Dear Diary….we have rescue standards

Securing ourselves wasn’t as hard as we feared. Through the tapestry that the under-cleric had come through, we found a second room – apparently a sitting room of some kind, with dishes of fruit and nuts and stuff like that around. There was also a door on one end of the south wall, which we barred without attracting attention.

While Yeti watched the door, Ezekiel and Lydia took the opportunity to question the over-cleric (his name is Romag).

Lydia asked what poison he used in the chest trap, and he said it’s made from some kind of fungus. Lydia says that poison is very effective…on people who don’t eat cheese.

Raven is feeling better already.

Ezekiel convinced Romag to tell us about the Water Temple (apparently they don’t get along, and he’d be happy to see them topple). He says the duty of the Temple is to bring Chaos – and I guess internal strife feeds right into that…

The Water Chief Cleric is Belsornig, and he has an army of trolls and ogres that he likes to send around and get stuff for him – and show his strength. Apparently, though, he himself is no push-over — and he also has gargoyles and a “construct” of some kind working for him.

We also learned the name of the Chief Cleric at the Fire Temple – Alrin – and Ezekiel says that according to the note we found, apparently Alrin was telling the Earth Temple to show respect to the Water Temple.

(Sounds very hierarchical for a temple of Chaos!)

Well, when we’d learned about all we could, Ezekiel explained to Romag that we couldn’t just let him go, but that we don’t kill prisoners, and that he could be happy the Water Temple would receive judgement.

Then he gagged him and went with Lydia to ransack the apartments.

They just about turned the place upside-down, and among other things, Lydia took some writing parchment from the desk, Ezekiel found a potion and a two-spell scroll in the chest that poisoned Raven, and we discovered another alcove behind the bed where Romag’s armor and official vestments were.

We collected some incense and unguents from the wardrobe in the next room, plus a pile of money. There are plenty of other sundry items that might be useful…but we’ll see if we can take the time to carry them away.

Watch has been nice and quiet so far. Raven is feeling good enough that he’s sitting up, and seems to be mending nicely. He even tried some of the alcohol in the rooms, because of course he did. Says the brandy is better than the white wine.

****

Mikael cast Detect Magic in the morning, and verified that Cleric Romag’s chainmail and mace were magic – and so were the potion and scroll Ezekiel found. And that’s it.

We decided to return to the surface and turn Romag over to Master Bern and the town council, who might be able to get more out of him (and also because we can’t keep him locked up here indefinitely).

Yeti said he could see the guards through the peep-hole in the door we barred – but they were just playing cards, and coming and going, and didn’t seem to realize what was going on in the inner rooms.

Someone mentioned prisoners – and of course we decided that if there were prisoners here, we’d better take them with us. Even if they’d be just fine (could they be sacrificed to evil gods with no clerics around, I wonder?) we didn’t want to risk it.

Raven and Ezekiel went to ask Romag about it, while I equipped the sheaf of arrows Lydia has been carrying for me. I’ll really need to buy more when we get out of here…I seem to go through them somehow.

Well, Raven and Ezekiel apparently let Romag know that we’d already killed the Earth Elementals, and he got really scared and said the earth would be angry at us for “disturbing its treasure.”

He begged us to flee with him, and we said we would as soon as we got the prisoners out…so he told us they were kept across from the Earth chamber, down the opposite hallway. Oh, and that there were more near the “front” of the Temple (apparently we can never come in the front way to anything).

We locked him up in the alcove/closet (with his dead underling) and with Corby to stand guard over him.

As we were passing through the room with the pyramid (the “earth chamber”) Mikael was still under the effect of Detect Magic, and told us there was something “glowing” buried between us and the pyramid.

Raven went and measured how many steps it was from the corner of the pyramid, so we could come back and investigate later. And then Mikael said there was an identical spot on the other side.

Ezekiel says that even if disturbing this “treasure” will lure out a big, evil, magical beast for us to kill…well, we’d better kill it, anyway. He’s so optimistic.

The passageway opposite the one where we entered the pyramid room also circled around and headed south – just like the passage on the other side. We took the first turning we saw, which led us to two doors, one on either side of the hallway.

Raven opened the north one, and found stairs leading down.

He opened the south one, and found a plain room with a table, a cask, mugs, lit torches, chairs, a bench, and several bugbears having a meal.

I nailed one through the throat with my ready arrow, and then Lydia called out her magic lion, and Ezekiel dropped his mace (I’m not sure he meant to do that, though).

One of the bugbears got in a hit on Ezekiel before I could skewer it – but then I shot another one and “Simba” clawed at the last one.

After Yeti pinged it with his hammer, it dropped its weapon and begged for mercy. (He’s wearing a different uniform than the previous bands we’ve met, with a black leather jacket that has a pale brown pattern of two triangles. The others only had one triangle. I wonder if it’s the same triangle as before?)

While Yeti Laid Hands on Ezekiel, he asked the bugbear where the prisoners were, and he said to just keep going down the hallway.

Raven volunteered to be responsible for the bugbear (I’m not really sure about him sometimes) and frog-marched it in front of him while we all continued on.

The corridor turned again, and we found cells lining either side of the passage. We noticed one gnome right away – chained to the wall, bound, and gagged. He’s obviously very dangerous.

Our bugbear said he didn’t have the key – that “the Jailor” would have the key…but that the Jailor was really scary, and he didn’t want to go near him, and that he would probably be in the interrogation room.

At the southern turn of the passage, we found a shut door – and when we got closer, we could hear muffled screams. Ezekiel, assuming this was the place, kicked in the door and charged in (if you can call it “charging” when he’s huffing along in full plate armor).

The rest of us followed, leaving Raven in the corridor to keep an eye on his bugbear pet.

We ran past the usual torture room stuff (like an iron maiden and a cage) and rounded a corner to find a man in chainmail and a bugbear keeping busy with a human tied to the rack.

They couldn’t miss our entrance, though, and turned to face us – the man with a battle-ax, the bugbear with a flail.

I missed my first two shots at the man before Mikael cast faery fire. Then he caught the bugbear with a great Poke of the Wind (while Lydia’s Simba totally missed with both claws and his teeth).

The bugbear caught Simba a hard blow before Yeti finished it off – and then I managed to put a couple arrows into the jailor and bring him down.

Ezekiel found the jailor’s keys and handed them to me so he could unlock the man on the rack.

The “interrogation” room had two cells along the side, so while Mikael cast Cure Light Wounds on the prisoner, I unlocked two women from a cell (they say they’re from the Chron Hills).

Good news is I think we got to them before the Jailor did, and hopefully we can get them home safe and sound.

The second cell contained…two orcs. They say they were captured, like the others here, and would be happy to fight these Chaotic beasties same as us.

Ezekiel says, after all, Ao is the God of all gods, so we can send the orcs on their way.

The rack-man seems to have recovered remarkably, thanks to Mikael, and he grabbed the Jailor’s battle-ax to join in the rescue party. (One of the orcs grabbed the bugbear’s flail, and he’d just better behave himself is all I can say).

We headed back out to the corridor and started unlocking the cells there…but we had much more disappointing results.

About half of the cells actually had something in them, and when they did, they had three or four silent figures who stumbled forward with no coordination whenever the door was unlocked. When Ezekiel showed them his holy sheep symbol, they crumbled into dust.

The cell that was actually locked was the one with the gnome – Gnomalon of the Chron Hills, he says. He wanted to know if we’d found his gear…but unfortunately, the Jailor didn’t seem to have that around.

The good news was, he was still alive, so could join us.

Raven did run down some of the nearby corridors, trying to find the Jailor’s quarters or somewhere else he might have stashed stuff…and found another staircase down, and a door with people clanking and talking on the other side.

According to our pet bugbear, that’s the barracks – and the way to the other cells, and the “front” of the Temple, was through there.

So we decided to split up. Yeti, Mikael, and Raven would return to Cleric Romag and get him (and Corby, and as much loot as they thought they could carry) and meet the rest of us back here.

Meanwhile, Ezekiel and I (and Lydia and Simba and maybe the prisoners) would attack the barracks and try to take out the twenty men there by ourselves.

Perhaps an ambitious plan, but that’s what we tried.

(Raven asked Lydia if he could try out the Ring of Shooting Stars.)

Well, we started our attack on the barracks in standard fashion: Lydia hurled an egg into the room as hard as she could, and as the gas was billowing up I shot an arrow at the closest man I could see (who happened to look kinda important).

A few of them threw javelins back at us, but most of them started fleeing through doors on the far side of the room. (Although I did manage to drop two of them.)

Next thing I knew, the stones of the wall to our side were grinding softly, and the sliver of a secret door was opening. I managed to get an arrow through the crack, and whoever it was retreated.

When Ezekiel went to investigate, though, by the time he got the door open no one was there.

I warned the prisoners to stay back, and Ezekiel headed down the passageway to try and flush the enemy out, so I could shoot at them.

I waited, and the cloud dissipated. I moved into the barracks room, and still no one appeared.

Then I heard banging and shouting from behind one of the two doors, and went to investigate.

And apparently pits in the floor are a thing.

I barely twisted my ankle when I landed, but what really made me mad was the ten foot smooth sides and hearing the enemy guards run past me like I didn’t even matter and they could kill our rescued prisoners right under our noses because why not?!

Of course, if they’d tried that, they would have had to face Lydia and her magic lion and her fire-finger and her other scary tricks that I’m sure she has (and also there was an orc with a flail who probably didn’t want to get killed, but personally I’d be happy if he just stood politely and did nothing until this is all over).

Then the pit started filling with water because of course it did.

I was just venting my inarticulate frustration at the world when someone loud clattered and jingled to the edge of the pit and turned out to be Ezekiel. Apparently he heard my first howl of wounded pride when I twisted my ankle.

He threw a rope down, and between us I just barely got out of the pit before my bowstring got wet.

As we stumbled into the barracks, Lydia called out to ask what was wrong. Well, that proved she was alive, which meant the prisoners were alive, which meant so far so good.

I threw open the second door, ready to use my sword on any and everything, but the enemy guards were long gone.

Ezekiel said the best thing we could do was bar the doors there, and head back to the corridor of cells where the others were supposed to meet us. He said that if we met another warrior like the Jailor, the two of us couldn’t take him out all by ourselves (not and protect the prisoners from flanking attacks) so we’d better sit tight and hope for the best.


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Start at the beginning of the Temple adventure here.

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Dear Diary….I have some concerns (about my party)

I found some gold on the bandits we killed while Ezekiel was digging. It took him a half hour or so to get down to the stone underneath – six feet down. It’s smooth, cut stone, so obviously carved out of the ground here. I’m thinking the dirt was added as part of their crazy rituals.

We headed south, to check out the smaller doors on either side of the big warded one, but when we were almost there another earth elemental rose out of the ground – and a fourth one came at us from the side, flanking us.

Mikael and Corby must have been a little too far away from Yeti, because they both got smacked by the flanking one. I just glimpsed Mikael scoop Corby up in his arms and duck behind Yeti, chanting to her.

I decided to use my sword, since the last elementals were murder on my arrows. The others hammered away at the first one (Yeti, Raven, Ezekiel – and even Lydia, apparently) while I slashed away at the one flanking us.

I heard a great crack and rumble (apparently Raven smacked the elemental so hard it broke into pieces) and then they were fighting beside me. Raven did his fancy blow again, and the elemental crumbled before us.

While we waited for Mikael to finish his healing spell on Corby, and then cast one on himself, Lydia told me how she had hit the elemental with her staff and sent it reeling – twice! It’s not exactly in her usual skill set, so I can see her being excited when it works out.

Next order of business was investigating the doors on either side of the big, chained, warded one. We chose the one to the west first.

