Dear Diary…detective work

The Cleric of Velnius took his leave and left to attend to his rainstorm or something, so we all made our own signs of respect and thanked him.

We took the chance to ask Cleric Abramo what had happened to him, and after dismissing the newbie monks, he explained.

Apparently it was Misha, his lovely female cleric assistant, who got him involved (y’know, the one whose chainmail I’m wearing…). She asked him to go talk to some of the people at the Golden Grain, and he went with her, wanting to impress her and be nice. Well, turns out his drink was drugged or something, and the last he remembered was being tied up.

They took him off to the mud pit, and Explictika did her foul magic on him. When he came back, he was forced – compelled by the magic! – to do terrible things that he didn’t want to do.

As he talked, he kept dropping his head, very embarrassed. I whispered to Ezekiel to tell him I’m glad we didn’t kill him, and Abramo returned the sentiment.

We asked him for leads in cleaning up the rest of the town. Sounds like the big trouble is at the Golden Grain Inn…though we’ll talk to the rest of the town just to be safe.

The GG, the blacksmith, the carpenter, and the constable were all part of the group – but the mayor told us the constable had resigned, and of course Master Ramne got the blacksmith back to his temperamental self.

As we discussed what to do from here, Kelsier said that this had been fun and all, but he really wasn’t keen on heading back to the waist-high mud (and I couldn’t really blame him). We technically brought him to help us find a gnome, but we haven’t found him yet – and so it’s perfectly reasonable for him to return to Hochoch with his magical dagger.

Somewhere in this part of the conversation, Ezekiel let slip that Kelsier’s a Thief! Apparently they’d had a conversation earlier that we didn’t hear! And here I just assumed all Halflings were good at locks and traps and stuff when all the time he’s been quietly dual-classing Fighter/Thief.

You can see why he’d play up the racial stereotypes, though.

Jill spoke up, twirling a lock of hair around her finger, and said she’d really been struck by what Ramne said…when the turtle bit her, as she was lying there in the mud, she heard him yell, “She was like an apprentice to me!” as he hurled the lightening bolt at the turtle.

Long and short of it, she wants to go ask if he would take her on and explain some of the stuff that she doesn’t understand yet.

So the five of us headed off to interview the townspeople, while our two companions made arrangements for their own futures.

Oh, yes! Before we left, Abramo fetched his armor (he’d been sitting there in his robes) and said that while he was under the spell, he never took the armor off, night or day, and always kept his mace by him – it was kind of a mania – and now, just the thought of it makes his skin crawl. If his armor can be useful in protecting “Brother Heironeous” as we fight whatever is infesting Homlet, he would be grateful.

And Ezekiel, of course, said he would be honored (and didn’t bother to explain he served Ao even though he’s wearing the colors of Heironeous) and thanked Abramo for the armor.

We made our gestures of respect and left, heading south to begin our investigations.

We stopped at the blacksmith’s first, where Ezekiel chatted with one of the sons, who was working out front in the shop.

While they talked, Raven and I got curious about the broken-down inn that stood opposite. It had obviously been boarded up for at least a year, but as I started checking it out, I found footprints – LIZARDMEN footprints – that couldn’t be more than a few days old.

I followed them around to a blank spot on the wall, but obviously there must be a secret door there, so I called Raven over to try his monk-y skills on it (and yes, that sounded better in my head).

Raven pretty much just pushed the wall, and the secret door slid aside. Ezekiel (who had caught up with us by now) took his magically shining shield and headed in first.

I lit a torch, and in the dual lights we could see the place was totally trashed. A big fight happened some time ago…but what happened to the bodies?

We found a cellar door and headed down. In the large room below were a number of crates, all containing fully disgusting foodstuffs.

Ezekiel opened one of the two doors at the end of the room, and cried out as something attacked him. Turns out it was lizardmen – but they were the exact black-grey of the room behind.

When I finally got close enough to use my sword, I got one good blow in that almost crippled one of them…but after that they warded me off with their little bucklers and I really need to practice more.

Ezekiel got scratched once, but after Mikael cast Faery Fire, Raven punched one of them with a special Monk maneuver that made it snort and blink and stand there.

After killing the three lizardlings, we could examine the room they were in. Seemed to be a tool closet, without much to distinguish it.

Mikael, however, found a crate behind the door that contained a sack. And when he opened the sack – whew, a pile of coins and gems! Those lizardmen weren’t so badly off…

The second room contained crates, every one of them packed with fuzzy, blue-green fruit.

Raven said they were just exotic peaches. I said he could try one first.

When he returned to the main room, Raven asked us to give him a boost to the second floor. The stairs were all broken down, but he is a Monk.

We gave him a boost, and Mikael handed my torch up to him. He investigated for a while, and returned with a backpack, and satchel, and a sack.

On handing these down and rejoining us, he said, “The whole place is covered in dust. It looks like the people were disturbed suddenly, because they left all their stuff behind.”

Indeed, there was a sack of copper pieces, a footlocker with gold (he left the locker itself) a satchel full of bottles, and a backpack packed with small clothes. When we went out into the light, I was pretty sure they weren’t children’s clothes, but I’m not exactly an expert.

Ezekiel checked out the bottles, and figured they were just traveling salesman bottles – y’know, rheumatism and stuff, maybe the odd rat poison.

A young man came out of the house opposite where we stood.

“You weren’t in the Foamy Mug, were you?” he asked. “It’s not safe in there?”

“Why isn’t it safe?”

“Well, the trogs don’t make it safe. And the stairs are broken and stuff.”

Well, maybe we could’ve done a better job pouncing on this, but we did get out of him that the inn was attacked about a year, year-and-a-half ago…the town discovered all the inhabitants killed, along with the lizardmen/trogs who had apparently killed them. The townspeople buried them, and never found out what it was all about.

The man thought he remembered a gnome, and said that “the blacksmith had his sword” or something like that.

He also warned us very strongly against the Golden Grain Inn. (Guess where we’re headed?)

The carpenter’s house and shop was next on the road. We didn’t have much of a conversation…when Ezekiel told him that we’d found his kids, and left them with the mayor for safe-keeping, he ran inside, shouting for his wife, and the two of them took off to see the mayor.

Natural parental feeling is a good sign.

Next stop was the tailor. He seemed almost petrified, and only talked to us through the window. He was able to identify the clothes in the pack as gnomish – in fact, from the Starkmounds Gnomes – and Ezekiel promised to return in the morning with a project for him.

Maybe he can help get the mud off our trousers…although if we’re just heading back to the Mud Pit, there’s not much point in doing that now.

Had a brief conversation with a chicken farmer. He seems “normal” as far as it goes.

When we approached the small, neat house near the mayor’s, Lancell suggested we talk to these guys, too.

So we went and knocked on the door.

When we explained that we had killed the evil snake-lady responsible for “changing” the townspeople, the man smiled and said he was glad to hear it, and frankly he was a friend of the mayor who had been invited here to investigate the goings-on, but they hadn’t gotten as far as they’d liked.

That’s about when I noticed his elf ears.

I was trying not to stare when he and his companion invited us in (Dorian and Lluwelin, respectively), and Ezekiel showed off Explictika’s head. (Really, if he wants to keep this up, we should pickle it so it doesn’t start smelling any worse.)

Dorian and Lluwelin say they were getting ready to leave in a couple days, since the town seemed to have returned to normal. The shopkeeper, like the tailor, has been terrified of the GG since the change-back…but the strangest thing is that the blacksmith and his sons were returned to “normal” several days before anyone else –!

Whereupon we explained that that was thanks to Ramne the hermit. Dorian was very excited to learn what spell Ramne used to dispell the charm, but Lluwelin shushed him.

According to them, the chief players at the Golden Grain were the innkeeper (Bertram Bezuwell), the cook, and a shifty character (obviously Derrick, who hasn’t been around since we thrashed him at the temple and sent him off).

Misha (the lady cleric at the temple) had served here about five years before the trouble all started. So maybe even she wasn’t “bad” to start with, and just got roped in. Like Abramo apparently got roped in.

Of course, some people are more “willing” to be roped in than others… We have to investigate the innkeeper and see what else might be afoot there.

The lizardmen/trogs returned to the dilapidated inn for some reason. Bertram and his cook might not have a self-important naga to deliver people to, but that doesn’t mean they’re upstanding citizens now.

Must investigate to make sure Orlane is good and truly safe now.

(Caught Raven watching them closely. They seem to be playing on the level, but we can always check their story with the mayor (Zacharius) if we want.)

