Dear Diary…Dedicated to Nori

Alert: May contain spoilers for the adventure “The Village of Homlette”

We reconvened after a week. When I got back into town, I found the others at the Welcome Wench. Apparently Mikael also spent a week “in nature,” sequestered in the Grove with Druid Master Geru – and they don’t talk about the “druidy” stuff they do.

Sounds like Ezekiel and Lydia hit the books all week – or rather, Ezekiel focused on his one book, while Lydia went to ask Master Bern questions at the tower.

She’s learned Continual Light – as well as some other cool things – so that’ll be helpful! Ezekiel has asked her to put light on our two shields.

Lydia asked me “How were the elves?” and Mikael mentioned that he actually learned Elvish, but hasn’t really had the chance to try it out yet.

I’m not sure it’s something I can articulate yet. I was really struck how they described everything – the forests, the creatures, the trees – as a gift from Ehlonna. It makes sense…and fosters a sense of gratitude.

Raven says the Lady Master Monk was heading to Orlane once she left here, so he was able to send a donation with her to the Temple of Merikka. He also says he knows how to fall twenty feet without getting hurt (he says it’s in the roll at the bottom) and made us all go outside to watch.

A young man came up to us while we were hanging out (apparently he’s the son of the village elder) and asked us if we would kindly come to a meeting at the elder’s house that evening.

That got Raven and Ezekiel talking about the situation. It was nice to bury ourselves in other concerns for a while, but now we have to remember why we’re here.

What were those weapons being stored for? There were far too many for the number of “bandits” we fought in the dungeon, but who else could be involved?

After Orlane, it’s even possible that some people in the town are “bad.” But it’s hard to tell…everyone knows that we took men-at-arms to the Moat-house, and brought back a huge load of weapons. After all, the shop-keeper questioned me about it.

(Speaking of him, Ezekiel and Lydia – and maybe Raven – also spent time getting all our treasure appraised and converted, so when the rest of us got back, they had our shares all divided. So I can rest easy that the presents I gave the elves and Elmo was money I was actually entitled to give away. Fair’s fair – he let me try out some of his gear part of the week, which was super cool.)

(Huh…”gifts” again…)

Anyway, we’ll head to the elder’s house after an early supper, and see what he has to say. I sure hope he approves of what we’ve been up to around here.

****

Well, we had a very interesting meeting at the elder’s house.

Sounds like the entire village council was there — Druid Geru, Brother Celmert, another Cleric of Cuthbert (who we figured out pretty quickly is Canon Turjon), Sir Rufus, Master Bern, Constable Fred Renton, Master Osler Gundigoot – innkeeper of the Welcome Wench – Mitch the Miller, and of course the village elder himself.

They told us they’ve done a lot of thinking after we caught that Drow Cleric in the Moat-house. They say they’re worried that things are stirring again – and even though none of them were personally on the scene when the Temple of Elemental Evil was broken and sealed, they don’t like the idea that someone might be trying to open it up…or even worse, has already done so.

They gave us some background on this whole thing, which was quite useful: apparently when the heroes and armies of Veluna, Verbobanc, and Furiundy came to smash the armies of monsters and humanoids who were swarming from the temple, they imprisoned the demoness responsible within the temple.

They also left a cryptic poem behind – I guess to give anyone who came afterward a hint for how to finish the job, if possible.

The elder is going to transcribe the poem and send us our own copy for reference, but here’s the gist:

Evil Demon Goddess (of Fungus) built the Temple and made a “Key” with her Evil Boyfriend. The Key is some sort of bridge (maybe?) but is made for destroying the Good.

When the Temple fell, the Demoness was left behind, and they broke their own Key (I think?).

The good guys hid the four pieces of the Key (and then there was something about sea – earth – fire – sky), to keep any bad guys from reassembling it and freeing the Demoness and her Bad Boyfriend.