I nocked an arrow before we went inside, but there wasn’t anything living.

There was a padded bench – with seven human-sized sandals lined up underneath and seven human-sized brown cloaks hung on pegs above (they’re neat cultists).

Opposite was a wardrobe or cabinet, with eight sets of padlocks and keys (Ezekiel thinks they’re for the manacles on the pillar). Also a scroll in a bone scroll-case (Ezekiel thinks it’s Protection from Earth Elementals), an ivory bracelet, and some cups and plates.

The plates were weird, too, because they each had a different kind of dirt on them – red, yellow, brown, black, and pale grey. I hope Mikael or Yeti can shed some light on this…

Someone (I think Lydia) suggested we could use the cloaks as disguises, so we threw on some cloaks while Raven checked for secret passages (none).

As we got ready to open the door on the other side of the one with chains and glowing writing, Ezekiel was sure he smelled rotting flesh – which meant undead.

But when we threw open the door, all we saw was a big pile of dirt. We poked around, and sure enough, it was a pile of dirt and gravel – although there were also casks of oil for the lights in the corners.

Yeti was heading back out when he found a note on the back of the door – from the Water Temple to the Earth Temple, demanding tribute. Apparently the Earth Temple had scribbled what they thought of these demands underneath. Raven said he didn’t know all of those words…Lydia said she could teach him more words.

We were heading back toward the curtained entrance we first came in (the one to the north-east of the big room) when we heard a scream from up ahead.

Raven (being very fast) raced ahead. Shortly afterward, he grabbed the curtain and dragged it fully open, revealing a group of ghouls attacking a group of bandits (and two or three of them were already down).

Ezekiel produced his holy symbol, and even from that distance the ghouls must have seen it and crumbled to dust at the revulsion.

When we finally came up to Raven, he was speaking with a funny voice and saying, “Oh, so you really think you’re strong enough to join up?”

“Yes, Grand Master,” said one of the bandits (poor fool).

Ezekiel got his deep pretentious voice on, and asked, “What is your bidding, my master?”

And Lydia played with her veil, and told them they’d have to do whatever the master said.

I, of course, am horrible at talking to people (I have a pale mark under my ribs to prove it) so I said nothing.

Raven and Ezekiel decided to “test” their mettle with Ezekiel’s mace… I can still imagine their screams as they dropped dead from the purple lightening.

I mean, they were Evil, but they were also so clueless and helpless. It took three of them dying just by touching the mace before the last two ran away.

Ezekiel and Raven said, well, we finally scared them off. Lydia said we could have used them to fight other Earth Temple people, if we convinced them to be afraid of/loyal to us.

I just think this is why I fight orcs. I like things simple. Sure, when you’re fighting Evil people, things are going to get messy, but there are still rules of engagement, aren’t there?

Getting them to leave the Temple is great…zapping them to death, I’m not so sure.

Then we all realized that one of the men paralyzed by the ghouls wasn’t actually dead yet, so they lectured him about making good life choices and finding a party that won’t run and leave him for ghoul chow. Then, when it looked like he could basically move again, we let him go.

Poor sucker. I wonder how long he’ll last.

Well…we killed the Earth Elementals for him, anyway.

After that, we headed back to the corridor we’d been to before, with the big yellow triangles on the floor, and headed south (past the branch-off where we’d come from after the divining room).

[sketched map]

The first doorway headed east, and slanted a little way from the door. A library ran alongside the corridor, so we spent some time poking through there (and checking for secret doors, of course).

One of the titles was Trial of Earthly Terrors Awaiting the Foolhardy. Guess that about sums up what we just gave the bandits. There were a lot of books on “how to be Evil” – but also some books that seemed to talk about the “judgement of evil,” so I don’t get why anyone would want to join this.

On the other hand…I’m not sure what the party leadership is up to…

When we didn’t find any secret passages, we returned to the main corridor and headed south – where Lydia spotted a secret door in the side of the hallway. (She must have sharp eyes.)

Raven got it open, and we crept in. A short distance ahead was a chest, and Raven checked it for traps and such.

He must not have been super thorough, though, because when he went to unlock it, he yelped and pinched his finger – something had stuck it.

The passage turned south, and a tapestry covered the opening, so Ezekiel marched onward – since he had to find a place to care for Raven.

The room beyond was a neat little bedroom, and some kind of cleric was reading a parchment on the bed in the corner.

Ezekiel told him to keep quiet, and told me to keep him covered with an arrow – so we got him tied up without a fuss.

However, another guy in clerical robes (probably an underling) came through a tapestry across from where we entered. As soon as he saw us, he hollered over his shoulder for “Guards” — and then Lydia pointed her finger and I guess wrapped him up in the tapestry or something (she says that’s a cantrip).

The under-cleric snapped a word I couldn’t quite hear, but Yeti dropped to the ground and started whimpering and hugging himself.

Ezekiel whacked at the under-cleric with his magic mace, and the enemy collapsed at once.

Mikael had gotten Raven onto the bed, where Raven was drooling and saying, “Yeah, get him, Ezekiel! Get rid of the false Ezekiel!”

Hopefully Mikael can prepare Neutralize Poison in the morning…but first we have to survive the night.

And at some point I will have to figure out what my party is up to.


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Start at the beginning of the Temple adventure here.

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Dear Diary….earth and stone

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

It can’t have been more than ten minutes into our watch shift (Mikael and I) when I heard something coming down the hall…and smelled something I hate.

I signaled Mikael by pulling down the cover of my lit shield – just a sliver – for a moment, and he correctly interpreted it and came over. (Should work out some kind of system for signals…)

Of course we had put out or covered all our lights, so I couldn’t see anything – but I could hear the beasties growling and talking in their own language. With that and the smell, I was pretty sure they were gnolls.

I waited until they sounded near enough that I was pretty sure of hitting something, and launched my prepared arrow. A loud squeal and gurgle told me some beastie was probably dying.

Something clawed me, so I drew my sword and stabbed it (my sword glows a little, so between that and the smell and feel, I was sure it wasn’t Mikael. And it wasn’t; he’s fine).

Another of them slashed my arm, so I stabbed it, too. A crossbow bolt flew past the gnolls (presumably from Yeti), and as the last gnoll was backing away to run, I killed it.

With that done, I could focus on soft scuffling and grinding noises coming from the camp (behind the throne).

My companions seemed to have disappeared, so I crossed the room to investigate. Lydia (and Raven) had opened the secret door we noticed earlier, and everybody else agreed to see if it was more peaceful sleeping in there.

They could have told me, though.

The secret passage is ten feet wide, and runs about forty feet before it ends in another mechanism. Raven explained that there’s a catch just above his head that can be manipulated from the other side, that should drop the “door” section of wall into the floor. He says the winches and sandbag-counterweights are designed to close the door automatically after the person goes through.

Well, finally the night continued peacefully – except that Lydia woke me up halfway through her watch because she wanted more sleep. I guess people just see me as a sucker.

I’m also tired and grumpy.

Finally, the others started to wake up, and we’re eating something.

Lydia explained she heard the guards we fought last night – and from something they said, they apparently thought we were Fire Temple.

So we’re in the “Earth Temple section” right now, but there are other places in this labyrinth.

Ezekiel wants to investigate the north door first.

We’d just better find a better camp spot tonight is all I’m saying.

****

The room outside the secret door is circular – about thirty feet across. There’s a ten foot basin or depression in the center of the floor, with a low seat running around the rim.

Everything is shiny – the walls and floor are polished black stone, and when the secret door closed automatically, you could see how it’d be very hard to notice it from this side.

The ceiling is a deep blue, with pinpricks of light that seemed to glow on their own. They look like they should be constellations, but none of us were sure from what sky.

Lydia discovered drawers under the bench or seat, and they found a collection of weird shaped objects…cones, cubes, that kind of thing – all carved out of bone, ivory, rock, or wood.

Raven thinks it’s a fortune teller kit. Lydia tossed one into the depression, but Ezekiel said we don’t really have any questions to ask (and besides we already know he “needs to stay away from snakes” and stuff like that).

A big arched door led out opposite the secret passage (at least twelve feet tall). On the north (outer) side of the arch is written “Exalted Chamber of High Augury”. Ezekiel and Raven say augury is for asking simple yes-or-no questions (“will X be good or bad for us”).

In the center of the north room is a smashed altar that looks like it used to be obsidian — and, of course, the ceiling also had the strangely glowing dots like stars.

It might be significant that the previous purgers of the Temple destroyed the altar, but didn’t wreck the depression in the first room. It also seems significant that these rooms are otherwise pretty clean and “cared for”-looking.

Across from the other doors, a door let out of the altar room into a hallway like the ones we’d traveled before…only the floor was a different color.

It slanted slightly before joining another passage – lit by torches (so, again, someone frequents this space).

We could see two doors in the north wall from the junction. One was a ways down to our right hand, and the door was inscribed with strange runes. Ezekiel made a note of them to figure out in his down-time, and we decided to leave that place alone for now.

The second door was down to our left, and beyond the passage branched into two areas. To the right, we found a strange triangle-shaped room, with the point of the triangle across from the doorway, and padded seats and couches lining the walls.

This place was also lit with torches, so obviously someone hangs out down here – but I can’t imagine why, because the plaster is covered with horrible ugly and disgusting pictures and sayings.

The worst, though, is a great big eye painted on the ceiling that seems to glare down at you no matter where you are in the room. There’s also a big triangle set into the floor – made of some kind of yellow/brass stone.

Well, we didn’t find anything in that room…and the other direction looks like it used to be a storeroom – before it was smashed. The whole floor is covered with bits of glass, pottery, pieces of shelves, and ingredients that I’m not sure I want to know what they are.

Ezekiel and Yeti found several bottles and containers that they think might be useful (the ones they didn’t step on, of course) – but it occurred to me to wonder why the previous purgers just smashed the room, rather than carting it all away if it really could be used for the forces of Good.

Maybe they were pressed for time? Maybe there was a big fight?

We returned to the main passage and continued west, where our corridor met with an even wider one – running north-south.

The floor is brown marble veined with black…but it’s arranged so that to the north it’s more of a beige, and then to the south it darkens to a more walnut or chocolate (Ezekiel hasn’t explained what that means).

More of those huge yellow triangles are inset into the floor, pointing north like they’re trying to lead us.

Ezekiel decided to be led so we followed the triangles as they rounded the corner and brought us to a doorway covered by a huge red curtain.

We readied ourselves, and Ezekiel pushed back an edge of the curtain to reveal a huge room – our shield-lights didn’t even reach to the opposite side – with a dirt floor and some kind of phosphorescent fungus growing on the ceiling, walls, and supports.

There’s some kind of pyramid in the center, and when Yeti moved forward to investigate, something rose up from the ground in front of him.

It was…huge, and rock-colored, and though it had arms and a body, you wouldn’t really call it human-like.

It swung at Yeti, and I dropped my arrow, and Raven charged it to try hitting it (but didn’t).

Mikael lit it up with faery fire, and Ezekiel swung his mace – and knocked a big chunk of it off.

Corby pecked at it – hard to tell if she was disturbed by it being made of rock, and not having eyeballs to peck.

The creature (if that’s the word) brought its huge fist down on Ezekiel – but as it came near Yeti, something like tiny white lightening ran over its arm, and it just bounced off Ezekiel’s helmet.

Yeti smashed a chunk off with his hammer, and Mikael muttered some things and pointed — next thing you know, the creature was crawling with bugs. (Maybe they hurt it by burrowing through it? Either way it looked creepy.)

(Must remember not to tick off Mikael.)

