|1372 DR Year of Wild Magic|
I awoke in an unfamiliar place surrounded by strangers from other races and cultures.
There was Klomasha, a human male rogue, a male elf sorcerer called Nithan with an owl familiar named Utra, a tiefling (part-demon, part-human) male fighter named Jokar, and another elf-- a stereotypical male ranger named Thairis (a follower of Chauntea). The only one I had trouble with was the tiefling, who kept calling me "wench" and insisting it was a compliment in his culture (it is not, and an insult to a Rashemi witch), so there was quite a lot of bickering going on. I may eventually turn him into a toad.
We found ourselves in the middle of a summoning circle underground, with all of our equipment still with us. Klomasha picked the lock on the underground chamber and we left, to find ourselves in the city of Freeport, on a pirate island. A "press gang" tried to recruit us and the tiefling cast a globe of darkness on our party and started swinging his weapon wildly (lucky he didn't hit any of us!). Thankfully, the spell scared off the press gang, so no damage was done. We were then approached by a cleric of Oghma and asked to help him locate another cleric who was missing (he'd seen us scare off the press gang and figured we were the right people for the job). Temples generally do not have money to offer, and pay through things like blessings, healing spells, etc., but Jokar insisted that the cleric pay him 100 gold pieces up front for our services! The rest of us waived the "fee" and we proceeded to look at the rooms the missing cleric Lucius inhabited. The sorcerer, ranger and I spent the evening reading through the cleric's diaries and belongings looking for clues. Klomasha and Jokar went gambling at a local tavern (the tiefling's main goal was to "pick up wenches"). Luckily, they inadvertently bumped into someone that was able to provide them with a clue to a pirate captain we'd found mentioned in the cleric's diary--Lucius was on his way to meet Captain Scarbelly when he disappeared.
May the tiefling be reincarnated as a flatulent Rothe in the next life.
Thairis managed to find a diary under the false bottom of a desk drawer in the house of the missing cleric where we had been searching. He was reading through it for clues, while Jokar, Klomasha and I headed down to a local tavern called "The Sea Hag." Nithan the sorcerer had mysteriously gone on a mission by himself, and we found out that Thairis did as well soon after we departed the house. Both Nithan and Thairis seem to have the ability to look like a different race if necessary, and both, independently of one another, had headed down to a pirate ship known to belong to Captain Scarbelly (an orc captain). Each had cleverly disguised himself as a member of the crew, so they could easily infiltrate the ship to see if they could find Lucius, who mentioned the captain in his diary.
We met a mercenary named Aeryna, in The Sea Hag. Another patron of the tavern had seen Scarbelly leaving with a bald guy in red "wizardly" robes. Now, we all know that the "Red Wizards of Thay" are my sworn enemy (they are evil slavers who continuously attempt to take Rashemi people as slaves, among other things), so we of course headed to Scarbelly's ship, The Bloody Vengeance, to confront the evil wizard. At this point, we did not know that two of our party were already on the ship. We decided if we caused a bit of a ruckus, we could get the pirates (and anyone they were harboring) to come out where we could see them. I cast a spell that made a loud boom like something exploding in the bow of the ship. Simultaneously, Klomasha pretended to be a performer on the docks to distract passersby (and to make the rest of our group look like we were merely watching a street performer) and Jokar shot a flaming arrow onto the ship about where the "boom" emanated from. Perfect! Pirates were already running past my "innocent bystander" self, thinking the ship was blowing up, when the orc in the crow's nest (okay, we never thought to look up) shouted out that the ship was under attack (he'd spotted Jokar). Amidst the ensuing panic, we managed to take out the entire crew. I took a normally harmless spell, Forcewave, that causes the victim to be "pushed" back a few feet and targeted the orc in the crow's nest. He made a very satisfying "thud" on the deck of the ship. I got to take out a few pirates with my scythe as well, and we even slew the evil orc captain. We almost took out our two party members too, who neglected to mention to us they were among those that looked like pirates, but luckily we did not hit them. We of course did not know they could change shape, or that they had already checked out the entire ship.
So, we did not find a Red Wizard or the missing cleric, but we have our very own, slightly used pirate ship.
Jokar and some wench spent the night on our recently acquired pirate ship. Aeryna and I hung out in the crow's nest, enjoying the night air and view of the harbor. Unfortunately, Umberlee must have been displeased – the pirates came back to their ship as undead. However, Chauntea smiled on us, allowing me to easily turn the spirit of Scarbelly. We sold the ship cheap the next day.
I thought spending a night in a private room in The Sea Hag might be safer than aboard a haunted pirate ship. I was asleep in my room, when a halfling rogue/sorceress came bursting out of an interplanar portal from Hell, where she had been stealing a gem. The portal just happened to deposit the halfling in the wardrobe closet of my room. She had four Lemures following her that I had to help dispatch. Deldiira likes to poke around on the planes, and loves gems. She also has a very sweet rat familiar named Pookie Pie.
Jokar insisted that we have a party leader, probably thinking I would agree to have him lead, but I chose the more charismatic Nithan-- he tends to plan a bit more carefully, and more importantly, knows enough to ask a Rashemi Witch's advice before acting whenever possible.
Nithan and Thairis were incognito at the Temple of Knowledge (Oghma) when they saw a man in grey robes watching them. When they went to confront him, he fled. Utra followed him to a tavern where she saw him meeting with two mercenaries. The mercenaries gave the grey robed man a little pouch. Utra then followed the mercenaries back to a house.
Jokar now had the info we needed on the "Yellow Shields" and preceded to go "confide" all the strengths and weaknesses of our party to them-- presumably to give them a false sense of security. However, they chose to use the information to ambush us. We were lucky to escape with our lives, and we also found Lucius' dagger on one of them, plus a piece of paper with an address which turned out to be a seedy little dive down by the docks called The Bilge Rat. Jokar noticed one guy that looked out of place and used his own method of gathering information-- our informant lost an ear when Jokar tortured him for info. While this happened, Thairis was finding the Temple of the Unspeakable One and then came back for the party. We went into the temple, fought serpent men, and departed victorious (though we had to have Deldiira raised), with the confused Lucius.