Guess where we’re going next? Yes, the pit of Orlane infamy…


To start at the beginning, click here.

Find the previous entry here.

Dear Diary…the things Ezekiel takes in stride

Last night Lancell woke me up and said there was something outside the door. I gathered my bow and positioned myself, just in case, but thankfully it went away after a while.

In the morning, we gathered our gear – and Raven slung Ezekiel’s body over his back – and we headed out.

Something had eaten the bodies of the claw-claw-bite things…and something had also left a million little footprints in the mud by the door.

I don’t remember ever seeing prints like that before, but I’m so glad Lancell didn’t open the door last night.

We led our civilians to the staircase that led to freedom. I think everybody was glad to see honest-to-goodness sunlight filtered down the length of the stairs.

Kelsier took a rope and tied it at the top of the stairs to give us something to hold on to, but it didn’t reach the last ten feet of staircase.

Mikael lost his footing and wiped out…and when I tried to give him a hand, I went down, too – splat. At least we didn’t hurt ourselves, and eventually reached the swamp topside.

Ramne pointed out a route of heavy traffic leading over the dikes that kept back the water – and he pointed out that there was only one such route. We deduce that no other village was roped into the Explictika cult, yet, which I guess is good since it means we nipped it before it spread.

The swamp was slow going, what with the luggage and helping the civilians keep up (and the thigh-high water and mud). Kelsier, as always, was a trooper, and carried his new magical short sword above his head where it wouldn’t get messed up.

There is one crazy thing that happened (Jill probably wouldn’t call it crazy).

I saw this small hill moving towards us, and eventually realized it was a giant turtle instead. I pointed it out to everybody just in time for it to charge it and chomp Jill.

Man, turtles have some mean jaws on them! I mean, they don’t even have teeth – just little beaks – but it drew blood and tossed Jill down into the mud, flopping in unconsciousness.

Lancell leaped forward and hacked at it, while Raven dropped Ezekiel – slop – in the mud and tried a monk-ish punch. Mikael threw his Faery Fire, and as Kelsier launched his arrow (and I readied mine) I could see a gleaming, sparkly outline of the turtle and its weak points – like my mind was narrowing with a hunter’s instinct on my target.

I didn’t get to loose the shot, though, because Ramne waved his hands and babbled some funny words, and hurled a lightening bolt through our midst at the creature.

I think my hair stood up for a second, and the turtle croaked and growled and flailed and died.

“That was amazing!” screamed the little boy. (I’m still not sure Raven should have shown him Explictika’s severed head.)

I hopped through the mud and stopped Jill’s bleeding. Lancell Laid Hands on her, but she was still in a bad way. That must have been one vicious turtle.

When she finally opened her eyes, Ramne gave her the last swallow of his magic healing potion.

Mikael really wanted to skin the turtle (I admit, that shell was pretty impressively huge) but we decided we couldn’t afford the delay. Maybe we’ll get another chance sometime.

Reached the edge of the swamp by sundown. It’s so nice to be camping on dry ground, with the open breezes above us and the night sounds around us. I know I said the Dim Forest was creepy, but after nearly a week underground, it’s practically homey.

If nothing else dramatic happens, we’ll reach Orlane in a couple of days.

****

Actually three days, which is not bad given how weighed down we were.

As we entered the outskirts and the temple came into view, we could see a heavy rainstorm over the temple. Like, only over the temple. In fact, the path from the gates was a full-blown stream, running downhill to join the river.

“Well, well,” said Raven. “I sense Velnius.”

“Who?” asked those of us who didn’t know.

“Velnius – a god of storms and rain, and cousin to Merikka. His clerics have a way of butting in where they’re not wanted.”

Clerics do that sometimes.

Well, it seemed there had been some excitement while we were gone. We headed to the Slumbering Serpent to meet up with Olwin and the mayor before we decided our next move.

Our rescued prisoners were glad to be home – except for the kids, who were a little nervous about what their parents would be like (the parents hadn’t been quite themselves after meeting Her). We left them with Olwin to take care of (and to talk with their parents) and told the mayor of our success (and showed off the head of course. The little boy wanted to see it once more before he left).

The mayor told us a Cleric of Velnius had arrived two days before, and taken responsibility for the temple. Apparently it’d been raining there almost ever since.

We stashed most of our treasure in our room upstairs (which Olwin had faithfully saved for us) and prepared to go to the temple (because what else?).

Master Ramne cast a “floating disk” spell so we could carry Ezekiel in a little more dignity, then bid farewell. He’s going home. We thanked him, of course, and I said that if he changed his mind about some treasure to let us know.

The mayor hadn’t seen Abramo since we left, but who knew what he had been up to?

We reached the temple gates. They were swinging free on their hinges, while just over the threshold a heavy rain was still falling.

I wasn’t eager to charge into a Cleric battle, but what else was there to do? The answer to the mystery lay ahead.

We ducked through the rain, pushing Ezekiel along on his floating hearse, and through the open doors of the temple. Fortunately, it wasn’t raining inside – although everything did look dampish and freshly scrubbed.

We advanced into the sanctuary.

In front of the statue of Merikka sat an old man in robes that made me think of the sky – of storms and sunshine and clear days and wind. On his right sat Abramo on some kind of stool (not wearing armor, and not attacking us – so far so good). On his left sat a number of monks of Merikka.

Anyone will tell you I can blather with the best of them, but there was something about the powers involved here – and the interaction of deities – that made me feel a little nervous and awed.

I forget who broke the silence first, but the Cleric of Velnius (yes, Raven was right) welcomed us and congratulated us on our good work. He explained that he’d cleared out the torture chamber and the dead bodies (ahem – we had been a little careless with our dead bodies) and we showed him Explictika’s head (again, I don’t see the appeal of her – alive or dead).

It seems “Brother Abramo” is not totally himself…but he is on the way there, and working on penance. (So, sorry, Kelsier – we don’t get to kill him and take his stuff.)

Then the Cleric of Velnius waved his hands at Ezekiel…and Ezekiel twitched…and promptly rolled off the disk.

He came up shouting (because of course Ezekiel does): “That was my sword wound, you spawn of a scaly earthworm –”

And then he realized where he was and bowed to the Cleric and thanked him.

The Cleric told us a long story about some Temple of Elemental Evil…and as he talked, he held his hands toward Ezekiel and I could tell there was magic happening. He said it was destroyed by an alliance of kings and paladins (sounds like the kind of thing my dad would be into) but that there were still people interested in worshiping the forces of Chaotic Evil, and that they had maybe set up shop in a village called Homlet.

“Now you owe us,” said the Cleric to Ezekiel. “And I charge you, and those who are bound to you, to visit the village of Homlet and deal with this cult of Elemental Evil.”

“Thank you for all your help,” said Ezekiel with another bow. “I understand. My mentor was also under a geas.”

Trust Ezekiel to take an enchantment in stride! Right after coming back to life, no less.

Well, with the solemn stuff out of the way, we asked the Cleric’s help in identifying some of the magic items we looted.

He explained that Mikael’s new horn is a “Brass Horn of Valhalla” and will summon barbarians to fight for him (has to be blown by a spell-caster, so it works out that we gave it to Mikael).

Ezekiel started rooting through Kelsier’s bag and thoroughly examined all the potions. I’m not sure he really knows what all of them are, but he was happy to tell us what he thought they were. Because that’s Ezekiel all over.

Well. He’s back. Large as life. And as soon as we mop up the problems for the people of Orlane, he’s magic-bound to go do the same thing for the people of Homlet.

And, well, I’ll go with him, of course. He needs someone around to pull his fat out of the fire (Raven snickered really hard at that and started complaining about his shoulders). And that’s what this whole adventuring thing is about – helping people and stomping evil. What else would I do…take the Love Potion and go off to try my luck?

Ha ha. I’m not my brother Reginald. Ah, the troubles that Father and Alpheus had to pull Reginald out of.

I am not like that. I’m going to be more like Father and Alpheus. A hero.

(I’ll probably also die horribly and young, but there you go.)


To start at the beginning, click here.

Dear Diary…the sweet part of adventuring

Took a few deep breaths. Felt a little better.

Kelsier was busily rooting through the pile of treasure, so I pulled myself together and went to help him.

Kelsier, of course, had found the bag of holding, so he started shoveling platinum coins into it – since it made the most sense to carry out the most expensive stuff.

He found a pair of boots in my size and tossed them over. Mikael found some kind of brass horn, while Lancell brought over a whole pile of jewelry to carry in the bag.

