Tir Na n'Fir

The Search for the Lost City - Ishmael Sings
Thoughts from the point of view of Cora'sol "The Immortal"

cross posted from Cora’s Travel Journal

“The [music] produced is not in the mouth, not in the body, but, in fact, in the bones. It is all the bones in the body which are singing, and through that song, you hear the creation of worlds.

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

Once we were inside the passage through the mountains, KelLyn attempted to cast her spell that would show us the best path. The worn road in front of us lit up suddenly, illuminating a massive waterfall flowing out of the ceiling in the center of the area. The water flowed over a large crystal in the center of a fountain, and that crystal was the source of the light that now permeated everything. The fountain flowed down into a deep pool, and then into several channels that curled their way into the abandoned cityscape before us. The ceiling of the cavern was 65 feet up, and rough hewn, and aside from the cascade of water, was otherwise featureless. The waterfall looked to be the central water source for the city, and the water itself was clear, clean, and arctic cold.

The city itself looked to be completely abandoned, and everything here was covered in a heavy layer of dust. The buildings were crafted for someone about five foot tall, and everything was made of stone. We notice that there are no doors or window coverings, but simply a single stick placed across the entryway of each domicile. The dwellings closest to the fountain seemed to be old workshops and store fronts, and a quick glance inside showed only more dust.

I recalled that it had been about three years since the dwarfs and gnomes had retreated deep underground, and pointed out to the party that this place appeared to be abandoned around that same time. From what we could see, everything had been packed up and taken with them when they left. Since we had a good source of water at hand, we decided to make camp here for the night, and Tobias and Osman quickly scouted out rooftop vantage points for the evening watches. Shalev walked over to the well, and noticing that there were coins in the bottom, took out a single platinum piece and tossed it into the water as well. Whether he thought it was a wishing well, or simply did it for luck, I do not know, but there was no visible or tangible effect from his action.

We took the opportunity to refill the water barrels and skins from the fountain, and the pack animals and horses were also able to drink their fill. Lan took some time to swim in the frigid waters, frolicking with delight in the crystalline pool.

Fife and Ishmael had wandered over to explore the abandoned buildings to see what they could find. As soon as Fife moved the stick placed in front of the door way, there was a shift in magic in the area. I saw KelLyn look up suddenly in alarm and begin trying to discern what changes she obviously felt in the air. She mumbled to herself as she worked, and I heard her say something about a luck line running through the area, a brief sharp laugh out loud before saying “so that’s where it went!” and something else about curses. She continued to mutter and concentrate, and I wandered over to see what trouble Ishmael and Fife were getting into.

Fife had discovered that the building that they were scouting through was at one time a jeweler’s shop. He found an unfinished gold statue in one of the drawers there and showed it to Ishmael. The statue was a humanoid figure with six arms, and fittings where gems would have been fit in for the eyes. Ishmael hefted it once and examined it closely. He said that it was made by Hassan Abdel-Qa’id and was likely an idol of some kind for home or personal use. It was not made of solid gold, as he and Fife had originally thought, but was merely plated somehow. Fife pocketed the idol, and Ishmael found some apprentice quality tools that had been left behind that he also took.

As they left the building, Fife replaced the stick across the entrance, and they moved over to the next building. As he moved the stick out of the second doorway, KelLyn looked up sharply, then stood up and walked over toward him. Ishmael, after looking inside the building, called me over and said that this appeared to be some kind of tea shop. I stepped inside to look around a bit, and though most of what I found inside was mouldered and unusable, I did also find a half brick of tea from the mythrian farms of Kestria. Labeled Big Blue, this tea was one that I knew to be exceptionally valuable and delightfully enjoyable. I checked one small corner of the brick to see if it was still good, and discovered below the top layer, the leaves were as fresh and aromatic as the day it was pressed into a brick. I wondered why such valuable tea had been left behind, but placed the brick in my bag with a smile at the thought of being able to enjoy such a delicacy. I also noticed several chipped and broken tea sets, and I gathered these together in a small box to bring to Shalev. He enjoys tea as much as I do, and it was my thought that he might be able to repair the tea services and use them as trade goods. The porcelain they were made of was very fine quality, and I could see them being of some value when restored.

I stepped out of the building, and stretched up to my full height again with relief. These buildings were not made for someone as tall as I was. I looked over then to see KelLyn fussing over Fife and telling him quite crossly that he was to sit down and not touch anything until she could take a look at him to figure out what had gone wrong. He did as she asked, though I could tell that he was somewhat annoyed about it, and after a moment of concentration she told him that he had been affected by a very powerful curse that would make him extraordinarily unlucky. She said that even though she was the one that created the luck line that ran through this area, she had no idea about how to manipulate it, or how to remove such a curse, and that he needed to be extremely careful with everything he did until she could figure it out. She pointed at the sticks that lay across the entry ways and said that they were a protection spell that triggered when moved or crossed, and warned Fife and Ishmael very sternly not to touch anything else.

As they discussed options on how to remove the curse, Fife moved over to the fountain and tossed a coin into the water in an attempt (or hope) to gain back some of his luck. The coin skipped across the surface of the water instead, and only fell into the water after bouncing off of the edge of the fountain. He tried again, and again, it skipped all the way across and back, this time only falling into the water when it bounced off of his chest. Frustrated, he tried for a third time, this time holding the coin in his hand and placing it directly into the water. He ended up falling face first into the pool instead, and began to drown. Lan, seeing his predicament, swam over and dragged him out of the water, but he had already stopped breathing. She turned into her seal form and bounced on his chest a couple times to clear his lungs of the water he had inhaled, but he still did not revive. She shifted back to her normal form and looked at him for a moment, using her skills as a healer to see why he was still not responding. KelLyn walked over and gave him one of her healing potions, and once they could get him to swallow the liquid, it was successful in reviving him. He appeared not only revived, but rejuvenated as well, and KelLyn began reiterating her earlier statement that he should not touch anything until she could figure out how to remove the curse. She moved away to her bed roll then and began rummaging through her books to research how to accomplish this.

After we set up camp for the evening, I spent some time in meditation to my god and goddess. They were, as they often are, silent, and I wonder sometimes whether their silence is meant to be a comfort. I brewed some of the Blue tea, and found it to be just as aromatic and delicious as I hoped it would be. With the first sip I took, I was saddened somewhat by the fact that I had so little of it. I savored it slowly, and even offered some to Shalev, as such a tea should be shared. I made a note to try to find more when I could, and to use what I had only sparingly. As we shared the tea, I spoke with Shalev about the history that I knew about the tea, the groves, and the makers. He said that he had heard of the name Kestria before, and relayed to me what Tobias and KelLyn had told him about the group that they had encountered on a previous adventure. Led by a paladin and some clerics of a god of knowledge , and disguised as gnomes, they were from Kestria, and were apparently on a grave robbing tour of the region when Tobias and KelLyn had encountered them. The mage with them was responsible for the death of one of the party members that Tobias and KelLyn traveled with. These were knights from the same order, that KelLyn had wanted to attack out right as we journeyed to Eeyore. Her vehemence against them makes more sense now that I know about their previous encounters.

I can’t say much about tomb-raiding, as we have done our fair share of that lately, but the tale of their violence and aggression was something that I took note of, should we encounter them again.