We went out and kicked the crap out of an abandoned lighthouse. I spent the whole evening asking the other party members why we were doing this, but they all seemed to think we were "following a lead." At least one of my trusted Harper contacts, Leech, was there for us. I am sure he was horrified at the results of our trip to the lighthouse though.
I have discovered that Nithan is a drow, but he is a follower of Eilistraee and seems to be a genuinely decent person. I stand by my decision to "push" for him as party leader.
Jokar nearly died last night-- he waited until he was alone with Leech and then stabbed him with a poisoned blade unprovoked. Leech is an honorable kobold and stopped short of killing Jokar outright. I am not sure why Jokar would pick on our one real friend in this gods-forsaken seaport, especially when he was not causing a problem, but I suspect it is going to be a pattern! I have since booked passage for the group to get us as far away from the town as possible. The ship will not be leaving port for at least another day though, as Swagfest is being celebrated.
Aeryna purchased a pet raven while in the marketplace here in Freeport. While it doesn’t entirely grasp Common the way Vorona does, it has already won a drinking contest against opponents many times its size. Aeryna named him "Bird."
For Swagfest, we needed to catch a giant rat to take back to his "owner." We ended up finding it trapped in an old abandoned building in the web of a giant spider, and Pookie Pie, trying to help us, was caught up as well. We were able to free both rats (and eventually return the dire rat), chase off the spider and find some pretty nifty sacks of gold coins plus some yet-to-be-identified magic items. Nithan had a hunk of cheese he had planned to use to bribe the rat, but it was not needed. Klomasha attempted to pocket some of the gold we had found (actually, I found it, but it was party treasure) and I caught him "red handed." So, when he was not looking, someone in the party slipped the cheese in his backpack. Ironically, we were heading through the sewers next, with Klomasha bringing up the rear of the party; Nithan was bound and determined to rid the world of the spider. All of a sudden, we heard a scuttling sound in the distance, and turned around to see this big squeaking ball of fur rolling right at the thief and up his legs, biting and tearing at his clothes and gear. It turned out to be a swarm of very hungry rats that had caught the scent of the cheese (Klomasha still didn't know it was in his pack). After a few minutes of trying to shake off the rats, he finally pulled the backpack and his shirt off, and the rats all grabbed bits of food, cloth, and shiny things and retreated into the darkness with their rewards. Then, sadly, we saw that Klomasha was wearing the holy symbol of Mask on a chain around his neck (we had repeatedly warned him that evil is not tolerated in our party, but Klomasha honestly thought he could "worship an evil deity and still be a good guy"). Jokar, who tends to kill first, ask questions later, ran him through with a sword when he saw the symbol.
We managed to leave Freeport! We got on a gnomish ship called "Gond's Wheel" and stayed on it until we reached our destination. Now, I realize that's the logical thing to do when on a ship, but you just never can tell what we will end up doing. Thankfully, no one decided to jump over the sides to look for sea creatures to beat up. Some kuo-toa crawled over the sides but were easily beaten back by our party. We also met a druid of Chauntea named Jean who plans to adventure with us.
We had another one of those "set back" days. We disembarked from our ship in Westgate and while I was casting an Identify spell on a magic weapon for Jokar, he went off and got himself killed in a "pit fight" with an owlbear. The owlbear did so much damage that Jokar was returned to the party in a bucket. Most of the party's money was stolen while they were at the pit fights, so we had to sell the party's only other magical weapon to pay to get Jokar raised at a temple to Lathander, and while we were doing that, Thairis decided to go try a pit fight against a Dire Ape to raise the money lost-- I managed to get to him and save him before death. There is a rather vexing pattern here. By the end of the evening, we had everyone alive again, and have much less money than we started with. Sad thing is, we were not planning to stay in this seedy town-- it was just where the ship docked.
We needed to leave town in a hurry. Jean was attracting way too much attention because he insisted on carting two ferrets-- male intact!-- and an eagle into each tavern with us and letting them eat at the table. Villagers were complaining, and he clobbered one in the temple with a quarterstaff, nearly killing him. Therefore, I suggested we find a portal that would take us closer to our next destination (otherwise a 10 day ride by horse) and we found one in the sewers. Jokar nearly needed the bucket again after trying to pour alchemist's fire on a grey ooze (most people throw it rather than walking up, uncorking the vile, and pouring it!). Then, we needed a follower of Mask to say a prayer to open the portal. Just happens to be the same evil god that Jokar killed Klomasha over. So, a few of the guys pulled me aside and asked if we should drug Jokar to get him through the portal safely-- after all, if he kills the guy that opens it, we are stuck. Jokar was easily knocked out with one drink of spiked Rashemi wine. I told him that we had to get him good and drunk so the portal wouldn't make him sick, and I guess one of the other party members slipped a sleeping potion of some sort into his drink. We got through the portal safely and about 5 days closer to our destination. We were able to take our horses along since we found a way into the sewers close to a body of water that had a good sized "cave" entrance. We started down the hill we arrived at and Jokar woke up. Nithan heard voices coming from a cave and he and Jokar went to investigate, seeing/hearing 3 or 4 ogres (turned out to be 4). While Nithan ran back to warn us, Jokar ran into the ogres cave and introduced himself to the ogres and asked if they wanted to join our party! Of course, they attacked, and we were not there to bail him out because Nithan was not able to get us back to the cave entrance before Jokar let the ogres know we were there. The good news is, we were able to take out the ogres and stabilize Jokar before he needed the bucket again, and we found a nice bit of treasure in the cave.
We managed to get down from the mountain portal we came out in, and ended up walking our horses the rest of the journey (we never actually used them). We did lose two of the horses to various catastrophes: Aeryna's horse fell over the side of a cliff, Nithan's was carried off and eaten by a wyvern, and Jean's stinky intact male ferret was eaten by Utra (the party doesn't technically know about that-- but the ferret smelled so strong. Vorona told me that Utra could not help herself). Jokar's horse also fell but survived. We arrived safely in the small town of Urml, and Jokar strongly considered killing our contact person (a Cleric of Oghma), but thankfully he wandered off to get drunk before doing so. We are heading to a deserted (and cursed) tower in the middle of a swamp once we leave town. The townsfolk are afraid of whatever is living out there. We met a monk named Onor before leaving for the swamp. Jokar is also planning to hire townsfolk (yes, the same ones that are scared of the swamp) to be the "cannon fodder" for the expedition. I am constantly amazed by his actions. Jokar is an actual veteran of several wars in the Dalelands and beyond, so I have to think there is a method to his madness, but I have no idea what it is. Before we leave town, I shall purchase a "hand basket" to facilitate our decent into the Nine Hells.
