“The Delinquent Dwarf”
The Further Traveling Journals of the Band of the Blessed Fountain
By Molliam Merryweather
[In which the Band journeys to meet someone who doesn’t exist, slays a raging umber hulk in the streets of Cauldron, celebrates Molly’s birthday, spends far too much gold on new clothes, slays their second dragon, watches Molly die and return from beyond, invades a Kuo-toa shrine in the Underdark, slays yet another dragon and rescues a dwarf despite his wishes.]
March 7, 316
It seems Ham has received a letter from some big-wig in the Kord temple hierarchy (one “Albright Manly”) inviting him to Cauldron to discuss “opportunities”. Ham is excited, naturally. I’m sure he hopes for some form of promotion in the temple and more and greater “opportunities” to squander larger and larger amounts of coin on poor dirty swine-herders.
We shall see. Tomorrow we head for Cauldron to present our virtues to humans in white cloth. With any luck something interesting will happen.
Thus, taking the optimistic route, I’ve decided to pick up my journals again. Let us hope something transpires worth jotting down.
Let us also hope the band has not forgotten my birthday is coming soon#. It will go ill if they have, I assure you. Especially after the grand affairs I orchestrated for Ham and Griffon’s birthday feasts already.
May, 8. 316
We have left Brightwater Keep and traveled north toward Cauldron. At present we are camped roadside. Griffon expects we’ll reach the town in three days or so.
We’ve left the keep in the capable hands of our guard. We’ve also left Griffon’s tree-thugs to watch over the guard. Watchers watching the watchers, so to speak.
We have left the majority of our remaining wealth there after all. Not to mention a perfectly good gemstone mine. And a magical fountain. And a bound lich.
An interesting, if somewhat disturbing, side note: Griffon has taught his abominable badger# to act as a mount. Yes, that’s right. He’s riding the dire beast, saddle and all.
Only Griffon would even conceive of such a thing.
Ham and I have mounted ourselves on proper riding dogs, as befits civilized people. Nickel has the wagon, as is her preference.
May 9, 316
We’ve met only a couple of bands of travelers coming from Cauldron. Nevertheless, I’ve managed to gather from what little interaction we’ve had that some interesting things are going on. There seems to be have been some sort of difficulty during the rainy season recently with the lake amidst the town. Some water wands of some sort went missing and there was quite a disturbance over it.
Beyond that tidbit, of course, it all seems more political than anything else. Humans have the ridiculous habit of overcomplicating everything, really.
Regardless, we have camped again roadside. I am simultaneously relieved and disappointed to be traveling a truly civilized road for once. Far fewer ogres and orcs, sure, but boring, boring, boring.
May 10, 316
We have camped within sight of Cauldron. At least, within sight of the mountain rim. The town itself lies within the bowl of the dormant volcano atop it. Supposedly a truly magnificent sight. I can’t say myself, as this will be my first visit. Still, from all I’ve heard of the place it seems a well and exciting enough place to celebrate the dawn of my twenty-seventh year.
Tomorrow afternoon we should arrive within the city proper and find a place to lay our heads. I’ll relay my impressions of the place then.
May 11, 316
Well, I must say I am quite impressed with Cauldron. A more aptly named town I have never seen. Almost from the moment we entered the gate we could see nearly the entirety of the town over the rooftops ahead. The town is indeed set around the bowl and lake of the crater as I had heard. Quite an awe-inspiring sight, I must say.
I’m afraid I wasn’t able to get a proper tour of the place as Ham insisted on proceeding directly to the Temple of Lordly Might the moment we entered the gate. At present we wait idly on the steps of the place while Ham meets with a half-orc named Ass-felker Ran-loot (or some such), the high priest of the temple.
The priests and folk of the temple have apparently heard of us and we’ve fielded a number of rather direct questions from a few of them. At present Griffon has a small crowd about him, regaling them with the tale of our battle with the “Lord of Lockwindy Forest”, that dastardly green dragon. Nickel seems out of sorts with all the attention, but feels compelled to be polite and answer a few questions.
I managed to sneak aside a bit to pen these journals, natch. Never a good idea to garner attention within any temple#, especially those dedicated to gods like Kord. Perry is atop the step performing his tricks and enjoying the attentions of the clerics.
As for the city, I can see a good bit more from where I sit at the steps of the place. The Mayor’s compound is just below and to my right. Rather impressive, naturally. Certainly I would love a closer look about the storerooms and vaults of that place. The rest of the city will suffer a thorough inspection as soon as Ham returns, if I’ve any say about it.
Well, odder and odder. Ham has returned and, according to the high priest, there is no Albright Manly here to meet with us. Moreover there is no such person in the upper echelons of the temple body at all, that he is aware of. And just to make the point all the more clear, it seems the seal upon the letter that Ham bears is a forgery. And not a very good one at that.
Which didn’t keep Ham from lazing about socializing with the high priest and the rest while we cooled our heels on the front step, natch. I guess he found some folks that don’t mind the smell so much.
We’ve discussed the situation and have decided that either this is some not-altogether clever (well, clever enough it would seem) ruse to get us out of the keep or a rather strange prank of some sort. After a bit of deliberation we have decided to spend the night here in Cauldron, do some shopping and sight seeing tomorrow, then head back to Brightwater. Should anything occur there in the meantime, it is doubtful the respectable number of armed men we left behind won’t be able to at least hold it off until we return.
I have heard there may be one or two magical cloaks available in this town enchanted in such a manner as to render the wearer invisible. If I am in luck I might yet be able to dig one up.
There’s an inn northward along Obsidian Avenue. We’ll stay there tonight. Still no indication from the others that my birthday has not utterly slipped their minds.
I am discouraged.
May 12, 316
We are sitting now in the Slippery Eel Tavern off Magma Avenue. We’ve shopped around a bit, more to get a feel for things than actually buying since we haven’t near enough coin for a proper go of it. Thankfully, everyone split up for the day to see to their own curiosities#. I found a couple of dubious merchants with several items of interest and a nice furnishing shop with lots of decadent things that would be perfect in my room at the keep.
Still and all I can’t wait to return with a sturdy cart and a chest or two of gold. I am already considering a list of items to purchase and purloin when next we visit.
We have met at the Slippery Eel and will continue our circuit of Magma Avenue together before exiting out the west gate homeward. While it hasn’t exactly qualified as a proper adventure, our visit to Cauldron has certainly been an enjoyable time all told. And there are a well and respectful number of Halflings in this place. Making it, to my reckoning, a proper city.
I may even consider a move here soon. Certainly it is worth considering. There doesn’t seem to be much for me to do about Brightwater anymore and if Griffon can hare off to the woods for weeks on end, I can make myself just as scarce here as he I think. After all, what else does a wealthy adventurer have to look forward to, if not the traditional move the a big city and a life of decadence and vice? Besides, if my partners can’t even recall my birthday, then I can damned well find a band of friends that can.
Besides, I doubt Nickel will mind sharing a great big lonely keep with old Hamidoc. And who knows? Maybe Griffon wouldn’t mind coming to visit me now and again.
I am aquiver with excitement still! We’ve suffered an adventure of sorts after all, it would seem. The events that have transpired run somewhat along this vein:
After leaving behind the Slipper Eel Tavern and heading eastward along the Magma Avenue, Griffon suddenly called out saying he heard something strange from the northeast. From a warehouse, as it turned out, for soon enough a great hulking insect-like humanoid burst from the wall of the place, bellowing horrendously. To see it shoulder it’s way straight through the wall, and feel the ground quake at it’s passing was quite exhilarating!
Most terrible of all were the creatures eyes. What exactly it was about them, I cannot say. But even to suffer the casual gaze of the beast threw one into a state of utter confusion and terror. Indeed, I myself nearly succumbed more than once. I most assuredly would have been driven mad had it not been so obviously intent on smashing every standing structure it could reach rather than focusing on the throngs of people around it.
Truly, we witnessed whole crowds of folk fall sway to it’s gaze. Even those who managed to resist or overcome it’s effects were more or less trapped within the frantic crowds. Violence erupted all about us from almost the moment the monster appeared and before it was all done several town folk were injured and no less than three buildings were near-totally demolished. What fun!