The evening watches passed uneventfully, and the next day, we broke camp to continue on through the mountains. As we broke camp, Ishmael asked me if I would be willing to lay some false trails to some of the other entry ways with their cursed sticks still in place. I was able to do so easily, though I was not foolish enough to cross over the sticks to put footprints in the dust inside the dwellings. As we made our way past the fountain, KelLyn and Lan both said that they felt a massive wave of energy from behind us. We looked back to see that the doorway behind us had closed, leaving us only one direction to travel. Forward.

Osman fretted a bit over whether or not the red mage that had been hunting KelLyn was responsible for blocking the way back, but we reminded him that it really made no difference, as we had no plans to travel back that way in the first place. If the red mage thought that blocking us in would cause a panic then he truly does not know our party at all, and if he waits for us at the other end, then it will be his downfall to encounter us so cornered. Shalev did confirm, using his compass, that the mage was not in the mountain following us, but I do not know if I fully trust the answers his compass gives him, as it can be quite literal.

As we traveled along the passage, we saw several unmanned check points, but no other side galleries or pathways aside from the one that we walked. Tobias scouted ahead for a few hours, as he did not have to rely on torches to see what lay in front of us. When he returned he said that the pathway continued to switchback, but that there was nothing else of note. After two days of travel, the switchbacks got noticeably longer, and we began traveling for longer periods of time, with breaks for rest only when the animals showed signs of fatigue. Three days later I noticed that the temperature in the passage was growing discernably more heated, and I recalled that this was not the heat of the desert, but rather the heat that was given off by the mountains that men called volcanoes, and the liquid earth within them.

I cautioned the party members that it would likely get very hot very soon, and gave everyone a reminder on how to survive the heat using my knowledge of deep desert survival. I changed out of my heavy leather armor, and into my light weight layered desert attire, and it felt strange to have the robes and gauzes billowing about me once more. KelLyn and Osman worked double to keep the animals cool and hydrated, and we all took extra precautions to remain the same way. Shortly after that, we turned the corner of the last switchback to see a river of molten earth hissing red-hot through an enormous cavern. There were stairs leading down to the glowing vein of magma, and a great stone bridge that arced high above the flow.

We retreated back around the corner and away from the sweltering heat, and began to break down the carts to carry them across the bridge more easily. Tobias used his desert bred abilities and speed to ferry pieces across as quickly as he could. Shalev worked to herd the horses and oxen across safely. They balked at the heat at first, but he was able to coerce them over to the other side. Tobias carried Lan quickly over and she hid herself inside one of the water barrels to stay away from what – to her – could be a killing heat. Osman and KelLyn make their way across safely as well, and they help Shalev and Tobias begin reassembling the carts.

Ishmael, eyes bright with excitement, reached out and requested that I give him my sword. Knowing that he thought he had at last found a heat source great enough to repair it, I complied, handing the blade over to him and watching him disappear down the stairs towards the river bank. I stayed where I was, there in the protected area of the switchback, and Fife remained there with me, saying that Ishmael was his friend and he would not go until he did. Within moments of Ishmael’s disappearance down the stairs, I heard the unmistakeable sound of the ring of his hammer on an anvil. The clear bell of the hammer striking the anvil was deep and resonant, and it echoed through the chamber like a song. A song indeed it was, with the deep tone of the anvil, the higher voice of the hammer, and then over all of it was Ishmael, raising his voice in perfect harmony with the call of the metal. He sang, and as he sang, he worked. I heard a keening wail begin, and the hairs on the back of my neck raised in warning, because it was the call of a northern banshee. I looked warily, but could see no source for the sounds, and then remembered that the others had said that my sword made that sound when I wielded it. I wondered then, at what Toshi had done in the making of such a blade, but the thought flitted away as I continued to listen to Ishmael work his magic.

Tobias came across then, and said that the gates on the other side of the bridge were beginning to open. The last of the supplies and equipment were ferried safely across the bridge, and the doors opened to reveal several dwarfs, eyes bright and intent on discovering the source of the songs they were hearing. Shalev and the rest of the party moved everything into the much cooler mushroom groves beyond the doors at the dwarfs insistence. I continued to stay out of sight and listen to the ringing songs of Ishmael’s forging. As he continued to sing and hammer, the hallway, cavern, and bridge illuminated brilliantly with a blue light that pulsed in time with the harmonies being created. I heard a hum vibrate through the chamber, down to my very bones, and then the noise stopped completely. I continued to wait, not knowing what to expect, and then I saw Ishmael coming up the stairs with several dwarfs following him closely and chattering with him in their language. He handed me my sword, and it gleamed as if newly made. I tested the blade, twisting and flipping it to find that the balance was good, and the blade was perfectly edged once again. I thanked Ishmael with a bow of my head and then followed Fife, Ishmael, and the troop of dwarfs across the bridge.

As we were moving across the massive bridge, Fife – still under the effects of being cursed – tripped over nothing and fell, sliding over the edge of the bridge and towards the torrent of white hot lava below. I was fast enough to grab him to keep him from falling, but needed Ishmael’s help to pull him completely to safety. We made it the rest of the way across without incident to see a resplendently garbed dwarf holding a blue staff waiting for us on the other side.

He guided us through the doors and I saw Shalev and the rest of the party there with all of our equipment waiting in the center of a grove of gigantic mushrooms. The elegantly dressed dwarf talked with Ishmael, and Ishmael acted as a translator for the rest of us. The dwarf welcomed us to Quadling and asked with great curiosity why we were here, because they had shut the doors years ago. We told him of our quest to find the city of Emer, and of my desire to see the blooming sylvan tree that lived there. He confirmed that Emer was just north of here, but warned us about the dragon that lived there. He told us of the war where the dwarfs went to aid the gnomes, and how that war had depleted not only their weapons and armor supplies, but had also been disastrous to their population.

The city of Quadling was nestled just outside the mushroom groves, in a verdant field of lush grasses and open sky with the mountain pass directly behind them. The dwarf told us about the city of Emer, which rested at the crossroads between this city and the other three cities in the valley. Each city corresponded to a different element, and had at one time had trade goods and abilities unique to each quadrant. Quadling corresponded to fire, with the great forge at the center of the mountain pass that they worked. Gilken, to the north, was linked to air. Wankae to the east was the city of waters. Damazen to the west was known for earth and deep metal. This is where the gnomes went to.

In the center of it all was Emer, the elven city with the famed sylvan tree which was known to bloom twice a year in the spring and fall with glorious pink blossoms. It was once great trade hub for the entire area. It’s walls were made of a deep green stone, and the roads that stretch out from it were made of gold. When the dragon came, he took the city and the elves that resided within disappeared. The old dwarf said that one druid was still rumored to live within the tower at the center, but could not tell us more about whether or not that was still true. He told us that the dragon was ancient and incredibly powerful. His scales matched the color of the city walls, and he was crafty and intelligent. The dwarf told us how the dragon had ripped the roads up to prevent easy travel to the city, and that he was known to take human form to patrol the roads that remained to find foolish adventurers and kill them before they knew what they faced.

Ishmael introduced Shalev as the noble he was, and as the Master of Trade Routes. The dwarf showed keen interest in this, and agreed to set up a meeting with the remaining merchants of the city to see what would be available for trading. The dwarf also mentioned their desire for food supplies, if we had any to spare, and Osman offered to create fresh meat for them using his clerical ability.

Shalev offered some of the oxen as breeding stock for goodwill, and when head dwarf mentioned again that they needed weapons, Shalev offered one of the three swords he wore of mystical quality make. The dwarf took it, tested it, and called it acceptable. Shalev, seeing the dwarf exhibit astounding skill with the weapon, asked him if he would be willing to teach. The dwarf said that his name was Sulayman and that he was part of a group of rangers at one time, and if Shalev didn’t recognize him but still wished to learn, he would be willing to teach him.

