the murky waters. Even Lan refused to fish in her usual seal-form. There was a decent amount of humor in the learning process, and I for one was glad for the brevity. The swamp is oppressive, and I can feel the weight of the darkness here like a constant threat. It weighs heavily on me. None of us were very successful at this new form of fishing, save for Shalev who brought in a very large water turtle. Stephen warned that the turtles here had a nasty bite, but no injuries were suffered in bringing the catch in, and he poled the raft over to another nearby island so that we could make a camp for the evening.

Amit went out to hunt on his own again, and he returned some time later carrying an extremely large snake. He dropped it in front of Shalev, and made it clear that the kill was for us. He waited for Shalev to accept the gift, then Amit collapsed with a groan. I moved over to check on him and discovered that he had been sorely wounded by the snake. I chided him gently about biting off more than he could chew – even for us – and he allowed me to gently run my hands through his fur as I healed him. I was able to successfully cast a druidic spell to heal the worst of the damage, and I convinced him to swallow a healing potion to take care of the rest.

Osman at that point cast a spell that created two haunches of goat, which he gave to Amit. The great cat immediately devoured the meat, and then fell into sleep. I checked him again as he rested to make sure that the healing had taken effect, and the rest of the evening passed without incident.

The next morning, Stephen told us that we were getting very close to the temple, so we took some time to clean off the muck and mud, and refresh ourselves. KelLyn offered to create water for our ablutions, and when she cast the spell she discovered a line of power nearby that augmented her spell considerably.

As we were getting clean, Fife was attacked, taking an arrow to his shoulder. Osman and I retreated to the center of the raft to begin picking the attackers off with arrows. Fife, being wounded, also joined us on the raft and displayed considerable skill with a bow. The attackers return fire with arrows, but we all manage to dodge out of the way and avoid further injury.

KelLyn cast a spell then, and caused the earth to begin quaking. We all manage to hold our balance, and Fife asked KelLyn to create a fire spell around his arrow. Something went wrong with the spell, and when the arrow hit, a gate opened to the outer plains.

The form that emerged was a demon prince, stepping right out into the center of the horde of enemies that had been attacking us. The demon began negligently slaughtering the hobgoblins, and our party retreated with great haste. KelLyn frantically attempted to close the still open gate, using her wand with success to do so. Once the hobgoblins were taken care of, the demon prince turned towards the party and said that he had business with a mage on the other continent. He asked KelLyn pointedly if she could aid him in getting there, and in a stroke of destructive mischievousness, she opens a gate to the central room where the group of mages that had been scrying on her specifically for so long resided. The demon stated then that this was better, and told KelLyn that in way of thanks for aiding him, she had earned a “god-like” power. He hummed something in Fyrewerian then, and stepped through the gate, closing it behind him amid the terrified cries of the surprised mages in the room.

KelLyn immediately repeated what the demon had told her in Fyrewerian, and created a small gem which contained power. The demon had taught her the ability to create power nodes for use in the creation of magical items. This is an ability that has been lost for generations, and I can’t help but think of Ma’tron in the cursed elven city, with her and her husband’s adventures to find magical items and recreate them.

After making sure that there were no additional attacks coming our way, we decided to continue moving on. A day or so later, around noon, we saw an island that looked considerably different than all the others we had encountered. This area was very dense, with the trees crowding close, and the earth mounded up to form the bulk of the island. There was a stone platform going into the mound on the north side, and a very large decorated wall near the rear of the structure. The whole area radiated unholy magic, and all of us were extremely cautious as we approached.

As Stephen poled the raft closer to the dock, we saw nine skiffs tied to the edge. He said that he had no wish to stay here, and would leave after we had disembarked. He was adamant, but did make a promise to return in two days, and then again in nine, should we survive.

With that promise in mind, we all climbed off of the raft. As we did so, Shalev noticed a body face-down under the water. He hooked it with a grapple and pulled it to the surface. It was the body of one of the count’s men, with a crossbow bolt in the back. It looked as if the man were fleeing toward the skiffs when he was shot. The rest of the party looked around cautiously, but saw no signs of where the attack might have come from.

I noticed that the wall towards the back of the structure shimmered oddly, and pointed out that that it did not appear to be a solid wall. I looked closer, and saw that it was not a wall, but a curtain made of tightly woven seashells. Osman walked up to the curtain-wall and touched it, only to be immediately shot with three crossbow bolts from behind the screen. Shalev rushed over to provide aid, and managed to drag him out of the line of fire to heal him. Ishmael then went over to the screen to mark the spot where Osman had touched the screen when he too was shot with crossbows.

