Tir Na n'Fir

Into the future.
If I knew then what I know now...

I once heard an elven bard drunkenly proclaim a theology lesson, namely that the gods cast forth a thousand thousand mortals to complete their ends, and as some die along the way, whomsoever manages to survive long enough to complete the task at hand, “poor bastard that they are” is the one “fated to complete the task”. As a practical matter, this means that no matter whomsoever you believe has blessed your journey and given you instructions or orders to accomplish a goal, in the end, you must succeed or fail on your own, unless you are good enough, skilled enough, or loved enough for them to offer you assistance on your quest. In my case, I have a suit of dragon skin armor, a holy avenger, a broach which protects me from evil in a myriad of forms, managed to stumble across a mage who can make rivers of water, a sea dog who can reverse death if she gets there soon enough, an elf who supposedly can run on air, a bodyguard who can probably bulls-eye a fly at twenty yards, discovered blacksmith who managed to kill a dragon by himself, an alchemist selling extremely potent healing potions when I had the funds to buy up his stock, and an archer priest who can make sure we have ample fresh meat so long as he’s not the one opening the chests of treasure.

As support systems go, Ma’at is nothing if not helpful when it counts, to the point where she protected me from an evil Efreet before I had done anything for her. As far as keeping the balance, I assisted in bringing back a mage who went to great lengths to cause his return from the grave, so much so that I suspect even Ma’at might proclaim he has earned a second chance so long as he is not too disruptive. She appears to be extremely patient with me, and her methods of teaching remind me of Cora in the beginning, in that I am expected to do it myself, but she will help me if I truly need it. Thinking on it, I probably should not have been in charge of the Oasis, as while I have a gift for logistics, I don’t possess the people skills to rule, and don’t want to be bound to a place longer than I have to. That was a gift Ma’at gave me, allowing me to sacrifice that rulership vs. commanding me to step down. By making it a choice, I no longer have resentment toward the princess, and when I see her next, I can do so without ire or anger. Dying allows you to see things in a different perspective, and seeing your goddess in all her glory while your soul is measured is not one which easily fades.

I don’t know what the future brings, and I suspect that when I make plans, the gods laugh, but I know no other way to play the game, and am comforted that Ma’at is with me, and that Amit and Cora have my back.

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Into the Tomb of the Lizard King Finale: The King is Dead, Long live the King
Thoughts from the point of view of Cora'sol "The Immortal"

cross posted from Cora’s Travel Journal

“Oh for gods sake, how many times are we going to have to kill this guy for him to STAY DEAD?”

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

The party stayed where we had made camp for a while, using that time to rest, recuperate, and study various books and items. Shalev continued to study the book of the undead, KelLyn studied her books, Ishmael asked again to look at my sword, and I could still see his confusion when he examined the blade. Lan was lost in contemplation of her shiny orb again, and Osman continued to study the book about demons.

I checked on Fife periodically, and Tobias and Amit kept watch. Shalev got up at one point, and moved away to a different area to create several skins full of blessed water. When he returned, and saw me observing his actions, he shrugged and said that you never know what might come in handy in this place. I nodded my approval, and checked on Fife one more time, to see him finally waking up. He seemed none the worse for wear, and we gave him a few moments to reorient himself before we broke camp and moved on.

We moved back into the main area where the altar was, and I spent some time examining the two remaining levers. Working off of my original plan, I tied a rope around the lever to the left, and then ran across to a safe spot where I waited for the weight of the rope to trigger the lever. When it did, a door hidden behind the altar slid open. I repeated the process with the right hand lever, and another door was revealed, this time on the left wall.

The party decided to go through the door to the left, because we always go left. It lead us to a corridor that turned off to the right, with another door at the end. Shalev used the grappling hook to pull the door open from a distance, and it revealed a circular chamber that had 11 coffins laid out in the center. The room stank of death and decay, and I shuddered with revulsion at the sense of evil that still permeated everything about this place. As we came into the room, we noted a door on the right hand side that lead back into the main temple area. Ishmael walked up to look at the coffins, and we warn him to take care. Shalev came up beside Ishmael, preparing to pour the blessed water he had created over the coffins. He saw the remains of a female lizard creature, and as he leaned over to take a closer look that corpse and the one laying in the coffin beside it opened their eyes and sat up.

Shalev and Ishmael reacted with cries of horror, and Shalev immediately removed the head from one of the corpses as Ishmael smashed the face of the other with the torch he carried. Both of the corpses continue to move and attack, despite the injuries and flames. The one that Ishmael smashed in the face lit up like dry tinder, but still managed to swing and hit Ishmael in return. The impact of that blow was tremendous, and only Ishmael’s armor saved him from the terrible damage it would have done. The sound of the hit reverberated through the room with a crash, though Ishmael shrugged it off as if it were nothing.

Fife threw a spear and pinned the decapitated but still blindly flailing body of the second lizard zombie thing to the coffin behind it. Ishmael was still grappling with the one that was on fire, and reached out to tear it’s arm off.
Before he could grab it, however, it…she… leapt backwards to the rear of the room, and began making motions as if she were summoning something. I tried to shoot her then, to disrupt her summons, but my arrow bounced off of her harmlessly. Fife also tried to spear her, to similar effect, and Shalev moved forward then to take her head off. He did hit, and successfully decapitated her, but as the body fell to the floor, a cloud of gas billowed out of the remains to flow through the door to the right.

Shalev immediately moved forward and started to douse everything in the room with the holy water he had created earlier. Two of the other corpses in the coffins smoked when he poured the water over them, but after a while they stopped, and everything was dripping and stinking, but definitely dead. He destroyed some of the coffins just to be on the safe side, and we moved to follow where the cloud of gas had gone.

