Dear Diary…underground – again!

Alert: May contain spoilers for the adventure “Scourge of the Slave Lords”

Following the pebble-arrows led us, by nightfall, into a ravine. We took a vote, and decided the ravine was sheltered enough, the fortress wouldn’t be obvious from a distance…and that, given we’d been led into this area where we could be easily surrounded, having a bit of protection would be nice.

Turned in a bit early, as the sunlight disappears more quickly in a sheltered place like this, and had some nice time to ourselves. Someone brought up Edralve, that mysterious Slave Lady who was writing notes in two different hand-writings, and everyone had to give a theory.

Raven says he’s on the look-out for a villain named Evlarde.

****

No more arrows this morning. I did some scouting around while Mikael was “meditating,” but couldn’t find any signs of heavy traffic leading out of the ravine (understandable, given the weather recently).

There were four cave mouths in the west wall of the gully – the same direction both the trail and the arrows were directing us. With no other direction, we decided to investigate. None of the caves seemed more popular than the others, so we started on the right…not a bad system.

The rightmost cave seemed very rough and twisty – very much what you’d expect from a natural formation. In the very back, we found a pile of old bones that I’m pretty sure some kind of hyena had been chewing on…only the teeth-marks were larger than I expected. That said, the bones didn’t look like they’d been disturbed in some time.

We kept our eyes open, but found no more signs of giant hyenas. We did determine, after several hours of mapping and comparing and walking back and forth from dead ends, that the next three tunnels all connected with each other…and the passage second-from-the-right seemed to be the main thing.

This tunnel led, after a couple twists and false turns, to a carved passage, then to a suspiciously square-ish room, with two narrow mats made of hide laid on the floor. Ezekiel turned them over, and found rock crystals stuck on the bottom that Raven confirmed were salt. Ez said, from his mountaineering experience, they reminded him of toboggans or sledges…only he couldn’t think where the salt flats were that these mats had been dragged over (nor what heavy thing needed to be dragged).

A carved passage led out of this room, to a place where Raven said there was a pit trap. He poked with one of Mikael’s sticks, and a pair of doors swung down, revealing a floor of salt about fifteen feet below. As we were theorizing what the salt could be for, the doors snapped back into position on springs or something, which made me very disturbed.

We could see some kind of door at the end of the passage beyond the trap, so Raven helped everyone cross the pit with ropes, and we formed up. “Some kind” of door! Raven was confused that it had a keyhole, but didn’t seem locked, but still wouldn’t open for him. Ezekiel went to open it, and – crunch – ripped it right off the wall…and that’s all that was behind it – the cave wall, and some rude graffiti!

That leaves no path forward except the salt pit…or stumbling around outside on our own. By now, the sun has fully set outside, so we’re calling it a day and taking votes for how to proceed.

****

We wedged the doors of the pit with crampons so they stay open, and Raven scouted down below on a rope. He says the salt is pretty deep, but there’s a tunnel sloping away into the mountain. The walls glow with some kind of fungus, and it seems to be where we need to go. I do hate when there’s no clear path of retreat…but I think it’s our only option. At least, with the doors jammed, none of us will get beheaded – and with the hides, and the fake door, there should be enough sleds for us all, so none of us sink into the salt. (Raven says we could walk on it easily, but he also thinks armor is a silly luxury.)

**

Back door! The salt tunnel frayed my nerves a bit, but at least I didn’t scream the whole way down like Agnar. I can’t tell if he was having fun or not (caves being a dwarf thing, you know). At the bottom, a couple squads of gnolls were waiting (maybe they were the ones chewing on the bones upstairs?). They shot Lydia full of crossbow bolts – but then Ezekiel covered her, and Heiron and I got our bows out. Even Usin got in on the action with his sword. Heiron went around afterwards, stabbing the bodies and stomping on them to be sure they were dead.

One of them had something unusual – a piece of black papyrus in a scroll case. Either Ezekiel or Lydia is carrying it; I don’t remember.

Now we are faced with a bank of corridors, leading off into darkness…we’re going to need a bigger map…


Read the previous entry here.

