Dear Diary….playing with the runes…

Ezekiel wanted to experiment with the magic stones, and the portal runes.

Raven wanted to experiment with the potions of diminution, to see if we could squeeze the giants through Lydia’s portal.

Ezekiel won the argument (for now) but we’re still waiting to see if that was for the best…

He and Raven headed down the hall from the giants’ room to where there’s a circle-rune (Node of Air, I think, but my notes are kinda disorganized), and while they played around with it, I stood watch over the corridor (Ezekiel took the smoky quartz – which we assume matches Air – but gave me the other two stones for safe-keeping).

He started with setting the stone carefully on the edge of the rune circle…but nothing seemed to happen…even after he waited the time it usually takes to teleport with one of the runes. Finally, he just held the stone and stepped into the portal – while Raven held his other hand.

And that’s when they vanished.

Well, if they were ripped apart by the duplicated energies of Air-rune and Air-gem, I couldn’t tell. We’ll have to wait while Lydia tries to scry them, and see if they ended up somewhere different…like back on the bottom floor of the Temple, like we hope.

In the meantime, I have returned to the others, and Elmo is enjoying actually talking with giants for once. He’s using his “dumb” voice, which means he doesn’t completely trust them, but that just makes sense. Mikael is also having fun talking to Schakka, and having Schakk translate for him.


Lydia stepped out of the air and told us Ezekiel and Raven had found “new” place, and wanted our help. So we packed up the fortress, said good-bye to the giants, and followed her back to her room – then waited while she re-set the portal on the other two.

Stepping through, we found a huge room…expensive, magical, and impressive.

We set up the fortress in the corner so Lydia could park the portal inside, then join us in exploring. The room was quite worth a look!

Four runes pulsed in the floor – even fancier than the others we’d seen. The eight-sided shape of the Fire rune kept spitting up gouts of flame, and triangle one pulsed with an earth-colored glow, and the circle one had some kind of steam rising from it. Ezekiel theorized that it’s some kind of “hub” for the Nodes – but of course, we’re not sure yet.

Raven went around the room, looking for traps – and checked the entrance…but didn’t find anything. I drew Tressarian to check for shifting-stone traps, but he didn’t smell any.

The only exit (unless there’s a secret one) is a corridor that leads to an even bigger room…a room cloaked in darkness, and filled with hideous, shadowy forms. Sculptures and pillars of misshapen fungal shapes loom over you – especially in the odd lighting from our shields – and the walls drip with nauseating colored slime. We could just see a platform to the north, with a throne on it…though it was indistinct in the shadows, the seat didn’t look “normal.” I think we all got the feeling that we were approaching the end game…although without all four gems, we can’t unlock the Queen to kill her.

Several doors open off the southern wall (what I’m calling “south”) — one of these has the same weird runes that none of us can look at, but another door opens to a side chamber. It really reminds me of our early days in the Temple: obsessive murals, these ones showing humans and demi-humans being robed and crowned with gold, and scenes of the elements destroying things…a room beyond was littered with broken dishes and overturned chairs, and other evidence of an interrupted party (not a party I would want to go to, of course).

We took a little time to scan that room with our magic swords (Schakka objects that he’s a “scimitar”!), but didn’t stay to loot the candlesticks, even though Ezekiel thought they looked worth the effort.

The next door we were able to look at led to a very similar room, with more murals of death and destruction and demons bowing down to the robed humans, who I assume are the leaders of the Temple or something (their gold crowns have skulls all over them, and frankly they turn me off). Also a plain blackwood chair that we checked out very thoroughly, but the swords say it’s totally regular (Tressarian says it’s not any more Evil than the rest of this place, although the whole area is kinda sketchy).

The room beyond had suits of armor lining the walls…rich, ornamental suits of armor, decked out in the colors of the elements…and I don’t think anyone was surprised when they straightened and moved to attack Ezekiel as soon as he stepped over the threshold.

Mikael and Lydia waved their hands – but the sparks from their spells seemed to just bounce off the suits of armor (if that made sense). Raven and Heiron did pretty well (naturally), but Tressarian and I have never fought animated suits of armor before, and I dropped him and had to pick him up before we could finish them off (he says it’s my fault, but he totally twisted in a way I wasn’t expecting).

Studying them once they stopped moving, it’s clear they wouldn’t be useful as actual armor for a person (if anyone dared try them on!). The decorative spikes are especially confusing, and the topaz gems (while valuable) wouldn’t protect much (evidence: the way Ezekiel was able to pop them right out). The little gold skull emblems also seem to be real gold…which is nice, because it means someone can melt the skull out of existence and make something nice.

This room also had frescos – this one of two figures on thrones, a fat demon guy, and a warped, bulbous monstrosity with a mushroom for a head, both surrounded by demons and slaves giving offerings and bowing down. Ezekiel pointed out a babau, and a bodac, and a succubus…and there were some vrocks, too, but they weren’t allowed too close to the throne, apparently. Raven drew chalk mustaches on the two rulers before we left.

While wandering around, searching for secret doors and traps, Schakka pointed out a door that led to a secret hallway. Following it down, Ezekiel found a recessed shelf – opposite was seems to be the back of a tapestry.

He splashed holy water over his head, and peeked through the curtain (I guess he forgot about that last curtain, that happened to be a deadly fungus).

Next thing we knew, some squeaking old-lady voice was shrieking, and another, deeper voice was booming, and Raven jumped through the curtain.

I switched to my bow, because I’m just handier with it, and next thing I knew, Heiron and Elmo had slipped through. I heard muffled thumps and clangs, but most of that was probably Ezekiel walking around…which probably meant the curtain didn’t melt them on contact.

I looked at Lydia, debating guarding our escape path vs. joining the others…and then –

[to be continued]

Read the previous entry here.

Dear Diary….a new giant experience

Nothing of interest in the dracolisk…or in his cave. He looks kinda undernourished, but the others didn’t want to wait for me to skin it.

[detailed, sprawling map that runs over several pages]

*Raven found a claw. Elmo thinks it’s a lizard claw.

**Well, now I’ve seen it all most of it something. We were coming up on a tee in one of the passages, when these two lumps of rock peeled themselves off the wall and swiped at us with their claws.

Heiron and Mikael took them out – and it’s true, when you see them in a different context, they look like big lizards…but they’re still the exact color of the stone, and it’s kinda disorienting.

They must have used the grotto just beyond as a lair, because there was a big pile of money there. Elmo pointed out the claw probably came from one of them…maybe they shed them like people shed excess fingernail?

[more map]

#Magic portal rune for Fire Node


Well, new experience for me…

We were exploring a side-room when we heard heavy footsteps approaching. Ezekiel went up to investigate, and discovered a huge figure – the exact color of stone! – filling up the entire passageway…a stone giant!

He chatted with Ezekiel a bit (his voice is so deep and rumbly, we heard some of it): Ez told him we are “invaders” of the nodes, and the giant asked how many we were…and then if we wanted to share their fire.

So Ezekiel led us in following the giant, and we ended up in a good-sized cave (it’d have to be) with four other stone giants…and a campfire.

Ezekiel shared out some rations from Raven, and the giants passed around a skin of some liquid (Raven tells me it was alcohol, but he couldn’t tell more than that; they probably made it themselves while here). Elmo told me he wouldn’t want to have to drink it all day long, but that he’s had worse.

Our liaison-giant explained that this place is “earth-not-earth,” and his group (along with others) were magicked here by the Temple cultists. Ezekiel confirmed that stone giants aren’t one of the ones who can change shape into something smaller…so they couldn’t fit through Lydia’s mirror.

Then Ez announced that he was going to spend time meditating to ask the God of gods how we could get the giants out of the nodes (he gave them the brief version of the nodes, and what we were doing there…they didn’t seem really interested, except in the part about us maybe getting them out).

Anyway, he set up the fortress, so Lydia could feel safe to come consult with us, and sat by the campfire for literal hours.

The rest of us tried to find out where the giants were actually from, but it was difficult since only their leader seemed to speak Common, and he wasn’t clear on all the vocabulary. But Mikael’s new scimitar Schakka speaks Giant Common, and they seemed to understand that better…so eventually, we figured out they came from “high in the mountains,” and the Temple sent a raiding party to “magic” them straight into the nodes. So they haven’t been to the Temple before, but it would make sense that they’re from the nearby countryside (unless the Temple’s reach is much broader than we thought!).