After lots of discussion, we sorted out who should carry what. Jill stripped off Ezekiel’s armor so that Raven could carry his body more easily…meanwhile, I chopped off Explictika Defilas’ head and slipped it into a sack. Some of the guys want a souvenir to prove we did the job. I just hope that poison doesn’t leak through the bag.

We loaded up all the items into the bag of holding, and crammed our pockets with gold coins. Looks like we could come out of this adventure pretty well – those of us who are alive, of course.

We returned to the prisoners’ room and unlocked them. I had looted the keys off Ezekiel that he looted off the evil cleric, and it didn’t take me too many tries to unlock the cages.

The prisoners were very excited to hear we had killed the Big Bad. The little boy asked if she went squish.

We led them through the tunnels and back upstairs (they’re kinda starved and weak and slow, but that was okay since we were all loaded down with treasure and Ezekiel) until we got to the lake with the boat. (Thank goodness the lizardmen we killed hadn’t come back or something weird!)

We ferried across in two trips. When my group reached the shore (after Lancell’s group) they were just finishing off a zombie.

Once safely in the VIP quarters, we barred the door after us and bundled Ezekiel into one of the back bedrooms where we didn’t have to look at him and be depressed. Jill got out her magic books, and started studying Detect Magic, so we could find out if our newly looted items were special in any way.

Well, it was only mid-morning (it’s amazing what happens in a short amount of time!) so I started preparing lunch for our rescued prisoners.

Call it a couple hours later when the temperature suddenly dropped.

“Master Ramne, what’s this?” I asked.

He didn’t seem to know specifically, but we all figured it was nothing good. That’s when something started scratching at the door.

“What’s that? Is it cool?” yelled the little boy, charging forward.

I yelped and jumped between him and the door. Between me and the merchant we rescued, we got him to go into the back room to “defend the women” (the farmer’s wife and the little girl).

Those of us with actual fighting capacity lined up behind the door, while Jill took her books and a torch and retreated to a back bedroom, grumbling.

“Who goes out there?” shouted Lancell, because the scratching was still there.

Nothing in the corridor made a reply – unless you count scrabbling even harder on the door. In fact, a splinter flaked off the wood, and a clawed fingernail showed from beyond.

We convinced Lancell to throw the door open…to reveal three vaguely humanoid shapes with vicious claws and gaping mouths.

They pounced at Lancell while Kelsier and I launched arrows. Fortunately, the dripping teeth missed their mark, but he got badly mauled. Raven darted forward and stabbed with one of his daggers while Lancell beheaded one of the beasties.

Mikael waved his hands and cast his sparkly Faery Fire, and Ramne launched a magic missile past his friends into the corridor.

As Kelsier dropped the last creature with an arrow, I twirled my bow in my hands. Apparently I used up all my skill on the Evil Snake Lady, because now I was being nothing but moral support. (Thought about waving Ezekiel’s sheep toy at them, but I’m sure that wouldn’t work for me.)

With the beasties dead, the temperature slowly returned to normal. Raven kicked one sprawled limb away from the threshold and bolted the door firmly shut again.

Lancell “Laid Hands On” himself, and I gave him the last healing potion from the Temple of Merikka.

Later that afternoon, Jill reappeared and cast Detect Magic. So we pulled a table out and laid out our loot.

  • bracelet and ruby ring (not magical)
  • boots (yes, magical somehow – everyone agreed I should keep them)
  • six potions (magical…but doing what, we don’t know)
  • the brass horn – magical (gave it to Mikael since he ought to have some magical prize, and besides maybe he can use it)
  • two ivory tubes or cylinders – magical (Kelsier figured out they were like puzzle boxes, and cracked them open – discovered a scroll in each one. One scroll looks arcane-ish, so Jill can have it…in fact, she can have the other one, too, since it looks Cleric-ish but our Cleric is DEAD)
  • two other rings are magical. Master Ramne took a look at them, and said one was a Ring of Protection (so we gave it to Raven). The other…Well, he made a little grunt or chuckle of pleasure and said, “This is something I’ve been looking for a long time. It’s a Ring of Free Action, and as one gets older and the joints stop working…you see…If you would let this be my share of the treasure, I would count myself satisfied.”

Tomorrow morning we set out to return to Orlane, escorting our rescued prisoners and lugging the treasure that we can carry (and Ezekiel, of course. Not sure what we can do for him, but the least we owe him is to try).

It’ll be good to see the sunshine again.


To start at the beginning, click here.

Find the previous entry here.

Dear Diary…Ezekiel’s Sheep Toy

That stupid sheep toy of Ezekiel’s…

We spent three long days in the VIP quarters, letting our front-line fighters heal up. Mikael and I had plenty of time to cook things with the vegetables from the storeroom, and Raven kept trying to get us to drink some of his looted wine. (He shouldn’t have smirked like that while he was offering it.)

Well, finally we were all healed up, and started preparing our gear to go back out there.

Ezekiel had this little sheep toy made out of sheepskin – he said he got it from his mentor (y’know, the one who told him about Ao his deity). As he was tucking it in the top of his pack, he unrolled that scroll of Cure Light Wounds we found earlier, and the writing still wasn’t faded from it.

“Praise Ao,” he said. “I still have Cure Light Wounds spells!”

Yeah. That was Ezekiel.

We headed out again – across the lake in the boat, past the dead bodies of the lizardmen we killed, and into the twisty hallway beyond.

“Do you smell something?” asked Ezekiel. “Something like rotting human flesh?”

All Kelsier and I smelled was the lizard stench – which is pretty powerful.

As Lancell turned the corner up ahead, he cried, “I think I found your rotting flesh, Ezekiel!”

Ezekiel, of course, was beside him and exclaimed, “That’s a lot of zombies! Everybody back up to the door!”

Well, I was already at the door, since I hadn’t gotten into the hallway yet, so Kelsier and I readied our bows while the Magic Users backed up past us.

“What are you doing with that little sheep toy, Ezekiel?” asked Mikael, peeking around the corner.

Next thing I heard was Lancell exclaiming.

“Wow! All clear,” came Ezekiel’s voice.

Ezekiel. Performing Turn Undead. WHAT IS HAPPENING TO THE WORLD EZEKIEL ACTUALLY HAD A SPELL??

The rest of us crowded forward to where the passage opened into a room, where Ezie and Lancell were laughing and shaking their heads.

“I figured it out,” cried Ezekiel, waving the sheep thing over his head. “This Lamb is the holy symbol of Ao, and He granted us the power to Turn these Undead into dust!”

I looked around, but all I saw was a lot of dust piles. Raven made a holy gesture to Merikka, and Mikael looked impressed, too.

(Someone asked if they were the guards we had killed, and Lancell thought that, from the wound placement and the clothes, that they probably were.)

I…I still can’t get it. Ezekiel spent all those years praying for spells, and never got any, and now – boom, he turned fifteen zombies into dust just by showing them his sheep toy Holy Lamb Symbol.

    

We kept going. The only path onward was a staircase, leading further down. I grunted something to Kelsier about how many levels this “dungeon” had…it’d be just our luck for Explictika Defilas to bury herself under 100 levels of charmed minions.

This time, none of us slid down the stairs, and we reached the bottom safely. There, we found a huge mud puddle, but for once it had stepping stones across. We chose the path with the most dry land, and that led us to yet another underground lake (no boat) and a door, which we got open.

Behind the door…something that looked pretty undead. Parts of its face were falling off, and it shuffled toward Ezekiel and Lancell with a groan.

Lancell stabbed it with the magic short sword we looted off the guard-officers earlier this week, and the second time Ezekiel waved his sheep toy at it, it kind of whimpered and turned around, letting Lancell cut it down.

Coming off the corridor beyond, we found a row of cages, with four human prisoners.

Ezekiel (of course – Mr. Minister) introduced himself and started Raven and Kelsier working on the locks of the cages.

(I was all paranoid that they were mind-controlled, but the man explained when they were taken to the snake-lady and she said they would be her slaves, that he said “no” – and the little boy and girl who were there said the same thing. There was also a woman who didn’t say much.)

The man is from Hook Hill, while the two kids are from Orlane (surprise!) and their parents were charmed by Her (the carpenter – be cautious when we return).

We couldn’t get all the locks open, but that’s when I remembered the turnip sandwiches I had stashed in my pack – and Raven handed over some of his truly terrible wine. Your heart really goes out to those people when you see them staring at that food like it’s the best stuff they’ve ever seen.

Ezekiel gave the man his spare mace, and Raven gave the woman one of his daggers that he looted from the armory upstairs.