Shalev grabbed Ismael’s shield at that point to cover he, Ishmael, and Osman while they got to safety. He managed to glance back through the screen to see three rows of humanoid figures wielding crossbows. He retreated behind the columns of the main area of the temple, casting a spell to dispel evil as he ran.

Osman turned then to see Stephen, who had been instantly killed in the flurry of crossbow fire, fall slowly into the waters of the marsh. He ran to the edge and dove in after him, in an attempt to save him, but it was too late. Stephen was gone, and Osman was left to try to make his way through the waters back to the dock.

KelLyn attempted to cast a spell to catch the strings of the curtain on fire, in an attempt to remove the obstacle from our path. Her first attempt to ignite the curtains failed, but thankfully with no ill effect. The humidity in the air was making the strings nearly impossible to ignite. So she made a second attempt, this time using a different word in Fyrewerian. This time, it worked, and her flames ignited with an indescribably beautiful detonation. The color was well beyond any normal flame, and the very air vaporized in a thunderclap of deafening sound. The force of the impact pulled Kellyn into the room just as I used the scroll of fireball that we had picked up in previous adventures to create and throw a fireball into the crowd of crossbowmen.

The scroll also detonated with an enormous backlash, and three water creatures emerge from three stagnant pools in the room, screaming with agony at the killing heat.

KelLyn was severely wounded from the backlash of the thunderclap, burned by the fireball, and appeared to be completely unconscious and exhausted. Shalev fearlessly waded into the middle of the bowmen to engage them all, keeping their attention firmly fixed on his deadly blade and giving Ishmael time to rush in and drag KelLyn away to heal her with a potion, saving her life.

At that moment, the large statue behind the curtain of shells shifted open, and a resonating voice rumbled out a question of who it was that had disturbed his rest. Lan looked back in time to see the head of a black dragon emerge from the corridor revealed by the shifting statue. She began casting a spell, and screamed out to the rest of the party as the dragon attacked her with a shot of acid breath. She released the spell she was casting in order to use one of the draughts of pure healing to counteract the terrible damage done by the acid. As her spell released, it warped into something purely wrong. The spell that she cast was an abomination of Destroy Animal, and it resonated against every aspect of nature. It hit the dragon square in the chest, and the dragon looked shocked for a moment, not understanding what had happened.

Upon seeing the dragon, my heart went cold in my chest. Here was the destruction of the druids. The reason I was the only one in living memory. Unnatural and unearthly, and utterly evil. I began to pray, at that point, for some guidance on how to deal with what I faced.

The dragon then cast a charm spell on the party, which affected everyone save Lan, who was not human, and Ishmael, who had quietly made his way over behind the dragon and had begun to climb the scales of it’s neck and was out of range of the spell. Lan summoned a small fairy who took one look at the dragon and squealed in fright before tossing Lan a weirding stone and vanishing entirely.

The dragon, confused by why his spell had no effect on Lan, then stated “Ah, but you are fae. Sacatha said nothing about a fae. Interesting.” He failed to notice Ishmael continuing to deftly climb the scales of it’s neck toward it’s head. Lan put the stone into her mouth, turned into her seal form, and dashed into the water to swim away from the dragon.

This confused the dragon even more, and he lowered his head into the water to try to find out where she had gone. This allowed Ishmael to slide down the dragon’s neck to behind it’s head- still unnoticed – and prepare to attack it with his mace. At that point, the dragon turned to me with the statement that it must be I who was the magic user. I wondered at why he could not tell who the magic user of the party was, but I was still held fast by the charm spell and could only watch with growing terror as the dragon opened his great mouth and brought his head forward to snap me in half.

I was only saved by Ishmael, who in that moment, swung his mace with all of his considerable strength into the dragon’s eye. Ishmael, hanging by his mace from the dragon’s eye socket, quipped “I am NOT the mage”, and then stabbed it in the other eye with the bronze spear that Shalev had given him to study. The dragon was caught completely by surprise and bellowed with pain, but managed to keep hold of the charm spell that held the rest of the party immobile.

Ishmael continued his attack, and made another successful hit with the bronze spear, which had begun to glow with heat. He noticed then that there were words that had appeared on the handle of the spear that said “Flame Strike”. He read the words aloud with a little confusion, only to have to hold on for dear life as the spell went off directly into the dragon’s eye with white hot fire. Ishmael then, realizing what the spear and the spell did, repeated the words over and over and over again. Three times the flame strike spell went off, each time piercing the dragon’s head.