Now, I tell you, if I had not already a great respect for Nickel’s arcane powers I certainly would have develop such today. I saw Griffon and Ham bounce arrows and bolts off the beast’s chitinous hide without making more than a scratch. I myself tried to burn it with my small magic to no discernable effect at all. And while it is true that the boys managed an impressive cut or two, it was Nickel’s trio of lightning bolts that brought the beast low in the end. Of course, she got herself knocked down and bludgeoned a bit yet again. Becoming standard fare for her, I think.
Still, I would be willing to wager that if she not been with us this day we might have been sorely pressed to even walk away from this fight. All praise to Nickel, indeed.
The town guard, half-orcs most of them, were quite impressed with us in the end. Not only with our success in putting down the beast’s rampage of destruction, but Griffon even managed to save a human pup from falling out of a window as well. And I, myself, nabbed a thief in the act of looting an import house.
Well, granted, I really didn’t nab the thief personally. And I frankly wouldn’t have cared what she was doing, really, I just happened to mention to Griffon that I’d seen an elf-girl sneaking about around there during the commotion and one of the guards overheard. It was he and a couple of his bunch that took it upon themselves to go in there and nab her. But, I don’t mind taking the credit if it puts me in the good graces of the authorities around here. You take what good chant you can get.
Still, if another half-orc dares to pat me on the head even once more, I’ll go for the kneecaps, I swear#.
A sergeant of the guard has come by to interview us all. According to him someone from the Mayor’s Office will want to speak with us soon as well.
After all of that we poked around the place where the beast had come from, more to satisfy our curiosity than anything else. We did managed to find part of circle of odd sigils etched in the floor of the collapsed warehouse, though. Nickel is positive they are part of some form of summoning circle. Obviously how the beast got into the city in the first place.
We pointed this out to a couple of the guards and have retired to our inn room. We will likely stick around and speak with the Mayor’s Office tomorrow before heading home.
May 13, 316 (happy birthday to me!)
Ah, but I am well and truly surprised. And, Olidammara knows, I not one so easily hoodwinked. It seems my merry band have recalled today’s auspicious occasion after all. I awoke to find, to my concern, that everyone had disappeared. On the common table, however, a note advising me to rest until midday as befitting a proper birthday celebrant while they make arrangements for the feast.
I am overjoyed and quite excited! And, indeed, I fully intend to make lazy about the inn room until the noon.
I am twenty-seven today and have had a life filled with adventure, enviable wealth, unflappable friends and glory beyond measure. Today I celebrate my inestimable good fortunes#.
At noon I was escorted by, of all things, a proper “honor guard” of local Halflings. Apparently Griffon had hired them at a some expense and dressed them all up in mock armor and pole arms (fashioned from broomsticks and dinner plates, no less). Why, one fellow even lead the procession from the fore loudly singing a bawdy ditty detailing the blush-worthy exploits of “Molly the Sorceress, scantily clad!” Off they whisked me down Magma Avenue carried on high in a chair borrowed from the Slippery Eel (draped in crimson cloth, natch) while the confused and bemused crowds of Cauldron looked on. Oh, what fun!
A sampling of my birthday song:
Molly the Sorceress, scantily clad!
Loves to make merry with all of the lads!
Best to play nice and not act like cad,
Or she’ll turn you to stone and move on to your dad!
Molly the Sorceress, scantily clad!
The way she behaves is so awfully bad!
But don’t you object or you’ll make her so mad,
You’ll spend your days missing the ’nads you once had!#
Bless old Ham! Who would have thought he was possessed of such humor?
On arriving I was placed with all the delicacy and care of a proper princess upon the stage of the Slippery Eel to make my birthday speech. I properly roasted poor old Ham for his fatiguing piety to Kord (and his smell), made provocative reference to Griffon’s taste in animal “companions” and regaled the denizens of the inn with some of Nickel’s more creative uses of magic to solve common, everyday problems about the keep (most notably an incident involving chamber pots). That, coupled with a somewhat licensed retelling of our various adventures to date had our audience alternately awed and reduced to roars of laughter#.
After that we feasted. And my what a feast! The cooks that Nickel rounded up had us all nearly stuffed silly before midnight! And mushrooms! Steamed mushrooms galore! Spiced mushrooms, even! I have never eaten so well or so gluttonously in all of my days.
Next came the birthday gifts, my most favorite part.
Ham gave me a tiny but sturdy black leather pouch reinforced within by a fine mithral mesh, lined in finest silk and fastened on the end of a silver chain. To keep Perry’s treats in, he says. Oh, but I absolutely adore it! (And Perry was most pleased as well.) He even provided a small supply of dried apple bits, Perry’s favorite, to fill it with.
Nickel presented me with two very well crafted scabbards for my blades. She had them fashioned from the remaining green dragon skins, as it turns out. Each was dyed black and etched with highly decorative representations of a sneaky little Halfling lass performing various acts of legerdemain along their length. Me, natch. I put them on immediately and thoroughly enjoyed the “oohs” and “ahhs” of the crowd.
Griffon, though, waited until the feast had wound down a bit before presenting his gift. A more precious gift I have never received. While everyone in the tavern turned to their various individual merriments, he pulled me aside to a table near the rear of the Slippery Eel. There he produced a Halfling clothed and hooded all in black, who I’d noticed earlier skulking about the shadows of the place.
When the hood was thrown back, to my overwhelming surprise, I beheld for the first time in ten long years the nearly forgotten face of Hannigan Merryweather.
He left us to reacquaint ourselves, then, and we spent nearly an hour doing so. It was indeed a bittersweet reunion. Still even now I find I harbor both stinging resentment for this utter failure of a father and near-fanatical adoration of this living legend among thieves.
I truly wish I could say the meeting was well in the end, but it was not. He departed in anger. Yet again. But I’ve not let it discourage me. For it seems to me, in fact, that Griffon’s gift to me was not to see my father again so much after all. More I would say it was the surprising realization that I have, myself, grown quite more than I had realized since my father last graced my life. No longer the naïve Halfling lass am I, desperate for a father’s approval. Today I faced Hannigan Merryweather as an accomplished legend in my own right.
If he can find nothing worthy of approval in me now, then I say he is simply incapable of it. I will continue on with own concerns and leave him to his. And that will be that. A pity, truly, but the fault at least is not mine.
(And, humph, some thief. I palmed a platinum coin from his pouch when he left and he didn’t even notice. I’ll keep it in remembrance of Griffon’s gift on my twenty-seventh birthday.)
Nonetheless, I do hope he made it out of the city alright. There’s quite a bounty on his head, you know.
Griffon was adorably befuddled and blushed delightfully when I kissed him full on the lips before the entire crowd. I’ll never admit I gave him a bit of a tweak, too, natch. The crowd rightly loved it and roared their approval. Quite a nice way to end a birthday feast, I say#.
Goodness, I find I am quite flustered even recalling it. I really must find occasion to maul Griffon again.
Ah, but I must make note of this ere my ale-pickled mind fails to recall it later. I found that Ham and Nickel had up and disappeared as the celebration began to wind down. I worried and went to go find them, natch, and instead find myself now quite tickled. I can’t say with absolute certainty, but I do believe I heard some distinctly Nickel-ish sounding moans and cries coming from one of the rooms upstairs. How thoughtful of them to celebrate my birthday so merrily#.
I suppose the temple of Kord isn’t as much on celibacy as one might assume. Ah, I do so look forward to the sport I will make of them tomorrow.
Well, I am horribly drunk. Too much so to jot even another word. I can’t believe these empty mugs on the table here are all mine. Good night one and all. Perhaps ￼
May 14, 316
Oh my, but I am a bit hung-over. If Ham will stop breathing so loudly, perhaps I can ease my aching head before I get up and about.
Judging from my memories of last night and the notes of yesterday I had quite a wonderful birthday celebration. Indeed, I have had little opportunity for birthday feasts of any notable sort in the last decade or so. What a lucky lass I am to have such good friends.