As we talked, we made our way over to the northern edge of the city, where the dwarf informed us that we were welcome to make camp, as he knew that their homes would be uncomfortable for those of us of taller stature. Shalev, in his element here, began to set up camp in the fashion of a merchant caravan, instructing us that if we had goods we wished to trade, that we should display them just so. I brought out the Penician bows to trade, and the broken crossbows that we had acquired were also laid out. The oxen and horses were allowed to graze freely, as the dwarf said that there was an enchantment on the grass that would cause it to grow back the next day. There were no trees here, and when I asked about it, the dwarf told me that the great fires beneath the surface prevented tree growth, and that an enchantment prevented anything else from growing here as the grass would choke it out. What crops and gardens that they did have were in terraced containers throughout the city. I asked about the enchantment and he told me that the witch who had lived here was responsible for casting it because she wanted everything to look pretty. He also mentioned to me that if I wanted to see trees, that I should visit the forest on the western edge between here and Damazen, where the keepers of the forest were known to reside. He said that the keepers of the forest were reclusive, and looked like the trees that they cared for. I kept my excitement hidden as I thanked him for the information, making a silent note to visit the ents as soon as we could safely do so.

Osman, who had been creating meat for the city, stopped briefly and spent a moment in prayer to his god. After the prayer was finished, he cast his spell once more, but this time the meat didn’t run out until everyone in the city had been fed. Knowing their need for living livestock, he prayed again, and after another moment, a goat appeared in thin air, which he caught and set gently down on the grass. The obviously gravid animal bleated happily and sauntered off to begin grazing, and the dwarfs simply stared and murmured a strange word to each other.

I spent some time as well walking among the plants and small gardens of the city, blessing what I could, and checking the health of the gardens. I noticed that the dwarfs of the city followed me at a short distance, watching my every movement. I heard them saying that odd word over and over again, but when I turned to ask what it meant, they all bolted back into their homes, only emerging again after I had turned back to my walks. I wondered again about the enchantment here, and recalled seeing both KelLyn and Lan cast a spell that would tell them the nature of things. I thought deeply about this, and then prayed to my god and goddess to see if I might be able to learn a similar spell. They responded to my request by granting me the knowledge of how to cast the spell Nature of Things, which will allow me to sense the type and strength of another spell. I thanked them quietly, and tried out my new ability to find that the spell on the grass was an exceptionally powerful Create Plant spell. I could not tell specifically what spell was cast, but the sheer power of the enchantment was awe inspiring.

Ishmael spent long hours in conversation with Sulayman, as the dwarf was a priest of the order that Ishmael followed. The discussions were quietly animated, and I could see the excitement in Ishmael’s face as he learned more about the faith that had called him, and the abilities that he had been granted. Fife also showed some interest in this, as the dwarf showed Ishmael how to concentrate beer with a spell. Fife listened intently to what Ishmael was telling him, and I was amused to see that he had decided to convert because of the beer. He was still affected by the curse, and when he contritely talked to the dwarf about it, he was told that while the dwarf could not remove the curse, the druid that was rumored to live in the center of Emer might be able to do so. Fife then showed the unfinished idol to Sulayman, and asked if the jeweler who crafted it was here in the city. The dwarf looked at the piece and said that sadly the jeweler and his son had gone off to aid the gnomes during the war, and had been killed there. He told Fife to keep the idol if he wished, and Fife put it back in his pocket.

Shalev and I spent some time walking around the city together as he talked with the dwarfs about potential trade goods. He came across a pair of older dwarf women who worked in silk. Shalev asked if they would be willing to trade for it, and they were a little confused, as they only used the soft material for their infants. We explained a little bit of desert culture to them, and they agreed to trade their silk for one of the oxen. Shalev asked if they would be willing to work with the rope makers to craft lengths of silken rope, and again the dwarfs looked confused, but interested in the process as they had never considered making rope out of the silken threads before now.

During my walks among the plants and gardens, I also took the time to check on the animals. I found that three of the oxen were pregnant, and that three more were just out of season. I told Shalev this, and recommended that these were the ones we should leave here with the dwarfs as breeding stock.

We gave one of the pregnant cows to the dwarven women in trade for silk, and I spent some time with them showing them how to deal with the gravid animal, and how to handle her once she went into labor. They were thankful for the information, and for the cow, and immediately guided it back into their yard.

I heard that odd word murmured in my direction again, and I asked Ishmael what it meant. He told me that it meant “druid” and I asked the dwarfs to tell me about the druid who had lived here before me. I learned that her name was Khaibar, and that she had two brownie servants named Kheblar and Kheblor who helped her run a bakery. The called her the Crescent Witch, and the Witch of the South. I asked if I might be able to see her house and her work place, but the dwarfs were overcome with another bout of shyness, and would not tell me more about it.

Shalev and I continued our walks through town and come across another merchant who worked in a beautiful translucent porcelain. Shalev traded some of his personal funds to have a lovely tea service made for his bride to be, and I traded some of my gems for a personal set for two. Shalev also mentioned that the porcelain might be a highly valued trade good, and the dwarfs agreed to begin crafting the delicate material into cups and services for trade. He also commissioned a tea service for ten people, and when I asked him about it, he responded that cups would break, and that I would live longer than he would so this way I would have replacements for the cups. I was amused and touched by the gesture, though saddened to a brief melancholy by the vivid reminder that I would indeed, calamity aside, outlive everyone.

We also came across the tea tree groves, and both Shalev and I showed great interest in their local tea. Shalev asked how much a case of the tea would cost, but the dwarfs named a price that was beyond what he had currently. Shalev told them that the tea would be highly prized in the desert cultures, and they were also interested in becoming a part of the long term trade agreements. I asked if they would be willing to trade for a different tea instead, and they agreed with interest when I showed them the saplings of the Philosopher’s Tea that I had been cultivating from the cuttings that Shalev and I took from Ma’tron in the elven city. I traded them one living sapling for a case of their pressed tea, and asked if I could also have a few cuttings of their own tea trees for my personal gardens. Shalev took note of the comparative trade of like goods, as I don’t think he really realized until that point that not everything needed to be traded for coin or gems. They agreed, and gave me several cuttings which I immediately planted in small containers and added to my own collection. As they were taking the new sapling away to transfer into their own gardens, I heard them begin to sing to the plant. I immediately paid closer attention, as the spark of what the Maker told me about forgetting to sing still resonated deep within my thoughts. I listened to their songs, and while I noticed that they did not know the words, that this was quite clearly something that they had heard the Crescent Witch do. I memorized the tone and cadence of the song, in hopes that when I did eventually run across the spell that corresponded to it, I would be able to recognize and remember it clearly.

I also paid attention to the fact that they used tea tree oil almost exclusively here. I asked if they would be interested in olive oil in trade for their tea tree oil, and they were very excited about the influx of a different oil to use. I created several jars for personal trade between them and myself, and then asked them to go through Shalev to set up the major trade with the oasis.

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

With trade goods of silk, oil, tea, porcelain, and iron the city here has vast potential for the trade routes Shalev works so tirelessly to create. He has already crafted letters of agreement to be taken back to the oasis, and works with the dwarfs here to establish the beginnings of trade not only with the oasis, but with Waycam and Eeyore as well. It will be interesting to see what changes such an influx of new goods will create.

