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Tolling Bell Cultist
(12/13/03 3:03 am)
Synopses instead of journal entries
Entry 13 (Tink):

No entry - Liz didn't have time (bad girl!)

To sum up - The party met clerics of Boccob & Vecna in the mage guild & discovered a lot of what had been going on in the world outside the Mines. Many aspects of magic had gone awry across the Flanaess. Clerics were no longer receiving spells, planar connections were undependable, divinations were not working, etc. Joshua & Brandon could no longer receive spells when in Verbobonc. Important people across the Oerth had been killed (including Bishop Heufran, Joshua's mentor) or wounded in an amazing spate of assassination attacks (by unknown killers). A plague was raging across many countries. Greyhawk had declared war on Dyvers, accusing them of causing the plague. The party purchased some new equipment, sent word to Tink's home of Kinderburg of possible attackers from the Temple, and teleported back to the Mines. Travelling to the Air Bridge & proceeding to the Outer Fane, they found a door barring their way. A number of guards mounted on giant flying insects accosted them & Brandon attacked before the others could parley. In the ensuing battle, the party (mainly Arwan and Brandon) killed about a score of their opponents, but had to retreat before overwhelming odds.

Entry 14 (Brandon):

No entry - Bill is going Liz's way.

Summary - The party retreated to the bridge entrance and shut the doors behind them. Tink found a number of small humanoids watching them and befriended the creatures (Jermlaine), who told her some things about the evil in the mines. Experimenting with the keys, the party managed to create a greater key. Deciding to try the Fire Bridge, they travelled West and South, through the destroyed Earth Temple. They found some of it repaired and fought a ghostly female drow who Joshua turned (after which they freed her jermlaine slaves). Continuing past the West entrance, they headed south. On the way, they fought an ettin and his rust monster. The ettin was killed, but his pet escaped. Further south, they saw a sign on the wall warning of a 'wyte dragon' ahead. Expecting a white dragon, the party was surprised to find a WIGHT dragon instead. They killed it, mostly due to Joshua's spells, but not before it drained both Joshua and Eranilor. Tink scouted ahead to find a deserted shack (apparently a tavern for the original dwarven miners), where the party decided to rest for the night.

Tolling Bell Cultist
(12/13/03 3:07 am)
Entering the Fire Bridge Complex
Entry 15 (Joshua):

Arwan - Elf Necro5/Alienist6
Brandon - Human Rgr2/Clr9/Ftr1 (Kord)
Eranilor - Elf Rgr4/Rog6/Deepwood Sniper2
Joshua - Human Clr11 (St. Cuthbert)
Tink - Kender Ftr2/Rog9

We explored the entire building to find it in remarkably good shape, except for a few destroyed doors and wrecked furniture. Although Brandon searched quite diligently, he could not find any ale to drink. Considering how drained I was feeling after the encounter with the undead dragon, I could have used some, but it was not to be. We decided to spend the night in one of the large rooms downstairs, near the single entrance. Arwan and I took the first watch, but nothing untoward occurred. While Arwan studied his books and tended to his snake (which, I believe, has grown a tentacle on the top of its head!), I prayed to my Lord. As before, I felt strangely disconnected from him, as if I was surrounded by a dark fog that blocked warmth and illumination. But I knew there was a light beyond it which I could still feel, however faintly. I know the Saint of the Cudgel will not forsake this world, and I must strive to carry out his wishes. If only it were easier to decipher them! I was still pondering our problems when our watch ended, and I woke Tink and Eranilor to replace us.

It seemed like I had barely slept for a moment when I was woken by Tink telling us that smoke was creeping in under the door. The house was on fire! When she opened the door, we saw that the small entryway outside was aflame. With the help of blankets and an orison I used to create a downpour there, we put out the fire, although a large amount of smoke was created. Brandon went out to investigate the cause of the fire and was promptly attacked by some creatures concealed by the smoke (I wonder how the faith of Kord survives, if all his worshippers are so impulsive!). The rest rushed to help him. Having no time (or help) to don my armor, I seized my shield and followed, praying that St. Cuthbert would protect me from whatever lay beyond. We found Brandon suffering under the blows of two assailants, who seemed to be invisible. Arwan cast a spell that allowed him to see invisible creatures, Tink moved to aid Brandon, while Eranilor actually used his hearing to pinpoint an invisible creature and shoot it! While I could not do the same, the billowing smoke and steam actually served to help me notice their positions, and I managed to strike each with a column of divine fire. More arrows from the archer sent one of the wounded creatures fleeing too quickly to be stopped, and Arwan turned the other into a garden slug, which Brandon (probably upset from his wounds) promptly stepped on. Relieved at the relatively easy victory, we headed back to the room, and I turned in again.

When I woke the next morning, Eranilor and Tink mentioned that they had subsequently heard somebody whistling outside the shack. Tink investigated and saw nothing, despite those strange new goggles that let her see in the dark, although she apparently heard a voice speaking in the distance. While listening to this tale, Brandon and I prayed to our respective deities, and he used a Restoration to return me to full strength, as I did to Eranilor. I must say that Brandon's clerical abilities can be quite useful, even though they do not match mine, and nowadays he seems to use them much more than before. After eating a hasty and cold meal (how I miss Brother John's hearty breakfasts!), we left the old tavern and proceeded towards the Fire Bridge. We followed the nearby stream south and east, passing through a number of rough chambers and tunnels. One of them had a strangely musty smell, and we heard sounds from a nearby chamber that we could not identify, but for once nobody wished to waste time investigating it. Maybe our group is finally growing in common sense! Moving on, we passed though a large chamber full of fungi and vegetation of many kinds, and found a flight of steps leading up. Tink went up to investigate, and as usual, minutes later Brandon impatiently headed up (pushing past the archer, who was unable to stop him). We followed, to find a large room with a couple of exits and a large headless corpse of an umber hulk in the center. As we looked around, Tink reappeared from one of the passages to tell us that an adjoining room held two trolls and a large gong (apparently a some kind of signal/guard-post).

We prepared a plan to have Tink sneak up on them under the influence of an invisibility and a silence spell, so as to prevent the alarm being sounded. Arwan suddenly said that he would take care of one of them, and handed Tink a gem and asked her to place it near the trolls. Immediately after, he sat down, cast a spell and collapsed. I rushed to check his body and saw that he was dead! For a moment I feared that the influence of Tharizdun had corrupted Arwan's magic (already close enough in nature to the vile spells of the worshippers of Chaos), but seeing the gem in Tink's hands glow with an inner light, I realized it was part of the spell. Tink turned herself invisible with a wand and crept off silently, while Eranilor and Brandon followed behind. I stayed behind to guard Arwan's apparent corpse. I must admit certain ungodly thoughts occurred to me at this opportunity, but I resisted the temptation, undoubtedly sent to me by the evil of the place we were in. Suddenly, I heard the sound of trollish voices raised in argument around the corner, and after a while a troll came around the corner and motioned to Eranilor and Brandon (who were waiting there and had seen it coming). Then it whispered to them, and I realized it was actually Arwan! His magic had allowed him to replace the soul of one of the trolls with his own. I shuddered at the thought of how dangerous he could be to us with this power, and was again tempted to pre-empt any future treachery. Luckily, I managed to restrain myself, and moments later, Eranilor and Brandon moved around the corner to attack the other troll, which had been ambushed by Tink. It soon succumbed to the combined assault, without managing to make a sound, and we moved on, after placing Arwan's body in the portable hole.

Beyond the troll guardroom were tunnels carefully carved out of the rock, which made us even surer that we were at or near the bridge complex. We investigated a couple of empty rooms and storerooms, before coming to a large corridor with many doors and other corridors opening off it. Hearing a loud male and female voice arguing behind a door, we hid ourselves around the corner while Arwan the troll went to lure them out. Luckily Arwan can speak giantish, as the trolls apparently did, and he did a convincing enough rendition to persuade the male (a half-orc) to follow him. He went down before Tink's dagger and Eranilor's bow, and Brandon rushed through the door to confront the human woman. Even as Tink despairingly cried out, "Take her prisone...", he clove her head asunder. Nothing changes! We quickly dragged the bodies around the corner, while Arwan remained in the main corridor to throw off anyone who approached. Apparently someone was, because we soon heard him arguing with someone, who replied in a guttural and commanding voice. Whatever it said, it must not have pleased Arwan, since he cast a fireball, shouted something in Elvish (presumably an insult, since it made Eranilor grin), and rushed around the corner (to begin spellcasting again, from the sounds of it).

Hearing footsteps approaching carefully, we waited for a few moments, and then charged around to confront the owner - another huge troll, this time dressed in metal armor and somewhat burned by Arwan's fireball. Some distance behind it was a strange creature, looking like a large ogre, but with glowing red eyes and bat wings! The latter disappeared as it saw us, but the troll fought back viciously, wounding Brandon. A sword-slash from Brandon wounded it, and a flurry of arrows (one of which sank to the fletching in the creature's skull) had it reeling, but it did not go down until Tink slashed its tendons with her dagger and buried it in the collapsing creature's throat. Meanwhile, we could hear the alarm being sounded in the distance. While Eranilor hastened to set the downed troll on fire, the rest of us moved a little further down the corridor. As Brandon moved ahead of us all, a nearby door flew open and a bunch of human warriors ran out, while a couple of large forms appeared out of the darkness at the limits of the light cast by the Kordite's sword. I wondered momentarily why these areas were not lighted, considering how many humans we were seeing here, but there was no time to waste on such details. I quickly cast a sound burst, stunning almost all the warriors near us, while Arwan cast a fireball at the large figures, momentarily illuminating them (as two giants!). As if these enemies were not enough, beside me Eranilor cocked his head as if listening to something and said with a grin (why the grin?!), "Something wicked this way comes." St. Cuthbert be with us now!

Tolling Bell Cultist
(12/17/03 3:48 am)
The Dwarven Temple
Entry 16 (Eranilor):

...The fight quickly turned into a battle, with varied enemies appearing every which way, and then a massacre, as they went down equally swiftly. Brandon, presumably having seen the two hill giants which our resident troll (Arwan, that is) had targeted with a fireball, made an uncharacteristically strategic withdrawal, charged the poor warriors stunned by Joshua's spell, and proceeded to fricassee them. One of them even tried to stop Brandon by wrestling him down, and died of terminal foolishness (well, that & four feet of steel). Joshua caught the already burned giants with a flame strike, but not before the pair of them had flung a brace of boulders each and missed all of us. I guess being barbecued affects your throwing arm. Arwan gleefully responded by turning one into a goldfish. Tink had turned invisible, as usual, but reappeared to single-handedly take on and down a dire wolverine which had charged into the melee from near the giants. I finished setting the downed troll on fire (while mentally kicking myself for not having done the same to the companion to Arwan's borrowed body when I had the chance) and readied myself for whatever creature I had heard coming down the corridor ahead of me. I thought I'd seen just about anything there was to see in this place, but apparently not, since I was charged by a cockroach the size of a horse! Good thing Tink wasn't nearby, since it could have squashed her like..ahem, a bug. I put an arrow into its carapace as it charged, and managed to dodge out of the way of its mandibles. The creature stunk like a sewer, making me feel sick, but I managed to retain my breakfast. So did Joshua, who charged it with a call to his god (is that really necessary when he's killing vermin?) and bashed it over the head. Arwan, whose new body apparently didn't make his constitution much stronger, turned even more green than he already was and upchucked all over the corridor. Not pretty at all. He tried to get away from the smell by bursting through a nearby door and, amusingly enough, bounced off. Guess the troll muscles do not make the mage. I put a couple more arrows through the cockroach's compound eyes and it collapsed, twitching feebly.

Turning around, I saw Brandon flame strike another group of human warriors, reducing them to charred bodies. Tink raced for the last, tottering hill giant, but I couldn't resist dropping it with an arrow through the head just before she reached it. Hey, she'd put the finishing touches on enough things that I had almost put down! Arwan, meanwhile, had managed to break through the door he was assaulting, and disappeared into the room beyond. Joshua, solicitous as ever (even though it's obvious he doesn't trust Arwan any further than he can throw him), stuck his head in after him. There was another retching sound and a yell from our Cuthbertite, who reappeared covered in troll puke! Poor guy! I quickly put some distance between the two of us, using the excuse of the last troll, who had reappeared around the corridor. It hadn't had the brains to wait long enough to heal completely, and I quickly dropped it and set it on fire like the previous one. With two burning trolls, a giant pulped roach, and Arwan's stomach contents lining the corridor, I quickly followed Joshua (desperately trying to clean himself) to join Tink and Brandon (who'd added the goldfish to his list of kills, in the meantime!).

It seemed like the bridge complex was ours. I'd heard wings receding in the distance during the battle (presumably belonging to that strange ogre-mage we'd seen), and Brandon said he'd heard something invisible fly by towards the bridge. Searching the area, we found a semi-conscious and tortured prisoner - a halfling called Diskritad. For perhaps the first time since entering this place, it wasn't one who Tink knew. After being healed and released, she tried to bluff us with the story that she was a thief who'd snuck into the place and been captured. Besides the implausibility of the story (how many pint-size crazies could be casing this place?), Tink and Joshua made out that she's lying, and Tink actually scared her into revealing the truth. She turned out to be a disgruntled ex-employee of the Temple, and revealed a fair bit of information, including the fact that the bridge complex was run by the half-fiend ogre mage we'd seen, called D'Gran. Apparently fiends are more fertile and have lower standards for mates than I'd figured! Supposedly even more cruel than D'Gran was supposed to be someone called Kraal, who was a troll with wings (another half-fiend?). Apparently Kraal's sister Chymon was the guardian of the door on the other end of the Fire Bridge, and was regarded as the most powerful of the guardians of the Outer Fane. Unfortunately Diskritad couldn't identify who or what Chymon is. I'll have to talk to our spellcasters about some divination, if possible, since I'd like to be a little forewarned before I get my head hacked, chewed, dissolved, fried, or whatever it'll be when I stick it in the Fane. Diskritad also provided the info that the half-orc and human couple we'd killed were a pair of wizards, and also that the area to the southeast contained a tribe of renegade orcs who were opposed to the Temple as well as some area that the Temple had been unable to get to.

I wondered if the latter was the dwarven temple we'd heard of, and figured we'd do better if we checked out these areas first, while Brandon, unsurprisingly, was all for rushing off to the Outer Fane. Luckily he wasn't hard to persuade this time, so we settled on some more exploration. The problem was Diskritad, whom the others couldn't decide to leave or take along. She was adamant that she wanted to leave, and I'd have let her do so, but nobody else trusted her. Arwan/troll solved the problem in inimitable fashion by telling her that he would cast a spell to judge her truthfulness, which she promised not to resist, and promptly turning her into a rat. Tink pocketed her and off we went.

This time Brandon decided to take point, which made sense considering his usual impatience when Tink is scouting ahead, and gradually forged ahead of us, since we moved as a group at Tink and Joshua's slower pace. Not that it was hard to follow him, since the sound of doors being kicked in marked his route for us. We found a number of empty rooms, although one with supplies made Brandon extremely happy due to the casks of wine within. Joshua, who's recently been going the doom and gloom route, looked a lot happier too. Two drunks, a crazy necromancer, a kender, and an ex-professor, and the world's fate supposedly rests on us! This planet is so doomed! Continuing onwards, we found ourselves coming to unworked and rougher tunnels, one of which was guarded by a tripwire with alarm bells hanging on it. Disarming it, we went on, and soon encountered a number of intersections. Since we were searching for a supposedly uninhabited dwarven temple we stuck to the apparently less-traveled routes, and eventually ended up in front of a pair of large stone doors with dwarven (or so they seemed to us) carvings of dragon-heads emerging from hammers.

Probably more than any other place in these mines, this area has justified my study of mechanical contrivances, since we had to circumvent a bunch of locks and traps. Beyond the stone doors, we found a narrow corridor, winding through the mountainside with locked doors in the sides at large intervals. The first room contained a large stone platform holding a 5 ft wide circular basin apparently carved from a single emerald! I thought Tink was about to pass out with sheer greed when she saw it, and it did take her a few moments before she could do more than babble mindlessly. I grabbed her as soon as I saw it, just in case she threw herself at it, and we checked it out very carefully. Turned out that if you put any liquid in it, the liquid began to glow and became magical, but we couldn't work out what the effect was. Apparently not curative, since I cut my finger and drank a little, which had no effect. When I stuck the finger in the liquid, the blood caused a very minor explosion. I collected some of the liquid and at Tink and Brandon's insistence we put the basin in Tink's portable hole (along with the requisite crude jokes, of course!). It seems like it isn't actually an emerald, since it felt like marble (especially in weight, which is why it's lucky Arwan reminded us about his body before we dropped the heavy basin on it!), and Joshua detected a glamer on it, as well as some form of transmutation magic. Maybe we'll have time later to find out what it is.

The next room we found resulted in one of the strangest "fights" we've had in this place. It contained a number of blue and silver tapestries (which promptly ended up in the portable hole), and also a pedestal with six large magical spheres. We had no idea what they were, and were discussing what to do with them when Arwan touched one. That's a fairly impulsive move by his standards, so I'm not sure if they made him do so in some way. Either way, Arwan promptly turned from a troll into a dwarf! Somehow he didn't seem as surprised as all of us, probably because he's used to magic that polymorphs one. He decided to pick up the spheres, and had put a couple of them into a bag of holding in Brandon's hands, when another change occurred. He turned and looked at Brandon, said "Give me the bag - now!", and made a grab for it. Brandon pulled it away and said, "What are you talking about?", and that's when things went haywire. Arwan went crazy, trying to get the bag away from Brandon (who was more amused than concerned), though hampered by his new body and comparative weakness. Having seen Arwan in this state before with the demonstone, it was fairly obvious - Arwan was being mentally controlled by something (the stones, we guessed) again.

