Dear Diary….one wild morning

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…


Find the previous entry here.

Do We Trust God?- Patriarchy, Abuse, and a Radical Call to Biblical Christianity

Does abuse make it okay for women* to divorce their husbands?

That’s the question of the day…and it’s a toughie.

(*This post is framed in terms of female victims and male aggressors, because it’s easier to speak specifically that way – and it’s more common for physical abuse. But we all know women are also dirty sinners who need Jesus, and can be abusers just as easily.)

God hates divorce.

Do We Trust God? — Kimia Wood — patriarchy, abuse, Biblical Christianity

Image credit: Pixabay

Jesus told us that He allowed it because of our sinfulness…but He also made it clear that He designed marriage for something better.

“And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” (Matt. 19:9)

So, short answer:

I don’t see “abuse” mentioned here.

But that’s a hard thing to say to the woman whose husband beats her, verbally destroys her, or otherwise degrades her body, mind and heart. That’s not how it’s meant to be. God’s heart breaks with ours for her.

But what does God’s word say we should do?

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

Jesus is God (John 1:1-5), created the world (Heb. 1:1-4), and is the exact radiance of His Father.

And yet – he suffered abuse! Isaiah 53:3-11 describes the “Man of sorrows” who suffered cruelty, mockery, and literal whips and nails.

Your husband abusing you does not mean you’ve done something wrong!

God says men should be the leaders of the family (1 Cor. 11:3) and love [their] wives, as Christ loved the church” (Eph. 5:25). But they screw up. A lot.

Big surprise. Adam, the very first man, the first human, and the perfect creation of God, chose to reject his Creator – and doomed us all.

Yes, you are a sinner. But you are not responsible for others’ sin.

Do We Trust God? — Kimia Wood — patriarchy, abuse, Biblical Christianity

Image credit: Pixabay

Jesus – perfect, sinless God-man – suffered and died…for us.

Job – faithful servant of God – suffered horribly. He went from the rich owner of many herds, happy father of many children, faithful benefactor of orphans and widows, and devoted worshipper of God, to:

Penniless father of dead children, whose own wife advised him to “Curse God and die!”, sick and sore-covered worshiper of God. Remember: his own “friends” came over while he was treating his boils with ashes and accused him of the equivalent of “running a pedophile ring” or something…

And “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong” (Job 1:22).

Shelby (I’m going to call this theoretical abused woman “Shelby”) – your husband is doing horrible, wicked things. That doesn’t mean you’ve sinned! Are there choices you made in the past that could have led here? Absolutely! But suffering is not always a punishment! ( see Acts 5:40-41)

So…”how then should we live?” How can we honor God in the midst of these sinful circumstances?

Be Imitators of God

Do We Trust God? — Kimia Wood — patriarchy, abuse, Biblical Christianity

Image credit: Joseph Martin Kronheim/Kean Collection/Getty Images via SCPR.org

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. (Eph. 5:1-4)

Ephesians 5 is a classic passage for talking about marriage…but do you see how the chapter starts?

“Be imitators of God…” That’s how you start. Don’t let yourself be controlled by what your husband is doing…you keep your eyes on Jesus.

“Be pure and free of coveting…watch how you walk, so as to separate yourselves from the sons of darkness, and submit to one another out of reverence for Christ!”

God never promised it would be easy. In fact, He promised we couldn’t do it – not without His help and His Holy Spirit living inside us. But take comfort from the words of Paul:

If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him.

For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.

For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? (1 Cor. 7: 13-16)

I don’t see from this that Shelby (our suffering wife) can leave her husband. But if he wants to leave, she has no obligation to stop him, or pursue him. If she found Jesus, and he refused Jesus – she is to live at peace.

This is the adornment of the daughters of God: quiet spirit, humble attitude, a servant’s heart (see 1 Peter 3:1-6). You will stand out from the women of the world, and display the truth of God’s word by living this way.

What does that look like when you’re scared to go home? I don’t know. But I know God will be with you.

“What Can Man Do To Me?”

Do We Trust God? — Kimia Wood — patriarchy, abuse, Biblical Christianity“Abuse” takes many forms. Some British politicians suggested expanding it to “economic abuse.”

But a husband who beats his wife is obviously sinning. He is not being considerate of the fact she’s a delicate flower compared to him (1 Peter 3:7), nor honoring her as he honors his own body (Eph. 5:28-31).

“Shelby” can’t make him care about that, of course. So –

What can Shelby do? And what are the possible outcomes?

  • Shelby might die.

Okay. If Shelby belongs to Jesus…then she just graduated and shot to her place under the altar before the throne of God (Rev. 6:9-11)!

Yes, death is serious, and we shouldn’t be flippant about it…but let’s be real about Who we serve. Jesus, the Grand Executor of Death.

No, I don’t think we should go around advising the Shelbys in our lives to hope her husband kills her – but we need to get a grip on what we’re really afraid of.

Suffering is bad. Pain is bad. But they’re not something we can’t face – and in fact, even death is something Christians have faced throughout history…often gladly. Singing hymns as the stones flew, or the lions ate them.

This is where Shelby’s response to her husband is going to be crucial.

Now, God’s not going to disinherit her if she responds badly (gossiping, backbiting, disrespecting him, etc.)…but think of the glory when she is faithful – patient, peace-making, respectful, gentle-hearted! When her neighbors and relatives look at her life and death, they will say, “How could she put up with that? Why did she submit to him without enabling him?”

The answer, of course, will be: only through the POWER of Jesus!

(Besides, life in prison might be where Shelby’s husband finally breaks and turns to Jesus.)

  • Shelby’s kids might die.

This is a more serious consideration…but again, if they belong to Jesus, that just means they’re home free.

And besides, on what basis do we want concerned individuals taking children away from their families? God gave these children to this family…and even if we can’t understand His logic, it’s our duty as Christians to do things His way – especially when it’s hard.

With that in mind, should Shelby send them away (to her mom’s, to foster care, etc.) – while staying in the house to witness to her husband? See the 1 Cor. 7 passage above…I’m not convinced from God’s word that we should break up this family as our first option – but more on that below.

  • Shelby’s husband may be convicted, turn from his sin, and surrender to Jesus.

Hallelujah!

  • Shelby may sin.

Either by leaving him, responding in kind (evil for evil), or some other response that’s contrary to God’s word.

Sure, God can forgive her…but –

…if through my lie God’s truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner?

And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just. (Rom. 3:7-8)

As much as it breaks our hearts, as Christian brothers and sisters to the Shelbys in our lives it is our duty to remind them of God’s truth and help them live it out.

  • Shelby may break under the strain, and abandon her faith in Jesus.

This is even worse than outright death. As Christians, we know that physical death only affects our bodies – but Jesus gave His own blood to the whip and to the cross to rescue us from spiritual death.

When we put our trust in God, believe what He did for us, and claim His death as our own, we become part of the refugee-party.

If Shelby turns her back on this, saying something like, “I can’t believe in a God who would make me suffer like this,” then what else could possibly save her? God literally already gave His Only Son for her…what more could be given? What other blood could wash away her sins and seal her for the New Earth?

  • Other people may see her suffering, and decide that God doesn’t care.

I don’t have to explain this one, do I? It’s a classic atheist excuse for ignoring God:

“Well, if God is real, why does He allow X, Y, or Z?”

Real Christians know the answers to this: “Are you able to drink the cup I drink?” God allows us free will – and since Adam, we have chosen suffering and oppression – but He also made a way to fix things…through the blood of His own innocent Son, Jesus.

If the people of the world still won’t understand…that’s on them. Not on Shelby, and not on her friends nor the other Christians in her life.

But – this does give us the opportunity to ask: what can we do about it?

How can we show the world the great compassion of God – without breaking His word?

To Comfort Widows and Orphans in Distress

Do We Trust God? — Kimia Wood — patriarchy, abuse, Biblical Christianity

Image credit: Kate Remmer on Unsplash

We know God cares about women. Just one quick example: while Jesus was hanging from His wrists and the shredded muscles of His back were sticking to the wood behind Him, He still took the time to make sure His mother had a designated person to give her a roof and meals and protection (John 19:26-27).

As Christians, we’ve faced what we’re really afraid of about abuse…and we’ve reminded ourselves of how God calls us to live. So what does it actually look like, in the physical world? What does it look like to live like God – pleasing Him and helping the hurting?

We Can’t Start By Trusting Ourselves

I know what my very first response is.

If I saw my good friend “Shelby” being punched and yelled at by her husband, I would storm over there with a pitchfork, load her and her kids into my car, and move them into my house until her husband agreed to counseling, or went to jail.

And that – is not from the Bible. That’s from my own heart and head.