Before we could move more than a few steps, however, the room filled suddenly with a swirling, chittering cloud of flying rats. I remembered seeing these earlier on, and while we were in the swamps, and remembered that Fife had called them bats. The bats swirled and chattered, moving in an almost beautifully flawless harmony as they swooped down to attack us. Shalev instinctively tried to Dispel Evil, but there was no effect. Lan tried to cast a spell, and I saw 9 of them calm and fall away from the cloud. Lan cried to them to defend us from the rest of the bats, and I saw them turn mid-flight to do as she asked as we all ran from the room. None of us suffered any injury from the creatures, and as soon as we were out in the hallway, KelLyn began to scratch circles into the floor to gather power to cast. She stopped after the second circle was drawn, as she heard the noise in the room quiet down. Ishmael peered in to see the nine bats that Lan had tamed had done their work well, successfully decimating the remainder of the cloud.

Shalev had begun flipping through the book that described the undead as soon as we were safely in the hallway, and he came across a description of vampires which he read aloud to the party. The description matched what we had seen with the lizard zombies, and I recalled too the part of the riddle that had said “Beware the Brides.” It went on to explain that the only way to kill vampires was to drive a wooden stake through their heart, immerse them in running water for a full minute, or expose them to direct sunlight.

KelLyn, who had begun to tremble with the effort of holding the power she had drawn in check, told Ishmael through gritted teeth to get out of the way so she could cast the spell. He quickly dashed into the room and smashed up the remainder of the coffins, grabbed a handful of the wooden debris, and ran back out again with a grin saying cheerfully “Look! Stakes!” He handed the wood pieces to Fife and Tobias who immediately began working to fashion them into the stakes for us to carry with us.

KelLyn, unable to hold the power any more, let it go to cast her spell. As she was casting, we heard her mutter an audible curse, and the rest of the party reactively ducked to try to avoid whatever result might occur from the botched spell. There was no explosion, but all of the party began to feel sick. I looked at Shalev, and he appeared ashen, and cold to touch. A listlessness seemed to seep through all of us, and we all just stood there for a moment wondering what had happened. Lan used her skills to try to figure out what the spell was, and she was able to discover that KelLyn’s misfired spell had somehow removed all of our souls, essentially turning us into the very undead things we were facing.

Shalev went even more pale at this news, and I grew nauseous with the realization that I was, indeed, not whole. I think the shock of it is what prevented Shalev and I from acting any further. We all retained our power to think, our power to reason, our power to move and fight, even our powers to cast spells. But the knowledge that our souls were …elsewhere.. was disconcerting and disturbing on a level I have never experienced before.
Ishmael shrugged and went back into the room to gather up more wood pieces for stakes.

KelLyn used her ability to discern the nature of things to try to find out what spell she actually managed to cast in an attempt to find a way to undo what she had done. Lan spent some time in meditation to her goddess, and after a moment, returned to herself to say that she had managed to catch a glimpse of greenery, with all of us standing, imprisoned within individual circles. She speculated then that she had seen where our souls were trapped, but unfortunately had no idea where that was, nor how to get them back to us.

None of us really knew how to proceed, so we decided to continue on with the quest at hand, despite our current state of being. We went through the next door, and found ourselves in a magical study filled with various magical components. KelLyn looked around with a spark of interest, and said that there were several high value items here. She, Lan, and I all went over to the walls and perused through the components, and each of us took several pouches of useful items. We had Ishmael appraise the rarest items, and he found a pouch of ground pearl that he also took. After we had removed everything that we could think of that might be of value or use, KelLyn instructed Fife to take the rest and mix them all together in a pile to prevent them from being useful to Sacatha, or whatever other spellcasters might be down here.

He agreed, and spent the next few moments effectively trashing what was left of the room. We did not burn anything, because KelLyn warned that it could be dangerous to do so. The next door opened lead to an oppressively evil chamber. There was a coffin made of reed and pitch sitting on the floor in front of a throne where a large lizard man wearing a crown sat. He looked at the party and said “Well it took you long enough.” Shalev made an immediate move to cast a destroy undead spell, but the lizard king commanded resoundingly for us to stop. Because of our state of being soulless, his command worked, and we all froze in our tracks. Sacatha then made the command that we should all come to him. Shalev, however, used his indomitable willpower to ignore the commands after a second, and completed his action to touch his brooch and cast Destroy Undead on Sacatha. The spell went off with a blinding light, and the lizard king’s body disintegrated into a pile of dust, releasing a gas cloud that phased through the nearby wall.

Shalev, determined that the lizard king would not escape so easily, and mindful of the completion of the geas upon him being so close, yelled out that we should go through the wall after him. KelLyn and the rest of the party, still under the compulsion, moved over to the wall and KelLyn used her magic to weaken it so that Ishmael could smash it down with a couple of solid blows. I managed to shake off the effects of the spell, and turned to destroy the coffin on the floor behind us before following the rest of the party into the room beyond the smashed wall.

Beyond the wall, we saw a pile of treasure. Gold, silver, platinum, a gold ring, a spell book on a pedestal, and several other items. Shalev, in an uncharacteristically brash move, ran over to the ring and immediately put it on his finger. Before I could yell out though, we saw the body of Sacatha beginning to reform in front of the spell book. He turned to the party, and commanded us to kneel as he threw out a cloud of components into the air. KelLyn shouted out a quick warning to duck out of the way because that was a Cloud Kill spell. But then she stopped mid sentence with a smirk on her face, and said “nevermind, our bodies are already technically dead. We can’t die!” I shuddered again at the visceral feeling of wrongness within me at that statement, but did not deny that she was correct, as we were unaffected by the cloud. Shalev moved forward to attack, eager to finally be free of the geas, and KelLyn knelt below the deadly cloud and began to chant. The rest of the party was still under compulsion, and they too knelt below the cloud. I walked forward until I was in front of everyone, and then as I moved to kneel, I used the gauntlet that I had been given in the Temple of Nutartek. It allowed me to sense exactly where Sacatha was standing, hidden as he was within the death cloud. I aimed directly at him and used the word that activated the gauntlet’s power. The cone of affect struck the lizard king, and he once again changed back into a gaseous form, disappearing into the death cloud. It also, unfortunately, rebounded off of the back wall and struck Ishmael and Shalev as well.