Tink had a brilliant idea and moved out of the room, asking me to follow her. I did that, leaving Joshua to try to remonstrate with the other two. Tink explained that she thought we should get Arwan's body out of the portable hole and break the gem that his spell was dependent on, sending his soul back to his own body. I began to help her, and then we both heard Arwan, and then Brandon, casting spells in the other room. As we learned later, Arwan the dwarf had hasted himself and cast a spell to make himself disappear, but Brandon threw the bag to a Joshua and countered that with an invisibility purge. Joshua was too befuddled to seize the bag, and Arwan promptly rushed forward to grab it, while Brandon (probably with bad memories of Arwan attacking him in the past) tried to bash him over the head to knock him out. Meanwhile Tink and I had taken out Arwan's body, tied its hands, and she shattered the gem with her mace. Arwan returned to his body, and the troll's spirit returned to its now dwarven body. This potentially dangerous situation became comic at this point (well, according to me, that is). The poor troll-cum-dwarf, or so Joshua told us, looked around in surprise and rage, and was promptly knocked out by Brandon. Arwan began to struggle, and I pulled out my sap and tried to bonk him over the head. In my hurry, I missed completely. Yes - Arwan tied, helpless, with me standing over him, and I missed! I almost started laughing, but Arwan seized the opportunity to start casting a teleport spell, which put paid to my merriment. Luckily my second swing caught him in mid-spell and disrupted it, and between Tink (who also managed to miss him once) and me we knocked him out and gagged him. Whereupon all four of us yelled to each other, "Hey, guys! We just knocked out Arwan!" Dragging him into the room, we worked out the situation, woke him up, explained what would happen if he tried to cast a spell, and un-gagged him. Arwan pretended that he had been dominated by some magic spell (from the stones) which had now ended, but Tink was convinced that he was lying. She's getting quite good at picking up when someone's lying. Guess she's right when she says that it takes one to know one. Luckily a dispel magic from Joshua ended the domination, and Arwan was his normal, crazy psychopathic self again. We explained to Arwan (as usual) that trying to attack party-members was not good form, and Brandon (after having lopped the troll-dwarf's head off) carefully picked up the spheres without touching them and we headed off again.

The tunnel ended at a flight of stairs leading up to what seemed to be a large dwarven shrine (obviously the temple to Moradin we'd heard of), complete with anvil-shaped shrine, dwarven runes, and a set of stairs leading up to another door. Tink stepped into it and immediately we saw the head of a stone statue shaped like a dwarf emerge from the floor. It slowly rose till a stone humanoid of about 9 feet had full emerged, and ponderously headed for Tink. Although I'd seen only one before in a particular sage's home in Enstaad, and it had looked very different, I recognized it as a stone golem. Brandon promptly hit it with a searing light that had no effect. Tink quickly stepped back, and as soon as she left the room, it sank back into the floor. Waiting till it was gone, she stepped in again, and it began to emerge. Obviously this guardian would need to be dealt with if we were to enter the room. Since it was very slow-moving, I thought of running around it in my magical boots and checking out the opposite staircase, but Brandon put all thoughts of intelligent strategy to end. Almost knocking me down in his excitement, he charged the golem, swung mightily, and his sword bounced off its body without any effect. Swearing under my breath, I headed into the room and shot it with an arrow, putting a crack in it. Joshua also moved in and maneuvered for an attacking position, while Tink searched in vain for some trigger that could deactivate it. Arwan, seeking a more destructive way to the same end, struck the altar with a disintegrate spell, destroying most of it. The golem, however, seemed undeterred, striking Brandon with a single blow so powerful that I thought I'd see him go down. Somehow Brandon stayed on his feet, and connected with a single blow before fleeing to heal himself, leaving Joshua facing it alone (now where have I seen that before?). I moved onto the stone steps in the corner and hit it with another arrow, further cracking it. The golem ignored me and simply stepped towards Joshua and stared at him for a moment. Apparently it was casting some spell on him, but Joshua managed to shrug it off, and Arwan imprisoned it in a wall of force. Seeing that the golem was looking the worse for wear, I yelled to him to drop the wall, and when he did so a couple more arrows sent it crumbling to the ground. Now to find out what this temple contains, and what dwarven gods do when you destroy their altars...

Tolling Bell Cultist
(12/18/03 4:22 pm)
Entering the Outer Fane
Entry 17 (Arwan):

Excerpts from Arwan’s journal:

“…in the dwarven temple. Though destroying the altar had no effect, shooting the stone golem with a number of enchanted arrows did the job. So much for dwarven magic and craftsmanship. It was rather interesting that no one seemed terribly concerned with our desecration of a temple to a lawful god.
        “The temple itself was a impressively gaudy tribute to the dwarven ego. Stylized carvings of long-dead heroes lined the walls and the floor was covered with a mosaic depicting a handful of dwarves laying waste to an army of goblinoids. Typical dwarven propaganda. How do such small bodies contain such large egos?
        “The pieces of the golem began sinking into the floor so Brandon took a chunk and tossed it into the hallway, which may or may not have prevented the golem from reforming. I followed Eranilor up the steps in the far corner, which led to a door marked as the “Chamber of Mysteries.” Honestly, is that the best they could come up with?
        “After Eranilor checked for traps, I opened the door and saw an immense emerald, a perfect replacement for the gem smashed by Tink (a necessary component for the Magic Jar spell). I cast Stoneskin and Dispel Magic (to no effect), and then entered (despite an increasingly uneasy feeling) the room and immediately found myself under the effects of a Slow spell. The last thing I remember was grasping the emerald…
        “Things came back into focus a few minutes later. I was told I froze as if paralyzed and Brandon dragged me out of the room, along with the emerald (damn his luck and mine!). Apparently, I was under the effects of a Confusion spell. All I remember is a stream of meaningless information, an endless barrage of images from dwarven history that flowed too quickly to comprehend. Brandon, surprisingly enough, was able to shrug off the information, once again demonstrating an incredible resistance to knowledge.
        “I suddenly sprang into action, casting a Magic Missile spell at Brandon. As if expecting bizarre behavior on my part (I can’t reason why) Tink tackled me while Eranilor pulled out a sap (what a sight that must have been, a sap holding a sap). Unable to cast spells, I tried to bite Tink while Brandon struck me in the head for what must be the twentieth time with the flat of his sword, though the Stoneskin absorbed the brunt of it. Finally rousing himself to action, Joshua cast a Calm Emotions spell, temporarily halting the effects of the Confusion, and I requested he cast a Dispel Magic to permanently remove it. Meanwhile, Tink appraised the emerald at 1,000 gold pieces, though I could put it to much better use than simple monetary gain.
        “Tink, Joshua, and Eranilor agreed that the emerald and anything else we removed from the temple should be returned to the dwarves, while I found myself in agreement with Brandon that, in lieu of the universal “Finders keepers” rule, some small reward should be due. It was at that point Eranilor noticed a rat running from the room. Tink verified that the halfling-rat was missing, so I cast a Summon Monster spell and sent six pseudonatural dire rats in search of the escapee. Chances are she was no danger to us, but why leave any loose ends? Besides, it was rather humorous to watch Tink squirm, especially after no one else took any actions to stop me.”
        “Little does she and the rest of them know their fates are already written. Even…”
“…at which point Joshua cast a Divination spell and asked his deity the best course for overcoming our enemies. St. Curse-butt’s incredibly helpful response was ‘Stealth and skill lead the way.’ Now this is why I hate priests and philosophers. They point out the obvious, then everyone fawns all over them and falls at their feet. Much better than my plan, the one that involved hanging cowbells around our necks.
“Perhaps the most unusual occurrence of the day was my discovery of a secret door leading to the outside. A quick escape route for the dwarves? I thought they always fought to the end. So many sociological myths have been shattered over the past two weeks. Anyhow, the dark sky was covered with angry, bruise-colored clouds and the sun was only a faint burnt-orange smudge. We judged it to be mid-afternoon, but it was dark as dusk.
“Brandon suddenly remembered a door in the far corner of the deceptively named “Chamber of Mysteries.” It led to a ‘T’ intersection illuminated by an unseen light source. Brandon and Joshua left the party to investigate while Eranilor consoled Tink who, still smarting over the halfing’s fate, was sulking and denouncing the rest of us as murderers. I laughed and studied the spell-books retrieved from the human and half-orc wizards less than an hour ago.
“Joshua came back yelling about a set of double doors with strange locks (golden, open-mouthed dwarf-faces) Brandon couldn’t break down, so I went to give it a try but was unable to so much as smudge the doors with a fireball. Somehow, this led to a highly illuminating discussion with Brandon regarding religion and magic that completely validated my total lack of faith or belief in gods. Powerful supernatural beings that exploit mortals and use them as pawns in some sort of cosmic game, yes. Gods, no.
“Nearby, Eranilor picked the lock of another door, giving him access to a nicely furnished room containing, among other things, a large glass table, two chests, and some books. After a quick search, he found a golden censer, a bronze urn, and three thunderstones, all of which he gave to Tink, and a secret compartment containing a golden key.
“Tink, Eranilor, and Joshua, joined us at the double-doors which we were able to open with the golden key Eranilor had discovered only moments earlier. The room beyond was apparently some sort of treasury. In addition to the usual dwarven accruements, a dais sat in the center of the room and three large chests on the far end. The dais contained a box of inlaid gold, an urn, a statue of Moradin (life-sized?), and a book containing still more dwarven propaganda. The urn was filled with amethysts, and each of the chests brimmed with gold. Another argument regarding the concept of ownership ensued as the contents of the treasure room were dumped in the portable hole.
“Around the corner we discovered a dining hall of sorts. It was a large room that contained long stone tables, a bronze harp, and silver platters. Three doors on either side of the room lead to smaller dining rooms, kitchens, and latrines (I can only imagine how they smelled when the dwarves were still here). Eranilor discovered a secret door leading to a tunnel of unworked stone, but we decided it was a good time to make camp (in the furnished bedroom discovered earlier) and prepare for tomorrow.”
        “Our preparations for the assault on the Outer Fane included the following:
        -Brandon polymorphed into a hill giant
        -Tink disguised as a female halfling in temple robes
        -Joshua disguised as a thin (wishful thinking) human male in temple robes
        -Eranilor disguised as a human female in temple robes
        -Me disguised as a human male and potential Champion of Tharizdun
        “The journey to the temple was uneventful. The bridge leading to one of the great doors was weathered with age but essentially in good repair. The last hundred feet or so were uncovered and exposed to attacks from above, but no spider-eater riders emerged to harass us. At the end was a large ironbound door devoid of a handle or other conventional trappings save a large, red, tablet-shaped jewel. Eranilor touched the four merged elemental keys to the jewel. The door trembled and rose, revealing a very large room beyond.
        “The room was illuminated by a large pit filled, whose center was filled with a pile of gold pieces (concave in the center in the manner of a nest). Walls of red marble were lined with black (obsidian?) altars bearing strange statues, human females perfectly proportioned save for their heads that had been replaced with black triangles. It was as we argued over who would go first that I noticed the red dragon. It was watching us intently, and I must admit that even I felt a bit of discomfort at its reptilian gaze.
        “Apparently the guardian of the gate, it demanded to know who we were. After a moment’s hesitation Tink launched into a spiel about a search for potential champions of Tharizdun. The dragon became suspicious of Brandon’s inability to speak giantish, and finally became convinced we were not what we seemed when it detected the smell of dwarf on us and called out a loud warning. Tink launched into a kender taunt, Joshua cast a spell upon himself, and I disintegrated the dragon. Did I forget to mention I disintegrated the dragon? Actually, I am a bit disappointed by the outcome. I would have preferred the opportunity to speak with it or at least harvest its blood and organs.
“Expecting attack, I cast an Improved Invisibility on Tink to maximize the effectiveness of her attacks on unsuspecting victims and we proceeded. At the sight of descending steps Brandon proclaimed, ‘Oh, good! I like going down!’ To each their own. The walls were covered with tapestries depicting winged demons committing horrible (relatively speaking) acts and carrying victims to a far-off mountain. A bit cliché for my tastes.
“Nearby we discovered six bewildered ogres in full plate mail armed with giant swords. I elected to cover the metaphorical rear while the rest of the party dealt with the ogres. Eranilor dropped one immediately while Brandon cast a spell and advanced. Joshua cast a Sound Burst, though the ogres still managed to charge, three on Joshua and two on Brandon. One managed to hit Brandon, but the rest proved rather inept. Still invisible, Tink killed one with a quick thrust while Brandon used the great strength of his giant form to squash two. Eranilor killed the last.
“I detected the foul smell of incense drifting up from a steps leading downward. While Brandon, Joshua, and I descended the steps to investigate, Tink and Eranilor scouted a nearby corridor (I don’t know if they were using “scout” as a euphemism). The steps led to a large, featureless stone door. Above the lintel sat a carved demon head with glowing eyes.
Brandon: “Arwan, what do you think this is?”
Arwan: “Looks like a door.”
“After multiple attempts to open the door proved futile, we decided to try a parallel corridor, this one terminating in a black basalt door with a purple stone in the center. Eranilor couldn’t find a mundane, mechanical means of opening the door, nor did touching the elemental key have any effect. An inspection of the ogre corpses for keys or similar items also proved futile.
“Foiled again, we found and descended yet another set of steps, though this time with better results. They lead to a large room that was apparently some sort of library. Rows upon rows of books lined the walls, and most seemed to cover the darker aspects of magic, science (alchemy? astrology?), and religion. As I perused the shelves, Joshua felt one of his infamous precognitive chills (perhaps he should trade his armor for a sweater) and the party heard shouts that were clearly in elven but with strange accents (drow?).
“I only had time to grab two books of a particularly malignant aspect as Brandon ran from the room in search of the voice and the rest of the party followed. Another set of steps led to a luxuriously decorated room that had been recently occupied. Brandon kept running and everyone kept following (I hope there wasn’t anything important in the library or bedroom), leading to a room containing a swirling ball of darkness with a red corona on the other side of a glass door. I was immediately reminded of a Sphere of Annihilation (which I have never actually beheld), though it didn’t quite match the description of that potent item.
“Still the party ran. I wanted to stay and concentrate on the black sphere, but decided it would be more prudent to keep up with the group. We passed through a hallway lined with arrow slits, through which we saw a group of bugbear priests staring back at us. They yelled questions as we passed, but despite our feeble explanations apparently didn’t pursue us. Brandon’s marathon ended when he encountered another black basalt door with a round purple stone in the center. Frustrated, he struck the purple stone and sure enough the door slid into the floor.
“We entered a long room dominated by a large, rectangular pool. Stairs on either side descended twenty feet to the floor below and the walls were covered with images of aquatic races and monsters emerging from the sea. Through the pool’s dark, murky water we could see a ponderous form swimming in our direction. Our attention was diverted from the pool when Brandon smashed through a nearby door into a sparsely furnished room occupied by three minotaurs. Rather than simply attacking, he tried to bluff them and was actually succeeding when they scented something that aroused their suspicions. A comment about bathing finally gave Brandon away and the minotaurs charged.
“Still invisible, Tink sneak attacked one and managed to kill it within the space of seconds. Eranilor shot another and I blasted it with a barrage of Magic Missiles, but it had clearly entered a berserk rage and continued to charge. As Brandon readied himself for combat, a small creature materialized and attacked Eranilor. No longer invisible, the hovering quasit (an annoying little outsider) presented a tempting but elusive target for Joshua. Perhaps in response to the noise above, the pool’s inhabitant (a vaguely turtle-like creature) briefly emerged, then sunk back into the water.
“Tink attacked and finished off the minotaur Eranilor and I had wounded while Eranilor shot the quasit in midair (the quasit, not Eranilor) and managed to get one more shot at the final minotaur before it landed a solid blow against him, goring him with its horns in the manner of a true bull. The minotaur’s focus on Eranilor left it vulnerable to one of Tink’s sneak attacks which I followed with a Negative Energy Ray, and still it stayed on its feet! Joshua finally had to smite it (I’m not sure what “smite” means) to bring it down. As the minotaur fell, I noticed Brandon descending the steps to the pool…”

Brother of Venom
(12/18/03 8:35 pm)
Re: Entering the Outer Fane
"Did I forget to mention I disintegrated the dragon?"

LMAO! What an unbelievably anticlimactic moment! :D

Another excellent writeup!

Tolling Bell Cultist
(12/20/03 4:56 am)
Re: Entering the Outer Fane
LMAO! What an unbelievably anticlimactic moment!

After the group saw the dragon and exchanged a few sentences, everybody was carefull backing away into a more tactically effective position and thinking this was going to be a really tough fight. And then Arwan did his thing. I think Bill (the DM) needed to roll a 4 to save and rolled a 2 :D

Tolling Bell Cultist
(12/20/03 4:59 am)
More fun in the Outer Fane
Entry 18 (Tink):

Sigh…… The last minotaur has dropped and Brandon still in his giant form continues to try and draw out some chick named Naquent or something like that. Like she is supposed to believe that he is an ally after he stood still while the others were slaughtered. And how many giants actually run around whispering for help? Oh well, not everyone can be as convincing as a kender. In the water below I saw some great big turtle looking thing but paid it no mind, at first. But then things got real interesting real quick. Brandon comes charging back up the stairs practically pounding me into the ground! I have no idea what he was charging after, but if not for my keen reflexes, I would have been taking a swim with the turtle! So I get my balance about me and turn to see what is going on. And what do I see? Another giant in Joshua's clothing (what is this, some kind of fad?)! To top it off, the turtle from below has now joined us topside and decided to take a gander down Eranilor’s throat! Could someone please tell me what in the name of kender-kind is Arwan casting spells at?!?!

So Brandon reaches the new Joshua giant and starts laughing and says, “Hello brother” (somebody around here is having an identity crisis and it’s sure not me). Just when I think things couldn’t possibly get more crazed, a whip-wielding, red devil is now in the doorway! Wait till I get home and tell my friends all of this. They are definitely going to think I’ve gone loopy. Where was I? Oh yeah. Joshua and Brandon make pretty quick work of whip boy, but before I could even get close enough to attempt to help, they are both surrounded by an ice storm. I manage to stay out of that little surprise and figuring that someone out there cast that spell. I jump over the devil ooze to the other side of the door and get a good look at two dark skinned elves. Now, I have never actually met one, and I was very anxious to get to them and maybe ask a few questions. No sooner do I get out the door, Joshua and Brandon have mowed them down. I think Eranilor was out there in the hall, and I have no clue what Arwan was doing at this point, but to be honest, the only thing I could think of at that point was getting a close look at the Drow.

I do believe around the time that Arwan showed up to search the bodies, Brandon decides he’s going to once again try to bluff our enemies and proceeds to the room with the bugbears. Eranilor, probably figuring on doing damage control, changes himself to look like the male Drow wizard and heads off with Brandon. At this point I’m completely let down for not being able to meet a live Drow, and getting a little bored (after all, I haven’t been able to scout with Brandon charging ahead of everybody all the time now, and, my dagger has had no opponent since the minotaurs seeing as how we had two giant with us), so I march my invisible butt right behind them. No sooner do we get near the bugbears, they start firing arrows at Brandon and Eranilor. I go past the two of them letting them know I was heading toward the door. I figure if I can get in the room, I can help out from inside. Eranilor takes out his bow and starts taking out the bugbears through their own arrow slits! And what does Brandon do? He leaves. Yep, that’s right, he takes off down a hall leaving Eranilor to take the brunt of the arrows himself. And here I thought it was only Joshua that Brandon ran off leaving holding the bag (hehehe). So, invisible as I am, with arrows whizzing over my head, I get to the door to find it locked. So I check it for traps and find none. Just as I am ready to pick the lock, Eranilor shows up. I tell him that the door was locked and I found no traps, and he says, “Well, you know how bad you are at that, so you better move over and let the master take over.” Okay, so he didn’t say that, but he might as well have! I mean, how rude! Hmmph! Once we got clear of the stinky smoke coming out of the room and got a gander in there, we found that all the bugbears were dead.