Dear diary…a change of scene and pace

Alert: May contain spoilers for the adventure “Scourge of the Slave Lords”

We gathered up the rest of the bodies from the torture room for proper burial. Ezekiel finally decided that he didn’t have the time or resources to bring them all back, maybe especially after seeing the scarring on that one guy. I figure, if they went to the happy rest of their Food deity – why disturb them? And if not…is that our business, either? Might be why I’m not a cleric…

Lydia got us back to Homlette just fine. It’s still standing. Sir Rufus has finished the fort, and it looks like they could hold off quite a force, if they used the defenses properly.

Ezekiel and Raven want to check on their disciples, so they’ll have Lydia scry them…but Heiron and I have an appointment at the inn.

***

Elmo and I snuck down to the Temple of Elemental Evil…bold, I know, but it’s kinda his job to keep an eye on things. The only tracks we found were probably a bandit group, and they didn’t actually enter the grounds. It’s not the kind of place you want to go, even if you need shelter temporarily. And the rats say they haven’t seen any traffic, either (I got Ehlonna’s permission to ask).

I also showed Elmo the journal we found, and we tried the trick for speaking to each other in bird-calls, but I don’t think we did it right. Obviously, you can use bird imitations as signals, but to send more complicated messages is going to be harder. And you can only practice if you have a partner.

More thinking required…

**

Returned to our quarters to find Ezekiel there with Dree, just returned from a shopping trip with Mikael. Lydia dropped them in Mitrik, so they’re loaded up on magic items – including some bracers for Raven, who’s still wherever Keom and Ronhass are, giving them a hand. Apparently they have the dragons in a swamp somewhere south of Greyhawk. Bornthene is also keeping an eye on things, and Ez says he seems in a positively upbeat mood. I’m sure knowing Miffly is safe here, helping Madam Osler, takes a load off his mind.

Something about Ezekiel needing money…didn’t realize he was getting short, but the subject changed before I learned more.

Heiron and Usin are at the fort, drilling with the men there. Learning opportunities all around, I suppose.

Asked Dree how she was getting on as Team Mom, and she says everyone is working together well, and even the dragons are sweethearts in their own way. Said she still can’t cast spells, but she’s starting to understand this whole “God of gods” thing better.

Mikael says Father Geru has sent for an “arm specialist”…apparently the clergy of Obed-Hai have conferred or something, and there is someone who can help. He was evasive about details, though.

When Dree went back to the others, I sent the magic short sword I’ve been carrying as a back-up to Bornthene. We all agreed the chances are low that I’ll need it…and I really don’t want to start breaking weapons or having them stolen again.

****

Finally got the report on some of the things Ezekiel left in Mitrik to be identified.

Two of the rings are interesting – one lets you walk on water, the other lets you see in the dark like an elf, dwarf, or orc. We’ve forwarded the first to Bornthene – should come in handy while living in a swamp. Everyone decided I should wear the second, at least for the time being, since Raven has all the magical items he feels comfortable using at the moment (monks have weird ideas about keeping things fair and depending more on their deity or something, which I guess I can’t argue with).

As for the amulets – the one from the magic circle does indeed cast Protection from Good, upon command, a few times a day. I asked Ez, and he didn’t think it would strangle us or anything if we happened to wear it…but he left it in the care of the Temple of Rao for “disposal.”

The second one (from the treasure room)…that one was quite weird. The amber stuff surrounding it inside the bottle was actually a jelly monster of some kind…but Marquessa had altered it, apparently, so it could survive in that state until exposed to the air – then, presumably, it would behave like a normal jelly. (Heiron can deal with that with his flaming sword.) The amulet inside has something to do with a power word…the sage thought it was “Pain,” but naturally it’s hard to read through a jelly slime. Probably needs to be used by someone who understands the arcane, so that means Lydia (Ez and Mikael also bought her a new robe in Mitrik…it has little cut-out pictures of items stitched all over it).

Lydia also mentioned she tried to scry Marquessa… She’s not sure if she really found her, or found the body double instead, but either way…apparently she’s in a bad place. They say virtue is its own reward, and it seems crime also has its own reward.

****

Lydia dropped us at the outside of the stockade, where the stream runs out of the hill. Raven checked, and says the blacksmith and his people have cleared out. So I think that means the whole stockade is empty.

On to Suderheim!

**

Minor heart-attack tonight. I was on guard with Agnar, and we banked the fire since we could both “see” in the dark (such a weird sensation; in daylight, everything is normal, but in darkness the colors fade, and the clearest shapes I can see are the flares of heat sources, like fires and living bodies; getting side-tracked).

