Dear Diary….path of the paladin

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

In the morning, our healers did their magic. The prisoner asked if he got any, and Ezekiel asked him if he was planning to do any fighting.

We returned to the first dungeon without problems, but as we were passing through the barracks on that level, we smelled ghouls.

Everybody hugged close to Yeti so Ezekiel could hit them with his mace – and when he did, the runes around the ram’s head glowed and there was a flash.

A little further on, Raven warned us about some more undead – but not soon enough for Cuddles, who got clawed and paralyzed, and Mikael, who whacked the ghoul that hit Cuddles, and then got paralyzed.

Raven and I dragged them into the safety zone around Yeti, then Heiron and I shot down a couple ghouls that were too close for comfort.

Then we all held off so Ezekiel could use his mace. By the time I could pay attention to what he was doing, most of the undead were gone…leaving barely a film of dust behind.

So apparently this mace method is even cleaner than turning them. Who knew? The two bodies with arrows were already half-rotten – but they’re going to smell bad for a while before they turn into dust.

We reached the courtyard about mid-morning (lovely to see the sun again!) and collected the horses.

The rescued woman insisted that she wanted to leave right away – that she would take the High Road to live with her sister in the Wild Coast – and didn’t want any help. I think Raven gave her a ration or two to get her started, but I’m not sure.

I guess she’s got guts…or it’s all a plot to prey upon our compassion somehow.

We reached the campsite just fine (Nulb was thankfully quiet) and started making dinner and dealing out what healing we had left for the day.

Ezekiel went over to talk to Yeti – he says he doesn’t like all these neutrals clinging to him…that it’s not the company he wants to die in, and that he needs to seek guidance from Ula before continuing.

From what I caught of Ezekiel’s answer, he rambled something about being an insane party.

Maybe Yeti doesn’t like being taken for granted. Ezekiel sure lays it on thick about being off his rocker, serving a god that doesn’t exist, but it gets pretty old.

Back when he had the “hot meal” clinic in Ertuli, sure, he talked about his God – but he seemed to understand that no one knew what he was talking about, and just left it at that. But that was before he could dust undead…that was before having these visions (which I guess we have to take his word for), and getting the elf lady to cure his disease (Yeti tried to explain to me why that shouldn’t have happened, or something).

After all that’s happened, nobody’s calling him delusional…except maybe that priest he and Mikael met in Greyhawk, and nobody cares what he thinks.

Ezekiel does have some kind of understanding that a God above all other gods would also be over the Evil gods…which is kinda confusing. It doesn’t change my perspective, though, because Good is still obviously superior, since it exists.

After all – just the fact that we can have Good, and some people can be Evil (they’re allowed to be) shows that Good is the better, or the default one. If Ao (or whatever His name is) was Evil, then the whole world would be misery and blackness and those hideous pictures from the Temple.

I had a dream about one of them last night.

Just the fact that beauty and happiness and sunsets exist shows that they must be stronger than the anger and bitterness that oppose them. Winter is allowed a season, but not forever – Good insists on spring, when Ehlonna clothes all the trees and hillsides with life again.

All of which means, I guess, that some Evil is allowed to exist (for some reason)…but I also firmly believe that, if it must exist, it should have the decency to do it on its own plane.

So what we’re doing here is perfectly right and legitimate…not only are we upholding kindness and life and normal-ness (which is the better of the two), but we’re also spanking those perverted human-sacrificers back to the Dark Planes where they belong.

O— Heiron says he thought he heard something, but it’s nothing. He volunteered to patrol while we watch…when he gets older, he’ll learn how I can listen to my surroundings while also focusing on something else.

Anyway…I guess Yeti has to figure out his own path. Ula and Ehlonna might both serve the same Good (the same Good Person???), but they don’t hang out much.

And he’s also right that there are Right ways of doing Good, and Wrong ways of doing good. I think Ezekiel gets side-tracked by this idea of totality, of allowing the Evil gods to punt around – and trying to figure out how to serve Someone nobody else has ever approached before.

Also, none of us are any good at interrogation.

****

Got into Homlette just before sunset. Dropped the prisoner at the tower, and reported our latest findings to Sir Rufus.

Raven says he wants his magic dagger identified if possible (you never know…it might have a deadly magic trap against Good people on it). We’ll also have to get the treasure appraised and divvied up so we can give Yeti his share.

He never talked that much, but it’s sad to think he won’t be with us next time.