At this point we hear some loud crashes from somewhere, but that’s not unusual. Then we hear Brandon calling from somewhere (that’s not very unusual either), so we head off in the direction he went. We found him in a room down a hall behind two huge gates fighting two big snake creatures. But by the time we got through the gates to help him, he had taken care of it himself. You know, one of these days, he’s not going to be so lucky. Oh yeah! Did I mention how Arwan cast a spell that brought forth a great big funky looking gorilla that would have taken Joshua’s head off had it not been on the other side of the gate? But I really don’t think that Arwan meant that to happen because he actually said oops, and made it go away. But then again, he could just as easily be saying oops as he slit my throat. Guess it doesn’t mean as much as I had thought… sigh. I still have hope for him. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, he likes me deep down inside, he just can’t see that far in the dark.

So we spend some time poking around in the snake room and, hey, I wonder if that gorilla could have been tamed? Oh man! I could have taught it to juggle and maybe given it a colorful cap and matching vest! Now that would really impress the kender at home if I came back with that! And Dristafil thought he was something special because his dog could use the outhouse! Oh, sorry, a little off track there. Arwan decided he wanted to go check out some glowie round thingie with a red center. Eranilor said he was going to blow himself up… that’s funny. So Arwan is standing there, with this look on his face. I’ve seen a look like that before…where was it? Oh yeah! Paverell! The time when ole Miderrtipp showed us his coat with all those magic pockets! The look on Paverell’s face when he looked at that coat was much the same as the one on Arwan’s face as he gazed at that sphere. There is something about it that I don’t like, especially in Arwan’s hands. He was able to put a hole in that bench without even trying! And he says he has to keep concentrating on it. Well, what if he loses that concentration? Forget it, I thinks! No way am I going to continue on with him and that thing! I even threw stuff at his head trying to keep him from bringing it out of that room. The others just stood idly by, letting him do as he pleases, as usual. If Bigby could see me now. He always said the only sense a kender has is nonsense…well, I think I actually have the most sense here! And if he see us, I think he would agree. Not that Bigby ever liked to admit to agreeing with me. He always said he was too tall to ever see eye to eye with me. So, I left. I can do just as much good in the Kinderburg Valley as here. I offered to help them destroy evil, not help it along. So I wandered out and found my way into the study. I figured I would look through some of the books until I got bored, (just in case the rest of the party got themselves in a jam with Arwan and his new toy), and I noticed how awful some of the things in these books were! I mean, who in the world deemed it necessary to write a book on skinning babies? And who would need to reference such a tome? So I started destroying pages. Just picking books at random and destroying them. Now that I think about it, it’s not like in the whole scheme of things it made a difference, but you know what? It made a difference to me, and sometimes, that’s all that matters. I found one that I think I’ll keep though. It’s by some guy named Kymer or something like that. It describes all these other worlds and the things found in them. Strange creatures, weird people. I don’t know why, but it struck my fancy, so I stuck it in my bag.

I figured I could get out of here no problem. After all, I’m a kender, and kender luck always prevails (not to mention the wand of invisibility). Just as I was getting ready to leave, I heard footsteps, so I turned myself invisible and held real still. Then I heard Eranilor’s voice calling my name. He said he heard lions, and that Arwan had left the sphere in a room, so I went with him. I think I may have done it mostly for Eranilor. He’s nice and seems to be loyal, and I am glad to consider him a friend. I think he considers me one too. So we catch up to the group and see a really big lion down this hall, which Brandon promptly went after. But as he did, three more pounced on him! Then Arwan completely wigged out and cast this great big fireball that caught not only the red eyed lions, but Brandon also. I moved up and readied myself to strike whatever came within range of my trusty dagger. I saw one of those lizard guys come out from around the corner looking a little singed and start casting a spell. Next thing I know, Brandon is Brandon again. One of the lions attacked Joshua who was to my left, but I was able to deliver a killing blow before he ever got a taste of priesthood…hehehe. I really crack myself up. Brandon finished off the one in front of him and moved up to face lizard boy (eew, what’s up with his funky leg?), when another lion moved in behind him leaving poor Brandon flanked. So I did what any self-respecting scout would do and stuck my dagger in its liver. I stuck its liver and left it aquiver and Brandon was flanked no more….heh, not bad…ha! I glanced back at that point to see Eranilor getting the dragon snot knocked out of him by some purple shiny guy. I was going to offer my assistance, but then I noticed that grape ape had quite a few arrows sticking out his belly, and Joshua was there to give aid, so I figured they had it covered. Again I ask, what was Arwan doing? I guess he was somewhere casting spells, which he usually does from way back, and I’m usually in the thick of the battle, so I never actually see what he does. So Brandon finishes off the Trog, and the bad guys all die, and we all survive yet another confrontation. We all seem to be in okay shape, for now anyway. All’s well that ends well, eh? Now we see whether or not I leave. If he goes for that sphere, I’m outta here. I’ll leave Eranilor my address and invite them (except Arwan, no crazed, evil wizards allowed mom says) for a visit. Boy, these stories are going to get me many a drink when I get home.

Tolling Bell Cultist
(12/23/03 3:44 am)
Entry 19 (Brandon):
Arwan - Elf Necro5/Alienist6
Brandon - Human Rgr2/Clr9/Ftr2 (Kord)
Eranilor - Elf Rgr5/Rog6/Deepwood Sniper2
Joshua - Human Clr12 (St. Cuthbert)
Tink - Kender Ftr2/Rog10

Well, after that last fight, Eranilor and I had to get ourselves healed. I don’t mind getting injured in a fight, but when I take more damage from my own side, that tends to piss me off. When I talked with Arwan about this, all he had to say was “Oops!”. Arwan seems to be a few bottles of ale short of a six pack. I don’t know whether or not that is an improvement.

The only good news that came out of this was that during the fracas, a trap door leading to the dragon’s real treasure was uncovered - right under that pile of worthless coins. With some rope and a little sweat, we were able to get the trap door open. There was a drop of about 50’ to some sort of cave but there were some rungs along the side of the shaft to the cave. Joshua, Eranilor and I went down the shaft and began exploring the cave. Along one wall we discovered four nooks, all with pedestals and some small statues on top of them. Eranilor checked them out for traps and found out that each one of the nooks was trapped. After disarming the traps we were able to lean the statues back and get the treasure that was under each of them.

While we were doing this, Arwan and Tink, who were on guard at the top of the shaft apparently got bored (I really think they were afraid that we were going to find treasure and not share it with them!). They came down and Tink started searching for secret doors or some such think. Arwan was too busy putting his eyeballs back in their sockets after he saw all of the arcane scrolls that we found.

After putting the treasure into our bags of holding, we decided that we needed to pick up the pace and explore the area faster. Proceeding down the main corridor, we came to a side tunnel that was about 60’ feet long. After moving down that passage a few feet, I started to feel a lot of heat. I cast protection from elements (fire) on myself and proceeded onwards. I came to a door and opened it.

Inside were six demon like beings chanting. I called out to them but they did not respond. I went over to one and still no response. So I swung at the nearest demon to get his attention. In retrospect, that was not a good idea. It seemed that instead of getting its attention, I killed it! And when I did, there was a minor earthquake! The remaining five demons, moved closer together and kept on chanting. I decided it would be a good idea to leave the rest of them alone.

We continued on down the passage and found a bedroom that must have belonged to Master Dunrat (we found a note to him from Naquent). Continuing on, we entered a large room that must have been a main gathering and eating area for the troops. Off to one side was a door to the kitchen. Inside the kitchen was a cook, but he knew next to nothing. The only good that he was able to do was get me some bread to eat and some wine to drink.

While I was busy getting my energy back, Eranilor found a secret door. He checked it for traps and was able to open it. Arwan, Eranilor and I went into the room behind the secret door. At the far end of the room was a wall filled with semi-precious gems. As I walked towards it, I was able to see in the floor a set of glyphs that reminded me of the circle of summoning. Arwan went to check it out. I went to the wall and started to pry out the gems.

To see what the circle would really do, Arwan used a magic wand and summoned a dretch into the middle of the circle. As soon as the dretch touched the floor it seemed to transform into a grell (or maybe it was replaced by a grell?). Between Eranilor and me, it lasted about 6 seconds. Since time was running short (and I had gotten the best gems from the wall), we started to continue on.

Going down the main passage, I heard the sound of ogre voices in the distance. As I started towards the voices, a man suddenly appeared out of a side door. Somewhat surprised, I decided to try to bluff him (I was wearing the black robes and an obex). The guy turned out to be Varachan, the second in charge of this complex. He motioned all of us into his chambers. Figuring why not (we could always kill him), we followed him in.

Varachan told us that he has been watching us for some time making our way through the complex. He says that he has seen the error of his ways and has actually been helping us whenever he could. He finally realized that if Tharizdun is successful in his quest, that the universe will be destroyed along with everyone in it - including himself.

Varachan tells us that near the town of Hommlet at the old Temple of Evil, the forces are gathering to release the princes of elemental evil and to open the four gates to the elemental nodes. He also indicated that the excavation of the Fire Gate is almost completed and that we need to act quickly because time is running out. Varachan said that every time that we here the big bell, that it indicates that a champion of elemental evil has completed their feat properly and that so far one of the champions has already succeeded. The task of each of the champions of evil was to release one of the princes of elemental evil.

Varachan said that 3 of the 4 champions of elemental evil had already been found and that there was a party out looking for the fourth one. The names of the champion were:

- Eliza Danwick
- Cordwellyn
- Jallarzi
- Unknown (but may be Arwan!!)

When asked if there was a way of stopping this, Varachan said that the only way to stop this was to destroy the orb of oblivion. To destroy the orb we must first find the orb of silvery death which in the greater temple (beyond the purple veil) and destroy the orb. To destroy the orb, we first must find four gems (gems of fire, earth, water, and air). When these gems are inserted into the orb, it can be destroyed.

To help us in our quest, Varachan gave us three arrows of greater slaying (oriented to humans), potions of bull strength, a divine scroll of cure serious wounds, raise dead, greater dispelling, heal and restoration.

He also indicated that some of the forces that we would have to contend with would be a beholder, some stone giants, Doomdreamers and Falrinth, a mage of some power.

He also indicated that there was a device called the Torbillion, that would allow one-way teleportation from the inner fane to anywhere in the Flanaess and that it was located on the lower level. He also said that there was a room with clones of a former high priest located in a room down the hallway. These clones were held in stasis along with one of the champions of elemental evil.

Further questioning revealed the following:

Question 1:
What is the reason that clerics outside the mines are not being able to pray for spells, and what, if anything, can we do about it. After all, it causes significant mobility problems for the party if both the clerics are unable to prepare spells after the first night we spend outside the mines. We'd have to visit the old temple (one being excavated for the nodes, I mean), teleport back to the mines for spell prepping, teleport again, etc.

Answer: Tharizdun and his boys are doing what they can to sever or interfere with the link between clerics and their patrons. What do they care if it causes problems for the party? One of the first things to do in a war is disrupt communication with HQ. Sounds like that's what was done across the Flanaess. Clerics of Iuz may not be having the same problem since he is actually in the Material Plane (unlike St Cuthbert and Kord), but he doesn't know. As for getting around the problem, he doesn't know if there is a way (except converting to Tharizdun). Apparently, during the millenia of his imprisonment, Tharizdun came up with a method of blocking the link. He doesn't know if Hedrack knows how it's being done, but senior Doomdreamers would know. Even clerics of the Dark Lord are affected outside sites dedicated to him. The last he knew, the plan for the exavation crew to the Old Temple had been for them to rely on scrolls, wands etc except in emergencies, until they could get back, and to rededicate one of the ruined shrines in the Old Temple to Tharizdun. Whether or not that's been done yet he doesn't know. If it has then they can prepare spells.

Question 2:What is the use of the torch and the balls of incense that we found, as well as the robes near it?

Answer: The iron torches are called torches of revealing. In temples dedicated to Tharizdun they can reveal hidden objects which even see invisibility or a full tactile search won't reveal. The torch is powered by the cone shaped incense. The censer is called the black thurible; when used with the ball-shaped incense it can protect from guardians of altars. As for the purple robes, they are used to protect against the powerful cold from Tharizdun's unholy sites. In the Greater Temple, the cold is so intense that the usual spells that protect against cold are useless for some reason. The black and ochre robes do not have this ability, only the purple ones.

Question 3: Is that actually a sphere of annihilation, and what is it for?

Answer: Varachan never opened the glass door, but it serves for contemplation of entropy. It does kind of look like one, though Varachan never saw it in operation. He suggests leaving it alone.

Question 4: What kind of support do Hedrack and Naquent have? As in bodyguards, etc?

Answer: Hedrack and the sorcerers in charge of the lightning towers are in contact using devices called "contact medallions". He can always give an order to them if needed. He also enjoys creating undead and can be counted on to have a few around. Victor, the half-orc assassin, serves Hedrack as a bodyguard. Many of their support people are currently involved in the excavations going on in the lower levels of the Temple of Elemental Evil. Hedrack is often found in the Greater Temple.

Question 5: What was contained in the room with the big pit in it (where Arwan left the sphere of annihilation)?

Answer: The Temple's diviner, an illithid named Satau, lives at the bottom of the pit. It also has sorcerous powers, and is able to drain life somehow. It may not have been a good idea to leave the orb in that room.

Question 6: Any info about the greater temple and esp. the location of the Orb of Silvery Death.

Answer: The Greater Temple has two ports. The first part is called the Vestibule. It is always filled with darkness. Hedrack may have brought in help to protect the Temple. In the center of the Vestibule is a stone table holding an iron horn. Against the north wall of the Vestibule is a folding screen; behind it are three switches visible only in the light of a torch of revealing. The switches normally are all raised up. First, pull the leftmost switch down, then touch the horn with the Master Key; you can then use the horn. It takes much out of the person using the horn, though, and the person must be strong. If done correctly, a black column will rise from the floor. Do the same to the middle switch, and a second column will rise. Then, you can lower the rightmost switch and after sounding the horn the Purple Veil will form between the columns. This acts as a gateway, maybe to the presence of Tharizdun, maybe to some extradimensional place. What lies beyond is not known to me, but I have seen Hedrack go through it. When Hedrack returned, he always had a Black Thurible in hand, twirling it. That may be needed to return from the other side. I also was told the Orb of Oblivion and the Orb of Silvery Death lie beyond the Purple Veil, and I have heard that the Orb of Oblivion has been removed.

The horn is very loud, so expect something to arrive.

After you place the power gems into the Orb of Silvery Death, the entire thing can be destroyed. How this may be done is not known to me. The Orb of Golden Death was destroyed though, so perhaps the same method may be done. I would suggest finding out how it was done years ago. Did any of those other adventurers survive? Hopefully any survivors you find will know.

The Vestibule has two exits, besides the way in from the north. West are a series of walls generated by stone demons. Each demons will ask a question. Answering the questions will allow each person to go through a wall. Each person must answer for himself. The questions are not what they seem, and must be answered truthfully. If you wish, for some reason, to go to the Inner Fane I can give you the questions. After you go through the sixth wall, you will enter the Blasted Yard, which is patrolled by powerful wights and perhaps other things now, and then to the Inner Fane. There is a bridge across the lava pools on the Inner Fane's north side. Only someone with a Master Key can enter the Inner Fane and get past the door.

The south exit from the Vestibule is a wide hallway which leads to the Temple itself. Along the walls of the hallway are rails. Do not touch the railing. No one not wearing an obex symbol is able to retain their sanity in the Greater Temple. This is where Hedrack confirms the identity of a potential Champion. He is also able to go directly from the Greater Temple to the Inner Fane; how he does this is unknown to me. I wouldn't suggest going near the altar, since it may be warded against intruders. If it is the Black Thurible may help.

Question 7: What is this mechanical sparrow for and how does it work?

Answer: For spying. How the wizards use it isn't known to Varachan. He thinks Falrinth made them, but he's not sure.

Question 8: Who's Falrinth? I can't recall hearing that name before.

Answer: Falrinth is the powerful wizard Varachan said was involved with the excavation of the lower levels of the old Temple. He was a rival of Hedrack's.

Question 9: What does "filled with darkness" mean? Do we need magical light (presumably stronger than the continual light torches) to get through?

Answer: Magical darkness of various types

Question 10: And what does "expect something to arrive" (re: the horn) mean? Are we talking about nearby guards or big bad demon lords from the abyss?

Answer: The horn is loud so it may attract attention from whatever may be around. Could be guards, could be priests

Question 11: Also, what are the questions for getting to the Inner Fane?

Answer: The questions you will be asked by each stone-demon are:
Who? This is short for Who are you?
What? which is short for What do you bring before me? What is in your hands at the time.
Where? Where are you now?
Why? Why have you come here?
When? When shall I be free? When will Tharizdun be free?
Who? Who am I?

The answers must be truthful.

After finishing up with Varachan, the group decided to forge onward. Turning the corner of the main passageway, I spied six Ogres. I went up to them and asked where Hedrack was. They pointed across the room towards another door. I got between two of the Ogres and swung at the nearest one. Arwan threw a couple of fireballs, Eranilor loosed a couple of arrows and I went into a whirlwind attack. Before you could say “Return to the temple of elemental evil” ten times, all of the Ogres were dead.

Further along the hallway, we came to another side door. Opening the door brought us to a room full of the clones that Varachan mentioned along with one of the champions (the pregnant one). I tried to hit one of the clones with my sword but it just bounced off. Arwan started to look at using some magic to destroy the champion. All of a sudden, I got the distinct feeling that we should not be trying to harm these things but that instead that they really needed my protection. For some reason Arwan thought this was a good idea and surprisingly the group agreed. For a while I thought it was going to be ugly!

Continuing on, we soon came to a double door that led into a hexagonal room. I opened the door and I saw four arrowhawks diving towards me from the ceiling. I quickly backed up and the arrow hawks went up and out of sight. Tink, invisible as usual, went to the doorway and shot a couple of arrows at the birds. Joshua shambled up to the doorway (missing Tink I think) and cast a spell at one of the birds - the arrowhawk dropped out of the air blinded! Getting into the act, I cast searing light at the downed bird.

Meanwhile, Eranilor was doing some fancy shooting with his bow. Boy, was he fast - the arrows were flying through the air so rapidly that they looked like a blur. Of course, the arrowhawks were not just sitting idly by. They were spitting out bolts of energy at anyone who was moving. But in the end, we prevailed.

With a sense of urgency, since we knew that time was running out, we moved to one of the doors in the room. We found a bunch of refugees hiding in the room. I approached them, but must have scared the hell out of them (I forgot that I was wearing the black robes). Tink tried her hand at calming them down but with little success.