Let us see, we managed to get out of the little village we were in without annihilating it, and headed into the swamplands to find the evil necromancer's tower. We fought off giant spiders, befriended a tribe of lizard men (thankfully, and before Jokar had a chance to start a fight with them), killed an ochre jelly (a mobile, acidic pile of goo), and the other ferret (killed by a dragon). Oh, and one of my Quall feathers, which was basically an "instant anchor," disappeared when Nithan stuck it up the black dragon's butt and said the magic words. I am once again reminded of my good choice for leader of our group.
We entered the ruins of the tower and headed downward. The whole place is full of weird traps-- trapdoors that you fall through and end up on the opposite side of the room, places that make you fall upward, rooms that spin and so on (Jokar ran into the spinning room and got squished twice before using the "on/off" switch to turn the motion off.) Deldiira can easily disarm traps, but some party members are too impatient and spring the traps before the rogue can get her work done. I got to solve a "complicated" rhyme/math puzzle to prevent a trap from going off (we knew there was a magic trap, but Jokar decided to grab coins off the altar anyway), and we ended up fighting a "gelatinous cube"-- a 10' x 10' x 10' blob of clear gelatin with remnants of treasure and victims within it, that managed to trap us in a dead end tunnel.
(A certain easily excited fighter tripped the trap that let the cube drop into our tunnel before the Deldiira could disarm that trap, but I do not think he realized he did it.) Aeryna helped fight off the cube, which tried to dissolve Nithan. When we are careful and use teamwork, the traps do not hurt us and we get a lot accomplished. However, that is slow going sometimes and some people are pining for mayhem.
Basically, we finished searching the ruins. There were a few more traps (okay, it was mostly all traps). One in particular was "clockwork rats." We, unfortunately, destroyed them, because they were blowing very hot steam at us that burned the skin. We had been shrunk in size prior to their attack, so they were nearly our size. Nithan has taken a romantic interest in me (long story I'd like to forget-- basically when we shrunk our clothes didn't fit quite right), much to the dismay of the rest of the party. I decided to reciprocate, though I will eventually have a bodyguard. I will enjoy the interchange between the drow and bodyguard. We fought some other critters-- a water elemental (a creature made entirely of water-- Nithan and I used it as bath water), and two fire and two ice mephits.
After fighting the mephits we found a sarcophagus and opened it. All it contained was a scroll. Nithan decided to reads it-- it said simply, "Now you've done it!" and we were teleported away....
We first encountered a big beholder named Skip guarding a huge treasure horde, but oddly, we talked to it and left, rather than fighting for the treasure. While we were backing out of the room (the door of which teleported us far away to the outside of the dungeon), we saw a Red Wizard (bane of my existence) sneak in behind the eye tyrant and steal the very part of the treasure we came for-- a crystal rod that we were trying to keep out of the hands of evil-- and Red Wizards are the most evil of the lot. There was not much we could do though, so we returned to Urml, the village closest to the swamp the dungeon was in. We were attacked by and defeated one huge spider, and hid from a very large snake on the way back. I told Nithan that if he wants to pursue a relationship that he must go to Rashemen to talk to the Othlor and get permission since he is an "outsider" to my culture. I come from the complete opposite side of the continent we are on.
Let us see, we left Urml and went in the exact opposite direction we had planned to head in. We have decided to go to Rashemen so Nithan can plead in front of my elders to court me. (My group is blushing a lot, I have noticed.) So, we headed towards the port metropolis of Hlondeth. On the way, we encountered a Spectral Panther that could keep phasing in and out of view (and attack range), a few caravans (we do not attack them!) and an Ankheg-- it looks like a huge segmented worm with insect-like legs, that tunnels up from below and pulls victims into the ground. We managed to kill that, but we ran away from the Spectral Panther (well, I was hauled away from it by a well-meaning Aeryna, who braved coming back for me-- Nithan was grabbed by Thairis, who sprouted wings from his back-- it turns out he is a Fey'Ri).
We were in a port town looking for a ship to get us to our destination and the town is not tolerant of magic users, but looks the other way for slavers. So, I asked the group not to call me a witch in front of anyone. The first night in our inn was quiet. When I went down to breakfast, Jokar yelled, "Hi, witch!" (because for some reason, he thinks this is funny) and I tried to make a big show of being a cleric, not a magic user. But, unbeknownst to us, there were slavers at a nearby table that took notice of the term "witch" because they know that the Witches of Rashemen are valued if captured and turned over to the Red Wizards of Thay (the enemy!). Of course, later the party splits up to do some shopping, and Nithan and I wanted to go have a nice private lunch in a fancy restaurant. We asked Jean who was tagging along after us, to go check out the grove on the opposite side of town to make sure it is not being chopped down (or some such thing a druid would care about). Halfway through our lunch, Utra let Nithan know that Jean followed some seedy looking guy into an alley and was caught and taken hostage in a building (you never follow after the seedy looking guys-- it is always a trap!). Nithan and I met up with Thairis and followed Utra's instructions back to the building, which turned out to be a bakery. While I did a horrendous job of trying to keep the baker occupied (I know nothing about kitchens!), Nithan snuck in the back door, found a trap door in the floor and went down through it. I manage to get the baker to take me for a "tour" of the building and jump down the trap door, followed by the ranger. All three of us hit another trap in the basement and got sucked down a long metal tube, which deposited us in a room filled with some kind of gas that knocked us all out. Vorona, meanwhile, found the rest of our party and asked them to come to our aid-- and they manage to fall down the same chute. We all woke up in cells without any of our gear, and were being guarded by at least four gnolls. Jean was there and managed to turn himself into a snake to slide out of his cage, and heroically wandered off, and picked up a (most likely cursed) dagger off an altar in another room (never pick up anything on an altar-- it is always a trap!).