Am I also taking him for granted?!

****

Good treasure haul. Sent Heiron to buy us some more arrows (and paid him for the week, since after all he might need to buy something while we’re in town).

Ezekiel asked where he could buy some sheep, then left the inn. What’s he up to now?

****

The roads are still remarkable quiet. Maybe we’re just so loudly dangerous that anyone who might be trouble gives us space.

We returned to second basement of the Temple, via the same route and the same spiral staircase.

The minotaur body had become the home of some gross-looking eggs, so we squished all those. Not excited about dousing and burning all the bodies we make, but short of lugging them out for burial, I’m not sure how we can be any cleaner about our corpses. Cuddles can only eat so much…and he isn’t a dignified final resting place for a human, anyway.

Turns out, I really had noticed a secret door in the hallway by the Air Temple (y’know…the place where we almost died of poison gas thanks Raven). Inside, it was just a tiny L-shaped passage connecting the “sanctuary” with the corridor. Lydia supposes it could be a place to hide during a raid from the other temples…which makes sense given that they’re competing with each other.

… …

Well. Things got more interesting after that.

Wonillon checked the other double-doors in that hallway (the ones to the west), and when we opened them, we found a corridor basically the same width, with the same type of disgusting paintings on the walls, of death and destruction and oppression. The painted clerics organizing all this suffering and debauchery are dressed in green robes with the circle symbol.

The corridor isn’t very long, comparatively, and leads to more double doors covered with bronze bas-relief.

Wonillon checked those, too.

Beyond…so much of the rooms comes from the sensation of being there, that it’s hard to describe.

The floor and walls are azurite malachite stone, and the ceiling is vaulted with buttresses. The air is damp, and there’s a luminosity that doesn’t seem to come from any one place…it just floats in the air, giving everything the same sickly blue-green glow.

In the center of the west wall is a huge bronze plate in bas-relief of various sea life…but it must be all the ugliest of the sea life, with tentacles and fins and teeth, and one central fish-head acting as a fountain (there are 4 stacked basins below to catch the water).

Raven agreed with me that the one relief was that this hideous, fanged fish-head wasn’t the “fishy wave” one from Greyhawk. I suppose that much bronze must be worth something, but we haven’t discussed touching it yet.

A four-foot basin in the center of the room holds some coins, gems, and seashells – covered with a shallow pool of water. I suspect they’re the kind of thing Ezekiel says we should only touch one of.

Across from the doors was some kind of statue or idol, in front of a curtain made from seaweed and water. The idol was at least eight by eight, and…like if several bushels of eels, sea monsters, spiny fish, and other gross creatures had all been poured together and fused against their will into one monstrosity. You can almost pity the things that served as models.

While we were still all taking this in, Ezekiel put his finger to his lips and motioned each of us into position. Then he pushed the seaweed of the curtain aside and stepped through the doorway under the water.

(So we got at least one thing right.)

Beyond the curtain was a twenty-five foot corridor. A door stood on each side, and beyond lay some kind of big room with a huge oval pool (we couldn’t see much from there, but it was lit by cressets. Raven says the pool seemed to be absorbing the light or something, and the floor was blocks of crystal designed to reflect the light in confusing ways).

Heiron and I each took a corner to cover the doors, while Raven and Wonillon listened.

Then Ezekiel made a choice – pointing at everybody to get them where he wanted them – and Wonillon blocked the east door with those “crampons” that seem to work so well.

We didn’t have Yeti, of course, so Wonillon stood up near the door with Ezekiel…while Mikael and Lydia waited behind them to see if their spells were needed. Raven stationed himself at the corner leading into the room with the pool to make sure nothing snuck up on us from there (and he knows enough now to not attack any of the furniture without due preparation).

When Ezekiel opened the door, the first thing we all noticed was the man sitting in a green velvet robe on the couch across from the door.

Everything in the room was green – even the brazier in the center of the floor. Gossamer hangings from the ceiling gave the feeling of an underwater forest…but a haunted forest. Maybe like those paralyzing bubble-animals of death Raven told us all the scary stories about.

The man noticed us about the same time we noticed him, and he put down whatever he was reading and smiled.

“Well, hello, friends,” he said.

Ezekiel said, “Bel-Sornig, I presume.” (High Cleric of the Water Temple…pretty safe guess.)

The cleric smiled some more and said he assumed we were responsible for Cleric Kelno’s death, and that we should talk reasonably with him.

