Dear Diary….we aren’t stupid

Made it to the campsite safely, although we had some excitement leaving the dungeon.

We were passing through all the bugbear/ogre bodies that Lydia burned at the bottom of the stairs, and met something coming down…black, oozing, and spreading from wall to wall across the stairs.

Lydia’s fireball made it bubble a bit, but sure didn’t fry it immediately. Ezekiel traded blows with the thing — it slapped at him without sticking to his armor, and he bashed it down the middle into two moving blobs.

My arrow had only seemed to make it runnier and wider, so I backed up and hunted for a torch in my bag. The thing (or rather, things) were still coming down the stairs toward us, so Wonillon ran forward and dumped a flask of oil across the threshold. Lydia set that on fire, and while the creatures were fizzling and popping in the blaze, Heiron shot an arrow through the fire…it seemed to pop one of the beasties and make it collapse into sticky glaze on the stairs.

Ezekiel (as soon as he could move through the wall of fire) chased the other bubbly mass and smacked it into a huge, hideous stain all over the staircase. Magic armor or not, I don’t think that’ll wash out.

Once back to our horses, Ezekiel started questioning our prisoner. She said her name was Smigmal (half-orc name if I ever heard one) and the magic user’s name was Falrinth. (He’s apparently a proud servant of Lolth, which explains his bedspread and pop-up box. She says his familiar was a “gift” from Lolth.)

The assassin said she and Falrinth were “friends,” that he was her supervisor but that he also appreciated her particular “skill set.”

Then she batted her eyelashes at him, and I went to throw up behind a tree.

When I came back, she was explaining that Falrinth was probably reporting to the brass on the lower levels: Headrak, a cleric of the Old One; a wizard; and another cleric (leaders of the army they’re building down there).

That would all be the Greater Temple the other guy told us about…and they’re raising an army for some reason. The assassin said the communication wasn’t very clear, and after all, she wasn’t really interested in that part.

She said she was in it for the money, and didn’t really care about the religious/political side of things. So she asked what she would get in exchange for answering all our questions so nicely, and pointed out that now that she’d been defeated by us, the Temple people would kill her, so we might as well let her ride off into the sunset.

I was not about to let a crazy dangerous enemy like that walk away – it was our duty to take her to the tower, if nothing else (she’s like all the things that make my skin crawl wrapped up in one package) – but she smiled and batted her eyelashes at me, and I had to go puke again.

When I came back, the others had out-voted me. Mikael said that if she went far, far away from us and stayed on her best behavior, we could let her go – and Lydia pointed out that they’d both been studying her face, so could scry her and find her if we heard of something fishy. And we all know how open and soft Ez is, so he said we could absolutely leave her tied to a tree and both go our separate ways.

After that agreement, he got her to sketch out a map of the dungeon level (seems small by comparison) and asked a few more questions about the set-up down there.

The purple room with the Evil lights is apparently some kind of “trophy” room…the assassin says she thinks the statues really are statues, but also said, “The Mushroom Queen does things her way.”

(Ez reminded us that’s the Demon Girlfriend who’s supposed to be locked up in the Temple. We definitely seem to be reaching the root of things at long last.)

[sketch with labels – big rock; Mushroom Queen’s pet; rock garden; passage that comes out under tower (the tower in the courtyard…assassin said she mostly used that entrance)]

When we were done with our questions, we tied her to a tree and went our way. She’ll get out soon enough, and supposedly head off toward the Wild Coast to seek her fortune. You can’t trust types like that…but I guess we didn’t really have a better option. It’s not going to help me sleep, though. Just the thought makes my bottom rib kinda sore.

****

Wish I could draw Master Bern’s face when he saw us unload some of this stuff…especially that magic mirror. Lydia has rented a room in the tower to store all the spell components and books and stuff we found for her…I wonder if she’ll let him borrow some of it once in a while?

They were not interested in the magic box with the pop-up spider – even as a “neener-neener” to the servants of Lolth – so we’ll probably take it apart to see if the pieces are worth anything separately. Ezekiel is pretty sure what all the potions we got will do, but some of the wands and other things will need time to figure out.

It might take a while…I saw Ezekiel snagged by that cleric of Rau who’s staying at the tower lately – and Lydia said she wants to read the spellbooks we pilfered from Falrinth. Just as well…Heiron came to me with that look in his eye that always ends with us going to the back yard and beating each other up. Some of the things he was asking me, though, he’ll have to ask somebody at the tower. I mean…I understand the question, but I can only keep so many things in my head at once…and does it really make that big a difference how you hold your pinkie while swinging a sword?