And I can’t believe I pinched Griffon‘s…ahem. Goodness, what must he think of me? And yet…well, no. We must save such considerations for a later date, I think.
I do note that Nickel is possessed of quite a glow this morning. Giggle, giggle.
But on to business, for now.
After waiting around a bit for a representative of the Mayor’s at the City Hall, we gave up and went site-seeing again. When we came across the area where the Umber Hulk (the innkeeper insists that’s what they’re called) first appeared, we spied some folk cleaning up the mess. Figuring they likely were in the employ of the warehouse owner, or in some way affiliated, we chatted them up a bit.
The owner of the warehouse, and it seems several of the buildings in it’s immediate area, is one Maavu. A merchant of some note around here, apparently. And one who seems conspicuously absent of late, as well.
Ah, yes. I can see by the light in Griffon’s eyes we may have found ourselves a proper adventure after all.
Have returned to the inn for the night. Nothing more to report, although we did stop by this Maavu fellow’s manor before returning here. According to his housekeeper, no one knows just where he is and can’t say when he might return.
I suppose this fellow isn’t likely connected with the Umber Hulk incident, unless he’s the sort of merchant with coin enough to trash his own warehouses with impunity. Still, the fact that he is not around is rather provocative.
We’ve received a visitor tonight before turning in. A rather tall and striking human woman has invited us to a “business dinner” sundown tomorrow at some tavern or other. “The Cusp of Sunrise”, according to the card she’s handed us.
It is rather late, more tomorrow I suspect.
May 15, 316
We’ve asked around town again about Maavu. I managed to bump into a man who swears he saw him fleeing the city the very morning of the Umber Hulk’s rampage. According to the human’s description the horse was black with “clouds for hooves”. Possibly the man was drunk or overly excited at the time, but more likely I would wager Maavu was riding a phantom steed. Nickel agrees and if that’s the case then it establishes this merchant is some manner of arcane artist. He may well even be responsible for the summoning of the Hulk after all.
Well sundown has come and we have found ourselves scrambling about for a fine clothing shop of some kind open at this hour and making a frantic dash back to our inn-rooms to change. It seems the doorman of the Cusp of Sunrise is particular about the appearance of those that enter. Invitation only, and all that. And, while he was less than helpful about details, I’ve managed to ask around the inn and gotten a rough idea of the unspoken dress code of the place.
Honestly, we must have spent nigh on two thousand in gold on fine clothing and accessories. And more than that on jewelry, even. Nickel seems to enjoy the dressing up. I have to side with Griffon and Ham on this one, oddly enough. I haven’t the stomach for anything more fanciful that wool, really.
My goodness, I feel foolish. I swear I will castrate anyone that dares make sport of me in this outlandish attire. And how in the world does one accessorize a weasel? Perry will just have to stay under this fancy-shmancy cloak, I suppose.
The Cusp seems more or less to be a library with drinks. Ham and Griffon have taken a table after a rather unsuccessful attempt to chat with the nobles here. Nickel and I have just given up on the books ourselves. All historical tomes as it turns out. None of them interesting at all.
Perry has naturally run off to do tricks for the nobles at another table. My lovely familiar is such an attention whore.
Finally, the human woman (Celeste is her name, if you can believe it. A name more suited to a Halfling than a human, I would think) arrived and escorted us to a back room to meet with an old, wheezy, pale and generally ill-looking dwarf named Davked. (Now there’s a proper name for a dwarf.)
The long and short of it is this - this Davked fellow apparently had something of a falling out with one of his sons some time ago and the lad ran off on some fool quest in the Underdark. Since then the old dwarf’s wife has died and she cursed him on her deathbed with the bad health that was so evident at our meeting. Not to be undone until he made peace with all three of his sons, natch. Obviously a real bear of a father, this one.
Well, he managed to make nice with two of his sons, but the third has proven difficult to find. It turns out that the son is being held by Kuo-toa in the Underdark in a shrine of theirs called “Bhal-Hamatugn”. And old Davked is in no shape to go and fetch him. Hence, our meeting.
At first the moldy old rock-head was offering an astounding four thousand in gold or up to six thousand in dwarven arms and armor for the return of his son. Griffon promptly surprised me by haggling the sickly dwarf up to five thousand in gold as well as a thousand in dwarven arms and armor!
Now, besides the daunting prospect of entering the Underdark itself, there stands the minor obstacle of finding a way down there. According to Davked a group of mercenaries collapsed all the tunnels into the dark realm some time ago. But there is supposed to be some hermit to the north called “Crazy Jared” who knows a way down there.
The plan Davked proposes is that we go dig up this old hermit, get directions to some way down there and fetch his missing son. Perfect sortie for a band of rough and tumble Halflings like the Band of the Blessed Fountain, don‘t you think?
Ham, of course, was set on going back to the keep and checking on things straight away, but Griffon was quick to point out that our “vast treasure reserves” weren’t nearly so vast as gossip has it. Indeed, while the gemstone mine pays well enough, it produces profit enough barely to cover upkeep, staffing and maintenance on the keep and the mine itself. Completing repairs and finishing outfitting the keep is another matter altogether. It may well be another three months more before the keep in a proper state at the current rate. And we simply haven’t wealth enough to stretch things that far.
So, of course, we took the job. Tonight we bunk down here at the inn. When morning comes we’re off north to find Crazy Jared.
May 16, 316
We traveled just over forty miles today, took a bit over twelve hours to do it. According to the map Davked gave us, Griffon reckons we’re pretty close to the hermit’s hut. Just a matter of stumbling across it.
For now we’re resting up a bit, having ran into a troll on the way. He was holed up in the ruins of an old tower of some sort here along the mountain pass. Well, more of a circle of rumble, really.
Griffon spotted it before it saw us, so we were able to prepare for an assault. It caught wise to us and charged, though. We all let fly at it as it lumbered our way, but Nickel really got it’s goat sinking four magic missiles into it’s hide. It charged right for her. Even flew right past both Ham and I to get to her, but we all felled it before it could do more than take one clumsy swipe at her.
The price you pay for dishing out magic so well, I suppose. I really must convince Nickel to invest in some leather armor, at least.
It took a bit of doing, but we found Crazy Jared. Not that it matters much now. He had the bad form as to die before we could so much as properly introduce ourselves.
We arrived at the hut just in time to catch the arrival of a young red dragon coming upon the place and to see the old hermit come running out with a stick in his hand yelling something at us like, “To battle, knights! For Andoria!” Or something like that.
Griffon and Ham both jumped off their respective mounts and prepared to let fly. Nickel and I laid into the dragon with magic missiles and lightning bolts before it could get within range of us. The old man ran right up among us, waved what turned out to be a magic rod over himself (and suddenly appearing to be dressed in all manner of fine clothing and sparkling jewelry), and starts singing! A song about a great battle between his “brave knights” and some invading horde of evil dragons, of course.
Ham and Griffon got a few shots at the lizard, along with mine and Nickel‘s magic, before it settled over us all and everything well literally to hell in a hurry.
The dragon’s breath lit us all up like hay bales. Both mine and Nickel’s dogs died horribly. Griffon, Ham and I managed to jump clear of the main blast, but poor Nickel and the wagon horses all caught it full force. Gutter (Griffon’s nasty badger) caught on fire, natch, and went into a complete rage! Quite a sight that was, a brightly blazing dire badger jumping up and down, screeching its head off and trying with all its might to sink its teeth into a hovering red dragon.
It’s days like this that I find myself amazed to have lived to see such things.
But, that aside, Nickel managed not to get herself killed and we all scattered in different directions so as not to get all caught in one spot so conveniently like that again.
Ham summoned up some kind of floating ball of light that shot little sunbeams at the monster, but it didn’t seem to accomplish much of anything else. The old hermit went and died in the blast#, that old coot, and he lay there burning while we tossed arrows, crossbow bolts and a half dozen magics into the dragon’s hide.
In the end the dragon was kind enough to try to flee before we all died. Of course, we didn’t let it. It near knocked us all off our feet when it hit the ground, too. Which makes us all dragon-slayers twice over now, I reckon.