So, there might be a way to reassemble the Key and use it to reach the Demoness and/or her Boyfriend and defeat them for realsies, but more likely they’d be unleashed which is why any mortal human followers they have would be wanting to hunt down the pieces of the Key (why the humans would want to follow a Demon-Deity, the poem didn’t say).

Ezekiel says I’ve got some parts wrong, but that’s close enough for now. He also says the Bad Boyfriend is probably someone so incredibly powerful and horrifying that we shouldn’t even be saying his name…you know, the one who’s super old, and has bound himself to the Prime Material Plane.

This all sounds very terrible – especially when Canon Turjon or someone speculated whether this demon-duo has an alliance with the Spider Goddess of the Drow.

However, the council told us all they’re really looking for us to do at this point is investigate the Temple (and pretty please tell them no one’s been messing around and trying to re-open it and free the Demoness).

There might even be more clues at the Temple about where to find the four pieces of the Key (although I agree with Mikael, that the only reason that makes sense for hunting the Key is so we can break one of the pieces and keep the Demon-Duo from ever using it again. Ezekiel asked “couldn’t they just make another one” and we pointed out that it took both of them to make the first one, and now the Demoness is locked up, and the Evil Boyfriend is Somewhere Else Not There).

Constable Renton said that “Elmo says we’ve been getting quite powerful,” so they’d all be grateful if we’d do this thing for them.

I think Ezekiel and I especially got a little bashful at that, since it’s always nice to hear that someone kinda big and scary thinks you might turn out all right.

Ezekiel kinda asked whether Elmo would want to come with us – but we all agreed that we’d made quite a splash by trucking all those weapons into town, and it might be smart for Elmo to not be too tight with us for a while.

One of them (I don’t remember who) said that if we thought we might need back-up, the blacksmith in Nulb might come with us for proper compensation.

(Fortunately the blacksmith is one of the people in Nulb who doesn’t hate us.)

Master Osler said that, ten years ago when this all went down, he’d reached as far as the outer walls of the Temple with the armies, but never set foot inside. However, he described the earthquakes and downpours and random fires that hit back in the “bad old days,” and I really hope we don’t have to face anything that dramatic.

Even Mikael looked upset when he heard about that. Upsetting nature, overturning balances, putting things in their wrong spots…that kind of thing. Chaotic Evil just ruins it for everybody else.

I can tell Ezekiel is pumped to put any up-starts back in their place. Sort of like that Spider-Goddess…if she must exist, she might have the decency to stay in the Under-Dark, where she belongs.

****

Good first day. Got up in time for Raven and Lydia to go buy us some more rations (since I think they’re the best bargainers among us) and Raven came back with some saddlebags for the horses, which is very smart of him.

We weren’t sure we were going to keep the two horses from the Moat-house, but so far it’s working out and I think it’s a really good idea. Ezekiel can ride one, which makes him go at a more reasonable pace, and Lydia is riding the other one, because she’s a girl (I guess).

We reached the campsite Elmo showed us so long ago. No sign of bugbears so far. Our hope is to go straight through Nulb and head for the Temple without running into trouble.

We did discuss whether or not to talk to the blacksmith at this time, but Ezekiel thinks we’ll just do some quiet reconnaissance to see if it’d be worth his time. After all, the HOPE – the pretty-please-just-tell-me hope – is that nothing is wrong and everything is fine and ship-shape and still locked up and abandoned.

I can taste it in the air…there’ll be frost tomorrow. Better than snow, which is about what we could hope for at this time of year.

I think Nori is teasing the horses (still no names agreed upon), but Raven is “meditating” so I can’t ask him for sure.

****

I can hardly believe all that’s happened.

When we started out this morning, mists rose from the Gnarly Forest, just visible beyond Nulb.

We made it through the town without clashing with anyone (still smells as bad as ever) and took the road that heads south-south-west out of town.

It was immediately evident that this road is much less used – there are some old wagon ruts, but what with the weeds and tracks in the mud, I’m pretty sure nothing but foot traffic has been down there recently. I couldn’t make a guess as to what that traffic is at this point.