We all decided we weren’t in a position to escort them to a safer place, so after giving them food and torches, Ramne “locked” the door in that special wizard way. Now nothing can get at the prisoners, and if we lived we could go back for them.

Yeah…if we lived…

That corridor ended in another door. Lancell and Ezekiel opened it, and immediately took fighting stances.

Through the door, I could see someone in flashy robes with a decked-out hammer, and someone in rags rushing forward to engage us.

Kelsier and I nocked arrows, while Raven zipped around us and threw a dagger.

As the fight spread out, I was able to move into the room and saw the altar behind the cleric – yet another snake-lady statue sitting on it.

Raven tore down the room and ducked behind the priest and tried to punch him (you wouldn’t know it from looking at his robes, but that guy can really move!).

Well, Raven didn’t totally distract the cleric from the rest of us on the other side of the room, because he waved his hands and said some words and then I couldn’t see.

Apart from a few cries of surprise, it suddenly got really quiet – except for some grunts from Raven.

I blinked as the room lit up again – the door standing against the wall, behind Ramne, was shining brightly.

I got another arrow off and dinged the cleric. While Ezekiel and Lancell pounded on the assistant, Mikael ran forward and clonked the cleric a good one with his staff – all while Raven was darting back and forth, trying to keep away from the cleric and keep him off balance (and took a couple hard whacks for his trouble).

And then – it was over. Lancell stepped forward and finished off the cleric, and we stood breathing heavily and looking at each other.

Ezekiel whipped out his scroll and stood over the bleeding Raven, while we checked out the cleric’s gear.

His hammer was fancy, for sure, with the head fashioned like a snake head – but Lancell declared it less effective than what we had.

Ezekiel did find some keys on him, which we took.

Something about the altar didn’t look right to me (and not just in the Evil sense). I was going over that – and the back wall – trying to decide what I was feeling when Raven took the idol and hurled it against the altar – smash! (Can’t blame him, since this creature came and charmed his over-priests and defiled his goddess’s temple, but it is becoming a fetish.)

Smashing the statue on the altar must have shaken something loose, because a wooden panel slid down – and next thing you know, Kelsier ran forward and was helping me open a secret door.

Raven was completely healed by Ezie’s scroll (in fact, he looked a tad younger than he had before), so Lancell and Ezekiel strode forward to take point.

And through the secret door…just inside…oh, my…

It was Her. In the flesh. One hundred times bigger than the statues we’d seen, and that much uglier, too…coily snake body and a woman’s head.

She whipped around to look at us, gave a funny little smile, and stared at Lancell.

They charged. Ramne muttered something, then yelled, “Stay close to me if you can!”

Mikael waved his hands in a Druid spell, and then her outline glittered and shone, like my instincts were honing in on the shot.

She snarled and lashed out at Ezekiel…and…he dropped to the ground like a stone.

Jill fired her Magic Missile (it shot past me all fiery and white) and Lancell struck a blow that would have taken off a limb if the slimy freak had limbs.

With Raven’s loud prayers to Merikka in my ears, Kelsier and I took our shots – and landed arrows smack in that scaly hide.

And then Master Ramne said some strange words in a kind of echoey voice, and I flinched as a searing white bolt of lightening shot past my shoulder and hit Explictika Defilas in her uncanny, woman-ish face.

She shrieked, and twisted, and shriveled like an earthworm, and flopped on the ground with a long exhalation.

I think we all stood rooted for a split second.

Then I was kneeling over Ezekiel…and he wasn’t breathing…and I dug the Cure scroll out of his pack, but I couldn’t even pronounce the words, let alone cast them. I asked Ramne if he had a poison cure (and he didn’t) and Lancell (he has a “Cure Disease” because of course he does, but nothing for naga poison) and Mikael (who thinks he might in like three levels but not yet).

Kelsier was digging in the pile of treasure that Evil Defilas used as a sitting cushion, and came back with a leather bag.

“Look,” he said, and put his arm in all the way, and then took it out. “There’s a lot of gold here, too, and skulls…but we’re probably not interested in the skulls.”

Yeah. Great. Dandy. Gold and new boots and lots of other weird stuff. I did dig through the pile for a potion of some kind, but of course one bottle looks much like another.

And every time I came back to Ezekiel, he hadn’t moved. I don’t think his heart is beating.

Raven folded himself into that monk-ish pose, and started praying to Merikka: “I don’t know Ezekiel’s God Ao, but you know Him, Merikka – so would you please petition Him on behalf of His servant Ezekiel?”

Guess I’ll do the same with Ehlonna.

WHY? So I get You don’t care much about having clerics, since You put so little effort into them – and never gave Ezekiel spells – but then You turn around and honor Your symbol (if that’s what it is) and let a brand new, untrained cleric ABSOLUTELY DISINTEGRATE fifteen zombies, and then You just let Your cleric DIE?

I’m so confused.

Ezekiel was kind of bossy, and also straight-laced, and just had to be involved in everything, and had to make himself the one to talk to everybody (like citizens and stuff) and he somehow thought I couldn’t possibly handle myself (like being nineteen somehow makes me immature) and now after all this time telling me about a God that nobody else thinks exists (but maybe He does? how would I know) after all that he’s just…gone.

One slash from – You Know Who. And now You Know Who is dead and rotting, and we’ve chopped the head off her whole cult…but Ezekiel is just lying there and he didn’t even twitch when I waved his “holy symbol” in his face.

Stupid, stupid Ezekiel, who thinks he has to teach me how to properly check the enemies’ pockets, and properly make turnip stew, and like I can’t handle being in the front with Lancell because Kelsier is way stronger than I am and so what if he is? I’m not a kid, and Ezekiel doesn’t have to be in charge of everything –

EXCEPT NOW HE’S NOT IN CHARGE AND HOW DOES THAT MAKE SENSE?

And anyway, Gracious Ehlonna, please pass on – assuming Ao is the great God of the Gods who oversees everything – please just mention to Him that this really doesn’t make sense and I’m confused so thanks…if only there was a Resurrection or something…


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Dear Diary…Party vs. Doors

The night passed…I won’t say peacefully, because there seemed to be a lot of traffic in the corridor outside, but it did pass. And we were able to nurse our wounds and rest up.

On venturing out, we explored the tunnels to the south and west. There we found some nice quarters with a fireplace and comfy chairs. A corridor back behind it led to bedrooms with…four beds.

As someone (maybe Lancell) pointed out, we killed three officers outside the guardrooms yesterday.

The last door was locked, and took a combined effort to break down. A desk stood in the corner, with a statuette of a snake with a woman’s face.

While Raven was trying to break the statue of the creature that had “defiled his goddess’ temple”, Kelsier found and unlocked a chest from underneath the bed.

There was a swirly, glowing symbol beside the lock, but Ezekiel opened the chest anyway and seemed to be fine.

Inside we found a robe, a mace, and a scroll.

Ramne took one look at the robe and growled. It’s black and crimson – apparently the colors of a spirit naga, which he said is bad.

If Master Ramne says it’s bad, I guess it’s bad.

Ezekiel took a look at the scroll, and gave a thank-you prayer to Ao.

“Look,” he called to us. “Ao gave me the Cure Light Wounds spell I asked for this morning!”

Well, what do you know about that? I’m all for being grateful to Good deities, I guess. Little did I know how much we’d need that scroll.

Well, Ezie also snagged the mace (as a spare) but we left the robe.

Exploring some more, we came to a door that wouldn’t open – but that’s not exactly a surprise down here. There’s so much moisture in…everywhere.

Lancell and Ezekiel sprinkled a little dirt on themselves while them were hauling on the door, and when they finally did get it open a great ton of mud crashed down on their heads!

As I ran forward from the back of the line, I saw Ezekiel stretched out, face covered with mud.

Lancell “Laid Hands” on him, which let him stand up, but he was pretty shaky and achy. We all decided Kelsier should be in the lead with Lancell, while Ezekiel helped me guard the rear.

(He’s got this crazy idea that I can’t protect myself. Like I didn’t leave home at fourteen to live with my Ranger Master. He and Archy would get along so well.)

Anyway, after all that, there wasn’t anything in the room except several kegs…presumably of beer. If we happen to get thirsty, I guess we’ll come back for it.

South of the VIP quarters, we found a boat on the shore of a little lake. Piling in, Ezekiel and Raven rowed us across. At the very edge of our torchlight, we could see the glinting eyes of crocodiles…but thankfully they ignored us and we crossed the opposite shore safely.

At the end of this new corridor was a door. The moment we opened the door, there was a cry, and something rushed us.

Two lizard-like humanoids fought us. Those slit eyes give me the shivers!