I have much to consider here as well. With the rumors of the druid that lives in Emer, and the stories of the druid that lived here, there is much to think on indeed. It is my hope that I can visit the home and workspaces of the Crescent Witch to see if I can learn anything more about her, and perhaps learn more about Emer, the tree, and the dragon as well. I need to spend much time in meditation and conversation with my god and goddess. I am trepidatious, not about what I might learn, but about how to deal with what lies ahead. The keepers of the forest to the west also call to me. I want to see what they might be able to tell me as well, though I fear the rest of the party might balk at the delay that staying here might mean. We may have some time, as the way behind us is closed, and there is much to do here in this city before we move on. In the mean time, I will watch, I will pray, and I will continue.

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The Members of the Party - Ishmael's Perspective

I was going to update these to my character sheet but I keep getting an Internal Server Error whenever I try to update Ishmael. So just throwing it here instead.

Party Member Impressions:

Cora – The Immortal. A long-lived elf that has forgotten more years than my entire lineage has lived, apparently. She should really just call herself History, considering how much she tries to live in it and tries to bring it back. I don’t understand what being a Druid is, besides having a connection to trees, which is kind of impossible since she’s from the Desert AND THERE ARE NO TREES IN THE DESERT. I can’t tell if she’s against progress or not in her need to keep everything “balanced” and stagnant. Still, her connection to her God and Goddess is undeniable. And her sword! (insert squirrel diversion into metallurgy).
Fyfe – Unrivaled spear thrower and master of multiple arts. I am glad to have my master of carousing in this party. I don’t think I appreciated a good beer and the travels without meeting him. He takes sacrificing himself for our good very seriously and has stepped in front of many blows that would shatter a normal man… and has been shattered a few times himself. I wonder if he just considers himself immortal, or if he’s that bored and looking for any kind of challenge?
Kellyn – Never would I have thought the impossible could become… mundane. Kellyn continues to seek more power and does so as she travels with us. I begin to wonder if The Fire Goddess Weary Anne is just asleep and Kellyn has just tapped into a God’s dreams, or if, like the Godling Martek, she is being groomed for godhood? I already knew Gods and Goddesses work mysteriously, but their grooming process leaves me in serious doubt of this world…
Leilana – Everyone always warns of the effects and problems of Kellyn. The one to truly fear is the sea dog. Why does she travel? Why does she pray? When she slips into water, does she feel the need to return? She can fly! – no she can’t. She’s a faerie – she summons faeries – she’s a god, but only when she’s dead, or playing with her ball, which can do anything, but never when she wants it to do it. Or so she tells us. She made me super-strong! On accident. :/ Is there anything fathomable and consistent about Leilana? Out of everyone she scares me the most. And the worst part? She’ll probably outlive us all.
Osman – Goats. Elementals. Faeries. Unrivaled archer. Speaker of the Lizard tongue. On pilgrimmage to “help the world”. Combining six different metals does not a stronger alloy make. Oh yes, unaware until recently of his own mortality, it seems. Perhaps his God is teaching him a lesson by introducing him to so many stronger individuals around him.
Shalev Ben Barak – A poor lost man who can’t seem to find what he wants so he adopts everyone else’s needs and goals. He hides his own aimlessness by calling everything he does “obligations”. He’s now a Paladin of Ma’at and of Balance – perhaps his recent death by Ma’at(?) will help him find something personal to “balance” what he keeps doing for everyone else? Does Ma’at work that way?
Tobias – He is a good sign that elves can change and appreciate this world instead of whatever pretty dreamworld they think they belong in. Tobias is the most down-to-earth, solid person I’ve met that I would forget he’s an elf if not for the ears. Pretty is nice but he seems to look for utility, and I respect that about him. Also, he follows where Cora leads. Easy to know why he still adventures.

Ishmael – I have changed. My clay jar has been shattered and cannot be pieced back together. Once, I was content and my waters of happiness fit in my jar. Ahnu watched over me in the Oasis where I was the Master of my craft and life. Like all of the other blacksmiths I have since met, I was happy to learn anything new that came my way, but did not go in search of it like my Master Abrahim. Now as much as I try to fill myself with knowledge, with gold, with triumph – it all seems so dry. I miss the heat of the shop, the rhythmic clanging of the hammer and the smell of molten earth, and yet I think not even the forge will slake my thirst anymore. Have I been quenched, Zelteni, and found my calm as I harden? Or am I yet still being recast, and being plunged once more?

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A new day and a new road...
Thoughts from the point of view of Cora'sol "The Immortal"

cross posted from Cora’s Travel Journal

The road goes ever on and on…

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

Resupplying for the road is always a little tedious. Necessary, but tedious. There are provisions to gather, equipment to repair or replace, maps to study, rumors to listen to…

The required stay in the city has begun to make me feel claustrophobic. I dislike the crush of people, the constant noise, and the miasma of smells that permeates everything within the enclosed walls. That being said, it has been nice to sleep in a real bed and have ready access to fresh food and water without having to worry about magic going awry. I still don’t understand how these people can waste so much water, but I certainly can’t deny the absolute decadent luxury of a hot bath.

The platinum, gold, and silver that we accumulated from the adventure through the tomb was split up evenly between the party members. Fife, Osman, and Ishmael seemed a bit shellshocked at the riches that were suddenly in their possession. KelLyn didn’t say too much, and Lan seemed not to care overly for the coins. Shalev seemed to be a little overly concerned about how the rest of the party would spend their haul, but I reminded him gently that it was not his place to instruct them on what to do or not to do with their share of the treasure. As quartermaster, he holds himself responsible for supplying the party, so understandably has claimed a larger share of the overall funds to finance the expeditions. What he does with his own personal share is his business, and I reminded him that while he may disapprove of the rest of the party members expenditures, that it was their choice to spend as they wished.

Shalev took the ornate rug from the treasure hoard and made an effort to exchange or sell it for an equivalent amount of gold and silver. He ended up mistakenly donating it to the court of the count instead. The count was so impressed by his generosity, and in return granted him a noble title, making him a defacto baron in the courts. This makes him noble twice over, and Fife pulled him aside later that day to give him a not-so-subtle reminder that he shouldn’t be stepping onto the front lines because that’s what he hired Fife to do. Fife takes his role as bodyguard very seriously, I’ve noticed, and I hope that maybe Shalev will listen to his advice and not be so headstrong and set on being the first into the fray in the future. I think he has finally started to realize that even though he is a second son, he is still vastly important in the overall scheme of things.

Osman made the offer to train the soldiers here in archery, and I spent much time observing him and what he taught in hopes that I could pick up some tips to improve my own skills. Shalev also offered to train them in sword work and defense, and they readily agreed to the lessons. When we weren’t training with the soldiers, Shalev and I spent many long hours over tea in conversations about balance and faith. I find these discussions to be enlightening, and even though I do not worship Ma’At, her views and convictions echo my own beliefs on overall balance. Being able to apply these thoughts to my own faith has allowed me to feel stronger in my abilities, and even though my god and goddess still fail to talk to me directly, I do notice that my prayers feel more effective now. During our discussions about faith, he asked if I could teach him about the spells I knew on how to heal animals and humans. He said that his goddess had told him that he should seek me out to learn such things, and so I agreed to show him what I could.

