Well…it has been a stressful day.
After we found the magic key-stone, we kept exploring the corridors and found three fire-giants holed up in a room. Tressarian was very excited, and we killed one while Heiron and Elmo killed another one…and then the third giant threw down his sword, so Ezekiel held up his hand and told us to stand down.
Stand down? From a fire giant? Tressarian didn’t think so, and he started yelling at the giant in a language we couldn’t understand, and pulling my arm.
But…I didn’t feel like having Ezekiel yell at me today…and besides, it’s true that killing people who have surrendered is bad mojo.
Tressarian wouldn’t stop jumping around and shouting, so he and I went to guard the corridor while Ezekiel did whatever talking he felt like doing.
(We almost forgot about this part, but I’d better put it here: he says the giant said everybody here is a prisoner, and he and his cousins can’t go home; Ez told him to gather his cousins in that room, because if we ran into them somewhere else in the node, we couldn’t make any promises about their safety. I’m not sure leaving them to suffer when the node collapses around them is better than just killing them quick, but Ez says we don’t know what will happen to the nodes for sure, and it’s true we can’t fit them through the portal anyway. Irony there…)
(Oh, also, Mikael and Ezekiel took the giant’s treasure hoard. Insult, injury…but it’s not like I was there to say anything.)
No, I was out in the hallway, “guarding” – and what should stick her face around the corner but what appeared to be a young…woman…wearing not much at all and carrying a staff and bundle (I should have been more suspicious of the bundle…).
She said she was named Darlee, and was a magic user who lost her party here. I’ve learned a thing or two by now (though not quite enough things) so I told her to stand still and wait…so she stood at one turn of the corridor, and I stood at the other turn, with my shield and Tressarian ready, and we just kinda played the quiet game until the others finally decided to stop fraternizing with giants.
Once Ezekiel (and the others) came up, I got close enough that Tressarian could scan her for magic – since I figured if she were a human, she could have magic on her gear, but not on herself…and there was way more of herself visible than anything else, as it were. Well, sure enough, he detected magic on her – but he pointed out it could be Resist Fire or something…clearly, Tressarian is not gifted with a suspicious mind. And I am somehow both paranoid and naïve, which seems a bitter curse, but Elmo says mistakes happen to everybody. Bottom line, why was she so hot when Raven didn’t feel the need to strip off all his clothes while protected with Resist Fire? (I almost expected someone to make a snide remark about “hot,” but I guess no one’s in the mood right now.)
Raven does what he always does and offered food – so we set up the fortress in an empty room, and served out a meal…Darlee ate up, but she didn’t seem to be starving. If we’d only paid attention…
There was a lot of conversation, but I’m not sure how much of it is relevant now. She said her party was exploring the Temple when they somehow ended up here in the nodes…the rest didn’t last long, allegedly…she had seen Taki, but he never hung out with her (a nice, suspicious mind), and she worked with Ashrim the Cleric for a bit, but he was too suspicious (the mind boggles at what “too suspicious” might be…).
She did tell us there were a couple red dragons in the Fire Node, and grus (which we already knew, when we fought them).
Finally, we drew the circle, and after a time Lydia answered us, and Raven went through to explain the situation and prepare her for our latest “guest.”
Ezekiel suggested to Darlee that maybe she could show Lydia her spell-books, as a way to pay us back for getting her out, and Darlee asked if Lydia would share the favor – was Lydia nice?
While Ezekiel was trying to answer, Darlee asked if couldn’t she adventure with us for a bit, and held on to Mikael’s arm. His face went all red and funny-looking, and when it was time for Darlee to go through the portal, he went with to show her the way.
(Oh, yeah, Ezekiel told Darlee she might not want to be in our party because we were dangerous and had gods mad at us and stuff, so it might be hazardous to hang around us – but he never seems that worried about Elmo and Heiron!)
After an unusually long time, Mikael and Raven came back – and we checked the arrow slits before heading back out…which is just as well, because there was a pile of hot, glowing fire-snakes sniffing around in the hall just outside. I really expected Mikael to want to befriend one, and we’d have to tell him it wasn’t a natural-enough creature for that…but he seemed kinda flustered and distracted, so we started debating the best way to deal with them.
Good thing we never came to a conclusion. Next thing we knew, Lydia came through the portal – looking grey and staggering a little.
Ezekiel patched her up while she told us what happened: Darlee attacked her, sapping energy with every touch — she was immune to magic missile, and Protection from Evil seemed to keep her back! Lydia’s rock elemental hit her enough that she fled with magic…but that just meant she could be anywhere.
I’ll never forget the look on Ezekiel’s face when he said, “Sounds like an aludemon. Let’s go.” (That’s a half-demon. He explained it all in way more detail than we wanted – after it was all over. He also told us they can only be hurt by magic weapons, and can shape-shift…because of course they can.)
We raced back through the portal into Lydia’s room. Instead of standing around to give long speeches and explanations, Ezekiel jumped right in to barking orders.