Why does God allow evil? Because He allows us a choice — He gives all of us free will…that means Shelby’s husband and Shelby.

Kidnapping Shelby because it’s “in her best interests” is denying her the free will and responsibility she has before God! She has no chance to submit to a sinful husband if I jump in and interfere! She has no chance to confront her husband with Scripture and pray over him as he abuses her.

My heart breaks for those who suffer – and that’s as it should be! But I must never, ever say “I have to do X, Y, or Z, otherwise P, Q, or J bad-thing will happen.” When I do that, I’m not trusting God.

Just like Shelby is not responsible for her husband’s choices, I cannot be responsible for her choices. I can pray for her, tell her what I think is best, and offer all the help I can give…but the decision has to be hers.

Love One Another

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. (1 Cor. 13:4-6)

So how can Shelby love her husband – while obeying God’s word, showing the world the beauty of a humble and submissive spirit, and warning him of the consequences of his sin?

Well…God tells us to “be subject to governing authorities” (Rom. 13:1-4) and “render to Caesar what is Caesar’s” (Matt 22:16-21).

Do We Trust God? — Kimia Wood — patriarchy, abuse, Biblical Christianity

Image credit: Mike Popovich on Unsplash

And spousal abuse is – illegal.

Penalties and definitions will vary depending on where you live…but beating your spouse is Assault and Battery.

Shelby, you have a duty to the civil authority to report that. Maybe you don’t want to, maybe you’re afraid what will happen if you do, but your husband’s sin hurts his relationship with God. As his wife, you have a duty to respect him by not gossiping to neighbors and friends, not talking behind his back, not lashing out in anger or using foolish speech, not retaliating or losing your temper yourself…but you also have a duty as his spiritual partner to encourage his relationship with Jesus.

Does he claim to be a follower of Christ? Remind him of God’s word, and discuss his behavior as his concerned sister and soul-mate. Don’t sugar-coat sin…but don’t use personal disagreements as an excuse to attack his spiritual walk. Remember: your goal is to ingest, live, and breathe out Scripture so both of you can draw closer to your King.

Does your husband not have a relationship with Jesus?

Then he doesn’t have the Holy Spirit living inside him, raking him over the coals of conscience every time he loses his temper.

Either way, Shelby, you won’t help him by misrepresenting his actions (lying), making excuses for him (like shifting blame to yourself), or helping him escape the consequences of his actions.

When my brother and I were little, our parents regularly prayed that, if we snuck around to do something we shouldn’t, that we would be caught! Pray the same for your husband (and children)!

If your husband physically attacks you, call the police! File a report, and send him to jail! God gave the government the “sword” so they can punish wrong-doers.

You can still visit him, and speak God’s truth to him. Maybe facing real consequences for his bad behavior will finally teach him some restraint.

Easy? Of course not. And it’s all the harder because this is a choice only you can make. Don’t ask your sister or Sunday School teacher or pastor or neighbor to file a police report for something that happened to you. You are the one with a duty to your husband, and your children…honor the “emperor” and allow him jurisdiction over your abusive husband.

Trust and Obey

Do We Trust God? — Kimia Wood — patriarchy, abuse, Biblical ChristianityMaybe you’re a different Shelby — your husband doesn’t beat you, but he does verbally hurt you and belittle you and stomp on your emotions.

This is also a hard road, but that’s no excuse for leaving the path God has drawn for us.

Eat His word. Not devotionals, not other human’s advice – God’s actual inspired word in the Bible. If you are a Christian, then His Holy Spirit lives inside you, and He will give you strength to follow where He leads.

Even if He leads you to the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

The LORD is on my side; I will not fear.
What can man do to me? (Psalm 118:6)

He will even surround you with brothers and sisters in Jesus to encourage you and testify when you are walking the hard but straight path.

What About the Rest of Us?

How can we “comfort widows and orphans in their distress” (James 1:27) – without breaking God’s word, and without trying to be responsible for everyone else’s choices?!

Do We Trust God? — Kimia Wood — patriarchy, abuse, Biblical Christianity

Image credit: Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (Eph. 5:15-16)

Recognizing that we will never “change the world”…that we will never create a utopia where every man is perfectly loving and kind to his wife and children, and every wife is respectful and supportive of her husband, and all the children obey their parents with good attitudes the first time…*takes breath* in spite of our weaknesses and the broken state of the world, what can we do?

Point Everyone to Jesus

Only when they fix their eyes completely and exclusively on Jesus will husbands—

  • shun porn and satisfy themselves with their wives;
  • sacrifice their dreams and career ambitions to disciple their children and spend quality time with their wives;
  • love their wives enough to tell them the hard truths of God, so their womenfolk can grow into the fully mature princesses they were created to be;
  • give gentle and patient answers to sarcasm, ridicule, passive-aggression, manipulation, and bullying;
  • stand between their daughters and the world, letting their precious girls know that nobody will hurt them and live to tell about it;
  • other things God calls men to!

Only when they fall head-over-heels in love with Jesus can wives—

  • let their husbands do the “men” jobs, even when they’re bumbling around and not doing it well;
  • trade the world’s measure of success (based on education, money, achievement, and social standing) for God’s measure…and then devote themselves to training their children to love God, love others, have humble hearts, and trust Him alone;
  • trust God completely, and let their children make the mistakes that God will use to instruct them (you can’t live their lives for them, after all!);
  • do all that, and still have time to host strangers in their homes, donate time and resources to the poor, share the Good News with their neighbors, etc. (Titus 2; Prov. 31);
  • basically show the world what a woman ruled by the Spirit of God acts like!

We are called to be a distinct people – a kingdom of priests – set apart and holy.

So “…in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy…”Do We Trust God? — Kimia Wood — patriarchy, abuse, Biblical Christianity

Which comes from 1 Peter 3:

Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. (vv. 13-17)

Confront Sin

Does Shelby’s husband claim to be a Christian? Well, then, men of the church – you have a God-given duty to march over to his house and ask him, “Whut?!”

Let’s do this right, though. Check out Matthew 18.

Jim, you saw the bruises on Shelby’s face. So, you take Alex with you as a witness, and go over to the Shelby household. Sit her husband down and ask, “What the heck, man?”

Get his side of the story. Get at the truth.

Tell him, “husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.

“He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of His body.” (Eph. 5:28b-30)

“You don’t go banging your head into the wall, eh, man? So stop defiling the name of your Lord and sinning against His daughter and our spiritual sister, and straighten up.”

Do We Trust God? — Kimia Wood — patriarchy, abuse, Biblical Christianity

Image source: ThisFragileTent

If he doesn’t listen to you, the next step is to talk to the elders of the church. But you don’t need me to read Matthew 18 to you…you can figure this out. The point is, there’s a God-honoring way to do this.

And if Nadab and Abihu taught us anything, it’s – sad things happen when we don’t follow God’s instructions! AKA two wrongs don’t make a right.

(Check out Paul’s letters to the Corinthians. Some guy was living with his step-mother – and in his first letter Paul chewed them out for not dealing with it like the sin it was. From the second letter, we can glean that the church kicked the guy out until he straightened up…and Paul encouraged them to repair their relationships because the guy had repented. In the house of God, discipline always longs for repentance and reconciliation…because the goal is holiness.)

Open God’s word. Pray. Do it right.

Don’t try to make their choices for them…but point them to Jesus and His word.

My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. (James 5:19-20)

Stop Shaming Singles

Shelby got into this marriage somehow, right?

Do We Trust God? — Kimia Wood — patriarchy, abuse, Biblical Christianty

Photo credit: Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Okay, frankly, I’ve been really blessed…I’ve only had one really painful conversation, and it was with my grandparents, who I know love me dearly.

But…

We all know youth group is for the teenagers to pair off. A lot of our seminars and “retreats” are geared towards husbands and wives…which, y’know, is great ‘cause that’s a large percentage of the population…but it kinda leaves us singles out in the cold.

I’m not the only one feeling this, either. The idea that singleness is just a “stage” on the way to marriage (and that marriage is the great end goal of our lives) permeates our unconscious attitudes and word choices. If you’re pushing thirty and still not posting baby pictures on Facebook, what’s wrong with you?!

Obviously, marriage is a fantastic gift from God. GK Chesterton said something like, “Don’t complain that God doesn’t let you enjoy all the women. Marvel that He allows you to have one.”

I think I’ve already discussed in this very post how a sanctified marriage, forged in imitation of the God-Head and His Church, built on the foundation of His word and for His glory, is a beautiful thing.

But here I am, late twenties, never been on a date. Never been asked on a date.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Yes – I dearly, passionately wish I was married by this time! I have friends in my small group just a few years older than I am, whose third kid is already a year old!