We reached the Temple grounds by late morning…and right away we knew why everyone treats this place with such horror. Why just its mere presence would leech evil and chaos into the surrounding landscape.

The Temple is surrounded by a wall about twenty feet high and maybe thirty feet thick. It’s broken down in places and filled with holes from siege engines…but it’s still a massive structure that seems to loom over the surroundings.

Even the trees are skeletal and shriveled. You’d assume they’re all dead, except that they still haven’t fallen over in the wind and rain.

The shrubs are twisted, blacked…overgrown mounds of dark weeds and grey stone cover the ground. The very grass is disgusting. Here and there, we spotted skulls and bones of humans and humanoids, bleached by the elements. I’m just glad the horses didn’t bolt right there.

And yet, with all that decay and unhealthiness, huge black ravens wheeled far above us. I wondered at the time what they could be hunting in this wasteland.

Ezekiel pointed out the remains of a tower at the other end of the wall, and we started toward it…but the wall was longer than we had first assumed, and we must have gone a mile to travel from one corner to the other.

Right away, we spotted two black birds that looked like crows or ravens, perched on top of the tower and staring down at us. Ezekiel thought there was something unnaturally about them, like they were an illusion, or like they were something else pretending to be ravens.

Mikael took a look at them, and said that, yes, they certainly appeared to be ravens.

They weren’t the only weird thing about this place. I at least had started to catch dark things moving in the corners of my vision – except that, when I tried to look at them, there was nothing there.

When I mentioned it, the others seemed to know what I was talking about…but no one seemed really confident about what was going on.

Raven climbed up the wall, and pointed out that some of the breaks would let us climb through pretty easily – only we’d have to leave the horses on the outside.

I wasn’t very comfortable about that, but we decided to leave Nori on guard, since she was so good at that. Wow. She sure was pretty good at that…

So we picketed the horses (although if I was a horse I wouldn’t want to eat that vegetation) and climbed through the wall after Raven.

As soon as we did so the two ravens on top of the tower started cawing loudly – which of course I’ve learned is probably a warning signal. But I didn’t know who or what they were warning, so it didn’t do me much good knowing that.

The courtyard beyond the wall is absolutely trashed and overgrown. Every weed has thorns, or burrs, or stinks like dog, or looks (and feels) like poison oak.

And that’s not even mentioning the Temple itself. At least, I assume that huge building was the Temple…it looked –

[rough sketch, scratched out]

I can’t even begin to describe. It’s like it has a shape that doesn’t belong on our plane of existence. I’m dreading when we actually have to go that far.

But we had our hands full where we were.

We started by examining the tower on the north-east corner of the wall, since Ezekiel thought it would be a good vantage point – and also didn’t want to leave an unexplored space at our back where something could sneak up on us.

The ravens on top were still carrying on, so I pulled my shield around and got ready. Arrow slits framed the doorway, and I didn’t trust the blackness beyond.

Ezekiel and Mikael tried peaking in the arrow slits, with the help of Ezekiel’s newly-lit shield, but they couldn’t see anything useful.

The door itself was at the top of a stoop of shallow steps, and chained heavily on the outside. Raven examined the chains, and said he doesn’t think (in his professional opinion) that they had been handled for a long time.

That was good enough for me – since we’re not here to break into everything and kill everything, after all, but just to find evidence of anybody else trying to break in. We’ll see if Ezekiel is satisfied with that.

Anyway, next Raven tried climbing the tower, but before he reached the top those two obnoxious birds pounced on him, and he had to slide back down again (and, all right, his monk-ish roll at the bottom was pretty cool).

The raven-birds came after us, and Mikael smashed one so hard with his staff that it bounced against the wall of the tower.

I brought my bow up and winged it, while Ezekiel called out, “These might not be real birds – but if they are, Animal Friendship would work on them!”