We woke up in cells in a prison, and Deldiira was able to pick our cell door locks with the cursed dagger Jean had found after he shapeshifted into a snake form, slithered around the compound and came back-- he probably found the only blasted cursed item in the entire complex. We fought the gnolls and nearly succeeded in escaping, but then two mind flayers and a human (we think) woman brought in a Lantern of Magic Nullification to prevent us from casting spells to help ourselves. In a desperate move, I flung myself between a gnoll and a nearly dead Nithan, taking the damage he would have received and dragged him back to the relative safety of our cell. The mind flayers subdued the rest of the party and we were put in anti-magic manacles so we could not cast spells on the gnoll jailers. Deldiira was taken away, but hopefully she was still somewhere in the compound.
What we did not know, was that we had some heroes on the way to rescue us. A male bard named Tebryn that is followed around by a little pseudodragon called Membria, my Devoted Defender Vladislak Ivashka Bezborodov, that was sent by the other Witches of Rashemen to protect me, and another female elf were on their way to find us. The female turned out to be Jokar's long lost drow girlfriend Greyanna, and Tebryn brought a message all the way from Silverymoon for Deldiira. The three of them (smartly!) asked around when they got to the city were we were last seen, found some friendly Harper contacts who provided them with a map of the sewers that lead to the "secret" slaver compound, and just walked right in, slew three guards, put on their uniforms, stole their keys and weapons, and went and opened all the cells before the other jailers realized they weren't working on the same side. With the anti-magic manacles off and some weapons to help us, we were able to hack our way through about 20 gnolls and orcs to make our escape. We have found out just how handy a monk can be-- Onor was able to take out many of our jailors without any weapons-- The Rashemi warriors will enjoy meeting him. We also found a druid named Jalana in another cell (who will probably follow Jean). We were all able to get out of the complex safely. Nearly all of our equipment is gone. Pookie Pie was in a cage in the gnolls' quarters along with my spellbook-- they must have assumed they both belonged to the same spellcaster. Our other animal companions have waited for us outside the compound for nearly 2 weeks.
The day started out well enough. I went to Lord Evenwood, who was rumored to have a job he needed some mercenaries to handle. It was my hope that the challenge of this assignment, to follow the miners' trail up in the local marble quarry and find out what was holding up the deliveries, would be of interest to my gold-starved comrades. My comrades, however, want to sell stuff to slavers to make money-- manacles to put on other would-be slaves! I cannot condone such actions-- in my mind, that would make us no better than the Thayans.
The strange half-elf that arrived with Vlad to rescue us is handing out gold for the taking. Perhaps he is serving some sort of penance. Vlad hears voices in his head whenever the half-elf is around.
We got nothing accomplished today, except for killing an "Umber Hulk" (a huge umber colored, um, hulking monster that was able to confuse Thairis and Vlad) and then arguing about where to head next. Nithan insisted that we follow this path beyond the iron door in the Slavers' compound we just escaped from, even though we did not vote to do so. We walked for a total of 8 hours through the underbelly of Hlondeth, coming to an Illithid city on what must have been the edge of the Underdark. We spent the evening at the Cracked Mug Inn arguing about which direction to head next, even though we've only been given one offer. Nithan disappeared during the argument, which is what I plan to do next. I think I can still catch up with Deldiira, who is headed to Silverymoon.
Well, it seems I will not be parting ways with my companions any time soon. Shortly after Nithan disappeared from the Cracked Mug, Utra (and also Vorona) flew off. Vlad and I followed them to a large windowless stone building-- the city prison. Apparently, Nithan had angered some Paladins of Helm. He made an injudicious attempt to interest them in hiring him on as a scout to take them to the Illithid city. I guess he did not consider that it is unwise to bribe paladins. Needless to say, they dropped him off at the prison, to be tried, at which point (for being drow), he most likely would have been convicted and sold into slavery. I tried to politely pay his "bail" at the prison door (they don't take bail) or even "buy" him, as much as I hate to even pretend to want a slave. No deal. I thought all was lost, until Vlad mentioned that the voice in his head that he hears around Tebryn gives him good ideas. It was all I could do to keep up with my Devoted Defender as we ran back to the Cracked Mug and woke Tebryn from a sound sleep. He quickly grabbed his little pseudodragon sidekick and headed off with us to the prison. We had pretty much figured out by this time that it is the little dragon that provides the "voice" for Vlad. Vlad asked Membria to tell Nithan in his head that he must come out of the jail right now. Membria could not contact Nithan through the wall, so had to get into the prison through an upper window and find him. She found him in a cell and though she talked to him, he appeared to think the brick wall was his new "friend." We had to get him out before he went completely over the edge! Membria had a good idea of where everything in the jail was laid out, including the locations of guardrooms. We had Vorona go back to the Cracked Mug and get Jean, who could shapeshift into a less suspicious looking creature to steal some keys off a guard. He turned into a bat and got the keys, but was chased around by jailors until he flew out an upper window (keys still with him). Membria was convinced to go back in and deliver the keys. Nithan was still coherent enough to unlock his own cell, but for some misguided reason decided to let out other prisoners as well. Prisoners who screamed when they came face to face with a drow. He spent a while running through random corridors knocking over guards until he finally found the exit, barreled through the two entrance guards, and ran off screaming into the night. Luckily, he found a place to hide until he could properly disguise himself as a non-drow, at which point he returned to the Cracked Mug slightly wounded and completely out of his mind.
I've lost track of exactly what happened next, but my only intention was to get him up to his room and tend to his wounds in the hopes that his mind would come back once he had a bit of rest. I had Vlad stay and guard the outside of the door so that Nithan would not be disturbed while he slept, but I apparently disturbed him several times. Thankfully, Vlad is fairly naive (or else thinks the rest of our party is) and believes we were just "bashing things." While I certainly never planned to fall in love with a drow, I have no regrets, though this makes it that much more important that we head to Rashemen sooner rather than later.
Luckily, the party has agreed to take Evenwood's job to earn money. We head out at dawn to make final purchases for the trip.