Shalev collapsed to the floor in a dead faint, and a wave of orange and gold energy radiated out of Ishmael in a ripple which brought him down to one knee. Suddenly, and without warning, we found ourselves blessedly whole again. Our souls had returned to our bodies. I sighed with immense relief at the feeling, and then realized that we were all still within the death cloud, and finding it difficult to breathe. KelLyn was the only one who was standing fully in the cloud, and she also collapsed. Lan crawled over to her and cast a spell to restore her to health, keeping her beneath the cloud and giving her a potion to cure the residual effects.

Ishmael picked up the spellbook that was on the pedestal then, with the intent to carry it over to KelLyn, but as soon as he touched it, he made a face. When Shalev asked what was wrong, he said that the book made him feel “icky.” Shalev, without hesitation, touched the book with his holy sword, thinking to remove whatever curse lay upon the tome. The feeling of wrongness faded from the book, and Ishmael carried it over and put it in KelLyn’s pack.

Ishmael and Shalev appeared unharmed, although Shalev was as white as linen and had a noticeable tremble about him, and I wondered at what had happened to frighten him so profoundly. I made a note to discuss it with him once things had calmed down, and then I felt the gauntlet pulse. I looked at it, at somehow was able to sense the presence of an undead figure behind the doors to both the left and the right. I told the party that the fight wasn’t done yet, and we opened the door to the left. As soon as the door opened, Fife threw one of the stakes we had prepared earlier, striking the lurking Bride right in the heart. She looked at him with shock, and then fell over, dead for real this time. Fife threw a second stake at the second Bride who had been hiding behind the first one, and she too looked surprised before collapsing into true death. Shalev walked over and calmly took their heads off, just to ensure they were truly no longer a threat.

We moved over to the right hand door, and Shalev paused a moment there, trying to use his senses to find out where Sacatha was, and what weaknesses he had, but he was unable to discern anything. We opened the door and saw yet another coffin made of reed and pitch. Shalev ran over to try to lift the lid of the coffin, but felt something holding it down from the inside. He began hacking it apart with his holy sword. Fife and Ishmael moved over to help him, and they broke the lid apart and yank it off. They saw the body of Sacatha reforming inside, and Shalev stabbed the body with a stake, striking through where the heart would be. Not satisfied that he was dead yet, Shalev poured holy water over the body, and watched as it began to smoke. I looked carefully and was able to see the now familiar gaseous form trying to conceal itself in the smoke from the holy water. I wasted no time in explanation, and shouted the word to activate the gauntlet I wore one last time. Light and sparks arced through the billowing smoke, and there was a terrible screeching scream. A sconce that had been fitted to the wall suddenly fell off and cracked open, revealing a shriveled heart. The heart of the lizard king. Shalev moved over to the desiccated thing and hammered a stake home through its center. There was another horrible screeching noise, and Shalev looked up at me, relief in his eyes, and said “He’s dead. I can feel it.”

Then Shalev also fell over dead. I cried out “No!” and made to run to him, but Amit beat me to his body. Nosing his friend with great concern, the giant cat began pawing at Shalev’s head ad face. Fife looked on and told Amit to paw at his chest instead. Amit, making growls of distress and concern, smacked Shalev several times square in the chest, using his giant paw to try to revive his companion. I tried to move closer, but the growl Amit gave me made it clear that he considered this his to do. After another moment, Shalev sat straight up with a huge gasp of air, and Amit began licking his face with obvious relief.

Shalev looked pale. Shaken and shocked and having gone through so much, he hugged Amit tightly, and I could see tears on his face as he buried his head in the great cat’s shoulder and sobbed.

Lan came over after he had calmed down a little and administered a basic first aid to Shalev to tend to any remaining hurts he might have had. He radiated a gentle holy aura, almost like a glow, and I knew then the source for his tears, for only coming face to face with his goddess would have moved him so openly.

I looked down at my hand, where the gauntlet had been, and discovered that it had disappeared and in it’s place I held a strange looking staff. I recalled then, the staff that Ahriman had traded for this so long ago in that temple, and I wondered at what it could do. I made another note to have it identified once we returned to safety, and then moved over with the rest of the party to sort through what treasures were scattered about the room.

We found:

  • two magical javelins (Fife and Tobias immediately claimed these.)
  • a handful of gold, platinum, and silver coins
  • A crystal ball on a stand (KelLyn immediately claimed this)
  • Sacatha’s spellbook (Ishmael put this item in KelLyn’s pack after Shalev removed the curse that was on it.)
  • 23 silk packets containing the disappearing powder that the cleric had used in the court of the count. (I took these)
  • a major healing potion
  • a scroll
  • a clerical scroll containing spells in the name of Nutartek for:
  • resist fire
  • perception – Find the Path
  • Cure Critical Wounds
  • Raise the Dead

KelLyn made a squeal of delight when she also discovered that somehow the two pieces of her staff had been returned to her. Shalev told us then that when he had collapsed earlier he had “died” and in the conversation with Ma’At that ensued, he used the one wish remaining in the ring he had placed on his finger to return their souls to their bodies, return KelLyn’s staff pieces, and the repair of all of our equipment.