Lydia stepped forward and threw what looked like a ball of lightening (didn’t know she could do that) which sparked and crackled and split another section of the beastie off.

I finally got my arrows figured out again and landed two shots before Ezekiel turned it into dust and gravel with his mace.

He says that was an Earth Elemental, and he’s very glad Yeti (and his nearby friends) are Protected from Evil.

I call it an unnatural nuisance. Even Mikael agrees with me that the earth shouldn’t just go wandering around as it likes – especially not on this plane.

Well, while I stayed near the door and stood guard, Ezekiel, Yeti, and Raven went to check out the pyramid. Apparently it’s packed dirt, six feet tall, and topped with a stone column. You can reach it by stone steps on all four sides.

Three sides of the column have manacles anchored to them (said they were in good order, too, which I don’t like the sound of). The pillar also has the triangle symbol that we’ve been seeing everywhere.

There’s a bronze box on the fourth side of the column, and inside they found a bronze maul, knife, ewer, and bowl – well made and clean. (Again, disturbing.)

On the far side (to the south, opposite the entry), there are glowing double doors – like the ones at the entrance of the Temple, even to the point that only Ezekiel could even look at them. He says they’re covered in similar runes, and chained, and sealed with soft iron…so we’re leaving them alone for now.

When the previous purgers tried so hard to seal in something Evil, you’d better be really sure you can handle it before you let it out.

Apparently there are side doors, though, so those might be safe to check out.

Before we did that, Lydia pointed out that the rest of the Temple was carved out of rock, and that we should be too far underground for dirt to appear naturally. She reminded us that it’s made from dead plant and animal matter, so where did all this dirt come from?

It is indeed loose – not packed like the pyramid – and Ezekiel wants to dig it out with our camp shovels.

Before we did that, though, we investigated the north-west corner of the room – and found another curtained door in the same wall as the one we entered.

As we approached it, another monstrosity of stone and earth appeared out of the ground before us.

Mikael cast faerie fire on this one, too, and this time I had better luck, landing my first and second shots.

Yeti and Ezekiel hammered away at it (I’m pretty sure I saw tiny purple lightening when Ezekiel’s mace struck it, but maybe not).

Lydia called out her magic lion from the lion statue, and it charged the elemental – slashing with front and back claws and its teeth. (I’m more and more glad we didn’t have to fight it for real at the giant’s house.)

Corby scratched a fault line open in its “head,” so I followed up by driving an arrow into the gap. Another arrow split the creature into pieces at our feet.

(Another reason to dislike those things: they chew up arrows like you wouldn’t believe. They were all so splintered or snapped that I couldn’t reuse any of them.)

Raven went to peek behind the second curtain and make sure it was quiet – then suddenly grabbed the curtain and dragged it completely open.

Seven men stood there, in rough fighter gear. One in the front said, “Excuse me, sir — Holy Ula!”

I think I finally figured out why he said that. But only after Raven had killed one of them with a slap, Ezekiel had charged (but must have tripped on the threshold of the tile corridor, and fell), and Yeti had whacked a man with his hammer.

I took out three of them — then while I was pulling out my next sheaf of arrows, Raven smacked two more of them and Ezekiel pounded another one with his purple-lightening mace.

Anyway, they don’t have the triangles on their clothes of the acolytes – but they were probably looking to sign up (like that band Ezekiel warned into leaving).

Yeti, of course, is in the armor of his goddess, so they could plainly see that he wasn’t affiliated with this cult here.

I still don’t understand what could draw these poor saps down here. What could the deities of Evil offer them?

Well, I am on “guard” while Ezekiel and the others dig away at this dirt floor. I wonder what – if anything – we’ll find.

I can imagine some disturbing things…

[sketch of latest exploration]


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To start at the beginning of our Temple exploration, go here.

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Dear Diary….mosquitoes worse than undead

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

[rough sketch of corridors and rooms]

Finally a chance to get down my notes in some kind of understandable fashion.

Let’s see. Ezekiel, Yeti, and I went into the room with the harpies – but probably should have put something in our ears, since we all were…stunned? when they started singing.

Fortunately, the ghouls that came in to attack us didn’t want to get too close to Yeti (he says it’s the careful cultivation of a virtuous life), so Ezekiel had time to shake himself awake and dust them.

When we’d dealt with the harpies, Ezekiel checked out the little room where the ghouls came from – but besides the old clothes and filth they’d been “nesting” in, all he found was a chain-mail shirt about the size of an elf (they pointed out it was too small for anyone except me, and I said it wasn’t that funny).

As we were examining the borders of the room, the grate rattled and raised itself back up automatically…so that’s handy.

Raven checked out the part of the floor that must be the trigger for the mechanism, and he thinks the grate isn’t activated until someone steps off it into the room, so we could all join up in the harpy room as long as we were careful.

Corby flew up to one of the pillars where the harpies used to perch, but she didn’t find anything “shiny” in the dirty nest up there.

There was a door at the north end of the room, and as soon as Ezekiel opened it I spotted a ghoul and launched my ready arrow at it. The ghoul spotted him, too, and slashed at him with its claws.

Yeti and Mikael also got hits in before Ezekiel could wrestle his holy symbol out of its pocket to turn them (he thinks there were four total). (Never hurts to be prepared to act.)

A chest against one wall had a bunch of old clothing, plus hefty load of copper, silver, gold, and platinum coins.

Yeti opened another door in the wall where we’d come in, and we found an anteroom with the remains of upholstered furniture and pewter tableware. It would have been a comfortable place before it was trashed and filled up with undead…although the frescoes on the walls are obscene and deserve to be smashed. Maybe if we find time heavy on our hands.

Yet another door led out across the room, and Yeti insisted on opening this one, too (he says he’s sturdier than Ezekiel is, and Ez shouldn’t have gotten scratched by that ghoul).

Beyond, we spotted two pale, shriveled figures – when Ezekiel did his thing toward them, they didn’t crumble into dust immediately, but shrieked and cowered.

I tried to shoot an arrow, but smacked myself in the face instead. I’m just glad I didn’t break anything.

Raven showed off and bounced one of his daggers off the wall before it skimmed past one of the undead. Then when he threw a second dagger into it, Yeti followed up – driving it in with his hammer.

I nailed the other one through the throat (which is apparently lethal even for undead like these).

The remaining undead scampered away and scrabbled at a wall sconce, opening a secret door to escape through…but Raven ran after him (he’s very fast, after all) and even though he started gagging at the undead’s smell or something, he distracted it enough for me to nail it with an arrow.

Ezekiel calls these creatures “ghasts.” I just wonder what the world needs with so many different kinds of undead!

Well, the secret door led out into the harpy room…so we’ll be glad these creatures didn’t decide to join the skirmish outside. The ghast room must have once been a bedroom, as it has a collapsed bed among the other broken furniture. The walls here, too, are covered with horrible, ugly pictures…Yeti says they’re in an “earth theme,” and I guess I can see what he means if I think about it (which I don’t want to).

Ezekiel dug in the wall at the head of the bed and found a loose block with a huge gold cup filled with gold coins and three onyx gems. The cup is covered with disgusting engravings, and I tried not to look at it while we put it in the bag of holding.

Well, with that done, we used the harpy bodies to weigh down the pressure plate by the door to help us all get safely out the gate…and then we spent a smelly, tiresome half hour plucking the harpies.

Harpies really are ugly creatures…never trust something that looks too-human and not-human-enough at the same time.

It was late afternoon when we came in here, so it must be pushing evening by now. We decided to leave the horses in the care of Yeti’s amazing warhorse, and look for a defensible room here to hole up in (but not any of the undead rooms because none of us could possibly sleep with that stench).

We continued along the passage to the north [see sketch] until we came to another right turn – which Ezekiel took. That led to a hexagonal room, with a ceiling so high we could barely reach it with our lights.

Ezekiel and Raven checked for any sign of a grate across the doorway, then advanced with the others while I waited with my bow in the doorway.

Well, we should know by now that something is always waiting to drop on our heads. This time, it was mosquitoes-from-hell also known as stirges. We fought some in the marsh on the way to Explictika Defilas’ lair…but that was only three of them. They are much more irritating in large numbers.

I had an arrow ready, so I knocked one out of the air right away…but it felt like a drop in the bucket when at least four of them latched onto Lydia and a few others got their icky tube-line mandibles in our other companions.

Lydia smashed an egg down on the floor, and a green cloud billowed out from her, spreading as far as the doorway where I was.

I coughed a little, backed up, and worked to line up my shots while the others fled the cloud…except for Raven, who was on his hands and knees gagging, and Lydia, who was weighted down with a collection of the huge bloodsucking beasts.

The stirges started glittering and flashing as Mikael cast faery fire, and as I sniped a couple off Lydia, one of the stirges who wasn’t overwhelmed by the gas made a swipe at my head (and missed).

Lydia came coughing out of the cloud to join me in the doorway. She pulled a flask out of her pack and threw it, splashing a pool of what looked like oil.

Ezekiel charged across our field of vision, grabbing Raven and dragging him out of the cloud.

I caught a glimpse of Corby chasing after a stirge.

And then…Lydia lit a torch and tossed it, the oil ignited, and the remaining stirges popped and sizzled in death.

(Except for the one buzzing at my ear, and I grabbed my sword out to slice it in half.)

Well, with the excitement over, Mikael could take his time healing the wounded (Lydia and Raven were the worst off) while Yeti “laid hands” on Corby.

Well, the room has six sides, and the only furniture seems to be a big throne of brown marble veined with black. Both arms are broken off, and it looks in bad shape.

Yeti went around the room “detecting Evil” (useful thing to be able to do) and while Lydia was still by the wall resting, she found a ring with comets or something etched on the outside.

Ezekiel thinks it’s something to do with the “Far-Wanderer,” and the magic users who revered him. Once he said that, Lydia remembered hearing about a ring that lets you cast certain spells like Light, Lightening, and Faery Fire.

(I pointed out it wouldn’t let me cast those, and we all agreed she should probably hold on to it.)

While Corby was chowing down on a nest of baby stirges (she brought me one, which Raven says is a thoughtful thing to do), Mikael cast Detect Magic to help us find anything else in the room…but pretty much the ring was the only magical thing we noticed (though we found some copper pocket change).

When I made a fire behind the throne (plenty of debris on the floor to keep it going) we spotted what seems to be a secret door…so Ezekiel said we have to keep an eye on that, as well as the main door.

We’re keeping watch in shifts, and I get the third watch with Mikael (was really afraid I’d be assigned Lydia for a minute there).

She said she was sorry for casting the stink cloud on us all, and we all said you gotta do what you gotta do, and it all worked out (and she got hurt the worst, anyway) but I’m not quite comfortable with the way she keeps setting things on fire.

Ezekiel says dying made me paranoid, and I said what else is death good for – but really not ready for that discussion.

I wonder what else lurks in this labyrinthian place.


Find the previous entry here.

To start at the beginning of our adventure in the Temple, go here.

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Dear Diary…not my day

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

We arrived back in Homlette in time for Needfest. Mikael is very excited to get to collect mistletoe (apparently collecting it this time of year helps it be more potent – Druid thing).

The inn was pretty crowded, but Master Osler had no trouble getting rooms for us. It’s nice to be liked.

Noticed a tall fellow in travel clothes with a bow and long sword; also several merchant caravans have stopped here for the duration of the festival.

Ezekiel says it’s a good chance to “live a little” – whatever a Cleric means by that.

****

So. This is going to be hard to write.

We were in the common room at the Welcome Wench. I remember that.

The tall guy beckoned me over him, and since Ezekiel is always saying “If you don’t ask you won’t know,” I went over to talk to him.