Unfortunately, we had to leave them and move on. I opened another door and saw four circles in the room. My immediate guess was that they had something to do with the four elements. Rather than waiting, I went into the room and, not to my surprise, four elementals appeared. It looks like we are in for another fight!

Edited by: shilsen at: 12/25/03 4:07 pm
Tolling Bell Cultist
(12/25/03 4:14 pm)
Even more fun in the Outer Fane
Entry 20 (Joshua):

We had only just left the poor slaves, since they were much too frightened to accompany us (or even believe that they were now free), when we realized that Brandon was nowhere to be seen. As usual, the impatient Kordite had rushed off down the nearest corridor and entered the nearest room. A chaotic nature is difficult to restrain, but is a little common sense too much to ask for? Moving to join him, we heard him give a yell, followed by the sounds of fighting. Apparently the room was guarded by four elementals, who had attacked the intruder. This is the first time we have seen elementals of different types (one of each kind) fighting together. However, even in combination their evil could not withstand us and they were soon destroyed. Brandon, though wounded, was as happy as ever about having been in a fight. He gleefully began to destroy four floor tiles, each bearing the sign of one elemental temple, which the creatures had supposedly appeared from.

Eranilor had remained outside the room to keep watch. Suddenly he shouted, “Hey, guys! Incoming!” and fired a volley of arrows down the corridor towards the door that led to the arrowhawk room. Immediately afterwards, he retreated into the room and said, “There’s a horned, reddish, winged, armored troll coming. Could be trouble.” And then he grinned and said, “By the way, I couldn’t hit it with a single shot, so I’d bet it has some magic up.” He was probably right, considering he now seems able to hit anything and everything, but I fail to see the humor in the situation. By this point we could all hear something big and armored coming down the corridor, and we prepared ourselves in our individual ways. Eranilor nocked an arrow, Arwan promptly turned himself invisible, and I prepared to cast a spell at the first sight of our foe. But what drew my attention was Brandon. He cast a spell I recognized as a Dispel Evil, surrounding himself with shimmering white energy, and ran around the corner to try to touch the foe with it! Complete and utter madness, I tell you! Moments later, we heard the sound of a violent blow and a grunt from Brandon. Realizing we could not wait for the enemy to come to us, we followed him, and caught sight of the creature, just as Eranilor had described, looming over Brandon. Tink ran out and broke into a strange dance, leaping about, gesturing crudely and shouting a string of insults. Apparently this was designed to enrage the creature, and worked perfectly, since it gave a roar and belched a gout of flame over both Brandon and Tink. Luckily for our Kordite, he had protected himself against heat earlier, and Tink simply leaped and tumbled her way out of the way, emerging unharmed. Seeing them unaffected, the maddened creature rushed at Tink, and barely missed her with a hand full of claws the size of her head! Seizing the opportunity, I cast a dispel magic on it, presumably affecting some of its enchantments, and a volley of magic missiles hit it as Arwan appeared behind me. Brandon moved to flank it between him and Tink and swung at it to no avail, but as usual, Tink ripped into it a couple of times with her dagger. It is truly amazing what damage she can do with that tiny weapon! As the creature staggered from the multiple blows, an arrow from our archer sunk into its body, and another pierced its head, sending it down in a heap. St. Cuthbert had smiled on us again.

But the enemy was not wholly vanquished. Seeing that the creature was regenerating, we attacked it with fire and acid, but found it to be completely resistant to both. Arwan said that its draconic nature (we believe it to be Krall, the "brother" of Chymon, the dragon Arwan destroyed) was probably the cause. Then we spent some time hacking off substantial parts of the body, but the larger piece would always keep regenerating. Tink even removed the heart and gave it to Arwan (why encourage him further in his fascination with evisceration?). Finally we reduced it to a small piece and flung that into Tink's portable hole, hoping that it would suffocate in there (I can definitely vouch for the fact that it does not contain much air!). Brandon wanted to continue onwards, but everyone else agreed that we should return to Varachan. I was glad sanity prevailed, since I would not like to meet this guy Hedrack without suitable preparation. Apparently he is strong in the favor of his evil deity, and will probably pose a serious challenge, unlike much of what we have faced here in recent days. As we traveled back towards Varachan's chamber, I prepared myself to explain to him exactly why he should turn to the worship of the Lord of the Cudgel. There are few things sadder than a fallen cleric, and even though Varachan's motives are apparently noble, what if his situation drove him to recant again? He would be safer within the folds of a righteous and strong faith, and what better than St. Cuthbert's?

My plans for conversion were not to come to fruition. As we neared Varachan's room, I was horrified to see blood and entrails strewn across the corridor outside it. Apparently Krall had killed (or, to be precise, brutally dismembered into little fragments) Varachan before coming after us. The inside of Varachan's room was even worse. Tink appeared to be on the verge of vomiting, but as usual, the others seemed less affected. Arwan's eyes positively lit up at the sight, and Eranilor seems inured to just about anything. Brandon too seems unaffected by such sights. Perhaps it is simply our time here that makes us so, since I noticed that I was much less revolted than I would have been when I first saw such things in the mines. If we survive this place and thwart the cult, I will have to return to a monastery somewhere and cleanse myself of this taint. Perhaps I could even re-establish the temple in Verbobonc. Bishop Heufran would have liked that...

Anyway, there was no time for such musing. Near Varachan's room was another one we had passed by, and we investigated it, finding it to be a bedchamber with human skulls and an obsidian statue of a demon in it. We found some useful items in there and took them, before trying to work out how to return to the dwarven temple. Brandon, in the meanwhile, had shown us that the wounds from Krall's claws, and it was obvious that they were like the ones we had suffered before (what the priests in Verbobonc called "vile" damage), which could not be cured except in a consecrated area. A teleportation from Arwan failed to work, and we were forced to return on foot to the dragon's room and then across the bridge. We saw nobody on the way, other than the strange cook. A conversation with him revealed that Arwan's old master (called Merik) had been at the Temple recently, talking with Hedrack. Arwan seemed unusually affected by the news, uncharacteristically sharing a fair amount of information about his master. It is difficult to say whether a communicative Arwan is even more unnerving than his normal nature or not. Continuing to the bridge, we found it completely dark outside (in the late afternoon!) and had to move on carefully. Then we discovered that someone (presumably those large bugs and their riders) had ripped a hundred-foot long hole in the floor of the bridge. Brandon used an air walk spell to ferry us across one by one. Arwan dispelled my giant form in order to make this possible, and I must say I was relieved.

Apparently the guard complex had not been re-established (bodies and weapons lay wherever we had left them), and we hurried through it and returned to the temple. Brandon, Eranilor and I cleaned the altar area so that I could later consecrate it. Arwan and Tink, meanwhile, had an argument when he discovered that she had found a book on planar travel written by Kimer (a pseudonym for Merik, who had apparently written it) and wanted her to give it to him. Tink obviously took great pleasure in having him need something from her and finally agreed to let him borrow it if he promised to return it in three days and reveal whatever he found within (and be nicer to her - which I do NOT think is likely to happen!). Arwan hurriedly began to leaf through it and seemed unnaturally perturbed (strange, since nothing other than a little mayhem normally draws a reaction from him), and explained that it had certain messages using codes which only he knew. They apparently indicated that Merik was definitely in contact with the Temple, but in exactly what capacity was not clear. We also divided up the magical items we had found. I replaced my magical shield with one that protects against missiles, and also took a potion of haste, which might become indispensable in a battle where multiple spells are speedily needed. Tink, who has not benefited much from our discoveries, took a potion of fly and also a headband like Arwan's, which makes her more intelligent. Eranilor had apparently wanted it, but thought she might as well benefit from it, and satisfied himself with a protective amulet. Arwan and Brandon took some other items. While we were doing this, we heard the booming of bells again, which Varachan had said signals the arrival of another Champion at the Temple. He had said that the group searching for the mage Jallarzi (who had, strangely enough, set Eranilor to join us) would return around this time, so perhaps it was them. Even though we were somewhat unnerved at the sound, now that we know what it is, there was nothing we could do about it at that moment.

I had been thinking for some time about Brandon's impetuosity and the danger it had been leading us into, with him often unnecessarily starting battles, and sometimes even abandoning us when he felt endangered. Since discussion never seemed to have any effect, I decided to take a more physical approach (which is the only type he seems to understand!). I went up to him and asked him how they settled disputes among Kordites, and unsurprisingly, he said they did it through games of chance or combat. So I explained my issues with his conduct and challenged him to a duel. He was surprised for a moment, but quickly agreed, as I had expected he would. We agreed that it would be a purely physical duel, with no spells being cast. If I won, he would agree to stay with the group and not leave without my permission, from now on. And if I lost, I would not complain about him rushing off, but would accompany him and aid him wherever he decided to go. Eranilor was highly amused at our impending fight, and Tink excitedly decided to be the referee. Arwan simply looked, smirked at us, and went back to his book. Having seen Brandon in combat many times, and knowing the strength of my deity, I knew there was no chance of him defeating me. The duel began, and we speedily discovered that I had the upper hand. Expecting to be the superior warrior, Brandon panicked and used his boots to haste himself, and then turned them off when Tink yelled and screamed at him for cheating. I kept fighting, ignoring the act and the rare blow that got through, and soon knocked him unconscious. I healed him to consciousness and reminded him of his promise. Brandon tried to take it with a good grace, but it was obvious that his pride was badly dented. I was tempted to remind him (but refrained) that since it was late in the day, I had already drawn upon St. Cuthbert's favor in my earlier battles during the day, so I was weaker than I would normally have been. Now to see whether this has any effect on Brandon's actions. As long as it keeps both him and us alive longer, then I have no regrets.

Nothing more occurred during the night, and the next morning I re-consecrated the temple and healed Brandon. The others were also ready, and we prepared to leave, although not before both Arwan and I felt that we were being watched. It was not someone scrying on us, since we would have detected the sensor, but some other kind of vision. Tink made a silly comment, saying "Hey, what's common to Arwan and Joshua?" As if we could have any similarities! Unable to do anything about it, we decided to simply leave for the Outer Fane. Or tried to, since Arwan's teleport fizzled just as it had the day before. So eventually we returned as we had the day before, walking (and then air walking) across the bridge. It was still as dark as ever out there, and there was no sign of life. We returned to the Fane without trouble and proceeded up towards the room where we had fought Krall. On the way, we met the cook again, who happily informed us about more events he had heard of, including a capture of some territory in Celene by the orcs of the Pomarj. Eranilor seemed interested in that and seemed to know something about the Pomarj. He mentioned that he had fought them before, and when we were leaving I heard him tell Arwan, "Told you we should have gone to Enstaad." I gather he has family there, but he did not show any concern about it. I wonder if all elves are as stoical as our two companions, or adept at concealing their feelings, if that be the case.

Leaving the cook behind (to both my, and apparently Tink's, relief), we proceeded onwards till we reached the last room we had seen. Tink went off to scout out the two corridors leading away from it. Brandon made some sarcastic comment about not being able to go on since I had not asked him to do so, but at least he refrained from rushing off after her as usual. Tink returned to say both corridors we empty, so we took the left one and came to a closed door. Brandon, back in hill giant form (as was I) thanks to Arwan, entered and we heard him bellow to someone, "I found Varachan. He's been ripped apart!" A voice answered him and he emerged to say that the room was occupied by a hag, a number of strange bug-like humanoids, a huge armored eyeless bulldog (wha-?!) and a blue-skinned giant, who had asked him to wait until he joined us. While we discussed what to do, Brandon said that a voice in his head, sounding like the blue giant, was asking us not to attack. We waited, and were soon joined by the group (sans the hag). Moving to the next room, a discussion ensued. It turned out that the giant was a Mercane, an extraplanar merchant, and the others were his bodyguards. He had been dealing with the Temple, but was now concerned that they would succeed and destroy not just this reality, but various other planes of existence. He gave us some information about the hag Daagra (the guard of a magical prison), and promised to help us later by trading magical items with us. Then all of the group teleported away.

We returned to the room to find Daagra gone, but a naked elven female was there in her stead. Brandon seemed quite taken with her (what a surprise!). She turned out to be a captured paladin of Heironeus (obviously the Heironeans have been singularly ineffectual here) named Vister, and helped us in releasing two more captives. One was a halfling who had been tortured and had one arm replaced by a tentacle resembling what the Fire Temple priestess had. The other was an azer, who promptly threw himself at Brandon, mistaking him for a member of the Temple, and was knocked out for his pains. Vister began yelling at us, and made the mistake of saying, "How can you be an elf and let this happen?" to Eranilor, who had just given her a spare set of clothing. He looked at her expressionlessly for a moment, then coldly said "What has that got to do with anything?" and turned his back on her. I know he claims that he is elven where he chooses to be, so I am not surprised at his reaction, but she was taken aback and calmed down. While we revived the azer, we explained that we were on far too important a mission to be able to help them out of the Temple. Since it was patently too dangerous for them to accompany us, we decided to arm the three and hope that they could find their way across the bridge safely. Luckily there was a storeroom nearby, and we managed to find more than enough appropriate equipment for them. Somehow I do not expect we shall see the three alive again.

Tolling Bell Cultist
(12/31/03 3:14 am)
Luck runs out...or one blunder too many
Journal 21 (Eranilor):

...after finding equipment for the prisoners we’d freed, we described the way out of the place, and bid them goodbye. At that point I wouldn’t have bet a copper piece on their chances, but it isn’t like we had time on hand to go escorting a bunch of refugees around (or that we could transport them anywhere outside the mines, with Arwan’s teleport spells regularly going on the blink). Vister, the paladin, gave me a dirty look when she left. Probably still pissed about me shrugging off her oh-so-eloquent call to elven solidarity. Could have tried to mess with her world-view, I suppose, but I didn’t have the leisure (or the inclination, to be honest) to explain to her that there might be a couple of sentient creatures which don’t define themselves by what or where they are born. Maybe next time.

After the three of them left, with me still wondering what would happen if the azer fell in the lake (puff of steam, I suppose?), we checked out a small room we’d found, containing a sunken sleeping area with pillows and blankets. There was no sign of what kind of creature had inhabited it, but the chests in the room contained a number of humanoid clothes for both sexes, as well as some minor magic items and some jewelry (which I handed to Tink, to her great delight). Continuing down the corridor, we found our only way forward leading into a room with a glass circle on the floor (revealing only darkness below it). On the glass was a pentagram in red, and I figured that that couldn’t be too good for us. Turned out to be right, since (as soon as I stepped in) a bunch of black, writhing tentacles instantly rose out of the glass. They looked similar to the ones that mage Nelbor (we think) had conjured against us during the battle at the Air Temple, seemingly made up of some kind of energy, rather than having actual physical form. Or so I noticed from the outside, since I'd hurriedly tumbled back out as soon as they appeared (with characteristic grace and style, of course!). Arwan immediately stepped up and dispelled the tentacles. Our unfriendly neighborhood necromancer is definitely getting better at what he does.

I was about to check the area inside the door in case it was trapped, but Tink (who’d moved up near us and been hopping up and down in excitement at the sight of the tentacles) promptly stepped into the room! Immunity to fear is one thing, but that's a bit much! She'd taken a few steps in when the tentacles reappeared and lashed out, half a dozen of them successfully seizing her. Luckily, with a combination of her size, agility and magical armor, she managed to slip out without being badly hurt. Brandon, who’d actually been behaving as promised since that duel with Joshua, now moved up and started mowing the tentacles down (which disappeared as soon as severed). I thought it was unlikely that arrows would help against something like this, but tried anyway (firing very carefully past Arwan and Brandon, and grinning inwardly at the thought of a miss!) and found that they were just as susceptible as bebiliths and ugly guys in full plate armor. In short order, they were all destroyed.

The room had two doors, and Tink and Brandon checked each one out, while Joshua stood ready over the glass in case the tentacles reappeared. Sure enough, they soon did, and we went back to tentacular extermination for a couple of moments, before Brandon smartly smashed the glass and they dissipated instantly. Tink had discovered a corridor beyond one door, but the other led to a room with a corpse hanging from a pair of chains, so naturally we chose the dead guy. While leaving the pentagram room, we noticed that the glass had silently reformed behind us. Now if we could only find a similar repair service! The corpse wore the ceremonial armor of Prince Thrommel (according to Arwan), but seemed incredibly decayed. Considering that he'd been abducted only two months ago, and that the late lamented and eviscerated Varachan had told us that he was being held and tortured here only days ago, it was probably not him. Still, we decided to take the body along, just in case. The chains appeared to be similar to those we had seen on that little demon Tink had befriended in the arena, so I checked them carefully before opening them. Arwan was also checking out the body (surprise!), while Joshua was healing Tink of her injuries. This proved to be the last straw (and how!) for Brandon, who complained a bit about the delay, and then promptly opened a door in the far wall and headed down the corridor beyond it. He called back something about having found a stone fountain (probably letting everyone in the complex know, due to his now truly giant voice). As usual, we ignored him for the time being. Tink opened the portable hole while I unlocked the chains, and we lowered the corpse into it. At that moment, we heard Brandon give a tremendous yell (apparently in pain), and then fall silent, except for the sound of his sword clattering on the floor.

"@#%$! He's got himself into trouble again," I swore, and rushed through the door while unslinging my bow. I emerged at the north end of a corridor, which ended to the south in a large room, containing some type of stone basin, with another large corridor exiting to the east. Didn't have time to consider the decor, however, since next to the basin stood Brandon, with the same glazed expression that I'd seen on the victims of Joshua's sound burst spells. His sword lay on the floor beside him, and blood streamed from a series of wounds that covered him. He was looking down the corridor towards the east with a surprised (and under different circumstances, amusing) look on his face. Obviously he'd gone blundering into the room as usual, and been attacked by someone down the corridor. I nocked an arrow and was moving forward carefully, wondering whether to risk stepping around the corner, when another yell distracted me.

"Undead!" It was Joshua. Spinning around, I looked back into the room I'd just left and saw a villainous-looking figure dressed in spiky-looking plate armor facing Joshua. I was to learn later that as I'd exited the room, a cloud of vapor had emerged from the floor and coalesced into him. Considering the manner of appearance and the sharp incisors I saw jutting out of the mouth, I presume it was a vampire. Even as I swung around, Joshua cast a spell and a searing light sprang from his palm to burn into the creature's flesh, obviously hurting it badly, as evinced by its snarl. Barely an instant later, Tink appeared beside it (she had used her wand of invisibility), slashing bravely into it with her dagger. The vampire staggered back under the multiple assault, and I took the opportunity to put a couple of arrows into it, sending it back into its gaseous form, which seeped back into cracks in the floor and walls. I wondered idly for an instant what would have happened if we'd been able to capture part of the vapor, in Tink's portable hole, for example. Could we then end up with a partly handicapped vampire, missing an arm and a leg when it reformed? Still, despite the defeat of the first obvious foe we'd seen, there was no time for idle speculation.