Maybe halfway through the watch, the ground started to tremble. I scanned the area with my bow, and spotted the huge head of a stone giant lumbering through the trees. They can see fine in the dark, and he was headed on a course directly past us. I did some frantic thinking – after all, I haven’t always had problems with stone giants, and on average I’ve heard that if you leave them alone, they won’t care about you. But would camping above the track be considered “leaving them alone”?

Just as he was getting close, I kicked Ezekiel awake, since he’s the one who knows how to speak diplomatically.
The giant came right up to us – and didn’t attack. Instead, he said he represented the Brotherhood of Granite, and there were forces on the move in the area. He warned us to be careful, and stomped off – waking a few more of the party with his footfalls.

Who’s moving? Are the giants against the Slave Lords, or with them?
Ezekiel decided to throw up the instant fortress, so the Brotherhood wouldn’t think we were trying to sneak up on them or something…and also so we’d have a more defensible position. I think Lydia is happy.

****

Aaand we’re back in Homlette tonight. We have a good excuse, though.
We followed the track away from Marquessa’s stockade, all morning and into the afternoon. Air was brisk, and clouds threatening, but no precipitation yet.

Then, about mid-afternoon, I heard a group coming from up ahead of us. We got off the track and hid among the trees…and sure enough, a huge caravan came up the track below us. There must have been a hundred men or more, with over a dozen wagons. The leader wore fancy armor, and there also seemed to be a man in robes, riding one of the carts.
Lydia made Raven invisible, and he snuck off after them to try and hear what the deal was.

Shortly, he coughed to let us know he was back, and told us what he overheard between the armored leader and the robed man. Apparently they were originally heading to the stockade, but Marquessa sent word that it had been seized (which either means she’s still alive, or that she got a message out before she died).

Raven’s biggest concern was that they had a half-dozen or so slaves chained together in one of the wagons. This launched quite a discussion, and I was really getting afraid that Ezekiel expected Heiron, Lydia, and me to massacre over a hundred men that afternoon (slaves and slavery do something funny to his head).

I reminded everyone we had a literal Mirror of Magic Portaling – and suddenly the subject switched from how we could kill the entire caravan, to how we could sneak the prisoners out through the mirror unobserved. Much better! I remember the flind battle, and that wasn’t exactly a piece of cake.

In the end, we trailed them quietly until nightfall. Lydia got as good a look as she could before dark, then took Raven with her back to her room at the tower. She locked on to the prisoners, Raven slipped through (still invisible), and got their attention quietly (which removed his invisibility, but fortunately none of the guards noticed him).

The slaves were chained to each other, but not to the wagon, so once he had their attention, it was a simple matter of walking them through the air into Lydia’s room.

We couldn’t really see any of it from where we were, of course. The wagons were all circled in the middle, with the men-at-arms bivouacked around them, and a patrolling guard around that.

Before too long, though, Lydia stuck her face out of the air and invited us to join them in Homlette. She and Raven had decided, as entertaining as it might be to watch the changing of the guard, we would be more prudent to be a safe distance away from the caravan by then.
So – another night of real roof and real floor around us.

The prisoners claim the century-guard was for the merchants being escorted, not because they’re particularly exciting slaves. They did come from Suderheim, so we know we’re on the right track.

Ezekiel shilled for his temple a bit, and got all curious when the slaves said one of the merchants was from the Scarlet Brotherhood, like an emissary or something. Ez dug through his notes, and found that someone in the Temple of Elememtal Evil was worried about the Scarlet Brotherhood, but we weren’t sure why. Maybe they’re competitors or something.

Another useful thing the rescued slaves clarified – Suderheim isn’t just a base for the Slave Lords…it’s an entire town. Most of the inhabitants own slaves, but the ones for sale (especially high-value ones) are kept in the fortress there. So Ezekiel has to decide if he wants to slaughter an entire town, or if he’d be satisfied just making a surgical strike on the slavers’ fortress.

We also asked about giants, and they said they saw four hill giants moving in the direction of Suderheim, but it’s hard to say what their object is. With hill giants, they could just be looking for a small caravan to rob.

****

Well, we found the hill giants today. Lydia returned us roughly to the trail in the hills, though it took me a minute to find where we’d been. We kept following the trail, though the clouds were lowering and we watched for snow all morning.