But God has not led me to marriage. I’ve been too busy working at the job He gave me, visiting people He wants me to minister to, learning spiritual lessons He wants to teach me, and sharing His Good News with the people He sent me to.

Yes, a God-honoring marriage is glory and blessing.

But God-honoring chastity and celibacy and patience in the face of alone-ness is also glory and blessing.

Do We Trust God? — Kimia Wood — patriarchy, abuse, Biblical Christianity

Image credit: Unsplash

Let’s teach our young people to be satisfied with Jesus! Show your young women and girls they have a church family that will always be there for them and protect them.

Then, maybe they won’t be so desperate and vulnerable that they fall for the first smooth-talking abuser-in-waiting who makes them “feel” special. My great-grandpa had a saying: “Better to be single than wishing you were.”

(Yes, to Shelby this might feel like “closing the barn door after the horse has escaped,” but there are other future-Shelbys out there we need to protect!)

In the world out there, you can’t swing a cat without hitting a romance novel, or a movie with a romantic subplot, or an advertisement with sexual undertones, or a person with a broken heart and a string of failed relationships.

Church, let’s teach the whole council of God.

Let’s teach people the high and holy duties of a Christian marriage, yes…but let’s also teach our young people that they are not defined by a romantic relationship!

If our children and grandchildren belong to Jesus, that is the only relationship in their lives that matters! And if a seminary professor, or an angel from heaven!, were to take a knee and ask for your daughter’s hand…a 1000 times better for her to say, “No,” than to violate God’s will for her life!

And even if he’s a “nice” “Christian” guy – if her eyes are on his hot body, or her own loneliness, or financial security or people’s opinion of her or anything other than the Incarnate God-Man our Master Jesus Anointed-One, then SHE IS DOING IT WRONG.

And with a start like that, who’s surprised when their marriage is full of selfishness, manipulation, bullying, deception, and suffering?

Can God redeem a fallen relationship like this?

Is Jesus descended from King David, whose grandmother Ruth was a Moabitess, whose founding ancestor Moab was the son of Lot by Lot’s own daughter?

(In case you’re wondering…yes. The answer is yes. Matt. 1 and Gen. 19.)

Buuuut…do we want to create situations for God to redeem?

As Paul said to a similar question, “By no means!…” (Rom. 3:6).

So…teach our young men and ladies to be satisfied with Jesus.

If Shelby is a Christian…she really, really shouldn’t marry a non-Christian. No matter how polite, rich, or hot he is. Even if he’s a delightful man who never abuses her at all – this is not the will of God for His daughters (1 Cor. 7, among others).

And teach them the red flags to look for, to detect potential abusers before the fact.

But that’s going to require something else:

Be More Than Sunday Acquaintances

Actually involve yourself in Shelby’s life. She could be your sister, your mother, your daughter…or your neighbor, your coworker, or someone in your church.

Do you smile and nod and ask, “Hi, how are you?” without really listening to the answer?

Do We Trust God? — Kimia Wood — patriarchy, abuse, Biblical Christianity

That’s a problem.

Do you invest in Shelby’s life, know her kids and what they’re busy with, take casseroles over to her house when she’s sick, know what her husband does for a living, etc.? Obviously you can’t be this involved with every family in the church…but you’re not called to be. You’re only called to get involved with the families God has placed in your life.

Is Shelby in your small group or Sunday school class? Are her kids in the same class as your kids? Is she your neighbor? Your sister?

The Good Samaritan didn’t go up and down the land of Israel looking for robbery victims to help. He just happened to be on his way to work, when God put someone in his path…someone in need. And the Samaritan helped him…regardless of how late it made him, or how expensive the medical care was, or whether people walking by would think mean things about him as he lifted the man onto his donkey.

If you are a part of Shelby’s life, then you’ll notice the signs that something isn’t right. And you’ll have the moral cred to step in and help when she needs it. She’ll know you’re not just there to tell her how to run her life…that you actually care.

Because you’ve been there for her.

Shelby – do you have mature Christian women in your life to do this? If not – go find some! Don’t look for women who will just cry and feel bad and hug you (although you will need that sometimes)…look for women who love Jesus more than they love you, and will show you in His word when you’re doing something wrong.

Flag the Wolves

I think the reason a lot of people are uncomfortable with this topic is that, too often, everything has been handled the wrong way.

Do We Trust God? — Kimia Wood — patriarchy, abuse, Biblical Christianity

Image credit: Unsplash

Shelby’s husband puts a good face on it, and the situation devolves into “he said, she said.”

Or…let’s face it. Sometimes Shelby is an emotional wreck, with no proper spiritual head in her life, and runs damage control for the very person abusing her! Her husband is supposed to be her head…but if he’s not doing his job, it’s easy for her to lose her moorings. Especially when he’s abusing her emotions on top of that.

How do we lovingly tell her that she’s enabling her husband’s sin, and it’s okay to confide in her older Christian mentors? Without, y’know, taking over her life like all her abusive boyfriends? (That’s another hard truth to face: some women gravitate to men who abuse them.)

Or – prepare for a big surprise – sometimes church elders are sinners, too. *audible gasp!*

They have too much invested in the status quo, in how outsiders perceive their congregation, or in their relationships with Shelby’s husband that they ignore the abuse or cover it up.

The recent scandals of the Catholic church and Southern Baptist Convention are easy examples. In these cases, it was actually the church leadership “us[ing] the name of Jesus to prey on” vulnerable people in their care; Russell Moore (head of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention) called this “horrific depravity” (quoted by Kent Covington in WORLD Magazine).

How did God call us to respond to this situation?

Do We Trust God? — Kimia Wood — patriarchy, abuse, Biblical Christianity

Image source: ThisFragileTent

Read Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 5…and stand firm on God’s word. If these creeps (Jude 4) running your church building don’t really know Jesus – then you need to share God’s Good News so they can repent and escape hell!

 

If they are members of Jesus’ body – you need to share God’s Good News so they can repent! Sin interferes in our relationship with God (Matt. 5:23-24) and harms our witness to the unbelieving world… Don’t worry about them facing here-and-now consequences for their wickedness (like prison) if it helps them sort out their hearts before God (1 Cor. 5:3-5).

(Again – allowing the “emperor” the authority that God gave him to punish evil – like sex and child abuse. We’re not running off to form our own inquisition here.)

Some people use Scripture to batter their women-folk into subservience.

But did Adam doom us all by following the advice of his wife and a snake and seizing by conquest the one thing God had not given him?

(Yes. Yes he did.) And ever since, every one of us has been a twisted sinner, fighting God’s law and striving to rule the world ourselves.

Does my sinfulness (or Shelby’s, or her husband’s, or Joel Osteen’s) invalidate the word of God? Stark verboten!

What if the elders at your church are on the take?

Do We Trust God? — Kimia Wood — patriarchy, abuse, Biblical Christianity

Image credit: Unsplash

Corrupt church leadership? Shuffling sexual predators from church to church to protect our “reputation?” Using the Bible like a club to tell women to shut up and make me a sandwich already?!

*gasp!* It’s not like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day were twisting God’s word to satisfy their greed and lust, and leaving their elderly parents and disfavored wives out in the cold (Mark 7:9-13)!

“Elders” just means “old dudes,” okay? So, if you’re a mature believer and “little Christ,” then it’s your responsibility to get involved!

My family hasn’t taken our church problems to court in the past, because it wasn’t worth the trouble for us (and “don’t you have any learned men to decide cases in the body?”)

But if there are serious sin issues going on – treat it seriously.

I don’t care if they’re your next door neighbor, or the president of your denomination, or your own brother – these creeps should be behind bars! They haven’t gone beyond the reach of God if they serve a prison sentence. Maybe this is the only way He could reach them! After all, when they’re full of themselves, they might think they don’t need anything…when actually—

For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. (Rev. 3:17)

Ignoring their deeds and covering up the sin isn’t “loving” to these creeps…and it isn’t “loving” to their victims, either.

Jesus didn’t come to make us feel warm and fuzzy and affectionate toward each other (Matt. 10:34-39).

He came to pay the penalty of our sin and give us His righteousness.

God is in the business of fixing broken things.

Just go read James, people. In fact, go read the rest of your Bible. It’s the only way to really make Jesus your Spiritual Head, and ensure that you’re walking in His will…not using “abuse” as a get-out-of-jail-free card every time the road gets tough. Marriage is supposed to be hard…that way we lean only on Jesus, not our own strength.

And that’s the bottom line…do we trust God? Trust Him enough to obey His word? Even when there’s something nasty involved, like abuse?

Do I trust Him enough to let Him run Shelby’s life – instead of me?

As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. (James 5:10-11)


This post is approved by my spiritual head.