This was enough to destroy the dragon’s formidable concentration and release us all from the charm spell that bound us. KelLyn then, picking herself wearily up off of the floor, walked over to the dying dragon and stated calmly “I AM the magic user” before casting a spell to draw the essence of the dragon into one of it’s scales, causing it to finally fall over dead.

We took a moment to stare in awe at Ishmael who seemed not to realize just how profound a deed he had just accomplished. He shrugged it off with some embarrassment, and we all sat there for a moment in sheer relief that we were all still alive. Lan took that moment to hop up out of the waters, and turn back to her human form; and Osman also finally managed to make his way back out of the murky deeps. We took a moment to search the area to discover that the three stagnant pools held a small trove of treasures:

  • a solid gold brooch
  • a solid gold necklace
  • a pin made of a strange gemstone
  • a platinum bracelet
  • a pin made of a soft green stone
  • a gold pin set with a garnet the size of a robin’s egg
  • a woman’s tiara set with three rubies and carrying the imperial crest
  • a cache of platinum coins
  • a potion with a Fyrewerian word written on the bottle (polymorph self, duration 1 month)

and then we turned our attention over to the entrance of the chamber where the dragon had emerged, only to have our breath taken away by the sheer amount of treasure to behold. The room was full of gems, coins, and several kingdom’s worth of wealth.

The party went out to the main columned area of the temple and built a rudimentary camp in order to rest and recover. There is a hoard of treasure to go through, and who knows what we will find there in the piles of wealth. I can already see Shalev planning to send a chest or two somehow back to his mother. His pending marriage weighs heavily on his mind, and in sending a portion of this treasure to the care of his mother, it is his thought that he may improve his lot enough to put his mother ahead of the game in the negotiations for his wedding.

I will caution that, while we are indeed deserving of a portion of the treasures here, there is way more than we could possibly carry with us. I know that Shalev is neither greedy, nor shortsighted, and would not take it all as he is from the desert and has learned well that we only keep what we can carry with us. I do worry that he reaches too high at times, and can forget that money and wealth can occasionally cause more issues than it solves.

He is discussing telling the count where the treasure is, with the stipulation that the divination priests receive a portion of the money to cover the cost of providing answers that the party members may seek. This is a wise plan, as the diviners can provide some much needed information regarding the quests that we still have before us to complete.

He was also considering trying to hire one of the diviners to serve in the court of the Oasis for a time, but I do not know if that will be possible. The desert is a different culture, a long way from here, and alien to these people. But if he can convince them to aid him in his quest to raise his status among the peoples of the desert, I will not stop him.

There is a country that has been rife with desolation and destruction, and so it would be my thought that the lion’s share of this go towards rebuilding and reestablishing trade and commerce here in this area. The easiest way will most likely be to leave the bulk of the treasure here where it lays. That is for the count and the people of this country to do, however. We can start the process to restoring Waycam to it’s glory, but it will ultimately be their choice on how to continue from here.

Stephen is dead, poor soul. May he finally find the peace that he needs. I am sad that we were not able to protect him, and I worry now that we have lost our guide. There is still much to do here, and I believe that what we face is only going to be worse than this. For what can command a dragon? Sacatha was not the dragon we faced today. His tomb is located here in the heart of the swamp, but whether it is further in, underneath this temple somewhere, or otherwise hidden we still have yet to discover.

May the god and goddess go with us here, watch us and guide us. Protect us however they may, for we will need their help.

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The eighth man.
Thoughts from the point of view of Cora'sol "The Immortal"

cross posted from Cora’s Travel Journal

After the battle with the giants, the party decided to rest and recuperate for a day as we waited for the effects of the Slow spell to wear off of Amit. While we rested, Ishmael used the down time to practice his craft, and he made several tubes of varying sizes out of the metals he carries.

The next day we broke camp and traveled on. Shortly up the road, we came across a very large oak tree that had been recently split by lightning. At the base of the tree lay a man in obvious distress, and a second man was there tending to the injured person. The second man stated that his name was Osman, from the desert area. He spoke desert common in a dialect that Tobias, Shalev, and I all recognized, and seemed quite taken aback when Tobias offered him a formal desert greeting. He returned the greeting somewhat timidly, and then told the party about how he came across the wounded man, and had been tending to his wounds.

As he conversed with the rest of the party, I went over to check on the oak tree to see what could be done. I was able to determine that the tree was still alive, and I attempted to cast a basic druidic spell to help heal the tree. There was no visible effect, but I felt like I succeeded to some degree. Perhaps my spell was able to give it the strength it needed to sustain itself during the regrowth process? Only time will tell, but I could not just leave it there without trying something.