Then, about noon, we spotted four hill giants climbing down toward us. Ezekiel tried talking to them (typical), but they made rude comments (according to Mikael) and reached for boulders.

Agnar whined that Lydia, Heiron and I didn’t leave enough for him to do. Lydia must have been bored, as she threw a lightening bolt into the middle of them.

Found something strange on them. Hill giants usually have trash for clothes, and not much else, but one of them had a fine leather pouch with a design worked into it. Inside the pouch was a note in fancy writing – talk of a “great plan,” and addressed to Edralve – the same Slave Lord or Lady who was sending all the mysterious notes to Bluecolts.

Much theorizing among the party. Raven started spelling everything backward and trying to uncover some kind of conspiracy that way. Query: maybe his brain doesn’t deal well with repeated invisibility?

****

Camped under an overhang of rock (fortress too conspicuous) and woke up to deep snow – up to Agnar’s waist!

The trail was getting harder to spot, what with the rocky terrain, and now it’ll be impossible! Even if this melts quickly, that will likely wash away any tracks there were…it hasn’t been a carved path like a road or anything like that.

Ezekiel brainstorming; Lydia damp and crabby; Mikael enjoying himself.

**

Started raining about mid-afternoon. Spirits briefly revived by a band of ogres stupid enough to attack us. Agnar got a couple hits in, which mollified him. Lulu now chomping on dead ogre and making Raven sick to his stomach.

Ezekiel has decided to try scouting from the air. He’ll have us tie him to one of the magic ebony flies, and see if any kind of structure or settlement shows up when he can get a feel for the land.

**

Zip, nada, nothing. The rain didn’t help, I’m sure, and he didn’t stray too far for fear of losing sight of us – but he didn’t see any sign of our slaver city.

Speaking of getting a feel for the land, though, Mikael has been sitting in a corner with his eyes closed, ignoring us. He says he was trying to become one with the natural forces of the area in hopes he could sense which direction civilization might be…but he only got a sense of a very big, very old, minimally aware “being” somewhere in the area. He got all druidy, and a little nervous,  and hunkered down to try to puzzle out what kind of creature or power of nature it might be.

Ezekiel did say that, since the rain obstructs vision at a distance anyway, we might as well set up the fortress. Popularly adopted.

****

Creepy development this morning. The rain seems to have broken (that’s not what’s creepy), but when we got up this morning, something (that is, someone!) had left pebbles arranged in an arrow outside our door.

An arrow pointing in roughly the direction we were heading until we lost all tracks.

If Ezekiel is right and there is maneuvering within the Slave Lords, this could be the work of one of their agents. Whoever it was, I find it disturbing that no one on watch last night saw them or heard them…we need to step up our game, people!

All that said, it’s not like we have any other lead to pursue. Raven suggested scattering the pebbles after taking bearings, so it’s harder for anyone to follow us.

With invisible stalkers leaving ambiguous notes in the night, it might be too late to be worrying about that…


Find the previous entry here.

Read the next entry here.

Dear Diary…last undead

Dear Diary…last undead

Alert: Contains spoilers for the adventure “Scourge of the Slave Lords”

We continued south down the passage, led by Ezekiel…Raven and Mikael followed him about ten feet back, just in case. This stronghold seems to love traps.

Up ahead, the blazing light of Ezekiel’s shield revealed a lumpy white thing hanging from the ceiling. After a moment of staring, we realized the shadows on the ceiling were from spiderwebs, mostly above the cocoon thing.

Before we reached it, we found a side-door into a storeroom. Ezekiel checked it out, and said there was lots of dust…and also an apparition of an elf prisoner that ran up some stairs, through a secret door, under an arch, and into a storeroom where he got eaten by wolves. Wish I could have seen how it could show all that while staying in one place.

Ezekiel came out, all fired up for an exorcism, and pointed out that the stone arch just outside the door (between us and the spiderwebs) looked identical to the one in the vision.

Mikael tapped on a strand of the web, hoping to draw the spider out, but they didn’t seem to care until Raven started cutting open the cocoon.

A web dropped down on Raven – and tried to grab Ezekiel, but it slid off him.

While Raven was cutting himself free, two huge spiders – bigger than Nori! – dropped from the ceiling. Heiron and I loosed our prepared arrows, and once one spider died, the other scrambled back up to the ceiling where it was hidden by cobwebs – ignoring Mikael’s attempts to befriend it. Continue reading

Dear Diary…finally a back door

Dear Diary…finally a back door

Alert: Contains spoilers for the adventure “Scourge of the Slave Lords”

We formed up in battle ranks and headed up the stairs to the north door (the only one we’d found at that point).