And the stench! Poor Kelsier staggered and bent over, and while the rest of us managed to keep it together, it wasn’t an easy fight.

Jill cast her Magic Missile (she won’t let me call it her magicky lightening bolt anymore) which is good ’cause we needed all the help we could get.

No sooner had we killed the first two than the door beyond flew open and in rushed more of the filthy beasties!

And Lancell got stabbed. You know it’s bad when the Paladin gets hurt.

Ezekiel whipped out his scroll and started reading aloud.

Ramne muttered and waved his hands, and the leading lizardman dropped to the floor, snoring loudly.

Didn’t phase his companions any – they just crowded up to the door, eager to hack at us.

Ezekiel read through the scroll twice (he says there was a second copy at the bottom) and Lancell’s wounds closed.

Kelsier was wheezing badly (and he’s not so good with a sword as his bow, I guess) so he dropped to his knees and killed the sleeping lizard-thing.

Raven flung daggers into the enemy (I didn’t see whether he hit anything) and Mikael and Jill went to it with their staves.

When the dust cleared, six total lizardlings lay stretched out, dead. All of us were standing, which is really an improvement if you think about it…but we were still beat up.

Mikael helped me loot the lizardy humanoids. They had money pouches which added up to a decent sum…but not worth coming here just for that.

Lancell and Ezekiel were both in a bad way, and enough of the rest of us had scratches that we all decided to go back to the VIP quarters and rest up. It’s only mid-morning, but we won’t make it very far in this condition.

This place is kind of weird, like “Empty hallway, empty hallway, empty – LOOK SOMETHING THAT CAN TOTALLY KILL YOU!”

It’s a little boring, sitting here behind our barred door, listening to our companions’ snores. (And Lancell has quite a snore for his age.) But we need to stick together. We need each other.

And besides I can daydream about how I’m going to skin that weasel. Y’know…that enormous, so-big weasel…


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Find the previous entry here.

Dear Diary…Battle-o-rama

So much for a quiet afternoon.

We holed up in the guards’ bunk-rooms to let our wounded companions recover. But only a few hours had passed before I heard something in the corridor outside…munching.

Summoning Mikael and Kelsier for backup, I peeked out the door.

In the darkness and shadows, a giant lizard was chewing on one of the guards’ bodies. Well, that’s unsanitary and disrespectful, and I decided to interfere.

Maybe the torchlight confused it (or the guard was really tasty) because it didn’t react to us right away.

The beam of light from the door threw some weird shadows, so my first arrow went high. After that, Kelsier and I both nailed the creature, and it leapt forward to engage.

Mikael helped us take it down, and though it took a bite out of my cloak, none of us got hurt.

To prevent more nonsense like that, we dragged the dead bodies into an unused guardroom. Besides, we had some time to burn while we waited for Ezekiel and Raven to heal up a bit.

Not too long after we’d locked ourselves in again, someone came down the passage and pounded on the door across the way.

He shouted some things like, “Open up, you fools! No time for stupid jokes. I’m getting Jarvis!”

Then he went away.

Within minutes, Ezekiel and Lancell knocked on our door.

“We have company coming! Let us in, so we can ambush them from this room.”

So our whole party crowded into one room, and our lead fighters readied themselves behind the door. Raven was still snickering; apparently he asked the man for a password or something.

Footsteps came down the corridor, then the opposite door echoed with pounding.

“Open up. You’re in big trouble; She won’t be happy to hear you’re neglecting your duty!”

Lancell threw open the door and charged out with the magically shining shield on his arm. A man in scale mail stood there with two fighters at his back. They stared, open-mouthed, while we swung our weapons.

We had the poor guys outnumbered, but they still put up a worthy fight. They seemed to still have their memories, their names, their thinking abilities…but their loyalties were totally invested in Her. Which made them our devoted enemies.

Poor guys. Still, they had some nice loot.

Once everything was over, Mikael cast Detect Magic to examine one of their short swords, that had a design on the blade.

Turns out, that short sword is magic (somehow), so Kelsier traded up for it. The Enemy Commander’s shield was also magic, so Ezekiel snapped it up. We also looted the commander’s long sword for a spare, and Ezekiel insisted I use a shield, since we now had so many spares of that (since the enemies all had shields).

I tried to tell him that I’m already carrying a bow, a long sword, and a torch (and how many arms does he think I have?!) but he says I need to learn so that I’ll have a better Armor Class.

So now I have a shield hanging on my back. Well, whatever keeps me alive, I guess.

We decided that we weren’t getting any rest anyway, so we should explore some more of the tunnels.

Found a storeroom with food and a weapons rack, and Raven cleaned them out of daggers (he does have a history of losing them, I guess). Come to think of it, Raven has collected a lot of things lately…from their turnips and their wine to their daggers.

Hope this won’t cause problems for us later.

We didn’t meet any more “enemies” except for one thing…I was rear-guard, and heard something skittering up behind us.

When I turned…well, it was the biggest weasel I had ever seen.

As I launched an arrow at it, Kelsier beside me said, “That’s a big weasel.”

Weasels can move really fast. And when they’re that enormous, they move comparatively faster! It charged and made a swipe at me with its teeth, forcing me to switch to my sword.

Raven, who was next in the line, said, “Now that is a big weasel.”

Kelsier nailed it with an arrow. As Raven landed some kind of monk-strike on it, Kelsier muttered, “I’ve never seen a weasel that size.”

We killed it, but not before it took a big chomp out of me. Weasels have wicked sharp teeth, too! I mean, the small ones can be pretty vicious if you’re not careful, but when it’s just that freaking huge…!

While I leaned against the wall and Kelsier tried to make me stop bleeding, Ramne shuffled back to us and handed me a flask.

No idea what was in that stuff, but Wow! it packs a punch. One swig, and I felt much better. He said he only had one more dose, but it put me back on my feet, and that’s what matters for now.

Whew. Burned all the way down, though.

Well, us rear guard caught up with the others, and we started down a corridor we had passed by earlier.

“There’s a mud patch, and a door beyond it,” said Lancell from the front.

“I’ll check it for traps,” said Raven, and dashed forward.

I don’t know what happened (since I’m way in the back) but everybody up front started exclaiming or shouting.

“Don’t touch it,” yelled Ramne.

“It burns,” cried Raven.

“We need some help, here,” shouted Ezekiel. “What do we do?”

Raven came back into view, stumbling, with green goo covering his boots.

“Don’t touch it,” cried Ramne.

Lancell drew his sword and scraped the slime off Raven’s feet. Raven uncorked one of his looted bottles of wine, and doused his feet.

Ezekiel borrowed my torch and ran the flame along Lancell’s sword. The sticky something – whatever it was – bubbled and left a dark, ugly stain behind on the sword.

Good thing we just looted another long sword. Lancell put down the damaged one in disgust, and we retreated from the evil mud puddle.

It was evening out in the lands were the sun shines, so we returned to the guard rooms and bedded down.

This time, we’ll just mind our own business and hope nothing tries to invade us.


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Dear Diary…The Dank, Dark Dungeon of Death

By the time the sun reached the horizon, we had come to the end of the swamp path…and our presumed destination.

Sheltered by a circular dyke, a staircase led down into a hole in the ground. It didn’t look as much like a “cave” as I had expected, but you didn’t have to be a genius to assume we had arrived.

Settling down in the relatively drier area inside the dyke, we arranged watches and prepared to rest through the night.

Tomorrow, well-rested, uninjured, and with prepared spells, we will descend into the Dungeon!

****

What a busy morning!

Right after breakfast, we headed down the staircase – Lancell and Ezekiel first. Master Ramne cast a Light spell on the shield for our leading man, so it would shine out in front – and Raven and I would carry torches in the back.

The wooden steps were very muddy and wet…and Ezekiel lost his footing and took Lancell down to the bottom – bump, bump, bump!

We could hear Ezekiel yell, “Hey, guys!” as he descended into darkness.

Ramne, Mikael, and Jill rolled their eyes and started down – only to lose their footing and join our leaders on their backsides.

Raven and Kelsier (no surprise) kept their footing as they followed, and I stopped laughing long enough to also not make a fool of myself.

As we took our time down the creaking stairs, we could hear the clangs and shouts of combat. By the time the three of us in the back had reached the bottom (about sixty steps later), our companions had killed four guards armed with spears.

The guards had nothing on their persons. Jill commented that they never tried to run away, even when Lancell leveled one with a single stroke.

