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July 6, 2004

Blue Ruin

Theona's Journal

Flamerule 7, 1373, an Illithid’s lair north of the Moonwood

A few minutes later we’d taken a head count and discovered we were all present, but in different cells (even poor Shadow had his own little prison). Rosorc was the only one that could see at first, but suddenly a light, accompanied by a familiar voice, appeared in the hallway between our cells. The mind flayer and its two bugbear companions appeared with a torch-toting halfling— Tassar! Before any of us could say anything, however, Tassar turned to the illithid and handed it a small pouch, saying, “The Order thanks you for your assistance.” They then all turned and left us again, taking the light source with them. I had been able to see that Areon and Nianque were in the cell opposite me, and I could see where Rosorc was too. I’d also had a quick glance at my own manacles and the lock on my cell door. I was without any good lock picks and I had to settle for one of the pins I use to hold back my hair. It took a few minutes for me to get out of one pair of shackles and my cell. Practicality asserted itself, and I went to open Ro’s cell first, since he could actually see in the total darkness enough to point me in the right direction for the cells I’d been unable to see from my vantage point.

I got him loose much more quickly. Instead of guiding me in the right direction, he tossed me over his should for the half dozen steps to Areon’s cell. I was thankful that he was not wearing the spiked armor, and that it was too dark for my companions to witness it! I went around and opened the doors and manacles of Areon, Beowulf and Shadow— Deitricha just appeared beside me without needing any help. We also found two cells that we not empty, though the occupants had obviously been there a long time. While my stronger comrades decided to carry their manacles and chains to use as impromptu weapons, practicality struck me again— I grabbed a femur from one of the long-dead prisoners.

We followed closely behind Rosorc down a narrow passage with one turn in it, till we came to a locked door. As I was attempting to pick the lock from our side, someone on the other side was unlocking it! The door flew open and we were faced with three hobgoblins. The only reason I could see them was that Deitricha (who was obviously still having a hard time over the last thing she’d been witness to) cast a bright light spell on her holy symbol and held it aloft. Rosorc immediately smashed his shackles over the head of the hobgoblin facing him, while Areon moved past me to slay the one I faced. Shadow flew past us all as the third took off running.

Areon and Rosorc quickly grabbed a few things off the guards, including a key ring that Areon tossed to me for safekeeping. We heard a yelp off in the distance, and then Beowulf was calling Shadow back to his side. The wolf looked pretty beat up, but trusted his companion enough to follow instructions even when wounded. As Beowulf healed Shadow, Areon and Rosorc slammed the door shut and I locked it; they then put all their weight against it. With Deitricha’s light, she and I found the lock on the door opposite and went in, hoping to find another means out (or at least our equipment!). Instead we found a room littered with skulls, all of which had four holes poked in them. There was also a tentacled, three-legged, ugly beast in the room— or so we thought for a moment, till we realized it wasn’t moving. But it certainly was a life-like rendering of something best left to nightmares! We couldn’t find any doors out, so we backtracked as far as the prison cells (now that we had adequate light)— no ways out there either. Our male counterparts were still holding the door shut, though it was beginning to splinter as our captors hit it with something heavy from the other side. Much as it scared me, I went behind the statue of the hideous beast and, clearing a mound of bones away, found a trapdoor in the floor. We quickly and quietly alerted our friends to our find, then all dashed into the bone room and locked that door. We could hear that our enemy had just broken through the previous door and were bashing down this one. One by one we quickly dropped down into a dark tunnel and closed the trapdoor behind us. Fortunately, no one followed.

We walked about a quarter of a mile, with the tunnel gradually sloping upward until we could see sunlight. We were free! Unfortunately, we had no gear to survive in the wild for long, and that’s where we found ourselves. The ettin cave entrance was only a few hundred yards off. Rosorc wanted to go back and see if our equipment was still there— he had spent three years of his life working just to pay for his armor and would regret leaving it behind without at least trying to retrieve it. Areon was adamant about moving on, suggesting that we be thankful we were still alive and replace the equipment when circumstances allowed. I wanted my crossbow back and all that coin we’d collected, but I wasn’t going back without Areon, so remained vacillating between the two options. Beowulf and Deitricha were not casting a vote either way. We needed to rest, and hadn’t been followed out, so I suggested we put off the decision until morning. Areon found us a good enough place to camp (though we had nothing to camp with and made no fire). Beowulf enhanced some berries that he and Areon collected and we at least had a bit of food before retiring.