Beyond, we found a number of storerooms – wrapped furniture (Ezekiel thinks that’s for trading), food, goblin-sized armor, and things that look like manacle-bracelets, except with spikes on the inside. Totally useless.

Where the hallway turned, we encountered something more out of the ordinary. For twenty or thirty feet down the way, the floor, ceiling and walls were all covered with…cupboards. It looked like a grill work – only the shadows were wrong. Someone had cut out “boxes” about an armlength deep and a foot square at the top, leaving dividers between. As if that weren’t tricky enough to walk on, some kind of black goo or fluid coated the entire surface.

Ezekiel tried to figure out what it was, but could only say it didn’t behave like lamp oil. Mikael waved a stick down the hall – and that’s when we got new information: a little blue creature with an oversized head popped out of nowhere, grabbed the stick, and vanished. I didn’t get to see the first one (back of the pack again), but Raven said they weren’t exactly like the blue creatures we found on the towers.

Don’t know if we felt flummoxed, or we’re just easily distracted, but we decided to go have another whack at finding the rumored south door of the torture chamber. This basically meant propping the iron maiden open so Ezekiel could tinker in it without needing to be raised, while Lydia and I tried to keep our rescued prisoner’s mind on other things. Continue reading

Dear Diary…musings on the ethics of Raise Dead

Dear Diary…musings on the ethics of Raise Dead

Alert: Contains spoilers for the adventure “Scourge of the Slave Lords”

Ezekiel opened the secret door, and there was some thumping and clanging. Agnar rushed in to help him, and by the time the rest of us caught up, they had a dead minotaur. The minotaur’s room was littered with old bones and debris, with a pile of straw in one corner. The north wall and south wall each had a door in it – and each door had a short board leaned against it, such that it would fall and clatter if someone opened the door. Both boards were in place…but if Marquessa did escape through there, the minotaur could have set up the boards again. Not exactly solid evidence.

The north door led into the hallway behind the weapons room – leading to the suite where we killed the two elves (as Ezekiel says, the “maybe-elves”). While I was updating the map, Ezekiel borrowed one of Mikael’s sticks to poke at the chimney in the fancy bedroom because he was convinced there was something funny going on there. In the time it takes to turn around, he found the hidden lever or whatever it was, and opened up the secret door in the fireplace (sure we aren’t overdoing it here, lady?!).

I guess we must have been bored, or overcome with excitement, or something…because we forgot something very, very important the universe taught us way back in Explictika’s lair (and again in the Temple of Elemental Earth).

The passage slants south away from the fireplace, and joins up with the passage on the south end of the minotaur room…so that was neat and tidy and nice. But there’s another passage, leading even further south…and that’s the one that got us into trouble. Continue reading

Dear Diary…run away, little girl

Dear Diary…run away, little girl

Alert: Contains spoilers for the adventure “Scourge of the Slave Lords”

Still in pursuit of the crazy leader lady.

After getting all the rescued slaves to safety, Ezekiel and Raven collected their caveling friends to join us for the “battle”…though none of us knew where our enemy might be hiding. Some of the cavelings armed themselves with stone axes and such, but others just had their bizarre, unnatural claws. No two are exactly alike…and no description will do them justice.

We headed south down the passage, and the first branch-off we came to ended in a door. Raven and I hid behind the corners of the passage – just in case another lightening bolt came ripping out (you never know!) – and Ezekiel opened the door.

I could just barely hear a woman’s voice asking how he dared intrude (Ezekiel dares all kinds of things) – then Ezekiel called Raven up to join him. They say it was a beautiful, elfin lady in studded armor, who spoke with an imperious tilt to her head…but who answered all Ezekiel’s questions about Sudderheim without flinching or trying to bluster. Ezekiel says she was far too cooperative to be believable…but they didn’t get much time to evaluate the situation. Continue reading

Dear Diary…we’d like reservations for 112 – for tonight

Dear Diary…we’d like reservations for 112 – for tonight

Alert: Contains spoilers for the adventure “Scourge of the Slave Lords”

We headed south, to the hallway that led out of the “cross-roads” room, and Penn indicated the first door we came to (opening west). We shuffled him a bit back in the group, and then Ezekiel and Agnar threw open the door.