He said he had a “message” from my “friend down the road” but he couldn’t give it to me there, so we went outside – and yes, I told Ezekiel where I was going, and he said something like “you don’t need me to hold your hand.”

I remember the one full moon, and the cold.

The man said our “adventures had attracted some powerful enemies.” I remember that part.

And then…then I remember I was on a stretcher, and it was hard to breathe, and a Cleric of Pholtus was shining a light in my eyes and saying words that didn’t make much sense.

Well, finally my breathing seemed to get easier, and then Ezekiel and Raven showed up and Ezie was thanking the High Cleric with all the pomp and bowing he could muster. And the High Cleric said it was a pleasure to serve a Ranger of Ehlonna, but especially since Ezekiel had offered them such a valuable scroll.

Anyway, they tell me Ezekiel found me dead in the back yard, and hauled everybody over to Verbobanc to find a Cleric with enough standing and learning to raise me.

I can still feel a mark, if I push just under my rib. I’ve never felt such a mixture of rage, humiliation, and amusement.

Whatever else, there’s no way “eighteen inches of steel” would have gotten me out of this (unless I suppose I was wearing it from my eyes to my knees…though probably not even then).

Something tells me I should not be alive again…but I will focus on being grateful that Ehlonna is not done with me yet. And that Ezekiel cared enough to shell out to bring me back…

Although I will never forgive myself for ignoring my One Single Personal Rule: NEVER TRUST ANYONE.

Ezekiel thinks “someone” connected me with the death of the Drow Cleric, but the closest I ever came to “talking” to anyone was admitting to the merchant that we rescued some prisoners from some “bad guys” (never trust a man who price-gouges like that).

Raven says that, before they left town, he had a talk with Master Osler, who said the tall man showed up while we were in Celene and called himself “Strider” (don’t they always?).

I just think that if they wanted to take out the deadly power-house responsible for the Drow’s capture/death, it should have been Ezekiel! (Maybe not fair – he’s already been dead once.)

And, true, Ezekiel points out that no one else can nail orcs or chop up rats the way I can, and I suppose that’s likely true.

Still furious (the man had the audacity to speak in Lawful Good to me!), and still determined to never talk to anyone ever again about anything unless I’m covering them with my bow.

Raven is out doing some shopping while we’re in the “big city,” and we’ll return in the morning.

Because Ezekiel is right about one thing…if they wanted to scare us away with this, well, they guessed wrong.

It at least tells us we’re barking up the right tree.

****

Got back to Homlette with no problems.

Ezekiel told me to “keep a low profile.” I told him I’m the shortest in the party and just what does he want me to do?

Master Osler says the so-called “Ranger” hasn’t been seen since that night.

If we head to the campsite tomorrow, we can go from there to the site of the Temple and arrive early enough in the day to get some exploring done (sure is nice to have mounts of our own!). We’re also bringing the cart because, after all, we might find something we want to haul away (like rescued prisoners or something).

Oh – when Yeti came back from training with his Paladin higher-ups, he brought this huge, muscular war horse that seems to understand whatever he tells it. He says it’s like Lydia and Grumpsh (the toad) or Mikael and Corby…they are “best friends” in a professional sense.

Must be nice to have an animal companion.

****

Notes on the Temple of Elemental Evil

-sent Corby to scout from the air; saw a couple ravens hanging out by the tower (NW corner) but the tower top is completely sealed up, though ruined; no getting in and out through the roof, looks like

-Corby spotted a gate in the western wall, so we could get the horses into the inner court; so glad the poison oak has finally died

-leaving horses in the charge of Yeti’s war horse…apparently he’s smart enough to protect them/lead them in a retreat if necessary; very useful

-ruined out-building in the north-west area of the courtyard; burned, tumble-down, surrounded by twisted usk trees

-staircase on the W side, but the lower steps collapsed; dark hole at base

-huge rat nest! However, Raven talked with them and bribed them with rations to tell him that “lots of people” have been coming through here “all the time.” Not super helpful, but definite confirmation is good. Also we’re on the right track so far.

Ezekiel charging head-first for the Temple because of course he is…

[rough sketch]

So ugly!

Three doors – west, south, east. West and east are locked, and barred from the inside.

South…is unnatural. The huge door seems covered with runes that light up, but I can’t really look at them. It’s too horrifying.

Ezekiel and Raven say the chinks are filled in with soft iron…and that suggests to me that someone really, really doesn’t want anyone/anything opening this door (specifically anything evil).

R picked the lock on the east door, then L knocked on it and the bolt undid itself (or something like that).

Inside is quite nauseating. Floor is reddish brown slate, and the walls are covered with ugly images of horrible tortures and murders and other Evil things. There are narrow stained glass windows high up in the walls, but the light only makes the whole place look sickly and diseased.

Unbarred the W door (in case we need a hasty retreat toward our horses) and continued up the nave.

-floor is actually divided into several huge squares, each with different colored tiles

-about a third down, two side passages branch off, and there’s a line where the tiles change color

-center has pillars of some kind – white marble veined with red. There’s a seven by five altar.

-west branch of “sanctuary” (if you can use such a word for this place) – sandstone; hard to see in failing light

-east: green pillars and floor; Ezekiel went here first

-circular dais in the middle, almost two feet tall

-altar on dais, Ez says there’s a depression with blackened liquid, seashells, and a broken bronze knife

(Clues for the “key pieces”??)

-side room opens from SE corner of this wing…vestry with broken trident, moss green robe (filthy of course) and other broken items; also red floor and stairs down

Ez decides we’ll go down, even though it’s getting toward evening.

Try to keep arrow nocked.

[sketched map]

Two right turns. Corridors here are lit with torches, so obviously someone’s been here.

Approached a room and could smell the refuse; maybe that’s what tipped Ez off. That and the high ceiling, and the bones on the floor.

He was sure something was on the ceiling in this room (we have had bad luck with things dropping on us) and Yeti pointed out a harpy in the corner.

At my suggestion, Raven and Lydia plugged their ears with cloth while I tried to hit the harpy (I guess I wanted to be able to hear Ezekiel’s instructions).

I winged it, then we spotted a second one…so Ez had us move in together to get an angle on it while the other three stayed by the door.

As soon as we moved away from the door – clang – a grate dropped down (that’s getting old) and the harpies began to sing.

(I remembered that they had terrible voices – except maybe terrible in a beautiful way – or maybe just because it’s so strange you just have to listen –

Anyway, what I do remember next is a ring of ghouls – standing around us in a perfect ring around Yeti – and crumbling into pieces.

Ezekiel tucked away his holy symbol again (keeps it in a pouch on his belt, now that he’s in full plate armor). Yeti pulled out his crossbow, and I managed to take out the two harpies (though Ez had already wounded one of them).

Note to self: Paladins are so very useful.

Lydia says harpy feathers can be very valuable. (Also tried to dig at me for “falling in love” with the harpies’ song, but got no time for that nonsense.)

[hurried sketch of harpy room, with secret door where ghouls emerged]


Find the previous entry here.

Read the start of the Homlette adventure here.

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Dear Diary…the “bunny’s” lair

When I had recovered as many arrows as I could, I stood guard while Mikael healed up Yeti and Ezekiel took the others to help him search the rooms along the corridor.

The room nearest the secret door was some kind of storeroom, with barrels, blankets, tablecloths, and other household goods.

The second room was a bedroom, with a carpet, bed, a locked (and trapped?) chest, and two crossed swords decorating the wall.

The last room before the corner was a long bunk-room, which I guess is where the orcs slept (before they slept in peace).

I didn’t see much peeking through the doorways, and the others had only just started ransacking the place when someone shouted in through the secret door, “How many times do I have to tell you ‘no fighting’?”

We all froze, and Ezekiel gestured us all into the rooms.

Yeti and I jumped into the bunk-room – where our orc prisoner was tied up – and closed the door almost all the way – leaving enough to hear through, maybe.

Someone came stomping down the passage-way, not sounding happy. I felt sure this was our scary magic giant.

Then he shouted out, “Who’s been in my room?!”

I knew from the banging and clanging that our party was engaging, so the two of us charged out to join in.

The guy looked pretty imposing, with a glowing sword and everything…but we had him flanked, and he went down much like a ton of bricks.

When I could take a closer look, I realized he was a half-orc – although he looked remarkably like a human in his face – so obviously he wasn’t the master of the house.

Ezekiel searched the body, finding a silver ring and a ring of keys in addition to the glowing sword and the half-orc’s splint mail, and then we finally went around the corner to find the prisoners.

There’s a door facing down the corridor, and around the bend are cell doors – two on each side, and one on the end.

Raven and Ezekiel were able to open the doors (they just had to point out that the barred window in each of the banded doors was above my head), but they didn’t find anyone alive.

Raven found a dead dwarf, who had somehow scratched words in the wall with his belt buckle: “Armory next door…avenge me.”

Ezekiel found a skeleton (not that kind, though) with a set of lock-picks hidden in its boot…pity the owner wasn’t able to use them.

In the door at the very end of the prison we found what we were looking for…seven men – in various stages of abuse, but alive.

One of them was, sure enough, Brannod Colnet – so at least we can get him back to his father and uncle.

The others searched the cells one more time on our way back up the corridor, and then we unlocked the door at the head of the passage.

Sure enough, it was quite an armory: weapons, axes, three suites of human plate mail, chain mail, and several boxes of spices bearing the Colnet mark (so we found our stolen goods, anyway).

The rescued prisoners, while in no condition to fight, could still walk – and they equipped themselves with armor and weapons to give themselves more of a chance should the need arise.

There were still three men missing, and while I don’t feel much hope for their chances, we of course can’t leave without searching the rest of the house for them.

Raven and I carried the dead orcs into the armory, so that if the master of the house came along, it wouldn’t be immediately obvious that something was wrong.

Meanwhile, Mikael used Detect Magic to determine that the half-orc’s sword and splint mail were both magical.

We’ll lock ourselves into the armory tonight, sharing rations with the rescued prisoners…and in the morning, we shall see.

****

Quiet night. We left the prisoners with the key to lock themselves into the armory, and set out to explore the rest of the house – hoping to find the missing men, of course, but also to find some kind of proof against the Valentas, or at least some kind of answer about that.

The roasting meat was gone from the front hall (understandably) and the doors were closed.

Two other doors led out of the front hall – one to the south (about seven feet high) and a pair of double doors to the east (about twelve feet high).

Since we were still leery about meeting the Furbolg (although Ezekiel said we’d have to deal with him eventually, so this didn’t happen again), we went with the shorter door. The passage beyond led to two guest rooms and a kitchen.

Raven investigated a trapdoor in the kitchen – he told us there were big blocks of ice, several deer corpses, a human body, and a giant blue frog toad.

He had just closed the door on the toad when we noticed a man with a big black beard, wearing a brown robe and a two-handed sword, advancing toward us from the front hall.

Lydia threw her rotten egg, and greenish smoke filled the doorway. Raven rushed to the edge of the smoke to fling a dagger, while Mikael chanted his spell and lit the enemy with Faery Fire.

I started filling our opponent with arrows while Yeti and Ezekiel stood at the edge of the cloud, ready for when they could enter the battle.

The Furbolg called out, “Simba” – and then a lion appeared from somewhere and charged forward…as well as it could “charge” while wading through the gas, choking and gagging.

Yeti wound a cross-bow and took a shot at the giant – who was staggering back to get out of optimal range – while Raven hit the lion with such a blow I could almost see it stagger and shake its head.

The Furbolg – who was actually big, now, by the way – batted a few of my arrows out of the way.

Mikael had tried talking to the lion and make friends with it, but apparently it didn’t care about that – because suddenly he whacked it hard with his staff.