KelLyn was so happy with the return of her staff pieces that she didn’t even berate him for messing with the spellbook, or the use of such a powerful gift of the wish. She acted for just a moment like she might even hug him, but then discarded that notion to hug her staff pieces to her instead.

After we sorted through the rest of the room, Fife and Shalev discovered another hidden door which lead to a large room full of prisoners chained to the walls. We had found the kidnapped folk of Waycam at last. Fife, Shalev, and Ishmael worked to break their chains to free them, and we lead them up to the main room where we rested.

They were malnourished, frightened, and had been beaten severely. Lan and I worked together to give basic first aid for the less injured, and the party donated their potions to use on the more severely hurt. There were 50 refugees in total, and once we had fed and tended to them all and reassured them that they truly were free, they began thanking us profusely. We healed everyone up enough to safely move them, and we began making our way up to the base camp that we had created and stored all of the other treasures gathered. The refugees agreed to help us haul the stash up to the surface, and we gathered everything together to begin the long trek back to the top.

We made it up past the entrance to the fortress, and we discovered that the illusory river had reappeared. Shalev moved forward and used the tip of his sword to dispel the illusion once again, and we lead everyone through the acid pots along the riverbed with no injury or incident. Shalev, Tobias, and Fife searched through the remains of the graves that were there in front of the fortress, and discovered an additional 1000 gold pieces and 4 medium sized rubies. They also found enough clothes in good repair to give to the refugees to replace the rags that they were wearing.

Once everyone had made it across the riverbed safely, and a good way up the stairs by the fire pits, Shalev turned back to toss the evil staff that he had taken from the cleric into the acid pools in hopes that it would be destroyed. Destroyed it was, and the explosion of magical energy was tremendous. Shalev took some minor damage from the backlash and the acid cloud, but thankfully the roof did not collapse on us all despite cracking and rumbling ominously.

We continued to make our way back up to the base camp, and as we passed the vile temple, I remembered the promise I had made to myself and my deities. I walked into that cursed place, and let loose my anger and frustration and revulsion, wrecking everything inside. The party and refugees looked in with wide eyes, having never really seen me get this vicious about something, and asked timidly if they could help. I agreed, and we destroyed everything in the temple. Once every stone had been destroyed or overturned, I felt incredibly relieved, and I could feel the oppression of this place begin to lift noticeably.

Once we had gathered all of our stashed treasures and food stores, we made our way back up to the actual surface of the temple, to see the remains of the dragon corpse still mouldering in the corner where he had died.
The refugees began working with Tobias and Fife to pull up the rafts and skiffs that were sunken in the marshes, and repair and rebuild them so that they could haul us all back. The easy labors were a good way for them to regain their strength, and they enthusiastically helped us work.

While they worked, Osman made a hearty stew out of goat parts and helped to set up camp. Shalev was lost in internal contemplation, and so I took myself over to a corner of the dock to spend some time in deep ritual and meditation as thanks to my god and goddess for getting out of that place alive and whole. I reveled simply in the act of being able to reach out to them again, after feeling so cut off while we were down below.

Later that evening, Shalev began talking with the refugees about repopulating and rebuilding the ruins of Waycam. As we discussed what would happen next, we began painstakingly making our way across the marshes, moving one island at a time, and stopping to occasionally hunt, fish, and gather supplies, or to build an additional raft or skiff.

Osman, Fife, and I used the time in travel to teach the refugees how to hunt and fish, how to gather supplies, how to survive, and some basic fighting skills to defend themselves. After we had beached on the fourth island, we discovered a large stone circle etched with runes and various markings. KelLyn instructed us to destroy it completely, and we agree. Once the stone circle was decimated, I felt the oppressive gloom of the swamps lighten considerably. The swamps at last felt …. normal. Though the miasma of the marshes still existed, it was a more natural gloom, and I felt like I could finally breathe.

Five days of uneventful travel later, and we made it back to land safely. The villagers and refugees immediately knew their surroundings, and were able to lead us back to the ruins of Waycam. We checked the inn there, and while the horses had gone, our supplies remained safely hidden beneath the floor. We retrieved everything we had left behind, rebuilt the cart, and set about helping the villagers and townsfolk rebuild the place.

I asked for Lan’s help with the fields, and we went out to each field there to perform a blessing to restore the crops to full harvest, which the villagers immediately gathered to store. Ishmael rebuilt the blacksmith shop, and spent his time crafting nails and other useful items for the town. Tobias spent his time building barrels for the town to use as storage. Shalev spent his time helping where he could, and talking to those who were interested in Ma’at. Most of the village folk were extremely grateful to us all, and to Ma’at, and they agreed to set up a small shrine in her honor to remind themselves of the balance that had been restored to them.

After about a week or so, when we felt that the town was safely well on it’s way to full recovery, we donated the two bags of gold pieces (1000 total) to the town accounts, and then KelLyn opened a portal to the main city so that we could finally make our report to the count.

When we appeared out of nowhere at the city gates, the guards were understandably alarmed, and when we said that we had returned from the swamps to speak to the count, they brought him down directly. The count greeted us with wide eyes, having not expected us to return at all, and listened avidly to our tales of what had transpired. We gifted him some of the teeth of the dragon that we had killed, and he welcomed us to town with open arms, bidding us to spend as much time and money as we wished. He supplied us with sturdy horses, ordered a round the clock guard for our cart and supplies, and then hushed the tax collector sternly when he began to complain about us not having to pay taxes.

After the money was divided evenly among the party members, Fife, Tobias, and the others went off in immediate search of the local pub for a well earned drink.I remained behind with Shalev, acting again in my role as advisor, although I am more just a presence at his side now than actual mentor. He and the count began immediately negotiating desert trade routes, and plans for resupplying and providing protection for the newly restored town of Waycam.

