Dear Diary….a new giant experience

Nothing of interest in the dracolisk…or in his cave. He looks kinda undernourished, but the others didn’t want to wait for me to skin it.

[detailed, sprawling map that runs over several pages]

*Raven found a claw. Elmo thinks it’s a lizard claw.

**Well, now I’ve seen it all most of it something. We were coming up on a tee in one of the passages, when these two lumps of rock peeled themselves off the wall and swiped at us with their claws.

Heiron and Mikael took them out – and it’s true, when you see them in a different context, they look like big lizards…but they’re still the exact color of the stone, and it’s kinda disorienting.

They must have used the grotto just beyond as a lair, because there was a big pile of money there. Elmo pointed out the claw probably came from one of them…maybe they shed them like people shed excess fingernail?

[more map]

#Magic portal rune for Fire Node

**

Well, new experience for me…

We were exploring a side-room when we heard heavy footsteps approaching. Ezekiel went up to investigate, and discovered a huge figure – the exact color of stone! – filling up the entire passageway…a stone giant!

He chatted with Ezekiel a bit (his voice is so deep and rumbly, we heard some of it): Ez told him we are “invaders” of the nodes, and the giant asked how many we were…and then if we wanted to share their fire.

So Ezekiel led us in following the giant, and we ended up in a good-sized cave (it’d have to be) with four other stone giants…and a campfire.

Ezekiel shared out some rations from Raven, and the giants passed around a skin of some liquid (Raven tells me it was alcohol, but he couldn’t tell more than that; they probably made it themselves while here). Elmo told me he wouldn’t want to have to drink it all day long, but that he’s had worse.

Our liaison-giant explained that this place is “earth-not-earth,” and his group (along with others) were magicked here by the Temple cultists. Ezekiel confirmed that stone giants aren’t one of the ones who can change shape into something smaller…so they couldn’t fit through Lydia’s mirror.

Then Ez announced that he was going to spend time meditating to ask the God of gods how we could get the giants out of the nodes (he gave them the brief version of the nodes, and what we were doing there…they didn’t seem really interested, except in the part about us maybe getting them out).

Anyway, he set up the fortress, so Lydia could feel safe to come consult with us, and sat by the campfire for literal hours.

The rest of us tried to find out where the giants were actually from, but it was difficult since only their leader seemed to speak Common, and he wasn’t clear on all the vocabulary. But Mikael’s new scimitar Schakka speaks Giant Common, and they seemed to understand that better…so eventually, we figured out they came from “high in the mountains,” and the Temple sent a raiding party to “magic” them straight into the nodes. So they haven’t been to the Temple before, but it would make sense that they’re from the nearby countryside (unless the Temple’s reach is much broader than we thought!).

If I’m being honest, they are much nicer than any other giants I have ever met…their leader is remarkably chill about Ezekiel’s idiosyncrasies, and he was quite daring in inviting us to their hideout. Could be they’re the kind of giants who could live quietly in their own space, and not bother humans…

They do have some “friends”…or “pets”?… We heard heavy, thumping footsteps coming down the hall, only to see two boulders on legs waddle into the room and sit down between the stone giants. They have two legs each, and the giants call them “galabs’dur” or “children of the mountain”…so I guess they’re not like little giants, they’re like…boulders that have two feet. And can talk to the giants. Again, is this friends? Pets? Friend-pets like Mikael has?

(Speaking of which, Mister Whisker helped us with our mapping…he double-checked the passages that we thought we had already been in, to see if he could detect our scent in them. Raven says he prefers this place to always dropping into the Water Node, although he says the little pocket in my backpack is quite cozy.)

**

Lydia and Raven took a trip back to town, researching ways we might be able to “magic” the giants back to Orth.

After sitting with his eyes closed all afternoon, Ezekiel went into a trace or something and started starting intently at nothing, which I guess is a change.

After a bit, he started talking to himself…and when he was done he shook his head a little and said he got some answers…although not all the answers he was hoping for.

First, he told the stone giants that “Little Pebble escaped,” then he said the messenger he spoke with said none of us have the skills needed to send the “wayfarers” home (could have been more specific, Ez), but that we do have what we need… Which I guess means it’s not a skill.

At this point, we’ll probably have to wait for the spell-casters to prepare more spells. We’ve had a pretty full day, but as I said to Heiron, this is what life on the adventure road is like…a little bit of life-or-death struggle, mixed with a whole lot of sitting and waiting for other people. He says there’s nothing particular he’d rather do with his life…although having the dragons melt him wasn’t fun. (Note to self: pay him again. Does he need a bonus for the acid scar that Ezekiel couldn’t get rid of?)


Find the previous entry here.

Dear Diary….Ezekiel can scry now; and earth-creatures are ugly

I understand now why Sir Rufus and Master Bern built a tower and fort with their dragon treasure. Dragons collect a lot of treasure!

Maybe these black dragons had more than we expected because there were two of them…or maybe the Earth Node has received more treasure in general, so they had more to capture.

Either way. Lydia came out of the portal to check out the situation – then went back to her room. Ezekiel and Raven cradled the two dragon eggs (where are they going to keep those, I wonder!), and in a few minutes the pile of coins started flowing down through the floor! Apparently Lydia had to get Keom and Ronhass to hold the mirror facing the floor, so the treasure would fall to the ground…but obviously it worked. It got plugged up once or twice with a larger item – there was a suit of scale mail, especially, that tried to go through while turned the wrong way – but we got it unstuck and shoved the whole hoard onto Lydia’s floor.

Once she got the mirror set up right-ways again, we came through, too – since Ezekiel said he was out of spells, and we’d done plenty for today anyway. He and Raven still haven’t completely decided where they’re keeping their baby dragon eggs…I’m really wondering just what they think they’ll do with baby dragons! Those things eat a lot, after all; I remember how much Sgt. Bearington used to eat…and he didn’t leak acid all over the place.

Well, that aside, counting the coins kept us busy all afternoon…especially when someone knocked over one of the stacks and we had to start over.

[page of messy numbers and figures]

We’ve seen quite a lot of gold and expensive things while pillaging the Temple…but I don’t know…this might well be the biggest pile of coins I’ve ever seen in my life!

In addition to money, there was the scale mail (magical), a potion, a ring, and a scroll. We’ll probably divvy them up to whoever needs them most, unless even Ezekiel decides he doesn’t need another spare set of armor, and we can sell it.

About armor – I still had the magic chainmail that I was wearing before in my trunk, so I will wear that when we go back to the dungeon. It’s just common sense…and besides, magic armor isn’t as bulky as you might think, and it’s not that hard to draw a bow in.

**

Mikael has disappeared to the druid grove. He said he had some “questions,” and I thought maybe he meant about dragons…but it looks like he had more questions than just that. Be nice, though, if he came back with some tips…

****

Ezekiel has been spending a few days visiting the Chapel of St. Cuthbert. He says he can use their sanctuary font for scrying, and he wanted to catch up with his siblings. Raven went with him, but when they asked me, I preferred to help Lydia and Heiron get the money organized. Spying on all my siblings would take a long time – and besides, I’m sure Father and Mother and Alpheus and Dexter are busy with other things. It’s not like I could pop over to them if they needed help, anyway.

Ezekiel did check in on Lancell, and says he seems to still be in Orlane — he was with the mayor of Orlane, anyway. They were building a house or dedicating a house or something, and he thinks he saw Old Uncle Brian from Ertuli, too (who is not really my uncle, but that’s what everybody called him), so that’s nice.

I also went on patrol with Elmo one day. An area farmer thought some bugbears were setting up a den near him, but from the marks, it looks like they were just passing through – maybe headed toward the hills. If he has any trouble, I hope we can come down and deter them.

****

Keom and Ronhass are in charge of watching the dragon eggs. Poor little dears.

We head back to the Earth Node as soon as Lydia can get us lined up on the dragons’ bodies.

**

Earth creatures are ug-ly! We dropped into the dragons’ lair, no trouble — they’d been picked almost clean while we were gone.

We continued down the passageways, and Ezekiel walked right into a beastie that climbed out of the wall. Mikael called it a “xaren” – it was like the xorn we saw earlier, but more so…three tentacle-arms coming off its ball-body, and three eyeballs circling its shark-mouth of teeth – on top of its head! (Mikael pointed out they might not view “up” and “down” the same way we do – since they live in earth, and all.)

Two of these beasties oozed themselves out of the wall, and started gabbering. Ezekiel mumbled some things, and started talking to them: saying, “No, you can’t eat my shield” and things like that.

Next thing we knew, one of them grabbed for his shield, and Mikael waved his hand – bathing them in the sparkly glow of faery fire. Heiron and I let loose, and they finally dropped to the ground, twitching and drooling, the arrows standing out like their weird teeth and limbs.

Ezekiel pointed out they weren’t exactly “Evil”…but we can’t let them eat our gear, either. The dragons’ acid already did that.

We found a couple dead end corridors, then ran across something that I guess is the Earth-version of a roper (the thing that took the wind out of Wonillon). With so many flailing tentacles, it was hard to know what to aim at…although Heiron didn’t seem to have that trouble. Elmo says it’s just as well the thing never grabbed any of us.