Yeti got off another cross-bow bolt. The giant deflected another of my arrows, and then the cloud dissipated.

Mikael hit the lion so hard it disappeared, while Raven charged into the hall and swung at the giant.

As I distracted it with a couple more arrows, Yeti sped forward and struck with his war hammer…bang.

The Furbolg collapsed…dead.

When we searched him, we found a gold figurine of a lion (Lydia’s carrying it in her pocket) and the two-handed sword, but nothing else of value.

We explored the rest of the house. Through the double doors to the east was a huge anteroom or sitting room (the ceilings must have been twenty feet tall – Raven says they were “four Elwyns” which is not all that funny).

The door beside the fireplace (on the north side) opened into a lavish library, complete with carpet, oil lamps, and maps between the bookshelves on the walls.

One of the maps looked like the local one the Colnets had given us, and one was of the Flanaes. Another map, though, I didn’t recognize at all.

You could practically see Ezekiel drooling, and we had to drag him out and remind him that we didn’t have much time and had to get the prisoners to safety.

The other door out of the sitting room led to a bedroom – and the bed was at least eight by twelve feet. (Do giants have their own carpenters? Or is all their furniture custom? Turning into a human form must help with that.)

Ransacking the giant’s chest, we found a velvet pouch of gems, a small jewelry box, three potions, and mountain of gold and electrum money.

Ezekiel checked over the potions and pocketed them – he thinks they’re a fire resistance potion, a flying potion, and a healing potion.

I searched the desk and found what seemed to be signed contracts – between Vasl Valenta and Gador the Furbolg. One was paying Gador to kidnap and hold Brannod Colnet, while the other promised him payment for plundering caravans from the Colnet merchants.

If I were ever to engage in dirty business, I’d do better at giving myself plausible deniability…

Well, we had everything we came for.

Raven took me and Mikael (and Yeti) with him back to the trapdoor in the kitchen, as he wanted to recover the corpse of the man, and he wanted us to stand by to deal with the toad.

Raven tried talking to the toad, but apparently it didn’t like us very well. Mikael Summoned Insects, and two giant ants appeared (I don’t know how they got there!) and fought with the toad while Raven dashed down to unhook the body.

I think the ants died, but Raven climbed back up the stairs with the body and nothing worse than some serious frostbite on his arms and legs.

One of the cloaks we found in the giant’s wardrobe should make a suitable shroud for this poor fellow.

We decided it was late enough in the day, we’ll rest another night (and feed up the prisoners) before trying to return to civilization. Raven helped me check on the horses (who seem to be getting along with each other all right). Mikael used Detect Magic to confirm that the lion figurine and the potions are magical…but none of the other new treasure is.

Ezekiel and Raven spent some time in the library together, and came back laden with books. Frankly, I don’t think we’ll make it through the mountains like this.

The Colnets will doubtless want to recover their merchandise, so maybe we can return here with a cart.

At least we found Brannod and most of his men alive. And those orcs will never harm another person again.

Ezekiel says he plans to set our imprisoned orc free when we leave.

****

Journey back to Gurdikar as smooth as could be expected. Saw Druid Kun-tworna on the way out, so we could let him know the prisoners were safely rescued.

The Colnets were of course delighted to get their son/nephew/heir back safe and sound. They gave us an old wooden trunk as thanks, and inside we found a new mace for Ezekiel (it’s got a ram’s head on the end with some kind of rune between the horns), a magical rope (they said it was a Rope of Climbing), and a magic ring (Raven put it on and said he felt warm and toasty).

They told us some ancestral stories about these items – although they also pointed out the stories might not all be true.

One of them was something about how the wielder of the mace struck a zombie or skeleton or something, and the mace “disrupted” the magic that held the undead together, and it collapsed.

Master Colnet says he’s sure the details aren’t quite accurate, but Ezekiel looks eager to try it out on something evil.

****

Bought a cart (since we’re living the high life now) and retrieved the rest of the treasure without a hitch. We also helped the Colnets recover what crates of spices we could find in the Furbolg’s house.

(Wonder what will happen to the Valentas? Fortunately, we don’t have to stick around to find out.)

What’s more, besides the reward the Colnets paid us for rescuing Brannod – and finding the incriminating documents – the city of Gurdikar paid us bounties for all the orcs we killed – and for the Furbolg.

[page of numbers and calculations]

I’m almost not comfortable walking around with this much cash.

Yeti feels like he has such a good grasp on his skills as a Paladin, that he wants to seek out a Master to help him hone his craft even further before we continue.

Ezekiel suggested we go to the capital of Celene for that. I think he wants to find some elves to talk to about Ao.

Maybe I can convert some of my new wealth into a really, really high-quality pendent of Ehlonna.


Find the previous entry here.

Start at the beginning of the Homlette adventure here.

Subscribe to the mailing list for book updates!

Dear Diary…a “bunny” trail

It took a week before everyone was back on their feet. At first, Raven and Mikael didn’t want the town to know what defeated us…but I think whoever cared to know figured it out.

I’ve been practicing in the yard out back, throwing a big net I found. Ezekiel says I’m more likely to rope myself or one of the others than trip up an enemy in it, but that’s why I’m practicing.

After all, it might not be ravens next time…it might be wolves, or huge rats, or something else we’d rather not have attack us all at once.

Oh, yes, something interesting happened this morning, while we were all having breakfast together.

A merchant caravan came in last night, and two men approached us with leather bags…they represented Anthrax and Zorbin, the two merchants we rescued from the Moat-house, who each sent a present as thanks.

We said that was very nice of them, and then one of the messengers asked to speak with us about something else.

He says his name is Eskin Kolnet, and he and his brother Kallan run a small merchant operation, mostly dealing in spices, and based in Celene (no, he’s not an elf – we all looked closer to see).

But he says lately their shipments have disappeared en route – the caravans have been attacked and burned, and the escorts killed. But this hasn’t happened to other merchant families he knows. (I forgot to ask him about the time-frame for all this.)

Well, not long ago Eskin’s nephew (Kallan’s son) Brannod went on a hunting trip with Vasl Valenta – who’s from another merchant family.

Valenta came back alone, saying the party had been buried by a rockslide, and only he escaped because he was riding a little ahead of the company.

Eskin Kolnet and his people went to investigate the site, and sure enough they found the rockslide, and the remains of their retainers under it…but they didn’t find any sign of Brannod Kolnet.

Well, after that, they got a letter from one of the escort who escaped…and he said the party was actually attacked by orcs, who captured Brannod (the retainer says he broke his ankle, so played dead after that and wasn’t finished off).

He says there was a man somehow connected with the rockslide, and that he’s currently stranded in a small village in the mountains near where this all happened.

Master Kolnet has heard of our adventure against the cult of Explictika Defilas, so asked if we would be willing to help out. He and his brother would prefer to have their nephew/son back alive, but they’d also like some kind of proof of what happened to him.

Apparently this Vasl Valenta guy seemed on good terms with the orcs – and with the stranger who ordered them around. He must have been, to escape alive…and to then lie about what happened.

Ezekiel thinks we should check this out before we investigate the Temple further, and it makes sense. After all, this poor young man might be strung up somewhere, a prisoner of orcs. The Temple can wait.

Master Kolnet gave us a map of the area in question…looks like it’s about 40 leagues from Homlette, so it won’t be a quick trip.

Well, he had barely left when this absolutely stunning young man came over to talk to us. Lydia batted her eyelashes at him (which, she does that with everyone) but really…this guy was something else.

He said he couldn’t help overhearing that we were heading out to fight orcs. He’s from the March of Bissell, and came along with the merchant caravan because he wants to fight evil.

He’s a Paladin of Ulaa, so Ezekiel trusted him immediately. Well…at any rate, if he tries to pull something, I guess all the rest of us can take care of it. A Paladin isn’t going to have a “Sleep” spell, if you know what I mean.

Gotta pack enough rations for two weeks, just in case. Glad we don’t have to count Corbi for rations, since she can hunt for herself.

Yeti (the Paladin) has a horse, so we’re going to keep the other two horses for now (Ezekiel really needs one to move at a reasonable pace). Still arguing with Lydia about what their names should be.

****

Reached Gurdikar in four days, which is the town the Kolnets and Valentas operate from. Celene pretty friendly so far.

Decided as a group that we’d go faster if more of us were mounted, so Mikael went and bought two more horses (very nice of him!).

Lydia promptly claimed one and named it Ralishaz…I guess she is a girl, after all.

She’s glaring at me now.

Feels like we’re real adventurers now! We’re all mounted except Raven, who of course has those boots that make him just as fast as a horse anyway.

I remember I always wanted my own horse when I was little, but of course that wasn’t practical. I wanted to be a Paladin back then, too, just like Father and Alpheus…but some of us just aren’t built for that.

Archy and Clarence might have some firm ideas about that, but the older I get the less I care what they think.

Should have time to practice in the target yard before bed.

****

We got a good start from Gurdikar, and reached the little village in the mountains after just a couple hours.

We asked at the inn for the Kolnets’ man at arms, and found his room.

He backed up everything Master Eskin had said, and added that some of the company had surrendered to the orcs…only to have boulders thrown down on them to fake the rockslide.

He also gave some more details about the “man” he saw standing up on the hill right after the rock slide. He had a beard, a brown robe, and a two-handed sword – and V.V. called him “Bator” or something like that.

That certainly implies that this “Bator” guy and the Valentas had some kind of understanding or relationship…but it’s still only one testimony, not proof.

The man says there were about ten prisoners led away by the man and his orcs, so we all agreed to keep going for as long as we could.

Will grab quick lunch, and keep moving.

****

The map was a cinch to follow, and we easily found the valley that was partly blocked by a bad rockslide (I suggested we ride a few yards apart so they can’t try the same trick twice).

Ezekiel told me to investigate it at once, but it was starting to get dark, and I couldn’t see much except that a lot of orcs and animals had been everywhere at all kinds of times, and there were bones and armor remains buried under the boulders.

We made camp in a shelter of one of the hills. Five men with bows and spears came by from the south; they had a boar to take home.

When Ezekiel wished them well, they said “Earth Mother guard you.” That must be Beori.

Lydia cast Continual Light on Yeti’s shield.

****

Quiet night. Luna was full, and made the frost very pretty. Didn’t do anything to make it more comfortable, though.

Started out south, until the valley divided – east and west. I tried looking for prints, but given the rocky terrain and the time lapse, I could only say that orcs had been here…not how many, or how recently, or where they had gone from there.

I also found signs of human hunters, which makes sense – and a large bear.

We returned to the rockslide, where Raven and I climbed to the top and tried to find any clues to this man who led the orcs…but saw nothing, not even the distant smoke from a campfire.

Raven talked to some of the little birds there – even bribing them with some hard tack from his rations, but they apparently couldn’t tell him anything useful (and Corbi didn’t see anything useful, either).

We were just returning to the cross-roads when Raven pointed out a one-armed old man watching us through the trees up the hill.

We decided to say hello, but sent just Mikael, Yeti, and me to do it (after all, Yeti worships an earth goddess, and I figured if the man was a local, they might be able to connect over that).

We each kind of said a cautious “hello,” and when we asked him about orcs, he said the orcs knew better than to give him trouble…which of course showed what calibre he was.

Mikael started talking in a way where the words didn’t quite make sense, but the old man seemed to understand, and eventually invited us to “visit” him.

So Mikael sent Corbi to call the rest of our party to join us (she must be pretty smart, since he’s teaching her so much in such a short time).

He led us to a well-kept grove and introduced himself as Druid Kun-tworna…he lost his left arm while adventuring years ago, and retired to these mountains with his brown bear (Mikael was a little disappointed that the bear was already befriended).