I came back over to the party to see Shalev check the wounded man, and then give him a healing potion. As he regained consciousness, we asked him gently who he was and what he could remember. He said that his name was Bartow, – this is the man that the Count tasked us to find – and that he faked his death in order to discover what happened in the area, but was unfortunately captured anyway. He managed to escape, but was wounded in the process and that the last thing he remembered was collapsing by the great oak tree.

Bartow went on to describe the enemies he faced in great detail – including verifying that the old man did in fact seem to be a harbinger of attack. He described the old man to us as being short of stature and wearing nondescript brown and green rags. He told us of the prisoners that were lead behind the Inn at Waycam, and warned that he did not know what else we might face.

He seemed confused and still weak from his ordeal, and Osman chimed in at that point telling his side of the story – How he found Bartow gravely wounded, and took cautious steps to care for him during his time of need. Osman then stated that he is a scholar from the desert areas with some knowledge of the lizard folk and that he had ventured out to enhance his knowledge of the creatures. This struck the entire party as rather foolish, as Osman appeared to be neither armed nor armored, nor did he carry any supplies with him. He mentioned quietly that he knew some few spells that he had used to keep himself fed and mildly protected along the way, and I wondered then at how much more there was to this new stranger.

Fife and KelLyn both quipped with wry humor that the peoples of the desert seemed to be everywhere. I wisely kept my opinions to myself on the matter, but took small note of the nature of the gripe. Given the infighting that has gone on between the other party members to date, there might be concern for the mentality of “us vs. them” which, while not the case in the slightest, could cause trouble later on. It’s worth keeping a watchful eye on anyway. I have come to admire or respect each of the party members in their own way, and am loathe to see any rift between them grow.

As Bartow was still obviously weakened, and in no shape to guide us forward, Shalev equipped him with a horse and enough supplies to get him to the Robin’s Breast in safely, then sent him on his way with his word of honor that he would inform the count of our promise to find him, and of our continued progress to restore Waycam and clear the Evil out of the Swamp.

Since Osman had some small knowledge of the lizard men that we faced, and we could provide first-hand knowledge of the creatures, we agreed that he could join the group and travel with us; and after sending Bartow on his way, we gathered our small caravan and continued on for another few hours.

During the third watch that evening, Fife heard voices that forewarned “They’re not moving. Kill them now!” He immediately threw a spear towards the voices and shouted to KelLyn to wake the party. The monsters attacked Fife, and he again relied on his skills with the spear and his extensive knowledge of boar hunting to kill one of the creatures with his first hit to the face.

Tobias and Shalev were the first to awaken fully, and they also immediately engaged the remaining monsters, only to see two additional foes appear just over the ridge about 60 feet away. Fife then shifted his attack to the new foes while Shalev and Tobias closed with the ogres that were attacking Fife.

KelLyn, having woken the rest of the party, then engaged and cast a spell on the end of Fife’s spear which turned it white-hot. Fife’s aim was true, as it always appears to be, and the spear exploded against the ogre’s face with a shower of molten metal and slag. Fife reacted to the explosion like a child with a new toy, and promptly urged KelLyn to do it again. As she prepared a new spell, Tobias and Shalev took down the two ogres that they battled, and the others turned to flee.

I managed to get a shot off at one of the running ogres, and shortly after that KelLyn’s spell goes off.. predictably badly, causing a deafening cone of sound to detonate off into the swamp to the right. Shalev called for Amit to catch and kill the remaining running ogre, and Amit took off like a bolt to attack. Amit used his magically enhanced claws to rake the back of the fleeing ogre, and slowed it down long enough for Ishmael to smash it in the foot with his mace to take it down entirely.

With all of the enemies taken care of, we search their remains to discover more of the embroidered money pouches, this time with 50 silver in each. We check the party members for injuries, and discover that Amit was radiating an evil aura because of the effect of using the magical ability of his claws. Shalev was alarmed by this, and cast dispell evil on Amit, thinking it would cause the aura to disperse. Unfortunately, it caused a grievous wound to the great cat instead, and Amit collapsed. Shalev managed to get a healing potion into him quickly, and the wound was terrible enough that even with the effects of the potion, it took an hour for Amit’s wounds to close and knit.

Amit was understandably distressed, and was very wary about letting anyone near him for quite a while after that. Only Lan and KelLyn were able to approach him and they fed him some of the salmon we had in our stores. They managed to get him to calm down enough to allow me to approach him – though with a deep warning growl – and I was able to cast a simple healing spell on him. It felt as if it were successful, and I thanked the god and goddess that he was well, and asked them to add some small blessing to Amit to help aid his recovery.