The night was bitter cold, and this is the warmest month of the year! Everyone looked worse for wear by dawn, but I must have looked really, really bad, as Areon felt the need to cast a spell on me to protect me from the elements. I have to admit though, I felt much better afterwards. He also relented and agreed to go back to the cave— probably fearing I’d die of exposure if we didn’t. All those years of living in a weather-protected mythal have not prepared me for “roughing it” I’m afraid. I lamented that a flask of ale or two would have made me feel much better, and, while I’m sure that at least Deitricha and Rosorc would have agreed with me, Areon apparently believes that’s a vice I should cut back on. I was surprised, since we met in a tavern.

We worked out a very good plan though, hoping to stack the odds in our favor— after all who would be crazy enough to break back into their own prison eight hours after escaping? We walked quietly to the cave entrance, where Beowulf again turned into a bat and checked the entire level. He came back and gave us his “all clear” sign (squeak!) and then continued on to the next level down. He soon came back and again signaled the way was safe. We made our way down. The bodies from our previous skirmishes were still there, so we grabbed some armor from the gnolls and a few javelins and other weapons. Feeling a bit more prepared, we continued on to the room where the mind flayer had stunned us. It turns out the room was a lab of some sort. More importantly, I found a hidden door— I opened it, revealing a set of steps descending into darkness. Beowulf would have checked the way down, but we saw something lumbering up the steps, so he transformed back into a human to battle whatever it turned out to be.

Moments later, an ogre appeared in the doorway— and was immediately killed by blows from Areon and Rosorc. Another ogre followed. Having no armor on, I threw a javelin at it then slipped behind Beowulf, who was wearing some secondhand gnoll attire. That ogre was also dispatched quickly.

No other creatures came up the steps, so we snuck down into what served as a barracks for the various guards we’d fought— we could see the other side of the splintered door leading to the cells. There was one closed door here that we hadn’t come upon before. I listened at it and could hear some movement behind it, so we prepared for a fight. Opening the door revealed the two bugbears in a darkened, elaborately furnished room. As we fought them, the mind flayer made its appearance again— thankfully I was the only one stunned this time. My friends had no trouble killing the bugbears, but the mind flayer vanished the moment it was engaged in physical combat.

My paralysis from being stunned finally wore off, and we checked the room. I eventually found a concealed door— surely our equipment would be behind it! My friends crowded close to me as I checked for traps and picked the lock. We opened the door and with a flash…

…found ourselves in a dark, empty room, without Deitricha! Before we had much chance to consider our fate, our location abruptly shifted, and we found ourselves on the floor of the illithid’s room again, all of us covered in cuts as if from a fall through jagged glass. Deitricha was running to each of us in turn, providing healing and apologizing for the nature of our reappearance, as she had found us all imprisoned inside of an emerald on a pedestal in the mind flayer’s “safe,” which she smashed to free us. This safe was behind the door that I had just opened. The good news was that all of our equipment, plus some healing potions, an obviously magical staff, and well over 2000 gold pieces, was right where we’d hoped it would be.

There was sad news too. Areon’s tressym had been killed by our return trip; the poor little flying cat was cut to ribbons by the shards of our magical prison. The irony is that every one feels like they are responsible, though we have to remember, the “Order” is ultimately culpable for our current situation. Rosorc kindly offered to help get Areon a new one, not realizing, I don’t think, that his little feline companion was more of a friend than, well, admittedly, I don’t really understand the relationship either, but I think that it’s more like a wizard’s familiar than, say, a favorite piece of equipment. I can tell Areon is upset but not blaming anyone. Deitricha is blaming herself, when in fact, she probably saved the rest of us from being recaptured by the illithid.

Posted by Kristin at 18:05 | Theona’s Journal