Dear Diary…why you make friends with spellcasters

After successfully dragging Ezekiel out of the Temple, we decided we might as well take the treasure from the Water “Sanctuary” back to town.

Sir Rufus bought the ogre-sized bone armor just because it’s something you don’t see everyday, and Master Bern said he might have a use for the hydra heart.

I didn’t ask about what it might be.

Turns out it’s just as well we came back, because Raven disappeared to the tower for a few days to ask some questions of the monk master there. He says he’s been experimenting with his moves, and wanted guidance from someone more experienced.

Heiron and I drilled in the backyard (he’s getting really good at these things) and bought new arrows.

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When we returned to the Temple, we took the red stairs down to the sloping passage…the one by the hydra and owlbear.

When we got there, the huge bronze sheet that blocks the magical corridor between temples was still winched up, just like Ezekiel and Wonillon left it. Also, the skeleton and other remains of the hydra were still lying as we’d left them.

This might have made us think the Temple was empty…but of course we’d be very wrong about that.

We followed the corridor past the hydra down, around, and back north — until we spotted a cold fireplace up ahead. Halfway along, we heard the big gong in the temple sound through the wall, which told us the place was occupied…but we just thought at the time it was an alert about us.

A haunch of moldy meat sat on the table — a table larger than humans would be comfortable with — and I can only assume this is where the bugbears we killed used to live.

Keeping as quiet as possible, and checking all the doors for traps, we went through a door to the south into a little airlock room (table, chair, desk, bed, and chest with clothes and money in it. The chest also had a bottle of what we think is poison, and Raven was going to smash it when Wonillon said he might find it useful. Have to keep an eye on him).

The next door opened into a large room — rugs and tapestries and other bright decorations, bright colors and shades of red.

Also pictures of lewd demons…reminder: burn tapestries if we get the chance.

Two other bedrooms opened off of this main room…and while Ezekiel, Raven, and Wonillon ransacked the place and filled the bag of holding with money, red ceremonial robes, rare herbs, and jewelry, Heiron and I stood watch.

(They also found a scroll for protection from devils, and a book about the plane of elemental fire. We’ll see if they come in handy.)

While we waited for the others, the gong sounded a couple more times…but even though Heiron and I stared at the door, nothing attacked us. Yet.

The bodies of the two humans and the half-orc we killed last time we were here were laid out in state in front of the fireplace in the big room. I was really concerned they were preparing to be ghouls or something, so Ezekiel touched them with his mace to “make me feel better.”

It’s not my feelings that need attention. Raven went so far as to raid the corpses’ pockets — something their comrades didn’t stoop to. They each wore a crimson robe with gold skulls embroidered on it, and a ring, and an amulet. That plus some coins…that’s what we got for disturbing the dead.

With all that done, we suited up for action. Raven gave me his Ring of Free Action (because he was carrying too many magic items). Wonillon, of course, had the ring of fire protection, and Mikael cast a similar kind of spell on Ezekiel. Ezekiel got all excited and important and chanted something over me about Endure Heat.

The next room was also pretty large, with cushions all over the floor and two doors visible. We noticed another, secret door behind a tapestry.

As we entered, the gong sounded twice in a row — and from the sound, we were pretty sure the Fire “Sanctuary” was just beyond the southern door.

Ezekiel threw the door open, and found himself staring at a tapestry.

He shoved the tapestry aside to enter the room, and it was like my birthday came early for the next few years.

There were bugbears as far as the eye could see (picking through the remains and talking it over, we figure there were probably twenty-five).

Heiron and I nailed two before I even noticed the ogre, and the hairy-wolfman-things at the far end of the room, and the priest from before, standing in front of the altar and fire pit…with a whole bunch of prisoners.

We charged in. Raven flicked the No Ordinary Rope-of-entangling, and snared some bugbears. Mikael cast faery fire. I shot another bugbear through the throat. And then…

Lydia threw something over our heads (Raven says it was mostly over my head) and the whole room exploded in fire.

When the flames cleared enough for us to see, one lone bugbear stood in the midst of smoldering carnage.