(Apparently the master also has an understanding with the giant ants – some four-foot specimens wandered through, but he shooed them away.)

We explained our situation in more depth, and Master Kun-tworna told us we weren’t looking for orcs, but Gador – the one commanding them. (Made sense.)

He warned us that Gador was a Furbolg – a magical giant who wears human form. I saw the wheels turning in Ezekiel’s head as he tried to figure out how we would fight such a creature, but we sure weren’t backing down.

Master Kun-tworna told us where to find the Gador’s hall, and after Raven shared the rest of his ration with the bear (he said he was saving it for birds, anyway) we set out.

Found the place quite easily, after just a couple hours’ travel. It was getting closer to sunset, but Ezekiel insisted we keep moving while we could.

There’s a slight path that winds up from the main valley track, and reaches a huge stone building set into the side of the mountain.

A smaller building with two doors stood to the side, and when we checked that out, we found stables with warhorses, tack, and fodder.

We decided to hide our own horses there – they could snack on the fodder, and would be out of sight and the elements. Raven persuaded them to all be friends, and shared around some oats from a bag.

After Raven picked the lock on the double oak doors of the main house, Ezekiel led the way with Yeti.

Some kind of dining hall was directly inside, lit by oil lamps, and a fireplace complete with roasting meat.

The table had fifteen chairs, with the chief one being much larger than the rest.

We only saw two doors at first – to the south and east – but while Raven was checking them for traps, we heard a “click” in the opposite corner.

The wall slid back, and an orc entered from a secret passage in the north-west corner.

He didn’t really have a chance. Raven sprinted forward and hit him with that palm-punch of his, and then before the orc could move at all, Ezekiel charged across the room (you wouldn’t think he could move so fast) and clubbed him.

That won’t wash out easy.

Ezekiel checked him over, but his armor and weapon weren’t very interesting.

He and Yeti advanced into the secret passage, where a muffled voice yelled, “Invaders!”

Raven ran forward, and Mikael and I followed – he to throw Faery Fire over them, I to launch arrows.

Gotta start carrying more arrows.

Raven smacked one to the ground. Yeti swung his war-hammer, but the orc deflected it and it whacked Ezekiel (big surprise).

I kept firing arrows. Somewhere down the passage, a door opened, letting out more orcs – but they had trouble getting at us because of the narrowness of the passage.

In fact, Mikael and Lydia didn’t have much to do, since Yeti and Ezekiel were blocking the passage between them and the orcs. Corbi did finally figure out how to get off the ground in the narrow space, and made some vicious jabs at some of our enemies.

I am so…so…so happy I’ve been practicing. I did have to pause to grab my second bundle of arrows from my pack, but it was so satisfying to nail those ugly brutes.

The last orc threw his weapons down and wailed, “Mercy, mighty heroes!”

So Ezekiel took some of my rope and tied him up, asking where the prisoners were.

The orc said, “Around the corner – don’t hurt me!”

The down-side of hitting my target so often was that recovering arrows was a stickier job than usual…

To be continued…


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Dear Diary…Dedicated to Nori

Alert: May contain spoilers for the adventure “The Village of Homlette”

We reconvened after a week. When I got back into town, I found the others at the Welcome Wench. Apparently Mikael also spent a week “in nature,” sequestered in the Grove with Druid Master Geru – and they don’t talk about the “druidy” stuff they do.

Sounds like Ezekiel and Lydia hit the books all week – or rather, Ezekiel focused on his one book, while Lydia went to ask Master Bern questions at the tower.

She’s learned Continual Light – as well as some other cool things – so that’ll be helpful! Ezekiel has asked her to put light on our two shields.

Lydia asked me “How were the elves?” and Mikael mentioned that he actually learned Elvish, but hasn’t really had the chance to try it out yet.

I’m not sure it’s something I can articulate yet. I was really struck how they described everything – the forests, the creatures, the trees – as a gift from Ehlonna. It makes sense…and fosters a sense of gratitude.

Raven says the Lady Master Monk was heading to Orlane once she left here, so he was able to send a donation with her to the Temple of Merikka. He also says he knows how to fall twenty feet without getting hurt (he says it’s in the roll at the bottom) and made us all go outside to watch.

A young man came up to us while we were hanging out (apparently he’s the son of the village elder) and asked us if we would kindly come to a meeting at the elder’s house that evening.

That got Raven and Ezekiel talking about the situation. It was nice to bury ourselves in other concerns for a while, but now we have to remember why we’re here.

What were those weapons being stored for? There were far too many for the number of “bandits” we fought in the dungeon, but who else could be involved?

After Orlane, it’s even possible that some people in the town are “bad.” But it’s hard to tell…everyone knows that we took men-at-arms to the Moat-house, and brought back a huge load of weapons. After all, the shop-keeper questioned me about it.

(Speaking of him, Ezekiel and Lydia – and maybe Raven – also spent time getting all our treasure appraised and converted, so when the rest of us got back, they had our shares all divided. So I can rest easy that the presents I gave the elves and Elmo was money I was actually entitled to give away. Fair’s fair – he let me try out some of his gear part of the week, which was super cool.)

(Huh…”gifts” again…)

Anyway, we’ll head to the elder’s house after an early supper, and see what he has to say. I sure hope he approves of what we’ve been up to around here.

****

Well, we had a very interesting meeting at the elder’s house.

Sounds like the entire village council was there — Druid Geru, Brother Celmert, another Cleric of Cuthbert (who we figured out pretty quickly is Canon Turjon), Sir Rufus, Master Bern, Constable Fred Renton, Master Osler Gundigoot – innkeeper of the Welcome Wench – Mitch the Miller, and of course the village elder himself.

They told us they’ve done a lot of thinking after we caught that Drow Cleric in the Moat-house. They say they’re worried that things are stirring again – and even though none of them were personally on the scene when the Temple of Elemental Evil was broken and sealed, they don’t like the idea that someone might be trying to open it up…or even worse, has already done so.

They gave us some background on this whole thing, which was quite useful: apparently when the heroes and armies of Veluna, Verbobanc, and Furiundy came to smash the armies of monsters and humanoids who were swarming from the temple, they imprisoned the demoness responsible within the temple.

They also left a cryptic poem behind – I guess to give anyone who came afterward a hint for how to finish the job, if possible.

The elder is going to transcribe the poem and send us our own copy for reference, but here’s the gist:

Evil Demon Goddess (of Fungus) built the Temple and made a “Key” with her Evil Boyfriend. The Key is some sort of bridge (maybe?) but is made for destroying the Good.

When the Temple fell, the Demoness was left behind, and they broke their own Key (I think?).

The good guys hid the four pieces of the Key (and then there was something about sea – earth – fire – sky), to keep any bad guys from reassembling it and freeing the Demoness and her Bad Boyfriend.

So, there might be a way to reassemble the Key and use it to reach the Demoness and/or her Boyfriend and defeat them for realsies, but more likely they’d be unleashed which is why any mortal human followers they have would be wanting to hunt down the pieces of the Key (why the humans would want to follow a Demon-Deity, the poem didn’t say).

Ezekiel says I’ve got some parts wrong, but that’s close enough for now. He also says the Bad Boyfriend is probably someone so incredibly powerful and horrifying that we shouldn’t even be saying his name…you know, the one who’s super old, and has bound himself to the Prime Material Plane.

This all sounds very terrible – especially when Canon Turjon or someone speculated whether this demon-duo has an alliance with the Spider Goddess of the Drow.

However, the council told us all they’re really looking for us to do at this point is investigate the Temple (and pretty please tell them no one’s been messing around and trying to re-open it and free the Demoness).

There might even be more clues at the Temple about where to find the four pieces of the Key (although I agree with Mikael, that the only reason that makes sense for hunting the Key is so we can break one of the pieces and keep the Demon-Duo from ever using it again. Ezekiel asked “couldn’t they just make another one” and we pointed out that it took both of them to make the first one, and now the Demoness is locked up, and the Evil Boyfriend is Somewhere Else Not There).

Constable Renton said that “Elmo says we’ve been getting quite powerful,” so they’d all be grateful if we’d do this thing for them.

I think Ezekiel and I especially got a little bashful at that, since it’s always nice to hear that someone kinda big and scary thinks you might turn out all right.

Ezekiel kinda asked whether Elmo would want to come with us – but we all agreed that we’d made quite a splash by trucking all those weapons into town, and it might be smart for Elmo to not be too tight with us for a while.

One of them (I don’t remember who) said that if we thought we might need back-up, the blacksmith in Nulb might come with us for proper compensation.

(Fortunately the blacksmith is one of the people in Nulb who doesn’t hate us.)

Master Osler said that, ten years ago when this all went down, he’d reached as far as the outer walls of the Temple with the armies, but never set foot inside. However, he described the earthquakes and downpours and random fires that hit back in the “bad old days,” and I really hope we don’t have to face anything that dramatic.

Even Mikael looked upset when he heard about that. Upsetting nature, overturning balances, putting things in their wrong spots…that kind of thing. Chaotic Evil just ruins it for everybody else.

I can tell Ezekiel is pumped to put any up-starts back in their place. Sort of like that Spider-Goddess…if she must exist, she might have the decency to stay in the Under-Dark, where she belongs.

****

Good first day. Got up in time for Raven and Lydia to go buy us some more rations (since I think they’re the best bargainers among us) and Raven came back with some saddlebags for the horses, which is very smart of him.

We weren’t sure we were going to keep the two horses from the Moat-house, but so far it’s working out and I think it’s a really good idea. Ezekiel can ride one, which makes him go at a more reasonable pace, and Lydia is riding the other one, because she’s a girl (I guess).

We reached the campsite Elmo showed us so long ago. No sign of bugbears so far. Our hope is to go straight through Nulb and head for the Temple without running into trouble.

We did discuss whether or not to talk to the blacksmith at this time, but Ezekiel thinks we’ll just do some quiet reconnaissance to see if it’d be worth his time. After all, the HOPE – the pretty-please-just-tell-me hope – is that nothing is wrong and everything is fine and ship-shape and still locked up and abandoned.

I can taste it in the air…there’ll be frost tomorrow. Better than snow, which is about what we could hope for at this time of year.

I think Nori is teasing the horses (still no names agreed upon), but Raven is “meditating” so I can’t ask him for sure.

****

I can hardly believe all that’s happened.

When we started out this morning, mists rose from the Gnarly Forest, just visible beyond Nulb.

We made it through the town without clashing with anyone (still smells as bad as ever) and took the road that heads south-south-west out of town.

It was immediately evident that this road is much less used – there are some old wagon ruts, but what with the weeds and tracks in the mud, I’m pretty sure nothing but foot traffic has been down there recently. I couldn’t make a guess as to what that traffic is at this point.

We reached the Temple grounds by late morning…and right away we knew why everyone treats this place with such horror. Why just its mere presence would leech evil and chaos into the surrounding landscape.

The Temple is surrounded by a wall about twenty feet high and maybe thirty feet thick. It’s broken down in places and filled with holes from siege engines…but it’s still a massive structure that seems to loom over the surroundings.

Even the trees are skeletal and shriveled. You’d assume they’re all dead, except that they still haven’t fallen over in the wind and rain.

The shrubs are twisted, blacked…overgrown mounds of dark weeds and grey stone cover the ground. The very grass is disgusting. Here and there, we spotted skulls and bones of humans and humanoids, bleached by the elements. I’m just glad the horses didn’t bolt right there.

And yet, with all that decay and unhealthiness, huge black ravens wheeled far above us. I wondered at the time what they could be hunting in this wasteland.