KelLyn spent some time studying her books, as she always does, as well as agreeing to try to identify some of the items that we picked up during the trek into the tombs. She was able to successfully determine the traits of the first of the two javelins as:

  • The Javelin of Ziwa – Single use weapon, when thrown, will evoke the power of the god Ziwa.

During her attempts to identify the second javelin, she botched her spell, and the room that she was in filled with wheat. She and Tobias were buried, but thankfully not crushed by the sudden appearance of several tons of grain. The doors and windows smashed open with the pressure, and also knocked Ishmael over, though he was able to recover and move out of the way of the outpouring. The ceiling of the room that KelLyn and Tobias also collapsed, filling the ground floor of the inn also with grain as well. We dug both of them out with the help of Amit, and offered to pay the innkeeper for the damages. The owner of the inn said that he would sell off the grain first, and use that to pay for repairs, but that we would be responsible for anything left over. He sent for a merchant to take the 864 bushels of wheat away, and we told him about the farmstead that ran the distillery not too far away. He agreed to send a portion of the grain their way, and then shooed us out of the inn while he and the merchant team began work to excavate the main rooms.

I decided to pay another visit to the diviners here in the city, to see if they could tell me anything else about sylvan trees. They told me of some interesting legends about a pair of sylvan trees that were known to actually blossom. This is unusual indeed, for even I with all of my years in existence, have never seen one flower. They told me that one was located on the other continent, but that one was located here, in an elven city called Emer. The city was at one time a hub of trade for gnomes and dwarfs, but was supposedly lost when those races disappeared underground. It was protected by spells that would prevent scrying, but that the last known location of the city was in a bowl like valley between the mountain rages to the north.

The count handled some of our supply needs when he provided us with six sturdy draft horses to pull the carts we have. I have to keep reminding Shalev that the oxen we still have with us are not a mobile food source unless absolutely direly necessary. Especially with his driving need to make sure that we have every iota accounted for with regards to perishable supplies. The trek through the tombs has increased his paranoia to some large degree, and I saw him purchasing several hundred extra feet of rope recently, as well as taking the old tapestries and heavy woven material that we found in the depths to make “trap checking gloves” as he calls them. I had to smile and shake my head, because while we might not necessarily NEED 600 feet of rope, it will make him happy to have it just in case.

He also had several solid, waterproof chests with intricate locks made to give us a safe place to store things on the carts. KelLyn immediately claimed one of the smaller of these for her books and magic items, the largest one was filled with what treasures we were keeping with us, and the third one remained empty for miscellaneous storage purposes. Tobias helped to craft the smaller of the chests, as well as several large barrels that we will keep on the cart for water and perhaps ale.

Shalev also, for some reason, decided that he needed to learn how to swim. Much to my astonished amusement, he approached KelLyn for instruction, as she was raised along the coast. She agreed warily to help him learn, and I am glad to see the two of them at least moderately getting along finally. He also approached me to ask about learning how to fight someone without looking them in the eyes, and I agreed, but I wonder at his sudden determination to specialize in these skills.Among the skills he wished to improve, he requested additional training with blunt weapons as well, and I think perhaps he is wishing for whatever edge he may be able to gain. He still thinks of himself as inferior or expendable to some degree, but if the training makes him feel better about himself, then I will teach him what I can.

The count also sent out word to the nobles of the city that we had permission from him to trade for high value items in their possession if we wished to do so. The economy here is still recovering from the despair that had wracked it when the trade routes to Waycam were destroyed, and has only just begun to see the renewal of their resources. Ishmael spent some time speaking with the merchants in the city to find out the state of the economy here, and to try to garner information on which of the noble families would be best to speak to and most likely to be willing to trade with us.

After visiting the first few families, and seeing their wide eyed reluctance at having a noble paladin approach them to buy their family heirlooms and treasured possessions outright, I recommended to Shalev that he try rewording his request to buy their treasures as rather a search for wedding gifts for his bride to be. This proved to be much more effective, and we ended up accomplishing our goal to trade the biggest bulk of our treasure and reduce the sheer bulk of what we carried with us.

Tobias immediately took offense to this for some reason, mistaking the change of phrasing to meant that Shalev was actually trading the party treasure for personal gifts. I pulled him to the side and gently explained to him why I recommended the change in phrasing, and while that mollified him somewhat, he still seemed upset at Shalev. I have to wonder a bit at the ire between the two of them. I do not know why Tobias still continues to mistrust Shalev, but feel like something will need to be said to him pointedly about it if the issues continue.

The first noble that we visited showed us a large blue/black pearl that had been entrusted to his family by a mage. It supposedly had the power to create nodes of energy, and the noble said that he would want something of value to a mage, as well as a large sum of money for it. KelLyn, of course, vehemently refused to part with any of her valuables, and so we refused that bargain politely and moved on.

The second noble showed us a beautiful jeweled leaf brooch made of a soft green stone. The edges of the brooch were encrusted with fine quality diamonds and sapphires. The noble told us that the piece had been in his family for generations, and that it had come from the captain of a ship who was known to do trade with the coast. The captain had traded the piece to the noble’s family as a dowry price for a bride, but that there was a rumor that owning anything made from this material was considered a crime of theft from the originating country. The party discussed whether or not we should take the risk of owning the piece, and I pointed out that we already had an item made of that exact same material that we had picked up from the pyramids so long ago. If simply owning the material was a crime, then we were already marked after a fashion, so one more piece would not matter. They agreed, and Shalev made the trade for the brooch. The noble requested that we bring the money directly to the court with a message that it was paid to him. We agreed to do so, and as we were speaking to the count about the trade, the noble walked in to the court, threw a large chain at the feet of the count, and loudly declared somewhat sniffily that he was moving.

We eyed the actions of the noble with some concern, and Shalev spoke quietly to the count to make sure that he had not stepped on any toes with his trade attempts. The count reassured him that he was fine, and that some of the nobles in his court had indentured themselves long ago and were grumpy about their lot in life because of it.

We moved on to the next noble family, a good bit lighter than before. This third family had very little, but they offered a box of very rare spice (cinnamon) for trade. It was clear that they needed the money, and while Shalev made the trade for the box of spices, I quietly left a small bag of salt and another small bag of spices on the noble’s table for him to find later after we had departed.

The next noble we visited was flighty and failing in her attempts to be enigmatic and mysterious. She airily showed us a room full of various crystals, and Shalev mentioned quietly that according to his compass, there were magical items here. We brought KelLyn in so that she could help identify which ones were magical, and she pointed out two small crystal spheres that were about an inch across. She offered to trade a yellow stargem for them, and the whymsical noble woman agreed. KelLyn identified the spheres as being spelled to cause extreme damage when thrown, and she promptly handed the crystals over to Fife.

With only two noble families remaining to trade with, we moved on to the next house. This noble had several sacks of jewels which we readily agreed to trade for. Jasper, emeralds, and a gorgeous white gemstone that looked like it was filled with fire. The noble called this strange looking gem “elf’s tears” and I looked at them quizzically. Shalev traded for 12 of these unusual gems, as well as some of the emeralds and jasper, and this was enough to significantly reduce the bulk of the heavier plates of currency that we carried.

Ishmael and I traded some of our own personal cash for some of the emeralds and some of the beautiful fire-filled gems. I took two of each for my private collection, and Ishmael took the remainder for his.