Surprisingly, as Shalev negotiated deftly the trade routes with the desert, he insisted that his wife-to-be’s name be used first instead of his. This is completely opposite of what he had been saying, and I wondered again at what he saw in the face of his goddess. The count was so impressed with the proposal that he offered to escort the share of treasure that Shalev wanted to send to his family personally. Shalev agreed to that, and took off the platinum chain that he had worn around his neck, handed it to the count, and requested that it be give to his bride-to-be as a token of his affections.

After negotiations were sealed, we left the count to make his preparations, and Shalev and I wandered about town for a bit before joining the others at the tavern. Shalev is still quite withdrawn, compared to how he normally is, and I imagine he will come to me to talk when he is ready. He said that he was uncertain if there were additional wishes left in the ring, but he feels like there may not be, as he has heard that you can not wish for more wishes.

We stopped by a wood worker in town, and commissioned a couple of chests to be made to haul around the riches that we had found in our adventures. The carpenter agreed with wide eyes, and Shalev and I then finally made our way to the tavern to share drinks, stories, and thoughts about all that we have done.

He also has a list of questions to ask the diviners regarding several of the items we still search for. We have the money to back up the request without thought, and while we plan to spend a well earned rest here, there is still much to be done.

The lizard king is dead. The town of Waycam well on it’s way to being a healthy, thriving place once again. The count has his trade routes restored, and remains eternally grateful to the party for the feats we have accomplished. I’m sure there are bards who have already begun composing sagas, and I am interested to see how they will weave the tales we create for them.

It’s time to rest for a while, and contemplate what comes next.

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The meaning of balance
An evening medition on the will of Ma'at
Actions have consequences, and those consequences are often balanced by the effort the achieve them. Fife has skill with his spears similar to the skill Tobias has at running, based on the amount of effort he expends in practicing that skill. If I am to be a paladin of balance, or more importantly of the balance, it is important to respect that great will or great skill or great effort may cause a change in the balance while not being unbalanced.

Martek undertook a great effort to bring about his resurrection, but I wonder if it was a resurrection so much as putting his life on hold, to be resumed at a later date. It was certainly a complex endeavor to bring him back to life, and I wonder if that effort and those careful arrangements were the framework of a new balance. When the balance if nature shifts with a new predator or prey moving into an area, the system adjusts; is this disruptive to the balance in a manner Ma’at disapproves of? If there must be a balance between all things, that means there must be a balance between progress and stability. Is there a difference in her eyes between one static change or a cascading one? A city which expands slightly and then maintains its borders may be very different than one which attempts to conquer the desert and destroy all who do not bow down in her eyes.

Does that mean great changes are permitted if great effort is undertaken to achieve them? If something valuable, be it money, food, time, and effort is sacrificed to this end, does that mean that the change goes with the balance, even as it changes what came before it, such as the return of the water to the desert, the breaking of the curse, and the other issues of Amun Re? Someone took over the temple of Nutartek, so it is unbalancing to reclaim it or to leave it with those who still appropriated it?

Our party is capable of great things, and when I embrace the darker side of my nature, I am deadly to my enemies in battle, just as Kellyn is capable of majestic acts when she focuses her power on controlling her magical strength. Not all the things we CAN do may be things we SHOULD do. While we have killed a dragon and likely decimated the lizard-man population, the effort it took to undertake these actions will likely mitigate to some degree their affect on the balance. Contrariwise, some of what we wish to do going forward may be less subtle. Ishmael may someday be able to create weapons of renown, Kellyn may soon be able to create magical items, and I wish to find ancient skills of battle and self awareness. Must these efforts be abandoned, or are these goals less unbalanced the longer it takes to achieve them?

And then there is my own nature… deadly with an edged weapon, if wounded in my armor, I turn into a dragon, and one which occasionally may benefit from my sense of strategy. Is this unbalanced as well, or the other side of the coin to my own nature?

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Into the Tomb of the Lizard King - Part 7: When all else fails, destroy everything
Thoughts from the point of view of Cora'sol "The Immortal"

cross posted from Cora’s Travel Journal

“I died by misadventure…” – unknown

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

With the unfortunate fairy pinned to the wall with the trident, the lizard king turned his attentions to the party. Fife and Osman reacted immediately with ranged attacks, aiming for the figure’s face. Ishmael stepped in to grab the trident so that he could attack as well, and the lizard king also stepped forward to grab the weapon so that he could attack Shalev. I got to the weapon first, though, and while I was able to successfully able to pull it out of the wall, it was too heavy for me to wield with the body of the fairy still on the end.

Tobias ran over to where the lizard king had stepped out of the mosaic, and he began smashing the tiles with his mace to prevent anything else from stepping through the image. Shalev attacked the lizard king directly, but was unable to score a successful hit, much to his growing frustration. Osman and Fife both did hit successfully, and when Fife’s spear struck him in the eye, the lizard king turned to face Fife directly causing the impaled spear to wobble grotesquely. The lizard king did not appear to be concerned by the damage he was taking, but the party kept up their attacks regardless.

I had lowered the trident and the body of the fairy as gently as possible to the ground, and Lan ran over to help me see what could be done, if anything. The trident was wickedly barbed, however, and we saw that removing the weapon would cause much more damage to the fairy. The fairy was definitely dead, at least as far as we could tell. Not wanting to cause further harm, we elected to leave the trident where it was, and I did what I could to clean the wounds gently.