During the flurry of activity, I'd heard someone invisibly exit the room and move down the corridor past me, towards Brandon. I presumed it was Arwan, since Tink was next to the now rapidly-disappearing cloud (and would have been way more difficult to hear), and wondered what else he had in his bag of tricks. After his single-handed defeat of that dragon, I was prepared for just about anything, but unfortunately, so were our enemies. As I turned back down the corridor and Tink and Joshua hurried (well, okay - Tink hurried and Joshua staggered) to join me, we heard a terrible shriek. It was Arwan, and it sounded as if he'd just met the most terrifying thing in the world (was there a paladin with a cat out there?). Considering that I'd pick Arwan as by far the most stoic person in the party besides myself, it must have been incredibly frightening. The shriek cut off suddenly, and was followed by the sound of a body hitting the floor (I could make out that it was right next to the still-immobile Brandon). As the other two emerged from the room, I explained what I thought had happened. For the moment we were at a stalemate. Nobody was attacking us immediately, but we couldn't see down the corridor, where our enemies were presumably waiting (though strangely I'd heard nothing from them, not even a word of spellcasting when Arwan was affected).

Joshua moved up beside me to cast a dispel evil and use it, with his giant reach, to touch and heal Brandon. The Kordite promptly ran up the corridor past me, without even pausing to pick up his sword (either he was hasted by his boots or just in a real hurry to get away). He gasped, "There are a couple of big armored clerics at the end of the corridor", and proceeded to heal himself with help from Joshua. As soon as Brandon was sufficiently healed, Joshua returned to Tink and me, still waiting for someone to appear around the corner, and whispered that he was about to try something. Brandon, meanwhile, had moved into the room with the corpse and was casting a couple of spells. Joshua pulled out something from his pocket, and then hurled it at an angle around the corner, so that it struck the far wall and bounced down the corridor. As it left his hand, a wave of darkness enveloped us, and then moved with the object to the corridor in front of us, stopping literally inches from my face. Joshua himself was enveloped, with only his butt (really!) sticking out of it next to me. Apparently he'd previously cast a spell of deeper darkness on a coin and kept it for just such an emergency, although he hadn't managed to get it as far down the corridor as he'd wanted. Clever child! Joshua stepped back to quaff a potion, while Brandon suddenly appeared behind us and stepped into the darkness. He made no sound, and as he passed us everything was momentarily silent. Presumably he'd cast a spell of silence on something and hoped to use it against the enemy spellcasters. Unfortunately, we were never to find out what he intended to do.

As he entered the darkness, there was a moment of inrushing air, as occurs near a magical explosion (as we've all learned at some time or the other), and the silence disappeared. But I couldn't hear Brandon at all, whose location I should normally have been able to pinpoint by hearing alone. Realizing something was wrong with Brandon (again!), Joshua (now hasted) stepped forward into the darkness and around the corner, and cast a spell. Instantly the darkness disappeared, and where Brandon had been, I saw - nothing! There was only his sword still lying where it had fallen, and a wisp of smoke. He had been totally and utterly destroyed! Even as I rushed around the corner after Joshua, I couldn't help thinking, "I knew running around corners would kill him!" Joshua stood just around the corner, with one hand raised in preparation for spellcasting. At the far end of the corridor, some sixty feet away, stood the two clerics our late companion had mentioned, one (male, presumably Hedrack) towering ten feet tall under the influence of some spell, while his female companion (Naquent?) aimed a wand at us. There were openings to north and south halfway down the corridor. I heard Tink behind me pulling Arwan's still-invisible body back around the corner, and wondered if he was still alive, or if these clerics had managed to kill two of our party without suffering a single wound in turn. And now it was just Joshua and me facing them (Tink was busy with Arwan, and her skills aren't effective at long range). For a moment there, I thought we were going to end up joining Brandon and Arwan in the afterlife (okay, maybe not, since I doubt any of us would end up where Arwan will!).

But I needn't have worried, since Joshua had apparently decided to show just what a worshipper of St. Cuthbert can do. As Hedrack began to cast a spell (for some reason, I could hear him perfectly now), Joshua calmly dropped a spell of silence around him, disrupting it. I hit the woman with an arrow, but she triggered her wand anyway (to no effect that I could see). Joshua calmly dropped a flame strike on the pair, apparently burning only the woman, and then moved down the corridor. A couple of arrows from me bounced off Hedrack's armor, but I wounded Naquent again. Just as Joshua reached the midpoint of the corridor, a figure appeared on either side of him, striking at him with rapiers. One was a half-orc, presumably the assassin Victor we had heard of, and the other was a human woman. Luckily Joshua's enchanted armor resisted their weapons, and he calmly cast another spell, disrupting our enemies again. I've never seen the fat boy this effective! Maybe the possibility of immediate death does that for us, since I was also shooting better than I've been in a while. Moments after Joshua completed his spell, three arrows sank fletching-deep into his female assailant's throat, sending her down and dying. This gave me a clear shot at Naquent, who'd made the mistake of again trying to use her wand instead of taking cover, and an arrow through the left eye put her out of our misery. Seeing his ally and one of the bodyguards down, Hedrack promptly turned and ran. So much for evil clerics! The half-orc vainly tried to continue his fight against Joshua, but Tink had joined the fight by this point, and between giant and kender he was dead in moments.

I advanced to Naquent's body and checked carefully around the corner, but Hedrack was gone. Continuing after him would have been foolhardy in the extreme, so we quickly retreated, stopping only to grab a number of magical items from the two dead warriors. Joshua suggested that we take Naquent's body along to try to get some information (we're interrogating corpses now!), and we did so. Arwan (still invisible and - according to Tink - definitely dead) joined her in the portable hole. And then we headed back as quickly as possible to the bridge, across it, and back to the dwarven temple. On the way, we found the bodies of the prisoners we'd so lately released. Guess I was right about their chances. Considering what had just occurred, we didn't stop for long - just enough to notice that the bodies seemed to have been drained in some way (Satau?).

Back at the temple, both Joshua and Tink were extremely subdued, and neither took to my jokes about death, which were admittedly in very poor taste (but aren't those the best kind?). It always amuses me that sentient creatures, knowing how inevitable death is, are still shocked when it affects someone they know personally. And especially so in our profession and circumstances! Arwan's body was visible now, revealing that he had apparently died of fright, with an absolutely terrified look on his face. Guess he who lives by magic will die by magic. We discussed trying to raise him from the dead, but in view of what we'd seen and heard about the problems in that area, we decided not to. Tink and Joshua's personal feelings towards Arwan probably had some influence on their opinions, but I didn't push the matter. Alas, poor crazy power-mad necromancer - I knew him, Horatio! During the night, we were rejoined by the mercane Erphonaeus and ended up bartering for a number of magical items with him. Apparently he will deliver them to us in two days. He also provided us a lot of information about the "upcoming cataclysm" being local to Oerth and not affecting other planes, as had originally been feared. Also mentioned that there are apparently demons loose in the Flanaess and the tarrasque rampaging to the east (?!). Lastly, he's sending a team of people into the Fanes after Hedrack. Hope they have better luck than us! Other than that, the night was peaceful (I wonder if both Brandon and Arwan being dead had something to do with it).

The next day, Joshua tried magically interrogating the corpses of Naquent and the pseudo-Thrommel. The first resisted his magic, and the latter provided no really useful information, revealing only that he had been killed in the tavern at Rastor two months ago. Afterwards, Joshua transported us back to his old home in the temple of St. Cuthbert at Verbobonc. There, we found the same chaos as before, if not worse. The Silver Consortium was shut up and the wizards apparently refused to meet anyone. After Joshua had spoken to the others at the temple of Cuthbert and arranged for Arwan to be given a proper burial (ironic, since I'd always thought he might end up burying us instead), we traveled to the city's temple of Moradin, where we gave the treasure (from the dwarven temple in the mines) to a high priest and told him of our discoveries. In thanks for our deed and information and in response to our plea for help, he provided us with a few magical items, and more importantly, a couple of companions to replace those we had lost. One was a dwarven battle-priest, looking like a walking wall of iron, nearly as wide as he is tall and wielding a mighty war-axe. Extremely impressive in all aspects, except for his name - Ripple! What kind of dwarven name is that? The other was a personal friend of Ripple's, a monk called Zane who fights without weapons. I just hope he is as tough as he looks, with his much-broken nose and scarred fists. We joined these two for a meal and told them about our discoveries and adventures. When we were about to leave, the dwarven high priest indicated that he had something important to tell us...

New characters:

A dwarven warpriest, Ripple uses his spellcasting abilities primarily to augment his formidable combat abilities, allowing him to take up a position in the front lines and face his enemies in hand-to-hand combat. He takes a fairly simple approach to warfare, believing in ending conflict by hitting the other guy over the head (and soaking up any damage he can deal out) until he eventually gives up or collapses.

Zane: A refugee from the far West, Zane uses his unusual abilities to aid the party in a battle against a force that he does not truly understand. Knowing that he is fighting evil is all the motivation he needs. Taciturn and self-reliant, he uses speed and mobility in battle, dashing around at amazing speeds and striking quickly and often, while relying on strength of body, agility and will to resist whatever his foes may throw at him.

Brother of Venom
(12/31/03 7:00 am)
Re: Luck runs out...or one blunder too many
Oh no! Arwan, buddy! :x

Hedrack's a tough nut when fully buffed. A blade barrier behind Joshua would have changed the outcome dramatically. Is that the spell that was disrupted?

Tolling Bell Cultist
(12/31/03 11:58 am)
Oh, man! Things are going to be pretty boring without Arwan around. Sigh...A boring fighter/priest to take his place.

Tolling Bell Cultist
(1/1/04 5:09 pm)
Re: Luck runs out...or one blunder too many
Oh no! Arwan, buddy!

Hedrack's a tough nut when fully buffed. A blade barrier behind Joshua would have changed the outcome dramatically. Is that the spell that was disrupted?

No idea. Actually when the original group was created we thought they were too weak on clerical spellcasting and I decided to run Eranilor as my primary character and Joshua as a secondary one. Plus it was a fun challenge to run two LN characters and make them completely different from each other. There's nothing like arguing with yourself in character :D At this point in the fight Tink wasn't much help and so I was running two PCs and trying to keep the party alive, so I didn't even bother to check what Joshua disrupted. I'm not doing that two character thing again. Too much to keep track of, esp. in situations like this. On the other hand, we'd never have made it sans Joshua.

Tolling Bell Cultist
(1/1/04 5:18 pm)
Oh, man! Things are going to be pretty boring without Arwan around. Sigh...A boring fighter/priest to take his place.

Heh! Looks like Arwan is the crowd favorite here. I've got to admit he made life interesting. Arwan's player (who's a damn good roleplayer, BTW) really enjoys playing PCs who are somewhat anti-party, and that can sometimes be fun (but not always). If it wasn't for the whole "we have to save the world" scenario, I don't think Arwan would have lasted too long with us, and he came close to breaking up the group (in-game, not out of it) a few times. Eranilor was the only one who was never really bothered a bit by Arwan's behaviour. He told Arwan very early on that as long as he never attacked a group member, he could do what he wanted. But if he did, either Arwan or Eran would not be walking away. Of course, Arwan got around that restriction on his behaviour by being mentally controlled - twice :eek

As for the fighter/priest, that was Brandon's player's next PC. He just loves big guys who run at things and hit them with sharp metal objects. The cleric bit was purely because he found out what Persistent Spell did in 3.0 :p

Tolling Bell Cultist
(1/4/04 7:55 pm)
Once more into the breach
Journal 22 (Zane):

Eranilor - Elf Rgr5/Rog6/Deepwood Sniper2
Joshua - Human Clr12 (St. Cuthbert)
Ripple - Dwarf Clr7/Warpriest6 (Moradin) (replacement for Brandon)
Tink - Kender Ftr2/Rog10
Zane - Human Mnk13 (replacement for Arwan)

As Master Po used to say, “If one journeys without a destination, trouble is your guide.” When my wanderings brought me to this strange land of cooked fish and unwashed barbarians I sought only sanctuary and a place to train. Instead, I’ve found myself drawn into a battle with chaos-worshipping death-seekers whose plots threaten to destroy the world. And I thought ninjas were annoying.

I found shelter with the dwarven clerics of Klang-uh-den (one of the heretic gods who have no place in the Celestial Hierarchy but are nonetheless harmless) in the city of Ver-buh-bonk. This was where I met the wanderers who raided the temple of the death-seekers (worshippers of “evil elementals” though I don’t understand how the mountains, winds, or seas can be evil). There is an elf (similar to but not as magical as the spirit-folk) named Ear-an-uh-lor, a kin-dur (like halflings but taller and louder) named Teenk, and a human priest (from his girth I judge him to be of a wealthy merchant clan) named Josh-oo-wah.

As we ate a strange meal consisting of food grown without sunlight (mushrooms and such), the wanderers and the dwarven priests discussed the temple of the death-seekers and the ramifications of their actions. The strange behavior of fire (even the flames of the cooking-stove) lent veracity to their words. They mentioned the Silver Consortium, Mercanes, and many other things I have no knowledge of, so I soon stopped following the conversation. As Master Po used to say, “Some say much with a few words and some say little with many words.”

I did find a conversation involving Teenk and Ripple (a dwarf-priest of Mor-uh-den, the emperor of the dwarven gods) interesting. They discussed the concept of “war-priest”. Ripple contended that the way to peace was through war because that was the most efficient way to eliminate one’s enemies, thus ending hostilities. Perhaps I read too much into Teenk’s response, but I think she meant to imply that this mentality leads to a self-perpetuating cycle of violence that undermines its intended goal. The only knowledge I have of war is what Master Po used to say: “War is evil, but even evil has its place.”

In time agents of the Silver Consortium (users of magic both similar to and different from the wu-jen of my land, called wizz-urds here) arrived. Among them was one called Hillman (whether that was his name, title, or clan I do not know) who belonged to a guild that specializes in “transportation magic”. It was suggested that he transport dwarven priests to the temple of the death-seekers where they could pray for a renewal of their ability to perform miracles. This led to an argument or “priorities” involving Ear-an-uh-lor, Josh-oo-wah, and the dwarven priests and wizz-urds of the Silver Consortium. As Master Po used to say, “There are no priorities but the priority of doing as one will.”

Ripple and I were asked to join the wanderers, who numbers had been depleted days before in a battle with Head-rack, a powerful death-seeker priest, and agreed. First we traveled to a temple of St. Cuthbert (a saint is a holy man, yet Cuthbert is also worshipped as a god), the deity of Josh-oo-wah, to make arrangements for the body of one of their former companions. Though he died fighting at their side they spoke most disrespectfully of him and I must admit I was not impressed. As Master Po used to say, “The words used to describe a man tell more about the speaker than the man himself.”

At some point a blue-skinned man appeared. He was a Mercane, one of an entire race of natural-born merchants. He’d had earlier dealings with the wanderers and had even sent a team of warriors to slay the great priest of the death-seekers. He informed us of the team’s failure, and of how this world would be “sealed off” to prevent the on-going chaos from having any further effects on the other worlds and dimensions contiguous to our own. Most importantly, he revealed that assassins in the service of Head-rack were in the city, including ninjas!!! These revelations turned out to be quite prophetic.

As we left for the Wayfarer’s Guild (the magical transporters), arrows that seemed to exude cold descended from the sunless sky and struck Josh-oo-wa. As the others took cover, I ran in the direction the assassin’s arrow came from. Another flew through the air and struck Josh-oo-wa, while Ear-an-uh-lor responded with arrows of his own. At that point I reached the building, raced up the stairs, and burst out onto the roof where the assassin promptly shot me twice. After failing to knock the assassin off the roof, I retreated and searched Master Po’s words of wisdom for some appropriate advice. The priest Josh-oo-wa caused flames to erupt upon the roof, so perhaps the retreat itself was the wisest course of action.

Sometimes precaution is the better part of valor. As I activated the magic of my boots and drank a potion of protection several things happened. Ripple appeared and attacked the assassin with his war-axe, revealing it to be a skeletal abomination, one of the restless dead (called the undead in this land)! Teenk and Ear-an-uh-lor struck it with several arrows, and I rushed in to face it man to abomination. Disappointment. One blow and it tumbled off the roof. I jumped after it only to find a pile of rags and lifeless bones.

The others examined the assassin’s remains and discovered it carried several magical items and weapons of great quality. Later at the Wayfarers’ Guild, Hillman declared the assassin to be a skilled archer of local renown whose death left his wife and children without support. Teenk wished to give the assassin’s items to his family, while Ripple declared at least part of it should be donated to Mor-uh-den. Is the god of dwarves really so needy that he needs the coins of mortals to survive?

Hillman transported us to Rass-ter, a town close to the temple of the evil elementals, and gave us a letter to deliver to his daughter, a priestess of We-Jass (a goddess of death who opposes the undead). Ripple inquired as to the attractiveness of Hillman’s daughter, which struck me as odd. I had assumed dwarves preferred their women short and hairy. Rather than answering, Hillman initiated the travel-magic of his guild. We experienced a sense of time and awareness of surroundings I was told is not typical of tele-transportation, which is usually instantaneous. We sought out the ruined dwarven holy place hidden away in the temple of the evil elementals. Ripple was distressed by its desecration but was grateful for the return of his god-granted ability to perform miracles.

This was not enough to protect the dwarf from the power of Head-rack, the great priest of the evil elementals. Through a ring confiscated from the skeletal assassin Head-rack was able to reach into Ripple’s mind and demand his allegiance. Every time he refused, Head-rack caused him great injury by some means not visible to the eye. The ring could not be removed, so the finger that wore it had to be removed instead. Ripple was oddly unperturbed by the loss of his finger, though “lose the finger to save the hand” is a concept common to many cultures (but not always so literally).

Teenk used a wand of magical seeing to check for hazards as we searched for entrance into the Outer Fane through one of the four great doors. Beyond the Air Door was an octagonal room filled with debris. As we approached the Earth Door Ear-an-uh-lor informed Ripple and me that each of the previous doors had a guardian and the area beyond the Earth Door was the only one the wanderers hadn’t yet explored. Teenk’s wand revealed only rubble, and so Ear-an-uh-lor used a “greater elemental key” (four lesser keys merged together) to gain entrance for us. The walls within depicted scenes of dragons (clumsy, bloated monsters far different from the regal celestial creatures of my homeland) and other monsters erupting from the earth.

The room was quiet and empty save for a large pile of rubble. As Ripple and Ear-an-uh-lor entered, a large creature of earth and stone (an elemental?) erupted from the rubble, growing ever larger as it devoured the debris around it...