The last noble that we payed visit to had an ornately carved scroll tube that had a tree etched into one end, and the roots of the tree spiraling down around the rest of the tube. It looked like it had been gnawed on or clawed at by a dragon in an attempt to open it up, but otherwise appeared sound. The noble wanted us to trade the teeth and scales that we had scavenged from the black dragon for the tube, and Osman, Shalev, and I agreed to do so. The scroll tube was obviously of druid make, and so it went became my possession.

Since we had accomplished our goal to reduce the sheer bulk of our possessions and treasures, we traveled back to the center of town, where the inn was still being excavated from the wheat. While Shalev spoke with the merchant caravans about trade routes and directions to DragonSpire, Osman and I restocked our arrows and the rest of the party made their last preparations to finally depart.

The merchant caravans told Shalev that DragonSpire was across the switchback trails through the mountains, but cautioned that it was foolish to travel into dragon country. Shalev took the warning with grace, though I could tell that he was alarmed. Osman and Tobias set the dragon rib bones in a tannin bath to soak so that they could begin crafting bows out of them. Tobias noticed that some of the trees locally were of a sturdy hardwood called maple, and he gathered several lengths of the maple wood to begin crafting wooden long bows for he and I.

I spent some time focusing my energy on the scroll tube that I now had, and discovered that it had markings on it that corresponded exactly with the changes of the season that the druids considered holy days. The tree carved into the end ticked around by itself, and I made a note that it seemed to be some kind of clock or calendar that marked the year.

KelLyn was able to identify the scroll that we had found in the room with the shambling mound as a web spell of some kind. She also looked at the spell book that Shalev de-cursed for her, but the power words for the spells had been erased when the curse was removed. She said that it would still be useful for research, however, and tucked it back into her pouch.

The party then discussed where to go next at some length. We decided that DragonSpire was still the next on the list, and I requested that we try to find the lost elven cit of Emer, since it appeared to be on the way to our destination there. My hope is that seeing the blooming sylvan tree might lend me some clues on how to renew the other. I have not yet given it over to death.

The party agreed, and we made plans to depart within the next few days. I made a note that it was mid-winter, and pointed out that we had not equipped appropriately for winter travel. While they supplemented our supplies, I spent some time in deep meditation and prayer for the turning of the season. Hearing the noise, and wishing to be outside of the city limits for my own rituals, I moved out into the fields nearby to seclude myself from the chaos of the city.

The city celebrated their midwinter with a gigantic keg of beer and a very loud parade. They asked Shalev to tap the keg, and then handed him a large stein of fortified beer. Everyone joined in the raucous celebrations, and I heard later on that Shalev accidentally supplanted the normal ritual when the townsfolk decided to follow his actions. The high priest of the local god was apparently very put out with him over it, especially since the people celebrated Ma’At and the ways of balance instead of the local god Vindare.

While I was out in the fields during my meditations, I heard the scroll tube click once, and the slide open. I looked at it to see an ancient writing that said “This is the scroll of the Elder Druids of Maurina to be delivered as payment. Contained are 6 spells to be offered in settlement of our debt.”

I looked further to see 6 scrolls rolled up with the letter.

  • Translate the scroll (easy) Perceive/Sphere of the Deity. Adds D/3 to language skills. Adds a greater understanding of any language read, spoken, studied, or heard.
  • Whispers of the Way (medium) Perceive/Sphere of the Deity. D/3 to perception. The ground around me talks to me and tells me what it “sees”
  • The Javelin of Ceylon (difficult) Modify/Sphere of the Deity. Draws a javelin up out of the ground to throw at enemies.
  • Invoke the Greater Way (very difficult) Create/Sphere of the Deity. a spell that has to do with transportation or transit of some kind.
  • The Dragon’s Bane (difficult) Move Control/Sphere of the Deity. Has something to do with a very high quality of alcohol called the “water of life.”
  • The Time of Things Unseen (difficult) Modify/Sphere of the Deity. Grants the ability to not be seen in some way.

As I studied these scrolls I realised that I would need to cast them to learn exactly what they would do. I spent the rest of the night in prayer and conversation (albeit one-sided) with my god and goddess.

I was able to successfully cast the Whispers of the Way spell and discovered much to my astonishment that the road itself began speaking to me. The longer I listened, the more detailed the descriptions it gave to me regarding what it observed. The ground would not respond to inquiries that I posed, so it appears to be informational only. It also only seemed to work for the immediate area, but it is an interesting spell nonetheless.

I was also able to successfully cast the Translate the Scroll spell, and discovered that it gave me a much more nuanced understanding of the meanings behind words. I used this spell to immediately delve into the study of my Initiate’s guide to Sacred Druidry, and was quite happy to discover that it allowed me to understand new layers of depth in the book as well as in my own language. I can foresee this spell being of great use to me in the future, and made a note to use it as often as I could to perfect its casting.

The following day, I made my way back into town to meet up with the rest of the party. They told me, somewhat bemusedly, about Shalev’s abscondment with the local rituals. I simply smiled and shook my head as I noted that the road continued to chatter at me, and that here in the city, it was much louder. I’m sure I seemed distracted to the rest of the party, but I was having difficulty concentrating on anything else with the constant chatter of the roads and the city. I wondered how long the spell would last, and how the druids of old used this to their advantage, for it would not have been included in the collection if it were not useful somehow.

Once the party was ready to depart, I spoke with KelLyn, giving her the description that the diviners had given me about the last known location of Emer. I asked her if she would be willing to try to scry, not for the city, but for the bowl like valley where it would have been. She agreed, and as she began to scry, her orb began to pulse with magic. When she returned her attention to the party, she said that she had seen a place that matched the description to the North, and we gathered our supplies and set out once again towards adventure.

We have three carts with us now, one for extra supplies, one for food, supplies, and treasures, and one for riding in when desired. I chose to ride for a while, so that I could continue to study the new spells from the scroll tube. I used the Translate spell once again, and was able to determine that the scroll tube and enclosed spells were a payment of a greater debt of the Druids of Maurina from one of the three islands of healers and saints. This fact was interesting to me because druids were not often grouped with healers and saints, so it made me wonder again about those ancient druids, and again at what had happened to exterminate them all. With the translate spell still active, I used it’s enhancements to continue to study my druid guide, the other spells in the collection, and the intricacies of my own circular language.

We travel for two weeks without incident, thankfully. I notice with more than a little interest that I can still hear the roads chattering away at me. There are other travelers and merchants along this road, coming in to the city with their winter trade goods of lumber, wheat, and wool. I listen to what the roads tell me about them to try to gain a greater understanding of how this spell works. It seems to be able to pick up details on the way a person refers to themselves: “elf”, “human”, “woman”, “man”,etc. The longer we are in one space, the more detail the road’s descriptions become, “druid”, “warrior”, “paladin”. I find the chatter to be interesting in a conceptual sense, and it gives me some insight as to how the reputations of those druids of old may have had more than a little truth to them.

Even though there are plenty of people along the roads we traverse here, I notice that they each camp separately. This is curious to me, as in the desert cultures travelers would often share camps to gain safety in numbers. The peoples here are reluctant to do so, and it puzzles me why they would refuse offered protection and shared camaraderie. They were even reticent to part with information about the roads ahead, although they did warn us that the dragons have a strong presence across the first ridge of the mountains. They also informed us that the snows had begun only a few days journey ahead, and that the large local predators would often use the snows as cover and camouflage to hunt. They cautioned us to be on the look out for a large cat with white and grey spotted fur that they called a snow leopard, as well as carnivorous hares that roamed the areas in packs. These hares were more akin to wolves in their mannerisms than rabbits, and could be quite aggressive during the leaner months.