Osman took aim again to shoot the lizard king with another round of arrows. Ishmael moved to grab the spear that was stuck in the thing’s eye, but missed his mark, instead shifting his titanic grip to a grappling move to try to pick the lizard king up and throw him. The lizard king also groped for the spear to remove it, but not before Tobias got to him. Tobias grabbed the embedded spear and twisted it viciously. Fife threw yet another spear, and managed to hit the lizard king in the other eye.

The lizard king continued to grope for the spears, and grabbed one of them, yanking it – and his eye- out. I looked up from my work with the fairy to blink in disgust as I saw the lizard king yank his eye off of the spear before tossing the weapon negligently to the ground. Again, he turned to look at Fife, and again the spear that was still stuck into his face swivel nauseatingly.

Shalev at this point, having had enough of his missed attacks, drew his holy sword and attacks the lizard king with a cry of fury. This time he hits, and sparks fly as his sword lodges in the side of the lizard king’s head. Ishmael then reached out to grab the remaining spear while the lizard king was distracted. Ishmael pushed the spear, as Shalev pulled to try to free his sword, and the lizard king… or what we thought was the lizard king.. crumbled into a pile of mosaic tiles and rubble.

I was still tending to the body of the fairy, and Lan moved over so that she and Osman could work together to summon the fairy folk to deal with their fallen kin. Tobias stepped up then and demanded that we pull the trident out of the fairy to give to him. I argued with him stating my disapproval in defacing the body or showing any further disrespect. I also cautioned that anyone holding the trident might be associated as complicit in the death of their kin. He glared hotly at me, and said that he didn’t care, the weapon was his and he wanted it.

He has never argued like this before, especially with me, and I was taken aback at his callous attitude. I held my ground though, and refused to let him remove the trident, and he stalked off to the other side of the room. I eyed him carefully as he stormed away, wondering at his sudden display of temper, and worrying that there might be some sort of curse affecting his psyche. I had the thought to ask Lan to check Tobias when she had a chance, as she had done with Stephen, for signs of induced madness, when my contemplation was interrupted by the sound of a thousand trumpets.

The party startled, putting hands to weapons to ready for the next round of fighting whatever it was, but quickly realized that it was the fairy throng answering the call that Lan and Osman had sent out. We stood down, remaining wary, but trying to appear as non-threatening as our group is capable of being.

We watched as an army of fairy warriors wearing shining layan armor rode through the nearest wall astride silver horses. Row after row after row of them appeared, and one warrior/guard rode ahead of the others. He stopped before the body of the fallen fairy, looked at me, then down at him. He unceremoniously yanked the trident from the body, then stabbed him through the heart with a shining blade. I made a cry of concern, but the warrior ignored me completely, simply saying “He’s certainly dead now.” He reached out and placed a bar of some sort of dark metal into the wound, stating “…and this will keep him from coming back.”

He then moved away as simpler dressed fairy folk bundled the corpse into an odd burlap type fabric, and tied it closed with a simple rope of the same material. They tied the body to a drab brown horse, and the warrior/guard slapped the horse on the rump to send it galloping off toward the west.

The army turned then and began to march back through the wall, and a beautiful fairy woman rode toward the party. She came up to us and said “I cannot guarantee your safety, but the balance is in our favor now, so we will keep an eye on you.” Then she turned, and followed the shining throng back into the mists. As the mists dissipated, the solid wall reappeared, and Lan was left staring after them in wonder. I looked down, seeing the trident still on the floor, and I picked it up.

I carried the trident over to where Tobias stood with his arms crossed, glowering smugly, and I dropped it at his feet with a pointed look. I tilted my head slightly and raised an eyebrow at his continued display of almost childish temper, before turning and walking away without a word. I am disappointed, as I had thought him above such things and I forget, sometimes, that he is so very very young. Regardless, he has his new toy now, and I hope it serves him well. Lan said that it felt sort of magical when she looked at it, but it may be a magic that faded with the death of the image that wielded it. Time will tell there.

We searched through the rubble and remains, but did not find anything of interest or of value. Shalev took a step over, and looked into the other hallway that we had not yet explored. He saw another mosaic, this one depicting another image of the lizard king, this time holding a long bow in one hand and the leash for three gigantic hunting hounds in another. They faced off with a massive snarling ape creature. As Shalev looked, he also saw a stack of corpses at the far end of the hallway, the remains of those unfortunate adventurers who had come in times before.

The party began discussing whether or not to step into the room to bring the mosaic to life. Shalev mentioned that the bow this image of the lizard king might be useful, and the discussion ranged to whether or not the fight would be worth it in the long run.

KelLyn, who had been oddly reluctant in the previous encounter, suddenly stepped forward and offered to simply destroy the magic on the mosaic. Not wanting to deal with yet another fight, the party agreed to let her work. She spent several moments considering the mosaic, and then began building circles of power. Circle after circle she traced into the floor, until, standing in the center of four concentric rings, we could see the sparks arcing and popping around her. She then reached out one crackling hand, and leaning across, but not stepping over, the threshold, simply touched the edge of the mosaic. There was a rumble and the mosaic crumbled off of the wall with a crash. Her spell radiated out down the entire length of the hallway, destroying any magic that it touched. Two arrow traps fell from the ceiling, and several of the corpses at the end of the hallway were thrown off of the pile as the magic items they bore exploded into useless ash.

KelLyn dusted off her hands, and shrugged off the loss of the potentially useful magical items in an almost uncharacteristic act for her, saying simply that “At least we didn’t have to deal with fighting anything else.” She assured us that the hallway was perfectly safe to enter now that all of the magic was removed, and Ishmael cautiously crept over to where the arrow traps had fallen. He examined them carefully, then proceeded to thoroughly dismantle them to remove the springs and mechanisms from them. He gathered about twenty of the coiled wire pieces, which he safely tucked away into a belt pouch. We examined the rest of the room, but there was nothing else remaining on the remains of the adventurers, so we all moved back over to the central hallway where the feast mosaic remained.