If I’m being honest, they are much nicer than any other giants I have ever met…their leader is remarkably chill about Ezekiel’s idiosyncrasies, and he was quite daring in inviting us to their hideout. Could be they’re the kind of giants who could live quietly in their own space, and not bother humans…

They do have some “friends”…or “pets”?… We heard heavy, thumping footsteps coming down the hall, only to see two boulders on legs waddle into the room and sit down between the stone giants. They have two legs each, and the giants call them “galabs’dur” or “children of the mountain”…so I guess they’re not like little giants, they’re like…boulders that have two feet. And can talk to the giants. Again, is this friends? Pets? Friend-pets like Mikael has?

(Speaking of which, Mister Whisker helped us with our mapping…he double-checked the passages that we thought we had already been in, to see if he could detect our scent in them. Raven says he prefers this place to always dropping into the Water Node, although he says the little pocket in my backpack is quite cozy.)


Lydia and Raven took a trip back to town, researching ways we might be able to “magic” the giants back to Orth.

After sitting with his eyes closed all afternoon, Ezekiel went into a trace or something and started starting intently at nothing, which I guess is a change.

After a bit, he started talking to himself…and when he was done he shook his head a little and said he got some answers…although not all the answers he was hoping for.

First, he told the stone giants that “Little Pebble escaped,” then he said the messenger he spoke with said none of us have the skills needed to send the “wayfarers” home (could have been more specific, Ez), but that we do have what we need… Which I guess means it’s not a skill.

At this point, we’ll probably have to wait for the spell-casters to prepare more spells. We’ve had a pretty full day, but as I said to Heiron, this is what life on the adventure road is like…a little bit of life-or-death struggle, mixed with a whole lot of sitting and waiting for other people. He says there’s nothing particular he’d rather do with his life…although having the dragons melt him wasn’t fun. (Note to self: pay him again. Does he need a bonus for the acid scar that Ezekiel couldn’t get rid of?)

Find the previous entry here.

Dear Diary….Ezekiel can scry now; and earth-creatures are ugly

I understand now why Sir Rufus and Master Bern built a tower and fort with their dragon treasure. Dragons collect a lot of treasure!

Maybe these black dragons had more than we expected because there were two of them…or maybe the Earth Node has received more treasure in general, so they had more to capture.

Either way. Lydia came out of the portal to check out the situation – then went back to her room. Ezekiel and Raven cradled the two dragon eggs (where are they going to keep those, I wonder!), and in a few minutes the pile of coins started flowing down through the floor! Apparently Lydia had to get Keom and Ronhass to hold the mirror facing the floor, so the treasure would fall to the ground…but obviously it worked. It got plugged up once or twice with a larger item – there was a suit of scale mail, especially, that tried to go through while turned the wrong way – but we got it unstuck and shoved the whole hoard onto Lydia’s floor.

Once she got the mirror set up right-ways again, we came through, too – since Ezekiel said he was out of spells, and we’d done plenty for today anyway. He and Raven still haven’t completely decided where they’re keeping their baby dragon eggs…I’m really wondering just what they think they’ll do with baby dragons! Those things eat a lot, after all; I remember how much Sgt. Bearington used to eat…and he didn’t leak acid all over the place.

Well, that aside, counting the coins kept us busy all afternoon…especially when someone knocked over one of the stacks and we had to start over.

[page of messy numbers and figures]

We’ve seen quite a lot of gold and expensive things while pillaging the Temple…but I don’t know…this might well be the biggest pile of coins I’ve ever seen in my life!

In addition to money, there was the scale mail (magical), a potion, a ring, and a scroll. We’ll probably divvy them up to whoever needs them most, unless even Ezekiel decides he doesn’t need another spare set of armor, and we can sell it.

About armor – I still had the magic chainmail that I was wearing before in my trunk, so I will wear that when we go back to the dungeon. It’s just common sense…and besides, magic armor isn’t as bulky as you might think, and it’s not that hard to draw a bow in.


Mikael has disappeared to the druid grove. He said he had some “questions,” and I thought maybe he meant about dragons…but it looks like he had more questions than just that. Be nice, though, if he came back with some tips…


Ezekiel has been spending a few days visiting the Chapel of St. Cuthbert. He says he can use their sanctuary font for scrying, and he wanted to catch up with his siblings. Raven went with him, but when they asked me, I preferred to help Lydia and Heiron get the money organized. Spying on all my siblings would take a long time – and besides, I’m sure Father and Mother and Alpheus and Dexter are busy with other things. It’s not like I could pop over to them if they needed help, anyway.

Ezekiel did check in on Lancell, and says he seems to still be in Orlane — he was with the mayor of Orlane, anyway. They were building a house or dedicating a house or something, and he thinks he saw Old Uncle Brian from Ertuli, too (who is not really my uncle, but that’s what everybody called him), so that’s nice.

I also went on patrol with Elmo one day. An area farmer thought some bugbears were setting up a den near him, but from the marks, it looks like they were just passing through – maybe headed toward the hills. If he has any trouble, I hope we can come down and deter them.


Keom and Ronhass are in charge of watching the dragon eggs. Poor little dears.

We head back to the Earth Node as soon as Lydia can get us lined up on the dragons’ bodies.


Earth creatures are ug-ly! We dropped into the dragons’ lair, no trouble — they’d been picked almost clean while we were gone.

We continued down the passageways, and Ezekiel walked right into a beastie that climbed out of the wall. Mikael called it a “xaren” – it was like the xorn we saw earlier, but more so…three tentacle-arms coming off its ball-body, and three eyeballs circling its shark-mouth of teeth – on top of its head! (Mikael pointed out they might not view “up” and “down” the same way we do – since they live in earth, and all.)

Two of these beasties oozed themselves out of the wall, and started gabbering. Ezekiel mumbled some things, and started talking to them: saying, “No, you can’t eat my shield” and things like that.

Next thing we knew, one of them grabbed for his shield, and Mikael waved his hand – bathing them in the sparkly glow of faery fire. Heiron and I let loose, and they finally dropped to the ground, twitching and drooling, the arrows standing out like their weird teeth and limbs.

Ezekiel pointed out they weren’t exactly “Evil”…but we can’t let them eat our gear, either. The dragons’ acid already did that.

We found a couple dead end corridors, then ran across something that I guess is the Earth-version of a roper (the thing that took the wind out of Wonillon). With so many flailing tentacles, it was hard to know what to aim at…although Heiron didn’t seem to have that trouble. Elmo says it’s just as well the thing never grabbed any of us.


Finally fought something that looked a little more “normal.” At the end of a twisty corridor was a larger room, with a dark brown shape flitting in the shadows. We were all on our guard, since we passed a couple more statue-fied people in the corridor, and Ezekiel splashed a vial of holy water over his head and spun one of the prayer-beads on his necklace.

The creature snarled at us, but Raven and Mikael hit it hard – and when I got an arrow through its throat, it flopped over…the arrow fizzling and steaming as it was consumed by acid. I thought, what it the acid burned up the arrow before the creature died? – and then I realized, it would still have a couple holes torn in its throat, so we’d be safe.

Mikael and Elmo think the creature is a dracolisk, and that makes sense to me. It has six legs, like a basilisk, but two wings, like a dragon. And none of us have been turned to stone yet, so maybe it can’t do that…or maybe we’re just lucky.

I have decided acid is one of my least favorite things.

Find the previous entry here.

Dear Diary….ok dragons are actually dangerous

While we finished cleaning up the dragon remains, and piled its treasure into our various receptacles (including the little chest that shrinks and grows, which Heiron is carrying and I had completely forgotten about), Ezekiel got a hold of Lydia and jumped through the portal to “just ask Father Yra one thing.”

Heiron killed a dun pudding while we waited, and when Ezekiel finally came back, he and Mikael decided we should go confront the giants to see if they had any slaves we should rescue (Tressarian said something about “stab stab extinguish” but we told him to shush so we could be sneaky…er). Also, Ezekiel said he thought he could send them “home” using his mace or something (it sounded kinda technical, and also like he wasn’t sure what he was doing, so I kinda only half-listened).

According to the map, Mikael and Ezekiel figured the northern corridor probably hooked up with where we wanted to be, so we took that route. On the way, we passed a magic portal rune in the shape of an O (Water, maybe? I’m so bad at this game) – and a room with a row of fire pits.

Tres and I went down the row, putting out the fires, until the last one in the line… There, as we stuck Tressarian into the flames, a big red, horned, fiery figure appeared, growling something about “watch where you put that”! (Ez tells me it was an “efreet”.)

I thought this was different from the one Ezekiel told us not to look at, but I wasn’t sure what to do with it. Tres was all for killing it (Evil fire thing and all) but Ezekiel started talking to it, so I waited.

He asked if the creature was a prisoner, and the efreet said, well, he wasn’t here by choice. Ez asked if there were any other (human) prisoners here, and the efreet said, well if you didn’t count the fire giants, the giants might possibly have had slaves at some point maybe.