The room was dirt, about ten feet high, shored up with wooden beams that didn’t look too healthy. Given the option, I wouldn’t trust my head to this place, but what choice do we have? We have to get to the bottom of this.

Three corridors led off from the room. Ezekiel picked the western corridors and hustled us into marching order, bustling Lancell into the front with him.

(Probably he’s just excited to finally be in action, close to solving this thing, but he doesn’t have to act like everybody’s big brother. I mean, come on, we know how to do our jobs, Ezie.)

At the end of the passage stood a wooden door. It was hard to see from way in the back (and having the front of Lancell’s shield shining with light throws weird shadows) but I could hear the two leaders breaking it down.

The people in front shouted in surprise. Frogs!

Lancell, Ezekiel, and Mikael killed them, but they whacked Ezekiel with a tongue before they went down.

The group moved forward so Raven could examine the room with his torch, letting me get a look at the frogs. They were bigger than Kelsier, and lived in a pool that filled the room beyond.

Raven waded into the pool, and found it about waist-high. He reached a muddy ledge over to the left, and called, “There’s a door here, but it’s hard to tell if it goes anywhere.”

Kelsier (obviously) wasn’t excited about traveling through the pool, and neither was I. Who knows what’s in there? After all, where did the frogs come from? Who keeps a pool of giant frogs around?!

We returned to the entryway and took the east corridor.

Four wooden doors opened off this passage, and Lancell listened at the first one. He and Ezekiel whispered and gestured dramatically, and then Lancell eased the door opened and rushed into the room.

At the thumps and clangs of combat, Raven followed the leading duo into the room, while Kelsier and I kept our eyes on the rest of the passageway and the two magic users stood against the wall and talked about some brainy thing I didn’t understand.

“Intruders! Intruders!” yelled a woman’s voice from the room, while the thumps and cries continued.

Two of the doors farther down the passageway burst open, and men charged into the corridor, gripping short spears.

While I shoved my torch upright into the mud of the floor and readied my bow, Kelsier let loose an arrow and felled the first man with a single shot.

The corridor quickly crowded with people. There were eight men altogether, and they pressed forward while Kelsier and I riddled them with arrows.

Mikael backed away from the door where our companions were, and Raven emerged, bleeding.

While the two of them fell back and made mud balls, Lancell and Ezekiel charged out of the room and engaged the spearmen.

Maybe the frog spit did something to Ezekiel’s head. The whole thing would have been over quicker if he didn’t keep almost dropping his mace, or missing his opponent and smacking Lancell’s shield.

Of course, Lancell also missed a blow and cut Ezekiel pretty badly. Remind me to stay in the archery division.

Mikael and Raven lobbed their mud balls at the enemy. Raven nailed Lancell in the back of the head (maybe that’s why Lancell accidentally slashed Ezekiel?). Mikael wasn’t so unfortunate, but neither of them hurt the actual enemy, so they fell back to watch with the magic users.

Well, it takes a long time to describe, but the whole thing was over in a matter of moments. All eight spearmen lay sprawled before us in a muddy mess…not even when they saw their companions decapitated with a single stroke did they try to flee, or parlay.

Raven and Ezekiel were our only injured. While Lancell “laid hands” on Ezekiel, and Ramne supervised the first aid, Mikael and I searched our fallen enemies.

The first room had been occupied by four young women with spears…all dead. All twelve were all dressed very simply, and none of them had any personal effects or something to identify them to their relatives.

I’m not a nobleman warrior like Lancell, and I’m not a former man-at-arms like Ezekiel. The smell of human blood and brains does something to me. We have to stop this Evil Explictika Deflias character. Who knows how many deaths are at her door by now? How many villages has she plundered and bewitched?

I can’t wait to get out of this sticky death-trap, but we have to hole up for now. Raven and Ezekiel need to recover strength.

We barricaded ourselves in two of the barracks rooms. Ramne has the wounded and Lancell with him across the way. When Ezekiel mentioned barricading the door, Ramne looked a little smug, and I heard him mutter some strange words after he shut it.

I’m not a wizard, so I’ll lock our door the best I can.

We’ll have some lunch, and ponder out our next move. Taking out eighteen enemies without losing anyone to unconsciousness is pretty good (especially considering our record), but we’re kidding ourselves if we think it’ll all be this easy.

We will end this snake-lady witch if we die for it.

May Ehlonna protect me…protect us all.


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Dear Diary…action at last…?!

Well, our adventure with the blacksmith didn’t teach us a whole lot more than we already knew.

Explictika Defilas or whatever she calls herself is charming people in the swamp, and Abramo has been kidnapping people to take to her.

Master Ramne says that if Abramo was charmed (enchanted) into doing things against his alignment, that would explain the mental strain that could have resulted in all the mad scribbling we found in his room in the temple.

Anyway, we (the party) and Ramne went to the Mayor to discuss our options.

After a lot of talking, and trying to decide what we could do against what we might be up against, we thought that:

1) a party should head into the swamp, tracking the lizardmen who were apparently involved in this cult (y’know, the lizardmen we killed in the cellar). They would have left a distinctive odor trail, such that Ramne’s weasel could follow.

2) whatever innocents remaining in the town should prepare themselves to defend each other against further kidnapping (especially since facing opposition might make the cultists more brazen).

3) someone (or someones) should go to Hochoch, to summon help for the village.

When Ezekiel asked the Mayor if he knew anyone who would be our messenger, he said “no”.

That’s when I blurted out that Alan might do it. I didn’t know much about him, but he was Ramne’s friend, and Ramne seemed willing to help us. (He volunteered the use of his weasel, after all.)

Well, Ramne and I went to talk to Alan. He said it was a two or three week journey to Hochoch, his family needs him, there’s no guarantee that anyone in Hochoch would be willing to help us even if we got there, and besides his adventuring days are over.

But at least now he knows what’s been going on, and can help Olwin at the Slumbering Serpent to look out for any no-good happenings.

With nothing else to do, our party settled down to heal up for our journey to the swamp. Raven, of course, just got leveled by a blacksmith-hammer and Kelsier and I still had wounds (probably from the goblins but really it’s been so long I don’t remember).

Feels good to have something definite to do. It’s true we can’t afford to wait for help from Hochoch…Abramo and his followers can wait us out easily, and there are still innocent people who haven’t been pulled into this who are at risk.

Besides, we have no evidence that Orlane is the only village Explicty D. is exploiting. Striking at the root of this thing is the only way to finish it once and for all.

So, I’m leaving my journal in our chest of loot at the inn. If we never make it back from the swamp, Olwin and his wife shall inherit the chest.

I, Elwyn, being of sound-ish mind do deed my share of the treasure to them, since really that’s the only thing I have to leave. (And my big brother Bartholomew can’t have my bow not even if he says he’s sorry for the thing with the slugs.)

Elwyn

Speaking of the treasure chest, though, Lancell, Raven, and Ezekiel pooled their shares of the gold to buy Ezie a decent shield, since he’s going to be in front protecting the rest of us, and that will benefit the whole party.

Olwin helped us buy it, so we didn’t antagonize the blacksmith any more than necessary.

****

A few days of rest have put us back on our feet. No word on what Abramo and his people have been up to in the meantime, but we have to trust the Mayor and Alan and Olwin to take care of themselves.

Setting out, now. If you’re an adventurer reading this, it’s up to you, now!

****

Ezie is mocking me for packing a spare journal, but it was a good idea!

The first few days out of Orlane were pretty boring, with Whiskers the Weasel leading the way, and Master Ramne shuffling along with us.

(Yes, he joined our party! After all, it’s his weasel, and we’ll probably need all the help we can get fighting Her.)

To reach the Rushmoors Marsh, we had to go through the forest. This forest seemed wrong on so many levels…no animals, no birds, no undergrowth. I can’t tell if that’s “normal” for this part of the world, but it didn’t feel normal to me.

Mikael looked uncomfortable, too. Obed-Hai might not always see eye-to-eye with Ehlonna, but we can all agree forests weren’t meant to be so dreary. The moss hangs down, and the light never makes it all the way through the trees…

Well, finally we left the moss and gloom for the MUD. The Rushmoor swamp is all mud and slime and water, almost up to Kelsier’s chest. Of course the little trooper doesn’t complain (and he’s probably better off on his own feet than with one of us carrying him…I know I would drop him, I just would), but it slows us all down.

Well, we hadn’t gone far before we were ATTACKED in the swamp.

Three ugly bugs that looked like fat bats merged with mosquitos dove toward us, needle-noses first.

Lancell swung his sword, and sliced the first one in half with one chop – splat!