One merchant that we spoke to was able to give us a little more of the old stories and rumors about the lost elven city. He said that the Quadling dwarfs were rumored to do trade with the elves at a great city before they disappeared. The entrance to the dwarf lands and the pass under the mountains was marked by a great gate about 6 months travel ahead of us.

We moved on, and continued traveling for another two weeks when we came to a crossroads. One road led off to the right, and the other road continued to the north. When we stopped here for a brief rest, KelLyn approached me. During her studies, she had come across a language written on one of her scrolls that she could not read. She said it looked to her like ancient elven, and she asked if I could take a look. I agreed to do so, and I used my translate spell to help me discern what was written.

The scroll was written in several different languages, and I could pick out several elven words that mentioned sylvan trees, and alarmingly enough the words for destruction in reference to the tree. I also picked out the words for “polymorph any object” , “move ley line”, and “control elven army.” As I continued to study the scroll, I revealed a hidden description written out in druidic moonscript. When I looked closer at the moonscript, I was able to translate it as follows:

“The first artifact was destroyed to kill the bull. The second artifact could not be destroyed, so was encased in a coffin of deep metal, sealed by magic fueled by the spirit of an ancient dragon that volunteered to be beheaded. The coffin was placed in a volcano, and protected by an ancient compact with the giants.”

As I read the translations to KelLyn, she became agitated, and I expressed concern at the wording that I was able to understand. I do not know what this scroll does, but the fact that it talks about the willful destruction of a sylvan tree, and the ability to control an elven army, actually made me rather reluctant to return it to KelLyn’s possession. Since we were studying together, I recast my translate spell, and asked KelLyn to help me discern more about the spells that I had been given from the scroll tube. I was able to discover little more about them, however, and while they sound interesting and potentially useful, I am reluctant to cast them, as I know I do not yet have the control to do so and do not wish to risk a loss of faith on my part should I fail.

While we were speaking together about this, I noticed briefly that Lan was once again studying her shiny orb. Suddenly a large presence of evil radiated out from her for a few seconds, and then just as suddenly she was exuding an almost angelic sense of good. Shalev, at the sense of evil, had jumped up and drawn his sword, but then looked perplexed as the sense shifted. Lan appeared blithely unconcerned about the incident, and it would seem that she may have found a way to change the way people sense her alignment. That orb of hers has been quite an interesting toy, and I have begun to wonder how, if at all, it may be affecting her directly to use it.

I decided to take a break from my studies for a while, and I began to work with Fife on learning how to throw spears, in hopes that the knowledge I gained from him could be applied to my archery abilities as well. KelLyn, of course, continued to study her books and would mutter and curse to herself almost constantly. She mumbled something at one point about the soul forges and finally knowing how to create them, and then something else about creating magical items, but did not expound on the knowledge that she was discovering.

At the crossroads, Shalev asked his compass if the road that we were on was still the correct pathway to find Emer, and Lan confirmed his findings with her spell that showed us the way. We continued north, and shortly after we made camp that night, we were set upon by the predatory hares that we had been cautioned about. We were able to take them out with out too much difficulty, and as we were gathering them together to skin and prepare to cook, Amit jumped in to protect us from the snow leopard that had been preparing to attack.

We saved the pelts from the animals, as both the hares and the leopard had gorgeous white fur, and prepared the hares for stew. KelLyn wandered off into the warren, and she came back out shortly after with a baby hare tucked into one arm. She said that there were others in there, but that she wanted that one to be hers. Shalev graciously offered to help her learn how to train the animal up, and she agreed quite happily. Sadly, I knew that there would be no way to help the rest of the babies survive, and that the best mercy would be to kill them quickly rather than let them suffer starvation. I did so, and said a gently sad prayer over them. The cycle of life is sometimes a harsh one, and while they could not have survived, in their deaths they gave us nourishment for which I gave them thanks and respect. Afterwards, I searched through the warren and found a small magical pouch hidden among the detritus. The pouch appeared very old, but still in excellent condition, and when KelLyn examined it she discovered that it had some kind of create earth spell attached to it. I took the pouch and tied it to my belt, and we made our way out of the warren.

We continued on the next morning, and travel without further incident for several more weeks. I requested to stop for a day or so when the spring equinox arrived, and I spent the day and night doing the appropriate meditations and rituals for the seasons. My god and goddess did answer me this time, and I learned that there was no way to move a sylvan tree, which dashed any hope I had of relocating the one from that cursed elven city. They told me that I should seek out the keepers of the soul wells as they would be able to give me the information I needed about the life cycles and care of the trees. However, they were not able to give my any information on where they were located for some reason.

My focus now is learning how, if possible, to restore the tree safely. If it can not be restored, then it must be allowed to die, and a new seedling planted in a new area where it would flourish. I must find a way to speak to the keepers to discuss this further. If it must die, then so be it. The elves of that cursed place stated their desire to be apart from everything that made them elves. They may just get their wish, though sadly I do not think they realize exactly what that will mean for them until it is too late.

While we were stopped, Osman and Tobias worked at using the dragon bones and maple branches to craft beautiful bows of superior make. Once the bodies of the bows were shaped, they took the tendon and sinew of the dragon and began to soak them so that they could be twisted and woven into string for the weapons. The dragon bone and hard wood make these bows much more resilient than a standard bow would be, and I look forward to having one of them for my own once they are completed. Fife came over once he saw what they were working on, and he was able to give them additional pointers and advice on how to craft the bows.

I noticed, with some surprise, that the roads had stopped chattering at me at some point just past the full moon, and I debated on whether or not I should recast the spell. I find myself missing the white noise of the chatter to some degree, and I still wonder at what advantage the spell might be able to grant.

During the course of our travels, Shalev had been using his compass to ask various questions. He helped me to determine more details about the spell scrolls I had acquired, and he also discovered that the red mage that had been hunting for part of KelLyn’s staff was now pursuing our party instead. I know that KelLyn has magic about her that allows her to be invisible from scrying, but the rest of us do not have such protections. I imagine that since he knows that she is known to travel with us, that he is tracking us in order to get to her. There is nothing that we can do about it at the moment, however, so we continue to travel on towards the dwarven gates. The lands here have become rocky, and we have steadily been traveling upwards. The foothills have changed to the edges of the mountain ranges, and the dwarven gates are not too much further away.

KelLyn was supremely unconcerned about the red mage’s pursuit of us, and she continued her studies uninterrupted. Those studies lead her to discover a new spell similar to the one that Lan had been casting to show us the way. KelLyn’s spell, she explained, would actually CREATE a path if one was needed, and she offered to use it whenever needed to help us on our journey. This spell is quite a useful one, and I made a note to speak to her about it at length to see if perhaps I could pick up enough about it to try to learn it as well. She approached me again for discussion, and this time asked that I teach her what I could about the realms of plant and animal. In return for that knowledge, she agreed to teach me what she could about Vitality.

Osman also discovered a new spell, as his deity appeared to have answered him directly with a gift of power. He was given the ability to create a form of pitch, and he moved up the path a little ways to practice the spell and see what it would do. Fife and Shalev went with him to act as protection. Osman tried his spell out and a fountain of black viscous oil poured from his hands over the ridge and onto a twiggy structure made of branches and tree boughs. We heard an angry noise, and a rustling, and a griffon, now covered in sticky pitch, emerged from the nest to glare at the three of them, hackles raised. Osman made a frightened squeak and ran back towards camp. Shalev also made a dash back to camp to snag a lit torch, and when he got back to where Fife was still standing warily, he tried to walk up to the griffon. Fife jerked him backwards though, and put Shalev behind him with a firm comment to stay there and not move.