We all stepped into the room, and were instantly greeted by servile lizard men who welcomed us to the feast and offered to serve us. Shalev asked them in genteel fashion to feed Amit, and then kept them distracted with talk of foods and foreign dishes while the rest of the party cautiously explored the room. Ishmael asked them then for some of their strongest alcohol, and they said that the strongest and best was reserved for guests of the lizard king. They asked then if we were said guests, and Shalev replied that yes we were looking forward to seeing him shortly. The lizard servants, missing the meaning behind his words entirely, and being easily convinced that we were here for the feast, happily produced three dusty bottles of some sort of brandy.

The table was set with gold, and piled high with food and delicacies of every imagining. At the head of the table, there was a great wooden throne, gilded with gold leaf. Ishmael walked up to the wooden seat, and asked politely if he could sit there. The lizard men just stared blankly at him, and when he heard no admonition to stop, he moved the chair out to take a seat at the table. As soon as he moved the chair, a door underneath opened up, revealing a set of dark stone stairs leading down into yet another level of this seemingly endless place. We all looked cautiously, but the lizard men continued to serve unperturbed by the sudden revelation of the stairway.

I asked Tobias, still somewhat cautious of his recent display of temper, if he would look into the dark to see what could be seen. He said that the stairs emerged into a dark hallway, but could see nothing else otherwise. Shalev secured a rope to Fife, and Fife explored down the stairs to check for traps and pitfalls. He made it the fifty feet down to the floor below, and there were no traps or anything else to bee seen. The rest of the party followed him down shortly after and we saw a room with black stone doors in the center of the far wall. On either side of the doors was a great black stone basin filled with water.

Shalev, being cautious of the basins, moved in to listen at the doors. He heard chanting, and quickly, quietly stepped back to whisper to Lan a request to use her sphere to see if she could determine who was inside the room. Osman also moved forward to listen, as he could speak the tongue of the lizard men, but he was unable to determine how many lay beyond.

Lan pulled out her shiny sphere at stared at it for a long moment, when suddenly she turned into a misty cloud and flowed under the doors into the room behind them, leaving behind her orb which glowed and pulsed gently. The rest of the party was completely taken aback, as this is the first time that we had ever seen her do this particular feat. After a moment, the misty cloud eased back under the door, and Lan reappeared to the party, telling us that she had seen three priests on a dais surrounded by chanting lizard men. She also noted with a grim smile that the head priest leading the ritual was the same priest that had attacked us in the count’s court at the beginning of this whole adventure. The party quietly discussed options and strategies for attack, and after agreeing on a plan, Ishmael grabbed the doors and yanked them quickly open.

Tobias and Shalev moved immediately into the room to attack the high priest. Having the element of surprise on our side, Ishmael dashed into the room to look for a circle to destroy, interrupting the ritual in progress. Fife threw three prepared spears with wicked accuracy at the three priests, aiming each for the base of the intended victim’s skull. I used my bow to fire at each of the priests as well. My first shot missed, but Fife was successful, striking the priest on the left. Tobias rammed into the high priest – the one one in the center – and pinned him to the wall behind him over the altar with the trident. He was not able to control his speed during the attack, however, and also impaled himself on the butt end of the weapon.

Ishmael, finding no circles or ritual implements to destroy, snarks at the other two priests “Seriously? Nothing?” and then waded into the nearby lizard men to begin grappling and brawling with the group.

Osman’s arrows were successful, and I made a mental note to ask him to help hone my own skill with a bow once we were safely away from this place. The high priest was still pinned to the wall, and not moving, and Tobias struggled to free himself without exacerbating the injuries he had received. I shifted my second shot to avoid hitting Tobias, and that arrow also skittered away harmlessly. Fife took the opportunity to spear the high priest a second time, and just barely managed to miss hitting Tobias as well. Shalev stepped in and decapitated the left hand priest with a single blow, and I aborted my third shot, as I no longer had a target to shoot. Fife threw a spear at the right hand priest, and again successfully hit, although this priest was armored, so the spear did little damage.

Osman shifted his arrow attacks to the remaining priest, and Shalev moved over to help extricate Tobias from the trident. Fife used his spears again, this time aiming for the back of the head of the remaining priest. He hit, but the priest was able to complete a spell successfully anyway. The lizard men in the room were oddly unmoved by the attacks happening around them, and continued their chanting with their heads bowed. I took the opportunity to come up to the three nearest to me, taking them out of the fight with a knife to each throat.

At that moment, I heard Tobias scream loudly, and I look up to see the remaining priest grab him and twist him violently on the trident, almost spinning him around. Tobias passed out from the shock of the attack, and Shalev swung out to remove the offending priest’s head from his shoulders. Tobias fell unconscious off of the trident to the floor, and the dead priest’s armor began to crack and groan alarmingly. Shalev, hearing the cracking and groaning begin in his own sword as well, and remembering the dread paladin from the upper floors, quickly cast a dispell on the armor rendering it inert, and it fell to pieces harmlessly to the floor, leaving his sword unharmed. He then knelt down to give tobias one of the major healing potions, bringing him back to full health.