Raven whipped out the dagger he looted off the Assassin, and danced forward to a gap in the battle formation. He flung the dagger at one of the creatures, but it missed and dropped with a plunk into the water.

We archers launched arrows, but I could tell it was hard for Kelsier to draw his bow when his arms were almost in the water, and he only nicked one of the creatures.

I, though, finally acquitted myself like I should. I nailed that sucker right through the body, letting Lancell finish off the last one.

Three giant insect things defeated, and not a one of us were injured!

This is definitely a win.

But I’m getting mud on my journal.


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Dear Diary…the mystery of our monster head collection

Woke up this morning in the torture chamber on the second floor of the temple. Our prisoner was still secure on the rack (not tightened, of course, just restrained).

Spending the night tied up seemed to have improved his mood. He actually started to answer some questions, starting with his name: Derrick.

Still a little wary, but he told us some useful information. He was taken to the “snake thing” by Abramo, and “she” wrapped herself around him and told him he was hers.

That’s how it works, apparently. Abramo and his servants would decide on a victim, and that family would be kidnapped and taken to the “snake thing” – in a cave in the Rushmoor swamp. Then, they would give Her their possessions willingly…they were snared, just like Abramo.

Except Derrick somehow wasn’t charmed – but he played along, and sometimes got paid for helping kidnap or shake down people. Sometimes they would even work on travelers passing through.

He didn’t remember our gnome, Neeblebluer (spl?). He’d only been to the swamp once, so couldn’t give us better directions.

The only other useful things he told us were these: Abramo sent him into the temple last night, to scout and “maybe some of us wouldn’t wake up in the morning”.

He also gave us the names of some of the people on the other side. We already knew the blacksmith and militia constable were with Abramo, but “the widow” was “on the list” to be changed…and so were “everyone at the Slumbering Serpent”, and a couple guys who lived by the mayor, and the farmer who lived near the inn.

We seemed to have pumped him dry, and he was pretty badly beat up, so we had a group huddle to decide what to do with him.

We finally voted to let him go (he wouldn’t have a lot of incentive to go back to Abramo, and he’s not in a condition to fight anyway), and we’d escort him to the edge of town for safety.

Fierce discussion, but we finally decided to keep the key we got off him. He says it’s to his stuff in the Golden Grain, the second inn of the town. We’re not going to loot it (not only does that seem like overkill, but he got a gleam in his eye when he told us that made us think the Golden Grain wasn’t a good place to go), but as Lancell pointed out, this way he’ll have even less incentive to stick around here.

While I got the prisoner off the rack, Lancell and Ezekiel beheaded some of the goblins lying around on the floor (we’ve got to be tidier in future) and loaded them into one of the coffins in the chamber (why are there fresh, new coffins lying around? I wish I knew).

We let Derrick out at the gate, and went to collect more monster heads from the basement (plus some skeleton heads from the skeletons we fought).

Raven made a detour on the second floor. One of the rooms up there is a library, and when we cleared the temple one of the times, we found a book in there – a holy book to Merikka…defaced with ugly pictures and soiled.

He says he wants to get the illuminations repaired. I think it’ll also be another piece of evidence that the caretakers of Merikka’s house have abused their duties.

Lugging the coffin full of monster heads, we sallied out into the town (Raven barred the gate behind us and climbed the wall to rejoin us).

As we descended the hill of the temple in loose formation, one of the farmers who lives at the crossroads came onto his porch with a crossbow.

Perfect opportunity to panic, but we kept our cool and smiled and waved as we just walked on past down the road. He seemed relieved when we left; can’t blame him, can you? It’s not every day you see a band of weird strangers taking their coffin for an outing.

We got to the inn (Slumbering Serpent) without further problems, and I confided in Olwin, the innkeeper (he seemed to take to me earlier, which I’ll certainly be grateful for).

He agreed that lizardmen and goblins had no rightful business in the Temple of Merikka, and suggested we hide our coffin in his winery while he fetched the Mayor to come listen to our case.

Having nothing better to do, we had a late breakfast while we waited.

When the Mayor arrived, we showed him our evidence. If the pile of monster heads hadn’t been enough to convince him, the innkeeper’s wife brought in Cirilli, the poor girl Abramo kept in a cage. He agreed that this was terrible, and should be dealt with.

What we should do about it, though, was another question.

Being back at the inn meant we could reunite with Jill our magic-user (looking none the worse for not being in combat the last few days), and we asked her what might possibly have been cast on Abramo and the others to “change” them.

Could we fix them? Would they never be “themselves” again, and we’d have to kill them?

Obviously, the Mayor was not happy about slaughtering half his town (especially when we weren’t sure who was on which side). It didn’t seem like the best idea to us, either, but I don’t know if we would stand a chance against this “snake lady thing” in the marsh, or if confronting her would free the townspeople, or even what the possibilities were!

While the Mayor and Lancell went to visit “the widow” and advise her to seek safety at the Slumbering Serpent (better than living alone, after all), the rest of us headed to talk to the mysterious hermit behind the inn.

Ezekiel has a “feeling” about this hermit that he can somehow help us.

I said, “Oh, Ezie, you and your prophetic feelings.”

He said, “This isn’t one of those, but I still think we should seek his help!”

Well, I think he’s right there. Jill isn’t high enough level to advise us, much less combat this thing, and the Mayor didn’t have anybody else he could think of who could be our ally.

The hermit lives in a shack of sorts, off in the trees behind the inn, right on the west edge of town.

He was noncommittal when we first showed up, but showing him our monster head collection (and talking about our planning with the Mayor) seemed to break the ice a bit.

We left our coffin in hiding by his house, while he agreed to accompany us to the blacksmith.

The Plan was for Ezekiel to be the distraction and pretend to shop for a shield, while Ramne (the hermit guy) observed the blacksmith from a distance and tried to see what kind of effect was on him. Charm spell? Racial domination spell (from some strange snake/reptile race that Ezekiel had heard of)? Could we counter-act it, and free the people from this bondage?

Well, we set off, trying to keep pace with the shuffling steps of the…er…old gentleman. (He might be reading over my shoulder, you know!)

We passed the house that’s just north of the SS, and the man on the porch greeted Ramne. They seemed to be friends.

The guy was doing something with his hand.

And that’s when I remembered my training, from way back in the village with my Ranger Master.

“It’s like being in a secret club of cool people,” he told me. “This is the Ranger sign. If they make this sign, then they’re a Ranger, too. You’d be surprised where you discover a brother ranger, out there in the wilds of the world.”

The man beckoned me over to talk.

Ezekiel didn’t want me to (probably worried the guy was a fake, or something) but sometimes you have to live dangerously. I told Ezie and Kelsier I’d catch up with them.

When they moved out of earshot, Alan (that’s the man’s name) asked, “What do you want with old Ramne?”

I said, “It’s a long story, but we’re hoping he can help us, and the Mayor.”

He nodded. “I trust him. Good luck.”

I said, “Thanks,” and I warned him not to trust Abramo.

This was probably the “farmer” on the list of potential victims (that we got from Derrick this morning).

Anyway, if Alan’s a Ranger, then he’s a Good guy. That doesn’t mean he’ll trust us (at least not right away) but he’s another potential ally.

As our group approached the smithy, Ramne “the old guy” hung back in the shelter of the building, while Ezekiel and the others advanced.

The blacksmith and his two boys (presumably his sons) were hard at work.

Ezie hadn’t even gotten a word out when the smith exploded in curses and yells, trying to rush him (his sons held him back).

Ezekiel and Kelsier and Mikael all tried to be reasonable and calm him down, but he just got more and more worked up.

I tried to keep an eye on how Ramne was doing, but it’s hard when you don’t know how this magic stuff works. Plus he has a naturally un-flapped face, so I wasn’t sure if he’d figured out what the spell was or not.

“Please,” said Ezekiel. “I only wanted to see your merchandise. I don’t think we’ve even met before.”

The sons lost their grip on their father’s arms…hard to see from where I stood, but it looked like they were surprised by something.

The blacksmith rushed forward, and swung his hammer. Raven was the first one standing in his path, and smashed to the ground in a dramatic sprawl.

I barely registered Ramne’s look of surprise before I raced forward, not even sure what I was going to do.

Ezekiel charged in and body-blocked Raven. Kelsier whipped out his bow and launched an arrow, catching the smith and dropping him to the ground with an ugly wound.

While he was growling and trying to rise, suddenly he crumbled to the ground, snoring gently.

By the time I recovered from my shock, I had reached the others. The two sons were still standing in the shop, staring in perplexity.