Things got off to a rather abrupt start today, as a brick sailed through the (closed) window to the room Nithan and I stayed in. Judging by that, and the pile of little notes saying "Can we go now?" that we found pushed under our door, we decided to get dressed and get out of town. Getting dressed required having Aeryna and Tebryn purchase us new garments, because, as Vlad seems to think, an owlbear obviously shredded our own clothing during the pitched battle the night before.
Getting out of town took a little forethought, as the guards are still looking for an insane male drow sorcerer. To confuse the issue, both Thairis and Nithan disguised themselves as female humans, and I pretended that Nithan was my sister for the sake of getting through the checkpoint at the city gate more quickly. We got through easily and were at last on the open road.
The trip went downhill from there.
After a fairly uneventful day of riding our horses through the path to the marble quarry we are off to investigate, we stopped to make a camp by the roadside. Our horses started to get restless and the shift watching the camp woke us all in time for us to see a fog bank rolling in on all sides. I quickly cast a spell to detect evil and was almost physically ill by the strength of the spell's result. We found that a mansion with a graveyard had popped up right where we were camped.
Of course, Nithan wanted to investigate it right away, and I am always in favor of making sure the dead are not undead, so we went to the front door. In fact, Nithan ran right through it, so Vlad and I quickly followed, only to find that we were back on the path about 20 feet from the house. Eventually the entire party was back standing on the path, curiosity piqued. So, back we went, trying different methods of entry until Vlad finally threw Onor up to a window so he could climb in and open the mansion for the rest of us. Onor was joined by Jean, and both found themselves fighting bone bats-- creatures I have never encountered, that had the ability to paralyze our stalwart monk. He and Jean came back down more quickly than they went up, followed by the undead creatures. Chauntea blessed us however, and the creatures quickly turned to dust by my command. While this was happening, other party members were able to finally get into the mansion via a first story window. We found a huge construct that appeared to be made of sewn together human skin. The creature was amazingly strong and nearly killed Jean, but fortunately Vlad stepped in and cut the flesh golem down. Moments later, we found the mansion was decorated in a lovely but sinister raven motif-- one raven dropped sleeping gas on several party members, while another flew straight through me, leaving a cold chill in its wake. The next room we encountered was a strange library-- full of books, yet every page in every book appeared blank. Nithan was particularly cross about this and suggested we leave immediately and set fire to the evil structure, may Chauntea forgive us.
As the flames began racing up the sides of the building, we started off across the yard towards some of the graves. Before we got too far, at least eight ghosts came up through the ground, scaring off everyone in the party except those of us that follow Chauntea, and Nithan (who is most certainly favored by her). They kept them occupied while I commanded the spirits to disperse. Thairis and Nithan seem to be mostly unhurt, though Jean and Vlad were quite weak after the battle from direct contact with the negative energy beings. Though Vlad is dear to me, any one of those that stayed by my side would be a fine choice as a Wychlaran's Devoted Defender.
The fighting did not stop with the ghosts. Just as we finished turning back the last of the spirits, we heard the shouts of our fleeing comrades as they were attacked by six more bone bats. Aeryna (our best fighter) and Jalana were paralyzed almost immediately in that attack, but we finally destroyed the bats. Almost instantly, we were pinned in by, at last count, 26 zombies coming from the tree lines and graveyard. Thairis and Nithan used some clever magic to hold them at bay while I did my best to turn the hordes of undead. The rest were taken down one at a time by the other party members.
When we were only halfway through the gruesome task, I felt the sting of magic missiles shot at me from the tree line, and as I was warning my comrades, a group of us was struck by a line of lightning emanating from the same trees. As I was trying to heal Nithan from that attack, Onor went to the trees, hoping to find a mage to dispatch, but instead discovered a blue dragon that bit at him immediately. Vlad and I raced to save him, seeing that he was near death when we arrived. The dragon struck viciously at Vlad and he fell, seemingly dead, but he had managed to get Onor and me away from the huge blue lizard just seconds before he fell. Then, I noticed that there was something that was not quite right about the dragon; I have yet to put my finger on exactly what. It appeared to charge to attack the rest of our group, but disappeared as soon as it was struck. I was able to convince Vlad that he was not dead, and patch up Onor enough to get back to the fight against the zombies. By this time, Vorona was frantic because Nithan was caught up in Thairis' "entangle" spell that had been cast to hold back a wall of zombies. Vorona is a clever raven though, and was able to fly a healing spell from me right to Nithan, avoiding getting entangled himself in the process. The zombies were then dispatched; we all dropped pretty much where we stood to rest from the ordeal.
Turning undead is not quite as permanent as destroying them outright, and through the night various undead that I'd sent away came back for another attack, but were easily turned back or destroyed by those on watch. They also managed to find two magic weapons in the rubble of the burned mansion.
When the dawn came, or rather, the grey sky lightened slightly, we headed to the graveyard to see if we could stem the source of evil plaguing this area. We have a feeling that we are not on Toril anymore, but some evil pocket plane, and we must find the source of evil to return home. As we entered the graveyard we were immediately set on by nine more spirits similar to the ghosts from the night before. We turned and destroyed them, and then opened the mausoleum in the middle of the cemetery. It contained two sarcophagi-- Vlad and Onor opened one, to find a lich-like female that quickly jumped up and began to attack us. With much help from Vlad and a fireball from Nithan, we were able to dispatch the undead creature, and I sprinkled holy water inside the sarcophagus and blessed the area. We found a magical staff clutched in her desiccated hands. I hope that it is something Nithan can use. The second sarcophagus was empty, but I did the same ritual there, just in case the absent occupant is planning to use it again.
While looking for the occupant of the missing sarcophagus, we meandered into the woods, where we found a ramshackle little one-room building. Vlad had to bash the door in (and took out a great deal of the front wall while doing so) to find only a desk with a journal in it. The journal was written in Chondothan, which thankfully, Nithan can read. The little shack, while seemingly abandoned, was in fact protected by four earth or rock elementals which were quite difficult to dispatch. It took most of my healing to patch up the party afterwards. Also, Jokar and Tebryn had some sort of spat with one another, resulting in a wounded Tebryn. Even though providing healing is a tenant of my faith, I have concluded that Chauntea would allow me to leave these wounds untreated, as a lesson to those that cannot get along well with their party members.