Shalev was heartbroken that he had caused such unintentional harm to his friend, and he spent quite a long time in prayer to Ma’at. I do not know what it was that she said to him, but after he emerged from his meditations, he asked for a goat so that he could perform a specific rite. She appears, for the first time, to have answered him directly, and that intimate conversation seems to have had some effect on Shalev. Perhaps his goddess has started him on the next steps of his path as a Paladin to her name? Time will tell there, I think. Though he has gained a measure of confidence with his position, he still appears to have some reservations about how he should proceed in some cases. I am concerned that he seems to gravitate towards rigid law, as opposed to the sense of balance that Ma’at represents.

I will pull him aside when I get a moment to gently remind him that balance is not necessarily about always doing the good thing or the right thing, but that maintaining balance can sometimes mean allowing something bad to happen as well. This will be one of his most difficult lessons, I fear, and I hope that I can guide him with what little advice I can give.

On an interesting note, it appears evident that Osman is also a cleric or a paladin of sorts, as he emerged from his tents radiating a sense of faith and power. This would explain his lack of equipment or weapons when we found him, and it bears not only noting, but some careful observation as well. We know little about this new party member so far, and it will be interesting to discover more about him.

Later that afternoon, after the party had rested a little while, we continued down the road and eventually came across the remains of a ravaged village. Fields were burned, houses destroyed. The only remaining structure of any stability was the Inn. The Inn was also gutted and deserted, save for the innkeeper, who was trying to rapidly pack what belongings he could in preparation to leave. The innkeeper informed us that this was, indeed, what was left of Waycam; and he went on to describe the enormous flying creature that came out at night, as well as the crazy old man who squatted on the northern edge of the ruins here. He recalled that the road through here went north to the mountains, or continued straight to the desert, then went on to say that we could keep what wine we found in the inn, for he was leaving and didn’t care much what else happened here.

It is possible that he was originally party to the destruction of the village in the first place, but we will never know for certain. After he left, we spent some time searching the remains of the inn, but found nothing remaining of any value. We then continued warily to the north, towards the old man, recalling the warnings that he was possibly some form of harbinger to attacks. We found the poor wretch to the north, in a semi-livable hut, singing to himself about others that had been carried off to the “bad lair”. His rambling sing-song told us of Sacatha the great lizard king, who would come to rescue all and renew his kingdom. He knows how to get to the bad place on his raft, but that he would not go there. that he was to remain behind and bear witness to the destruction of all.

We managed to get him to agree to take us out to show us his raft. We left the horses at the stables near the inn, and agreed to hide the bulk of our supplies under the floorboards of the inn to retrieve should we return from the swamp. KelLyn promptly threw a hissyfit about her books, but finally stated crossly that as she did not trust any of the other party members with her things, and agreed to wrap them in oil cloth and hide them with the rest of the supplies. While KelLyn was arguing about her possessions, and angrily muttering about having to choose what to bring with her, Lan discovered that the old man was actually cursed with madness. After several more moments, and some more angry diatribe from KelLyn about being interrupted, Lan managed to convince her to see if she could help remove the curse from the old man. KelLyn reluctantly agreed, and drew a circle on the ground to call the power she needed to break the curse. She was successful, and as soon as she had completed the spell, she went back to sorting through her belongings.

The old man – who was now quite lucid – told us that he remembered fishing, and then being captured. That he was supposed to watch the people to see where they burned. The realization of all he had borne witness to sank in with a shocking realization, and the old man wailed at what he had done. In shock, and wounded to the soul at what had happened here, he tried to kill himself. We were unfortunately not fast enough to stop him from wounding himself, but we succeeded at removing the dagger from his chest and healing him completely before the wound could complete his desire. We promised him gently that he would have a chance to make things right. We sat him down carefully, wrapped him in a warm blanket, and gave him a little food and water to help calm him down.

He wearily told us that the tomb is actually real, and he made the offer to take us there on the raft. At that point Shalev boldly stated that he would destroy the evil, or die trying. Osman and I looked at each other in alarm, as we felt a clerical spell discharge, and we realized that Shalev had managed to geas himself to the task; quite possibly geasing the entire party to the same quest.

I do not think that the rest of the party was paying close enough attention to realize what Shalev had done. It alarms me that he made such a broad statement of intent, and that such a statement carried such a powerfully binding effect. He is still very cavalier with his own life, and it is my quiet thought that perhaps I should remind him that he is both a valued friend to me, and an essential member of the group. I do not know if the binding effect of the geas affects only Shalev, or will affect the entire group. I fear what may come of this, but I promise to see it through to whatever end may come.

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