The old hermit’s hut and the weirdly painted wall surrounding it all went up in the blaze, so no telling if there was anything useful in there. Nickel recovered the old man’s wand near his body though, still in good shape.
Ham’s riding dog was off it’s poor feet, nearly dead and howling in agony. Ham tended to it right away. Griffon’s big ball of fur and teeth, on the other hand, was something more of a challenge. Trying to put out it’s blazing fur while it was gnawing madly on the dead dragon’s face was difficult to say the least.
In the end Ham tended to all of us and the two animals as well (using the term loosely in regards to Gutter). We’ve camped here for the night, at least. Possibly tomorrow night as well.
Oh, also, Nickel has put poor Ham to work skinning her second set of dragon-hide. By Olidammara, she’s starting a collection, I think.
May 17, 316
The remains of the hut cooled off enough to inspect it around dawn. I managed to find a scrap of paper with a map to a cave on it and the words “Pass phrase Anduria prevails” written on it in Common. Hopefully it’s the cave we’re looking forward. We’ll see tomorrow, as we’re camping here again tonight. It turns out Ham and Nickel didn’t rest properly what with all the dragon skinning and need another day. Griffon was rightfully angry with them for that.
Nickel says the wand is enchanted to dress you in fine clothing and whatnots. Still works, she tried it. I wish we had it two days ago. We would have saved a ton of gold. Still, Nickel says it can fetch a remarkable price in noble circles. Thousands, likely, so profit is served it seems.
We saw a chimera fly over us at midday today. A remarkable sight. It made one pass, spotted the dead dragon and disappeared off to the west quick as lightning.
May 18, 316
We’ve packed up and are off to locate this cave on the map. With luck we’ll be in the Underdark by this night.
Molly has passed away. We were ambushed by two magical ogres of some kind in the cave the map led us to. We all almost died the moment they attacked us.
The cave we came to was some kind of tomb, I think. Griffon called out the pass phrase from the note Molly found and an invisible voice spoke with him. An invisible ogre we found out too late. Nickel caught the voice casting a charming spell on Griffon and we nearly drew our weapons and began to search for the source of the voice in that way. The voice assured us that it meant no harm and we were foolish enough to barter with it for directions to an entrance to the Underdark. It demanded a large amount of gold for the information and Griffon was enchanted enough to try to convince everyone to agree.
The other one stayed quiet and invisible so we never noticed it. The two of them blasted us with some kind of cold spell the moment Molly started arguing with Griffon about the price and trying to talk the rest of us out of paying so much. I suppose they feared we would leave and wanted to rob us quickly.
Nickel and I fell unconscious from the blast of magical cold and Molly and Gutter both died instantly. Griffon was barely alive and, from what I am told, fought bravely. The appearance of a young Halfling girl wielding a great sword turned the tide, thank Kord.
She charged one of the ogres from the doorway of the tomb, decapitated it and cleaved straight through the other’s neck as well. It was she who fetched healing potions from one of the corpses hanging from cages in the tomb to heal me and Nickel. Griffon says we would have surely been dead if she had not acted so quickly.
At the moment we are resting and recovery from the severe beating we have taken. I’ve preserved dear Molly with a blessing until she can be taken home and cared for properly. I couldn’t find Perry anywhere.
- Hamidoc Westwinder
May 20, 316
Well, I can’t rightly say what has passed. Griffon assures me there is no joke being played upon me. By all accounts I have quite honestly died and returned to life. Ham himself performed the bizarre rite, if you can believe it. Why, though, I would choose to leave the Infinite Domains of Ysgard to return…here…is quite beyond me.
What was I thinking?
And, by Lolth’s silk-sack, why would Kord grant Ham the power to call me back from Olidammara’s realm anyway?
Well, actually, that does make sense now that I think about it. I am sure the great hulking mound of muscle and “duh” that is Kord was quite happy to thumb his nose at my lord Olidammara for once. I fear I may have something to answer for when I return to my lord’s eternal homelands for a more permanent stay.
How do I get myself into such messes? I fear I had best pray rather long and petulantly for a while yet.
And, oh, my Perry has gone. I can’t sense him anywhere. I am beside myself with worry. Olidammara protect the little rodent.
From what I gathered some beefy, sword wielding Halfling wench came and rescued us all from those ogres#. Really, I would rather have liked to see that. Sliced right through both of them at once, from what I am told.
It seems her traveling companions, fraternal human twins named Opal and Amil, were trapped in that tomb. She was about to charge in there and try to rescue them when we stumbled into the middle of things.
Still, I didn’t get to meet her as she’s gone on to Marikest to bury her friends. Perhaps someday I can offer my thanks and my condolences. Then again, considering the only time we’ve met was when I was so very dead, that might be a humorous meeting.
Perry is still missing. I am sure I would know if something terrible has happened to him, but I’m nearly frantic nonetheless. Whatever will I do without my little cuddle-weasel?
Well, to business then, for now. We’ve rested and I’ve recovered as much as I am able from the nightmare I’ve endured. Can’t really recall much of my time being dead, unfortunately. I surely remember the trek back, though. That I will not relate. Suffice it to say I’m in no hurry to repeat it.
Honestly, I’m sure I’ll die again one day. And when I do I’ve no intention whatsoever of coming back again.
And if it’s old Ham calling, I’ll be sure to ask Olidammara to toss a pox or two down on his ugly head.
May 21, 316
We have arrived at the pit that the Ogre-thumping Halfling told Griffon about. Just a big hole with a set of steel stairs running down to the bottom. Maybe sixty feet deep or so. Going to take a peek once everyone gets unpacked.
Scouted ahead and saw the forepaw of something big and dragon-looking in a cave or something under the south stairs. The others are talking over what to do. Ten to one I’ll be sent down there to scout again.
Well, that went surprisingly well considering the utterly daft plan behind it all. In the end the others decided to just rush down there and jump on the hydra. Oh, turns out the creature was some kind of cold-breathed hydra. Had all of seven heads on the thing. I counted.
And yes, that’s correct. We just ran down the stairs and did our best to jump down the nearest throat. I tell you, the gods must either love us or find us hugely entertaining. There’s no other explanation I can think of.
As it happened, I ended up in front of everyone else. If I were paranoid I would suspect they’re trying to get me killed or something. Killed again, that is. Naturally, the big beast strolled right out of it’s hidey hole and let loose a blast of breath from each and every one of its heads so cold the very air seemed to freeze solid. And all of them right at me.
And if that weren’t enough, the section of stairs I was running down like some suicidal lunatic choose that moment to fall right off the wall. Good news is that they fell right on the beast. Bad news is…well, I was standing on them when they did.
Still and all, being nearly dead again already and still a bit enamored with my recent brush with undead-hood, I jumped to my feet and rushed right up to the thing to try and chop off a head or two. (Griffon had started screaming something about cutting it’s heads off as soon as he saw the thing.) Naturally, it somehow managed to let loose all seven ice breaths again (and here I thought it took time to build up another breath for these lizard thingies)…and all of them right at me. Again.
Now, I don’t need to tell you I was starting to get seriously concerned for my health right about then. Honestly, it was not at all difficult at that moment to draw a correlation between the cause of my most recent death and my seemingly impending one.
I’ve always said that if anyone were to say that the gods don’t have a sense of humor, I would correct them. Well now, after dying from cold magic at the hands of invisible ogres only to be brought back and tossed head-first onto the back of a pissed off cryohydra all alone at the bottom of a pit…Well, now I have a good example of just how sadistically witty the gods can be.
And if that all weren‘t enough then you can imagine, what with Nickel tossing off lightning bolts, Griffon shooting arrows two at a time and Ham’s chanting the thing to pieces, the beast was nice and irritated once I started laying into it up close and personal like.
That’s when it suddenly occurred to me that I hadn’t actually hit anything or anyone with my swords in quite some time. I had always hung back and tossed magic at things.
Suicidal lunatic, I say.
In the end, though, Ham jumped straight off the stairs and landed in a little heap of fury right next to me. One hit with his Ham-sized sword and down the beast went. And I didn’t even get to chop off a single head.
If you’re wondering how badly I was beaten up by the nasty thing, then consider: as soon as the beast fell down, I let Ham the Smelly carry me back to the others.