Ezekiel pointed out the remains of a tower at the other end of the wall, and we started toward it…but the wall was longer than we had first assumed, and we must have gone a mile to travel from one corner to the other.

Right away, we spotted two black birds that looked like crows or ravens, perched on top of the tower and staring down at us. Ezekiel thought there was something unnaturally about them, like they were an illusion, or like they were something else pretending to be ravens.

Mikael took a look at them, and said that, yes, they certainly appeared to be ravens.

They weren’t the only weird thing about this place. I at least had started to catch dark things moving in the corners of my vision – except that, when I tried to look at them, there was nothing there.

When I mentioned it, the others seemed to know what I was talking about…but no one seemed really confident about what was going on.

Raven climbed up the wall, and pointed out that some of the breaks would let us climb through pretty easily – only we’d have to leave the horses on the outside.

I wasn’t very comfortable about that, but we decided to leave Nori on guard, since she was so good at that. Wow. She sure was pretty good at that…

So we picketed the horses (although if I was a horse I wouldn’t want to eat that vegetation) and climbed through the wall after Raven.

As soon as we did so the two ravens on top of the tower started cawing loudly – which of course I’ve learned is probably a warning signal. But I didn’t know who or what they were warning, so it didn’t do me much good knowing that.

The courtyard beyond the wall is absolutely trashed and overgrown. Every weed has thorns, or burrs, or stinks like dog, or looks (and feels) like poison oak.

And that’s not even mentioning the Temple itself. At least, I assume that huge building was the Temple…it looked –

[rough sketch, scratched out]

I can’t even begin to describe. It’s like it has a shape that doesn’t belong on our plane of existence. I’m dreading when we actually have to go that far.

But we had our hands full where we were.

We started by examining the tower on the north-east corner of the wall, since Ezekiel thought it would be a good vantage point – and also didn’t want to leave an unexplored space at our back where something could sneak up on us.

The ravens on top were still carrying on, so I pulled my shield around and got ready. Arrow slits framed the doorway, and I didn’t trust the blackness beyond.

Ezekiel and Mikael tried peaking in the arrow slits, with the help of Ezekiel’s newly-lit shield, but they couldn’t see anything useful.

The door itself was at the top of a stoop of shallow steps, and chained heavily on the outside. Raven examined the chains, and said he doesn’t think (in his professional opinion) that they had been handled for a long time.

That was good enough for me – since we’re not here to break into everything and kill everything, after all, but just to find evidence of anybody else trying to break in. We’ll see if Ezekiel is satisfied with that.

Anyway, next Raven tried climbing the tower, but before he reached the top those two obnoxious birds pounced on him, and he had to slide back down again (and, all right, his monk-ish roll at the bottom was pretty cool).

The raven-birds came after us, and Mikael smashed one so hard with his staff that it bounced against the wall of the tower.

I brought my bow up and winged it, while Ezekiel called out, “These might not be real birds – but if they are, Animal Friendship would work on them!”

And that was perfect, because we’d just been talking about how Mikael could tame another animal friend if he wanted to, and how it might be smart for him to find a bigger creature than Nori as the monsters we were fighting kept getting bigger.

Poor Nori…

Well, Mikael called out to the second bird, and it came and perched on an outcropping of wall near him and listened to him with its head cocked.

The other bird tried to dive-bomb his head, but I took it out with another arrow, and then we all stood and watched him convince the bird to be his friend.

I guess we were all kinda amazed to see it happen. I’m not sure exactly what he was saying to it, but finally it started rubbing its head against his shoulder and cooing.

Makes me kinda jealous, actually.

Well, I pulled my arrows out of its brother, and Raven went to climb the tower again to try to get a good view of our surroundings.

If we had only known…

He had barely climbed onto the top when he leaped dramatically off again…followed by a black swarm of wings exploding into the air.

Raven kicked himself off the side of the tower and rolled into the middle of us as a cloud of raven-birds dropped down toward us, claws extended.

It really was a dramatic moment. Lydia agrees with me.

While I launched some more arrows into the birds, Lydia threw an egg into the air and said, “Boom!” Green smoke – or maybe more like a green cloud – filled the air…but fortunately, it didn’t drift down to where we were.

I shot a bird through the throat and ducked to avoid the birds raining out of the sky.

One of the birds who apparently didn’t breathe in the stink went for Mikael’s new pet, and I was worried for a little bit that if she went flying around to counter-attack, I couldn’t tell that she wasn’t an enemy bird.

Ezekiel, of course, figured out that if he attacked the birds gagging and fluttering on the ground, he could avoid that problem, and he went stomping back and forth with his mace.

Raven stabbed a bird through with his spear…but don’t think they’re delicate little things. Lydia got a pretty vicious gash from one of them – and after all, their wingspans are like six feet across! They may be real animals, but they’re certainly not like the ravens you might find in your back garden. They’re twisted somehow.

They’re huge, and vicious, and determined.

I kept dropping them with arrows, but not nearly fast enough. Mikael lost a big chunk of skin to one, and they seemed to think Ezekiel looked especially juicy (or threatening) and wouldn’t leave him alone.

Then, my bow slipped from my hands, so I drew my sword to save time. Maybe Raven had a similar idea, because I saw him punching at the birds with his bare hands.

I caught a glimpse of Ezekiel, dropped to the ground, but before I could worry I also saw Mikael reaching out toward him, chanting his Heal Light Wounds spell.

The stunned birds were just pulling themselves together and launching into the air again when Lydia pulled out a SECOND egg and threw it up after them.

One of the birds started coughing and dropped to the ground right in front of me…it looked to me like its back was broken by that.

Just as well for me, because when I tried to swing my sword, I felt it hit something…maybe a bone, maybe a rock. I didn’t really have time to check…the balance was off, so I shoved it into the scabbard and snatched my bow up.

I heard scrabbling on the stone wall, and caught a glimpse through the cloud of angry birds of Nori, pouncing to the attack. She must have heard us fighting, and come to defend her Best Friend.

What if she hadn’t? What indeed? Well, we can never really know how these things “would have” gone. That’s what Alpheus used to say…that you can’t waste too much living in the “would haves.”

An arrow bounced off the wall of the tower and tried to hit me in the face (but didn’t). Just about then, I ran out of arrows, and while I was dumping out my backpack for my spare bundle, I saw Ezekiel quaffing a potion and Lydia swinging at a bird with her silver dagger. (She totally pierced it through the rib cage and sent it spinning into the weeds, twitching. So glad she’s on our side, if you know what I mean.)

I started snatching arrows from the ground, and caught a glimpse of Mikael smashing a bird to the ground with his staff.

Lydia said some words, and a horse appeared out of nowhere, and she sent it running. There were only one or two birds left at this point, and they started chasing after the horse.

You’d think it’d be easy to track after something just going in circles, but obviously it wasn’t since Raven and I both missed, and Mikael and Lydia had to work together to put the last enemies down.

Finally, all the bad birds were dead. Lydia’s horse trotted over to her, and disappeared.

Ezekiel staggered forward, bleeding from several places, and told us to clear out…looking mad enough to eat his own mace.

Raven says he tried to unlock the chains outside the tower, as a refuge from the attacking birds, but he couldn’t get it undone. He says he’s glad, though, since he heard something laughing from inside while we were fighting.

I hustled to get my party members back over the wall…although Mikael took a little longer than the others.

I found him kneeling by Nori. He said he’d used Cure Light Wounds on her, and she still wasn’t moving. His new raven friend (says her name is Corbi) was also pretty badly hurt, but he’s got her wrapped up in bandages to keep the bleeding down and the breaks contained, and so far she’s still breathing.

We couldn’t say the same for Nori…especially since she’s, y’know, a spider, and they don’t breathe the same way. It felt wrong to just leave her there, after all she’d done for us, but we didn’t want to spend too much time there, and frankly I had my hands full helping Ezekiel across the broken wall.

I would have said Ezekiel was the worst hurt, since he actually lost consciousness once, but I’m not sure. Raven did his best to walk normally, but he did sway a little.

I asked Lydia if Mikael could ride with her, and of course she said yes, so I was able to get them through Nulb all right without having to stop for anyone.

I was kinda scared we were going to have trouble, since as we came up on the town square we saw flames rising. The smithy was on fire, and a huge crowd was gathered around it, but we managed to skirt the crowd and move on, minding our own business. (After all, it wasn’t our business…and we were in no condition to give help, even if it was needed. I can only imagine how badly a fire could spread in a ramshackle place like Nulb.) I hope everything works out all right…

When we finally reached the campsite, Ezekiel explained one of the reasons he looked like he was trying to eat his own teeth. Apparently the potion he drank was supposed to be for “Animal Control” (which for obvious reasons would have been Super Helpful), but apparently it was for FISH only (I’m not sure how he knows this, and he doesn’t look in the mood to tell me).

I feel much better now that I’ve got them all back to our campsite here. Frankly, none of the guys look fit to swing a weapon for any length of time, and Lydia has blood on her head-scarf, though she’s trying to not make a big deal about it.

I have a scratch or two here and there, but this poison oak is what’s going to drive me out of my mind.

It’s only afternoon, but we’ll have to stop and rest. In fact, we’ll probably have to go back to Homlette…to buy me more arrows, if for no other reason. I’m so glad I had a reserve supply, but I’ve never had to crack into them before.

I’ll be really mad if my short sword was damaged. It’s the magic short sword we got for fighting the dwarves, and has been super useful.

Well, maybe I can figure out some base defenses – like a barrier of sharp sticks – so I can keep watch and we can not get killed by bugbears in the night.

Ezekiel is poking the fire and growling about how he couldn’t even hit birds that are literally flopping on the ground.

But, you know what, if Ezekiel has taught me anything, it’s that you can’t blame your deity just because things didn’t go the way you wanted them to.

Nori was a great spider. She was a wonderful gift to us. She died engaged in battle for the defense of her master.

And if Corbi’s brothers and sisters are anything to go by, she will be a great gift to our party, as well. She does look kinda cute and pathetic bundled up beside Mikael.

All the humans are still alive, and that is also a gift. I do not intend to squander it.


Find the previous entry here.

To read the start of the Homlette adventure, go here.

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Dear Diary…complications, and complicated things

Alert: May contain spoilers for the adventure “The Village of Homlette”

Let’s just say it’s been a crazy couple days.

Let’s see. We were in the dungeon, and the evil Drow cleric was disarmed, dis-armored, bound, gagged, and blind-folded (can you tell he made us nervous?).

We searched the dead bandits and their living quarters…we recovered a decent amount of money, and I found that one of the lieutenants had been using a long bow. (Y’know, a long bow that wasn’t BROKEN – so that’s mine now.)

We catalogued the weapons, and discovered the armory that had been moved from upstairs was here…so that’s a big relief. I’d hate to have to track down another secret base.

There was also plenty of brandy, weak wine, salted meat, and other dry foods…so I had plenty to make dinner with.

Elmo and Lydia helped themselves to a couple of the couches in the cleric’s room (where there were also dishes of treats and other things).

Ezekiel took off his magic chain-mail of Merikka – that he’s been wearing since we cleaned up that mess in Orlane – and offered it to me – since he figures he’ll be better protected wearing this black plate armor. I hope he covers up the spider somehow, unless we make it clear it’s Nori now.

Well, I saw no reason not to upgrade to Ezekiel’s chainmail. Also, my poor old shield doesn’t have Continual Light on it anymore, so there’s no reason for me to prefer it over the magical shield.

Ezekiel gave Mikael the cleric’s staff that hit Elmo so hard, and when Mikael cast Detect Magic he confirmed that it is indeed magical (so are the plate armor and the phylactery, but not the cleric’s mace or the black opal he was wearing).