**

Finally fought something that looked a little more “normal.” At the end of a twisty corridor was a larger room, with a dark brown shape flitting in the shadows. We were all on our guard, since we passed a couple more statue-fied people in the corridor, and Ezekiel splashed a vial of holy water over his head and spun one of the prayer-beads on his necklace.

The creature snarled at us, but Raven and Mikael hit it hard – and when I got an arrow through its throat, it flopped over…the arrow fizzling and steaming as it was consumed by acid. I thought, what it the acid burned up the arrow before the creature died? – and then I realized, it would still have a couple holes torn in its throat, so we’d be safe.

Mikael and Elmo think the creature is a dracolisk, and that makes sense to me. It has six legs, like a basilisk, but two wings, like a dragon. And none of us have been turned to stone yet, so maybe it can’t do that…or maybe we’re just lucky.

I have decided acid is one of my least favorite things.


Find the previous entry here.

Dear Diary….ok dragons are actually dangerous

While we finished cleaning up the dragon remains, and piled its treasure into our various receptacles (including the little chest that shrinks and grows, which Heiron is carrying and I had completely forgotten about), Ezekiel got a hold of Lydia and jumped through the portal to “just ask Father Yra one thing.”

Heiron killed a dun pudding while we waited, and when Ezekiel finally came back, he and Mikael decided we should go confront the giants to see if they had any slaves we should rescue (Tressarian said something about “stab stab extinguish” but we told him to shush so we could be sneaky…er). Also, Ezekiel said he thought he could send them “home” using his mace or something (it sounded kinda technical, and also like he wasn’t sure what he was doing, so I kinda only half-listened).

According to the map, Mikael and Ezekiel figured the northern corridor probably hooked up with where we wanted to be, so we took that route. On the way, we passed a magic portal rune in the shape of an O (Water, maybe? I’m so bad at this game) – and a room with a row of fire pits.

Tres and I went down the row, putting out the fires, until the last one in the line… There, as we stuck Tressarian into the flames, a big red, horned, fiery figure appeared, growling something about “watch where you put that”! (Ez tells me it was an “efreet”.)

I thought this was different from the one Ezekiel told us not to look at, but I wasn’t sure what to do with it. Tres was all for killing it (Evil fire thing and all) but Ezekiel started talking to it, so I waited.

He asked if the creature was a prisoner, and the efreet said, well, he wasn’t here by choice. Ez asked if there were any other (human) prisoners here, and the efreet said, well if you didn’t count the fire giants, the giants might possibly have had slaves at some point maybe.

That sounded the opposite of reassuring, but Ezekiel forged on and said we might be able to get him home to the Plain of Fire – and what would he be willing to do in exchange? The efreet kind of chuckled and said, yeah, of course we come down to wishes sooner or later. So apparently, this is the thing that’s like a fire-genii, so it can grant wishes.

I backed up a little to be closer to the party (since for some reason Ezekiel chose to have this conversation across the length of the room) and we all looked at each other for a minute. We weren’t sure how wishes worked, or what exactly was possible, or what we might want – and then Elmo (I think it was Elmo, or maybe Mikael) asked if we could just wish the efreet home (instead of piping him through Lydia’s portal, to the portal in the Temple, blah blah). And then we all looked at each other with kind of inspired expressions – and Ezekiel cleared his throat.

First, he asked for Mikael to be healed in his head…which sounds kinda mean, but I guess he means whatever damage the magical cheetah-lady or whatever she was did to him (that time Ezekiel got charmed…seems ages ago…).

Second, he asked that Lydia be able to learn the knowledge she seeks.

Then he was quiet for a minute or two, and some of us worried he’d forgotten the third and last thing he needed to ask… Then he said, “I wish every prisoner here in the Fire Node be returned home, safe and sound.”

There was a kind of chuckle sound, and the efreet disappeared…so I guess he’s probably happy, wherever he is.

We continued down the corridor, and found a room that Heiron said, from the smell and the burn marks, probably held salamanders until recently. We found several magic items in their horde, including a magic marble statue of an elephant (we’re all hoping it’s like Simba!), a couple potions, and a scroll that neither Ezekiel nor Mikael could figure out.

When we got back to the room where the Fire Giant(s) had been, no one was there – but there was a big pile of money, so I guess the giant we spared did round up his “cousins” to hide in that room. Apparently Ezekiel forgot to wish their stuff with them…but, as he says, better to be home safe than to have a pile of gold. And as Mikael said, now we get the gold.

We filled in a few remaining corners on our map without finding anything interesting…so, short of re-walking the entire Node, we figure the Wish worked and everybody who was trapped here is now “home.”

So we drew the circle, waited for Lydia, and went “home” ourselves. Elmo says he has some questions – y’know, about giants and such. I have some questions myself…

****

Master Otis says he’s thinking of getting a gold-plated blacksmith’s hammer (!) to hang on his bedroom wall, of course! It’s been a fun three days…

When Elmo and I got back to town, Heiron told us Raven and Ezekiel were fighting in the back yard. Not fighting, exactly – but Raven said there were some dodging techniques he wanted to show Ezekiel…or he wanted a demonstration for his disciples, and Ezekiel was a handy partner…anyway. Apparently it was kinda comical, but Ezekiel says he learned a lot.

He also said he got a letter from his father, and read it to us. Little tidbits about what all his siblings are up to (he only has like three, so it didn’t take too long) and “nice you still remember your Old Man” type of stuff. (Wonder if Mama and Father got my letter…They probably have plenty of other things to worry about…)

While the rest of us were busy, Lydia had a chance to examine the elephant statue. She says it (and the fly statue we found a while back) are probably like Simba – which is pretty cool (although I’m not sure what a magic fly would be useful for. Mikael waved his jar of half-dead wasps at me). Mikael gets to carry the elephant statue, and Ezekiel said Lydia should have the magic fly statues, at least for now. (That reminds me, though, that we still haven’t experimented with the black scarabs that the cult-leaders had…)

I think we’re about ready to head to the Earth Node…our last one. I’ve decided Mister Whisker is coming this time. After all, earth is something he’s much more familiar with, and he might be able to help us with scents and stuff (also that’s why I befriended him – to have him with us!).

****

Quick update:

We had some trouble getting to the Earth Node. Ezekiel started by using the magic stone we got from the Fire Node, but then we just found ourselves in the Air Node…so Lydia had to find us and help us find one of the portal runes for the Earth Node. But finally, we found ourselves in the right place.

It’s chilly here, and dampish, and the air is full of dust…so I’m glad I have my necklace of free-breathing. The chamber where you first end up is really high, but the tunnels running off from it are less so – plenty of head-space for Mikael, but we can clearly see the ceiling with our lights.

Down the first corridor we picked, we came across some broken statues fallen on the ground – a man with a staff, and a horse. Raven pointed out they were highly detailed – right down to the determined expression on the man’s face – and Ezekiel said something about “basilisks.”

We continued cautiously, coming across another statue. A weird-looking grey creature crawled out of the wall once — Mikael called it a “xorn,” and said it’s a creature from the Elemental Plain of Earth. It didn’t respond when he tried to greet it, and I’m not sure it’s intelligent enough to understand; it chewed on one of the statues for a moment, and crawled away into the stony earth of the wall.

Ezekiel tossed holy water into the air to protect against Evil, and we continued on – until we rounded a curve of the passage and spotted the long, slate lizard-form of a basilisk!

Heiron and I let loose into it, and it flopped with a croak almost as soon as we saw it. Mikael waved around his stone of elemental summoning – but nothing happened, and we realized the Node was messing with earth magic…as we should have expected.

While Ezekiel twirled one of his rosary beads, mumbling something, we crept forward around the next turn. The passage opened out into a large chamber, where we spotted yet another basilisk! Heiron got his shots off first, and landed a couple together – right in the throat. The basilisk gurgled and dropped over onto its side without a chance to look our way…which suits us just fine. Mikael says a stone-to-flesh spell might help the statues we passed along the way – might – but he’s not sure that’s something he would know how to do.

Apparently basilisks like to hoard money just like everybody else does, as we found a big stash of gold and gems in the corner. Ezekiel says their eyes are valuable (for some reason) so he popped them into some of his vials for dragon blood while I set to skinning them.

[sketch of basilisk anatomy]

Oh, yes, one other really interesting thing! We were asking Tressarian about any magical things in the basilisk’s hoard, when we uncovered a scimitar — I’m not sure if it’s bronze or not, but Mikael made an “oooh” sound and picked it up. When he drew it from the sheath, it said, “Hey, boss.”

It (he?) says its name is Schakha…and he and Tressarian had a liiiittle bit of a measuring contest, bragging about all the languages they speak and all the things they can detect (Schakha has a nose for gems, traps, and secret doors; he also speaks Dwarvish common, and Ozzer – which is apparently a non-Evil fire language). He also seems a bit snarky, but Mikael told him we were “friends,” so he could be nice to us “if he wanted.” Well, whatever digs he makes at us, he seems totally chill with Mikael, so that’s nice. Hope Kevin doesn’t get jealous…

****

I don’t know why people talk about red dragons. Black dragons are the worst, and also actually deserving of the name.