We are resting. Griffon was nice enough to build me a little fire to thaw myself by. No frostbite, surprisingly. Though a bit of my hair has broken off.
Ham has refused to skin the hydra. Really, I think Nickel is developing some kind of unhealthy obsession with lizard-skin.
Griffon is still pining for his dire badger, poor thing. It died with me in the ogre tomb, I am told. When I thaw, I‘ll go to him and we can mourn the loss of our respective furry friends together.
We found a frozen drow lying off to one side. A few gold and some excellently crafted scimitars that ought to fetch a nice price at market. More than that, though, a shirt made of pure mithral that I fairly suspect might be mildly enchanted. I have claimed it for my own, natch. (Of course, I did try to get Nickel to take it but she refused.) Now Ham can properly go and sit on a porcupine with his fancy-shmansy shadow armor.
Sun is setting and we are camping for the night in the wood nearby. Nickel and Griffon are off trying to figure a way to hide our gear and booty while we are down in there. The dogs and horses may just have to fend for themselves. Never let it be said that I didn’t point out to Griffon that he could have brought a couple of his ranger fanatics along to guard the loot. If we come back out of there alive and the horses are gone, I swear I’m not carrying that big, smelly dragonskin all the way home.
I don’t know if I can sleep without Perry. This will be the first night I’ve lay down my head without my little bundle of sneak beneath my chin. Oh, Olidammara, help my little mischief-maker find his way home to me.
May 22, 316
Perry has returned! I am beside myself with jubilation#!
I awoke early and found, to my utter delight and eternal joy, that he had come and cuddled up to my neck during the night. I have never been so happy! Thank Olidammara for the blessing!
I am going straight-away to stuff my precious Perry-kins full of treats.
Griffon has shared what he knows of the Underdark, which isn’t much. He knew a bit more about the Kuo-toa, though. None of it very good. Sticky shields, lightning bolt priests and nasty fishy smells. I dare say this may be challenging.
Gathered at the pit, now. Will be going in once Griffon and Nickel finish passing out gear.
Well, that took forever. I think I have completely lost track of time. Griffon swears it only took about six hours to get down that horrible tunnel. Or “fissure”, as Griffon insists on calling it.
I hate it here. It’s so dark and oppressing that I find it no wonder the denizens of this realm are so ill-mannered. You’d think they would come up and find a nice glen or valley to live in. Something with flowers and sunlight and properly staffed taverns.
This place is quite simply dreadful.
The “fissure” has opened into a surprisingly huge cavern about a half mile to the far side and a few hundred feet deep, at least. Down at the bottom we can see a huge building of some kind. At least, I think it’s a building. Looks like some kind of gigantic dead demon-fish from here. Stairs go up from the bottom of this place right into it’s mouth. Griffon figures this is probably the “Bhal-Hamatugn” place where the daft Zenith Splintershield went and got himself captured.
Griffon’s already headed down. Best to catch up.
We have camped to rest in the black dragon’s lair. Haven’t had time to keep up the journal in the last hour or so. We’ve fairly run rough-shod over the place up until just a few moments ago. I image we’ll have hordes of fishy-lizard folk storming the room any minute now.
But, as for the events that have passed since last I wrote:
When we reached the base of the wall of the cavern earlier we found that a lake or some such stood between us the front step of the shrine. Before we could even discuss how to overcome that obstacle one of the fishy-lizards paddled up to us in a canoe. He almost caught us by surprise.
We scrambled for cover of course, but I’ll be hanged if the smelly fellow didn’t just lean his spear and stare at us. Either we’ve lost our knack for avoiding folks or this old fellow’s eyes were sharp as tacks.
Well, we didn’t rightly know what to say to the fishy-lizard paddler so we waited for him to speak. Presently he asked if we had come to see the “Eye in the Darkness” and offered to take us across.
So, the fellow took us across the lake, droning on and on about darkness and the eye in the darkness and did we come from the darkness? Couldn’t make heads or tails of it. Griffon asked the smelly little frog if we would be able to meet with whoever was in charge of the shrine, but didn’t get any kind of answer that made sense. Before long he dropped us off at the foot the shrine steps and just paddled away. Decidedly an odd encounter, that.
At the steps of the shrine, though, things got about as bloody as I had feared they would. Griffon noticed movement up in the big eye-holes where the eyes of the fish were supposed to be (the whole place was built up to look like some kind of glowing evil spiny fish thing). We scrambled for good hiding places again, then Griffon sent me ahead to the door to scout.
I made it up there, no problem. Quiet as a shadow and twice as black, as old Hannigan used to say. The entrance room was wide open, no door. Frescoes covered the walls showing all kind of strange religious fishy-lizard stuff and a human or humanoid shape in armor with a big, black ball for a head. Big double doors on the north side of the room, portcullis to the right and a curtained doorway left. I took a peek behind the curtain and saw maybe four or so smelly-folk napping and some stairs going upward (I guessed up to the fish-eyes).
Also, there were little pieces of thin pottery of some kind spread all over the floor, I thought. Griffon later told me they were probably egg shells. These fishy-lizards lay eggs, apparently.
Anyway, I figured the entrance to be safe so I uncovered my torch a bit inside the doorway and signaled the others to come on up. Naturally, they got spotted straight off. When the arrows started flying down from those fish-eyes outside, everyone ducked for cover and started shooting back. Nickel was tossing off lots of magic missiles from that wand she’s been hording forever. Me, I ran straight back for that room to go up the stairs and try to flank the archers up there.
The four nappers in there were just waking up when I got there, natch. So, I kept on hoofing it for the stairs while they scrambled up out of their nasty little puddle-beds. Now, they didn’t get a good look at me until I was already on the stairs, but those little fishy-lizards are quick. What I get for being bold, I guess.
Giving the others their due, the archers in the first eye-hole were already dead when I got there. Probably Nickel’s wand did that. But I caught the other two in the opposite eye-hole down the hall off-guard and tossed a magic missile into one of their backsides. I managed to toss off two more and, between me and the others downstairs, we cleared the room fairly quick…but the nappers from downstairs were in the hall by then shooting at me.
We traded arrows for a bit until I saw the others come out of the stairs behind them. Then we all drew blades and went to it. Managed to put them all down and get blooded ourselves a good bit. But Ham patched us all up while we waited to see what kind of ruckus we had raised.
Now, as luck would have it, there didn’t seem to be a great hue and cry as we were surely expecting. So, after a minute, we set about down the stairs again to where those four were napping. We listened, but couldn’t hear anything but some odd, rhythmic croaking from somewhere nearby, so we went to check on the portcullis. Through the bars we could barely make out what looked like prison cells or some such and we could hear some shuffling around from in there, too.
Ham tried the switch to raise the bars, but it let out a horrible screech and he stopped quick. After a bit of discussion, Ham set about muttering and running his hands over the wall near the gate. Presently we all sat amazed and watched as he started molding the cold stone like clay and had us a fairly nice hole dug right through the corner of the hall and into the room beyond, neatly bypassing the gate. Neat trick, that. (Ham told me later it was a stone shaping spell.)
We crawled through the hole Ham had made and straightaway had two prisoners clamoring to be let loose from their cells. Griffon hushed them right off, but it only lasted a second before they were yammering again. Each swearing by all that’s holy that the other one was working for the smelly-folk and couldn’t be trusted. Which meant, obviously, that one of them likely was.
Griffon took my advice and told them to hush it or we’d leave them both to rot. Once we got it through that we were serious (though I really don’t think Griffon or Ham would have actually gone through with it, those old softies), they hushed up. We promised we’d take them with us when we left out of here, though neither of them were too happy with that#.
The only other exit from the room was a set of stairs going up, so I scouted ahead. The room up the hall and around the corner was nearly flooded with nasty fishy-lizard water (at least I hope it was water). In there, though, was some strange kind of misshapen man wrapped all in old, rotted strips of cloth. I managed to sneak back without being seen and told the others. Ham nearly had a sputtering fit and demanded I show him. He and I snuck back up there (with his fancy-shmancy shadow armor) and I pointed out the nasty man. Ham straight off sprung into the room brandishing his Kord symbol and snap! The thing burst into flames and ash in a twinkling. Ham later told me it was a mummy. Some kind of fancy zombie or other. Really nasty from what he tells me.