Kimia Wood currently lives somewhere in the American Midwest with her family – including the brother people mistake for her boyfriend.

She’s bracing for the collapse of society by working, baking, knitting, writing, and other excuses for not gardening.

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Dear Diary….the elemental node of air

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

Ehlonna has given me a little friend! He’s a weasel named Mister Whisker and he should be very handy in following scents and such.

(Also, I’ve wanted a pet since I was six years old, but just because Wolfgang dropped his puppy out the window or something before I was even born! the rule was no pets. Besides, Lydia and Mikael both had lots of pets, and it just doesn’t seem fair that I couldn’t have one, so now I do.)

He’s still having trouble coming when I call his name, but we’re working on that (he really likes little crumbs of honey cake, which is handy). Lord Otis says I could have spent that time doing push-ups, but at least he’s happy with how my sword work is coming. (I think the smithy is getting a new roof in the near future.)

I’m going to have a special pocket sewed into my backpack so Mr. Whisker can ride underneath my shield when I’m walking around with my bow. Also, that way he won’t make all my gear smell like him so much.

****

Turns out the others have been real busy while I was away. Lydia and Ezekiel practiced with her magic mirror, and figured out that if she’s scrying you, there’s a spot where you can step out of her mirror and join her. She’s going to wave through it or something to make it easier on us (she said, because otherwise we’d never get out) but that’s going to make it super handy to rescue anybody trapped in the elemental nodes.

Cuddles is going to stay here, though. He’s kind of big, and he probably wouldn’t do well in the nodes…and this way he can keep Lydia company.

The others have also been sorting out the magic gear, and reading the labels on the potions to decide which ones should be in our backpacks for easier use. While I was in Mrs. Streng’s neighborhood, I did buy more Keotighm’s Ointment, since it came in so very handy before…and what else am I going to use this money for? (I also bought some flasks of oil, since without Lydia with us, we might want a way to make a big fire.)

We’re going to start with the node of air, since Raven visited there before. We’ll see whether we’re prepared or not…

****

We made it through the Temple safely (someone’s been leaving graffiti here and there, but otherwise it feels pretty deserted) and followed the map to the air node room (the color of the walls helped…it was obviously trying to mimic the Air Temple on the floor above).

We took a deep breath, and stepped onto the magic circle.

I’m not sure what I was expecting…

We found ourselves standing on a mountain peak, with a cavernous roof of some kind at least fifty feet up. A glow of light seemed to come from the dome above us, while misty clouds swirled around the peak. The air was cool, but not painfully so…although the wind has a tendency to snatch your breath away without warning, or throw dust in your eyes.

Ezekiel and Wonillon led the way, and we followed a spiraling ramp that led us down the mountain. Here and there on the ground lay bits of bone, buckles, or even bits of chainmail. There have obviously been other people here…I wonder how many of them are still alive? What are their stories?

Other cliffs and hills rose all around us, so it was hard to tell how far the dome overhead might stretch – or where the ridges might connect with it. It’s certainly a vast space…I’m pretty sure I saw a white dragon flying far off to the south – but fortunately it didn’t see us, or ignored us.

At length, we reached the floor of the ravine (fighting the buffets of the wind) and spotted a slope across the way that seemed to lead up to a cave. Curious thing about that…the ramp looked like it could have been carved by pickaxes. In fact, everything looked artificial…not in a pre-planned way, but in a hand-carved way. It’s a reminder that this is a fake place, created by the Temple for evil purposes.

When we reached the cave mouth, Ezekiel spotted a big white blob — it spotted him, too, and started shlumping toward us.

Apparently only I brought any oil, so I handed it up, and Heiron poured it on the ground and lit it with his flame-sword. That way, at least the pudding couldn’t get at us.

Heiron whacked it in two with his sword, and then while I was digging a torch out of my backpack, Ezekiel threw the Instant Fortress at the puddings (he made sure Heiron got back, first).

When he shrunk it again, the puddings had been knocked into the oil; though I don’t think they were hurt much by being squished, the fire did help them…and when they crawled up the wall to try to get at us again, Heiron was able to flame them to death.

Ezekiel had only just picked up the fortress – and the oil was still smoldering – when a funny-looking flying cat swooped out of the darkness ahead of us and perched next to the puddle of goo. (It had a head and wings like a hawk, and I bet it’s responsible for the droppings I saw on the ramp outside…they looked like big cat droppings, but as though they hit the stone at great speed – or from a distance.)

Apparently it was a kind of sphinx, and could speak to us. It started by saying, “Well this is an interesting riddle,” then asked us for money, then said the “little one” looked tasty and maybe we should deal with it.

Ezekiel said, no, you can’t eat Wonillon (so I guess they didn’t mean me), and then he tried to make up a riddle: “Guess why we’re here – and we’ll leave.”

I guess the sphinx didn’t find that very interesting, because it left. We decided to take the other passage into the cave before bothering the sphinx (it did say “we,” so we knew there were more of them). This second opening led to a cavern full of rats (Ezekiel called them “vapor rats,” though I’m not sure why) and Raven came to the front to talk to them. They told him that the passage didn’t go any further, and that humans “sometimes” came by this area…but they’re only rats, so they couldn’t really tell us more.

Heading back to the cave mouth, we spotted another white pudding in the opening – well, sort of on the cliff ridge just outside. As we were preparing to deal with it, a…brain with…horns or fingers of something (Mikael said its limbs looked like coral). The brain thing fought the pudding for a while, until the pudding wrapped around it and digested it or something. Then it casually slid off the cliff and left.

We all huddled back and watched the show. Not sure if the others agree with me, but I think these blobby slime beings might be creepier than all the giants and trolls I’ve ever seen.

After that spine-chilling spectacle, Ezekiel led us to “deal with” the sphinxes (he says we have to explore everywhere and everything).

We crept up the passage until I saw a sphinx swooping at Ez’s head – and shot it.

Ezekiel dropped the torch he’d been carrying to draw his mace, which meant our only light was from his shield and mine (on my back). Maybe that disoriented the sphinxes, because although they slashed at us from the air, they didn’t do much damage before Raven snared them in his rope. After that, it was like plinking fish in a barrel.

Their nest in the corner of the cavern was lined with feathers – and littered with human and demi-human remains. We didn’t see anything else of interest, so we headed back to the cave mouth.

As we emerged, we saw a warrior in plate armor, standing on an outcrop farther down the slope, facing us. His gear was all sky blue, from his helmet, to his chest-plate, to his shield – and he had to be at least seven feet tall (taller than Mikael or Heiron, even)!

Before we had too much time to wonder what on earth was happening next, Raven recognized him and called out, “Taki!”

The man answered with Raven’s name, and asked if we were his friends – and Raven said yes. So the man took off his helmet and joined us, and said he was glad to see we had finally showed up.

Another gust of that vicious wind slapped us around, and we suggested retreating into the cave — Ezekiel pointed out it was big enough to set up the portable Fortress.

(Taki was glad the sphinxes were dead; he said he saw them drop a halfling off the cliff once. If I still had any concerns about killing them, that settled them.)

Once inside the Fortress, Taki really relaxed. The wind couldn’t get to us there, and Ezekiel and Lydia have explained that no one – not even a wizard – can open it up from the outside…only whoever knows the magic password. (I hope no one can shrink it while we’re inside? We’re probably safe, since the old owner is dead, and no one else is likely to know the magic word.)

Taki had some scratches from the debris thrown by the wind, but other than that he seems in pretty good health. I guess to survive here, you have to be the best.

He gave us lots of info about the nodes. Apparently there are magic transportation circles that lead from one to the other, and he’s explored all of them to some extent (although he prefers the Air Node, since it’s the easiest to survive in). He says there’s a link to the Water Node from here, that he can show us or at least give directions to. (We haven’t mentioned our exit strategy yet, and although we’ll probably let him join us in our scour of the nodes if he wants, I wouldn’t blame him at all for wanting to be rid of them for good.)

He explained that he was separated from his party while fighting in the Temple, and the bugbears and ogres forced him down the passageway and into the portal to the earth node (better than being sacrificed to summon an elemental).

As for other people…he spent some time with an “Ashrim” guy (says he claimed to be the chief priest of the Air Temple; Ezekiel thought he recognized the name from one of the record books – sacrificed to node for discipline, and replaced with Kelno). There’s also at least one bandit group going around, but after Taki killed a couple of them they decided to cut their losses.

He seemed quite relieved when we told him the Temple leadership was dead. Apparently someone in here theorized that killing the High Priest would collapse the nodes, and fortunately that’s not the case. (Ez says they’re tied to the Key the Mushroom Queen broke and left behind, but of course we haven’t figured that all out yet.)