Well, talking is not something we do…but you don’t get good at something by not practicing. I guess that’s what Ezekiel figured, because he said, “Go on.”

Basically, Bel-S said he knew we were after the Greater Temple, and that he could help us against them, and the Fire Temple…but that in return we would leave his temple alone.

Of course, I thought what a precious deal that would be – help him to step into the shoes of the Greater Temple, and backstab us whenever he was ready! That, and of course we’re here to stop all the sacrificing-prisoners-to-demon-gods stuff, not just a majority percentage of it.

I was afraid Ezekiel would ask him to touch the magic mace or something, but instead he said we could accept info – in return for letting Bel-Sornig, personally, leave the Temple and not return.

I wasn’t too keen on that, either (bad guys don’t just retire quietly…they like to plot revenge and stuff), but it didn’t matter since Bel-S didn’t care for that deal, either.

So he put out all our lights.

I had an arrow on the string, covering his major organs…all I had to do was put tension in the string, and release, and I had a chance to hit something. (I had a chance to hit Ezekiel, too, of course, but nothing is fool-proof.)

I heard the arrow hit what sounded like a cushion – and then heard the twang of Heiron’s bow. Neither shot earned us a yelp, so all I could do was fumble in my backpack for a torch.

Why are they always at the bottom?

I heard the shuffle-pad-scrape of Raven’s dancer-like feet, and the doorway glowed for a second (he says he used his ring to case Faery Fire, but it didn’t do any good).

I had glimpsed a doorway off to the side while Ezekiel was talking, and I was torn between the fear that Bel-S would go through it, circle around, and hit us in the flank – and the fear that he would go through it, and just run away.

Maybe all the worrying is why I couldn’t seem to lay hold of a torch, even though I was carrying several.

While I was being useless that way, Lydia threw something and shouted, “Stink!”

Mikael and Raven both told Cuddles to “block the door,” and Ezekiel started banging on his shield, bellowing, “Light, light.”

All that, and I still heard someone moving around inside the room – maybe it was the soft chuckling.

Mikael cast faery fire, and someone huge and bulky started glowing in the doorway.

The someone had Ezekiel’s voice, because he told me to get out of the darkness so I could take a shot.

He must have remembered (though I didn’t at the time) that the pool-room and the fishy room were both lit in various ways – but it wouldn’t really have mattered because when I tried to make my way to the fishy room, I banged right into Heiron and wiped out on the floor.

Of course that is the moment Lydia chose to light her torch. She didn’t wait the three minutes for me to pick myself up…no, she didn’t. She lit her finger and set the torch alight while I was sprawled on the floor and wondering which sword I had fallen on.

On the bright side, I guess nobody noticed because Bel-S appeared, feathered with faery fire and in full plate-mail (probably green, though I didn’t notice).

Lydia summoned Simba – who promptly charged into the room, where her stinking cloud was still giving off sickening vapors.

Heiron stepped over me to take a couple shots (he must have been very excited, though, since he hit the couch) and the others crowded forward to attack. I heard the clang and caught a glimpse of the lightening from Ezekiel’s mace.

By the time I had untangled myself and stood up, Simba was dragging himself back into the hallway, gagging. I found an arrow and launched it, finding a chink between the plates of Bel-S’s armor.

That’s when Bel-S did what he probably should have done from the very beginning – made for the southern door to escape. He didn’t make it, though, as suddenly I heard a heavy clatter, and Wonillon appeared in the room – holding a bloody dagger and grinning from ear to ear.

(So if we wanted to question him more, we missed our chance. Not like he was very – persuadable, anyway.)

After all that noise, it’s no wonder someone had started pounding at the other door – but Wonillon’s wedges held.

Ezekiel got us into position again and threw the door open. Wonillon felt on a roll or something, because he pounced through the opening at once – stunning one of the guys in chainmail there.

Ezekiel took him out, and I took out the other one.

They were both wearing cowled green robes – kind of like Bel-S – but we didn’t really have a chance to notice that until they were dead.

(We’ll never know, of course, if they would have been more cooperative…because they’re dead.)

Ezekiel pointed out that they each had two hammers – so he says they were under-clerics (apparently there’s a cleric spell that involves a hammer as reagent).

That seemed to be everyone in the area…but we sure weren’t letting our guard down.

And we still had to find Cuddles, who seemed to have gone off somewhere.


Find the previous entry here.

Start at the beginning of the second level here.

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