We swam as quick as we could through that room, worried about what else might be under the water, and hoofed it down the hall beyond…which dead ended something like a couple hundred feet further on and around another corner.
Griffon set me looking for hidden doors or passages. I couldn’t find anything at first, but he insisted. I kept looking and did finally find a crack in the wall, followed it around and found the catch. Nothing to it. Door cracked open a bit and we peeked inside.
Beyond was a huge room with stairs, two other levels with balconies and huge statue of some kind of lobster-woman in it. And some smelly-fishy priests (I assume) croaking at the statue. I was just about to crack the door a hair-width more to allow Nickel to see in when the croakers in there noticed us. I swear those fish-eyes of theirs must be keen as daggers.
We charged right in there to start plunking away at them, but some weird kind of magic at the door tried to hold us back. The boys and I managed to push through without too much trouble, though it was quite disturbing after that. Nickel lost her nerve and was stuck at the doorway for a moment, though. She made it through on a second try and helped us take on the croakers. Right from the start the four archers that we didn’t notice up on the top balcony started plunking away at us.
Between those four and the four croakers down at the bottom with us tossing lightning bolts, it was a tough fight. By the time we dropped the four up top, there were still two croaking priest-frogs on the bottom floor to contend with. We mainly spent the last half minute of the fight chasing them around the place, really. Nickel was trying to conserve her combat spells, but finally took out the last one with a set of magic missiles.
We peeked around the room quickly, then exited out the double-doors. I scouted ahead and spotted two nasty smellies way back in one room to the right. The opposite room seemed empty, so we decided to check it first. Almost got jumped by one nasty frog-fellow, natch. Tried to sneak up on us, but Griffon heard him moving through the big puddle. He was a good bit tougher than the smelly-froggies we had fought so far, but we won in the end.
We went back to the other room and boldly marched right in. You‘d think we‘d have learned better. We nearly were eaten alive in there, of course. There were only two guards at first, but the soft sounds of splashing around I heard earlier from in there turned out to be a couple of packs of huge demonic tadpoles (or some such).
We weren’t doing very well against the two guards, since they ducked down almost to their chins and it was tough to land an arrow on anything but water. Ham summoned up, of all things, a dire badger from some other realm and sent it after them. Then, of course, he charged them. Or at least he tried to. Got up to his neck in water before he could get to the nasty things.
It did go moderately better after that, though, until the evil black tadpoles came for dinner. Ham got out of the water lickety-split when he saw them start flaying the poor badger alive. Which, of course, disturbed poor Griffon to no end. When the remaining guard jumped up on the stairs to fight him, Ham cut him down in one blow and high-tailed it (fast swimmer when properly motivated, our Ham) back to us, narrowly avoiding feeding the evil things his backside.
We tried plucking arrows into the thick packs of tadpoles from the side while they ganged up on the badger, who had worked itself up into quite a frenzy by then. But nothing we or the badger did seemed to have any effect on the nasty things. I even got bold, jumped in the water, and tossed a little splash of acid at them. Nothing. Nickel did get irritated and cast a couple of lightning bolts at them, which cooked a few of them quite well, though.
Almost immediately the badger fell. I bet those evil little things were furious when it’s corpse disappeared with a twinkle before they could get a proper mouthful. We stood there for a moment, trying to figure a way of clearing them out of the water without using up all our magic.
Then the gate in the south wall rolled right up and out poured about eight more frog-lizards. We thought for sure we were in for it, then. But little Nickel, quick-thinker that she, called up a huge wall of violet fire spanning the whole room from the gate to the far side. Instantly crisped four of the froggies and both the tadpole swarms. Burned the rest of the frog-lizards pretty good, too.
The rest of the froggies just jumped back after that and waited, though they did get scalded a bit in the process. So Nickel dispelled the wall and we went at it again. We got beat up a bit, but we squished them pretty good finally.
Found nothing of interest in either room. By that time I was beginning to wonder if there would be any kind of worthwhile profit to this endeavor at all.
Up the stairs I nearly traipsed right through the doors before I thought to peek around a bit. Found the doors trapped, alright. Very skillfully trapped, in fact. I ran the others off back down the hall before I tried to disarm it, and good thing that I did. The thing blew up right in my face…a huge bolt of lightning filling the whole stairway. Darn near set my hair on fire. Ham rushed up and patched me up a bit, but not at all an experience I care to repeat.
By now we were looking fairly ragged. Ham was running out of healing and the rest of us were hurting pretty badly. Still, because we are such masochists, we decided to check the room beyond before taking a break.
I missed the trap in that room, but the spears that flew out of the walls went right over our heads and clattered to the floor on the other side of the room. Some days it’s good to be a Halfling.
The door on the other side of the room, which we assured each other would be the last one we checked before we rested, led us right into the lap of a horse-sized black dragon.
Now, Griffon has the wonderful habit of surprising me at the oddest moments. And this was one of them. We were all a bit startled to bump into a dragon after all those frogfish Kuo-toa, but Griffon shook it off quickly enough. Right off he started chatting the dragon up as if he had come there specifically to see him and talk things over#.
I think the dragon was a little surprised, too, but fell in quickly with Griffon. The rest of us just kind of stood there and watched while Griffon negotiated terms of surrender with the beast. By the time it was all done, Griffon had him talked out of a third of his hoard in exchange for our letting him go. When the two of them had agreed, Griffon turned with a kind of proud smile and nodded to us.
Ham, natch, just shrugged, drew his sword and said, “Screw that. Let’s just kill it.#” Maybe not such a smart thing to do, really. But we were all tired and hurt and altogether not in a very reasonable state of mind.
I ran off to the left to flank the dragon and Ham made off for the beast‘s head. Then, of course, it spit up all over Griffon and Ham. Burned them pretty badly, too. Nickel, luckily, was just back inside the other room enough to miss the spray of acid. I let loose with the scorching ray I had been holding onto right into the lizard’s flank as I passed by, though.
Then the damnable beast called up some kind of darkness that filled the entire room. We couldn’t see anything. But Nickel promptly dispelled it somehow. Ham took the opportunity to curse the beast (literally). I managed to sneak the beast one time, but bounced off his thick hide with every other blow I tried. Nickel naturally tossed her remaining lightning bolt into it’s chest and Griffon filled it’s face full of arrows.
Our lifesaver was Ham’s curse. It left the dragon pretty much unable to do much of anything but stand there looking stupid for nearly a half minute, giving us enough time to lay it low. Good thing, too. I don’t think any one of us but Griffon could have taken more than a hard look from anything or anyone else without falling down stone dead.
Of course, if all that weren’t enough, less than a minute later some huge pale-skinned demoness with blood-red wings flew right into the room wielding a nasty-looking red bow#. It cursed us and snarled a bit, pronouncing our doom and so forth. And we felt pretty doomed, too. There was simply no way we could take this hell-wench in our condition. We figured ourselves for toast.
I saw Nickel, though, out of the corner of my eye, kind of blink a bit and look down at the scroll she was carrying (we had been scrounging around amongst the dragon’s hoard when the demon wench flew in). Then she chanted the spell right off the scroll. The pale demoness tossed back her head and howled…then sort of faded away back into the other room and beyond…poof. Gone.
Nickel tells me it was a spell of dismissal (a rather powerful one, too) she just happened to be holding at the moment#. Like I said, the gods either love us or find us hugely entertaining.
We dug up all of the dragon’s hoard (not a bad collection, either) and, working together, managed to haphazardly barricade the doorway with it’s corpse. At the moment, we are trying to rest for as long as possible. Probably until the rest of the froggies in this place figure out someone has run through their shrine slaughtering all their friends.
We’re just too tired and beat up to try to fight our way back out#. We can only hope we’ve caused enough devastation to throw them off track for a while. With luck all the gods that find us such a source of amusement might consider this an intermission.