The nodes of Fire and Earth “feel” more underground than the Air and Water nodes, but all the nodes are dangerous. He says the Water one has a bunch of floating islands and dangerous creatures – but that some friendly talking rocks in the Earth node helped him out. Maybe we can rescue them, too, before collapsing the nodes?

Ezekiel is kinda worried about finding everyone Good here who might need rescuing. Just the Air Node is pretty vast, and full of dangers (Taki says there are three white dragons here! And we don’t have our magic user), and to explore all of them would take some doing…besides which, the people here keep on the move to survive!

We could always leave notes on the cliffs or something (in the varieties of Good), but that wouldn’t help rock creatures that can’t read. Well, our patron gods and goddesses have brought us this far…maybe they’ll have to lead us to the people we need to rescue. (Not to mention the parts of the Key, whatever those may be… Why has nobody found them yet??…)


Find the previous entry here.

Dear Diary….we were not alone

I’m just going to say if Ezekiel doesn’t want me to do my job, he needs to say so, I’ll just say.

It must have been sometime in the morning, while Raven and Wonillon were on watch, that Wonillon shook me awake. Raven was standing at the door, and while Wonillon shook the others, he asked me if I had my bow ready.

So I got it ready, and when Raven threw open the door, what should be standing there but a hill giant! So I nailed it in the joint of the arm – which was pretty good for still having sleep in my eyes.

The giant yelped, and shivered a little, and then turned into a half-elf lady.

Raven wrapped her up in his rope – so I felt safe enough to drop my arrow tip…but we’ve seen people who aren’t what they seem before – and half-elves who aren’t worth the name.

The woman said she thought we might need some help, and after Ezekiel healed her minor wounds, she said her name was Kella, a druid from the Gnarly Forest, who’s been spying on the Temple for some time.

Ezekeil yelled at me for shooting her, but honestly, if you’re going to wake me up after I’ve just gone to sleep after my watch, and you tell me to grab my bow but don’t want me to shoot anything with it, you’re doing it wrong.

We brought her into Bel-Sornig’s room, and Raven took the rope off her – after suggesting that I check her out with Tressarian (Tres said she wasn’t magical…but he couldn’t detect the phylactery she told us about, which lets her shapeshift into unusual forms (like giants, perhaps)?).

Apparently the Hill Giant “king” we killed on the third level (the level below all the elemental temples) was supposed to be on the fourth level – but he liked it better on the third level or something, so just didn’t show up for work…and Kella (shapeshifted) took his place.

The black scarabs we kept finding would allow you to pass through the fungus curtain that used to stand behind the altar. The chief ogre’s stone had different runes than the others, so it’s quite possible it didn’t really work. The most disturbing part is that the merchants in Homlette had a scarab – meaning they were part of the upper leadership! I wonder where they are now…and what trouble they might be causing…

The top leadership of the Temple were Hedrak (the high priest in black armor), Senshock (the head wizard, who, according to Kella, was very good at the management part of the Temple), Barkenar, another cleric, and Degum, the half-elf cleric/magic user we saw briefly last time we fought the leadership. Kella assured us we killed all of them – including Falrinth, the wizard from the level above (he was the one with the ugly little horned thing as a familiar).

She also told us the bugbears were the last of the Temple forces that she knew of…and she “convinced” them to leave. She said the new Temple leadership might not be too pleased with any grunts who failed to defend the old leadership…and we all know how Evil people deal with their underlings.

(About this time she pulled the arrow out, and said something about it being a calculated risk of walking around in giant form…so then I felt like I had to apologize for nailing her so well. She was more chill about it than Ezekiel was.)

Kella said Wizard Senshock seemed to be in communication with the Fungus Queen…but not easy communication, and there was some kind of confusion or interference. Maybe the place where she’s imprisoned makes scrying or other magic calls difficult.

They were trying to get power for her – or something – by filling the elemental nodes…and that took lots of sacrifices. Kella says they did sacrifices almost daily – which makes me really worried where they were getting all the victims from. Senshock apparently had ways to travel from the Temple without using the hallways – so maybe they were using some magical means. (She says he seemed familiar with Verbobanc – like he had a house there or something! – so we might want to tip off some people in authority.)

She says they did sacrifices two different ways. One way, they killed a victim to summon some elemental creature from its elemental plain (it walked down the corridor from the side-rooms we noticed on the map) and then crossed the hall and headed to the room opposite, which sent them to the elemental node.

Secondly, if they were in a hurry, they would just send a creature straight to the node.

According to Kella, the elemental creatures most likely to be summoned by sentient sacrifice are evil…but some of them might have just responded to the magic ritual. Either way, they wanted to send creatures to the elemental nodes, because that somehow gave power to the Mushroom Queen.

(Ezekiel believes they’re tied to the key, so that once we kill her – and destroy the key – the nodes will also collapse. That means we have to rescue anyone trapped in the nodes first (like the fighter Raven met). I’m still confused, though, since the Fungus Queen broke the key — I guess so that no one could follow her? Which means she’s not only trapped, but also protected…and Ezekiel says that means we have to fix the key to get at her and kill her. But presumably the Temple cultists have also been trying to fix the key to let her out…and we’re not going to follow their methods, that’s for sure.)

Kella also confirmed what we guessed from the map – the eight branching rooms coming off the central “sanctuary” were arranged in pairs, one for each of the elements, and the rooms marked with glyphs were tied to the elemental nodes (the room on the east – except for the earth pair, which is flipped).

We asked what questions we could think of. Kella mentioned that Senshock once said something about being afraid of the “Scarlet Brotherhood” (whatever that is) and laughed at the things people will say in front of dumb giants.

Ezekiel went around the room with his healing (including Kella and anyone else who was still hurt from yesterday), and we invited her to have breakfast with us before going to report to her druid order.

Raven fixed up something quite savory, especially for scrounged ingredients, and Kella turned into a bat at the doorway before disappearing into the darkness. (I don’t know whether to envy druids or think they’re creepy.)

While talking about how to get out of the nodes (since we’ve figured out “getting in” in the past) Lydia mentioned that her magic mirror helps her scry things – which would include us, even inside the nodes. The mirror also “allows travel between plains” or something like that, which they led me to believe would let her pull us out again, if she stayed in Homlette and watched us through the mirror. (And as far as we know, the mirror doesn’t turn you evil like the crystal ball does.) I like this plan much better than Ezekiel’s “charge into the nodes and hope it all works out” plan, and also better than his “if I kill a bunch of demons I’ll get Plane Shift” plan, which included a Step 2 I wasn’t quite comfortable with.

**

After Kella left, we headed back to the bottom level to check out the wizard-locked door. Lydia had studied up on something that let her break it open, so we let ourselves in and took a look at (I assume) Wizard Senshock’s bedroom.

Unlike High Priest Hedrak’s room, this one had no concubines lounging around. It did have a row of workbenches, covered with spell reagents and other paraphernalia, a bed, a cabinet, and a shelf with three books on it that Ezekiel told us not to touch.

He went around the room with his special “trap-detecting” vision, while Tressarian and I followed, looking for anything Evil. Fortunately, nothing radiated Evil – so we started loading up the reagents and other trinkets while Raven looked at the wardrobe.

At first it seemed like the wardrobe didn’t really open (Ezekiel checked the wall behind for secret doors) but after fiddling with it for a while, Raven found a teeny tiny secret compartment – with a crumpled up, used black handkerchief.

We were all pretty confused by that – but Tressarian said the hanky was magical…so Raven started unfolding it (he’s immune to disease after all) and kept unfolding it, and kept unfolding it, until finally it was a six-foot wide circular tablecloth. He laid it on the ground, and there was a six-foot hole in the ground.

We all crowded around, and Ezekiel looked into the hole with his “trap-vision.” He said a flask of oil had a “fire trap” on it, and there was a cloak that looked a lot like the poisonous one the medusa statue was wearing – but once Ez safely removed those, we could look at the rest of the stuff. I counted five spellbooks, and several tall wooden racks full of potions (Wonillon and Lydia counted those, and it came up to 29). (Apparently a magic hole like this doesn’t tip over or anything when you fold it, so the racks were a safe way to store the potions.)

While Lydia snuck peeks at her new spellbooks, and all the rest of us piled spell components into the hole (and bag of holding), Raven kept poking at the wardrobe. He found several other compartments…some worth more than others. Tressarian told us which things were magical, but Raven avoided picking anything up until Ezekiel told him what was trapped…which turned out to be really smart, since there was a little magic pocket-mirror that Ezekiel said, “Don’t look into it!” and hid it in a pillowcase, because apparently it sucks your life or something.

When we were finally done loading, we swung by the giants’ rooms. As we had suspected, the bugbears made off with most of the giants’ coins…but they left enough copper to make it worthwhile shoving into the sack.