We did a little more exploring, and found a square portal rune – and then came upon a chamber with two black dragons. While Ezekiel pulled out his rosary and found the bead he wanted to play with, Heiron and I loosed our shots. Heiron’s arrow bounced off the scales (no one can be perfect all the time) and mine ricochetted, only giving the dragon a scratch.

Mikael waved his hand – and the stones under the dragons’ feet turned to deep, gloopy mud! – which actually turned out to be one of the best choices this fight. It certainly distracted the dragons long enough that I got some more shots off (these arrows actually pierced the hide in a few places) and then –

Then the first dragon spit at us.

It wasn’t spit. It wasn’t breathing. It was green, and noxious, and stung and bubbled and stuck to us and ate into our clothes and skin and gear. I must have thrown up my arms to protect my face, because a big, smelly, sticky mass hit my chainmail…and my chainmail started oozing down onto the floor.

I guess Ezekiel and Mikael turned away, and caught it on the blast on their backs — Ezekiel’s backpack shriveled and melted like parchment in fire, and all his stuff rained down onto the ground (gotta check if any of his precious potions got broken…).

But Raven and Heiron got the worst of it. Raven looked worst at first, not having much hair, and his skin started peeling and bleeding.

As we all wheezed for breath, and tried to shake the itchy, tingly feeling off, the second dragon spewed at us.

Raven yelped and started dragging Ezekiel back down the corridor, into the shelter of a turn — Ez was shaking his head like he was dazed or something. Elmo scooped up Heiron (most of his skin was goo – that’s a sight that’ll give me nightmares) and followed, which left me and Mikael.

Mikael clapped his hands, and the mud (in which the dragons had now sunk up to their knees) flashed grey as it turned to stone (which is very likely the best decision made this combat).

That done, I grabbed his elbow and we helped each other race back to the others. Ezekiel had apparently been doling out healing, as Raven actually had a face again, but Heiron’s clothes were getting more “moth-eaten” by the minute…and his skin wasn’t much better.

I was torn between setting up the fortress to block the passage behind us (the dragons were shaking the ceiling with their bellowing, and I didn’t want them to come any closer; though, as Mikael or somebody pointed out, we probably didn’t want our fortress exposed to acid-spitting dragons) or grabbing the gem for the Water Node (Elmo asked if we could get to water, and the Water Node is surely a wet place).

In the end, Ezekiel beat me to the gem – and we found ourselves plunged into water. I made a grab for Ezekiel and pulled out Tressarian, and he lifted both of us out of the water. By the time we paddled to the closest island, a dolphin (Mikael of course) was helping Elmo drag Heiron onto the island (what was left of him, of course).

Ezekiel marched right over to Heiron and touched him with his mace, muttering something. Within moments, Heiron was coughing and wheezing, and the two “cleric types” passed around healing (Heiron kwauffed a potion until he looked more like his old self, and Elmo got a dose of Keoghtim’s Ointment on his worst burns).

No one messes with my little Heiron and gets away with it. Besides, Lydia taught us how to have an advantage of terrain – so as soon as she found us again with the portal, we trooped back to her room and prepared for our second assault.

First, Mikael cast “Barkskin” on me (helps make up for my chainmail, I guess). Ezekiel cast silence on himself (since he’s the loudest among us) and by the time Raven finished passing around a potion of invisibility, Lydia had moved her portal to behind the dragons.

We snuck through, being as careful as we could. They’d shaken down some rocks from the ceiling while trying to break free – and it looks like they’d been trying to dissolve the rock around their legs, too. But we didn’t give them time to get free.

Mikael tip-toed far enough away from Ezekiel that he could cast faery fire…and as soon as we saw the faint, magical flames guiding us to their vital areas, Heiron and I fired (by the way, I’m so glad my bowstring survived all the trauma and environment-shifts; probably compromised, though, and I should change it out soon…).

The dragons roared as they died – but die they did…and Heiron and I celebrated until the others became visible.

I was fully prepared to fizzle the dragons if they didn’t go down quickly, but all’s well that ends well. I’m still mad that Heiron had to be dead briefly…after all, he’s my responsibility – Ezekiel said so! (Heiron says he feels fine – just sad that he “failed you, Master.” I’m not sure what he means, but he’s a real trooper.)

Speaking of Ezekiel, he’s been barely articulate with excitement for at least five minutes. He showed us two big black blobs that Mikael tells us are Black Dragon eggs…and Tressarian assures us are not Evil.

Ezekiel and Raven say that it’s possible to raise dragons so that they’re not so nasty as they are in the wild – more docile and friendly…sounds like courting trouble to me, though it’s true Raven is a Master of Dragons now. We already have Keom and Ronhass waiting around at the tower for us (being Lydia’s room service, no doubt)…just where are we going to bunk a couple of dragon eggs?! To say nothing of brand-new baby dragons! If we thought Sgt. Bearington ate a lot, what does Ez think baby dragons are going to eat? He’ll have to quit dungeon-crawling for a bit to hunt full-time. (Though now that I think of it, the area could stand to be cleared of bug-bears…)

Tressarian says, well at least they’re not Red Dragons. I say, Red Dragons didn’t melt Heiron’s face down his neck (come to think of it, he’s looking a bit different lately).

As for my chainmail…although it’s quite sad to lose such a valuable magic item, I feel so light and free now (even if I’m basically carrying the same weight as before)! I’m quieter, too, now that I don’t go clink-rattle-clink everywhere I go. Raven said, “See what I mean?”

Ezekiel probably has a spare magic chainmail somewhere in his stash that he’s been saving…but until then, I will enjoy the novelty.


Read the previous entry here.

Dear Diary….dragon disappointment

This morning we patched ourselves up and headed back into the Fire Node…no playing with demons this time.

[sketch of map]

We started exploring the southern corridors, not finding much of anything…until Tressarian and I were scanning an empty room for magic and stuff, and a loud scraping noise came down the corridor from the main hallway.

Ezekiel and Mikael took Heiron with them to investigate, and we heard a huge, vibrating voice talking with them.

The rest of us gathered around the doorway, in preparation, and sure enough moments later a blast of hot air (and flickers of flame) shot out past us.

Raven flashed forward with his daggers out, and by the time Tressarian and I got up there, he and Heiron (with his sword Scather) had finished the job.

A red, spiky dragon head lay mangled and blocking the hallway. I thought they were supposed to be the scariest ones, but thanks to our rings of fire protection, it was still a pretty lame dragon fight.

Ezekiel started pulling empty bottles from his pack and filling them with dragon blood, and Lydia handed through a little crate full of more…apparently dragon blood is useful for something…

Elmo collected some steaks; he says you can eat just about anything. I’m not sure how I feel about that, since the dragon could talk after all, but as Elmo says, I’m the one who spent an hour skinning the whole thing, so there you go.

Mikael was kinda grumpy at Ezekiel — he says they should have kept the dragon talking until the rest of us came up to help. Ezekiel says he couldn’t stand there and let the dragon reminisce about savoring the anguish of its victims, but I’ve heard him tell the story of blasting the half-demon to dust…several times. And that only happened yesterday.

All’s well that ends well, I guess, though we had to pile the pieces of skin into the fortress to carry it all (and it made groaning noises when we shrank it that I don’t like). Heiron’s bowstring got burned up, but Elmo helped him with a spare.

[sketch of map]

We did some more exploring without finding much interesting (although we killed a toad that spit fireballs, so that was different). Also killed some more fire elementals, which Tressarian is happy about, since we “didn’t save the dragon” for him. Oh, also fought one of those squishy, brain-looking things with the tentacles…Mikael and Raven killed that.

Things got a little more interesting when we found rooms that looked like giant quarters. Elmo says they reeked of giant, but I still can’t smell anything but dragon. (Maybe go swimming later?)

The rooms were pretty picked-over – dirty bedding and scraps and the like – but we did find a huge sword – longer than Elmo or even Mikael! – that was only sharp on one edge for some reason, and had no point! Tres says it’s magical, which makes sense when it’s all covered over with filigree and way lighter than it should be, but it still looks impractical. It didn’t radiate Evil, so we took it to examine later.

We were about ready to move on when the door at the end of the corridor opened, and something DARK stepped through. It seemed like those fiery figures of the fire elementals, vaguely humanoid, only it was on DARKNESS instead of on fire…so I covered my eyes with my shield and asked Ezekiel if this was the thing we were supposed to leave to him.

Ezekiel hefted his mace and clank-clanked forward, and after a few “have at you”s and “begone foul fiend”s we heard a croak, and a zap, and I’m pretty sure purple lightening reflected off the corridor walls for a split-second.

When we all peeked again, Ezekiel stood victorious over a pile of dust, and the runes on his mace were glowing. He seems really excited, so that’s good. It’s been a good couple of days for Ezekiel getting to do stuff.