That sounded the opposite of reassuring, but Ezekiel forged on and said we might be able to get him home to the Plain of Fire – and what would he be willing to do in exchange? The efreet kind of chuckled and said, yeah, of course we come down to wishes sooner or later. So apparently, this is the thing that’s like a fire-genii, so it can grant wishes.

I backed up a little to be closer to the party (since for some reason Ezekiel chose to have this conversation across the length of the room) and we all looked at each other for a minute. We weren’t sure how wishes worked, or what exactly was possible, or what we might want – and then Elmo (I think it was Elmo, or maybe Mikael) asked if we could just wish the efreet home (instead of piping him through Lydia’s portal, to the portal in the Temple, blah blah). And then we all looked at each other with kind of inspired expressions – and Ezekiel cleared his throat.

First, he asked for Mikael to be healed in his head…which sounds kinda mean, but I guess he means whatever damage the magical cheetah-lady or whatever she was did to him (that time Ezekiel got charmed…seems ages ago…).

Second, he asked that Lydia be able to learn the knowledge she seeks.

Then he was quiet for a minute or two, and some of us worried he’d forgotten the third and last thing he needed to ask… Then he said, “I wish every prisoner here in the Fire Node be returned home, safe and sound.”

There was a kind of chuckle sound, and the efreet disappeared…so I guess he’s probably happy, wherever he is.

We continued down the corridor, and found a room that Heiron said, from the smell and the burn marks, probably held salamanders until recently. We found several magic items in their horde, including a magic marble statue of an elephant (we’re all hoping it’s like Simba!), a couple potions, and a scroll that neither Ezekiel nor Mikael could figure out.

When we got back to the room where the Fire Giant(s) had been, no one was there – but there was a big pile of money, so I guess the giant we spared did round up his “cousins” to hide in that room. Apparently Ezekiel forgot to wish their stuff with them…but, as he says, better to be home safe than to have a pile of gold. And as Mikael said, now we get the gold.

We filled in a few remaining corners on our map without finding anything interesting…so, short of re-walking the entire Node, we figure the Wish worked and everybody who was trapped here is now “home.”

So we drew the circle, waited for Lydia, and went “home” ourselves. Elmo says he has some questions – y’know, about giants and such. I have some questions myself…


Master Otis says he’s thinking of getting a gold-plated blacksmith’s hammer (!) to hang on his bedroom wall, of course! It’s been a fun three days…

When Elmo and I got back to town, Heiron told us Raven and Ezekiel were fighting in the back yard. Not fighting, exactly – but Raven said there were some dodging techniques he wanted to show Ezekiel…or he wanted a demonstration for his disciples, and Ezekiel was a handy partner…anyway. Apparently it was kinda comical, but Ezekiel says he learned a lot.

He also said he got a letter from his father, and read it to us. Little tidbits about what all his siblings are up to (he only has like three, so it didn’t take too long) and “nice you still remember your Old Man” type of stuff. (Wonder if Mama and Father got my letter…They probably have plenty of other things to worry about…)

While the rest of us were busy, Lydia had a chance to examine the elephant statue. She says it (and the fly statue we found a while back) are probably like Simba – which is pretty cool (although I’m not sure what a magic fly would be useful for. Mikael waved his jar of half-dead wasps at me). Mikael gets to carry the elephant statue, and Ezekiel said Lydia should have the magic fly statues, at least for now. (That reminds me, though, that we still haven’t experimented with the black scarabs that the cult-leaders had…)

I think we’re about ready to head to the Earth Node…our last one. I’ve decided Mister Whisker is coming this time. After all, earth is something he’s much more familiar with, and he might be able to help us with scents and stuff (also that’s why I befriended him – to have him with us!).


Quick update:

We had some trouble getting to the Earth Node. Ezekiel started by using the magic stone we got from the Fire Node, but then we just found ourselves in the Air Node…so Lydia had to find us and help us find one of the portal runes for the Earth Node. But finally, we found ourselves in the right place.

It’s chilly here, and dampish, and the air is full of dust…so I’m glad I have my necklace of free-breathing. The chamber where you first end up is really high, but the tunnels running off from it are less so – plenty of head-space for Mikael, but we can clearly see the ceiling with our lights.

Down the first corridor we picked, we came across some broken statues fallen on the ground – a man with a staff, and a horse. Raven pointed out they were highly detailed – right down to the determined expression on the man’s face – and Ezekiel said something about “basilisks.”

We continued cautiously, coming across another statue. A weird-looking grey creature crawled out of the wall once — Mikael called it a “xorn,” and said it’s a creature from the Elemental Plain of Earth. It didn’t respond when he tried to greet it, and I’m not sure it’s intelligent enough to understand; it chewed on one of the statues for a moment, and crawled away into the stony earth of the wall.

Ezekiel tossed holy water into the air to protect against Evil, and we continued on – until we rounded a curve of the passage and spotted the long, slate lizard-form of a basilisk!

Heiron and I let loose into it, and it flopped with a croak almost as soon as we saw it. Mikael waved around his stone of elemental summoning – but nothing happened, and we realized the Node was messing with earth magic…as we should have expected.

While Ezekiel twirled one of his rosary beads, mumbling something, we crept forward around the next turn. The passage opened out into a large chamber, where we spotted yet another basilisk! Heiron got his shots off first, and landed a couple together – right in the throat. The basilisk gurgled and dropped over onto its side without a chance to look our way…which suits us just fine. Mikael says a stone-to-flesh spell might help the statues we passed along the way – might – but he’s not sure that’s something he would know how to do.

Apparently basilisks like to hoard money just like everybody else does, as we found a big stash of gold and gems in the corner. Ezekiel says their eyes are valuable (for some reason) so he popped them into some of his vials for dragon blood while I set to skinning them.

[sketch of basilisk anatomy]

Oh, yes, one other really interesting thing! We were asking Tressarian about any magical things in the basilisk’s hoard, when we uncovered a scimitar — I’m not sure if it’s bronze or not, but Mikael made an “oooh” sound and picked it up. When he drew it from the sheath, it said, “Hey, boss.”

It (he?) says its name is Schakha…and he and Tressarian had a liiiittle bit of a measuring contest, bragging about all the languages they speak and all the things they can detect (Schakha has a nose for gems, traps, and secret doors; he also speaks Dwarvish common, and Ozzer – which is apparently a non-Evil fire language). He also seems a bit snarky, but Mikael told him we were “friends,” so he could be nice to us “if he wanted.” Well, whatever digs he makes at us, he seems totally chill with Mikael, so that’s nice. Hope Kevin doesn’t get jealous…


I don’t know why people talk about red dragons. Black dragons are the worst, and also actually deserving of the name.

We did a little more exploring, and found a square portal rune – and then came upon a chamber with two black dragons. While Ezekiel pulled out his rosary and found the bead he wanted to play with, Heiron and I loosed our shots. Heiron’s arrow bounced off the scales (no one can be perfect all the time) and mine ricochetted, only giving the dragon a scratch.

Mikael waved his hand – and the stones under the dragons’ feet turned to deep, gloopy mud! – which actually turned out to be one of the best choices this fight. It certainly distracted the dragons long enough that I got some more shots off (these arrows actually pierced the hide in a few places) and then –

Then the first dragon spit at us.

It wasn’t spit. It wasn’t breathing. It was green, and noxious, and stung and bubbled and stuck to us and ate into our clothes and skin and gear. I must have thrown up my arms to protect my face, because a big, smelly, sticky mass hit my chainmail…and my chainmail started oozing down onto the floor.

I guess Ezekiel and Mikael turned away, and caught it on the blast on their backs — Ezekiel’s backpack shriveled and melted like parchment in fire, and all his stuff rained down onto the ground (gotta check if any of his precious potions got broken…).

But Raven and Heiron got the worst of it. Raven looked worst at first, not having much hair, and his skin started peeling and bleeding.

As we all wheezed for breath, and tried to shake the itchy, tingly feeling off, the second dragon spewed at us.

Raven yelped and started dragging Ezekiel back down the corridor, into the shelter of a turn — Ez was shaking his head like he was dazed or something. Elmo scooped up Heiron (most of his skin was goo – that’s a sight that’ll give me nightmares) and followed, which left me and Mikael.

Mikael clapped his hands, and the mud (in which the dragons had now sunk up to their knees) flashed grey as it turned to stone (which is very likely the best decision made this combat).

That done, I grabbed his elbow and we helped each other race back to the others. Ezekiel had apparently been doling out healing, as Raven actually had a face again, but Heiron’s clothes were getting more “moth-eaten” by the minute…and his skin wasn’t much better.