Ishmael waded into the still oblivious lizard men, smashing and brawling effortlessly, dropping all five of the group he was engaged with into a pile. The rest of the lizard men in the room realized then what was happening, and looked around in terror before they bolted towards the door and up the stairs into the room with the feast mosaic. Tobias and Amit chased after them, only to come to the top of the stairs in time to see fifty armed lizard men step out of the feast time mosaic. Tobias and Amit retreated quickly back down the stairs, and Shalev commented that he didn’t think they would come down here. I cautioned that such an assumption was foolish to make, and Lan and Osman began summoning elementals to aid us. They summoned opposing creatures of fire and water, however, and the two immediately began to fight one another. Osman dismissed his water elemental quickly, and Lan grabbed up the diminuitive fire elemental and commanded it to go upstairs and burn all the things. Ishmael went up with her to provide protection, and was able to use his armor to deflect all of the ranged attacks from the lizard men. The elemental tried to burn things, as it was commanded to do, but nothing would catch as all of the armed lizard men were made of the same mosaic stone. She dismissed the elemental, and she and Ishmael also retreated back down the stairs.

She told the party quickly about the stone nature of the army, and KelLyn once again offered to destroy the magic holding it together. Ishmael followed her up to provide cover while she cast, and again she created circle after circle to concentrate her power. Four concentric rings later, and she once again began to spark visibly with power. She cast the spell, and the mosaic and stone lizard men disintegrated into dust. The six remaining lizard men looked on horrified, and Ishmael ran in to smash them to death. KelLyn fell then to one knee, panting slightly with the statement “That’s tiring. I want beer.” and then cast a quick spell to create a keg of beer. She over cast, however, and the keg exploded, thankfully only causing minimal damage. She grumbled “dammit, I’m going to have a beer.” and etched a quick circle in the ground before trying again. This time she was successful, and a keg of moderate dark beer appeared which Tobias promptly tapped open.

While she sat against the remains of the wall sipping happily on her beer, the rest of us searched through the room below to see what we could find. We discovered a shattered staff which was good for nothing but firestarter, a set of crushed armor, and a combat hammer in good condition. Shalev noted that there were some kind of runes etched around the hammer, and he promptly handed it to Ishmael who gleefully declared that he could read dwarven. As Ishmael studied the hammer, his eyes grew wide, and he whispered the translation of the runes out loud “From Uzerik’s Forge”. He looked again at the hammer with dawning awe on his face, and tucked it safely into his belt loop.

In the scouring of the room, Shalev noticed three levers against the far wall behind the altar. He stepped away from the levers quickly, muttering about how everything in this cursed place was trapped, and I stepped forward to take a look at them. After a careful scrutiny, I saw that all three connected into the altar somehow, but the center lever had a different connection than the other two. I mentioned this to the rest of the party, and offered to tie a rope around the lever so that it could be safely pulled from across the room. Fife made a derisive sound at this, however, and telling everyone to step back, reached out to yank the lever down.

When he did this, the arrow trap at the rear of the room activated, striking him in the back, and dropping him instantly. KelLyn, Lan, and I moved over to do what we could to keep him alive. KelLyn looked once at the arrow, pulling it out before saying that it was a magical arrow, and then she once again began drawing circles on the ground to create a well of power for Lan to use her magical skills in churgery. Four circles later, and she steps back telling Lan to go ahead. Lan concentrated for a moment and then cast her spell. Fife’s body glowed a sickly green color, but began to obviously heal.

She sat back with a satisfied sigh and said that she had done what she could, but it would not be a good idea to move him until the spell had done it’s work. We made camp to keep a vigil while he continued to improve, and KelLyn and Lan immediately fell into a deep, exhausted sleep.

Ishmael sat down to study his new hammer, and asked as well to study my sword further. He still declares that the blade I wield should not be possible, but he has agreed to try to repair it if he can. The patterns in the blade fascinate him, and I see him trying to figure out it’s make every time he looks at it.

Osman used the down time to study the book of demons that he picked up in the library earlier, and Shalev likewise uses his time to study the book detailing the types of undead. I asked him if he would mind letting me borrow it, or even read it to me, as my grasp of the common language is not a fluent one yet. This book might prove useful in determining what we still face here in the depths of this place.

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

I go back and think on the riddle we were given, and wonder still at what may lie ahead. I also continue to study my own books and language, to see what secrets may be revealed to me. It is odd to think of my language as circular, and I do not know if anyone has done so in the past. There is a certain rhythm to it, however, that lets me believe that I am on the right track with my studies.

I can’t help but marvel at the amount of power that KelLyn has used over this past day, and also can’t help but wonder at what the toll on her is for such. It is obviously unhealthy to move that much power so quickly, and it bothers me greatly to see her do so without a care. I also wonder at what she draws the power from. It bears contemplating, though I am not a mage, and I doubt that she would take my advice gracefully.

The lizard king remains to be found, along with who knows what else we may encounter here. The pile of corpses of past adventurers above lead me to believe that perhaps we are the first to make it so far. It does not bode well for what lies ahead, though, so I continue to pray for guidance and strength that we make it through this alive. This far underground, in such a hostile temple, I have very slim connection to my god and goddess. I hope they hear me, even quietly, and look forward to being quit of this place once and for all.

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No more surprise.
That could have gone better.

When traveling in this dungeon, it is possible, however unlikely, that Sakatha, whomever or whatever he is, did not know we were going. Given the veneration the lizardmen hold him in, and the presence of the human priests, it’s possible Sakatha is somehow connected to the land and can scry certain things. As it stands, the amount of magic that has gone off, Sakatha almost certainly knows something is wrong.

The fact that we were not attacked yet likely means he is readying his forces and whatever comes next will be even more dangerous. Given the scale (pardon the pun) already has a dragon and a demon on it, not to mention evil clerics, undead, acid traps, fire traps, arrow traps, poison traps, rubble traps, magical creature traps, more arrow traps, more poison traps, and we just faced fifty lizardmen, whatever comes next is likely to be worse.

Well, no one ever said adventuring would be easy…. the bright side appears to be that Ma’at is with us, as while we are encountering great hardship, the rewards are to date commensurate, should we manage not to damage or destroy them.

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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 being 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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