And that was perfect, because we’d just been talking about how Mikael could tame another animal friend if he wanted to, and how it might be smart for him to find a bigger creature than Nori as the monsters we were fighting kept getting bigger.

Poor Nori…

Well, Mikael called out to the second bird, and it came and perched on an outcropping of wall near him and listened to him with its head cocked.

The other bird tried to dive-bomb his head, but I took it out with another arrow, and then we all stood and watched him convince the bird to be his friend.

I guess we were all kinda amazed to see it happen. I’m not sure exactly what he was saying to it, but finally it started rubbing its head against his shoulder and cooing.

Makes me kinda jealous, actually.

Well, I pulled my arrows out of its brother, and Raven went to climb the tower again to try to get a good view of our surroundings.

If we had only known…

He had barely climbed onto the top when he leaped dramatically off again…followed by a black swarm of wings exploding into the air.

Raven kicked himself off the side of the tower and rolled into the middle of us as a cloud of raven-birds dropped down toward us, claws extended.

It really was a dramatic moment. Lydia agrees with me.

While I launched some more arrows into the birds, Lydia threw an egg into the air and said, “Boom!” Green smoke – or maybe more like a green cloud – filled the air…but fortunately, it didn’t drift down to where we were.

I shot a bird through the throat and ducked to avoid the birds raining out of the sky.

One of the birds who apparently didn’t breathe in the stink went for Mikael’s new pet, and I was worried for a little bit that if she went flying around to counter-attack, I couldn’t tell that she wasn’t an enemy bird.

Ezekiel, of course, figured out that if he attacked the birds gagging and fluttering on the ground, he could avoid that problem, and he went stomping back and forth with his mace.

Raven stabbed a bird through with his spear…but don’t think they’re delicate little things. Lydia got a pretty vicious gash from one of them – and after all, their wingspans are like six feet across! They may be real animals, but they’re certainly not like the ravens you might find in your back garden. They’re twisted somehow.

They’re huge, and vicious, and determined.

I kept dropping them with arrows, but not nearly fast enough. Mikael lost a big chunk of skin to one, and they seemed to think Ezekiel looked especially juicy (or threatening) and wouldn’t leave him alone.

Then, my bow slipped from my hands, so I drew my sword to save time. Maybe Raven had a similar idea, because I saw him punching at the birds with his bare hands.

I caught a glimpse of Ezekiel, dropped to the ground, but before I could worry I also saw Mikael reaching out toward him, chanting his Heal Light Wounds spell.

The stunned birds were just pulling themselves together and launching into the air again when Lydia pulled out a SECOND egg and threw it up after them.

One of the birds started coughing and dropped to the ground right in front of me…it looked to me like its back was broken by that.

Just as well for me, because when I tried to swing my sword, I felt it hit something…maybe a bone, maybe a rock. I didn’t really have time to check…the balance was off, so I shoved it into the scabbard and snatched my bow up.

I heard scrabbling on the stone wall, and caught a glimpse through the cloud of angry birds of Nori, pouncing to the attack. She must have heard us fighting, and come to defend her Best Friend.

What if she hadn’t? What indeed? Well, we can never really know how these things “would have” gone. That’s what Alpheus used to say…that you can’t waste too much living in the “would haves.”

An arrow bounced off the wall of the tower and tried to hit me in the face (but didn’t). Just about then, I ran out of arrows, and while I was dumping out my backpack for my spare bundle, I saw Ezekiel quaffing a potion and Lydia swinging at a bird with her silver dagger. (She totally pierced it through the rib cage and sent it spinning into the weeds, twitching. So glad she’s on our side, if you know what I mean.)

I started snatching arrows from the ground, and caught a glimpse of Mikael smashing a bird to the ground with his staff.

Lydia said some words, and a horse appeared out of nowhere, and she sent it running. There were only one or two birds left at this point, and they started chasing after the horse.