I was torn between setting up the fortress to block the passage behind us (the dragons were shaking the ceiling with their bellowing, and I didn’t want them to come any closer; though, as Mikael or somebody pointed out, we probably didn’t want our fortress exposed to acid-spitting dragons) or grabbing the gem for the Water Node (Elmo asked if we could get to water, and the Water Node is surely a wet place).

In the end, Ezekiel beat me to the gem – and we found ourselves plunged into water. I made a grab for Ezekiel and pulled out Tressarian, and he lifted both of us out of the water. By the time we paddled to the closest island, a dolphin (Mikael of course) was helping Elmo drag Heiron onto the island (what was left of him, of course).

Ezekiel marched right over to Heiron and touched him with his mace, muttering something. Within moments, Heiron was coughing and wheezing, and the two “cleric types” passed around healing (Heiron kwauffed a potion until he looked more like his old self, and Elmo got a dose of Keoghtim’s Ointment on his worst burns).

No one messes with my little Heiron and gets away with it. Besides, Lydia taught us how to have an advantage of terrain – so as soon as she found us again with the portal, we trooped back to her room and prepared for our second assault.

First, Mikael cast “Barkskin” on me (helps make up for my chainmail, I guess). Ezekiel cast silence on himself (since he’s the loudest among us) and by the time Raven finished passing around a potion of invisibility, Lydia had moved her portal to behind the dragons.

We snuck through, being as careful as we could. They’d shaken down some rocks from the ceiling while trying to break free – and it looks like they’d been trying to dissolve the rock around their legs, too. But we didn’t give them time to get free.

Mikael tip-toed far enough away from Ezekiel that he could cast faery fire…and as soon as we saw the faint, magical flames guiding us to their vital areas, Heiron and I fired (by the way, I’m so glad my bowstring survived all the trauma and environment-shifts; probably compromised, though, and I should change it out soon…).

The dragons roared as they died – but die they did…and Heiron and I celebrated until the others became visible.

I was fully prepared to fizzle the dragons if they didn’t go down quickly, but all’s well that ends well. I’m still mad that Heiron had to be dead briefly…after all, he’s my responsibility – Ezekiel said so! (Heiron says he feels fine – just sad that he “failed you, Master.” I’m not sure what he means, but he’s a real trooper.)

Speaking of Ezekiel, he’s been barely articulate with excitement for at least five minutes. He showed us two big black blobs that Mikael tells us are Black Dragon eggs…and Tressarian assures us are not Evil.

Ezekiel and Raven say that it’s possible to raise dragons so that they’re not so nasty as they are in the wild – more docile and friendly…sounds like courting trouble to me, though it’s true Raven is a Master of Dragons now. We already have Keom and Ronhass waiting around at the tower for us (being Lydia’s room service, no doubt)…just where are we going to bunk a couple of dragon eggs?! To say nothing of brand-new baby dragons! If we thought Sgt. Bearington ate a lot, what does Ez think baby dragons are going to eat? He’ll have to quit dungeon-crawling for a bit to hunt full-time. (Though now that I think of it, the area could stand to be cleared of bug-bears…)

Tressarian says, well at least they’re not Red Dragons. I say, Red Dragons didn’t melt Heiron’s face down his neck (come to think of it, he’s looking a bit different lately).

As for my chainmail…although it’s quite sad to lose such a valuable magic item, I feel so light and free now (even if I’m basically carrying the same weight as before)! I’m quieter, too, now that I don’t go clink-rattle-clink everywhere I go. Raven said, “See what I mean?”

Ezekiel probably has a spare magic chainmail somewhere in his stash that he’s been saving…but until then, I will enjoy the novelty.

Read the previous entry here.

Dear Diary….the dragon/demon battle we’ve been waiting for

Another morning in the Fire Node. Not too bad a haul, though it didn’t start out great.

We found two bows, which we assume is from the party of girls we mentioned earlier. Though both bows radiate a faint aura of magic, one of them is pretty flimsy and covered with the scorched remains of feathers…might have looked impressive on the wall of some Greyhawk bar before it got burned. The other one has blades stuck all over it – like, coming off the front of the handle, and not even useful blades, either! Even the ends by the bow-string narrow to blades…I’m not sure how you’re supposed to draw the bow to tension!

After that, we found a row of braziers, one of which had a stash in the bottom – some money, jewelry, and a magic dagger. We had to kill some fire elementals to earn it, but Tressarian had himself under control today, so we and Ezekiel took care of them.

Oh, Ezekiel also found a shiny black stone, smooth as glass, that fits nicely in the palm of his hand. Tres says it’s not magic (nor Evil, thankfully) so he’s putting it with his pretty shell for now.


We finally rescued somebody else! And this time, it’s somebody who actually deserved rescuing.

We were inching our way through the twisty corridors (it took longer because all the doors here are badly sized or something, and take a group effort to get open). At the end of one long room, we forced open a door and discovered a little man hiding behind it! He was gripping a lantern and a big ball of cloth, and his armor looked like he’d cobbled together the pieces from three or four different sets of armor.

After Ezekiel finally convinced him that we didn’t want to hurt him (and Tressarian assured us he wasn’t Evil, or magical…though there was that one time Tres missed a periapt), he gathered up his bedroll and things and joined us in the fortress (for a snack, of course).

He says his name is Jair, and his story is that he was a weaver in Nulb…only business wasn’t too good, so he joined a bandit group…except he didn’t really want to be a bandit, so they weren’t happy with him, and turned him over to the Temple. The Temple held him for a while, then sacrificed him to the Nodes with great ceremony.

He eventually found the lantern, and rolled strips of cloth and string into a ball he could light and throw at enemies – a “fireball.” That and weaving the bits of armor together seem to be the grand sum of his skills, so he’s really lucky he survived this long.

(He says he saw Darlee at a distance a few times, but she made him uncomfortable. How are we the only clueless ones around here?!)

We drew the circle to call Lydia, and Ezekiel asked him a little more about the nodes. Jair didn’t know much, but he did say the fire-giants might have some slaves…which means confronting them all over again.

(Note to self: start warning prisoners about Lydia’s face appearing out of nowhere.)

When Lydia gave the go-ahead, Raven and Heiron escorted Jair through (and Lydia says she checked his thoughts in the magic mirror to make sure he wasn’t going to cause trouble. Tressarian says I should have trusted his first scan, and his second scan, but Tressarian isn’t responsible for letting a demon through the portal).

Anyway, maybe Jair will find better luck in Homlette. Gotta say it seems like a much nicer town.


Well, the day got much more exciting. At the end of a corridor in the “north” of the node, we came upon the second red dragon – breathing heavily with its eyes closed.

Elmo pointed his hands for some of us to flank it, and Ezekiel waved his arms around a bit.

I don’t know who made the noise, but suddenly the dragon raised its head and opened its mouth, and we all attacked. Heiron got his arrow in first off – then the dragon was roaring and clawing, and Elmo got a pretty bad wound from its teeth.

That didn’t stop him, though, and while Tressarian and I were catching the dragon’s attention by stabbing its thigh, he spun his axe and caught it hard in the neck! Raven finished it off with a dagger-stab…and we could all revel in our fifth dead dragon. Our advantage was that there were lots of us…but still, that’s more like what a dragon fight should be like.

I set to skinning it, while Ezekiel sawed off the horns and collected vials and vials of dragon blood (Lydia handed him some more). Mikael took a claw as a memento, Elmo made some more steaks – Ezekiel even pulled some teeth! It feels kinda macabre, harvesting its body like that – since after all, dragons are talking creatures. Tres says that’s a funny thing to say coming from the guy sitting on a mountain of dragon-skin.

While the rest of us were busy, Mikael uncovered the hoard – underneath the dragon’s body. He dumped it into the portable hole, and showed Ezekiel a scroll full of spells that Ez seems to think are very exciting.

And now comes the second excitement of the afternoon. While Ezekiel was stowing the new scroll in his pack, he pulled out one he’d found earlier (he says it was in the golem room in the Temple, which is some time ago).

I guess he unrolled it or something (I wasn’t watching him – I was up to my elbow in dragon hide) and suddenly dark, skeletal figure stood in front of us. Not like an actual skeleton – but his head looked like a skull (with a horn) and his body was all bone-thin, and clothed in black leather (I assume that wasn’t his actual skin?).

Ezekiel yelped, “Mine!” and started trying to hit it with his mace. “Trying.”

Mikael caught it with his rope of entanglement, so the rest of us were less worried about just watching. Then a second one, just like the first, appeared – but Raven caught that one in his rope before it could do anything, so we kept watching.

I don’t know how long it took. I know I got the hide free of one back leg and moved halfway down the other leg while Ezekiel kept trying to hit it. He finally pulled out his magic oil and polished up his mace while Heiron kind of rolled his eyes and shot the second one through the throat.