Oh, Tressarian says, yes it does matter.

But he can’t tell dog tracks from badger tracks…so there’s that.

****

Had some nice visitors today. Elvish messengers came to the inn, from the Countess Trillahi and Sir Juffer, and gave Ezekiel a super light set of chainmail – real elven work! (I’m not sure it would fit, and it’s not magical…but definitely something for him to save for his kids! Though maybe they meant to give it to Heiron, since they thought he was the party leader at first?)

They also had something for the “young lady who risked her life against a werewolf” – a ring made from real unicorn horn! I’m not sure if it does anything special, but it’s a reminder that Ehlonna is always looking out for us.

Ezekiel got back a few days ago. He hasn’t really said where he went, but he’s got a novice cleric of Rau following him around gushing about the mummies he killed. Apparently he hit them with his mace and didn’t even need Raven holding them still with his rope…so maybe he really has been doing exercises like I suggested. Mikael is likewise back from meeting with Master Geru…though he hasn’t told us if he killed anything while he was gone. “Druid secrets” and all that.

Since we were all together again, Ezekiel explained some of the magical gear we’d found last time. The wands from the closet were, unfortunately, nothing but sticks with a “magic aura” on them (because apparently that’s a thing).

The assassin’s ring, though, is very interesting: we thought maybe it did invisibility, but apparently that’s not all it does. It’s a “ring of spell storage,” meaning a spell-caster can “load” it with spells, and then anyone can use it to cast the spell later on. Right now it’s got several charges of invisibility (as far as we can tell), but Lydia could use it to stock up while she’s in town, and then use extra spells while in the dungeon. Let’s just say Ezekiel is drooling to be a “magic user” just a little bit.

As for those big books Falrinth had on his book-stands…one of them, apparently, if I’m understanding this right, has techniques you can study that will help you to impress people. The way Ez tells it, if you spent enough time poring over this book, and then practicing its advice, you’d gain the skills to improve your leadership influence. Don’t know why he looked so pointedly at me when he said that. Besides, I don’t have time to mess with that nonsense. Heiron’s keeping me plenty busy with our work-out routine.

The other tome is an entirely different animal. Sounds like it’s a trap of some kind, where every word you read makes you dumber. Not sure how that would work, but it’s magic, so it just does. In fact, I have an idea that it’s like those pamphlets Father was so mad about when he found them in Bartholomew’s room.

The other thing kind of interesting from the wizard’s room is called a “wand of a wonder.” Sounds like it’s a Raven-on-a-stick…you cast a charge, and something random happens. No telling what might happen, though, good or bad…so it’s not really something you want to take into a combat situation.

Speaking of Raven, though, he says he’s found an opportunity to help a local family with their planting, and he’s going to be busy with that for a few weeks. We’re sad to lose his help…but he looked so eager, you really can’t argue with him.

I always like this time of year. Even if I’m going to spend it trucking back and forth to an underground hell-hole, at least I know Ehlonna and the other Good powers are still in control of the world, and making things grow again, and maybe we can wipe out this Evil Temple once and for all this time.

****

Back in the dungeon.

That room with the purple light sure is weird, but at least the light didn’t seem to hurt us. According to Tres, each of the monster-statues were staring at or wearing some kind of magic item…like the blue dragon was staring at a chest of gems, or the medusa was wearing a black velvet cloak, or the beholder was staring at a scroll tube (with all its eyes, so that’s most of it).

Anyway, we may be young, but we’re not stupid…we just kept on walking and let those things lie.

The next room was trickier. According to the assassin’s map, there was a big rock in the middle of the room, and she’d told us about the fake sunlight there. Sure enough, as we rounded the turn of the corridor, we saw what seemed to be real sunlight shining down from the ceiling ahead. We also saw the big rock…and on top, and man and a woman chained just out of reach of a pack of frantic jackals. Some foxes and packs of rats also swarmed the floor – but didn’t seem interested in the rock. The jackals were lunging and snapping at the couple, and we could definitely see what looked like bite marks on the two, but the rock was so smooth the jackals were easily kicked off it.

The most worrying thing right away, though, was the four harpies sitting up in alcoves near the ceiling, staring down at the scene. As soon as they saw us, they opened their mouths, and I clapped my hands over my ears. The man and woman also noticed us at once, and cried out for help.