Tolling Bell Cultist
(1/8/04 2:21 pm)
Another casualty...or not?
Journal 23 (Tink):

In the name of all that is kender! That has got to be the biggest thing I have ever seen! Here, this thing finishes forming from the pile of rubble in the corner, separating Eranilor and Ripple from the rest of us. Thinking to myself, “This won’t be the first time my dagger has had to stab at an ankle, but it sure is the biggest!” (hmmm, does it actually have an ankle, or is it a cancle? You know, where the calf meets the foot, with no actual ankle there. My Aunt had cankles, now that I think of it, she may not even had a calf, it could have been two big thighs on feet.) Oh, so anyway, I turn myself invisible and head in past Joshua and Zane, but before I could even blink, Eranilor opens fire and Ripple hits ole stony face with a great column of fire. I think that I may have seen a blur that was Zane run past me also. So I drink a potion to shield myself from those gigantic fists, and activate my new boots of speed and move into the fray. But the fight was over before it really started! Before I even had a chance to give it the what’s what, Eranilor let lose another volley of arrows, Zane pimp slapped it a few times, and Joshua moved in and with the aid of his god, struck the final blow. What a waste of preparation!

So we head down a hall and Eranilor finds a secret door. It took both him and Ripple to open it. We found another corridor behind it. So I scout ahead checking for traps and come to a room with a door on the opposite side. I was about to start into t he room, when my kender senses start tingling, so I call the rest of the group up and suggest that Eranilor check the room for traps. I just did not like the feel of it. Well, luckily Eranilor is one of the few who actually listen to the kender because sure enough the room was trapped and what a doozie of a trap it was! The trap was set off it would seem by pressure on the floor. Ripple threw a large chunk of rock into the room and the wall to the right came smashing across and what seemed to be tiny blades of some sort left the rock looking like pebbles. Eranilor found the secret panel hiding a switch to deactivate the trap, and he set off to the door across the room, finding a hallway behind it. I was going to head off behind to just to be sure he didn’t get himself into any trouble, but before I had a chance to, Ripple went off back the way we came to join Joshua and Zane. Not wanting to leave the area unwatched, I stayed put and waited for Eranilor to return. What he found was a passage to another part of the temple, which is good to keep in mind should we have need of another escape route.

We find our way to a chamber with a statue of a weeping man flanked by benches. Inside the room were two doors, one with a peephole. I lifted Eranilor to look through the peephole and see if he could spot anything. What he found was a bedchamber containing two beds with a basin of water between them, a purple rug (I liked the rug), a chest of drawers, and a couple of curved daggers hanging on the wall. A locked drawer in the chest gave us a couple of various items. One in particular was some soap that I thought I wanted, until I actually touched. It just felt, well, wrong. So I left it. With the help of a detect magic, we found a secret compartment in the back of the dresser, which held some interesting items. The was nothing else in the room, other than the icky feeling that it was just wrong and I didn’t want to be in there anymore.

So we check the other door in the weeping man’s room, and find another hall. Now here, ladies and gentlemen, is where things go way wrong. We come to the end of the hall, and Eranilor decides to peek around the corner, and BOOM, drops! Zane took off around the corner, and I rushed over to Eranilor to find he was not breathing! I felt awful! How many more lives must be taken? My friends from home, what a fate they suffered! Then we lost Arwan, who I felt could have ended up as a danger to us, but he was a great asset to our group. Brandon, he had the curiosity and wandering spirit of a kender, and now Eranilor. He was my friend. Not wanting to leave his body there, but knowing that the rest of the group may need me, I dried my tears and stood. There will be time for crying later. Maybe he is not even dead, maybe it’s some sort of spell like the one that Arwan used to go into the body of that troll. There is always hope! Brave and stout Joshua stepped into the hall and cast a spell, and I handed a potion of True Strike to Ripple in hopes that he may be able to get near Hedrack. Then I formulated my plan of action. I drank a potion of Shield, and being hasted, drank a potion of Fly, and as soon as I could, flew down the short hall into the room at ceiling level. Was that an exploding body I saw down below? I figured, being invisible, I could fly in behind Hedrack unnoticed. At least, that was the plan. So I get across the room and hover near the ceiling behind Hedrack waiting for the moment to strike, when he turns around and looks right at me! Now, please be aware that I knew there was a possibility that he would be able to see me, but I figured, he was faced with Zane, (who has an interesting technique of striking, running away quickly, then coming back to strike again) and he had his back totally to me, and me not making a sound, I could pull it off. Well, I was never so wrong as I was with this one! I mean he looked dead into my eyes, and cast a spell. So you wanna know what happened next? Blackness. Somebody turned the lights off. I was as blind as cousin Splinter was ugly! And as if that wasn’t bad enough, I distinctly heard bows being drawn. (Being around Eranilor, I should know what they sound like by now). I could hear my companions fighting a fierce battle below, and not willing to give up on them, I swooped down to where I knew Hedrack had stood a moment before, and hoped to hit him. But, again, things didn’t work out as I had planned. I missed. But come on, give me a break, I’m flipping blind! Just as I was about to resign myself to death, I got hit by an arrow (didn’t hurt much, just a flesh wound), and came to senses. I was still in this! Kender don’t give up! So I went invisible again, put my hand over my head, and flew up and back hoping not to knock my brains out. Once I was in what I hoped to be a safe area, I used a wand to cast a clairvoyance spell. Now I can see again, and with my newfound (if not strange) sight, I saw that Hedrack was gone. I thought I had heard him cast a spell similar to the one Joshua had used before. So, I do the next best thing, and sneak attack a guy trying to hurt Joshua. He died, and things pretty much came to an end. I sure did miss a lot though. From what I gathered through conversation, the rest of our party performed quite exceptionally. And what I think may have honestly been the one of the most amazing things is that Zane brought down what I think was some big bad golem all by himself! I am definitely going to have to try the attack, run away style of combat, because it sure seems to work for him!

Joshua cured my blindness, and I gathered up Eranilor’s body and all of his belongings. He may not be dead, and until we know for sure, I will guard him with my life. We ended up with a prisoner after the battle, and took him with us to hunt down Hedrack. We found our way to a set of double doors that you could just feel the evil oozing from behind. The prisoner did not like being near then whatsoever. I found a trap, but could not disable it no matter how hard I tried. I bet if Eranilor were awake right now, he could have done it! I tried and tried again until finally I came to the conclusion that it was honestly beyond my capabilities. So I came up with the idea to use a passwall scroll I had in my possession. It opened a hole right in the middle of the doors and an unnatural darkness came spilling out at least 10 feet into the hall. Joshua and Ripple had some sort of spell that allowed them to see into the darkness (lucky them, the priests get to have all the fun), so they suggested they go in alone. So Zane and I stood watch in the hall while they entered the darkness. They apparently came upon some sort of shadow demons or something inside and battled as well as they could alone, then came back out. The demons did not follow them out, as I am sure they had hoped, so I suggested the darkness be dispelled, but that was thought to be a bad idea. So just as we had pretty much resigned ourselves to run through the darkness to a lit area Joshua said was on the other side, Ripple cast a dispel magic on a table he saw in the middle of the room. And there you have it, darkness gone. I’m sure I will get no credit for suggesting that in the first place. I like Joshua, he’s of stout heart as well as body, but Eranilor was the only one who appreciated me. Once the darkness was gone we went in as a group to finish off these shadow spawn things. They weren’t so tough once the lights were on. Okay, so I couldn’t hit one to save my life, which, it could have come to that. In the end, they were finished off, and we four remain. Wherever you are Eranilor, I fear that kender luck may have finally run out. I think I used it up being blinded in the middle of a battle, and living to tell the tale. Oh well, as Grams used to say, “When your resources run low, borrow from someone else.” Now let’s see, where can I find a pot o’ luck around here?

Tolling Bell Cultist
(1/10/04 3:54 am)
Hedrack's Journal
Entry 24 (Ripple):

Sometimes I wonder what I got into. I seem to have the habit of being around in the right place at the wrong time. As we were going into one of these endless rooms (they should have numbered them - that way, it would be a lot easier to get around this place!), we encountered a vampire. It wasn’t just any vampire, but it was Thrommel! Boy did he look like he was in bad shape. He seemed to be warring with himself - one minute he was asking us to kill him and then next it looked like he wanted to take us all on. I asked Tink for one of the magic arrows that she was carrying. Since the vampire asked us to kill him, I felt that as a priest, it was my obligation to put the poor soul to rest.

As I walked up to him (with the intention of striking him in the heart with the arrow), he attacked me!! Tink and Zane entered the fray and before you could say “Are you sure you want to die?”, the vampire turned into a gaseous form and fled. We followed him down the hallway to a door that apparently led into his chambers. Since he couldn’t open the door, he just stayed there.

After some discussion, the group decided to go back to Hedrack’s room. We found Hedrack’s Journal (see below) and some magic items. I don’t know why the group didn’t search the room when they were here the first time - it would have been the logical thing to do! I am beginning to think this group doesn’t know how to proceed in a logical and orderly manner - what have I gotten into!!

Joshua said that there was a section of the complex that we had not yet explored. Rather than go back into the temple, it was decided to explore this section so that we would not have unknown enemies at our back. After going down a long corridor, we came to a room that had a spiral staircase at the far end going down. Tink, playful as always, threw a ball into the room. It bounced across the floor (what did she expect it to do?). Not satisfied with this experiment, she threw another ball, this time down the spiral staircase. Again, as you would expect, it bounced down the stairs! Reminder: I should talk to Tink about playing when we have serious matters to pursue.

Not satisfied with this, Tink got out her wand of clairvoyance and cast the spell placing her magical eye at the bottom of the staircase. Much to my surprise, she actually saw something - the infernal machine that we had heard about. We all went down the stairs and saw the machine for ourselves. We cast some spells and discovered that 1) It was magical, 2) a Shatter spell did nothing to it, and 3) as long as we stayed near the stairs it left us alone.

Fearing that an unsuspecting soul may wander down here and be harmed by the machine, Joshua and I went towards it so that we could destroy it. We soon discovered as long as we stayed away from its tongue (that’s right - its tongue!), we could dispatch it at our leisure - so we did. Finishing that task, we agreed to go back to the Great Temple and see what we could see.

You could imagine my surprise, when Zane, who was in the lead ran right into Hedrack at the top of the stairs. Hedrack released a very powerful spell (I think it was some type of disintegrate spell) at Zane. Zane moved so fast that he became a blur and the spell missed him. Seeing this, I charged at Hedrack along with Zane, Tink and Joshua. Much to my surprise, after a few (but powerful) hits with our weapons, Hedrack fell to the floor unconscious. We stripped off all of his magical equipment and Tink tied him up like a stuffed turkey. Joshua cast a mild healing spell to stabilize him while we were doing this.

To wake him up so that we could question him, I cast a cure light wounds on Hedrack. Upon waking, Hedrack started to spout off all kinds of nonsense. It soon became apparent to me that Hedrack was a few kegs short of a wagon. However, it was important that we find out certain things, one of the main ones was “what happened to Eranilor’s soul?” It turned out after much circuitous questioning, that Hedrack threw the object containing Eranilor’s soul into the lake - not a bad move for a crazy man!

In an attempt to find out more, we decided that we could use the iron rings that we had found. Zane put on the ring that Hedrack had been wearing and placed one of the lesser iron rings on one of Hedrack’s fingers. Zane tried to see into Hedrack’s mind, but got nothing.

Since Tink knew how to use magical devices, she volunteered to try the ring (it is true - Kenders know no fear!). Much to my surprise, she was actually able to make the device work. She wasn’t able to get much out of Hedrack but Tink was able to “tune” in on a gnome who was searching for one of the gems for the silver orb near Nulb.

Bored, Tink asked a question of Hedrack, but apparently he did not respond correctly and Tink killed him. That’s what happens when chaotic people (or I should say Kenders) do things.

So we put his corpse in the portable hole with Eranilor's and headed towards the door were the gaseous vapor (formerly the vampire) had been. Arriving at the door, the vapor was gone. Not wanting to take chances, I convinced the group to go into the next room and see if we could find the vampire’s coffin. Using the magic prism, I discovered a hidden button, and when it was pressed, a large section of the floor moved revealing the vampire’s coffin. Searching the coffin turned up a ring and necklace belonging to the royal house of Furyondy. Note to myself: I must remember that when we have time, we should bring these back to the King and let him know of his son’s fate.

Feeling that time was running short, we headed back to the Great Temple to continue our search for the silver orb. We found a place where the magical torch and incense could be used - but we had to find them (apparently, the group had had a set in their possession but had somehow destroyed them - how careless!). After checking the temple, the only place left to look was the altar. Next to the altar (guarding it, I guessed) were two stone statues - one on either side. Knowing that I would activate the statues, but feeling that the altar had to be searched, I went up to it. As expected, as soon as I stepped next to the altar, the two rogue eidolons attacked me. As I was fighting the first one, Zane charge up and attacked the second. Between the two of us, we were able to defeat these creatures easily. Again using the prism, I discovered that the altar top swiveled. Underneath the top, we found the torch, thuribles and incense (and some gems worth 9000 GP) that we hoped would allow us to enter the inner fane and find the silver orb!

Excerpts from the Journal of Hedrack

Imagine my surprise to discover that Lord Iuz, whom I had so faithfully and skillfully served until then, was not the true power behind the Temple of Elemental Evil. Even his ally, the fungi demon lord Zuggtmoy, was but a pawn. Cannily, I discovered that the true power was the cult of the elder Elemental Eye, and beside them, the cult of Tharizdun. Finally, a cause worthy of my skills and prowess. Finally, I learned the proper path to ultimate power. The Doomdreamers rule over the cult, and the Triad are the masters of the Doomdreamers. I shall join their ranks, and eventually become the ultimate high priest of the Dark God himself - The First.

I have gained much respect in my time here - they know greatness when they se it. I have been entrusted with the tentacle rod, symbol of my office, and mastery of the Greater Temple in the Outer Fane. Soon, I shall advance into the ranks of the Doomdreamers in the Inner Fane.

What IS the First? How old is he? His powers and knowledge are unbelievable.

Today I entertained the First with my tales of our experiment at the Temple. He is curious as to its outcome.

In my time as supreme commander of the Temple of Elemental Evil, I saw no greater servant of evil than the one called Lareth the Beautiful. Iuz, Zuggtmoy, and even Lolth recognized his power. Although he died defending the Moathouse, I brought him back from death - albeit disfigured (oops). I believe that he still lives in Nulb, despite the fact that he knew the cult of the Elder Elemental Eye was willing to cover our escape from the area when the Temple of Elemental Evil fell. Perhaps he is now insane. What a waste.

We managed to steal the book from Y’dey’s library without her even knowing it. That Baels was a clever wizard back then. Now that he is on our side in the matter, we will do well.

When I was informed that the Doomdreamers spoke the Prophecy of the Champions of Elemental Evil, the ones who would restore the power of the Temple of Elemental Evil, I of course assumed that I was one of them. Imagine my surprise to discover that I was not. That really hurt. I believe, however, that I am one of those destined to find one of the Champions and be his shepherd. Or perhaps her shepherd? I must contact Tessimon.

Mmmm… ale. How do we do it? The First nearly caused an eruption with his laughter at Varachan’s idea. We need to get an expert on grains and the weather.

We must bring together the Champions of the Gods. But how? They certainly wouldn’t come at our invitation. But perhaps at the invitation of someone they believe…

All is set to get him. The First has arranged for direct blockage of divination for him. Perhaps we can combine the plans into one.

One of the lesser clerics from the Air Temple had an excellent idea. He suggested there may be artifacts of some type back in the ruined moathouse near Hommlet. I will have Naquent develop a plan to find out.

So much to do. Busy Busy BUSY.

We have him. All has gone as expected. He didn’t even know. The Old One was right. If the method worked in this case, it could work with anybody. Shame but if the First’s plan works out we won’t have occasion to use it. He is rather entertaining to watch. Getting him here has accomplished its real purpose. Now we wait.

Tessimon of the Fire Temple came to the Outer Fane today. We tested her in the Greater Temple and found that she was not a prophesied Champion. Still, she craved power and sought to seduce me yet again in order to get it. I introduced her to the Infernal Device. Now she shall have a fiendish helper with her at all times - she got the power she craved, although I suspect she barely survived the process.

A mercane has come to the Temple of All Consumption with his wares. He must be watched but he provides a great deal of equipment of excellent quality. Neutrality…

Zuggtmoy and Iuz created an artifact called the Orb of Golden Death to help them fashion the Elemental Nodes deep in the dungeon. Now I know that they were given the secrets to do this through agents of the Doomdreamers. Although the Orb of Golden Death was destroyed using Baels’ research (completely collapsing the underground levels of the Temple of Elemental Evil and sealing the nodes), the cult of the Dark God has an artifact of which the Orb of Golden Death was just a copy. They call it the Orb of Oblivion and have taken it to the Temple of Elemental Evil to recover the nodes.

Success in Verbobonc.

Varachan is behaving strangely. I will have him watched by the succubus.

Although the Doomdreamers have taken the Orb of Oblivion, the Orb of Silver Death, another copy, still lies within the Black Cyst, beyond the Purple Veil. We but need the rest of the gems. Even with the one gem, we have a good chance to bring forth the Dark Lord.

Interesting events in the Moathouse, I am told. The makeup of the Champions of the Gods has changed. The pillar remolded the statues. Fascinating thing. The ancients were wise.

He is not behaving himself. I still have to keep him locked in his room. Something is not broken yet. At least feeding him isn’t a problem.

Our band of “heroes” has finally entered the Crater Ridge Mines. They admirably serve the Dark Lord with their destroying the small temples. One of them, though, interests me. The First has said that I must bring Baels from the Far Realms. He will know.

Great day! The same day the idiots arrived, a survivor from the moathouse debacle also arrived with rubbings from a statue found under the heap. There are four figures. Now we must identify them. One of them is cowled, though. That will make it difficult. I will reward Geynor with a trip to the Device.

My enemy, the wizard Falrinth, and his associate Smigmal Redhand are alive. I happily assumed that they died when the Temple of Elemental Evil fell but they were in the West. Now they work with the Doomdreamers in their excavation of the lower levels of the old Temple, apparently because they know a direct, secret way into the third level. Dark God take them! They are sure to betray the Doomdreamers in some way, and spoil all our plans. If only someone would listen to my wisdom, Falrinth’s head would be sitting on the shelf next to my bath.

The First Champion has arrived, guided by her brother and a gnome named Nierethi of Kron. Eliza Danwick of Greyhawk bears her own brother’s son. She told me some odd news of Hommlet. It seems the Obelisk under the moathouse is showing signs of becoming active. That is unexpected, but as yet not unwelcome.

The Second Champion! It is true: all good things come to those who wait. Ha Ha! Cordwellyn is a powerful warrior. He may be useful in retrieving Jallarzi.