Well, no such luck. After only a few hours we could hear a small gang of froggies trying the door. One of them managed to get his fingers in the door, but Ham smashed them. I got a good giggle out of that, I did. They went away then and we didn’t hear anything else since.
We’ve heard some clanging and banging outside somewhere. Downstairs, I would think. They are no doubt erecting fortifications and forming lines in the room downstairs, with our luck. Ah, well. I suppose I would have been disappointed if this had all been easy.
I tell you, though, this Zenith Splintershield fellow is damned well going to carry my backpack on the way home.
May 23, 316
We have rested and are prepared to make another attempt at finding some sign of this Zenith vagabond. Griffon has given me the nod to scout ahead first, thank goodness. I do believe the boys are finally developing some sense.
I have scouted ahead and even managed to remain unseen. Only the second time I’ve been able to do that with these nasty froggies. I am quite proud of myself.
On the other hand there’s what I saw when I scouted. About twenty or so of those nasty frogs have barricaded the entrance to the hallway in the room below. Behind the barricades they stand ready with some kind of two-pronged pole arms. If that weren’t enough, five more stand atop a long platform in the hallway beyond. The platform is just high enough that the five can see clearly over the heads of those at the barricade, so I’m guessing they’re wizards or, more likely, priests.
Beyond that, though, I can’t see anything else. The room between here and there is suspiciously bare. I’m suspecting it’s been trapped in some manner. Either that or they really are that confident. Not that I can blame them. There’s twenty-five of them at least.
Nickel is conferring with Griffon to formulate an attack.
Well, I must say, if this works at all it should work very well. If not, we are in most grievous trouble. Nickel says she’s only just figured out how she can conjure up some awfully deadly poisonous cloud amidst all those froggies. We need only draw fire long enough for her to do it.
That said, we’re off to make trouble.
Well, not exactly according to plan, but it worked out well enough in the end. We’re all dreadfully beaten up, but still alive. I’ve come to hope for no more than that anyway.
As to our brave assault on the froggie line:
Being the first to come into sight, as always, I took the first shot. One of the quicker froggies in the front let fly with a crossbow bolt, but missed by a mile. But it turned out that the five on the platform were froggie priests or wizards after all. One of them let loose a stream of lightning at me that nearly shattered my teeth. I truly can‘t believe I was still standing after that one. I am so weary of being the target of other people‘s magic. I let loose with my bow and managed to pin one of the nasty little beasts right in the chest. Griffon took three crossbow bolts himself, so I shouldn’t feel all that terrible, but still he at least got three arrows of his own in one of the little buggers.
Ham came right behind and no one managed to hit him at all. Interestingly, he tossed up his symbol of Kord and chanted something mighty powerful. Quick as lightning a wall of solid stone sprang up right behind all those froggies and sealed off the hallway completely. I knew instantly that was to keep the smelly creatures below from escaping Nickel’s poison. Nickel came right behind Ham and conjured up her cloud right amongst the froggies. It sprang up and covered nearly half of them immediately.
I let loose with my bow again and hit another one. By now we were only really trying to keep them in place for Nickel’s cloud to get them. According to her, they should drop instantly. Griffon let loose again and actually managed to kill one with three arrows dead center. The froggies priests were all chanting and glowing, but luckily weren’t tossing anything ill in our direction yet. But the ones on the barricade were letting lose a veritable cloud of crossbow bolts by then.
Of course, it was then I noticed the froggies weren’t dropping dead like Nickel said they would#. And I heard Nickel start cursing. (Nickel simply never curses.)
Ham must have noticed, too, and he began chanting as well. I don’t know what he did exactly, but suddenly a sheet of wind (I really don’t know how else to describe it) suddenly began blowing up right in front of the nasties. I saw arrows blowing up away from us the moment they were shot. And the cloud of poison that Nickel had conjured was whipped up and back over the froggies, too. Yet, still it had no discernable effect on them.
With that wind in place, we were safe from the hand held crossbows of the froggies on the barricade, but those priests were still a threat. Figuring my bow was as useless against them as theirs were against us, I started tossing magic missiles at those priests as fast as I could. Griffon was at something of a loss, having no magic to throw at them. Ham, though, kept on chanting and thrusting his symbol at this froggie and that one.
That was all well and good, but I didn’t have more than a few sets of magic missiles to let fly. And soon those froggies were going to get wise and realize that barricade was doing them no good since the hallway was already blocked by Ham‘s stone wall. They’d come after us. And twenty-five to four are very bad odds no matter how you hedge your bet.
Then Nickel surprised us all and called up another of those fire walls right down on top of the barricade. I saw froggies scrambling back against the platform with their gear on fire, disrupting whatever the priests were doing. And still they burned, and the priests too. They were all trapped between Ham’s wall of stone and Nickel’s wall of fire, close enough to scorch them yet. For a moment they all milled about shrieking and flailing about. Then they started breaking out. First one, then another, jumped for the barricade and right into the flames in order to clamor over and through Nickel’s fire. Tough little froggies, those fellows.
Then she laid down another wall just a few feet in front of the first. I saw the froggies jump from one oven roast into another. The few that made it through both walls met my and Griffon’s arrows. We dropped damned near every one of them with no more than two shots and not a one with more than three.
Presently Nickel dispelled both walls and we surveyed the battlefield. Every single one of those buggers was a smoldering heap and there stood nothing between us and our egress but Ham’s stone wall. Down the stairs we went and through the mucky water (quickly, in case more of those nasty tadpole things had come around). Ham patched up all the holes in me and Griffon, then used his stone trick to make a hole in the stone wall that we all wiggled through.
Perry poked his cute little head out from under my cloak for the first time since we came down here. And for the first time we all enjoyed a moment of levity at my poor little sneaker’s expense.
His fur was still standing all on end from head to tail from that bolt I took earlier. The poor little dear looked like an elongated porcupine. Even Ham laughed#.
A couple of sweet treats satisfied him that all was reasonably well and he retreated to his little nook between my shoulders again.
Assuming this shrine had only three levels, as that was all that we had seen, we figured the top level to be the only one we hadn’t checked fairly thoroughly. Back to the big central chamber and up the side stairs to the third level we went. Up top we found suspension bridges on either side of the balcony which we assumed led on into that level. We could see no other way of getting there from this chamber.
Over we went and into the hall behind this set of double doors. Faced with two choices of halls to follow, Griffon took us left.
The chamber at the end of that short hall was rather large, at least seventy feet or more long. Frescoes covered the walls, as in nearly every chamber we had seen in this place. More eggshells covered the floor here, too. Otherwise, the room was empty and dark. We continued through carefully.
Before we got halfway, though, I heard a faint scuffle from above us. As I whipped around to look up and behind us I noticed that Griffon and Nickel had heard it, too. There on the ceiling, a mere ten feet above us, was another froggie crawling along like a spider. I immediately loosed a magic missile into him, which was followed by a full set from Nickel. Griffon, too, had his bow at the ready and loosed. Together we wounded him pretty badly. He dropped immediately and came at me with a dagger, but he must have been stunned a bit from our attacks and I managed to dodge out of the way. I loosed the last of my magic missiles right into him and he staggered and fell.
Ham checked the froggie and announced that it still lived. Before Ham could say anything else, though, I marched over and ended the miserable creature’s life with my sword. Ham sputtered a bit, but I have had quite enough of these slimy, smelly, dirty little frog-people.
Beyond the door at the corner of the room we found Zenith Splintershield at last. And under what circumstances!
He was seated quite comfortably on a throne made, by all appearances, of stitched together skins of who knows what hapless persons. We also caught sight of dozens upon dozens of corpses hanging by their feet from the ceiling. And worse, the tops of their heads seemed to have been shorn off. Old dried blood covered the floor, and bits of things best unidentified as well.
Avoiding an oddly glowing circle in the middle of the floor, we approached the thin looking dwarf through the carnage. He lay slumped there upon the throne with his axe across his knee and a strange sphere in one had.
Without a word he watched us approach. Indeed, he merely lounged there on his throne until we came near, whereupon he began prophesying our doom. I really began to wonder if this was the dwarf we were looking for. I had, I suppose, been so sure we were looking for a ragged, beaten dwarf in a cell somewhere. Certainly not a mad dwarf on a throne of skins.