Lydia, he sat down to scry Darlee. Meanwhile, I would run through the tower with Tressarian scanning people for Evil —Ez reminded us that Charmed people would radiate unnatural Evil, too, so Mikael would back me up with his rope of tangling. Elmo would run warn Sir Rufus what was going on; Raven would run to the inn (since we stupidly told her we have friends there) and check the people in the village. Heiron was to guard the door of Lydia’s room and let no one whatsoever through unless they said the password. Ezekiel would stay with Lydia in case she found Darlee – and be ready to jump through on top of her.
Mikael and I stepped out the door – and almost tripped over Raven’s disciples (Ronhass and Keom), who were sprawled on either side of the door.
Opposite us, the guard for the ladder onto the roof had his military fork ready in his hands. He started to tell us, “Be careful!” because there was a dangerous enemy around, and we needed to stay inside…but before he could finish, Tressarian told me he was Evil – and I told Mikael to rope him up.
We called Ezekiel out, and he touched the two disciples so they regained consciousness. While he tied up the guard with regular rope, they told us that “Miss Lydia” was suddenly standing in the corridor, and smacked them around – and then they passed out.
Ezekiel seemed to think the guard was Charmed, not our shape-shifting half-demon, so Mikael and I followed Raven down the stairs.
The line of guards on the gate hadn’t seen anything suspicious…we asked if anyone had left recently, but they said only Raven (which we expected). While I scanned them for Evil, Mikael tried to explain what was going on – in a way that wouldn’t make them panic.
Tressarian thinks I should write it down for posterity: “If you see a man, or woman, you know (or don’t know) attacking someone else (that they wouldn’t normally attack), don’t get involved, because you don’t have magic weapons.”
Everyone in the room was clean, so I dragged Mikael out into the courtyard – still talking.
We made it most of the way around the wall – and were busy scanning the horses in the stable – when Ezekiel caught up with us, massaging his hand a little (he says the guards wanted to use their weapons on him before they would let him through, so they temporarily cut his hand).
He told us it was all over. Apparently after he told Lydia the half-demon was using her shape, it didn’t take her long before she grabbed his shoulder and shoved him through the mirror – out onto the top of the tower beside two catapult-operators and “Miss Lydia.”
Lydia says he could have done with less “your doom is upon you” before engaging Darlee, but the bottom line is they clawed at each other for a moment, and then Ezekiel brought his mace down on her…and there was a flash and crackle…and Darlee zapped into a pile of dust (Lydia says that part was quite satisfying).
A few catapult-operators were bleeding out around the top of the ladder, but sounds like they popped right up when Ezekiel used his healing on them, and he brought a handful of Darlee’s dust as a souvenir for Lydia (Mikael says if she wants to kick it into the wind he will gladly help).
Well, once Ezekiel told us his story, we didn’t need to keep searching for charmed people – so Mikael turned into and eagle and flapped off to retrieve Raven, and Ezekiel headed off to find Sir Rufus (since it was his tower to start with that we staged all this excitement in).
I made my way back around to tell everyone we’d spoken with that the crisis was over (a couple people asked me to clarify Mikael’s story, but I’m not sure I did that much better a job) and then caught up with Ezekiel.
He apologized to Sir Rufus for all of us, and for once I’m glad he’s such a people person, ’cause Sir Rufus deserves all the bows and heretofores he can think of. I mean, we’re guests in this place, and what do we do but bring an aludemon into the heart of his fortification?!
Sir Rufus held a roll-call, and it looks like everybody’s alive and accounted for. Schmitt still glows Evil when Tressarian sniffs him, but he’s submitting to Sir Rufus and not trying to attack anyone, so we figure he’ll be all right once the Charm wears off.
Lydia asked Ezekiel to get Heiron to stop guarding her room, since the emergency was over (Heiron did a very good job, he just needed to be told explicitly that he didn’t need to worry about the password anymore). I think Lydia needed a little personal time; she still looked a bit pale (though now that I say that, she’s always pale, so it’s hard to be sure). I can see being attacked by someone you trusted in your own room takes something out of you.
We all had dinner together at the inn. Some of the tower guards were there at the same time, and trying to explain what happened to their friends…I didn’t hear enough to tell if they were using the Mikael version or the Ezekiel version: “Shape-shifting half-demon got through the portal but we killed it.”
Keom and Ronhass still a little stunned, even after Mikael patched up all their physical wounds. Raven told them “this is what big-time adventurers do,” and this’ll be something they can tell all their friends as long as they live…that they survived encountering a half-demon. I’m not sure they’re convinced.
Raven also says he suspected Darlee the whole time, but I say not doing anything about your suspicions isn’t any better than being total dupes (which I didn’t mean Mikael specifically, but I don’t think he appreciated that).
Elmo says these things happen to the best of us. I thought it was supposed to get easier once you were all grown up and strong and stuff. He says that even Lord Otis couldn’t tell a demon from a super gorgeous young lady just for looking at her, and that just because we’ve experienced a lot of things doesn’t mean we don’t have plenty to learn, still.
I said, sure, but the catapult-guards at the tower didn’t sign up to learn our lessons along with us. Elmo said that the bigger you get, the more damage it does when you fall down…and if Raven were there I’m sure he would have made a height crack, but he was off running laps with his disciples.
Heiron got talking with some of the tower guards, and Ezekiel and Mikael were doing whatever, so Elmo and I went off to the river to fish. Master Osler says he does like a nice plate of fresh fish.
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