Within moments of finishing off the last of the rock creatures, we heard the bloodcurdling cries of horses in distress-- our animals were being attacked by zombies! While the zombies were easy enough to kill off, they had maimed and killed so many of our mounts that we are now down to two horses.
Shortly after this, Nithan got to reading the journal he found. He got such a headache from reading the tome that he laid down to rest for a few minutes-- he talked in his sleep, and did not sound like his normal self-- I am beginning to wonder if he has a "normal" self. At my behest, Vlad tried to pull the book Nithan was clutching to his chest, thinking this act would protect him, resulting in a very angry drow. Luckily, it did not resolve in a disaster over the misunderstanding.
Aeryna decided to give the smoldering heap of mansion one last search and managed to fall through a section of floor into a small crypt. She found a skeleton that had been rather unceremoniously stuffed into a whole in the wall. He was wearing an amulet and ring-- I do not know what the ring was for, but after looking at the amulet, I was able to determine that it is a component for making a golem. It appears that our dead discovery may be the body from the empty coffin in the mausoleum. At least, Nithan was sure of it-- he did not share all that was in the journal, but it was clear he was putting the pieces together. While he, Thairis, Vlad and I were taking the bones to their proper resting place, we were hit by magic missiles and lightning bolts-- the same spells that had been used by the blue dragon we had encountered. This time, however, there was a crazed looking man casting them. We rushed to engage him in hand-to-hand combat, as most wizards are not as skilled in physical attacks. Vlad met up with Aeryna and Onor to fight our assailant. Vlad hit the wizard so hard that they both went into a rage-- Vlad into a healthy, Rashemi berserker rage, and the insane wizard into something not so healthy-- he was a werewolf! Onor and Vlad continued to attack him successfully, and I handed Aeryna my silver dagger to help finish him off. Nithan at this point was crawling towards the sarcophagus, hoping that if he entombed the skeletal remains the curse (and attack) would be over. He got to the tomb just as the werewolf went down by a final blow from Vlad. As I was reaching to pick the wizard's spellbook from his corpse, Jokar ran up to it and set the body on fire! I was unable to save the spellbook, and as the body was consumed, I saw that the creature was equipped with several magic items and weapons. Why must my comrades destroy every magic item we discover? It is almost as if they do it on purpose. Before I could do anything more, the landscape around us started to change again....
....and returned us to right where we had camped the night before. Tebryn decided he had had enough of adventuring and disappeared before we set out again. We headed up the trail towards the mountains, our intent to find the mining camp and determine why shipments were not coming in any longer. But, our group is very easily distracted. After scouting ahead, Thairis came back to tell us he'd found a really smelly cave about 5 miles off the trail we were supposed to follow, so of course, we went towards it-- Nithan convinced the party that the smelly cave could possibly provide us with clues to the whereabouts of the missing miners. Thairis, of course, flies everywhere, so it took us much longer on foot to get back to the cave. When we finally got to the cave, there was a ravine to cross-- while I was scouting around for a way to cross safely, my rather non-nature friendly comrades chopped down a healthy tree to make a makeshift bridge, may Chauntea forgive me for leaving them alone near defenseless trees. As they were pushing the downed tree into position to cross the ravine, a rather familiar-looking wyvern descended on us. Vlad was too far away to help, but Nithan and I managed to take it down with magic, with the help of Onor, who distracted the beast by jumping on its back. At least we have removed one menace from this area. There was little in the cave to indicate whom this wyvern had caught, though we did find some shields and tattered uniforms of Hlondeth city guards, and a few silver pieces for our trouble. Nithan, always looking for stuff to sell off our kills, insisted we take the wyvern's venom sack and a few other parts that are useful as spell components.
We then turned back towards our main quest, arriving at the mining camp before dawn the next day. It was completely deserted, and looked to have been for at least a month. A journal in an office off the mess hall confirmed that no one had been working here for weeks. Tools in the quarry were beginning to rust, and there were no wagons or pack animals anywhere in the mining camp. We spent a full day looking around for signs of what happened. Jean saw a small humanoid on a wolf, and Thairis went to look for the wolf tracks, but apparently could not determine enough from them to pick a course of action. We gave up and returned to Hlondeth with the remains of the wyvern, which fetched a good price at the wizards' guild, and then to Evenwood's estate for our fee for checking out the mining camp. I felt guilty taking the money since we had not really helped him, but we did what our contract had detailed, and he was an honest businessman. I also took Jean to a temple of Eldath for a potion to restore the strength he lost helping fight off undead in the demiplane. We would have gone to a temple to Chauntea, but unfortunately, there is no temple to the Earthmother in Hlondeth. After that, I shared a room with Nithan for the evening at The Serpent's Head. Most of our comrades had the sense to leave us be for the evening, though I am quite certain I heard Vlad administer correction to Jokar for what I imagine was an off-color remark. I am not sure how well Jokar will fare in Rashemen if he cannot learn to respect women properly. His girlfriend Greyanna must worry about that too; she used her earnings to buy a wand of healing, and asked me to carry it for the party.
We try so hard to stay out of trouble. When morning came we went to the docks, found a ship headed towards Telflamm off the coast of Thesk, which was as close to Rashemen as we can get via boat. We stayed right by the ship until it left (so no one would get mugged or anything). A shifty-looking individual who "overheard" us book passage offered us a deal on going through a portal to get to where we were headed instantly, but I figured that such an offer was too good to be true, and cast an augury that said that nothing good would come of taking up his offer. I also overheard that there were shadows attacking people in Hlondeth at night. After discussing it with my comrades, we felt that we were not comfortable staying in this town-- there is too much at risk to stay even one day longer.
We also had a choice of two ships-- the Sea Witch or Bloody Vengeance and we took the one with the most benign name. The ship scheduled two short stops at ports, but we stayed on the ship again when we arrived at the Sapra port, so we would not get into trouble. Sadly, the Sea Witch was attacked by a monstrous Kraken and sunk between ports, in the middle of the Sea of Fallen Stars, a full day from any land masses. It was horrifying and amazing how easily a ship could sink.