Ezekiel yelled, “Get the guards,” and the two of them rushed in – Raven vaulting over their heads to join in.

Heiron and I finally reached the door, and took in the scene. Banks of floor-to-ceiling cages stretched into the room on either hand (turns out there were four rows in total), while a group of hobgoblins stood watch on a raised platform opposite us. The three vanguard had already charged up the stairs and engaged…Heiron and I just picked off the survivors.

Ezekiel searched the guards for keys, and he and Raven each started down a side, unlocking cages. Ez cast Protection from Evil on Raven so he could check for doppelgangers at the same time.

I tried to remember names at first, but had to give up. There were ninety-one – yes, I declare, ninety-one poor creatures snatched away from their homes and forced into servitude…and that’s not even counting the “special” ones in the north cell! Separate from the others, we found a group that must have been up with the Cloaker…they were all standing quietly and staring blankly at nothing (doesn’t look encouraging for the shadow-room-people we left in Homlette). Continue reading

Dear Diary…gold for stashing, goblins for slashing

Dear Diary…gold for stashing, goblins for slashing

Alert: Contains spoilers for the adventure “Scourge of the Slave Lords”

We all felt strong and ready to go this morning. Once at the bottom of Ichar’s ladder, we spent some time in a narrow corridor until Agnar found a lever to open a door into a larger passage. Ezekiel and Agnar, who were at the front, found some chained guard-wolves on the other side, but Agnar only killed one before Ezekiel called Mikael up to befriend it. I was up for exploring a bit instead of listening to Mikael’s long friendship song once again, but I was stuck in the back with the archers once again.

When we all finally made it out into the main passage, Raven was working on the lock of some big double doors to our north (since Ezekiel always goes right…and, well, that’s as good a system as any). Tunnels stretched away to our west and south, as well, but we’ll have to get to those later. Turns out, the doors were probably barred on the other side, but Ezekiel and Agnar decided to put stealth aside “just this once,” and punched them open.

Almost the same moment that the doors crashed back into the room, a blinding light tore down the hallway through us. I think I turned to catch the blast on my shoulder, but I heard Mikael’s badger scream briefly…and as I blinked my eyesight clear, I saw Usin standing rigid, clutching his heart, his clothes smoking gently – and somehow I could tell that all his hair was standing up.

Ezekiel was at the front, and his lit shield shone into the pitch-dark room ahead of us. As soon as my eyes adjusted, I spotted the little misshapen figures of goblins, and started dropping them with arrows. Continue reading

Dear Diary…whisper of the Under-Dark

Dear Diary…whisper of the Under-Dark

Alert: Contains spoilers for the adventure “Scourge of the Slave Lords”

With those three “lost souls” found and stashed safely in Homlette, we crossed the fortress and found the stairs to take us down to the shadow-room. Just as before, my skin crawled as I approached the doorway…and the sight of all those men and women just sitting there, not feeling the cold or reacting to our presence or anything, would make anyone’s neck-hairs stand up. Ezekiel’s continual light didn’t seem to have changed anything, although it kept the shadows behaving normally. Raven went through the other door to check on the hobgoblin (and maybe to get out of the room), and sure enough, it was still standing in the hallway like we left it yesterday or the day before (time blurs together sometimes).

Ezekiel drew our attention to the faint moaning sound, and insisted it had something to do with the mystery. I tried really concentrating, but nothing started to glow like it was magical (except all of us, of course). Finally, Mikael pointed at one of the cloaks hanging on the wall behind the bleachers of slaves and said that it was moaning.

So Ezekiel went over and did that other Ezekiel-thing he does – poked the cloak with his mace. Darkness seemed to wash over me for a moment, and by the time I blinked it away, everyone else was gone…everyone except Ezekiel and Heiron (and the giant ant Marie Ant-oinette, but she doesn’t really count, she just stood there rubbing her antennae together). I think I heard shrill screaming somewhere in the distance, but I had other things on my mind.

Heiron launched an arrow, which stuck in the cloak in a way arrows and cloaks do not normally interact. The cloak spun around, and we saw it had much more substance to it than first met the eye — also had glowing red eyes that glared at us from the top area where the hood should be, and two clawed “hands” at the far corners of its body. I had my sword ready (since some things take magic to be hurt), but before I could get that close, Heiron launched another volley and the thing dropped to the floor with a squawk. We all instinctively drew sighs of relief as the air seemed to clear, and though we prodded it a few times to be sure, it was pretty clearly dead.