Ezekiel and Lydia examined the phylactery, and they think it’s something to do with paralysis – Ezekiel thinks it’s a very rare artifact called a Phylactery of Action that protects from paralysis…and I figured, “just so long as it doesn’t cause paralysis.”

Ezekiel also asked Spugnoir about the little spat with Lydia, but all he would say is that there was fighting, and he was scared, and then Lydia burned him, and as he was running away Raven grabbed him and slammed him.

Well, we’ll see…

I barricaded the door at the south end of the corridor with a table and barrel, and so while there were some sounds in the night, nothing bothered us.

When Raven woke us all up at the end of his watch, we got up and considered how we would get all this junk out of there.

Oh, yes! The “bandits” had two light horses in a stable off their main room, so we could use them to carry at least some of the stuff.

Mikael cast his Heal Light Wounds spells, which got some of us feeling more like ourselves, and then (after much discussion) Mikael, Raven, and I went out the door to examine the grate and see if we could raise it, since we certainly couldn’t get the horses up the ladder, and we weren’t sure how else we would get out.

Well…

No sooner had we stepped into the outer passage, than I was sure I smelled the outdoors…mud and plants and that indescribable quality that speaks of outdoor spaces.

So we turned to the east – down the corridor we hadn’t been before – and within 400 feet it had sloped up enough to emerge among boulders and weeds. I could see the sky through the tree-branches above our heads.

Raven climbed a tree and said he could just see the Moat-house building off to the west, which meant we should be able to find the road pretty easily. In fact, this was probably the entrance the cult actually used, which would explain why the main floor of the Moat-house still looked so uninhabited.

We briefly discussed pretending that we had worked long and hard at the grate first, but I figured that would make us sound more stupid than we actually were.

Anyway, with that worry out of the way, we returned to our companions and started preparing to load as many of the weapons on the horses as we could. It was still early enough in the morning, we figured we could make it as far as the tower, and then return with a cart and maybe some men-at-arms to clear out the rest of the armory before nightfall.

Well, I was right in the middle of figuring that out when Elmo was shaking me awake.

According the Lydia and Mikael, Ezekiel had just un-gagged the Drow to give him a drink of water. Spugnoir cast a spell, and suddenly everyone else fell asleep – except the Drow cleric, who also said something in a strange language.

Mikael ordered Nori to “catch” Spugnoir, so she wrapped him up in spiderweb while Lydia woke up Ezekiel and Elmo (who were the other people in the cleric’s room at the time).

Ezekiel checked the Drow cleric, and found him not breathing, with no heartbeat.

“Oh, very funny,” said Ezekiel. “There’s a Cleric spell called Feign Death.” And he dragged him out so we could load him onto one of the horses.

So we finally set out – Raven carrying Spugnoir, after Ezekiel had taken away the scroll we got from the crayfish’s lair (that just sounds odd). Apparently Spugnoir had been carrying the scroll, but Ezekiel says Lydia can have it now.

I still can’t figure out Spugnoir. If he was afraid of being attacked in the dungeon, why put his party to sleep? If he wanted to help the Drow cleric escape, why do it there – when the cleric was wounded and bound, and might not escape being put to sleep – and they would still have to get out to the road to escape?

Eh, it’s not my problem anymore. Lydia and Mikael (and Nori of course) didn’t fall for it, and they’re out of our hands now.

We reached the fort in pretty good time, only three hours, and we waited at the future site of the gatehouse while one of the men there sent for Sir Rufus.

We’d put one of the decorative rugs over the cleric, so no suspicious characters could just casually see he was there, and Ezekiel gave Rufus a peek from under the rug.

I can’t tell if Sir Rufus was surprised to see a Drow Cleric of Lolth show up on his doorstep or not.

But he did let us bring our comatose cleric and our load of weapons up to the tower, where he called out Bern (apparently he’s a “Most Worshipful Mage”) and asked him to cast dispel magic.

Well, Master Bern did, while some of the men there helped unload the weapons which we were turning over to them (not like we could use that many, after all).

When Master Bern was done with his spell, the Drow still didn’t seem to have a pulse, but Ezekiel suggested they lock him up securely just in case.

We also turned Spugnoir over to them. There was a lot of discussion about that – putting us to sleep is pretty rude, even if you could call his fight with Lydia a “terrible misunderstanding” – and we decided that we definitely didn’t want him talking about what was going on at the Moat-house. So Sir Rufus agreed to lock him up for a while, after confiscating his spell-book.

Ezekiel also asked for a cart to go retrieve the rest of the weapons before anyone else got there, and Sir Rufus 1) not only gave us a cart, but 2) four mounted men-at-arms to assist us, and 3) horses for all of us.

I guess that’s what happens when you have actual resources!!

With so much help, it didn’t take long at all to get the rest of the armory safely into the hands of Rufus, and then Elmo went home – after agreeing to return with us to the dungeon tomorrow. Ezekiel and Mikael have some kind of scheme to get past the grate, and we don’t want to put off getting through there too long, just in case there are more prisoners to be rescued or anything pressing like that.

Our return to the Welcome Wench was a little dramatic.

As we approached, we noticed a huge scythe leaning by the door. Raven examined it, and found the blade covered with agricultural scenes from different seasons – he said the depictions of harvest were especially well done.

And right there, he announced that whoever this guy was, he liked him.

Well, we went inside, and looked for a table. The early-afternoon crowd seemed especially heavy to me, but two people especially stood out.

One was a woman in the robes of Merikka with bobbed black hair.

She was sitting with a dwarf in plate armor – and it was kind of hard to miss him, because he started yelling at Lydia to take off her veil. Apparently he’d heard about a party like us – with a funny-looking cleric and the “ugliest girl you ever saw” (he said it, I didn’t, because of course he’s never seen Lydia’s fire-finger up close, if you know what I mean).

Ezekiel went over to talk to him (because of course), and the dwarf said he’s “Doug Rocksinmysox,” and he was hunting for Ezekiel Sentinel because some gnome in Veluna thought he’d be interested in this strange book they found.

Apparently Mr. Rocksinmysox (Raven couldn’t keep a straight face) was mining in the CrystalMysts, and unearthed this book in the middle of a silver vein. It’s a big leather book with clasps and strange writing…Mikael and Lydia both said they don’t even recognize the script.

Rocksinmysox said he’d throw in an arcane scroll in a case – Lydia got very excited, and says it’s Comprehend Languages – for 4,500 gold.

Well, of course I was thinking 1) this dwarf we’ve never heard of is 2) trying to sell us a book he “dug out of a silver vein” for the sum of 3) three times what I spent at my first Ranger school.

But Ezekiel was already rubbing his hands together and bouncing up and down, so I guess I’ll let him spend his share of the treasure as he sees fit. After all, we’ve recovered quite a lot…we’ll have to appraise the jewelry we got from the “bandits,” a silver serving set and a box of unguent we took from the cleric’s room, etc. but I’m not worried about that.

Mr. Osler is still giving us room on the house. I guess Fernok of Ferd was really annoying to him.

Oh, Raven says the lady monk just earned the title “Master” in Greyhawk, and she’ll be staying in town long enough he’s hoping to get in some training with her.

****

In the morning, Ezekiel and Mikael headed to the river to find some clay. I took the opportunity to go buy some more torches, since without our shining shields I wanted to make sure we had plenty of light.

The shopkeep was pretty talkative…he said he’d heard of our triumphant return with an armory-worth of weapons. I told him we found some “bad guys” that we killed…

He didn’t seem to have strong opinions about right and wrong, and I agreed that it’s not very practical to ask about the alignment of everybody who comes through your shop…but still, everyone has to have standards of some kind.

I wonder where the battle lines are drawn in Homlette…

Using our two new horses, we made pretty good time back to the Moat-house. I had hung a decorative rug by the entrance of the sloping passage, so it was a synch to find.

We had to leave the horses shortly afterwards, which slowed us down quite a lot. Ezekiel is super slow in his new armor – and even after Raven loaned him the Boots of Speed, he and I were still the slowest people in the party.

Well, we made it to the grate without encountering anything (although I thought I heard moaning off in the distance…undead?), and Mikael plastered his clay along the stone to the side of the grate and cast a spell.

Gotta say, it looked pretty cool. The stone actually…warped? shifted? changed shape?…anyway, it moved away from the grate just far enough that we could all squeeze past – even Ezekiel in his plate armor.

We followed this narrow corridor up to a secret door, and when Raven opened it, we found the tiny room with the twisting staircase – and the second secret door that opened into the ogre’s room (I hope some giant snake or something eats it soon, ’cause it’s really starting to reek).

I wasn’t sure why anyone would gate off this passage…Ezekiel had a theory, but I’m not sure I understand it.

Anyway, at least we’ve determined there’s nobody here waiting to be rescued.

We also made a sweep through the crypt again, and Elmo says there’s been nothing “with a body” in there since we were last there. Even Ezekiel agrees that ghosts are not our business, so we returned to town – taking a few of the nicer-looking rugs and furniture and other fancies from the Drow cleric’s room.

We got back to town just after sunset, so we’ll have to wait until tomorrow to get our gems appraised and figure out who gets what treasure.

On the whole, though, it’s good to have something actually completed and accomplished.

****

As soon as he had his share of the cash, Ezekiel couldn’t wait to rush down to the bar and buy his new book.

He brought it – and the scroll – back up to our rooms, where Lydia said the scroll had five copies of the same spell on it…and she wanted to “try” to copy it into her spell-book before reading it for Ezekiel. (I wasn’t sure why she had to “try” to copy it, but maybe when the letters spin and flash in strange ways, even Magic Users have trouble.)

So the book is called “The Music of the Holy Ones,” and it talks about “Eru” – the “One” – the “Father of All” – who created the Holy Ones by thinking about them and taught them to sing together.

And they sang, and they sang changing music…and the Father of All listened to them.

Seems like there was a problem of some kind – some of the Holy Ones kept changing up the music, and confusing the others so that they stopped singing…in fact, there were three “storms” of music where the one called Mighty started up a totally different kind of music, and then the Father of All raised his hand, and the music changed in a way they didn’t expect.

There was something about an Immortal Fire, too…I didn’t catch all of it, and when Ezekiel tried to explain it to me I couldn’t really make out his notes. But he says he thinks it’s like what Mr. Prettypebbles (of Veluna) read to us out of the Book of All Gods…where all the gods were bowing down to something too bright to see.

Ezie and Lydia are going to go over it at least once more this week, and he’s going to try to take more complete notes. Lydia said that, even with the Comprehend Languages spell, she had trouble communicating what the book said into Common Speech.

Ezekiel is just so…passionate. He’s over at a table now, with a mug of ale and his “letters” that he’s always writing, but never mailing. Maybe I don’t quite get it, but there’s something about the fire in his eyes…

It makes me think of Mother, talking about Ehlonna. And it makes me wish I had been paying attention better when I was that age.

Elmo says he wants to take me into the forest to “show me some things.” He didn’t specify if “things” means footprints, or fighting moves.

I might as well, though. Ezekiel, obviously, is wrapped up in his studies, and Raven was last seen heading for the back yard with the lady monk.

Mikael mentioned he’d like to go ask Druid Master Geru some questions, and Lydia asked if she could go with him on her way to the tower. Says she’s got some questions for Master Bern.

Elmo says he knows where to find some elves, too…and he says they aren’t nearly so intimidating in person as they are in theory. Especially once he tells them that I serve Ehlenestra, too…Ehlonna as we would call her.

It might be nice to leave this cult business behind for a few days, and focus on some other things. I definitely need to do some bow drills again.


Find the previous entry here.

Find the start of the Homlette adventure here.

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