“I’m bandaging him,” I told them, approaching carefully. “Here are my hands. Here are my bandages. It’s going to be okay; I’m going to bandage him.”

So I patched up the blacksmith, and then we tried talking to his sons.

Their names are Ben and Josh. They seemed confused, and maybe scared.

“Father hasn’t been the same since…”

Since what? They didn’t say. Josh ran inside quickly, and Ben kept repeating, “Was that real?”

They had all been taken to the “snake thing”. Ben says his father has always had a temper, but he’s been acting…he’s always had a temper…was that real?

That kind of thing. It mostly just confirmed what we had already known.

When Ben went inside to take care of Josh, we bundled the blacksmith onto his smithy porch and dragged Raven behind the privacy of the corner of the building.

Lancell lay hands on Raven, and Raven recovered himself a bit. Still, that was quite a nasty crunch from that smithing hammer.

Apparently, Ramne “the old guy” figured out how to remove whatever charm is on these people, but he says they won’t necessarily be themselves again…or, “fixing” it won’t necessarily have the effect we hoped.

Plus, even he can’t fling magic around willy-nilly, and de-charming all the cultists (without them figuring out what we’re up to and escalating the confrontation) might not be an option.

Gotta remember, there are a lot of innocent folks who just live here, and aren’t involved at all (yet).

We have some more people to interview (like those two guys who live by the Mayor) and we have to take the findings of our experiment to the Mayor and query him for advice.

This Evil monkey-business (whatever we call it) is not going to be dismantled in one day.


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Dear Diary…Bar the gates!

Ezekiel still convinced Ao wants him to bar the gates. So we’ve reached a compromise.

Cirilli is not safe here (and she’s not keen to camp out in the place where she was caged, anyway). So Raven and Kelsier (who are both more likely to be able to climb the wall) will escort her to the Slumbering Serpent Inn. Kelsier is also our best fighter, and the most likely to fend for himself should Raven turn Evil (Monk of Merikka so-called!).

Olwin struck me as a decent guy — he didn’t “smell” like one of these wack-a-doodle cultists. So the girl should be safe with him until we can sort this business out.

The rest of us are going to make hay while the sun shines and sweep the cellars, since last time we were down there we were too busy killing lizard men. (Did I mention that part? Probably concussion or what-d’you-call-it…most of that day is fuzzy or blank.)

****

Investigated the rest of the temple. Nothing to report, except that the bodies of the Evil Cleric lady and our late companion Lefty are gone.

Got a feeling we’ll meet them again as skeletons, y’know what I mean?

Also found some “cells” or small chambers in the cellars that lent credence to Cirilli’s story. She said she and her family were held down there before visiting “Her.” Looks like we found the place.

Convinced there were no secret doors, we returned to the second floor and Abramo’s suite, since is was the most defensible spot in the temple.

Good thing, too. Just a bit ago, a huge party came to the front gate. At least ten people – including someone who looked like the blacksmith (who was one of the folks Olwin told me has “changed”).

Happily, they were disturbed by the gate being barred, and went off again.

Still no sign of Raven and Kelsier. Regretting sending off our best fighter now, but we’ll hope for the best.

****

We were resting in the upstairs room when Raven arrived – without Kelsier.

He didn’t seem worried about it (said Kelsier was perfectly able to take care of himself), but Ezekiel rousted all of us, and marched the party downstairs to look for him – while I stayed upstairs where I would have an advantage shooting my bow through the arrow slits.

It was getting dark by now. I saw my companions in the courtyard below because they carried torches.

Another crowd had gathered outside the gate. Ezekiel challenged.

Someone claiming to be Abramo challenged us and demanded that we give their temple back, in the name of Merikka.

Ezekiel asked, “Don’t you mean Explictica Defilas?”

Well, that ruffled some feathers. Over the wall, I could just see the crowd of people and mysterious dark shapes. If Kelsier was out there, his best bet was to stay low.

More shouting outside. From what I could see and hear, it seemed to be the mayor of the town – asking what all the fuss was about.

Ezekiel tried to explain – but when the temple’s priest (and the constable of the militia) were both part of the conspiracy, what hope would we have of convincing the mayor something is very wrong? Especially when he hadn’t brought any men with him, looked like.

At any rate, the mayor was talked down, and left Abramo to handle the “invaders.”

I wasn’t eager for such a battle, but it also made me realize this wouldn’t be solved as easily as we might think. We hadn’t found any artifact in the temple we could “turn off” and everybody would magically revert to normal…and if half the town is “changed” by this cult, we can’t just slaughter them all to clear the air, can we?

Well, while I was panicking and worrying, Raven climbed the wall to scope out the scene.

He remembered he was holding a torch when a crossbow bolt flew past his head — so he threw down his torch and went off to scan the perimeter and look for any sign of Kelsier.

The band outside seemed to have given up trying to knock the gates down. My party milled around some more, and rejoined me upstairs.

Raven held out an arrow. “I found Kelsier,” he said. “Or rather, I was investigating the north-west corner beyond the wall, and dodged this arrow. It’s like the ones that Kelsier uses.”

We all agreed that if Kelsier was shooting arrows, he must be unharmed, and in a position to take care of himself, so we settled down on the second floor to get what rest we could.

****

Ezekiel took first watch, guarding the door of the “creepy room” that was down the twisty hallway from Abramo’s private chamber.

Not sure how long we’d been sleeping, but I woke to voices. Ezekiel and Lancell were muttering in the far room.

Raven had heard them, too, so we lit a torch and Raven went to check that the secret room with the cage was still secure. (We had dragged the cage over to cover the trapdoor. Don’t want anyone sneaking up on us.)

I joined Ezekiel behind the door. He thought he had heard something in the next room (the torture chamber).

That’s when I heard someone bump something. (Ezekiel didn’t hear it, but I know I did!)

I told him to stand guard while I fetched the others. Something bad was going down!

While I was running through the twisty hallways, someone in the torture room yelped.

Ezekiel called out, “Kelsier! Why didn’t you say something?” and I heard the door crash open.

Ezie. Always assuming people are on our side, never imagining it’s an elaborate trap to murder us in the night.

I grabbed the other two and raced back to the doorway, bow in hand.

Ezekiel and Lancell both carried torches, and were trying to hit a shadowy figure who was attacking Kelsier (yes, the actual Kelsier).

I fanned out into the room as well, eyes open for a shot – and nailed that mysterious sucker right in the voonerables! (Yes! Finally landed an arrow in something!)

That’s when our lone invader turned and ran. I shouted for us to not let him escape, but I think Ezekiel had the same idea and flying-tackled him – full body slam – Pow!

The stranger had a stiletto sheathed at the nape of his neck, so it’s clear he’s one of these sneaky types. Probably Assassin – and therefore Evil.

But he was totally knocked down by Ezekiel – heh heh.

(Raven has taken the dagger.)

We trussed the stranger to the rack, cheered at having Kelsier back, and settled down for the rest of the night. The morning will bring plenty of new worries and decisions.

About the prisoner

We can’t trust him; so we can’t leave him unattended.

We can’t expect to bribe him; and even if we did bribe him to help us, we can’t expect him to not stab us in the back (see #1).

We can’t leave him unattended to escape, and there’s not a good place to stash him.

Can we get him to talk? Will he know about what’s going on? Would his testimony be any good if we could bludgeon him into talking?

Possible actions: 1) leave him tied up (waiting to escape and kill us)…2) take him with us (waiting to kill us)…3) kill him, after we went to the trouble of capturing him…4) take him to the mayor for justice (assuming we can get to the mayor, the mayor doesn’t lock us up, etc.)…5) take him to the Slumbering Serpent and let Olwin the Innkeeper – what? Bribe him with food?

It was largely my idea to capture the guy in the first place (dead men give no answers) but now we’re faced with no good choices of what to do with him.

The world is nasty sometimes. Just feel that, since it was my idea to capture him, I should say a piece in his defense before we “assassinate” him.

To Do

  • Question prisoner. Hopefully get something useful out of him.
  • Go behead the lizard people in the basement as evidence of Evilness for the mayor.
  • Take evidence to Slumbering Serpent and ask for Olwin’s help. This is his hometown; he knows these people. How can we get to the bottom of it and stop this Evil?!
  • (Remember the hermit Olwin sent us to before. Seemed suspicious of us – but then, we’re kind of weird characters. Might he be some help, also?)

Ha! Time for Lancell’s watch, now! I will get some more sleep, and stop scribbling.

Ezie thinks I’m a goof. But if we die tragically, I want the next adventurers to have a record of just where we went wrong…


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