The griffon did not attack, but merely stood there glaring. We all took a slow step backwards, trying to appear as unoffensive as possible, though Fife still held the lit torch warningly, prepared to throw it at the creature should it move to attack us. KelLyn tried to cast a destroy earth spell in an attempt to remove the pitch from the griffon’s feathers. Her spell went awry, however, though there was thankfully no adverse effect that we could discern. She tried once again, this time drawing a circle to augment her power, and was successful. The pitch disappeared, and the griffon looked down at it’s feathers in surprise, but still did not attack.

Shalev, on instinct, looked up towards the sky, and he pointed out quietly that there was a second griffon circling high overhead, also watching. We all made our way carefully and slowly back to camp, and we saw that Tobias had covered all of the horses with tarp, effectively disguising them from the circling griffon.

We all decided that it would be best to move on a ways from here, and we kept the pace very slow for a while, to make sure we were not attracting the attention of the griffons any more. When we stopped again for the evening, KelLyn made an attempt to use one of her fire-speak spells to try to determine where the red mage was located, but was unable to find out where he was.

Fife, Osman, and Tobias completed the crafting of the dragon bone and maple bows, stringing them with the dragon sinew, and Osman, Tobias, and I all took one of the finished weapons. It is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship, and the bow feels like it was made for my hands. Knowing Tobias had a hand in it’s make means that it most likely was. I noticed some intricate scroll work carved into the weapon I chose, and noted again that Tobias appears to have crafted it just for me. I appreciate the gift, and will make sure that it is used well.

We continued to travel for another month without encountering the red mage, or with any further incidents, and at last came to the great cliff face with the Quadling dwarven symbols carved into the door. The doors had been latched long ago, from the outside. Shalev asked the compass if there were still dwarfs living in the mountain, and was told that there were indeed, so the passage between the mountains here may not be abandoned as it appears to be. Ishmael looked at the doors, awe apparent in his face, and he noted that he thought dwarfs were supposed to be short and stocky, so why were the latches 40 feet up off of the ground? We all spent some time examining the doors and the surrounding area, but could find no way or mechanism to open the great stone slabs. I noticed a spot at the base of the door where there was a very small opening about an inch or so high. KelLyn tried creating a circle and casting here new spell to create a path, but it simply showed us that the path we were on was the best way through.

Seeing the crack appeared to be the only way inside, we asked Lan if she would be willing to use her orb to turn into the gaseous form we had seen her become before and travel underneath the door to see if there was a latch or a lever on the other side. She agreed, and once on the other side of the door was able to locate the mechanism and open the door. A stone slab only slightly taller than I was opened with a hideous grinding noise, and we all made our way into the entrance way of the cavern. The lever that opened the door would not budge again to close it behind us, and we decide to venture into the passage under the mountains to see what new adventures lie ahead.

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On the road again...
Going who knows where in in the general direction of our destination, eventually?

We made it back to town, and began the process of recovery from our previous adventure before setting out again. We had close to a ton of treasure and I did my best to reduce the weight we carried without significantly reducing the value of our haul. The party has a significant number of gems and jewelry. We purchased a jeweled leaf with diamonds and sapphires around the border, and the leaf is made of the soft green stone, same as a pin we acquired from the dragon’s lair. This stone is similar to the stone used in the pyramid. The noble who traded it to us said it was a crime to own it outside of the country, and was given to him by a captain as a dowry. Given its value, it is an excellent and lightweight way to transport significant amounts of treasure, though I suspect we may need it to acquire something else, should we find ourselves in sudden need. If not, I plan to sell it to the Princess for her to resell it elsewhere. Her family, being in charge of the Oasis and rich is likely to have the means to acquire the full value for it better than we, and we may then still make a significant profit on it. After visiting the various nobles, we also managed to acquire more emeralds and some opals, in addition to two magical crystals which Fife may find useful against and dragons we find ourselves facing.

I’ve been made noble in the court of the Count, in exchange for a rug I was going to sell him. I’m uncertain who got the better end of the deal, but suspect it was him, though I am ignorant of these matters. It’s possible that this will do well as either leverage or a foundation, once the Princess is informed, as she may then station merchants here, to operate a way point for the trade route, and taking advantage of the benefits of being part of the nobility. The funds we have spent here will likely have an energizing effect on the local economy, which I believe is in balance, since it was their money anyway, in the swamp, which we merely retrieved. The noble who sold us cinnamon will have a second chance to get his affairs in order, and the other noble used his funds to pay his taxes and leave the county. I inquired with the Count if I had committed a faux pas, but he appeared unconcerned and advised me that sometimes it was best for parties to part. There was a chance to purchase a pearl which might have had magical significance, but as Kellyn was uninterested, we moved on. Tobias had inquired why I was claiming all the loot for myself, before he was informed I was merely using the verbiage Cora suggested, to appear less crass to the nobility we were using to acquire high value low weight objects.

Recalling the events we barely survived, I’ve undertaking preparations for our next venture. The tapestry we took has been made into sets of gloves by some of our party members, which should allow the safer handling of some of the items we encounter, and I’ve acquired 600 feet of rope, above and beyond what is in our packs, as we’re going into the mountains and may very well need it. We have three carts, four oxen, and six horses, so we are covered for now for transport, and in fact I suspect that our treasure will fit on one. The other two will be used for additional supplies such as food, water, and winter gear. Kellyn has enjoyed having her staves back, and examining her new spell book. Sadly, I destroyed the words of power when I disenchanted it, in response to Ishmael being affected by a curse on it. The Priests of the god Vindare told Cora of an Elven city, which had a blooming Sylvan Tree, one of the only two which exist, which Cora wishes to visit on our way to the library to return the book. We’re looking it the last location it was rumored to be, and I hope Cora is able to find it, as she could use some good news on the arboreal front.

I’ve since learned that while there may only be two dragons guarding the library, the valley is filled with dragons, so we may need to travel underground, at night, or with as much stealth as possible with carts, in order to avoid being eaten. With two carts, we should be well supplied, so that if Kellyn or Osmun are injured and unable to supply food or water, we can last long enough to get them some help without starvation being an immediate concern.

I am still learning the art of politics. What was intended to be a quiet walk to contemplate the balance ended up with my hijacking part of another god’s religious ceremony, though I managed to guide them in an appreciation of nature in their drunkenness, and to have them drink in moderation after eating, something with didn’t please Fife much, nor the high priest. He waved away my attempts at an apology, and I suspect he will consider the debt settled if I do not return for quite some time. I asked Ma’at about learning to heal, and she sent me to Lan, to learn how she does it. After witnessing her magic, I was told that there were different ways to heal, one being magic, and another being divine power. I’ll next work with Cora on her healing, so that if it’s needed, I may be of some use, and so I may balance my ability to harm with the ability to heal. Given Ma’at did respond to me, I believe the etiquette of how to speak to a deity is slowly being made clear. Cora still seems frustrated at her lack of response, Lan is an avatar, not a cleric, Kellyn does not seem interested in serving Leilanna, and Osmun does not appear to pray often where I may see him. Oddly enough, this reminds me of when I was originally in the desert, learning to communicate with Cora when we didn’t have a language between us. Eventually, we got to where we are now, so I am hopeful for the future.

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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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