Mikael got to use his stone-to-mud spell, too…on a door that none of us could seem to budge (a lot of the doors have trouble…maybe it comes from being made of stone?). Inside we found a magic tiara, but none of us could figure out anything more than that (it didn’t have emblems that any of us recognized) so Ezekiel put it in his “presents for Lydia” stash.

At long last, we tracked down the dragon’s lair (Elmo says it smelled strongly, but again, everything has smelled more or less like dragon all day).

The dragon even had a hoard – which we checked for magic and Evil (all safe and normal) – and which we just barely fit into the portable hole. At that point, we agreed all our baggage capacity was full up, so we drew the circle and let Lydia guide us back home.

We have a lot of math to do…

**

Disappointing about the sword and tiara. Don’t know what the tiara’s made of, but Lydia snapped it with her fingers. She thinks it has something to do with a magician named Nystal, who could make things look magical when they really weren’t (Tressarian disgruntled).

Raven pointed out the sword was almost twice as tall as I was (though he didn’t need to say that so loudly) so Elmo went to try it out in the backyard. He says it’s got a nice swing, and seems really intuitive…but he can’t make it do more than nicks or small scrapes, no matter how much power he puts behind the swing. Maybe it’s whatever it’s made of, but the sword almost seems to bounce back. Raven says it could be useful for teaching his disciples the muscle memory needed to swing a sword, without the danger of them hurting each other badly (though, again, it’s like eight feet long!).

We were all standing around discussing it, when Heiron asked hadn’t we seen that sword before? With the young lady in Greyhawk who kept telling people, “I’m a Barbarian!”?

It certainly looks a lot like her sword (though to be honest, the whole group was a bit overwhelming, and it’s hard to remember exactly). As we told Heiron, this is why you wear armor that actually covers you! Can’t imagine how those girls ended up in the Fire Node…but I can’t imagine it being a pretty story.

Raven says there’s a chance they’re still alive in there…I’m not sure I’m prepared to face that.


Find the previous entry here.

Dear Diary….demon drama

Well…it has been a stressful day.

After we found the magic key-stone, we kept exploring the corridors and found three fire-giants holed up in a room. Tressarian was very excited, and we killed one while Heiron and Elmo killed another one…and then the third giant threw down his sword, so Ezekiel held up his hand and told us to stand down.

Stand down? From a fire giant? Tressarian didn’t think so, and he started yelling at the giant in a language we couldn’t understand, and pulling my arm.

But…I didn’t feel like having Ezekiel yell at me today…and besides, it’s true that killing people who have surrendered is bad mojo.

Tressarian wouldn’t stop jumping around and shouting, so he and I went to guard the corridor while Ezekiel did whatever talking he felt like doing.

(We almost forgot about this part, but I’d better put it here: he says the giant said everybody here is a prisoner, and he and his cousins can’t go home; Ez told him to gather his cousins in that room, because if we ran into them somewhere else in the node, we couldn’t make any promises about their safety. I’m not sure leaving them to suffer when the node collapses around them is better than just killing them quick, but Ez says we don’t know what will happen to the nodes for sure, and it’s true we can’t fit them through the portal anyway. Irony there…)

(Oh, also, Mikael and Ezekiel took the giant’s treasure hoard. Insult, injury…but it’s not like I was there to say anything.)

No, I was out in the hallway, “guarding” – and what should stick her face around the corner but what appeared to be a young…woman…wearing not much at all and carrying a staff and bundle (I should have been more suspicious of the bundle…).

She said she was named Darlee, and was a magic user who lost her party here. I’ve learned a thing or two by now (though not quite enough things) so I told her to stand still and wait…so she stood at one turn of the corridor, and I stood at the other turn, with my shield and Tressarian ready, and we just kinda played the quiet game until the others finally decided to stop fraternizing with giants.

Once Ezekiel (and the others) came up, I got close enough that Tressarian could scan her for magic – since I figured if she were a human, she could have magic on her gear, but not on herself…and there was way more of herself visible than anything else, as it were. Well, sure enough, he detected magic on her – but he pointed out it could be Resist Fire or something…clearly, Tressarian is not gifted with a suspicious mind. And I am somehow both paranoid and naïve, which seems a bitter curse, but Elmo says mistakes happen to everybody. Bottom line, why was she so hot when Raven didn’t feel the need to strip off all his clothes while protected with Resist Fire? (I almost expected someone to make a snide remark about “hot,” but I guess no one’s in the mood right now.)

Raven does what he always does and offered food – so we set up the fortress in an empty room, and served out a meal…Darlee ate up, but she didn’t seem to be starving. If we’d only paid attention…

There was a lot of conversation, but I’m not sure how much of it is relevant now. She said her party was exploring the Temple when they somehow ended up here in the nodes…the rest didn’t last long, allegedly…she had seen Taki, but he never hung out with her (a nice, suspicious mind), and she worked with Ashrim the Cleric for a bit, but he was too suspicious (the mind boggles at what “too suspicious” might be…).

She did tell us there were a couple red dragons in the Fire Node, and grus (which we already knew, when we fought them).

Finally, we drew the circle, and after a time Lydia answered us, and Raven went through to explain the situation and prepare her for our latest “guest.”

Ezekiel suggested to Darlee that maybe she could show Lydia her spell-books, as a way to pay us back for getting her out, and Darlee asked if Lydia would share the favor – was Lydia nice?

While Ezekiel was trying to answer, Darlee asked if couldn’t she adventure with us for a bit, and held on to Mikael’s arm. His face went all red and funny-looking, and when it was time for Darlee to go through the portal, he went with to show her the way.

(Oh, yeah, Ezekiel told Darlee she might not want to be in our party because we were dangerous and had gods mad at us and stuff, so it might be hazardous to hang around us – but he never seems that worried about Elmo and Heiron!)

After an unusually long time, Mikael and Raven came back – and we checked the arrow slits before heading back out…which is just as well, because there was a pile of hot, glowing fire-snakes sniffing around in the hall just outside. I really expected Mikael to want to befriend one, and we’d have to tell him it wasn’t a natural-enough creature for that…but he seemed kinda flustered and distracted, so we started debating the best way to deal with them.

Good thing we never came to a conclusion. Next thing we knew, Lydia came through the portal – looking grey and staggering a little.

Ezekiel patched her up while she told us what happened: Darlee attacked her, sapping energy with every touch — she was immune to magic missile, and Protection from Evil seemed to keep her back! Lydia’s rock elemental hit her enough that she fled with magic…but that just meant she could be anywhere.

I’ll never forget the look on Ezekiel’s face when he said, “Sounds like an aludemon. Let’s go.” (That’s a half-demon. He explained it all in way more detail than we wanted – after it was all over. He also told us they can only be hurt by magic weapons, and can shape-shift…because of course they can.)

We raced back through the portal into Lydia’s room. Instead of standing around to give long speeches and explanations, Ezekiel jumped right in to barking orders.

Lydia, he sat down to scry Darlee. Meanwhile, I would run through the tower with Tressarian scanning people for Evil —Ez reminded us that Charmed people would radiate unnatural Evil, too, so Mikael would back me up with his rope of tangling. Elmo would run warn Sir Rufus what was going on; Raven would run to the inn (since we stupidly told her we have friends there) and check the people in the village. Heiron was to guard the door of Lydia’s room and let no one whatsoever through unless they said the password. Ezekiel would stay with Lydia in case she found Darlee – and be ready to jump through on top of her.

Mikael and I stepped out the door – and almost tripped over Raven’s disciples (Ronhass and Keom), who were sprawled on either side of the door.

Opposite us, the guard for the ladder onto the roof had his military fork ready in his hands. He started to tell us, “Be careful!” because there was a dangerous enemy around, and we needed to stay inside…but before he could finish, Tressarian told me he was Evil – and I told Mikael to rope him up.

We called Ezekiel out, and he touched the two disciples so they regained consciousness. While he tied up the guard with regular rope, they told us that “Miss Lydia” was suddenly standing in the corridor, and smacked them around – and then they passed out.

Ezekiel seemed to think the guard was Charmed, not our shape-shifting half-demon, so Mikael and I followed Raven down the stairs.

The line of guards on the gate hadn’t seen anything suspicious…we asked if anyone had left recently, but they said only Raven (which we expected). While I scanned them for Evil, Mikael tried to explain what was going on – in a way that wouldn’t make them panic.

Tressarian thinks I should write it down for posterity: “If you see a man, or woman, you know (or don’t know) attacking someone else (that they wouldn’t normally attack), don’t get involved, because you don’t have magic weapons.”

Everyone in the room was clean, so I dragged Mikael out into the courtyard – still talking.

We made it most of the way around the wall – and were busy scanning the horses in the stable – when Ezekiel caught up with us, massaging his hand a little (he says the guards wanted to use their weapons on him before they would let him through, so they temporarily cut his hand).

He told us it was all over. Apparently after he told Lydia the half-demon was using her shape, it didn’t take her long before she grabbed his shoulder and shoved him through the mirror – out onto the top of the tower beside two catapult-operators and “Miss Lydia.”