All was not lost-- I cast water breathing on our party and as many crew as I could reach (3), Nithan and Aeryna were able to grab and lash together 3 lifeboats/rafts, Vlad and Onor helped rescue Jokar (who had managed to get picked up by the Kraken and was on his way to a watery grave), and Vlad also went and retrieved all of our gear before it was lost with the ship. I'm not certain, but I believe I saw Jokar bite the Kraken during his struggle with it! Jean and Thairis truly saved the day by turning into water creatures-- hauling the rafts for a full day to get to the nearest island, off the coast of Aglarond.
Ironically, I remembered later that the Bloody Vengeance was the ship we owned for one day in Freeport.
We managed to come ashore on an island with a cliff facing the ocean, but after our scouts climbed the rockface, we discovered a rather safe haven with a small hut near a tree line. From within the hut came a kindly but quiet old man in a white robe, which bade us join him by his fire for a dinner of fresh fish. The old man did not speak, and we eventually discovered it was because he had no tongue. While trying to ascertain his identity, he showed some of us a box-- within the box were a cracked jewel and a wooden symbol of Chauntea. This is a test I have been expecting for some time, but assumed it would not arrive until I got back to Rashemen, and then, I had almost assumed that somehow my aunt or one of the other Wychlaran would administer it. But then, this is not Nithan's test, this one is mine. Through some writing in the Rashemi language, he talked to me of my relationship to my deity and my drow companion, and also told me that my test of faith required that I go to the next island over and obtain a scepter from a cave there. When I asked if I should go alone, he wrote, "Know your strengths and weaknesses." I took this to mean I should not attempt to go alone (after all, that is why I have Vlad guarding me), and told my comrades that Vlad and I needed to go on a short trip. They all decided to accompany me, and after resting for the night, we headed out in the morning taking one of the rafts from the wrecked ship. We left the three sailors with the old man.
The island was only a short distance away, and the cave was very easy to find. It radiated pure evil. I foolishly attempted to protect the party from my test by trying to lead the way, after nearly coming to an end in a pit with a lacedon, I learned that my place, even when leading, is not in the front of the party! We quickly made it through without any further mishap, and found ourselves in a large cavern with an altar to Umberlee, the Bitch Queen of the Deep. This alter was the source of the evil I felt. Before we could get to the altar and retrieve the scepter lying upon it, we were assaulted from three sides by merrow, sea hags, and lacedons. Fortunately, we were able to defeat the evil sea creatures and obtain the scepter. A search of the rest of the cavern brought us to a chest full of gold and other valuable items, and this time, the treasure has been safely collected without mishap.
While my religious faith never wavered until now, my companions are quite worried, wondering why the old man wants such an obviously evil scepter. Nithan questions why the old man keeps the symbol of his faith in a box. Though I will do my best to let faith guide my actions, I must also listen to my friends as well-- a different kind of faith, I suppose.
I was able to convince my comrades to go back to the old man on the island, so I could prove that he was not evil and that we should take the scepter back to him. Nithan, who does have some trust issues (understandably!) agreed to go back, but not to hand over the evil scepter. I went and talked to the old man, confirmed his nature as an agent of Chauntea, and he even put on his holy symbol for Nithan's sake. Whether this is fortunate or not, I cannot say, but the old man said that as long as the scepter is destroyed, either by himself or by me, Chauntea cares not. I would have been quite happy to hand over the scepter, as the old man could have much more easily destroyed it than we can. We must head to Dragon Aerie, and drop it in a volcano near Tiamat's lair. I thought we should do it before proceeding to Rashemen, but, not wanting to confuse things too much further, asked the old man if he could provide us with a portal to Rashemen, which he quite readily did. Within moments we were standing near the Temple to Chauntea in Immilmar, the capitol, where, more fortunately, my aunt often resides and where I can easily reach my own Estate. Vlad too, I can tell, is looking forward to visiting Owlbear Lodge and regaling his fellow warriors with tales of our accomplishments. Because we arrived closest to the Temple and my companions are not used to the colder climes of Rashemen, we headed directly to the temple door; I sent Vorona on to the Witches' Hall to greet the Wychlaran.
It felt good to be back on familiar ground, and I could not help but be pleased at how the companion I worried about most, Jokar, was a perfect gentleman-- obviously the arts of diplomacy and etiquette (or Greyanna!) are rubbing off on him. Still, I had forgotten just how "different" my companions are to our lands, and did notice the openly cold stares they received.
We chatted briefly with the head cleric and left donations to Chauntea. I was pleased to see that Nithan left a substantial offering-- surely, she will smile upon him as much as Eilistraee would! I was able to borrow some warm fur robes at the temple for my companions-- it was time to head to the Witches' Hall; Vorona had met with them and said our companions were to present themselves before the council.
An unusual and disastrous encounter befell us as we left the temple doorway-- for reasons we may never know, Thairis had been shooting arrows (purposely missing, we thought) and Nithan for the past day. Nithan seemed to think nothing much of it, so I did not inquire. However, when we left the temple, Thairis stood in front of us and cast Enervation, an ability that should only be used on an enemy, right at Nithan! Since we were so close to the temple still, I immediately took him inside, leaving Vlad to keep things under control, and asked the cleric to restore his energy and health and we departed again immediately, lest Thairis do something unspeakable to other party members. We came out in time to see him taking flight-- Vlad could do nothing to an airborne foe, but Nithan, not thinking about the fact that unknown arcane spellcasters are not tolerated in the borders of my country, hit Thairis with a fireball of magical energy. Thairis returned in kind with an entangle spell, hoping to root us to the spot, but I quickly countered and dismissed it. Onor grabbed at Thairis as he flew over and hung on, trying to slow him down. Thairis had left the party's belongings on the ground, thankfully, and Jokar grabbed them up for safekeeping. I cast a Flashburst at the overhead target, not wanting to hurt Onor, just to dazzle Thairis enough to end his flight. In a flash of his own inspiration, Jean turned himself into a huge bird of prey, picking up Nithan to give chase to the fleeing Fey'ri. Nithan ended the battle with Thairis by use of a Magic Missile through the top of his head, though Jean was able to catch the falling bodies and return everyone to land. Thairis is dead, and it is quite doubtful that any party members would resurrect him after such a strange and cowardly act.