That intruding elf shows the Sign. Could he actually be one of the Champions of Tharizdun? A Champion of the Gods is also a Champion of Tharizdun? The irony… Now that Baels is with the Dark Lord, I find myself wishing I had shown some restraint. Oh well. Spilt milk and all that. With the destruction of the Air Temple, the magmin nearly lost control of the volcano. It mustn’t erupt just yet.

But in bringing down the Air Temple, they have broken the First Seal. Darkness is spreading. Glorious! The outside world will soon find their contacts with their “gods” has been severed. And they have their “Champions” to thank. Ha!

Wonderful news! I am told Abaddon has sent actual apocalypse demons to the Flanaess. Locust demons are also about. Many of the other demon lords are also standing with Tharizdun in hopes they will be spared on the Other Side. It is beginning to look like the real thing. And, to show his loyalty to the Dark God, Iuz has sent his forces into the north of Furyondy. There will be little or no help from that direction for Verbobonc or Dyvers. The pieces are coming together nicely. I hear that even in the east, Hextor has caused his priests to rise and take power in the lands, and the actual TARRASQUE is abroad in Keoland. Glorious! The Scarlet Brotherhood is proving a disappointment though. They actually oppose us. Well, there’s one stereotype out the window.

I will have to celebrate. I wonder who the gargoyles have for me now? No ale for me, though. Ha ha!!

I now believe that one of the Champions of Elemental Evil is Lareth the Beautiful. Just yesterday, Satau confirmed that my suspicions are likely correct. With that information, I used the tentacle rod to transport directly from the Greater Temple into the Inner Fane. Granted an audience with The First of the Triad, I told him of my belief and Satau’s confirmation. The First said that as my reward, I would stand among the Doomdreamers when Tharizdun once again walked the Oerth.

I feel so old. I want to die. Maybe I should kill those magmin? But that would ruin the Dark God’s plan. How much longer will this all take? I want it all over.

We have hired a mercenary band called the Pale Grin. Some of them, together with Cordwellyn, are to collect Jellarzi of Greyhawk. She shows signs of the Rastor Madness so she should be taken easily, but she is accompanied by many warriors and others unaffected as yet by the Madness. Oddly, some of them come from the same world as Cordwellyn. Others of the Pale Grin along with Nierethi have gone to fetch Lareth.

Who is that elf?

The experiment has failed. Maybe it would succeed with someone not tied so closely to his beliefs? No matter. As long as no one enters his chamber, Thrommel cannot interfere. I gave a detailed report on the entire fiasco to the First. He has shown a good deal of interest in the experiment and its outcome.

Glorious day! A true sign that we shall succeed! In but one day two Champions were brought into the Temple and the Central Bell announced their being the ones we sought. Jallarzi, though, must perform her part in the actual Calling Ceremony of her own free will. She fights against the Madness and I fear will break free before we have her destined gem. I remember rumors of a demon that broke her will a few years ago. Tuerny himself, I believe. I must summon him from the Abyss. Iggwilv will know where to find him, and I know where to find that Witch. With his support Jallarzi will turn.

I have sent Lareth “the Beautiful” to the Temple of Elemental Evil with that gnome fool who brought him here. Lareth is the one able to call Imix so we may as well get it done. I am told excavation has started on one of the other nodes. Where are those other gems? I think they were stolen somehow, and not just lost. But all signs show they are still somewhere in the ruins.

Nierethi reports that Hommlet is truly under control except for a few holdouts in the keep. Y’dey herself is imprisoned under the Temple of St Foolbert, which is now consecrated to the Dark God!!! He has given her a ring so now I may speak to her.

The Champions of the Gods draw near. The fools nearly caused the eruption early the other day and were inches from Danwick. Only the succubus guarding the Chamber stopped them from putting back our plans. They have served their purpose and have grown troublesome. Now it is time to kill them.

I sent the Pale Grin to try to convince the nearby castle full of vampires to join us. That should keep them all busy. We do not need them anymore, and if the heroes prove to be a problem, I will sic the Pale Grin on them. I am getting low on forces though. The orcs in the forest are fine as slaves, but they can’t get the job done. I shouldn’t have sent so many to that valley. Chicken does sound good, though…

Well, there are good days and there are bad days. On the one hand, I destroyed a couple of those intruding idiots. On the other, I broke a nail. Afterwards, some devils tried to attack me. They brought down some of the ceiling and killed that coward D’Gran among others, but they were taken. We now know where Asmodeus’ loyalties lie. He will be dealt with by the First. As will the mercane. We tolerated his coming and going since we got weapons and armor and such from them, but this betrayal shows their loyalty. The First’s list of enemies grows long. It is time to begin shortening it, to my mind.

Varachan has betrayed us. Before he was killed, Krall tore him apart.

The intruding fools freed Thrommel. Now I have a crazy vampire with two personalities running around.

Damn!!! The pillar shows they have been replaced. Well, they will be back. Their kind always comes back. They seem to enjoy pain. I will be ready to inflict it. But perhaps a visit from some of the assassins in Verbobonc will make them change their minds. My archer is very good. Yes. Turnabout is fair play, I am told.

But I fear that even if all of them are killed, others will be put forward. This is not fair. Maybe if they are imprisoned but not actually killed they won’t be replaced... That will be an interesting experiment.

I need something to play with but they are all broken. My army I sent to get more of those valley rats hasn’t come back yet. They probably failed. I can’t wait for it to all be over.

I saw signs in the fire before the news actually arrived from the Temple. Imix has come to the Fire Node.

We NEED the other three gems. There is still no sign of them in the Temple. But then, on the plus side, good news from Enstad, Hommlet and Iuz’s campaign in the north.

No word from Verbobonc from the archer. I must assume he failed. I will have to try to capture them. It will be an interesting experiment. Very. This will be fun.

I hate paperwork.

I have brought Nierethi back from the reclaimed temple. He reports progress by Kex. He couldn’t tell me why she isn’t wearing her ring. The town is mostly empty now. They have Burne. Fit revenge for what he did years ago. She sent most of her forces out to other villages. Her loyalties are not with us. What she obeys is not my concern now. She did what needed doing and so I don’t need to worry about her. If she causes trouble I will destroy her.

That dwarf idiot put on a slave ring. I dug around in his mind and learned some wonderful things. Things even he doesn’t know about himself. When he tried to remove the ring I revealed myself. The fools cut off the ring finger. Such fun!

I am ready for them. Now I must go.

Tolling Bell Cultist
(1/13/04 4:51 pm)
Re: Hedrack's Journal
Entry 25 (Joshua):

After Ripple had retrieved the magical torch and thurible that we would need, all four of us moved to the vestibule to discuss what we should do. Even though the area was no longer shrouded in darkness, I still felt distinctly uneasy there. Not wishing to waste time, I suggested we use the items and attempt to travel through the “purple veil” which Varachan had mentioned, but the others disagreed. Or, to be precise, Tink and Ripple did, since they felt that we should rest, recuperate and regain spells before we try to do so. Zane simply stood there with an expressionless face. He is difficult to understand, but seems dependable and trustworthy, and is an incredibly agile fighter. Ripple is very different, hardly more dexterous than me, but extremely powerful. Anyhow, since the others wished to rest first, I agreed to do so. I would have preferred to go on, so that we could reach Hommlet (and Verbobonc again, perhaps) as soon as possible. The news in Hedrack’s journal about the temple of St. Cuthbert in Hommlet is truly alarming. If the cultists have dedicated it to the worship of Tharizdun, I must strive to either cleanse it, and if that is impossible, then destroy it. Luckily it is on the way to the old temple of Elemental Evil, since it would be wrong to abandon our quest to do this. So many decisions. My head hurts. Oh god!

We decided that, before returning to the dwarven temple, we should investigate the room where the illithid diviner of the Temple, apparently called Satau, had his lair. Tink was extremely excited at the prospect of meeting a mind flayer. The combination of her chaotic nature and apparently natural immunity to fear is a dangerous combination, coming close to madness in some ways! Luckily she is usually somewhat circumspect, although I must stress “usually”. On the way to the room, we passed through the secret corridor leading to the chamber with the wall trap. Since it was fairly clean, we paused there while I consecrated the area and healed the three of us who had been wounded (Tink, lucky as ever, was untouched) with the unholy touch of those shadowy monsters. I cannot heal this “vile” damage during a combat, and fear that someday that may be the turning point in a battle. I also sent a sending to Hillman, asking him to join us at the dwarven temple, inquiring about news of Verbobonc, and telling him to scry Eranilor. He responded and said that he would join us as soon as he picked up some provisions, that he had good news (now that would truly be a change!) and would try to locate Eranilor. Hopefully he will see the object our erstwhile companion’s soul is in, and we can find a way (perhaps Hillman’s teleport spells) to retrieve it. Two companions dead, and one’s soul apparently in a soul at the bottom of a lake. Oh god, oh god!

We reached the room we were seeking without trouble, and entered it, after I engaged in a momentary battle of wills with a demonic stone head guarding it (apparently that is how one must open the door). Within the room, we found the black sphere that Arwan had called a sphere of annihilation still hanging in mid-air, and the continual light flame we had thrown into the pit still lying where it fell. I made very sure to keep as far away as I could from the sphere, and Tink too seemed somewhat uneasy about it. She turned Zane invisible with a wand, gave him those glasses that allow her to see in the dark, and he leaped down into the pit. It must have been forty feet deep, and I did not even hear him land! He soon called up to us that it was empty except for some ‘artwork’ (?!). We joined him and found it to be a large square pit, with strange translucent figures (humans, underdark creatures, even a city in miniature) standing along the walls. They seemed somewhat illusory, since Ripple tried to touch them and could not. The dwarf also found a secret door using that magical prism he has found, and we investigated it to find a short corridor. It contained nothing other than a table on the far side of another figure, this time of a mind flayer sucking out a human’s brains. When we passed through it, each of us felt drawn into the illusion, actually feeling the mind flayer’s tentacles attacking us, with other such creatures surrounding us and applauding! What an abominable creation! But due to our strength of will, all of us threw off its effects. Luckily Tink chose not to accompany the rest of us through it. Her fickle nature and lack of fixity of purpose makes her will weaker than could be, and it would not have been safe for her. Unfortunately, the table on the other side was bare and contained nothing. There was no sign of the illithid. As Tink said, “Maybe the diviner looked into the future and saw an ass-kicking coming, and did the boot, scoot and boogie!” I share her sentiments, if not her crudity of expression. Although I could not bring the justice of the Cudgel to this creature, I must say I am not particularly disappointed to not have encountered it.

Leaving the room, we headed back to the temple of Moradin. On the way, however, we noticed a dim purplish (I am really beginning to hate that color!) radiance in the sky, and saw what seemed to be a giant symbol of Tharizdun, like the one which had appeared on Arwan’s face, hanging in the sky. It seemed to be slowly rotating and growing. Who knows what this actually means, although it is certain that it cannot be good. St. Cuthbert protect us! After we got back to the temple, I healed myself, removing the drain upon my intelligence. It is truly a strange experience to feel one’s mind somewhat clouded and befuddled one moment, and completely clear the next. While we rested and planned for the day ahead, Tink went aside to use Hedrack’s master ring to see what minds she could find outside the mines. She joined us some time later to say that she had located the gnome Nierethi (named in Hedrack’s journal) in Nulb. She had spoken mentally to him, and he seemed very happy at Hedrack’s death and willing to help us if she freed him from the bondage of the ring. He provided a good deal of information about the situation at the old Temple which they were excavating, and alarming news about Hommlet. Apparently it had been taken over by the forces of evil, and was overrun by undead (ranging from zombies to many more powerful kinds), commanded by Hillman’s daughter Mardis, who was now an undead herself. While we discussed what to do with this information, Hillman teleported into the temple to join us, carrying a sack of supplies. He told us that apparently the plague of madness was deceasing in potency, and some people were recovering from it. And that the temple of St. Cuthbert is fine, so Hedrack (unsurprisingly) had lied about its destruction. After some demurring, we finally told Hillman what had happened with his daughter. I had considered keeping the information from him, due primarily to his hatred of undead and evident love for Mardis, but thought that truthfulness would be more important. Tink and I had barely finished explaining, before he cast another teleport and disappeared, presumably off to Hommlet. I am sure we will not see him again, and he will probably end up as an undead himself. What have I done in telling him the truth? Oh god, oh god, oh god!

Luckily for us, Hillman had dropped his sack before leaving, and Tink found a number of useful items within, including a scroll of scry and teleport, and a bag of holding containing a mirror usable for arcane scrying. She was able to use them (I am always amazed at her ability to use magical items without being able to cast a single spell herself, and sometimes even without knowing what the items are) to locate the item holding Eranilor’s soul, apparently a copper coin at the bottom of the lake near the Earth door to the outer fane. Since we could not retrieve it without the requisite spells, we decided to remain there and rest (and also hope that Hillman would return). I took the opportunity to speak to Ripple about the fact that I had detected a chaotic evil alignment on him, besides the expected lawful good one, when I had used the true seeing spell earlier that day. I had told Tink about it earlier, and she joined the conversation, with one hand firmly placed on her dagger (with memories of Arwan, I presume). Ripple seemed completely surprised about it, and frankly, I believe him. He has been reliable in and out of combat so far, and shown no signs of untrustworthiness (though that stunt with the ring did not breed confidence). Obviously there is some deeper mystery there, and Hedrack’s reference to discovering things about him that even Ripple did not know seems to indicate so too. Perhaps we will learn more later.

We passed the night peacefully, and Tink took time to speak further with Nierethi, discovering as much as she possibly could. Apparently he is quite taken with her, and was more than a little disappointed to find that there were a number of us with her. Tink seemed a little embarrassed when she admitted that, but then gleefully informed us that Nierethi also thinks we are her servants or something like that. Stupid gnome! She said something I did not understand, which sounded like “toy boys”, but I did not want to encourage her or show my ignorance, so I did not ask. More seriously, she asked him to wait for us in Nulb, but said that he was apparently ill. Hopefully he will survive till we find him - his information could be useful.

After casting our customary spells and enjoying the food provided by Ripple’s heroes’ feast (I could really get used to this, ale or no ale!), we traveled back across the fire bridge, and then through the outer fane to the earth bridge. On the way, we noticed that the purple sign in the sky seemed larger (I hope it was just our collective imagination!). After emerging onto the bridge, I used a locate object spell to find a copper coin in the water below us, and unsurprisingly, found a number. As planned, I used a water breathing spell, and we leaped into the water together. With my armor and Ripple’s, we sank like stones. As we got deeper, it began to get warmer, probably due to the volcanic nature of the area. I was already protected, but more magical protection had to be used on the others (thank Cuthbert our dwarven companion is a priest too, since I could not protect so many alone). Reaching the bottom, I detected a magical (necromantic) aura on a nearby coin, so we picked it up and returned to the surface, with Ripple’s water walk. Re-entering the outer fane, we paused to remove Eranilor’s body from the portable hole, and I cast a dispel evil on the coin. There was a moment of suspense, and then the body stirred. For a moment I wondered if it would be Eranilor or some undead spirit reanimating the body, but the expression in the eyes convinced me it was him. Unsurprisingly, considering that he was waking up naked (Tink had taken his clothes off to apply her oil of timelessness on him - do not ask!), and in a very different situation to the one he last recalled (he had no memory of the interim), he seemed extremely surprised. He also seemed weakened in some way, and had a gray pallor on his face. Having Tink and Ripple try to explain everything that had happened in a couple of moments did not seem to help, and we decided that he should just accompany us (after getting re-equipped) and pick up the pieces later. While we proceeded down the halls of the Temple, I quickly brought him up to date on current affairs. He seemed to get his bearing and thanked us for rescuing him, but seemed a little put out about having been unconscious for nearly a day. Strange - what would a few hours matter to an elf, which can live for hundreds of years?

When we reached the greater temple, Ripple stone shaped a hole in the door, and we passed through. After some discussion, we decided that Zane should be the one to follow Varachan’s information and try to open the purple veil. When he blew that horn, I thought my eardrums would explode! Apparently it drained some of his health, just as had happened with Eranilor when he had been brought back. For some reason Zane, who had been quite stoical about everything till this point, seemed quite perturbed by this, and actually suggested that someone else take up the task now. After I explained that I could heal an individual of however much damage he took, but could not do the same for a number of different people, he grudgingly continued. As described by Varachan, the columns arose and a purple barrier appeared within them. I healed Zane, as I had promised, and we stepped through the barrier, holding hands to avoid separation. We were instantly whisked into a large round chamber, with a black egg-like shape on a stone platform at one end. Before we had time to look around, from somewhere around us, a voice boomed, “Once more mortals trespass within the Black Cyst. Kneel to Tharizdun and be rewarded! Mock the dark god and face annihilation!” Are we in some aspect of the Dark One’s prison? Oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god!

Tolling Bell Cultist
(1/15/04 4:50 pm)
A tel-e-port-ing we will go...
Entry 26 (Eranilor):

...there we were, standing in a small room with a potentially divine (and if so, also both nuts and homicidal) voice asking us to pay homage. Great! Just what I needed after having just had my soul extracted from a coin, feeling like crap, and while still assimilating what I'd been informed (very hastily) by Tink and Ripple about a bunch of things which had happened since my transformation (numismatisation?). For a moment I considered all the not-so-wonderful things that not kneeling might cause. It'd probably have been the smarter thing to do, but then I've never been good at following instructions for no reason. Sure, a mad god of entropy could presumably destroy me as soon as it wished, but by that logic I should have been kneeling to both Arwan and Joshua as soon as I met them. So I just braced myself for the worst and stood there. Actually our situation was a little amusing, so I turned to Tink and said, "Couldn't you guys just have brought me back after you did this stuff?" Since Tink was wearing Hedrack's robes (looking like a very diminutive bride with a huge purple train!), I couldn't say for sure, but I think she was already kneeling. I noticed neither of the priests were kneeling either, but Zane was already down on one knee. Wouldn't have expected that, considering his earlier behavior and comments about the others' gods, but who knows? Anyhow, nothing happened. Blessings didn't shower down on anyone, and the standing trio didn't get our brains eaten either. Zane suddenly moved forward (he's pretty fast even kneeling!) and reached for the item on the stone block in front of it. As he touched it, a spasm crossed his face and he looked as bad as I felt. But he withstood it, whatever it was (felt both life and strength being drained, he said later), and moved back with the item, which appeared to be a skull without a lower jaw, now that it was outside the mist that had been hiding it. Apparently he also heard a voice telling him that the Orb of Oblivion had been taken (just like dear, departed Varachan told us), and that he should take the Orb of Silvery Death and serve Tharizdun. Nice!