Lydia says he could have done with less “your doom is upon you” before engaging Darlee, but the bottom line is they clawed at each other for a moment, and then Ezekiel brought his mace down on her…and there was a flash and crackle…and Darlee zapped into a pile of dust (Lydia says that part was quite satisfying).

A few catapult-operators were bleeding out around the top of the ladder, but sounds like they popped right up when Ezekiel used his healing on them, and he brought a handful of Darlee’s dust as a souvenir for Lydia (Mikael says if she wants to kick it into the wind he will gladly help).

Well, once Ezekiel told us his story, we didn’t need to keep searching for charmed people – so Mikael turned into and eagle and flapped off to retrieve Raven, and Ezekiel headed off to find Sir Rufus (since it was his tower to start with that we staged all this excitement in).

I made my way back around to tell everyone we’d spoken with that the crisis was over (a couple people asked me to clarify Mikael’s story, but I’m not sure I did that much better a job) and then caught up with Ezekiel.

He apologized to Sir Rufus for all of us, and for once I’m glad he’s such a people person, ’cause Sir Rufus deserves all the bows and heretofores he can think of. I mean, we’re guests in this place, and what do we do but bring an aludemon into the heart of his fortification?!

Sir Rufus held a roll-call, and it looks like everybody’s alive and accounted for. Schmitt still glows Evil when Tressarian sniffs him, but he’s submitting to Sir Rufus and not trying to attack anyone, so we figure he’ll be all right once the Charm wears off.

Lydia asked Ezekiel to get Heiron to stop guarding her room, since the emergency was over (Heiron did a very good job, he just needed to be told explicitly that he didn’t need to worry about the password anymore). I think Lydia needed a little personal time; she still looked a bit pale (though now that I say that, she’s always pale, so it’s hard to be sure). I can see being attacked by someone you trusted in your own room takes something out of you.

We all had dinner together at the inn. Some of the tower guards were there at the same time, and trying to explain what happened to their friends…I didn’t hear enough to tell if they were using the Mikael version or the Ezekiel version: “Shape-shifting half-demon got through the portal but we killed it.”

Keom and Ronhass still a little stunned, even after Mikael patched up all their physical wounds. Raven told them “this is what big-time adventurers do,” and this’ll be something they can tell all their friends as long as they live…that they survived encountering a half-demon. I’m not sure they’re convinced.

Raven also says he suspected Darlee the whole time, but I say not doing anything about your suspicions isn’t any better than being total dupes (which I didn’t mean Mikael specifically, but I don’t think he appreciated that).

Elmo says these things happen to the best of us. I thought it was supposed to get easier once you were all grown up and strong and stuff. He says that even Lord Otis couldn’t tell a demon from a super gorgeous young lady just for looking at her, and that just because we’ve experienced a lot of things doesn’t mean we don’t have plenty to learn, still.

I said, sure, but the catapult-guards at the tower didn’t sign up to learn our lessons along with us. Elmo said that the bigger you get, the more damage it does when you fall down…and if Raven were there I’m sure he would have made a height crack, but he was off running laps with his disciples.

Heiron got talking with some of the tower guards, and Ezekiel and Mikael were doing whatever, so Elmo and I went off to the river to fish. Master Osler says he does like a nice plate of fresh fish.


Find the previous entry here.

Dear Diary….well that was anti-climactic…

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

So we can invade the Fire Node next, Ezekiel gave us a short lecture about the enemies one of the clerics we rescued told us about.

A Bodac is apparently some kind of demon, and can kill you if you just look at it…so he says the plan is for us all to stand back while he tries to hit it with the mace (while protected from evil). There are supposedly efrete there, too, which he says are relatives of the geni…they won’t be necessarily Evil, but it’s safer to be careful around them.

Everybody should be protected from heat, either with a ring, Tressarian, or one of the clerics’ spells – so we head in tomorrow.

****

We made sure Lydia was ready, then gathered around Ezekiel while he touched the gem we assume is the key-stone of fire. Sure enough, we found ourselves in an eight-sided room – four corners and four points like a star. Even with our magic, the heat was sweltering.

Firelight peeked through chinks in the walls, and eight heavy stone doors with brass handles lined the corners of the room. Ezekiel always says to take the right turn, and since north is front on the map, the east is the right (and I drew the map, so I got to pick which way was north).

So Ezekiel chose a door (Mikael had a bad vibe about the opposite direction) and Elmo helped us unstick it.

Down the corridor, first door on the right, we saw several fire pits, dancing with flames. When Ezekiel checked one out, it didn’t have any special markings – or any obvious source of fuel. He dumped a skin of holy water onto the first one – and a flash or something darted across the room to another fire pit, and billows of steam flowed out…but not much else happened.

Meanwhile, Raven was having trouble – panting and flapping his tunic to fan himself. Ezekiel cast an Endure spell on him when we started out, but it had stopped working. Mikael cast another spell on him – but it didn’t seem to do Raven any good…and we finally realized something was dispelling the fire-magic.

Tressarian reminded me he can put out fires, so we went around to a few of the pits, putting out the flames (there are four in all). Bright flashes fled before us across the room, but we didn’t seem to accomplish much else…The pits seemed to re-ignite not long afterwards.

Elmo uncovered a loose stone that had treasure underneath, and Ezekiel called me and Tres over to see if any of the gems there were magical –

But before I could say for sure, something came up from behind and burned us.

There were five figures — they looked vaguely humanish, but wreathed in flames…and they shot tongues of flame from the ends of their hands to hurt us.

Tressarian got so excited he almost shook out of my hand. Really, he’s supposed to be super effective against Evil fire creatures, but Ezekiel and Elmo basically took them all out by themselves (with help from Mikael’s faery fire). We did kill the last one before it could run away with its companion, so I guess that works. (I asked Tres if he “extinguished” the flame-persons, but he just said, “You’d better believe it!” instead of actually explaining how a piece of metal kills something made of fire.)

Then we gave the treasure a more in-depth look – and sure enough, one of the gems was glowing with magical energy. (Ezekiel calls it a “smokey quartz”.) So now that’s three of four…and we’ve barely been here an hour or two.

As Heiron pointed out, we still have to clear the node to the best of our ability – just in case there are prisoners here to be released – but it still feels kinda lame.

**

Met an oozing creature that Mikael called a “dumb pudding.” It was fast and gross, and Heiron almost dissolved his special new sword before Ezekiel saved it with water.

It split apart and lost tension when I shot it with arrows, so we moved on, but those things are really, really gross…


Read the previous entry here.

Dear Diary….there are water things, and there are water things

Safe and sound in Hommlet. Master Ostler was very impressed by our new badges. Heiron and I both decided to keep them in our locked chest at the inn, so they don’t get lost or messed up while we’re traveling in the nodes.

We asked Master Elmo up to our rooms for a “drink,” and we discussed our upcoming strategy. The last guy we rescued told us about the sea-hags in the Water Node, but none of us sounded really excited to fight them (not even Ezekiel, for once — he just thought that maybe they could tell us where the grus and water-demons were, but we weren’t sure we wanted to do business with them).

Bottom line, Lydia’s going to try to scry us back to our raft in the Water Node, and we’ll continue searching along the wall in a counter-clockwise direction – like we were before fighting the dragons.

****

Well, it’s been interesting, that’s for sure.

Lydia got us back into the node no trouble, and we started paddling (“we” meaning Heiron and Elmo…they’re just the best at it). We killed a couple kopoacinths (or water-gargoyles, as some might call them) and found a little estuary with a rocky beach – and a portal to the Fire Node.

While exploring around the portal rune, Ezekiel found a strange little object about the size of a finger (a long, fat finger). The outside feels papery…but not like parchment or something. And it’s stiff. Holding it in front of a light doesn’t reveal anything, and it’s heavier than it feels like it should be – although that might be because it’s water-logged. It’s not magical, so Mikael thinks it might be an egg or something…although even he doesn’t know what it might be for. Hopefully not something that’s going to hatch out and eat our faces off in the middle of the night.

We paddled on from there and came to a place where the cliff fell away in a shelf about head-hight (Raven says that’s not a standard measurement).

Some of the others spotted a green bug-man thing skulking on the far side of the shelf, so we slung the ropes of climbing up – and while Ezekiel chanted some kind of encouraging song, the rest of us clambered up (we learned our lesson…the more people we get into combat earlier, the better).

Mikael wrapped it up in his magic rope…and after that it was like shooting fish in a barrel. The creature looked like the umber-hulk we killed before, except it was green – and it only had two eyes, not four, so I’m not sure it could do that staring thing Ezekiel told us about from last time.

After Heiron and I killed it, I skinned it while Elmo and Ezekiel explored the rest of the cave (not much there) and Heiron killed another of those beach-ball mushroom things that Mikael called an Ascomoid.

Elmo took a slab of green-umberhulk meat with him, but I don’t think we took the eyes to give to Lydia. Ezekiel didn’t say anything about it.

