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July 15, 2003

Home Is Where the Heart Is

Drusilia's Journal

Starday, Flocktime 15, 592 CY

I can scarcely believe it, but I’m writing this from the comfort of my own home! But I must finish describing how we got home:

After our brief rest in the central tower in Arun-tosa, I cast Invisibility to Undead on the party and we hurried over to the temple, and down to the area where Nerull’s seal was. I used Detect Magic to see that it was, indeed, still active. After Aramil suggested that the seal protected the area above it (so climbing over it would still activate any trap) Valon used Mage Hand to move the jade key over to the door on the opposite side of the room and inserted it into the lock. I saw the magical energy intensify until it was quite painful to gaze upon, and then it subdued and winked out. Ghelt and Valon both wanted to cross the seal first, thinking they had the least to lose, but I traversed it quickly before they could decide who would go— I felt sure that the seal had been deactivated. Luckily, it had been, and my comrades crossed as well.

We then came to a four-way branch in the passage. There was writing on the floor in the center, in that same language we could not read yesterday, but luckily, Valon finally realized he knew enough Ancient Suloise to read the inscription:

The bold shall be crushed
The righteous thwarted
The sinister flayed
The path best known is never as it seems

I must have paid more attention to prophetic and ancient writings than I’ve realized, for I did understand this particular puzzle. While my friends cautiously looked down each of the three corridors we hadn’t yet walked through, I recalled that “sinister” means “left” in many ancient texts (the left tunnel), and extrapolated that “righteous” would mean right (the right tunnel). “Bold” must have meant that the passage straight ahead would have some sort of crushing trap. Aramil and Valon confirmed the “left” passage would cause flaying, for the took a few cautious steps and felt a wind pick up in the tunnel, nicking them with little sharp objects. The only path that was “best known” to us was the one we’d actually passed through once. Ghelt and Fafnir both realized the answer to that last line simultaneously, returning to the seal and simply vanishing. The rest of the party quickly followed.

We suddenly found ourselves in a large room with an alter in the middle, littered with treasure, and surrounded by a moat of noxious green goo. At the far end, a fountain of blood was bubbling over a black object— we knew at once that this object was the Heart of Nerull. Before we could attempt to retrieve it, we were set upon by four mummies, all with the ability to cast very damaging spells! Ghelt and Valon began to attack them immediately, though Aramil, Pockets and Fafnir were frozen with fear, and I was able to finish them off but it took two attempts to turn undead to destroy them all. Within moments, things began to look dire—four vampire spawn and the lich Arkon arrived between us and the Heart, and a small, disturbingly familiar figure— it was Korin, but stitched together oddly and with four arms! Knowing I could not harm the lich, I nevertheless used Urkel’s Holy Symbol to smite the evil, which gave us a few seconds while the spawn were temporarily blinded. Pockets and I jumped over the moat in the middle of the room, hoping to find something in that pile of treasure to help us fight the lich— I threw a few objects to Fafnir as I didn’t have time to figure out what was what, and Pockets, well, began to fill his pockets. Valon took that moment to run the perimeter of the room, grabbing the Heart from its resting spot on the bloody fountain. I was sure the lich would kill him right there, but it was just what our celestial friend had been waiting for. As soon as the Heart was away from the Fountain, Aramis appeared wielding his silver sword, right behind Arkon. I also noticed that the Korin-thing was battling undead himself— or at least it appeared so— a ghostly form resembling Jonathan was fighting him. I didn’t cast another turn undead though— I’m not sure what I was expecting to happen with my dead comrades, but I was so stunned by all the things happening simultaneously I just didn’t move. Time seemed to stop for a few moments, but then resumed at its previous frantic pace. Finally, thank Pelor, Aramis struck the killing blow on Arkon and he went down. Ghelt took a swing at the lich as well, and then, assured he wasn’t getting up, began to search his body for his phylactery. I hope Aramis was able to find it, because at that point, we ran out of time.

The room began to quake from the death throes of the lich, and seemed to be intensifying now to the point were it was knocking us all off our feet. I fell backwards into the moat, twice! Pockets was quick to recognize that the green stuff eating through my clothes and armor was a dangerous slime, and used his daggers to scrape it from my skin and help me remove my damaged chainmail. Unfortunately the room shook violently again, and I was still not clear of the slime, which meant I had to remove a great deal more clothing and my boots to keep it from eating through my flesh. Even though the room was in total upheaval, I noticed that all the elven males in the party helped me with that last bit.... Fortunately, Aramis had less trouble traversing through the quaking room and removed the rest of the slime from me before it became a permanent condition.

Aramis also opened a portal and bade us all hurry (though mostly crawling) through, just as the ceiling began to fall down upon us. I know my friends and I were all sorry we could not collect the other invaluable items from the altar— many thousands of platinum pieces and other treasure were buried with Arkon.

And suddenly, we were standing together (me wearing Valon’s cloak and little else) with Aramis on the edge of a familiar forest. Turning around, we saw that Smallville was a short way off. Before Aramis departed, he restored us all to our full health. Even though he had done so much for us, I asked a boon of him, and he agreed to take the diamond remains of Urkel that I still carried to a proper resting place. He said there would be a place for him in Arborea, a plane where the righteous may pass the afterlife in peace.

We plan to rest here for a while before attempting to find the “Temple of the Void” to destroy the Heart of Nerull. I’m sure Ghelt would like to go to Midrock (well, those of us that are not dwarves would like to see her ancestral home!), and quite frankly, we need to go to a bigger city to use the “loot” we found on our trip, after Aramil identifies it all— the stuff Ghelt pulled off Arkon alone is a king’s ransom. There is a carnival in town too, and I’m wondering if Pockets will know any of the people in it. After a quick meal at the Rat’s Egg Tavern and a trip to Ghelt’s house, I told the other elves (and that included my friend with elven blood), that they were welcome to stay in my home rather than rent a room in the rather-full tavern. I see also that it is the vernal equinox— fitting for us since we have completed a major portion of our adventure and will soon be ready for more!

Posted by Kristin at 13:42 | Drusilia’s Journal