We wanted to check out the teleportation rooms before heading back to town – just to have as much info as possible before making more plans – and headed down the first corridor we came to (for the earth node).

The walls started black near the “sanctuary,” then shifted to tan, then dark brown – classic earth colors like we’d seen on the levels above. The room itself was triangular shaped, with creepy eyes inside triangles on each wall (again, like we’d seen on the Earth Temple level).

A big symbol on the floor seems to have a permanent teleport spell tied to it (according to Ez and Lydia)…and although they said it might have a matching symbol somewhere, that might let you say a spell or hold a magic item to get back, there’s no way to be sure. Lydia assumes the Temple leaders would want a way to get back, just in case they ever got there by accident, I guess – but they’re dead so it’s not like we can ask them.

Raven mentioned that during his brief trip to the Air Node, he saw goblins who seemed to be mining something – which implies they were going to send it back here – but who knows, honestly?!

The room at the end of the opposite corridor was basically identical – with nothing to indicate that this symbol leads to the actual elemental plain (as described by the map).

After that, the only remaining place to search was behind the big altar – behind what used to be the fungal curtain.

Up the steps of the dais, past the huge altar with the scorched altar cloth, there’s a little room with three oval altars. A closet on each side held wardrobes of ceremonial robes (a selection in each of the elemental colors) and a couple chests full of money (each with the exact same amount of money – someone’s very picky, or fond of numbers). Speaking of numbers, we also found a bunch of paperwork for loans taken out by the Temple staff from the treasury. It’s not like we can collect on these loans now, but Ezekiel brought the papers along just in case any of these names are familiar to someone in Homlette…or even Verbobanc. It’s possible this would count as evidence of involvement in the Temple…

The robes probably won’t be very useful, since they have the symbol of MR. EWWY and a gold skull on them, so we left them for now. Kella suggested that the new leadership that arrives at the Temple might be sent by the Old One — not only would he be anxious to keep the Temple going and free his girlfriend, but that way they’d be loyal to him, not necessarily the Queen. I don’t like the thought of that very much, and hope we can stomp this out before the new arrivals get here.

At the top of the room were slanting, narrow passages we assume were for the Temple staff to retreat into – although they also make little horns on the map, on top of the altar room. They were also painted all over with warding glyphs, and Raven got scorched before Ezekiel turned his “trap vision” back on and warned us of the remaining ones.

With Protection from Evil, Ezekiel went to investigate the last passage – a flight of broad steps leading down. They seemed well-cleaned and well-maintained, so although they’ve been used it’s impossible to tell how frequently.

Raven, Ez, and Lydia were the only ones who ventured down the steps – and they took it slow, avoiding actually stepping off the stairs. The room at the very bottom gave off a pearly glow…and according to the three scouts, it’s pretty tall, with a domed ceiling. The whole walls are covered with a mosaic done in precious stones – Raven insists it’s the landscape of the surrounding countryside (Nulb, Gnarly Forest, and so on) as it would probably look from the Temple’s tower. It seems to be conquered or something, and is full of figures of all races paying homage to the Temple.

In the center of the room is a pillar of light – as tall as the ceiling and almost that wide. It must be what the light comes from – and it seems to have flashes of color that swim through it (I asked Ezekiel, “like an oil slick?” but he didn’t seem to think that did it justice).

Lydia said the pillar was “powerful spells,” but couldn’t tell anything more from where they were – and for once, even Ezekiel agreed we weren’t ready to mess with this quite yet. We don’t know if this is something the Temple did, or the Queen did, or the Good warriors who invaded ten years ago did…but it’s a bit above our pay-grade at the moment.

Heading back to Homlette now. We have a lot of loot to sort through, and decide what of it we might actually use, and what we’re better off selling, and we gets to use what. Ezekiel says he wants to keep the magic armor from the priesthood (I caught him petting the black armor of High Priest Hedrak) in case he gets “disciples” he needs to outfit. Heiron and I don’t know what he’s talking about.

It’ll be good to get out into the open air again. I’ve been missing the trees. I want to talk to someone who understands…and a druid doesn’t count, because they’re all “druidy” and stuff.

But I almost feel like I could talk to animals if I really concentrated…or if I really, really needed it to, the natural world would give me a hand. Maybe that’s Ehlonna really subtly telling me She has my back.


Find the previous entry here.

Dear Diary….GIANT slug-fest

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

Mikael pointed out that he can ask for Heat Metal – which would really make the Black-Armored Cleric uncomfortable! With that, and his new magic stone of earth-elemental-summoning, we made a new strategy for going back into the Temple.

It’s been almost a week, so the enemy has had plenty of time to redo their strategy, too. But Ezekiel assures us that with Lydia’s new “globe of invulnerability” spell, lightning bolts won’t be such an issue. And she’s been casting spells into the ring of storage, so that Ezekiel can act like a magic user from the front lines.

Here’s to hoping it goes better this time.

****

Most things are bittersweet. We have won – but at a cost.

I think this is the closest I’ve ever come to being in a battle. There was that one fight with the gnolls that went long, but I got knocked unconscious that time.

Where to start? We descended all the flights of stairs to the Temple’s fourth basement, and like last time we made a quick sweep of the barracks to see if anyone was sleeping late. I hardly think they would make that mistake – and as it turns out, we didn’t find anyone there.

Which meant it was time to head down the stairs…to the huge, scary room at the very bottom of the Temple.

Lydia stayed at the top of the stairs, so that she wouldn’t be silenced if they got the jump on us – and so she didn’t waste her buff spells in case they hit us with another wall of force.

Ezekiel detected more glyphs at the bottom of the stairs – like last time – and also like last time, Mikael dispelled them. Then, with our Protections from Evil and Protections from Fire on, Ezekiel headed down.

I went with him — I was the tester for walls of force. I sent an arrow through the doorway – and when it seemed to fly freely, Ezekiel cast a protection Globe from the ring on himself – and charged.

We were concerned that we couldn’t see anything…My second arrow seemed to stick in air, and I called to Lydia to wait (thinking they had blocked us with a wall again).

Then an ogre materialized out of nowhere, and bashed Ezekiel. When I killed him (the ogre, not Ezekiel) the body dropped like it ought to, and lay there like a proper body…which made me feel much better. I don’t hold with these magic-people popping ogres out of the air at you and such.

Mikael had used his magic stone in the mushroom garden above (where there was actual dirt and such), so he ordered his earth elemental forward (we named it “Rocky”).

Next thing we knew, a lightning bolt shot in front of us across the room. For an instant, we could more easily see the polished onyx floor, the five-foot dais across the room, and the ceiling-to-floor purple curtain that hung behind the altar. The bolt tore across the room, through the curtain, and vanished.

As our back-row fighters moved up, more ogres appeared out of the air to attack us. Mikael cast Faery Fire – and I saw shapes glowing in the darkness beyond – like invisible creatures waiting for their turns to strike us.

Boulders flew across the room, mostly banging into the walls at the entrance of the room. Lydia threw up a wall of fire down the center of the room to control the angle of attack – and then the enemy returned fire with a lightning bolt of their own. It flashed past me with a crack, and when I stole a glance at our team, Heiron looked pretty badly burned.

By this time, trolls were swarming our front lines – even charging through the fire to get at us. Someone behind the purple curtain shot out an amber ray or something – but I don’t think it did anything.

While dropping trolls and ogres, I saw Rocky bash a troll into the floor, and stomp around the corner into the room. A second lightening bolt flashed down the corridor – and this time it ripped through me, too. I think the others were close enough to Ezekiel and Lydia that the protection Globes helped them.

Ezekiel read something from a scroll, and fire flashed briefly from behind the curtain. Heiron and I made music on our bows, and Mikael had to cast a new faery fire because all the old enemies were dead.

Then Raven made his move and wrapped the enemies in front of us in his magic rope. Leaving them for the melee fighters, I peered into the darkness of the room beyond and landed a shot in an etin.

Lydia shot a fireball at the curtain…strangely enough, it didn’t seem singed by it! – but from the howls of dismay we heard, I think it did more damage to the people behind.

Mikael and Ezekiel passed out healing before our wall of fire disappeared – though Mikael also got a hit in that broke an etin’s head.

Lydia seemed to be concentrating on the curtain (and the spell-casters beyond it) so I concentrated on hurting ogres and etins and trolls. A couple gargoyles swooped down at us – but Raven was too quick on the draw and snared them in his rope, making them crash into the floor. I left them to those with magic weapons (since I’ve learned a thing or two by now).

By now, Lydia (with Heiron keeping tight to her side) had joined us (just like I was keeping close to Ezekiel and his protective Globe). While Mikael and Raven stabbed and bashed at a captive gargoyle, she pulled out a scroll.