Not super long after we started rowing again, we spotted two swirling blobs of water coming up behind us. We managed to run the raft into some shallow water, and then Ezekiel pulled out a scroll…and started bubbling and hissing at them. I guess he must have been speaking their language, because they made gurgling noises back – until one of them said, “We do speak Common,” or something like that.

Apparently they were pulled through the gate in the Temple, and then walked across the sanctuary to be shunted into the node. They’re none too happy about how the Temple people treated them, and sound like they want to go home to the actual Plane of Water…after they round up some of their other friends.

Raven reminded us that the portal runes in the Temple should still work – we just have to get them there. But first, Ezekiel told us they had a friend-elemental who was “trapped” here somehow, and we needed to help them free it. (They also told us where we could find some water-grus…which is important to us, but less so to them.)

At that point in the conversation, the elementals cried out, “It comes!” and another swirling, bubbly shape loomed out of the darkness at us.

Ezekiel asked them if this was their friend, and the two from before said, “Yes! And no!”

He told us not to hurt it – but we tried to hold it off while he dug in his pack for a scroll – and it smacked Elmo with a tentacle-y limb of water. (I don’t know if he got some down the wrong pipe or what, but we all agreed we wouldn’t want to do that again.)

Before it got any uglier, Ezekiel gestured at the thing while reading his spell – and the creature shuddered and groaned…and little drops of water broke free or something. And then it stopped attacking, and the other elementals seemed very relieved.

Ezekiel says the Water Elemental was “possessed” by a Water Weird – and the Weird is hurt by “purify water.” Anyway, the elementals seem happy about it, and in the morning, they’ll take us to meet up with more of their friends, so we can send all of them home. (We gave Lydia a heads-up, and she says she’ll come up with a “better” plan than sitting the elementals in a bathtub while she shifts the mirror around.)

It’s not really very late yet (though paddling the raft around is slow work) but Ezekiel doesn’t have any more scrolls for purifying water, which means Mikael has to prepare that for the morning…just in case there are any more possessed “friends” out there.

The elementals are hanging close to us…I guess they feel safer that way. The back of the shallow area has a cave where we can set up the fortress on dry ground…although it also has a portal to the Air Node, so we have to be careful where we set in the morning.

I didn’t have my mind on water spells this morning…Those elementals sure seemed upset about their friend…Being taken over by something else sounds really horrifying…Maybe I will talk to Ehlonna about this…about more ways I can be useful.

****

If yesterday was educational, today was even more exciting!

First thing, though, Ezekiel told us the paper egg was not alive (I think Ao told him or something?? He says he tapped into the shared life-force of the universe, but I think he’s just trying to sound cool).

Raven cut it open (since he’s super healthy and stuff) and showed us what was inside: a bunch of black powder (all caked together with water, now) and a little metal ball (which might be which it was so heavy). Guess we’ll give it to Lydia…she likes exploring different things.

We returned to the raft, and the water elementals started pulling/pushing/propelling us along — I think in the general direction of the water-grus, although I guess their friends were near there, too. By the time we reached another rocky shelf along the shore that we could step out onto, more elementals had joined us – to total six!

So we drew the circle, and Lydia joined us long enough to chat with the elementals a bit (I guess to explain her new, “better” plan to them) and then she led one through the portal. Moments later, it stuck its “head” (?) back through to tell the others it was all good, and they all oozed and dripped their way through the mirror-portal. I’m sure they’ll be…happy?…to be home.

Looking at the map, the elementals basically pushed us right where we needed to be…but it took us a little longer to figure it out. We killed another of those floating eye things, and we spotted some, like, underwater-ghouls that Ezekiel dealt with using his sheep-symbol.

After enough paddling up and down in the area they told us about, we spotted the entrance to a cave or passage underwater. Since I have the necklace of adaptation, and Mikael can be a dolphin, the two of us headed down to explore.

No sooner did we poke our noses into the entrance, than we saw a bunch of swirling bubble-clouds…but not like the elementals. Even I could tell they were different somehow…more like the swirling pillars of air we found in the Air Node.

We nipped back to the raft just in time for the “swirling water things” to come chasing after us. Fortunately, they could only come a couple at a time, and Heiron and I (and Tressarian) took one down while Ezekiel oiled up his mace (probably helps with all the damp).

Elmo chopped into them with his huge axe, and Heiron went at them with his new sword, Scather (I think he’s enjoying it…it seems pretty effective). Raven used his magic daggers, and even Ezekiel bashed a couple into collapsing water droplets with his mace.

I counted four altogether, though I could be wrong. I didn’t see it happen, but they got Heiron a couple times; while Ezekiel healed him up, Mikael and I went back to see if the beasties were guarding anything worthwhile.

Were they.

We found a scroll, a staff, and a potion lying in a huge pile of money – along with a respectable collection of gems. But Tressarian picked out the one that really mattered…a carnelian, glowing softly with magic energies. I made sure not to touch it, but wrapped it up in a handkerchief.

As Ezekiel says, two out of four, now! We need to come back to the Water Node if we’re going to get the Dragon-Turtles out, but otherwise, we’re ready to move on! We’ll have to decide: Earth or Fire.


Find the previous entry here.

Dear Diary….first ever dragon fight—impressive??

Digging through my pack (and the bag of holding) I realized I have a potion of heroism (it might be from the sticky cloth that makes a storage hole, but I’m not sure…). According to Ezekiel and Lydia, it makes you stronger and tougher, and “unlocks” something-something-lets you attack more efficiently, or something.

Bottom line, I gave it to Elmo, in case he judges it would be useful. (I mean after all, he chopped a giant in half last battle, and I barely did anything. Besides, Heiron and I are planning to go in with our bows, and more muscle wouldn’t really help us there – except maybe break the bowstring by accident (which would not be helping).)

Ezekiel says we’re heading into the Air Node tomorrow…

****

Arrived safely at Taki’s old campsite and set up the fortress. (Forgot to ask how he was doing last time we were in town…maybe Raven has heard from him??)

Lydia “set” the portal inside the fortress, and then stepped through. Hope no slimes find it while we’re gone — that would be awkward.

Ez cast his “Endure Cold” spell on her — he says it should last several hours, so even if the dragons get the jump on us, she should be protected (not just because she’s a girl, but because she has the best chance of any of us to toast the enemy with one gesture – and rescue our bacon if need be).

Heading out to follow the wall of the main ravine now…heading “south.”

**

[rough sketch]

Boring, boring, boring caves. Even Elmo can’t find traces of anybody/thing living here – or at least not recently. There sure is a lot of room back in here…you could house an army (though I don’t know why you’d want to, in here).

We did find something interesting, in one of the caves tucked at the southern end of the canyon: a faintly glowing triangle, drawn on the floor. So now we don’t have to trek to the Water Node to travel to the Earth Node.

**

Finally found a ridge that led us up to a plateau overlooking the ravine, and the last couple caves that we haven’t mapped.

Ezekiel “warded” us from cold as we came up the ridge…and then there wasn’t anything up here.

If we tie all the ropes together, I think we can climb down the cliff-face faster than walking the long way down the ridge (Raven says, “Especially with Elwyn’s short legs,” but I know I’d never land a hit on him). Maybe we can reach the cave at the cliff foot before these shorter spells wear off.

**

Well, it was in the last cave…the very last cave. Because naturally.

As we were about to enter, we noticed a huge pile of lizard-like dung – splatted, as though it had landed there front a great hight, and at great speed.

With that indication, we passed around a flask of invisibility potion, and entered as quietly as we Ezekiel could.

The first dragon swooped toward us from a crag high in the cave wall ahead of us…(contrary to the squat little burrows we’d spent the morning in, this cavern was expansive and high-ceilinged.) I don’t think it could see us, but it might have been coming forward to investigate the sounds of clanking armor.

Heiron got his shot off first – and winged it so that it shimmied away from my shot.

Mikael lit it up with faery fire, and Lydia gestured – and the dragon yelped and skewed into the ground, its body popping and smoldering.

Two more dragons broke from the shadows and charged us. One of them was comparatively small…I must have landed an arrow in a chink between its scales or something, because it flipped over and fell dead almost before I saw it.

The final dragon was almost our undoing. It gave a roar of rage, and blew icy breath all over us.

Raven jumped behind Lydia. Ezekiel and Elmo got their arms up to shield their faces or something, and of course Mikael was wearing the Ring of Warmth.

For Heiron and I – it was like diving into an ice-locked lake…naked. Ezekiel has told me about some people, way up in the mountains, who play a game like that in winter: you sit in a room full of fire and water, then run and jump into the icy water. Some people don’t have their heads on quite right.

Heiron still managed to draw his bow without his fingers falling off – and nailed the last dragon through the throat.

Ezekiel and Mikael came around, giving everyone magical anti-frostbite, and the battle was over.

So I don’t know what to make of my first encounter with dragons. On the one hand, they went out like punks…and on the other hand, if Ezekiel had been a little slower putting his hand on me, I think I might have shattered when I tipped over and hit the ground. I’m only just now getting the feeling back in my fingers, as I write this.

(I NEED to find a way where Heiron stops almost dying all the time. Like better armor, or more dodging practice, or something. I’ve told him it won’t do…his arm is all scarred up from the giants’ boulders, and now he’s nursing frostbite. If he weren’t such a teddybear, he’d up and quit on me.)

We explored the rest of the cave, and found the dragons’ treasure stash. Mostly money, with a couple magic goodies – including a short composite bow. Now I have an excuse to practice short bow.

We also followed a ramp along the side of the cavern and found a little cave with the eight-sided fire symbol glowing on the floor…which means we now have entrances to all three of the other nodes, once we’re ready for them. As Ezekiel would be quick to point out, we also want to find the magic gems for all of them…but one thing at a time.

While the others check out the potion, scroll, and wand we found, “some” of us are gonna try skinning dragon! Elmo says we should have a race. I’m not sure I want to lose at something else today.


Find the previous entry here.

Dear Diary….die, learn, win, repeat

13 Wheelsun

Nice party last night. Raven made the most extraordinary cookies. (He made up a box to leave with Lydia, I guess to keep her company while we’re busy.)

Wonillon found a caravan traveling in his direction, so he’s joining up with them this afternoon. (He did let me buy the necklace of adaptation.)

We’re going over to Lydia’s at the tower so he can say good-bye (and so we can do some planning…meaning Ezekiel and Lydia do planning, and the rest of us look pretty).

**

Lydia has adjusted her face! She looks more-or-less the same, just without the burn scars. I thought it was funny that she had her veil loose in the tavern last night, but I couldn’t put my finger on why it didn’t bother anybody (especially her). I guess she’s forgiven us and consented to wear the hat.

Elmo came to the door while Ezekiel was laying out our next order of attack, and said it was “really boring” around here lately, and could he come with us for “even shares.” Wonillon talked him into buying his ring of fire-protection (guess he figures he won’t need it in the Chron Hills), even though Elmo says that’s “a lot of drinks'” worth of money.

After Wonillon left, Elmo started using his real voice – which kind of confused Heiron, but we reassured him about it (“basically Master’s master”). (Kinda sweet that Master Elmo is treating Heiron like an “inner circle” person.)

Apparently Lord Otis tipped him off that we’ve been exploring the nodes of Air and Water, so Ezekiel gave him the run-down on the key-gems (at least what we know so far).

We’re heading back to clear out the nest of water-hobs, if possible, and from there, Ez wants to Hunt Demon-rays.

**

[the following contains many water-marks and smeared sections]

(Guess we were so excited we left half-cocked. We realized we have several potions of polymorph, and a couple of water-breathing, so we passed those around to whoever needed one – just in case the Airy Water gets dispelled while we’re underwater. I meant to leave myself a note, but obviously I forgot – because we also didn’t bring the Cloak of the Manta-Ray (is it in the chest, or was it hanging in Lydia’s room?), so Elmo wrote her a note to please send it through when she gets the chance.)

We inspected the underwater cave with Airy Water – it’s basically a passage that slopes up to a cave with an air-bubble, and then slopes down to the “sea” on the other side. We killed another of the marine gargoyles there, but I’m not sure it lives there exactly. (It rammed its horn into the rock wall, making it easy pickings.)

Climbing up the beach into the cave, we found something more interesting: a big triangle rune on the floor…glowing ever so slightly. According to the notes, this should transport us to the Node of Earth…when we’re ready to go there, of course.

Ezekiel wanted to continue on the sea floor for a bit, so we tied the raft to my depth-buoy and kept following the wall of the node.

There’s no seaweed, no algae, nothing that looks alive down here. You could tell it irritated Mikael.

When the spell was about to give out, we climbed the rope to the raft – then pulled Ezekiel up when he signaled (if the raft got into the spell-radius, it would sink).

Time to paddle for a while…we’ve heard some splashing, but haven’t seen anything yet…

****

Well, we found something, all right. And we learned some lessons, too.

Following the sound of something large splashing and bellowing, we paddled around a promontory and spotted a cave-mouth, about ten feet above the water (nothing in the water, though).

Ezekiel decided he would go first, since he had the best armor and such, so he slung out a rope of climbing and started up. No sooner had he reached the top than a boulder bounced off his shield and sailed over our heads.

He yelled, “Giants,” so there wouldn’t be any ambiguity – and I arced an arrow up and past him while Elmo leapt up the rope with his battleaxe.

Raven sprang up the rocks like a spider, and once the rope was free I started to follow the others. Mikael rushed past me in a flurry of wings, and landed above as himself.

By the time I reached the top, it looked pretty ugly. The cave was spacious, but giants still packed the space…and a suspiciously dragon-ish white lizard stood on one side, breathing frost in our faces.

My arrows did absolutely nothing…and while Raven was dodging boulders with a monkish little dance or something, a giant caved Ezekiel’s head in with a club – and another one bowled Mikael right off the edge of the cliff.

I did see one thing – Ezekiel dropped a little black cube as he fell. I knew it must be the fortress…and if I could get it, I could enact his plan and block or squish the enemy (it would at least cover our retreat, though that’s a word I’m not fond of).

Raven grabbed Ezekiel and jumped off the cliff — I heard them splash in the water.

Heiron had joined us by now, and put a couple arrows into a blue and white lizard snarling in the corner – then called to Elmo that we were safe to retreat.

Elmo chopped a giant in half and dove out of the cave. A boulder caught me in the shoulder, but I was all ready to grab the fortress and practice Discretion.

Then a raven buzzed through the cave and flew off with the fortress in his claws.

I admit, I got frustrated at having to change plans…but I wasted no time. The giants had pummeled Heiron to his knees. By the time I staggered across to him, grabbed his elbow, and jumped off the cliff, he was barely conscious. (Raven says the impact of hitting the water is what pushed him over the edge, but I’m just glad we got out of there.)

Raven and Elmo helped Heiron onto the raft. Ezekiel(‘s body) was lying on top of a chalk circle…but it’s not like we had time to wait for Lydia (she can hate me if she wants). Nothing would stop the giants from reaching the edge of the cliff, and the dragon/lizard things had wings.

A dolphin was tugging a rope to drag the raft away, but I didn’t wait for that.

I popped one of my magic rings into my pocket, pried the ring of spell storage from Ezekiel’s finger…and remembered I don’t know how to cast spells. But I guess just wanting to cast Airy Water was good enough – because the next thing we knew, the raft was fluttering to the sea floor (jerking Mikael on the rope a little, but I think he forgives me).

We panted for a moment – processing. Faint bellowing came from above our heads, but we had lost our enemies.

Elmo had time to tell me “good job” (I made a note of that!) and then Lydia appeared – pretty mad. She ordered us through the portal, and after everybody else made it (either supporting someone, or flopping, for the most part) I followed.

Turns out, Lydia was most angry because she couldn’t do anything. Good thing she was watching us, though…even if it irritated her to watch a fight she couldn’t participate in.

I rubbed Keoghtim’s Ointment on the worst of Heiron’s injuries, and then Father Yra showed up – summoned by a man-at-arms – to take care of Ezekiel.

It’s still quite impressive to watch someone start breathing again. Father Yra told us not to worry about the fee, since we’re kinda sorta working for the tower anyway…he should know by now we’re a party who needs our raises.

The cleric types passed around healing…and under normal circumstances, that’d be enough excitement for one day.

But Lydia was not done by any means.

She snatched the ring of spell-storage, tossed some sulphur around, and handed to Ezekiel. She told him to drink a potion of invisibility, and go through the mirror and throw two fireballs at the giants.

Raven gave him a potion, and we heard the *clank-clank-clank* of him walking through the portal. Moments later, he reappeared – but Lydia did not look well pleased.

She said something that sounded like “pathetic,” and in the end we all got a swig of the potion. Lydia would drop most of us in the back of the cave – invisible, and with Ezekiel’s silence on us – and then move the portal around to the front of the cave for Ez.

When we saw her drop a light-marble through the portal, that would be the signal…Mikael and Raven would use their ropes of entanglement from the sides, and the rangers and archer would unleash a hail of death.

Well, this time the battle went much differently. When we no longer had to climb up one by one to reach the enemy – and when we surprised them with invisibility on top of that! – it was like…shooting fish in a barrel.

Mikael summoned Rocky the Earth Elemental, but I don’t think he even got any of the action. Heiron and I did indeed “unleash a hail of death,” and Elmo dashed into the fray with his axe.

As the smoke cleared from Ezekiel/Lydia’s second fireball, the last giant dropped to the ground.

It almost seems unfair. Almost.

Turns out they were hoarding a whole lot of gems and coins, plus a ring of protection that Elmo is wearing for now…Also a couple scrolls, one of which is definitely for Lydia.

We set up the fortress, and no sooner had we drawn the circle than Lydia joined us. Before we could panic, she explained that she’s been doing some studying, and found that she can “fix” the portal or something, so she can step in and out of it without trapping us all. Makes sense we wouldn’t want to leave it sitting open where something dangerous might blunder in (like a slime), but as long as we’re in the fortress, everything should be dandy.

With this new information, Ezekiel is much more confident about killing the dragons in the Air Node. We all talked for a bit about how we might do that, especially if Lydia loads up the ring of storage with fireballs and lightenings – and then all of us followed her back through the portal so she could rest and study up.

Before she shut down the mirror, though, Ezekiel had her drop him at Taki’s old campsite in the Air Node so he can practice his protection spells. He says the bandit cleric we rescued last gave him some hints that the spells could work differently in the nodes, and he wants to experiment. I’m not sure how you can “experiment” with divine spells (it’s not like it depends on word order and pronunciation, right?) but anyway that’s what he’s up to. And if he just sits in the fortress and stays off the battlements, he shouldn’t be too vulnerable all by himself.

I think Mikael also wants to prepare some things. He’s had a bundle of sticks shoved in his back pocket for the last few days, and last I saw him, he said something about “collecting a jar of wasps”. I’m…not sure I want to know.

The rest of us prepare in our own ways…sharpening weapons and restocking arrows. Raven’s been in the back yard swinging around one of his magic daggers.

Elmo said he was impressed with my work, even though I didn’t get to do much. He says I know more about giants than he does now, but I figure that’s just practice and exposure…and besides, he’s the one who diced a giant into pieces, so it all evens out. We did have fun showing Heiron the difference between a hand-axe and Elmo’s battle-axe.

Mister Whisker said he missed me. Technically, I guess, he missed my cookies, but broadly he missed me. Maybe if we go back to the Node of Air, or finally get to the Node of Earth, he can come with me again.

What a day. Good to have Ezekiel alive again, though.


Read the previous entry here.

Dear Diary….Wonillon’s grand finale

We had just sent the bandits off through the mirror, and Ezekiel had just spotted what might be a raft on the coast-line, when Raven reappeared – right about the spot where the bandits disappeared. He says he got our last two rescued prisoners safely on their way home…and, of course, picked up some cheese (which he passed around).

We talked a bit about how we could get the Dragon-Turtles out of the node and into the Near Div. It might be possible with a couple potions of Diminution, a spell of Mikael’s, and the river near Nulb…but we should definitely check with them first. And anyway it should be a while before we’re ready to collapse the nodes.

We also talked about ways to fight the Demon-Rays (or Ixixaktl). Ezekiel says it’s going to be harder, because some of them have the abilities of clerics (like casting spells and stuff) and others of them even have the ability to suck your life-force (he says it’s like vampires, but none of us have ever met those, either – thank goodness!).

Demon-rays are water-breathers, so Wonillon suggested casting “Airy Water” on them, making them at least sink – and maybe suffocate. Ezekiel isn’t sure he can use the spell on something other than himself, though.

Naturally, shooting my bow underwater would be basically useless – even inside the Airy Water.

****

We investigated the raft – and sure enough, it floats. Looks like it was cobbled together from bits and pieces of everything, with a couple rough paddles that might have been carved with a battle-ax. It looks rickety and uneven…but it does float, even with all of us on it.

We paddled toward what we’re calling south until we hit a new island (small and uninhabited), where Mikael tried to “Commune with Nature” or something (it’s supposed to make him one with the environment and tell him useful things about the surrounding countryside or something). He’s been sitting with his eyes closed and humming a little for almost ten minutes.

Ezekiel took the time to look for any hidden caves near the shoreline. He didn’t find any, but he did find a pretty shell.

****

Mikael didn’t learn anything…I guess this place isn’t much like the “natural” outside. (He doesn’t seem to like Ezekiel’s new shell.)

We continued south until we reached the wall of the node. I assume that’s what it is…it’s a wet, glinting wall of rock that rises up and arcs toward the fake stars overhead. We took care not to get too close with our raft.

Something attacked us shortly after we turned east. I just know it had wings and dove out of the water very suddenly. Wonillon and Ezekiel killed it (with Mikael’s help).

**

Well. It’s been an afternoon.

We were following the rock wall “east” a rocky formation rose up ahead of us. There must be an underwater cave entrance, because next thing we knew, humanoid things with fins and gills started swarming us.

We were a bit taken aback when Ezekiel hit one and his mace didn’t light up or anything (though it was also amazing that he’d hit two things today), so Mikael called out to ask them if they were Evil…though they never stopped attacking us long enough to answer.

Then I hit a couple with Tressarian (he was in my hand since we were sniffing for magic and Evil) and I could tell by the way their skeletal structure came apart – they’re related to hob-goblins somehow. I’m not sure exactly how the fins and gills came into it, but at least I didn’t have to guess where the major arteries and organs would relate to each other.

Not like it mattered a great deal – the others were chewing through them, even without my know-how. Heiron was shooting down two or three of them every minute or so…and they noticed. They gabbered in their own ugly language, and charged through the water to get at him (by the way, the raft is sturdier than I gave it credit for, and I’m very grateful that it didn’t tip us all out during the battle).

Things were going peachy…Mikael and Raven both used magic ropes to catch prey, and Ezekiel kept touching Heiron with healing whenever a weapon caught him. We were stacking up the bodies in the water all around us. And then the giant sting-ray things showed up.

Ezekiel tells me they’re “demon-rays,” but of course we never saw them real clearly while fighting them. They just jumped out of the water, took a bite out of something, and dove back down. Most of them seemed most interested in the dead marine-hobs (koalinths, I guess) and would take off an arm or foot as they passed a body. So I guess they’re not all that bright.

Others were more effective. One of them charged up and took a bite out of Wonillon – and he staggered back, looking pale and green.

A couple water-hobs knocked Heiron’s bow away and struck him to his knees. Although that made me see red, switching to my bow would take too long (even though I could kill more of them that way). Besides, Tressarian was having such a good time.

Ezekiel stepped over to Heiron and put his hands on him, and I tried to look dangerous by killing even more of them.

The stars disappeared for a few moments, and the fog around us seemed to intensify…Ez tells us that was a darkness spell, but I guess the continual light on our two shields was too much for it (thanks Elohnna!).

I slashed a ray in two, and realized the water-hobs had fled back to their cave (those who were still alive, obviously).

Ezekiel waved his sheep-symbol around, and I guess a few bubbles floated to the surface or something (of course in all that chaos it’s hard to tell)…he says there were some water-ghouls that noticed the power of the lamb.

I’m just wondering how many other things feel the need for a water-gimmick. What’s next, water-squirrels?

We were finishing off the last of the moving ixixaklt when I saw Raven holding his hand in front of his eyes and throwing a dagger.

At first I thought he was just trying to make it look more impressive…then I saw his dagger imbed into a…

[partial sketch]

Floating eye thing. So that’s a thing, too.

It bubbled and dropped into the water, and Heiron and Wonillon shook their heads and rubbed their eyes a little. (Heiron asked me, “How could a giant eye just float like that, Master?” and I told him to ask Lydia.)

Wonillon still looked kinda shriveled and green (and he’s just naturally small anyway) so Ezekiel said we had to get him back to the world to find a healer.

Not fancying the idea of sitting right outside the koalalynths’ front door, we paddled for about ten minutes until we found another bare island that would fit the fortress. We had time to bandage Heiron before Lydia waved us through.

He seems in a bad way. Even with the dodging and push-ups he’s been practicing, there’re only so many bites and stabs a man’s body can take. It’s not fair that just because I’m not as tall as he is I somehow seem less intimidating. Ezekiel says I shouldn’t tempt fate.

Ezekiel has also been talking with Father Yra and some other people at the tower…and the news isn’t good for Wonillon. As Ez said at first, it looks like the demon-ray sucked a bit of his life away. Not sure how that works, but I guess it means Wonillon forgot a few things…and isn’t as healthy as he used to be.

There is a spell that could help him…but it would take someone in Verbobanc to cast it, that they’d probably want a lot of money for the trouble (according to Father Yra). Like, a lot of money – even more than Mikael has (and he doesn’t have to pay Master Geru to share the “secret druid knowledge!”).

Wonillon’s done some thinking, and he thinks he’ll “quit while he’s ahead”…he got his revenge on the temple, and he says he’s richer than anyone in his hometown could ever dream. So he might as well retire while he’s still a young gnome in his prime, and enjoy his earnings.

Ez made a big speech that basically meant, “Good to know you; stay in touch.” We’re going to hang out for a few days (Heiron has to rest up anyway) and throw a farewell party. (Lydia will be happy…she says it’s super boring just watching us flex through the mirror.)

I want to ask Wonillon if he’ll sell me the Necklace of Adaptation. After all…he probably won’t need it…and it would come it super handy in the water node (and possibly in some of the other ones, too). Lydia and Ezekiel tell us that the elemental grus can’t cancel the effects of magical items, so having that would make me much more confident about being able to breath.

Tressarian says it was a worthy fight, but would have been even better if they were Evil fire creatures. He’ll just have to wait until the fire node.

(Lydia skeptical that Ezekiel turned some water-ghouls…she says the Demon Prince that the demon-rays serve is usually bitter enemies with the Undead King. Then again, maybe they weren’t working together? They just happened to be hanging out in the same area? The demon-rays sure weren’t “working with” the sea-hobs in any sense that we would recognize…)


Find the previous entry here.