Heiron, not missing a beat, launched an arrow at one of them – at arrow that seemed to bounce off it like I’ve never seen a harpy and arrow interact before. Mikael also leapt into action (figuratively), siccing a cloud of insects on one of the harpies. It certainly didn’t like that, and sat snarling and slashing at the biting bugs swarming it.

Ezekiel did something with his sheep toy and a vial of holy water, while Wonillon and the jackals went at each other (Wonillon did much better, and butchered five of them).

By that time, I’d had the chance to size up the situation. Either everyone else (meaning Wonillon, Ez, and Heiron) was really good at tuning out the harpies, or these harpies weren’t singing as well as previous ones we’ve met. I risked it to let go of my ears, grab my bow, and fire at one of the harpies. We each had the same effect on each other…bouncing off with no harm done.

One of the harpies had come to join the jackals in the attack. Another one had tried to do the same…and face-planted into the floor. I guess this flying thing is tricky.

As I drew Tressarian, I saw Wonillon slump to the floor and start snoring. As I carved my way toward him through a sea of jackals, Mikael whacked a harpy with his rod…it made a strange cracking sound when he hit it.

All this time, the foxes and swarms of rats had been milling around, not even acknowledging our presence. Heiron shot down the last of the jackals and sent an arrow through a fox…an arrow that caught nothing but air as it passed through.

And at this point, the little mysteries that had been building suddenly broke to a new level. The woman cried out, “I will help!”, snapped the chain free, grabbed some things from the top of the rock, and jumped down.

Tres and I beheaded a “harpy” — it fell apart like chunks of rock. This is not how normal harpies behave when they die.

The man jumped off the rock with a sword and swung at one of the “harpies” – but sliced Wonillon instead somehow.

The harpies (except for the one still fighting insects in the alcove) and former prisoners traded blows with us (meaning we all whiffed at each other)… Meanwhile, Mikael chanted something I’ve never heard before, and pointed at the back of the room. The foxes and rats in the back half of the room disappeared – and the “harpy” fighting the insects turned into a gargoyle.

Ezekiel and Heiron took out the woman while Mikael and Wonillon battered a “harpy.” Lydia threw an egg past us, choking our enemies with green cloud — the surviving “harpy” retreated to its perch at the back of the room, while the man staggered out of the cloud, gagging.

After checking that Ez didn’t want dibs on the surviving two “harpies,” Tressarian and I headed over the cloud and pursued them into their alcove perches (the ceiling is really bright, but I could push myself along it with no problems). Tres finished off the wounded one…but when we turned to attack the last one, it was just shaking off the last of Mikael’s insects (that, or the insects finally lost interest — they are only bugs, after all, and they did good work while they lasted). The gargoyle – which didn’t look like a harpy anymore – ducked my swing and flew off down the corridor. Tres and I could never catch it like that, so I let myself back to the floor with a rope of climbing.

When I rejoined the others, the cloud had disappeared, and Mikael was just telling everyone how the man and woman were “jackal-weres.” (The woman’s head had changed into a jackal’s head in the meantime.) Apparently they’re originally jackals, but can turn into human form…and they can create illusions, and make people fall asleep, and command the service of real jackals and stuff. Also they hate humans for some reason, so we would never have gotten along…so the others finished the “man” off.

Ezekiel healed Wonillon (who was pretty mauled, but he and Mikael were the only ones of us who really got hurt) while Mikael searched the bodies. The couple had a longsword, dagger, mace, and a key (though the chains had all disappeared, along with the foxes and rats). Wonillon found a bunch of money under the big rock, along with a scroll and a potion – Ez says the potion looks like “plant control,” but Tres says it’s not magical anymore thanks to Mikael’s “dispel magic.” Mikael says he could ask Obed-Hai for “plant control” anyway, so that’s a good think to keep in mind if we go up against evil fungi (and his spell sure helped clarify some things in the fight – like why the harpies couldn’t sing worth anything. Not like I’m complaining).

The gargoyles didn’t have anything interesting in their perches (yet another hint that they weren’t real harpies), so that finished off that room (except for the general magic “ambiance” Tres can sense in there…which I guess is tied up with the fake sunlight).

The day is young, so we’re deciding whether to advance to where the “Mushroom Queen’s pet” is supposed to hang out.

If it turns out to be an evil mushroom, we may wish Mikael had asked for “Plant Control”…


Find the previous entry here.

One thought on “Dear Diary….we aren’t stupid

  1. Pingback: Dear Diary….the bug-man and the badger-stags - Kimia Wood

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