Ezekiel told Heiron to burn the trolls’ brains with his flame-sword (the last thing we needed was them healing themselves!).

Speaking of trolls, that’s about the time a troll charged me and knocked my bow out of my hands. A boulder crashed over my head as I was picking it up – and then before I could prepare a shot, another boulder caught me in the shoulder (Ezekiel says I’m just lucky it didn’t take off my head. I took a minute to blink the dust out of my eyes and shake my head…and when I looked up, a lightning bolt cut across the room, through our enemies. It must have been the flash – I fired an arrow at the troll making a pest of himself in my face, but it missed his ear by a mile.

He clacked his fangs at me and bit me. I’m not one to whinge, but the pain frankly took my breath away, and I staggered back against Mikael and Ezekiel. They shoved my back upright – with healing magic – and my arms steadied enough that my next shot took out that ugly troll’s throat.

As I stepped forward into the room far enough to get some targets, Simba charged past me into the darkness in the corner of the room. Raven had snared some more victims with his crazy special rope, and Wonillon was killing them.

Lydia fired sparking missiles from her fingers at the gargoyles (it was mostly them and a couple giants left alive…Heiron had rendered most of the fallen trolls to ash by now).

Ezekiel lit up the corner for me so I’d have an easier time landing shots, and I focused on taking down the giant class. Ezekiel moved us up one side of the room, while Lydia laid down another wall of fire to help control the room.

Her fire reached far enough to touch the curtain…and while it didn’t go up in flames like you’d expect, it did finally collapse — and then we saw why the leaders hadn’t done anything for a while. They were dead.

Raven went along roping gargoyles, and Lydia and Wonillon stabbed two of them to death. A giant knocked the breath out of me with a boulder – but that didn’t stop me from killing the etin on the other side of the wall of fire. Then Mikael ordered his insects to attack the giant…and we had no more trouble from him.

After that, it was basically in the bag…all we had to do was mop-up. We readied ourselves at the edge of the wall of fire – and when Lydia dismissed it, we charged the last remaining giant. A few gargoyles waited on pillars near the ceiling, looking for opportunities to swoop down on us – so I took out my magic arrows and plinked a couple of them to make them come play.

Mikael smashed one into pieces – and Raven roped one or two, even though they clawed his face and got blood in his eyes. While the others cleaned up the last of the enemies, I drew Tressarian – both because he’s magical, and so he could help me find my magic arrows (they don’t grow on trees, after all; pity I broke one, but that’s what you get shooting at a living statue).

As soon as the only moving things were us, I asked Tres if anything around was noticeably evil. He thought the altar (with red silk altar cloth and star-symbol) looked kinda evil, but nothing strongly radiated evil.

Lydia had gone through the leaders’ pockets while the rest of us were bashing gargoyles, and we helped her strip them down. Bunch of magic armor, a few magic rings (something about ice, something about fire, and something Ezekiel didn’t know about), a couple wands, some potions, and a scroll for Lydia. There was also a hideous little horned creature that Ez and Lydia called a “quasit” – apparently it’s a demon thing, and sometimes magic users summon them as familiars. Lydia shuddered, and Ezekiel bashed it with his mace just to make sure it was departed.

As for the purple curtain – Mikael told us it was a “Violet Fungus,” and would have rotted our limbs if we tried to push through it. I wonder if he could have talked to it with Plant Control…but just as well this way!

Someone (probably Lydia) pointed out that there were lots of bugbear beds in the barracks…but we hadn’t fought any here. She also mentioned that she was out of spells.

I would have liked to peek down the six corridors – just to see if anything had ignored the sounds of pitched battle and was waiting for us – but Ezekiel seemed anxious to get away from there. We did stop long enough to strip the leaders and burn their bodies…nothing personal, but we don’t want to have to do this again.

(We also found three black scarabs like the double-agent-merchants had…wonder what that’s all about? Is it something to do with the elemental nodes? Ez says that’s probably where we have to go next, but his MO tends to be “charge in and hope it all works out,” which I am not completely comfortable with, especially when we don’t know how to get back again.)

As we headed to Bel-Sornig’s room to recover, we found the saddest news of the day. When Mikael called his animals after the battle, Cuddles came down, but he seemed upset and confused. When we reached the top of the stairs, we knew why — Corby and Sgt. Bearington were both dead, their bodies scorched by lightning. Even that far back from the battle lines, they just didn’t stand a chance.

Mikael carried Corby up with us, while Heiron helped Cuddles drag Sgt. Bearington. He wants to bury them near where Nori fell (though it looks like Cuddles was nibbling on Bearington). It might be just as well, if we’re heading into the elemental nodes in the near future. There are animals that might be tougher, of course, but it’s a matter of taking the time to find and befriend them.

We’ve been blessed that none of the humans (or gnome) have died for long…and we can’t expect to destroy a horrible institution like the Temple of Elemental Evil without sacrifice.

Rest in peace, Corby and Sgt. Bearington, noble beasts.


Find the previous entry here.

Dear Diary….a pitched battle (if “battle” means “running away”)

Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t call trading Raven for a magic box fair…but it’s better than a total scratch.

Besides, High Priest Yra can probably raise Raven tomorrow…and we learned lots of important lessons, like the meaning of pure terror.

It started last night with Lydia making Wonillon invisible. She told him that if he tried any monkey business she didn’t like, she would make him intensely regret it for the rest of his short life (which I guess shows she was on edge even then).

In the morning, the “cleric types” had decided what they would cast on everyone as “buffs,” and we passed out the jars of Keoghtim’s ointment so more people could act as “healers” in a pinch. I tucked one at my belt, and turns out that was one of the best things we did.

Ezekiel started us with exploring the giants’ rooms…he said he hoped we might catch someone sleeping late, and dispatch it while it was isolated from the others, but I think the head cleric was too clever for that. Much too clever.

The first room had four beds and four chests – with a pretty good haul of gems. We couldn’t even carry the amount of coinage, and decided to come back for it…we’ll see how that works out in the long run.

I was disturbed to see the walls all gouged with holes…like someone’s been collecting boulders. As things turned out, it was the least of our problems, but we can’t afford to forget about them for next time.

The second room we explored had three beds, and three chests. Wonillon and Raven checked the first chest, but obviously they missed something, because when Lydia went to open it with her cantrip or whatever she calls it, thick, biting smoke rolled out of it. It was only unpleasant, but I decided to help Heiron guard the corridor while the rest of them dealt with the other chests.

That chest was empty, so Raven went to open a second one (I guess Lydia had had enough of his “practical jokes”). I heard Wonillon to be careful about something – and the next thing we knew, Raven keeled over with a needle in his finger! Wonillon got Koeghtim’s ointment on it – so he didn’t die die – yet.

Someone said, “What a bad tone-setter,” but Mikael said it was only a tone-setter if we let it be. Ezekiel said maybe we were getting all our bad luck out of the way – but we still decided to leave the third chest alone. The second chest was packed – two magic stones, and a pile of gems and jewelry. Considering the first one was completely empty, Wonillon suggested the last one might be a decoy, too.

Raven offered to use his magic X-ray ring – which we all call his ring of cheese-finding now – but we got him to move on. (That’s one good thing…Ezekiel has gotten it away from him now.)

After that, there was no point delaying the inevitable. We formed up in the battle lines Ezekiel had mapped out, and went to the top of the stairs to wait while Wonillon scouted.

Ezekiel cast his Detect Traps thing – and hissed for Wonillon to stop (we couldn’t see him, after all) because there were glyphs of warding at the foot of the stairs. Sounds like we stopped him just in time, and Mikael came forward to dispel them.

After that, Wonillon went down the stairs again – according to the map, we knew they were the last stairs before the big “sanctuary” area or whatever it is. The hallway continues probably thirty feet at the bottom, before opening up into the big room. Not that we ever saw that, of course. Not this time.

It wasn’t long before Wonillon came back. He said he saw a big man in black platemail, with a mage standing a little ways behind him…and crowds and crowds of ogres, giants, and trolls. He also spotted gargoyles sitting up high – but that’s all he had time for because they detected him (he doesn’t know how – he was invisible, wearing boots of elven-kind, and it was pitch-dark in there) but he ran out of there just in time.

Ezekiel cast fire resistance on those of us who needed it (Mikael had a spell for himself), and Lydia cast auras of protection from Evil on herself and Ezekiel (not sure it did much this time, but better than not having it. We don’t know where all the secret passages are, and having someone sneak up behind us isn’t a happy thought).

Ezekiel gave the sign to charge, and clattered down the stairs. As soon as he saw the cleric in black armor, he flung something at him…it seemed to make the cleric back up, closer to his mage.