It seemed to die – and then a third one appeared. But Raven’s rope was free, so he tangled that one…and we were back where we started.

Raven palm-smacked one so hard it wagged its little skull-jaw and staggered in the rope. Ezekiel yelled, “Save one for me!” and – actually hit it. The purple lightening wrapped up his mace, and Ezekiel laughed.

The last standing monster disappeared in a…well, cloud of darkness. Yeah I was watching by that point (got a nick on my thumb for it, too). The cloud floated up toward the ceiling – but Mikael and Raven hauled on the rope (which was still wrapped around the enemy), and got down into Ezekiel’s range.

He was limbered up by now (or something) and smacked the sucker good – with a zap of purple lightening that made the runes all over the mace-head light up.

Well, that was the end of the weird creatures…Ezekiel says they were demons of some kind. In fact, he’s been hopping around and chuckling like a little boy ever since — he cast a light spell on the ceiling and cheered, “I’m a real cleric!” all over the place.

At least it sounds like we don’t have to save him demons anymore, which is nice. Somebody should really take him into the back yard and drill some swinging techniques.

Find the previous entry here.

Dear Diary….dragon disappointment

This morning we patched ourselves up and headed back into the Fire Node…no playing with demons this time.

[sketch of map]

We started exploring the southern corridors, not finding much of anything…until Tressarian and I were scanning an empty room for magic and stuff, and a loud scraping noise came down the corridor from the main hallway.

Ezekiel and Mikael took Heiron with them to investigate, and we heard a huge, vibrating voice talking with them.

The rest of us gathered around the doorway, in preparation, and sure enough moments later a blast of hot air (and flickers of flame) shot out past us.

Raven flashed forward with his daggers out, and by the time Tressarian and I got up there, he and Heiron (with his sword Scather) had finished the job.

A red, spiky dragon head lay mangled and blocking the hallway. I thought they were supposed to be the scariest ones, but thanks to our rings of fire protection, it was still a pretty lame dragon fight.

Ezekiel started pulling empty bottles from his pack and filling them with dragon blood, and Lydia handed through a little crate full of more…apparently dragon blood is useful for something…

Elmo collected some steaks; he says you can eat just about anything. I’m not sure how I feel about that, since the dragon could talk after all, but as Elmo says, I’m the one who spent an hour skinning the whole thing, so there you go.

Mikael was kinda grumpy at Ezekiel — he says they should have kept the dragon talking until the rest of us came up to help. Ezekiel says he couldn’t stand there and let the dragon reminisce about savoring the anguish of its victims, but I’ve heard him tell the story of blasting the half-demon to dust…several times. And that only happened yesterday.

All’s well that ends well, I guess, though we had to pile the pieces of skin into the fortress to carry it all (and it made groaning noises when we shrank it that I don’t like). Heiron’s bowstring got burned up, but Elmo helped him with a spare.

[sketch of map]

We did some more exploring without finding much interesting (although we killed a toad that spit fireballs, so that was different). Also killed some more fire elementals, which Tressarian is happy about, since we “didn’t save the dragon” for him. Oh, also fought one of those squishy, brain-looking things with the tentacles…Mikael and Raven killed that.

Things got a little more interesting when we found rooms that looked like giant quarters. Elmo says they reeked of giant, but I still can’t smell anything but dragon. (Maybe go swimming later?)

The rooms were pretty picked-over – dirty bedding and scraps and the like – but we did find a huge sword – longer than Elmo or even Mikael! – that was only sharp on one edge for some reason, and had no point! Tres says it’s magical, which makes sense when it’s all covered over with filigree and way lighter than it should be, but it still looks impractical. It didn’t radiate Evil, so we took it to examine later.

We were about ready to move on when the door at the end of the corridor opened, and something DARK stepped through. It seemed like those fiery figures of the fire elementals, vaguely humanoid, only it was on DARKNESS instead of on fire…so I covered my eyes with my shield and asked Ezekiel if this was the thing we were supposed to leave to him.

Ezekiel hefted his mace and clank-clanked forward, and after a few “have at you”s and “begone foul fiend”s we heard a croak, and a zap, and I’m pretty sure purple lightening reflected off the corridor walls for a split-second.

When we all peeked again, Ezekiel stood victorious over a pile of dust, and the runes on his mace were glowing. He seems really excited, so that’s good. It’s been a good couple of days for Ezekiel getting to do stuff.

Mikael got to use his stone-to-mud spell, too…on a door that none of us could seem to budge (a lot of the doors have trouble…maybe it comes from being made of stone?). Inside we found a magic tiara, but none of us could figure out anything more than that (it didn’t have emblems that any of us recognized) so Ezekiel put it in his “presents for Lydia” stash.

At long last, we tracked down the dragon’s lair (Elmo says it smelled strongly, but again, everything has smelled more or less like dragon all day).

The dragon even had a hoard – which we checked for magic and Evil (all safe and normal) – and which we just barely fit into the portable hole. At that point, we agreed all our baggage capacity was full up, so we drew the circle and let Lydia guide us back home.

We have a lot of math to do…


Disappointing about the sword and tiara. Don’t know what the tiara’s made of, but Lydia snapped it with her fingers. She thinks it has something to do with a magician named Nystal, who could make things look magical when they really weren’t (Tressarian disgruntled).

Raven pointed out the sword was almost twice as tall as I was (though he didn’t need to say that so loudly) so Elmo went to try it out in the backyard. He says it’s got a nice swing, and seems really intuitive…but he can’t make it do more than nicks or small scrapes, no matter how much power he puts behind the swing. Maybe it’s whatever it’s made of, but the sword almost seems to bounce back. Raven says it could be useful for teaching his disciples the muscle memory needed to swing a sword, without the danger of them hurting each other badly (though, again, it’s like eight feet long!).

We were all standing around discussing it, when Heiron asked hadn’t we seen that sword before? With the young lady in Greyhawk who kept telling people, “I’m a Barbarian!”?

It certainly looks a lot like her sword (though to be honest, the whole group was a bit overwhelming, and it’s hard to remember exactly). As we told Heiron, this is why you wear armor that actually covers you! Can’t imagine how those girls ended up in the Fire Node…but I can’t imagine it being a pretty story.

Raven says there’s a chance they’re still alive in there…I’m not sure I’m prepared to face that.

Find the previous entry here.

Dear Diary….demon drama

Well…it has been a stressful day.

After we found the magic key-stone, we kept exploring the corridors and found three fire-giants holed up in a room. Tressarian was very excited, and we killed one while Heiron and Elmo killed another one…and then the third giant threw down his sword, so Ezekiel held up his hand and told us to stand down.

Stand down? From a fire giant? Tressarian didn’t think so, and he started yelling at the giant in a language we couldn’t understand, and pulling my arm.

But…I didn’t feel like having Ezekiel yell at me today…and besides, it’s true that killing people who have surrendered is bad mojo.

Tressarian wouldn’t stop jumping around and shouting, so he and I went to guard the corridor while Ezekiel did whatever talking he felt like doing.

(We almost forgot about this part, but I’d better put it here: he says the giant said everybody here is a prisoner, and he and his cousins can’t go home; Ez told him to gather his cousins in that room, because if we ran into them somewhere else in the node, we couldn’t make any promises about their safety. I’m not sure leaving them to suffer when the node collapses around them is better than just killing them quick, but Ez says we don’t know what will happen to the nodes for sure, and it’s true we can’t fit them through the portal anyway. Irony there…)

(Oh, also, Mikael and Ezekiel took the giant’s treasure hoard. Insult, injury…but it’s not like I was there to say anything.)

No, I was out in the hallway, “guarding” – and what should stick her face around the corner but what appeared to be a young…woman…wearing not much at all and carrying a staff and bundle (I should have been more suspicious of the bundle…).

She said she was named Darlee, and was a magic user who lost her party here. I’ve learned a thing or two by now (though not quite enough things) so I told her to stand still and wait…so she stood at one turn of the corridor, and I stood at the other turn, with my shield and Tressarian ready, and we just kinda played the quiet game until the others finally decided to stop fraternizing with giants.

Once Ezekiel (and the others) came up, I got close enough that Tressarian could scan her for magic – since I figured if she were a human, she could have magic on her gear, but not on herself…and there was way more of herself visible than anything else, as it were. Well, sure enough, he detected magic on her – but he pointed out it could be Resist Fire or something…clearly, Tressarian is not gifted with a suspicious mind. And I am somehow both paranoid and naïve, which seems a bitter curse, but Elmo says mistakes happen to everybody. Bottom line, why was she so hot when Raven didn’t feel the need to strip off all his clothes while protected with Resist Fire? (I almost expected someone to make a snide remark about “hot,” but I guess no one’s in the mood right now.)