Griffon attempted to reason with him at first, natch. But when he began cursing his family and his whole clan, as well as the lot of us, Ham snorted and announced, “Right. Well, enough of that.” From his belt he pulled a palm-sized tile upon which he had inscribed a strange glowing symbol, which flipped up before the dwarf‘s gaze. Spying it, Zenith Splintershield gave a slight gasp and slumped even deeper into his throne with his eyes closed.
And began snoring#.
Before we could even ask what the hell he had done, Ham was on him with hemp rope binding his hands behind his back. Griffon sprang forward and grabbed the axe and the odd sphere that rested in his lap. Taking our cue from the boys, Nickel and I helped them drag his bulk down from the throne to strip him of anything dangerous looking.
As we stood looking down on Zenith the snoring dwarf, I was suddenly quite ready to be done with this adventure and back home bathing in my spring. Which saddened me, really, because I remembered that I may no longer be able to do that with folks coming and going from there all the time.
Regardless, I had certainly had enough of the this “Underdark” place. I managed to kick the boys into moving and they set about securing more ropes on the dwarf (those dwarfs are very strong, you know) and removing anything of his that weren’t his undergarments.
It was quite some time before he awoke again. Ham said there was nothing he could do about that. So we waited.
Nothing else came to try and kill us and, other than the murmuring of the dead above us (I swear, they were murmuring), the place was rather quiet. For the first time since we left the sunlit world, I relaxed a bit.
When the dwarf woke he was oddly resigned. Oh, he struggled a bit at first but quieted down the moment he realized he was caught. As if surrendering to the inevitable, he trailed along docile between us and nary a word did he speak. Through the shrine and over the bodies of our enemies we marched and still he said nothing.
Getting back to the surface took hours, of course. We found nothing at all to block our way out of the shrine, either. We even managed to find a couple of those froggie canoes on the shore just down from the shrine entrance. Griffon and Ham took the dwarf across and had a rough time of it (dwarfs are also quite bulky), but Nickel and I made out very well.
Griffon tried to speak with the dwarf but we could get nothing from him. Ham assures us that whatever madness has befallen him, he will likely be treated for it in his own clan’s temple well enough. Still, a strange end to our adventure.
We have found our wagon, horses and riding dogs all where we had left them. Honestly, I fully expected some form of trouble awaiting us outside. Indeed, we have packed up straight away and made off for Cauldron. It has just turned evening though and I haven’t gotten yet to see the sunshine I had so missed for the past two days. Still the moon and stars are all the more bright and beautiful after such darkness.
May 23, 316
We arrived in Cauldron before sunrise and made straight for the Cusp. The doorman wouldn’t allow us in, natch. Far too early and we were far too dubiously attired, I imagine. Still, he did summon the human Celeste who promptly identified Zenith. We made short work of turning him over and receiving our pay in coin, which she had brought out and placed in our wagon in three manageable chests. Celeste assures us that, indeed, Zenith can most likely be treated and that she will see to it herself that both he and his father are cared for.
Celeste has also arranged for the same inn room where we last stayed and for the armor to be delivered there in the morning. Taking our leave, we departed for much needed sleep.
We have unloaded the cart and dragged everything up to the room. Even the now-smelly dragonskin, much to the innkeeper’s chagrin. We’ve no concerns today but to rest and will leave in the morning.
May 24, 316
Celeste did indeed have the armor delivered as promised. Twenty full sets of dwarf crafted human-sized chain armor (which, honestly, is worth a bit more than a thousand gold). Ham is quite pleased and plans to outfit his entire guard with them.
We have changed our plans and decided not to go on just yet to the keep. We will take advantage of the markets here in Cauldron to turn our loot into gold. With any luck we won’t get jumped on the road home.
Then again, perhaps we will and can add more loot to the wagon.
May 27, 316
We spent the last two days haggling and managed to rid ourselves of everything. All the gems we had managed to pick up here and there got us well over nine hundred. The various arms and armor got another almost two thousand. As for the other various items, we had them looked over and found even a few magical ones. These we mostly sold and made nearly another two thousand in gold on the wizard’s market.
Zenith’s arms and armor, which I’m afraid everyone forgot about and left beneath a couple of bundles in our wagon, fetched almost six thousand on the black market#. Turns out the lot of it was enchanted. Really, I could have made more in the public markets but didn’t want to risk Zenith’s clan hearing about it. Or Griffon for that matter. It took me a whole day to find a fence and another more to get everyone away from the wagon long enough for him to unload it without them seeing.
The rod of splendor took all of two days to find a buyer and brought us almost ten thousand in gold from a wealthy lord from the east. I was most astounded.
Nickel took her two dragon skins to the local armory and set the smiths to working on them from the first morning. The smiths here were able to complete a set of banded armor from the red dragon skin and two sets of studded leather from the black in only two days. And, moreover, we got three small shields made from it in the bargain. That, of course, set us back about seven hundred in gold. But Nickel was adamant. She spent the two days waiting for them buying, of all things, books. Smelly old tomes and grimoires. Still, I might take a peek at them on the ride home.
Having done all that and ready to depart, I managed to talk the others into allowing me to hire a small band of dwarf stone smiths#. After all, our keep would most definitely be needing a vault or at least a strong room. Having secured their blessing I managed to find five strong dwarfs skilled in stone smithing who asked a mere five silver for a hard day’s work. I’ve managed to squeeze them into the wagon amongst all the dwarf-made armor and chests of gold. I figure that will motivate them to work all the harder once we get home.
May 29, 316
We have arrived home and found, to our astonishment, that Brightwater Keep still stands. Despite our lengthy stay away no foul beast has come and chewed on our miners and no band of brigands had made off with our treasures. The fountain still flows and the guards still keep the plateau clear of stragglers. Even the lich-well is undisturbed, as far as I can tell.
I am most pleased with our guard and have advised Ham concerning a small bonus in their pay. I think it is certainly warranted.
Griffon and the dwarfs set about unloading the wagon into East hall and we assigned a couple of his meanest looking guards to watch the chests. Nickel has already made off with four strong humans carting her dragon skins to her study. Likely to start enchanting them, as it seems to be her new hobby. She completely forgot her books, so I had some of the other men around the keep haul them up to her. Once I had gone up to my room and divested myself of my armor, I set about putting the dwarfs to work. Of course, by then Ham had already come and stolen one of them to discuss designs for his shrine. Drat him.
By nightfall I had a workable arrangement with the dwarfs. They informed Ham that constructing the vault would require at least six months and a minimum of ten thousand in gold for labor and supplies. Ham and the others were a bit shocked but I have assured them that a good band of enterprising thieves can wipe out all but the most well-crafted treasuries in a twinkling. Ham huffed a bit about his guard, but I reminded him that if I can sneak past Kuo-toa, then there were certainly thieves out there that can tiptoe past a few ale-addled human guards and make off with the metaphorical silverware.
In the end they agreed. I have volunteered to lend my unique insight into the project as overseer. Griffon was dubious, natch. But a wink and a peck on the cheek sent him on his befuddled way.
The senior dwarf is certain he can have my underground hall completed in only five months, as well as a stairwell down right to the base of the cliff and a concealed door there as well. Installing an entrance from my room in East Hall poses a problem, though, since these fellows aren’t exactly carpenters. But, no matter, they can build right up to the floor of the place and I can hire someone from Marikest to handle the entrance from my room.
Since the entire project is to be removed from prying eyes anyway (to protect the “secrets” of the vault’s design, natch) they should be able to keep anyone from knowing about it, even Ham and the others. Disposing of the excess stone and earth was a concern for me, but the dwarfs are confident they can build the shrine that Ham is going on about out of whatever raw material they displace from my secret chamber.
In the end Brightwater keep should have a good and sturdy little vault right beneath Ham’s bedchamber. And I shall have my own separate little underground vault for my own concerns#.
If all is well as ends well, then all is most definitely well.
And so I end this journal of our adventure in Cauldron. May all your adventures end so well.
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