The fire didn’t quite reach to the end of the room. There were the hairy-wolfman-things (Lydia tells me the term is “werewolf”), and three pale ghouls that had been hidden behind a pillar.

Raven (now that his rope was holding nothing but cinders) ran forward and wrapped up the priest and one werewolf.

As the rest of us ran forward to engage…tongues of flame appeared over the coals in the fire pit. (The priest was hollering indignantly, since he couldn’t do anything else to us.)

Whatever you might say about Lydia, you have to admit she has guts. She charged the free werewolf with her silver dagger (even though hand-to-hand isn’t her thing) and stabbed it — despite getting mauled back.

I landed a hit that really should have taken off its head, you’d think, but it didn’t seem to even notice. That was disconcerting, but I decided there was enough going on I had to trust Lydia to take care of herself.

As I ran to get myself between the prisoners and the pit, two ghouls streaked past me, whimpering. (I think Ezekiel yelled something like, “And don’t forget it!”)

Mikael also ran down, and I caught a glimpse of him pulling Lydia out of harm’s way.

My sword did better against the werewolf – at least the one that was tied up.

Heiron called the prisoners to join him in the living quarters (he’s really making me proud) and Mikael told Cuddles and Corby to go help him protect them.

Just in time, too…the salamanders were just climbing out of the pit.

While Mikael, Lydia, and Simba battled the werewolf with a stinking cloud, Raven fired his spark shower from his ring–

A whole crowd of the salamanders disappeared…leaving only four, who still weren’t quite big enough to crawl out of the pit.

We didn’t have long to wait. No sooner had Wonillon finished off the werewolf that was tied up, one of the snaky things leaped clear and flung itself at Raven.

It threw its tail around him and stabbed him with its spear, making him cry, “Hot hot hot!”

I slashed it while it was occupied, and then Ezekiel joined — so that we were evenly matched, four to four.

This is Ezekiel we mean, of course, so he immediately got wrapped up in the snaky folds of a salamander’s tail. (He says that means that it couldn’t get away.)

I remember the smell: their very bodies smell like heat or fire or a really scorching day…and, of course, my friends’ clothes slowly scorching. The beasties couldn’t snare me because of my new magic ring, but they could still lash me with their burning-hot tails just the same.

We heard growls and barks and snarls from where the werewolf was fighting Mikael and Simba, but of course we couldn’t risk a moment to look their way.

Raven took so many hits with the spear that he gave a wailing cry and collapsed. That made the salamander let go of him, of course, but it was still a bad sign.

Mikael appeared at our sides, muttered a spell that made a salamander’s spear frost over.

The priest was still swearing at us — but he started a whole new list of exclamations when Raven popped back to his feet and dragged him back from the battle.

I was so busy fighting that I couldn’t really keep track of how many times I’d been stabbed. I know Ezekiel was bleeding from everywhere, and weaving on his feet.

I killed one of the salamanders, but my eyes were crossing from blood loss. Next thing I knew, Mikael had his hand on Ezekiel, who had his hand on me, and both of us had wounds closing before our eyes.

And then the salamanders stabbed us again.

Lydia somehow ran all the way around behind the salamanders (she is wearing the boots of speed, I guess) and dumped a waterskin over one of them. Even if it didn’t hurt it, the water did make it angry enough to leave Wonillon alone for a moment.

It’s a funny feeling…having your guts ripped out, and then magically sucked back into place, and then stabbed back out, and then spooled back into place. I’m still not totally convinced Ex and Mikael have all my organs where they were originally…but they got enough blood into my system that my slashing arm still worked.

We ganged up on the remaining salamanders. Wonillon got the final dagger-blow on one of them, and Mikael “poked” the final one into a crumbled, twitching heap on the floor.

Then we could learn that Raven had bludgeoned the priest into a daze, and roped the surviving werewolf with Simba’s help.

With the excitement over, we could tie up the priest properly, finish off the werewolf, and make sure the rescued prisoners were safe.

My innards feel knit together enough to let my body function, but I think it’s safe to say we’ve had enough excitement for today.

And that is why you always bring spell-casters.

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