That was not the worst of it for us. Numerous Rashemi had witnessed the magical battle, and the Othlor made it clear to me that we must present ourselves immediately in the Witches' Hall. Nithan was arrested, and I asked the rest of the party to either go to the Blackstone Inn or stay with him. While I knew bringing a drow sorcerer lover into Rashemen to meet the family would be a delicate matter, things could not be worse! I quickly explained that we had with us an evil scepter from an alter of Umberlee, and that Chauntea herself wished it destroyed, how my companions had stayed with me even though it meant traveling through strange lands, and how Nithan had wanted to ask for my hand in marriage from the Othlor. Even behind their masks, I could tell that this raised a few eyebrows. They asked for eyewitness reports of the skirmish from passersby, my companions, the cleric that treated Nithan at the temple, and finally Nithan himself. Nithan acquitted himself well though, and though the witches may have been disappointed by the events of my homecoming, I do think that they admired him for the fact that he handled the situation without injuring any Rashemi or damaging any buildings. He was released into my custody and will accompany me home. I am sure we are to wait there though, as the matter of destroying the scepter and his desire to wed a Hathran will definitely require some careful thought by the council before they can decide how best to do the right thing and still stay within the strictures of our law.
We went back to my family estate in Urling until we were to go back for the Wychlarans' decision. We made the 130-mile trip in a moment thanks to the permanent teleport that all the witches use to get to Urling. My comrades were mostly well behaved; Jokar insulted my cook immediately, and when she hit him over the head with a tankard for his rudeness, he hit her back! Now Vayla is slightly infatuated with him, much to Jokar's chagrin. Aeryna immediately ran to the fountain in the courtyard to splash around. When I told her there was actually a bathing pool between the guest rooms, she disappeared for the evening. I let Vlad have the evening off-- Rashemen has always been safe for me, and he had not had a break in weeks. Jokar suggested Vlad take a bath, so I presume he headed to the bathing pool as well. Nithan spent the evening in my library, trying to get an idea of what the Wychalaran would have in store for him, no doubt. It was good to be back home!
In the morning, we returned to Immilmar via the portal in my personal chambers. The witches rightly decided that since his battle with the Fey'Ri did not harm any Rashemi or buildings, that he need not pay a penalty for that. However, he still must prove himself worthy of marrying a Hathran, so he has been given a test for that. He, and any of my comrades that wish to have the respect of the Rashemi people must go to the Ashenwood and be tested by the Spirits that live within. Those that survive will be treated as Rashemi citizens thereafter. I, of course, am going with him, as are the rest of our companions. We are not to purchase any magical gear, but left the magic items we brought with us to be identified, including the scepter. We went back to the Estate for another 8 hours, at which point Onor, Nithan and I returned to Immilmar. The shopkeeper of The Guardian Witch was able to identify all the items, though the scepter was so evil that he needed several stiff drinks to make the whispered voice in his head, caused by the scepter, to quiet until we took the scepter away again. We met a Sun Elf while we were collection our items-- apparently he has been studying the land magic the witches use and has become a welcome guest. He asked to accompany us on our quest. After leaving the magic shop, we went to make a less formal visit to my Aunt Navarra, who had already met us under less desirable circumstances. I introduced Onor and Nithan, and she assured me that she has monitored my movements throughout the Realms. Knowing her as I do, she most likely has monitored other things I have been doing as well! She was kind enough to give Nithan a book with some information on the spirits in the Ashenwood, and hold the scepter in a safe place until we can have it destroyed.
We returned to my Estate, and Nithan finally took some time away from my library to try out the bathing pool in my own suite. Apparently, Vlad was still over in the guest suite with Aeryna. We stayed in my house until dawn, at which point we gathered our gear and headed back to Immilmar with the six horses from my stables. We found our Sun Elf companion and headed off towards the woods. Even though we were prepared for the cold weather, my companions were very uncomfortable with the cold. Except for Vlad. He was riding with Aeryna and looked quite warm. We finally made it to the tree line of Ashenwood and camped for the night.
Much of the night went without incident around our small campfire. But, as often as not, a campfire will attract some wandering creatures, and tonight was no exception. We managed to attract a snowfury, an ice and air elemental found in snowy areas around the forests of Rashemen. My party of course, did not know what it was, but most realized quickly enough that it was trying to put out our fire. Jean summoned 3 earth elementals, which did not help matters, but Nithan smartly cast a spell which normally would have eased the snowfury's wrath. The earth elementals angered it, so we quickly dispatched them back to their plane. By this time though, the snowfury was looking for trouble and began to injure Jalana, so we had no choice but to destroy it as well. At least that way we were able to have a campfire again.
After spending the remainder of our night out under the stars, we entered the woods. Nithan suddenly stopped as if spoken too, picked up a rock that he had stepped on, and began an animated (if seemingly one-sided) discussion with it. He told us its name was Steev, and that Steev was having a chat with him. Remembering the incident with the brick, I asked him to ask the rock what the meaning of a Rashemi word was to prove one way or the other that Steev was truly sentient, or Nithan was suffering from exposure. Steev knew that "Moroz" meant "ice" though, and I know that Nithan did not, so I am satisfied that Steev is in fact talking to Nithan. Or, at least, something is. Perhaps a spirit of the forest is observing him in this manner.
We walked along for a time, Nithan chattering happily to his rock, when we were set upon by five rather large trolls. The trolls did massive amounts of damage to our party, slaying Onor outright. Other than that sad event, I am pleased to report that my comrades fought with valor, and more importantly, as a unit, which is a rare thing. If we can have Onor raised at the temple, I am quite certain he will have a hero's welcome back as a true Rashemi warrior.
Nithan had the presence of mind to collect some troll blood for its regenerative properties. Of course, this meant that Vlad had to keep bashing the regenerating troll senseless until the blood could be collected. We had to burn the bodies to prevent the trolls from rising yet again. I was pleased to see that our ponies had not been slaughtered, and had only wandered away until the battle with the trolls was over. