Alert: Does contain spoilers for the adventure “Temple of Elemental Evil”
We had barely finished our conversation when there was a knock on the door.
This derni’s magic fortress thing has a roof you can access, with battlements and everything…so they sent me up to the roof to scope things out. An old man in rags was knocking at the door, wearing a battered hat and cloak.
Ezekiel opened the door enough to ask him his business, and the old man dropped to the ground and started whining. When Ezekiel brought him inside the fortress, I came down from the roof.
The old man had about three brain cells left, it seems. He kept calling us “Great Master of the Abysal Fires” and begging us to send him home “to the Orth”…and offering us “thousands of gold pieces and my eternal service” if we would help him.
When he said his name was Sargin, Ezekiel winked at us, and I guess he was mentioned in the little book from the High Cleric’s room as a Temple official who got condemned to the nodes.
We did get kind of uncomfortable at him calling us “demon or devil,” and Mikael tried to explain that we’re not Evil (“I’m a Master of Trees, not the Abyss!”) but it was like talking to a sneaky child…Sargin just kept agreeing with everything we said, and insisting that he would serve us faithfully – no matter what kind of monster or weird being we were.
Even after Raven fed him (he gobbled it so fast he crumbs in his beard, which was full of twigs and stuff anyway), Sargin didn’t make much sense. Ezekiel tried asking him about the Air Node, but he just gabbled about “no way home” and the dragons were “guarding, guarding, always guarding something – maybe a way home? – but I couldn’t…couldn’t…” He couldn’t even face the puddings (says he hid from them) which makes sense, being a magic user with no spell-books.
Wonillon asked him where this gold was that he offered us, and Sargin said “back home,” in the Kingdom of Erdi. Wonillon and Ezekiel kind of rolled their eyes at each other…I gather it’s something to do with the Great Kingdom, which at least tells us that the Temple gathered acolytes from all over the place – but nothing more useful than that.
Finally, Ezekiel seemed satisfied that nothing useful would come of prolonging the conversation. Raven convinced Sargin to give up his weapon – a dagger was all he had left – and then we signaled Lydia (Ez told Sargin to “carefully obey everything Mistress Lydia says”). A few minutes after Raven drew a chalk circle on the ground, a wooden crate popped out of the air.
Raven stepped into the magic spot to explain everything to Lydia – and offered Taki the chance to leave the node, but Taki said he had some things to collect first.
While Raven was gone, we opened the crate and discovered enough flasks of oil for each of us to take a couple…which is nice, because it felt like I was the only one who prepared for that. Also nice to know Lydia can help us out with supplies — having an on-demand portal back home is sure useful!
When Raven came back, he said some men-at-arms took Sargin off. S seemed calm enough, so maybe he can get the “help” he needs.
Sobering to see what could happen to a man in a place like this…without Taki’s strength and skill, and without the back-up of the bandit band (whom we haven’t seen yet).
Taki says he’s willing to spend the night in here with us…an impenetrable fortress sure comes in handy. In the morning, Ez says he wants to work around the feet of the central spire, exploring as we go, and try to find the way-point to the Water Node that Taki mentioned.
One cave down. Taki took off on his own not long after we started. We spotted a cave mouth above us as we headed north (what I’m calling north) along the ravine floor, and went to investigate.
At the first fork, we headed right, and found a couple spacious caves. The strangest thing about them was the glacier walls along the north side — don’t know if the cave butts up against something icy, or if something covered those walls with ice.
We did meet a half-dozen ice toads – so maybe they covered the walls with ice (but then, why only the north side?). Mikael and Wonillon held the front line (Mikael was wearing the ring of warmth, after all) while Heiron and I peppered them with arrows. I’m getting faster on my draw…if Father could just see me now.
Once they were all dead, they didn’t suck in heat so viciously – so we could approach without being hit with biting, finger-numbing cold. Ezekiel patched up the wounded (he gets such a kick out of that) while we searched the bodies.
Apparently some other travelers weren’t so lucky, as we found some remains inside – mostly gems and jewelry, that wouldn’t digest, and a couple magical items (Tressarian confirmed that they were magical). One was a decanter with a stopper – though Ezekiel couldn’t figure out how to work it. The other was an ordinary-looking hat…but once Raven put it on (he didn’t mind all the toad juice, I guess) suddenly he could look like me – or Ezekiel. I’m not sure I’m comfortable with this…but Heiron pointed out that maybe Lydia would like it, and I suppose if she wanted to assassinate us, she doesn’t need to disguise herself as us to do that. (I think we all agreed that the hat would be safer with her than with Raven.)
Ezekiel did some poking around the ice wall, but couldn’t find out anything else. He said maybe the different nodes “border each other paraphysically” (whatever that means), but from what I see, that doesn’t change our strategy much.
(Speaking of strategy, Heiron whispered to me to ask if maybe he should have used his flame-tongue sword on the toads instead of his arrows, since they were ice, and so would have been vulnerable to fire. He made it sound like he was at fault for what he did, but I pointed out he’d be risking frostbite in his fingers to get that close to them, and even though that’s what Wonillon did, there’s no accounting for gnomes…Anyway, I told him that next time we face something like that, he can try a new approach if he wants. We’re the archers of the party for a reason, but it’s true we have various different tools for a reason.)
Exploring the cave near the entrance, we found something weird. It’s a metal tube with some kind a lever mechanism on one end, but it doesn’t seem to do anything (Tres says it’s not magical, though of course he didn’t notice Druid Kela’s shape-shifting periapt).
Raven and Ez think they hear some kind of whirlwind on the other side of the wall – which Ezekiel is convinced means some kind of air elemental, so we’re going to check that out next.
(At the cave mouth we met a huge, grey ball – taller than Mikael! – rolling past. When it started rolling toward us, Heiron peppered it with arrows, and it started deflating like a giant bladder. Mikael calls it an “askamoyd,” and says we should stay back until it finishes deflating so we don’t get hit with any spores. Apparently it’s some kind of mushroom, and pretty poisonous.)
New journal. Hope the old one dries out all right. Some of the pages are kinda smeared…Lydia says my handwriting could hardly get more illegible, but she’s just in a mood.
It all started with the second cave. Shortly after leaving the toad cave, we found a slope leading to another cave that we assumed would abut to the last one (and contain the elementals Ezekiel was sure he heard). When we got about forty feet above the ravine floor (Wonillon said that’s what he figured), we reached a plateau in front of the cave mouth.
As we cautiously approached, we spotted a cluster of foggy clouds drifting about inside. With their strange misty tentacles and their three glowing red eyes, they fit the “Wind Terror” name that Mikael gave to them (I guess it’s a druid’s job to know all about the things that go on in nature, and what can go wrong).
With the howl of a windstorm, the elementals charged us – and battle was joined.
Mikael threw faery fire on them right away. Heiron launched an arrow – but when it passed right through one of their misty bodies, we both switched to our magic swords.
I think Tressarian liked getting some action. I don’t know if “sliced” is the right word, but he sliced right through one of the beasties (he says “beasties” isn’t the right word) and it vanished with a shriek.
Mikael whacked one with his rod (I saw the fog or whatever billow and recoil) but Ezekiel wasn’t having the same luck, and his mace seemed to whiff right through the Terrors without dispersing their bodies at all.
Heiron moved up to the front line – and he must have been a really attractive target, because the Terrors kept flinging sharp debris at him and lashing him with their cold, clammy tendrils. They hurt more than you’d think, so Ezekiel kept busy touching Heiron with healing spells.
Wonillon stabbed a Terror with his dagger, and when Heiron and I carved up enough of the others, the last two fled over our heads, sounding like a blizzard on a mountain or something.
Mikael stopped Heiron’s bleeding (he really took the brunt of the battle) while the rest of us looked around. First thing we noticed was that Raven was gone – but then his voice told us that he just drank a dose of his invisibility potion, so everything was all right.
Next thing we noticed was the nest of trinkets in the corner. I wouldn’t have thought elemental fog clouds were interested in collecting treasure…and I guess it could just be the remains of other unfortunate travelers who have come this way. We looked over the pile while Ezekiel scrutinized it for traps, and Tressarian sniffed for magic.
Magic axe (which is mine now), magic mace (which Ezekiel pounced on, as a “back-up,” he says), magic ring, magic potion, magic scroll in scroll tube (protection from all elementals – now Mikael has a second one), and…a pile a gems, one of which was magical.
Ezekiel declared the pile safe from traps, and picked up the magic aquamarine.
And then – I spluttered as I found myself underwater.
I was holding Tressarian, of course, and good thing he understood that I wanted to levitate, because then we were out of the water (turns out it was only ten feet deep), hovering above some kind of sea.
A rocky, coral-covered island lay not far away, so I used my feet to paddle toward it. By the time I got there, Ezekiel and Heiron were pulling themselves ashore, coughing and spluttering. Raven, of course, wasn’t wearing any armor, so he leisurely tread water along behind them, and helped Wonillon find the island. Moments later, a seal flopped up onto the island, and turned into Mikael.
Naturally, we assume this is the Water Node. The whole place was dim, like moonlight on a humid night, and mists rise from the water in all directions. There are more islands scattered everywhere, and the water tastes brackish. Mikael supposes that both fresh- and salt-water creatures could live here, though the salt-water beasts might not be super happy about it…and from what Taki said, the node has been stocked with the most dangerous and deadly creatures.
Ezekiel set up the fortress, and we all went inside (well, all except Mikael, who turned into a dolphin and made laps around the island, just to show that he could, I think. He does say there’s a coral ridge a few yards away from the island that plunges into deeper water, so I guess we can be grateful we didn’t pop into the node over there).
When we got into the fortress, we found the crate that Lydia gave us still sitting where we left it – which I guess means it got shrunk along with the fortress, so that’s nice! It means we can stock the fortress with a little furniture and stuff – or at least with some dry firewood – and not worry about it getting atomized when we shrink the fortress. (That’s a fun word Ezekiel used…”atomized”…)
Wonillon built a fire from the crate and we all huddled around it while Raven drew his chalk circle (he says the chalk was a little smeary, but it worked). Mister Whisker wasn’t too happy about going swimming without warning, but I think he was pretty well protected in his special traveling pocket, and his attitude improved after I gave him some cookie (soggy cookie, but he didn’t care).
It took quite a while for Lydia to answer us, and Ezekiel spent the time swinging our new weapons around. He seems to admire the axe (which makes sense when I remember that he grew up in a temple of Heironious), but he’s not allowed to use sharp weapons anymore…and besides, it’s mine. One of us has devoted his life to dealing pain with all manner of weapons, and that one is not Ezekiel! I don’t care how many disciples he thinks he’s going to get one day, he can’t just hoard all the magic weapons. One of us spent weeks banging on an anvil to build the muscle tone necessary to wield a hammer or ax in combat (that one is not Ezekiel).
Anyway, Lydia finally poked her head in through the floor, and she seemed mighty ticked. She demanded to know what we did, and after we all blamed Ezekiel, she told him to “put the stone in something,” then get rid of the fortress.
Ez put the magic stone inside a pouch in his backpack, and then we left the fortress and shrank it. Mikael joined us as himself, and when Lydia’s arm waved at us through the ground, we all stepped over to the spot – and stepped out into her room in the tower in Homlette.
She shooed us into a corner where there wasn’t carpet, and lectured us a little bit about how hard it was to find us again after we all disappeared. Raven tried to soften her a little by giving her the hat of face-changing, and Ez asked if she could send us back to the Air Node, now that she’s seen that.
She grumbled a little, and sat in front of the mirror, and I used the time to check my bowstring. Looks like I’ll have to switch to my spare one, but fortunately that one was wrapped up well enough and buried deep enough in my pack that it wasn’t bothered by our momentary dunking.
After a bit, Lydia gestured us toward the spot to the side of the mirror that I guess would let us pass through it again (I don’t know how it works, but it does work, so that’s what matters).
We filed out, and eventually recognized the brisk air and chiseled rocks of the Air Node…and Taki, who looked kinda startled at first. We’d never been to this particular part of the node before, but I guess Taki gathered up his other belongings (he has an extra backpack now) – and seemed amenable to joining us in the fortress when Ezekiel set it up again.
Lydia’s still a little grumpy, because as Ezekiel stepped into the fortress, he tripped over a crate that appeared in the air underneath him…but it’s full of firewood, so it’s plain she’s looking out for us.
Mikael distributed all the healing he had left for today, and Ezekiel explained our morning to Taki (not sure why he feels the need to go into so much detail, but there you go).
As he was explaining the mysterious node-transferring gem, he pulled out the pouch and opened it – just enough so that we could see what he was talking about…and Mikael and Wonillon both spoke up and said it looked like the depressions in the skull!
Don’t know how much Taki knows about the Key – or wants to know, or needs to know – but Ezekiel is very excited that it seems we’ve found one of the rocks-in-boxes on our first day inside!
I can’t imagine the rest of the Key-stones being this easy… Of course, “easy” is a relative term, since we had to kill half-a-dozen fog fiends that could easily have killed Heiron in return, if we didn’t have clerics to back us up.
It’s barely noon (in our biological time – not in node-time, since it’s always the same in this fake-sky) but both Mikael and Ezekiel have used up their healing for today. It seems a shame to wait out a whole afternoon, but we don’t need to take unnecessary risks. Besides, we have to dry out our gear, and I have to swap out my bowstring…and I think Taki is still deciding if he wants to help us on our “mission” for a while, or if he’s had it with the nodes, and wants to make his escape while he can. He seems at ease enough, since Raven was so nice to him…but we sure seem like a crazy party to people outside.
Also, I’m not sure Ez should explain everything about what we’re doing, and what we want in here. Rescuing trapped people is good enough…the whole “Key of the Fungus Queen” is complicated, and even I don’t understand all about it. It still seems like “repairing the Key so we can get to Her and kill Her” is, like, giving Her exactly what She needs to be free and wreck havoc. Maybe that’s just me…
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