I was hanging back, closer to Lydia, holding my bow – while Mikael was near the front with Ezekiel, ready to do what he could. He said the words for faery fire, but nothing seemed to happen, so I fired an arrow at them. It stopped at the threshold of the corridor, and dropped, as though bouncing off an invisible wall.

I very much dislike things I don’t understand, so I backed up a little to be closer to Lydia’s protection. Ezekiel also halted his advance about half-way down the corridor…which might just be the best thing he did all day.

The Black Cleric gave some pompous speech (proving Ezekiel’s silence spell hadn’t bothered him) about “Welcome to the Temple of Elemental Evil” (he’s several staircases too late) and “this is where you die” (if he could just see the counters going).

The mage behind him did something – then the Cleric threw something.

Ezekiel yelled, “Silence!” – and then the whole corridor in front of him was filled with a smooth metal wall. Ez and Lydia tell me it was adamantine.

Since we were cut off from our enemies, Lydia took the time to explain to us that it was a magic item (“Someone-someone’s Magic Fortress Something”) which means the Cleric could grow and shrink it at will (it also apparently is really flattening if it lands on you).

The Cleric had to say the command word to shrink it – and then pick it up before throwing it at us again…which meant we had to wait until Ezekiel’s second silence spell wore off on him, and then we had – had – had to grab the cube thing, or he’d try this trick on us all over again.

The barkskin Mikael cast on Raven wore off, but most of our other buffs were still glowing when the wall before us suddenly disappeared.

I was still trying to find a target when a lightning bolt ripped down the corridor past us. Our clothes had barely even started smoking when a second one flashed past, and I saw Raven drop to the ground, convulsing.

Ezekiel shouted, and an explosion of fire slapped the Black Cleric – right before insects started swarming him (Mikael is invaluable).

By that time, though a couple boulders had bounced around the corner of the hallway – one of them catching Heiron a nasty gash on the arm. We still had to grab the cube if we didn’t want to repeat this scenario beat-for-beat…and then it disappeared.

Ezekiel yelled, “Wonillon, my best boy!” so I decided it was in good hands, and told Heiron to fall back (but not before he sent an arrow straight into the Black Cleric’s face…only to have it deflect off his armor!).

As I ran back toward where Raven lay, I saw Lydia also crumpled on the ground, smoking gently. She’s lighter than Raven is, and Heiron is – more broad-shouldered than I am, so I told him to carry Raven.

When I picked Lydia up, I saw she was just barely drawing ragged breathes – so I grabbed that jar of ointment I had handy, and smeared it on her burns as best I could. Wonillon helped, too (I assume, since ointment appeared out of the air).

Next thing we knew, Ezekiel charged past us, shouting, “Magic missile, magic missile!” or something. Turns out he was not trying to cast one — he’d just been killed by one, and Mikael was right on his heels after bringing him back on his feet yet again (telling the pets to retreat as he ran).

If Ez meant it as a warning, I don’t know what good it did. A stream of sparks hit Heiron, and seconds later, a second missile knocked Lydia off her feet.

Mikael applied Keoghtim’s ointment to the obvious wounds, and she jumped up again – shoving him aside and throwing her hands forward. A lightening bolt appeared a few feet from us and tore into the main room – but I didn’t wait to see what damage it did. Ezekiel was already half-way up the stairs, and Heiron was following, with Raven’s body on his back.

I grabbed Lydia and ran – but not before she ordered her magic lion to “Go get ’em, boy!”

Part way up the stairs, she kicked me until I put her down, and she waved her hands again – making a wall of fire spring up behind us.

By the time we got out the doors of the Temple into the fresh air, we were all winded…Lydia partly because she breathed curses the whole way.

Ezekiel seems pretty up-beat all things considered, but there’s no question they have us out-numbered. Pity we let their wizard Falrinth escape on the third floor down.

Mikael and Ezekiel patched us all up – except for Raven, of course. He’s the only one of us who’s died two days in a row – though of course Ezekiel has him beat in terms of time (although he insists the exploding map doesn’t count).

Lydia should fume…I got off exactly one arrow, and it didn’t hit anything but air. I also carried her, for which I got kicked.

Ezekiel assures us that we’re going back in…because of course…and next time they can’t try to squish us under the magic metal fortress. I’m still not too confident about it, but we’ll see…

****

Father Yra says he “cured” Raven’s curse before raising him…which I guess means that Raven believes Ezekiel that the ring-of-cheese-finding is no good, and we won’t be using it any more.

It’s good to have him back.

While at the tower, we got some advice about some of the other stuff we found – and the magic velvet cloak we took from the medusa statue is apparently deadly. The wizard here seems to think it will poison anyone who puts it on. I voted we burn it.

The two plain-looking stones from the giants’ stash, however, turned out well worth the trouble. One of them is just a magic sling stone, but the other can be used to “control earth elementals.” Apparently it lets you summon an earth elemental to serve you for a certain amount of time. We let Mikael have it, because …yeah. Druid stuff.

Lydia also read the invisible runes on the magic box (from the dragon statue). Apparently you can command it to shrink, grow, and hide or something. (She tried to explain it to me.)

She and Ezekiel have been in the corner for some time, working out our strategy for “next time.” But first, Ezekiel says we’re going to throw the biggest dinner party the Welcome Wench has ever seen, because we survived both the “pitched battle” and Mr. Eewy! (That story took quite some time to tell at the tower. Raven and Lydia and Heiron kept interrupting each other. It was worth it all to see Sir Rufus’ face. Funny enough, Father Turjon seemed to know a lot about it before we even got back.)

Tressarian says he understands Lydia’s disappointment, and that if we see any Evil fire things, I had better let him handle them for sure.

I’m just glad we’re still alive so far.


Find the previous entry here.

Dear Diary….guess who kicked a demi-god’s butt?

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

While we had some down-time, we took a closer look at the items we’d picked up. Tressarian could tell us what was magical, but nothing more specific than that…so Mikael cast Detect Magic and took a look at the necklace, cloak, and box full of gems.

He and Ezekiel decided the globe on the necklace (that looks like a moon) has something to do with freezing (Ez thinks it’s an ice spell in physical form, or something like that); Raven pointed out it’s about the size of a sling bullet, so maybe it’s meant to be thrown to cast the spell.

As for the box, Mikael says there are invisible runes of some kind on the front of it…but he can’t read them for obvious reasons. We can’t even get rid of the invisibility with Dispel Magic for fear that would erase the runes, too. So we have to sit on that for a bit. Continue reading

Dear Diary….Ezekiel has no fear (or filters)

Ezekiel and Mikael voted to give the scroll of Protection from Undead to High Priest Yra. Those “cleric types” really do stick together. (Mikael said, if Ez heard an “inner voice” suggesting it, he’d best follow it, because “inner voices,” y’know. Raven suggested that Ez just wanted to secure his usefulness…but he might have been pulling Ez’s chain.) Continue reading

Dear Diary….complications + the daily grind

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

Everyone got to Homlette safe! We went straight to the tower (as usual) where His Highness could get a new horse.

Master Bern seemed a little grumpy, but Sir Rufus greeted His Highness warmly and sent a servant hustling to get him a fresh horse.

The rest of us were more surprised to see Aliana Glimmersky! She said she “received information” that she needed to be in Homlette… Ezekiel got a knowing look and completely ignored Raven humming a song at him.

Aliana and His Highness left as soon as possible – but first he gave us a medallion and a ring for our efforts. Ezekiel made some kind of speech of well-wishing, but I wasn’t really listening. When the two of them took off down the road, we got an idea of what His Highness could really do on a horse, when he wasn’t letting us try to keep up. (I think Ralashaz is glad to stay with Lydia.)

Sir Rufus made some kind of comment that things were about to get very interesting. I’m very happy for Furiundy and Veluna…and Ezekiel says “Mr. Ewwy” might have something new to think about up north, now…but all the same, we have plenty to focus on down here. Best mind our own station. Continue reading

Dear Diary….Ezekiel gets better at bashing faces

With planting over, Raven is free to join us again. He says he’s done a lot of thinking about monk stuff while in the fields.

We head back first thing in the morning.

****

On our return, we double-checked the banshee’s room, to make sure we didn’t miss anything (since we were a little preoccupied last time). Tressarian and Wonillon didn’t detect any shifting stones or hidden compartments — so our last move was to have Heiron burn the elf’s body. Maybe she couldn’t try anything anyway, but this way it won’t get eaten or disturbed by something else.

Some trolls tried to sneak up on us from behind, but I nailed one with my first shot. They clawed Raven and Cuddles, but Sgt. Bearington and Heiron tore into them, and Ezekiel is coming in really handy lately (now that he can actually heal people. He gets so excited!). Continue reading