Raven does what he always does and offered food – so we set up the fortress in an empty room, and served out a meal…Darlee ate up, but she didn’t seem to be starving. If we’d only paid attention…

There was a lot of conversation, but I’m not sure how much of it is relevant now. She said her party was exploring the Temple when they somehow ended up here in the nodes…the rest didn’t last long, allegedly…she had seen Taki, but he never hung out with her (a nice, suspicious mind), and she worked with Ashrim the Cleric for a bit, but he was too suspicious (the mind boggles at what “too suspicious” might be…).

She did tell us there were a couple red dragons in the Fire Node, and grus (which we already knew, when we fought them).

Finally, we drew the circle, and after a time Lydia answered us, and Raven went through to explain the situation and prepare her for our latest “guest.”

Ezekiel suggested to Darlee that maybe she could show Lydia her spell-books, as a way to pay us back for getting her out, and Darlee asked if Lydia would share the favor – was Lydia nice?

While Ezekiel was trying to answer, Darlee asked if couldn’t she adventure with us for a bit, and held on to Mikael’s arm. His face went all red and funny-looking, and when it was time for Darlee to go through the portal, he went with to show her the way.

(Oh, yeah, Ezekiel told Darlee she might not want to be in our party because we were dangerous and had gods mad at us and stuff, so it might be hazardous to hang around us – but he never seems that worried about Elmo and Heiron!)

After an unusually long time, Mikael and Raven came back – and we checked the arrow slits before heading back out…which is just as well, because there was a pile of hot, glowing fire-snakes sniffing around in the hall just outside. I really expected Mikael to want to befriend one, and we’d have to tell him it wasn’t a natural-enough creature for that…but he seemed kinda flustered and distracted, so we started debating the best way to deal with them.

Good thing we never came to a conclusion. Next thing we knew, Lydia came through the portal – looking grey and staggering a little.

Ezekiel patched her up while she told us what happened: Darlee attacked her, sapping energy with every touch — she was immune to magic missile, and Protection from Evil seemed to keep her back! Lydia’s rock elemental hit her enough that she fled with magic…but that just meant she could be anywhere.

I’ll never forget the look on Ezekiel’s face when he said, “Sounds like an aludemon. Let’s go.” (That’s a half-demon. He explained it all in way more detail than we wanted – after it was all over. He also told us they can only be hurt by magic weapons, and can shape-shift…because of course they can.)

We raced back through the portal into Lydia’s room. Instead of standing around to give long speeches and explanations, Ezekiel jumped right in to barking orders.

Lydia, he sat down to scry Darlee. Meanwhile, I would run through the tower with Tressarian scanning people for Evil —Ez reminded us that Charmed people would radiate unnatural Evil, too, so Mikael would back me up with his rope of tangling. Elmo would run warn Sir Rufus what was going on; Raven would run to the inn (since we stupidly told her we have friends there) and check the people in the village. Heiron was to guard the door of Lydia’s room and let no one whatsoever through unless they said the password. Ezekiel would stay with Lydia in case she found Darlee – and be ready to jump through on top of her.

Mikael and I stepped out the door – and almost tripped over Raven’s disciples (Ronhass and Keom), who were sprawled on either side of the door.

Opposite us, the guard for the ladder onto the roof had his military fork ready in his hands. He started to tell us, “Be careful!” because there was a dangerous enemy around, and we needed to stay inside…but before he could finish, Tressarian told me he was Evil – and I told Mikael to rope him up.

We called Ezekiel out, and he touched the two disciples so they regained consciousness. While he tied up the guard with regular rope, they told us that “Miss Lydia” was suddenly standing in the corridor, and smacked them around – and then they passed out.

Ezekiel seemed to think the guard was Charmed, not our shape-shifting half-demon, so Mikael and I followed Raven down the stairs.

The line of guards on the gate hadn’t seen anything suspicious…we asked if anyone had left recently, but they said only Raven (which we expected). While I scanned them for Evil, Mikael tried to explain what was going on – in a way that wouldn’t make them panic.

Tressarian thinks I should write it down for posterity: “If you see a man, or woman, you know (or don’t know) attacking someone else (that they wouldn’t normally attack), don’t get involved, because you don’t have magic weapons.”

Everyone in the room was clean, so I dragged Mikael out into the courtyard – still talking.

We made it most of the way around the wall – and were busy scanning the horses in the stable – when Ezekiel caught up with us, massaging his hand a little (he says the guards wanted to use their weapons on him before they would let him through, so they temporarily cut his hand).

He told us it was all over. Apparently after he told Lydia the half-demon was using her shape, it didn’t take her long before she grabbed his shoulder and shoved him through the mirror – out onto the top of the tower beside two catapult-operators and “Miss Lydia.”

Lydia says he could have done with less “your doom is upon you” before engaging Darlee, but the bottom line is they clawed at each other for a moment, and then Ezekiel brought his mace down on her…and there was a flash and crackle…and Darlee zapped into a pile of dust (Lydia says that part was quite satisfying).

A few catapult-operators were bleeding out around the top of the ladder, but sounds like they popped right up when Ezekiel used his healing on them, and he brought a handful of Darlee’s dust as a souvenir for Lydia (Mikael says if she wants to kick it into the wind he will gladly help).

Well, once Ezekiel told us his story, we didn’t need to keep searching for charmed people – so Mikael turned into and eagle and flapped off to retrieve Raven, and Ezekiel headed off to find Sir Rufus (since it was his tower to start with that we staged all this excitement in).

I made my way back around to tell everyone we’d spoken with that the crisis was over (a couple people asked me to clarify Mikael’s story, but I’m not sure I did that much better a job) and then caught up with Ezekiel.

He apologized to Sir Rufus for all of us, and for once I’m glad he’s such a people person, ’cause Sir Rufus deserves all the bows and heretofores he can think of. I mean, we’re guests in this place, and what do we do but bring an aludemon into the heart of his fortification?!

Sir Rufus held a roll-call, and it looks like everybody’s alive and accounted for. Schmitt still glows Evil when Tressarian sniffs him, but he’s submitting to Sir Rufus and not trying to attack anyone, so we figure he’ll be all right once the Charm wears off.

Lydia asked Ezekiel to get Heiron to stop guarding her room, since the emergency was over (Heiron did a very good job, he just needed to be told explicitly that he didn’t need to worry about the password anymore). I think Lydia needed a little personal time; she still looked a bit pale (though now that I say that, she’s always pale, so it’s hard to be sure). I can see being attacked by someone you trusted in your own room takes something out of you.

We all had dinner together at the inn. Some of the tower guards were there at the same time, and trying to explain what happened to their friends…I didn’t hear enough to tell if they were using the Mikael version or the Ezekiel version: “Shape-shifting half-demon got through the portal but we killed it.”

Keom and Ronhass still a little stunned, even after Mikael patched up all their physical wounds. Raven told them “this is what big-time adventurers do,” and this’ll be something they can tell all their friends as long as they live…that they survived encountering a half-demon. I’m not sure they’re convinced.

Raven also says he suspected Darlee the whole time, but I say not doing anything about your suspicions isn’t any better than being total dupes (which I didn’t mean Mikael specifically, but I don’t think he appreciated that).

Elmo says these things happen to the best of us. I thought it was supposed to get easier once you were all grown up and strong and stuff. He says that even Lord Otis couldn’t tell a demon from a super gorgeous young lady just for looking at her, and that just because we’ve experienced a lot of things doesn’t mean we don’t have plenty to learn, still.

I said, sure, but the catapult-guards at the tower didn’t sign up to learn our lessons along with us. Elmo said that the bigger you get, the more damage it does when you fall down…and if Raven were there I’m sure he would have made a height crack, but he was off running laps with his disciples.

Heiron got talking with some of the tower guards, and Ezekiel and Mikael were doing whatever, so Elmo and I went off to the river to fish. Master Osler says he does like a nice plate of fresh fish.

Find the previous entry here.

“Lord of Light” by Roger Zelazny

In the far future, on a colony world, some people have developed mutant powers…which they use (along with technology) to impersonate the gods of the Hindu pantheon and rule over the planet of their descendants.

And that’s as sci-fi as this story gets. It’s not at all a spaceships-and-lasers story…it’s a fantasy epic, imitating all the conventions of religious myth from symbolic repetition to deliberate ambiguity.

The story follows Siddhartha, AKA Maitreya (“Lord of Light”), AKA Mahasamatman, AKA the Buddha, AKA just Sam. Some view him as a god, others as the friend of demons. He views himself as a charlatan, using the tools at his disposal in a political crusade. The story suggests they are all right – just as it deftly synthesizes a culture built on veneration of the Hindu pantheon (and depending on their approval for reincarnation in a new body) and advanced technology (including the technology that makes this body-transfer possible).