The others trickled back into the room (we’re not talking about it), and we went around prodding the other cloaks – but they all seemed to be normal cloth. The slaves still didn’t react or show any sign of stirring, but the whole place seemed warmer and cheerier for some reason I couldn’t put my finger on.

When Agnar showed up, he looked over the dead thing, and called it a “Cloaker” from the Underdark. He says they use shadows, their mimicking skills, and their effect on people’s emotions to confuse their prey…and that they can move shadows around to disorient people. Obviously a light spell messes with that, I guess. Agnar says he had a distant uncle who tried to bring Underdark monsters to family get-togethers from time to time, and laughed a bit. I guess my brothers still have some competition.

Lydia unlocked the chains on all the slaves. They kept staring into empty space, although when Ezekiel handed each of them a ration, they ate it contentedly. I still don’t know what the point of this would be… Raven pointed out that the slaves would be way easier to transport this way — but they still need some way to “wake them up” to make them useful servants. Unless, as Ezekiel said, they want them passive and docile like little zombie workers. I mean, I guess they don’t “know” they’re slaves right now, but it still seems even creepier than normal slavery.

Lydia took Raven and Lulu to escort her back to the front wall, so she could readjust the portal entrance. Raven says they didn’t spot any troops along the way, but I can’t believe the fortress is completely deserted. Unless the leaders (like that Mistress Somebody) fled through the well-tunnel or something, they must be holed up somewhere, waiting where they have the advantage of terrain. I’m sure we will find out sooner or later.

We walked the slaves through the portal to Homlette, and Ezekiel says he has arranged for their care and feeding while we research how to help them. Homlette is going to be a much bigger town by the time we’re done here. Hopefully some of them stay to give Sir Rufus a hand in his guard-tower. Raven said he took care of the hobgoblin, too – having the blacksmith take care of it for the time being. I’m disturbed they haven’t told me much about this “blacksmith” (and what is he going to do now that the fortress is depopulated?) but Ez told me to come on, and we headed to the blind leader’s suite for the night. The merchant’s “servants” Cari and Filch are still fast asleep near the stairs; either something’s wrong, or they haven’t slept in years and just need to catch up.

Our plan for tomorrow is to head down the ladder under Ichar’s bed and start clearing the dungeon. Lydia says they must surely have another entrance – besides under some guy’s bed, that is – but I think the fastest way to find it would be from the other end. We’ve been up and down this fortress from the top-side, and explored everything to the best of our ability…what goes down can also come up.

Speaking of Raven’s cooking — just kidding.

We all passed around healing, and I think everyone is feeling themselves again. Heiron is trying out Ichar’s bed, and he says it fits pretty well.


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Dear Diary…not so funny

Dear Diary…not so funny

Alert: Contains spoilers for the adventure “Scourge of the Slave Lords”

Today we rescued more “lost souls” – some more conclusively than others.

We started the day with fitting the ladder together so we could climb down to the courtyard (Ezekiel says there’s nothing left in the hall to be dangerous, but this way is more direct).

We retraced our steps through the courtyards, through the portcullis, into the keep, through the barracks, and to the disused hall where Raven saw the white figure. All the while, we saw no sign of other living things…so any of the garrison that we haven’t killed must be lying in wait somewhere.

We advanced with due caution, with Ezekiel opening the door first, followed closely by Agnar.

As Raven had warned us, as soon as we stepped through the door we saw a white figure with black eyeholes floating beside the fireplace, swaying gently. Something rattled in the corner behind the door.

Ezekiel marched right over to the figure – and pulled the sheet off the cord that was holding it up. Agnar went around the corner and asked Ez, what do ye want done with yon windchimes? (None of us had a use for windchimes.) Ezekiel stuck his head up the chimney to find the draft that was flapping the sheet, and found the flue blocked open with a small silken pillow.

A door at the far end of the room opened into a hallway. After Raven checked it, he opened it – to find the corridor blackened with soot and ashes. I didn’t see any tracks in the ashes (until we walked over them), which further pointed to this wing being abandoned…but we weren’t satisfied yet. Continue reading