Zane dumped the Orb in his bag and we unanimously decided to leave. Seeing no exit, we decided to light the thurible and see what occurred. Nothing! Zane tried asking Tharizdun for directions, but we got nothing. Let's see, here's the concept: "Yo, crazy evil deity - we're here to prevent your return and we just took a major item of your cult's. Can you show us the way out?" Now why wouldn't that work? Luckily I remembered Varachan mentioning something about Hedrack twirling the thurible when he returned, so we did the same and the next thing we knew, we were standing in that circle in the Greater Temple. All of us could feel a mental assault that the others said they'd felt before, so we left quickly. Leaving the temple itself, we stopped in the corridor outside to discuss what to do. The consensus was to head back to Verbobonc, inform the Wayfarer's Guild about Hillman's (probable) fate and get some help, and then go to Hommlet and on to the old Temple of EE. Just as we reached the decision, we were attacked again, this time by about ten of those little creatures that Tink had befriended earlier (jermlaine, I think Arwan said). Except that they seemed spectral in nature, actually stepping out of the wall near us, and among them was the ghostly drow female we'd fought and defeated weeks ago. The fight was short and sharp, taking longer than it would have simply because we had a hellish time trying to strike the incorporeal creature. Blows that would've connected simply passed through her form (put four arrows in her and one had an effect!). But after she took a couple of hits and Joshua blasted the jermlaine out of existence with his divine powers, she retreated into the wall. We quickly moved away and got Tink to teleport us back to Verbobonc.

Back at Verbobonc (Tink had us appear at Joshua’s temple), we were told by the resident priests that the city had been attacked by fiends which had simultaneously appeared in various locations, but had managed to fight them off. At Ripple’s suggestion, we headed in different directions. Zane and I went to the temple of Moradin, where we told them what we had discovered so far, and got our wounds healed and drained vitality restored. Naturally, we took along a fair amount of gems and coins for payment. Then we went back to the temple of St. Cuthbert and waited for the others. Zane and I had an interesting conversation. He’s hardly talkative, but mentioned a fair bit about his home, which is far to the West. Sounds like a place worth checking out sometime. I also found out some more about exactly what had happened while I was in coin form. Damn, that’s irritating! Wasting time bugs me, which is why I haven’t done a moment of it in the last two decades if given a chance. Contrary to popular belief, or at least that of many shorter-lived people, having a natural lifespan of seven centuries doesn’t make you flippant about time. The opposite in fact, I’d say. When you’ve seen the leaves fall in the woods of Celene fifty times, and seen an acorn grow into a giant oak, it’s hard to be unaware of the fleetingness of time. I wonder if the dwarves get the same concept. I’d bet they would, whether they couch it in the same language or not, since it’s fairly obvious that they have a huge subconscious focus on achieving permanence, with the cultural emphasis on working in stone and metal. Maybe I’ll ask Ripple about it sometime.

Speaking of Ripple, he joined us an hour later, laden down with numerous bottles of booze (how come I always end up traveling with alcoholics?). He told us that he’d accompanied Tink and Joshua to the Wayfarer’s Guild, where they’d let the wizards know about the situation with the Fane, Hillman, and Hommlet. They’d also traded all the extra items we had for other magical stuff, including a lot of teleportation scrolls for Tink (the modified kind). Ripple had picked up a nice morningstar specially enchanted for fighting incorporeal creatures, and walked around taking practice swings and swigs from various bottles he had on him. Guess the next undead to meet him is gonna be a lot less “un” at the end of that encounter. We were joined a couple hours later by the tall (well, fat) and the short of the party. Apparently they’d spent some time in the Guild trying to scry on various people in Hommlet. They town apparently seemed deserted, heavily damaged and devoid of life. They couldn’t locate anyone they tried to find, including Hillman, but found Y’Dey (the priestess of the temple of St. Cuthbert there, whom I’d met just once), who they think is imprisoned under the temple in one of the cells (as in living quarters, not prisons) used by priests. Unsurprisingly, Joshua was in a hurry to get there, so we decided to leave immediately, especially since each of us had got a chance to grab some grub wherever we’d been (strangely my body, even though it’d spent nearly a day as a corpse, wasn’t any the worse for wear in this - or apparently any other - respect). A quick discussion led to a decision to appear in the foyer of the temple of St. Cuthbert. Tink did her thing with a scroll (she’s getting good at this), and after the usual momentary sense of dislocation, there we were. And what a wonderful sight we found!

When we appeared in the temple it was completely dark, just as we’d expected. There was a dim glow suffusing the place, which we couldn’t find a source for, but we had to rely on torches, darkvision, etc. The entire place had been completely trashed, looking as if it had been strip-searched by a gang of kender on drugs. The central statue of ye olde Saint with Cudgel had been totally desecrated, and smeared with what looked like blood and what smelled like…well, let’s just say someone hadn’t been using the privies. I thought Joshua was going to either scream or start howling when he saw it. Ripple commenting that the disorderliness of the place offended him (wha- ?) didn’t help! Fortunately, I’d heard a soft moaning coming from the lower levels (the place was deathly silent otherwise), so I used that information to distract Joshua. Tink turned herself invisible and headed downstairs to investigate, coming back soon to say it came from a room downstairs. We joined her and I unlocked the door. While I was checking it for traps, Ripple handed me some sort of magnifying lens to use, which makes it a lot easier to find seams and tracks. Nice of him. Joshua and he headed inside, while the rest of us remained outside to keep watch. I could follow the conversation quite easily, and it seemed they’d found Y’Dey and someone else. Ripple soon asked me to join them, since the captives were chained to the walls. Y’Dey looked like she’d been horribly abused, with her eyeballs ripped from the sockets, and had a collar like that little devil in the gargoyle pit had worn. I couldn’t be sure, but I believe she might have been raped, which (with the fact that they’d been attacked by undead) puts a whole other spin on the concept of necrophilia! I freed her and then the other guy (they’d both been healed by this point), who was apparently called Johan. Looked like he’d had his arm cut off, but it turned out to be an old injury.

At this point, Tink returned to say she’d heard something upstairs, and she headed up to investigate. We waited for a few moments, and then I heard her giggle softly, so I figured it was fine (or that she was about to kill a giant). Then I caught bits of a conversation, which sounded like she was talking to someone with a high, female voice (who wasn’t really trying to be quiet). So we headed up, with Y’Dey and Johan in tow, to find Tink with a young girl (around 10 or so) and a cat. They turned out to be the daughter and familiar of a local wizard called Spugnoir. I’d met him once when we were in Hommlet before, and Tink told me that one of the Guild wizards had tried to scry for him and failed. Not surprising, since we (or the cat, to be precise) found him in a room near the one we’d found the others in, with his neck broken. Since Y’Dey was getting hysterical by this point, as was Rennie (the young girl), we decided to head back to Verbobonc by the usual method. Back there, we left all of them at the temple of Moradin, and informed the Wayfarer’s Guild about what we’d discovered. We got a fair amount of information from them. It seemed that Mardis had led a horde of undead against Hommlet, and taken over the entire place, including the keep too. Some had escaped, but most were killed or converted to undead. Eventually the entire undead army had headed north, which could potentially have them heading for Verbobonc. This place is turning into the vacation capital of the Flanaess! Serendipitously, Johan turned out to be one of the original bunch who’d destroyed the old Temple of EE. He told us that Merik Baels (Arwan’s master, who’d been hobnobbing with Hedrack) had been part of the group and the one who had the real information about destroying the Orb. Apparently Baels had written the details down in certain books, but not the one Tink had found in the Outer Fane. So back we decided to go to check for others.

We reappeared right in that study and checked out both it and the library below it. Eventually we did find the book we were looking for. According to it, the Orb has slots for each of the elemental gems (with markers which show which gem goes where), and after each gem has been placed in it, it must be destroyed by being subjected to the following: a wind at the speed of a storm, a strike from a maul made of a solid piece of granite, an incredibly hot flame, and freezing water. Why can’t these darn things ever be destroyed with a little bit of tender loving care?

Having found the book, we discussed what to do. The consensus was to head for the old Temple, but since I’m the only one of us who’s seen it, Tink couldn’t teleport us there. So we decided to try entering the Inner Fane and accessing that tourbilion thing we’d heard about. I was not very keen on dealing with those demons and questions in the vestibule of the Greater Temple, so Zane suddenly offered to transport us, saying that he can magically step across large distances once a day. Tink didn’t seem very happy with the plan, firstly since she wanted to deal with the questions (curiosity and the kender again), and secondly since she thought we might run into the First. I guess she’s getting cautious in her old age, which might be a good thing. Still, given that we didn’t have too much choice, she agreed to go along. We considered waiting till the next day, but decided not to, since we don’t know how much time we have. Tink used her wand of clairvoyance to find an open place on the other side, and said that she saw a cracked and broken area, with a central black spire in an open area with red light shining through it (lava?). Zane can’t carry more than 300 lbs with him, so we popped the heavy guys (i.e. the priests - must be something about religion that makes you fatter) in the portable hole, held hands, and next thing we knew, we were there. It was just as Tink had described, but luckily it wasn’t especially hot or anything. Tink quickly let the others out, as we were expecting guards of some kind. I recalled Varachan mentioning “dark Wights and perhaps something else”, and just as Ripple and Joshua climbed out of the hole, we found a group of eight wights (wearing black armor, hence the name, I suppose) approaching from either direction. The priests promptly blasted them with flame strikes, immolating a few, and after that it was arrow, morningstar, dagger and fist, which quickly dispatched them all. None of us was even hit. But just as we dropped the last one, we saw another eight heading our way from the north. I wonder if there’s a finite number of them, or if they’re created here in some manner. Only one way to find out, since (as far as we know) there’s a bridge to the north, so we’ve got to head in that direction. Here goes…

Tolling Bell Cultist
(1/20/04 3:04 am)
Into the Inner Fane
Entry 27 (Zane):

As Master Po used to say, “When it comes to push and shove, push and shove.” We dispatched the last of the restless dead, and turned to deal with the approaching group, which was almost upon us. Like the earlier ones, they quickly succumbed to our blows, but apparently were only a precursor of more doughty opposition. As they approached, a pair of large arrows, almost javelin-sized, had been shot at us. I shattered the skull of a wa-yeet (as Josh-oo-wah calls them), to find myself facing the archer, a large armored woman now wielding a greatsword. Her face was somewhat inhuman, resembling one of the beast folk, with eyes glowing strangely purplish, was a gem seemingly embedded in her throat. Attacking, I found her defenses weak and expected her to succumb quickly to my flurry of blows. But though she staggered under my attack, she stayed on her feet and responded with a terrific swing of the sword, which knocked me off mine! As Master Po used to say: “There are three kinds of foes; those who are immovable, those who are movable, and those who move you.”

The others quickly surrounded her, as I leapt to my feet and returned to the fight, and we soon had her down. Ear-an-uh-lor yelled to us to not kill the warrior since he knew her. Strange! After some talk, binding of the prisoner by Teenk, healing by the priests, and explanation from the elf, I gathered that she was called Hal-guh Zod (what uncouth names these gaijin have!) and had been a member of the original group over a month ago. Josh-oo-wah confirmed that the gem embedded in her throat affected her in some way, and Ripple actually had to cut it out of her skin. This released her from the spell, and we ascertained that she had been captured a month ago, presumably by the death-seekers, but recalled nothing of what had transpired since. After being healed and informed about the situation, she joined us, hoping for revenge against her captors. I hope she does not act recklessly in search of it. Revenge is a dish best served cold, as Li Feng will someday discover.

Meanwhile, Teenk, Ripple and Ear-an-uh-lor had some discussion about an evil gem the kin-dur had been carrying, and decided to fling it into the nearby lava. It had belonged to Head-rack, and Teenk believed it might have some protective value, but the others prevailed on her to dispose of it. That may be for the best. As Master Po told me: “If you use the weapons of your enemy, you slowly become your own enemy.” Proceeding northwards, we found a bridge crossing the lava pool surrounding the tower and leading to a door. Teenk attempted to use her wand to see what lay beyond the door, but found the tower warded against magic in some manner. Ear-an-uh-lor suggested she use another wand to provide us all with the powers of flight, in case we found danger within, as seemed likely. While Teenk was doing so, we all heard a voice in our minds, asking us about our purpose there. When asked who was speaking to us, it replied, “I am the Door.” In this strange land even some doors are sentient!

The door “said” that it would not let us pass since we were not evil. It also spoke of someone called Ty-kon, who waited on the other side to judge the appropriateness of visitors. The others argued with the door, but could not persuade it to open. Ear-an-uh-lor and Josh-oo-wah attempted to harm it with the elf’s magical arrows and a magical attack from the latter, but the door was unharmed, responding with bolts of lightning and a wall of fire. Apparently doors here can not only communicate but cast spells as adeptly as a wu jen. Curiouser and curiouser! Finally, Ripple (whom Josh-oo-wah had accused of being evil a day ago) allowed the door to peer into his mind, and it agreed to allow him alone to enter. Ripple whispered to us, “Everybody rush in as soon as the door opens.”

The door began to move upwards slowly, and I immediately flew forward through it, scorching myself slightly as I passed through the still burning wall of flame. As Master Po used to say, “There is a time for words and a time for kicking someone in the kneecap.” I was the first into the room, and found myself in a huge, round room (stretching all the way around the inside of the hundred foot diameter tower, and thirty feet in height), with a strange purple stone sticking out of the ceiling. Directly in front of me stood a huge beast, with a dozen long necks and fang-filled mouths at their ends. Against the wall stood a staircase with another of the death-seeker priests (Ty-kon?) halfway up it. I flew directly up to him, and as I reached him, he cast a spell which failed to affect me. I responded with a blow to the temple and swept his legs out from under him, leaving him sprawling on the stairs. Despite lying on his back at my feet, he tried to cast another spell. Though I struck and seemed to wound him, he continued casting. I was bracing myself for another magical assault, when a ray of light shot by me and struck the man, slaying him instantly. It was Josh-oo-wah. Though it is doubtful that I needed the aid, I appreciate knowing that my companions are protecting my back. As Master Po used to say, “If you always must look behind you, you will walk in circles.”

I turned to see that the others had followed me and engaged the creature (a hydra, I was told later), but found themselves at a distinct disadvantage, with most blows and weapons not affecting it. Only Hal-guh’s sword seemed to work, chopping off heads one by one. The enraged beast responded by seriously wounding her in return, as well as Josh-oo-wah. Sure that my abilities would be similarly useless against it, I began to search Ty-kon, hoping to find something to use against the beast. After a few more moments of useless combat against the beast, I noticed something was growing out of the headless stumps. Thinking its heads were growing back, I sped up my search, but I need not have worried. Josh-oo-wah cast another spell, and the beast simply collapsed. Instantly, the body was covered in shining, white flames, and soon consumed utterly. Surely the fat priest is high in the favor of his St. Cuthbert, and that is reassuring, even if the latter is not worthy a seat in the Celestial Hierarchy.

Having disposed of our enemies, we paused to heal the wounded. Though the only exit to this room was the staircase leading up, Ear-an-uh-lor said that this tele-transportation machine was supposed be in the basement of the tower and he began to search the room. Ripple suggested I investigate the floor above, and I did, after being protected by invisibility and silence spells, as well as one from Josh-oo-wah that would allow him to track the health of all of us. On the next floor I found six doors lined with a purple glow. Checking the one above, I found what seemed to be some creature’s lair, with large feathers littered around, and a stench of blood and sulphur. Something was moving in the darkness on the far side of the room, and I chose to return and tell the others, rather than investigating. I also found that the purple stone in the bottom room was actually the lower end of a huge rock that ran up through the center of each floor. I returned to find the elf’s search had revealed a hidden panel with a button. After we moved a safe distance away, he pushed it and promptly disappeared. Josh-oo-wah said that he had detected a magical effect as it happened (the button was non-magical earlier). We all hurried to do the same and disappeared one by one (we found that only the person pushing the button would be affected, when Hal-guh tried it with Tink on her back).

We reappeared in a similar-shaped room, which was a giant torture chamber. Items for visiting pain and suffering on helpless prisoners surrounded us, with disturbing vein-like tubes passing between them and pulsing obscenely in an almost lifelike manner. The room held a few prisoners, as well as the body of a strange creature, appearing partly human and partly elemental in nature. With a single arrow sticking out of its forehead, an almost comical look of surprise on its face, and Ear-an-uh-lor bending over it, it was obvious what had happened. We freed the prisoners and asked them to accompany us till we could lead them to a place of safety. None of them argued, though one (an elven priest named Fest-uh-lon Gee-rot) seemed very upset when informed about some recent events and asked Ear-an-uh-lor why he was not defending Say-leen (their common homeland). Ear-an-uh-lor simply said, “I’m kinda busy saving the world - and your ass in the bargain, it seems”, turned his back on Fest-uh-lon, and ignored him from then on. I thought of asking Ear-an-uh-lor if he has no sense of loyalty to his clan, but decided not to. As Master Po used to say, “You may often regret your words, but seldom your silence.”

We found another panel concealing two buttons. At this point Teenk suggested that the person first going to the next floor wear one of the spiked rings we had recovered, so she could keep a mental link with him using the one worn by Head-rack. Unsurprisingly, nobody wished to try it (especially Ripple, with his newly re-grown finger), but when she persisted Ear-an-uh-lor sighed, “Fine, I’ll try it. Just don’t fry my brain, okay?” and put it on. Then he and I proceeded to the next room using the button. We checked the room, called the rest when it seemed safe, and went on in this manner. The next room had a giant map (of this part of the world, Ear-an-uh-lor said), a stone statue, some metal rods, and a table with three necklaces and medallions. Perhaps this is the tor-bee-lee-un machine that we entered the Inner Fane in search of. After the others (with the freed prisoners) had rejoined us, we went on to the next one. This turned out to a library, but was much smaller than the earlier one (perhaps fifty feet in diameter). The earlier rooms had been progressively smaller too, so it seems that the tower was tapering.

While we were looking around the room, Ear-an-uh-lor furrowed his brow for a moment. Then he started smiling and told me, “I think Teenk’s losing it. She just suggested that you were replaced by a doppelganger when you went up the stairs, and are about to kill me. You‘re not about to, are you?” What a strange comment! I have done nothing to deserve such mistrust. Still, I can understand that one needs to be sure of new friends. After all, as Master Po used to say, “When being lent a hand, look always for the fist it may become.” But why does he find it humorous? Before I could respond, he said, “Wait!”, and paused for a few moments. Then he slapped his forehead and said, “Aw crap! Now she thinks you’ve taken me over. Something’s screwy up there. Give me a moment and I’ll be back.” And he pressed the button and disappeared. Unsure what was going on, I waited and was joined by Ripple within moments. He said that apparently Teenk had suddenly become highly suspicious of first me and then Ear-an-uh-lor, and the elf was arguing with her right now. Ripple and I waited for a few minutes, and then Ripple said, “I told them we’d wait for five minutes. We should go on,” and reached for the button. I agree that we should not waste time, but are we being too hasty? As Master Po used to say, “Remember that a dragon's breath is an excess of hot air. It is in extremes that we find the greatest danger.” Ripple pressed the button…

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