Lord of Light is a story of ideas…a raw, unidealized look at humanity – and the darkness inside of them…a tale of atmosphere, ancient legends, and towering personalities…all set in a rich, layered world drawn from Indian culture and religion – perfect for those fantasy aficionados tired of the “bland European” fantasy setting.


Mr. Zelazny excels at making characters that are…not exactly “huggable,” but sympathetic. They may not be people you trust, and they sometimes do distasteful things…but you can always understand what’s going on in their heads. They are always intensely human characters.

This goes for our main character Sam, too. While his peers are strutting around in gorgeous bodies and play-acting gods, he’s living as a simple human prince among the commoners (who must watch their political and religious sympathies, lest they be denied a reincarnation when their current body wears out).

Once Sam decides to take on the oppressive oligarchy of Heaven, he does it with subtlety, with trying to break the people’s blind reverence for them…with the (uncontrollable) power of local aliens…with human mistakes, partial victories, set-backs and failures. While we might disagree with some of his choices, and question some of his methods, there’s no denying Sam is a realistic, three-dimensional human character.


Speaking of humans…they are pretty dark creatures. And Mr. Zelazny doesn’t shy away from that fact.

The city of the gods where the “Heavenly” bureaucracy lives is basically a great big “garden of delights”…where they spend their days banging each other (and their interchangeable concubines), getting drunk, eating delicacies…and occasionally, indulging even darker passions like violence.

There was more sex than in Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber, but each instance was still tamer than Robert Ludlum’s style. A good author doesn’t need to give medical definitions for the readers’ skin to crawl…perhaps there’s a reason “debauchery” is such a gross-sounding word without even knowing what it means?

All of which paints the message loud and clear: no matter what humans achieve – even if they invent a technology that lets them side-step death! – they will still be fallen creatures, and sooner or later they will use it to oppress and exploit each other.

Body swapping

Speaking of the honest exploration of ideas, a central element of Lord of Light is the technology that lets people transfer their “atman” or soul from one body to another.

While no one ever brings up the issue of how they created human bodies without a “person” already living in it, they do discuss the complications of family ties where people are constantly renewing their bodies. What does it mean to say this or that person is your “father” – when he’s now in a new body, and so are you, and so the two of you have no genetic material in common at all…yet he (and your mother) still contributed to the birth of your spirit into the world. Complicated, no?

Add to that the fact that male and female bodies are now interchangeable, and I’m honestly surprised the whole society hasn’t devolved in a fiery collapse because of the total fragmentation of the nuclear family. Perhaps humans are more resilient than I assumed…or rather, perhaps Mr. Zelazny views humans as more resilient than I would.

Myths and legends

Part of the fun of Lord of Light is the depth of the world Mr. Zelazny has created. We really get a sense that exciting, unusual things have happened a lot in the past – that, in fact, the characters’ lives were stuffed full of strange and interesting things – but that we only see through hints and barely mentioned memories. Extending the world beyond the story at hand makes it immensely bigger.

I think the author was trying to do the same thing with some of his ambiguities… Like an old wives’ tale that teaches you about the world by beginning, “Some say…” – while still leaving room for interpretation. This narrative style perfectly captured the ambiance of an oral culture, infused with the rejection of “material reality” that underlies Buddhism. After all, the goal of a Buddhist is to disconnect from physical reality so much that you reach Nirvanna – a state beyond existence.

It fit the story Mr. Zelazny was telling like a hand in a glove…and yet…


And yet Jesus said, “I Am the way.” He said, “I am the Truth.”

The gods of the Celestial City rule by indoctrination…by denying their opponents reincarnation…by insisting on the pre-ordained roster of “Heaven.” When a god or goddess dies, their place must be taken by someone else – another of the mutant oligarchs takes on their name and primary attributes (male, fire-wielding, etc.). They essentially ret-con history to maintain their narrative.

Very clever as a story ploy…but, well, modern America has a bad habit of thinking it can make a thing so just by yelling it louder. Which, now that I think about it, makes Zelazny’s villains all the more believable. But…

But ideas have consequences. And when we tell ourselves (even in stories) that real historical events don’t matter (“some say this, but others say that…”) it erodes our grip on reality – God’s reality. Which happens to be very insistent.

Am I saying the novel Lord of Light will destroy your psychological grip on cause-and-effect? Only if you are a pathetically weak, ungrounded person. But I am saying we must be aware of the ideas we come into contact with…fore-warned is fore-armed.

(Also, it’s kinda weird that this universe’s master-of-zombies is the one guy who spouts vaguely Biblical references and claims a vague Christian ecclesiastical affiliation. Even weirder than Ultron’s habit of Biblical/apocalyptic literary reference in Avengers: Age of Ultron.)

Spoilers for Authors

My other complaint is because I watch too much Writer Youtube.

The entire novel builds up the conflict of Sam versus the fake gods…Every scene somehow ties into their clash of ideas: oppress and exploit the common people, or allow them to (re)discover and enjoy the same tech advances that have given the “gods” their comfortable lives. Every battle, conversation, and set-back is somehow laced with the conflict.

Then, in the last chapter, everything peaks – only Sam doesn’t fight the gods. Instead, he teams up with the gods who are left (the ones he, or various others, haven’t killed yet) to fight some third party who’s barely been mentioned.

This mysterious “new challenger” popped up in conversation once or twice before, as one of these hinted past conflicts that made the world feel bigger. But he certainly didn’t get enough development to be the end boss of the entire book. It’s not quite an official “Martha Moment“…but it’s also not entirely satisfying.

(In a “Martha Moment,” something causes one of the opposing teams – often the winning side – to abandon their goal so that the two sides can unite in the third act. Instead, Sam joins the gods because he figures he has already won the culture war — once people no longer view the gods as inviolable, their power will be basically broken. It’s still less satisfying though.)


It’s fun when authors know what style they’re aiming for, and then go whole-hog in nailing that style in the bull’s-eye.

Lord of Light is an evocative, atmospheric fantasy (glossed with scientific explanations)…The manipulation of philosophy for political ends was a clever plot device, and the ideas raised by the technology were honestly explored.

What with the “questionable” scenes, and the worldview implications, I would recommend this for mature readers who are ready to intellectually confront the ideas presented to them.

You’ll also get a part-epic, part-character-piece that melds battles, adventure, and intrigue.

Lord of Light is available on Amazon.

Dear Diary….well that was anti-climactic…

Alert: Contains spoilers for the adventure “Temple of Elemental Evil”

So we can invade the Fire Node next, Ezekiel gave us a short lecture about the enemies one of the clerics we rescued told us about.

A Bodac is apparently some kind of demon, and can kill you if you just look at it…so he says the plan is for us all to stand back while he tries to hit it with the mace (while protected from evil). There are supposedly efrete there, too, which he says are relatives of the geni…they won’t be necessarily Evil, but it’s safer to be careful around them.

Everybody should be protected from heat, either with a ring, Tressarian, or one of the clerics’ spells – so we head in tomorrow.


We made sure Lydia was ready, then gathered around Ezekiel while he touched the gem we assume is the key-stone of fire. Sure enough, we found ourselves in an eight-sided room – four corners and four points like a star. Even with our magic, the heat was sweltering.

Firelight peeked through chinks in the walls, and eight heavy stone doors with brass handles lined the corners of the room. Ezekiel always says to take the right turn, and since north is front on the map, the east is the right (and I drew the map, so I got to pick which way was north).

So Ezekiel chose a door (Mikael had a bad vibe about the opposite direction) and Elmo helped us unstick it.

Down the corridor, first door on the right, we saw several fire pits, dancing with flames. When Ezekiel checked one out, it didn’t have any special markings – or any obvious source of fuel. He dumped a skin of holy water onto the first one – and a flash or something darted across the room to another fire pit, and billows of steam flowed out…but not much else happened.

Meanwhile, Raven was having trouble – panting and flapping his tunic to fan himself. Ezekiel cast an Endure spell on him when we started out, but it had stopped working. Mikael cast another spell on him – but it didn’t seem to do Raven any good…and we finally realized something was dispelling the fire-magic.

Tressarian reminded me he can put out fires, so we went around to a few of the pits, putting out the flames (there are four in all). Bright flashes fled before us across the room, but we didn’t seem to accomplish much else…The pits seemed to re-ignite not long afterwards.

Elmo uncovered a loose stone that had treasure underneath, and Ezekiel called me and Tres over to see if any of the gems there were magical –

But before I could say for sure, something came up from behind and burned us.