You’d think it’d be easy to track after something just going in circles, but obviously it wasn’t since Raven and I both missed, and Mikael and Lydia had to work together to put the last enemies down.

Finally, all the bad birds were dead. Lydia’s horse trotted over to her, and disappeared.

Ezekiel staggered forward, bleeding from several places, and told us to clear out…looking mad enough to eat his own mace.

Raven says he tried to unlock the chains outside the tower, as a refuge from the attacking birds, but he couldn’t get it undone. He says he’s glad, though, since he heard something laughing from inside while we were fighting.

I hustled to get my party members back over the wall…although Mikael took a little longer than the others.

I found him kneeling by Nori. He said he’d used Cure Light Wounds on her, and she still wasn’t moving. His new raven friend (says her name is Corbi) was also pretty badly hurt, but he’s got her wrapped up in bandages to keep the bleeding down and the breaks contained, and so far she’s still breathing.

We couldn’t say the same for Nori…especially since she’s, y’know, a spider, and they don’t breathe the same way. It felt wrong to just leave her there, after all she’d done for us, but we didn’t want to spend too much time there, and frankly I had my hands full helping Ezekiel across the broken wall.

I would have said Ezekiel was the worst hurt, since he actually lost consciousness once, but I’m not sure. Raven did his best to walk normally, but he did sway a little.

I asked Lydia if Mikael could ride with her, and of course she said yes, so I was able to get them through Nulb all right without having to stop for anyone.

I was kinda scared we were going to have trouble, since as we came up on the town square we saw flames rising. The smithy was on fire, and a huge crowd was gathered around it, but we managed to skirt the crowd and move on, minding our own business. (After all, it wasn’t our business…and we were in no condition to give help, even if it was needed. I can only imagine how badly a fire could spread in a ramshackle place like Nulb.) I hope everything works out all right…

When we finally reached the campsite, Ezekiel explained one of the reasons he looked like he was trying to eat his own teeth. Apparently the potion he drank was supposed to be for “Animal Control” (which for obvious reasons would have been Super Helpful), but apparently it was for FISH only (I’m not sure how he knows this, and he doesn’t look in the mood to tell me).

I feel much better now that I’ve got them all back to our campsite here. Frankly, none of the guys look fit to swing a weapon for any length of time, and Lydia has blood on her head-scarf, though she’s trying to not make a big deal about it.

I have a scratch or two here and there, but this poison oak is what’s going to drive me out of my mind.

It’s only afternoon, but we’ll have to stop and rest. In fact, we’ll probably have to go back to Homlette…to buy me more arrows, if for no other reason. I’m so glad I had a reserve supply, but I’ve never had to crack into them before.

I’ll be really mad if my short sword was damaged. It’s the magic short sword we got for fighting the dwarves, and has been super useful.

Well, maybe I can figure out some base defenses – like a barrier of sharp sticks – so I can keep watch and we can not get killed by bugbears in the night.

Ezekiel is poking the fire and growling about how he couldn’t even hit birds that are literally flopping on the ground.

But, you know what, if Ezekiel has taught me anything, it’s that you can’t blame your deity just because things didn’t go the way you wanted them to.

Nori was a great spider. She was a wonderful gift to us. She died engaged in battle for the defense of her master.

And if Corbi’s brothers and sisters are anything to go by, she will be a great gift to our party, as well. She does look kinda cute and pathetic bundled up beside Mikael.

All the humans are still alive, and that is also a gift. I do not intend to squander it.


Find the previous entry here.

To read the start of the Homlette adventure, go here.

Subscribe to the mailing list for book updates!

4 thoughts on “Dear Diary…Dedicated to Nori

  1. Pingback: Dear Diary…a "bunny" trail - Kimia Wood

  2. Pingback: Dear Diary….I have some concerns (about my party) - Kimia Wood

  3. Pingback: Dear Diary…. - Kimia Wood

  4. Pingback: Dear Diary….the drama of Ezekiel (and Lydia) - Kimia Wood

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *