Dear Diary….I am useful for various reasons

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

We returned to the hallway with all the dead bodies (still haven’t had time to put them somewhere out of the way!) and took the passage that slanted north-east. It connects up with the corridor that runs past the harpy room and the hexagonal throne room and those other places we explored on our very first trip here…as predicted by my map.

[brief sketch]

Ezekiel, however, was convinced that there must be something more here — that the angle of the junction was wrong or something, so there must be a secret door somewhere.

Even though he and Wonillon and Raven all looked for a door without finding it, Ez wouldn’t give up, and had Yeti hit the wall with his hammer. Sure enough, he found a section that rang hollow — and the two of them followed the passage behind until it ended. Yeti thinks, from the angles, that it probably leads to the library. He says it doesn’t feel like the floor slopes, so the passages should match up (and Wonillon said he was pretty tall to be able to tell that. Maybe when you’re closer to the ground, it’s easier to feel the ground? Yeti says it’s a gift from Ulaa).

This cult sure likes their secret passages…but I guess that makes sense, as it saves you steps in getting from here to there.

There were some rooms on the west end of the Temple we needed to fully explore (where Ezekiel and Yeti tried to chase down all those ghasts, and I was very nervous to be defending all our rescued prisoners without an undead-powerhouse).

On the way there, we passed through the corridor covered in bones – and Mikael reminded Ezekiel to keep his eyes on his surroundings, and to not get distracted by things on the ground like last time.

Apparently Ez was paying attention, because he noticed a crack or narrow doorway in the north wall – sort of across from the main passage to the south, and right in the middle of the bones.

It’s only about four feet by two feet, and seems to have sunk into the floor a bit (unless that’s part of the design). By hanging onto Raven and shining a light inside, Ez could tell us that there’s a deep shaft inside – so deep the light can’t reach the bottom. A narrow ledge spirals around the edge of the shaft – up and down – and it’s a good distance across, so Corby could probably fly in there if needed.

We have plenty of options for exploring it (Raven could climb the ledge, we could use the Rope of Climbing, Lydia could memorize some different spells) but we’re not ready to do that yet.

Wonder what it’s used for…a garbage disposal? Maybe it’s a secret access point from the Temple above to the lower levels? Ezekiel was amazed that we hadn’t seen the pit from upstairs, but after all, we didn’t really do much exploration up there…and besides, the top end might be hidden inside an altar or something.

We continued to the west end, past the prison, and into the room where Ez and Yeti gave up on the ghasts.

Just as they told us, there’s a hideous bas relief of some monstrous head – it looks like a flat-face on the front of a mushroom – plus a broken altar and lots of impish creatures drawn dancing around the walls.

There were no undead there, though.

We made our way through the three rooms to the north – double-checking that Ezekiel and Yeti found all the loot there (it very much stinks of ghoul)…and found a hole in the floor under a barrel that had some money in it.

Other than that, they seem to have found everything.

The altar room has a second door to the west. Beyond it is a long “corridor” that merges into a long, narrow room. It must have been a banquet room of some kind, with broken tables and trestles everywhere, shreds of tapestries and drapes hanging from the walls, and an old kitchen on one end. There’s even a fireplace big enough to roast a whole ox.

There are also bones and skeletons all over the floor, even underneath the furniture…we assume most of them are from the attack ten years ago, although an ogre skeleton in the kitchen seems to be wearing clothing that’s not that old (from the deterioration, not from the fashion).

As soon as we stepped into the kitchen area, a giant, hooded snake slid out of the fireplace and made a pass at Ezekiel – but Mikael stepped between them and started swaying and singing to it.

It must have liked that, since it started swaying, too.

By the time the rest of us were done investigating the storage closets (one for food, one for dishes – nothing worth salvaging), Mikael was rubbing the snake’s head, and it had folded up its hood.

He says its name is Cuddles. Why not.

Raven gave Cuddles one of our rations.

Wonillon thought the door to the east was trapped, but we opened it with no trouble, and found ourselves back in the main corridor.

We still had a little bit to fill out in our map, so we headed north, through the barracks, past the turn to the torture room, and to the hallway that wraps around the dirt-sanctuary (where the elementals were).

That hallway heads south and joins up with the corridor from the other side – where both of them funnel into a staircase that leads further down.

As Raven described to us before, there are paintings on the walls – captives, of all kinds of races, suffering death from water, wind, and fire. There are cressets for torches here, but they aren’t lit…yet the images seem to have a fiery glow when you look at them.

It makes my skin crawl.

Ezekiel is saving the dirt-sactuary for tomorrow, so there was only one more loose end to tie up: the door painted over with runes in the north-east corner of the Temple.

We found the door without any trouble (my map is pretty good, if I say so myself. And also it was a straight-forward route). Lydia thinks the runes are Runes of Warding, and Wonillon volunteered to try picking the lock.

It didn’t end too well. No sooner did he touch it, than his whole body frosted over with ice and he fell to the ground – thunk. (I’m glad he didn’t crack when he fell!)

Mikael jumped forward and managed to bring him around, but he was still shivery and weak, and we decided to help him back to Cleric Romag’s quarters and call it a night.

It was nice to have nice surroundings for once, and Raven prepared an absolutely amazing dinner with cheese and biscuits. (I guess that Monk training taught him a thing or two!)

It’s also nice being somewhere that we can barricade ourselves into and lock the doors. I’m hoping for a nice, quiet watch so Wonillon and the others can get a solid night of rest. After all, we started out pretty early today.

Also my shoulder is a little stiff.

****

Breakfast was biscuits from the barrel in the barracks. The healers (Mikael and Yeti) did their work to get the most injured of us more on our feet.

Raven marked the spots in the dirt where we (meaning Mikael) had noticed the magical glow, so it was no problem to find them.

According to Ezekiel’s plan, he, Yeti, Raven, and Wonillon dug in one of the spots (a couple yards off the corner of the altar-platform) while the rest of us stayed in the doorway by the curtain and watched for danger.

In the first spot, they dug up a lot of gold, and a potion. Ezekiel thinks it’s a Potion of Diminution. (Wonillon said, “Ah, so a potion of attractiveness?”)

For the second spot (on an angle from another corner of the platform) we had to move to the other doorway. The curtain was pulled back, so we had a clear view of the digging party.

We’ve been very lucky to not encounter any enemies lately, but the place isn’t completely deserted. While standing guard, I heard footsteps, and turned to find five shambling, blue-as-death figures coming toward us.

I told the others to run for Ezekiel, and loosed an arrow into one of the figures (got it through the chest, but of course that only slowed it down a little).

Lydia’s magic lion appeared beside me – but then one of the front ghouls reached me and clawed at me. He got his teeth into me (which is so very gross) and all my muscles went stiff.

I heard Simba growling, and Heiron tells me he took down a ghoul with his arrows (practice pays off, apparently) but everything is fuzzy until I sat up in the little dressing room at the south end of the dirt-sanctuary (the party had moved down there so the diggers could work on another corner of the altar).

Simba was still lying rigid beside us, but Ezekiel says Lydia ran down to get him, and he dusted the remaining undead.

I think my plan worked pretty well – Lydia is faster than you might think, and we held them off so they didn’t pursue her (I as juicy live bait, Heiron as an archer). That’s why we have a party, after all. I’m not sure the others are convinced, though.

The diggers found a load of platinum and a suit of ringmail that Mikael confirmed is magical. Another spot had a small bag of gems and a magic morning star, and the last place had a magical ring, magical rope, a leather case holding a magical wand, and a brass box containing three bottles of “Keoghtom’s Ointment from Mother Streng’s Herb Shop.”

I think this is just perfect, since she was suggested to us as a possible aide to our investigations…and now we get her goods for free (assuming they’re the genuine article). Raven says he saw some of this while he was buying healing potions in Verbobanc, and it apparently draws out or neutralizes poison, cures diseases, heals wounds, and other amazing things. And you apply it on the skin, so the subject doesn’t even need to be conscious!

Yeti used his paladin-y stuff to sniff for Evil, and he says the items are “clean.” We speculate that they were buried as offerings to the Earth…powers…So since we killed the Earth Elementals anyway, now they are ours!

We think the ring is for Protection, so we gave it to Lydia – since Mikael and Raven already have their own. She got the wand, too, since she’s pretty much the only one who can use it (Raven suggested Wonillon might be able to use it, but that might be a stereotype) and I have the rope in the bag of holding because of course you can never have too much rope.

Now we just have to decide if we’re going back to town before descending to the next level. My ghoul bites are smarting, but I’m not a whiner and can deal with it. We will at least wait until Mikael has a chance to reload his spells.

(By the way, I’m happy to report that Corby no longer looks at Cuddles like she wants to peck out his eyes. Hopefully they can figure out how to be friends…after all, Mikael is their mutual Best Friend. I am a little worried about keeping a snake that big fed, though.)


Find the previous entry here.

Read the start of the Temple exploration here.

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Dear Diary….the whole rest of the party

We opened a door in the east of the corridor, and discovered an ogre preparing to come out. That’s as far as he got, though, as my arrow caught him through the throat and he fell backward with a shocked look in his eyes.

He wore a copper belt with a purse, and the room beyond was obviously living quaters…with cracked plaster walls, a some couches pushed together to make a huge bed, and a large cheese and sausage on a table. (Raven took the cheese.) There was also another store of weapons here…as long as the Temple had hands to wield them, they’d have plenty of weapons for defense – or attack.

Raven found a chest under the table, and Ezekiel found the key on the ogre. It had a decent amount of gold, along with two agates (I don’t think they’re magical).

A door to the south led into yet another room (it’s the theme around here), and I spotted a gnoll and fired an arrow into him. Corby flapped past us to get at their eyeballs, and Yeti threw his hammer.

There were probably a half-dozen or so in that room, which had a big fireplace along one wall, a keg, a bed, and other furniture – trashed and broken from its former glory.

Heiron took out two of the gnolls himself.

While Ezekiel was inspecting the fireplace, Raven went exploring around the corner of the room, and found some more gnolls. I killed one, while Mikael lit up the others with faery fire. I saw Corby flap past with a strip of gnoll flesh in her beak.

(Heiron missed a couple shots in a row, so I guess he is only human after all. Makes me feel a bit better.)

Wonillon caught one in the ribs with a dagger (made me feel uncomfortable to watch him for some undefined reason).

As Ezekiel and I mopped up the last of them (probably a dozen or so altogether) I noticed a bugbear among them.

Mikael and Yeti did their healing magic while I recovered some arrows and took what money the enemies had on them.

It seems this room used to be a reception or council room – though now it’s full of pallets for gnolls. A fountain stands in the corner to provide a trickle of water, and a distressed sideboard would support meals for the barracks.

There’s also a fascinating quadruple crossbow (it’s not quite a ballista) that was aimed through a peephole in one wall to fire down the hallway toward the from of the Temple (the hallway on the other side of where we entered. We seem incapable of finding anything except the back-doors).

It was getting towards evening, so we decided we might as well hunker down. There’s a stack of wood that provided nicely to make a fire – and it works out that we used it, because Wonillon found a pile of money stuffed into a hollow log over there (does he have some kind of gnomish gold-detection? He seems really good at this).

We set watches for the night, and Ezekiel really, really wanted to have Lydia watch with him, despite her being a spell-caster and a girl and needing her rest.

I guess he should be old enough to take care of himself…just makes me suspicious, is all.

We have blocked the doors to keep things peaceful.

****

Something told me it was very early…but we were all awake, and felt rested. And besides, it’s always twilight down here, so it doesn’t matter much.

After some discussion, we decided to go check out the pile of bones – leaving the hallway out the east door of the gnoll-barracks for later.

Wonillon took a gear from the quadruple-crossbow, so that no one could (easily) use it against us.

Back in the wide corridor, right before I killed the ogre with one shot, we headed north. The passage is about twenty feet wide – and a huge section of it is covered with bones…human and humanoid, broken and gnawed on, mixed with broken weapons, armor, shields, and helmets.

Someone estimated that between one and two hundred people died there.

The passage T-ed to the east and west, and as we advanced we had to pick our way between bones – or just crunch them underfoot.

“Anyone see any cheese?” asked Raven – but of course I couldn’t look for that while I was keeping an eye on the ceiling, and the floor, and the walls, and the bones, and the shadows where enemies might try to advance on us from.

Ezekiel had his holy symbol in his hand, but then he bent down to examine something I guess, because then half-a-dozen gnoll skeletons came shuffling toward us – clack, clatter, clack (I didn’t see if they just rose up out of the pile, or if they came around the corner).

Corby cocked her head and looked at them, as though she didn’t see the point of enemies that didn’t have eyeballs.

Yeti shattered one with his hammer into little fragments – and Raven smacked one so hard it staggered backward and stared at him with a stunned look in its…eye sockets?

Mikael poked Ezekiel in the back so that Ez stood up again and waved his sheep symbol at them (and ordering them to turn into dust, which they did).

Some more were coming up from behind us (I guess they didn’t see his symbol?) and Wonillon stabbed one – but a dagger doesn’t have much to slice and poke when it’s all bones.

Yeti threw his hammer and shattered another one to dust (I saw one try to claw at him, but it couldn’t get close enough to hurt him).

When the last skeleton turned to dust, Ezekiel handed me the thing he found — it’s an arrow with a silver tip. Apparently it might be useful against devils (though not demons maybe?) so I’ll keep it for emergencies.

Then Ezekiel (being Ezekiel) held up his holy symbol and yelled, “Anyone else?”

It seems like immediately after that, we heard the jingle of armor and pounding of footsteps, and we could see a whole crowd of men heading down a hallway to join us up ahead.

I got an arrow into one, and then Lydia threw an egg into the hallway with them.

As the green cloud spread, Raven ran to the edge of it and held up his magic ring. Blue sparks filled the hallway, and the men screamed as a whole bunch of them fell down – dead.

I nailed a couple more with arrows while they were trapped in the cloud.

Raven batted a crossbow bolt out of the air before it could hit him, and Ezekiel planted his plate-mail self in front of me to block any missiles he could.

Lydia called out her magic lion, and Raven threw a dagger and got one in the joint of his armor.

Herion did very well for himself – sniping down one enemy and wounding another – but then someone got him with a javelin and, magic chainmail or no magic chainmail, you can’t fight with your insides rearranged.

Mikael didn’t hesitate, but jumped right in and started to heal him, while Raven tried to catch any javelins that were thrown at them (he didn’t do so well all the time).

One of the guards rolled a barrel down toward us, and Ezekiel charged into the cloud to kick it. It spun around, spraying oil everywhere (including on Ez), but it stopped rolling toward us, and he staggered back out again without needing a rescue.

Since they couldn’t really fight at range, Raven took Ezekiel behind the cover of the wall to the side of the hallway, and Lydia ducked into safety on the other side (but not before a missile caught her).

Yeti threw his hammer so hard it smashed through several fighters with one swing – and it’s so very cool that it comes back to him when he throws it. Raven should get some daggers that do that.

Raven dumped a waterskin over Ezekiel to help dilute the oil.

As soon as the cloud dissipated, Corby swept in to attack (I guess she was ready for some eyeballs?) – as did someone from the other side, who charged Yeti. Didn’t do him much good, as Lydia’s Simba mauled him pretty good.

Ezekiel yelled and charged, knocking a guy so hard I heard the “gong” on my end of the hall.

Wonillon, Yeti, and Raven also rushed forward – since they finally had a path for their melee weapons – and took out their opponents.

By that point, I was feeling frustrated (maybe seeing all my friends get hurt so much, and not killing the enemy quickly enough) that I switched to my sword to finish the job. As I ran past, I saw Yeti “laying hands” on Corby with a soft magic glow.

After that, it was…messy…but quick. Yeti and I each took out three while Wonillon and Simba were taking out two – and Raven took out one.

Ezekiel bashed some blonde, ax-wielding chick with his mace, and purple lightening sparked everywhere.

As Yeti bounced his hammer against one guy’s head into another guy, the last two bowmen fled to try to get range for their shots. Simba and I didn’t let them do that, though, and chased them down while Wonillon was knifing the final leader.

I counted forty-four bodies in all. (Ezekiel sure knows how to ask, doesn’t he.)

It may sound different on a page, but I much prefer fighting gnolls and bugbears and orcs and hobgoblins and ogres.

These are ordinary humans like me. They ought to be serving Good deities, and living Good, normal lives.

Instead they’re kidnapping villagers to sacrifice to Earth Elementals and stuff. And stripping ladies before feeding them to undead…

Gotta keep it in perspective. It’s still not tidy or painless, but it needs doing.


Find the previous entry here.

Start at the beginning of the Temple exploration here.

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