There were five figures — they looked vaguely humanish, but wreathed in flames…and they shot tongues of flame from the ends of their hands to hurt us.

Tressarian got so excited he almost shook out of my hand. Really, he’s supposed to be super effective against Evil fire creatures, but Ezekiel and Elmo basically took them all out by themselves (with help from Mikael’s faery fire). We did kill the last one before it could run away with its companion, so I guess that works. (I asked Tres if he “extinguished” the flame-persons, but he just said, “You’d better believe it!” instead of actually explaining how a piece of metal kills something made of fire.)

Then we gave the treasure a more in-depth look – and sure enough, one of the gems was glowing with magical energy. (Ezekiel calls it a “smokey quartz”.) So now that’s three of four…and we’ve barely been here an hour or two.

As Heiron pointed out, we still have to clear the node to the best of our ability – just in case there are prisoners here to be released – but it still feels kinda lame.


Met an oozing creature that Mikael called a “dumb pudding.” It was fast and gross, and Heiron almost dissolved his special new sword before Ezekiel saved it with water.

It split apart and lost tension when I shot it with arrows, so we moved on, but those things are really, really gross…

Read the previous entry here.

Dear Diary….there are water things, and there are water things

Safe and sound in Hommlet. Master Ostler was very impressed by our new badges. Heiron and I both decided to keep them in our locked chest at the inn, so they don’t get lost or messed up while we’re traveling in the nodes.

We asked Master Elmo up to our rooms for a “drink,” and we discussed our upcoming strategy. The last guy we rescued told us about the sea-hags in the Water Node, but none of us sounded really excited to fight them (not even Ezekiel, for once — he just thought that maybe they could tell us where the grus and water-demons were, but we weren’t sure we wanted to do business with them).

Bottom line, Lydia’s going to try to scry us back to our raft in the Water Node, and we’ll continue searching along the wall in a counter-clockwise direction – like we were before fighting the dragons.


Well, it’s been interesting, that’s for sure.

Lydia got us back into the node no trouble, and we started paddling (“we” meaning Heiron and Elmo…they’re just the best at it). We killed a couple kopoacinths (or water-gargoyles, as some might call them) and found a little estuary with a rocky beach – and a portal to the Fire Node.

While exploring around the portal rune, Ezekiel found a strange little object about the size of a finger (a long, fat finger). The outside feels papery…but not like parchment or something. And it’s stiff. Holding it in front of a light doesn’t reveal anything, and it’s heavier than it feels like it should be – although that might be because it’s water-logged. It’s not magical, so Mikael thinks it might be an egg or something…although even he doesn’t know what it might be for. Hopefully not something that’s going to hatch out and eat our faces off in the middle of the night.

We paddled on from there and came to a place where the cliff fell away in a shelf about head-hight (Raven says that’s not a standard measurement).

Some of the others spotted a green bug-man thing skulking on the far side of the shelf, so we slung the ropes of climbing up – and while Ezekiel chanted some kind of encouraging song, the rest of us clambered up (we learned our lesson…the more people we get into combat earlier, the better).

Mikael wrapped it up in his magic rope…and after that it was like shooting fish in a barrel. The creature looked like the umber-hulk we killed before, except it was green – and it only had two eyes, not four, so I’m not sure it could do that staring thing Ezekiel told us about from last time.

After Heiron and I killed it, I skinned it while Elmo and Ezekiel explored the rest of the cave (not much there) and Heiron killed another of those beach-ball mushroom things that Mikael called an Ascomoid.

Elmo took a slab of green-umberhulk meat with him, but I don’t think we took the eyes to give to Lydia. Ezekiel didn’t say anything about it.

Not super long after we started rowing again, we spotted two swirling blobs of water coming up behind us. We managed to run the raft into some shallow water, and then Ezekiel pulled out a scroll…and started bubbling and hissing at them. I guess he must have been speaking their language, because they made gurgling noises back – until one of them said, “We do speak Common,” or something like that.

Apparently they were pulled through the gate in the Temple, and then walked across the sanctuary to be shunted into the node. They’re none too happy about how the Temple people treated them, and sound like they want to go home to the actual Plane of Water…after they round up some of their other friends.

Raven reminded us that the portal runes in the Temple should still work – we just have to get them there. But first, Ezekiel told us they had a friend-elemental who was “trapped” here somehow, and we needed to help them free it. (They also told us where we could find some water-grus…which is important to us, but less so to them.)

At that point in the conversation, the elementals cried out, “It comes!” and another swirling, bubbly shape loomed out of the darkness at us.

Ezekiel asked them if this was their friend, and the two from before said, “Yes! And no!”

He told us not to hurt it – but we tried to hold it off while he dug in his pack for a scroll – and it smacked Elmo with a tentacle-y limb of water. (I don’t know if he got some down the wrong pipe or what, but we all agreed we wouldn’t want to do that again.)

Before it got any uglier, Ezekiel gestured at the thing while reading his spell – and the creature shuddered and groaned…and little drops of water broke free or something. And then it stopped attacking, and the other elementals seemed very relieved.

Ezekiel says the Water Elemental was “possessed” by a Water Weird – and the Weird is hurt by “purify water.” Anyway, the elementals seem happy about it, and in the morning, they’ll take us to meet up with more of their friends, so we can send all of them home. (We gave Lydia a heads-up, and she says she’ll come up with a “better” plan than sitting the elementals in a bathtub while she shifts the mirror around.)

It’s not really very late yet (though paddling the raft around is slow work) but Ezekiel doesn’t have any more scrolls for purifying water, which means Mikael has to prepare that for the morning…just in case there are any more possessed “friends” out there.

The elementals are hanging close to us…I guess they feel safer that way. The back of the shallow area has a cave where we can set up the fortress on dry ground…although it also has a portal to the Air Node, so we have to be careful where we set in the morning.

I didn’t have my mind on water spells this morning…Those elementals sure seemed upset about their friend…Being taken over by something else sounds really horrifying…Maybe I will talk to Ehlonna about this…about more ways I can be useful.


If yesterday was educational, today was even more exciting!

First thing, though, Ezekiel told us the paper egg was not alive (I think Ao told him or something?? He says he tapped into the shared life-force of the universe, but I think he’s just trying to sound cool).

Raven cut it open (since he’s super healthy and stuff) and showed us what was inside: a bunch of black powder (all caked together with water, now) and a little metal ball (which might be which it was so heavy). Guess we’ll give it to Lydia…she likes exploring different things.

We returned to the raft, and the water elementals started pulling/pushing/propelling us along — I think in the general direction of the water-grus, although I guess their friends were near there, too. By the time we reached another rocky shelf along the shore that we could step out onto, more elementals had joined us – to total six!

So we drew the circle, and Lydia joined us long enough to chat with the elementals a bit (I guess to explain her new, “better” plan to them) and then she led one through the portal. Moments later, it stuck its “head” (?) back through to tell the others it was all good, and they all oozed and dripped their way through the mirror-portal. I’m sure they’ll be…happy?…to be home.

Looking at the map, the elementals basically pushed us right where we needed to be…but it took us a little longer to figure it out. We killed another of those floating eye things, and we spotted some, like, underwater-ghouls that Ezekiel dealt with using his sheep-symbol.

After enough paddling up and down in the area they told us about, we spotted the entrance to a cave or passage underwater. Since I have the necklace of adaptation, and Mikael can be a dolphin, the two of us headed down to explore.

No sooner did we poke our noses into the entrance, than we saw a bunch of swirling bubble-clouds…but not like the elementals. Even I could tell they were different somehow…more like the swirling pillars of air we found in the Air Node.

We nipped back to the raft just in time for the “swirling water things” to come chasing after us. Fortunately, they could only come a couple at a time, and Heiron and I (and Tressarian) took one down while Ezekiel oiled up his mace (probably helps with all the damp).

Elmo chopped into them with his huge axe, and Heiron went at them with his new sword, Scather (I think he’s enjoying it…it seems pretty effective). Raven used his magic daggers, and even Ezekiel bashed a couple into collapsing water droplets with his mace.

I counted four altogether, though I could be wrong. I didn’t see it happen, but they got Heiron a couple times; while Ezekiel healed him up, Mikael and I went back to see if the beasties were guarding anything worthwhile.

Were they.

We found a scroll, a staff, and a potion lying in a huge pile of money – along with a respectable collection of gems. But Tressarian picked out the one that really mattered…a carnelian, glowing softly with magic energies. I made sure not to touch it, but wrapped it up in a handkerchief.

As Ezekiel says, two out of four, now! We need to come back to the Water Node if we’re going to get the Dragon-Turtles out, but otherwise, we’re ready to move on! We’ll have to decide: Earth or Fire.

Find the previous entry here.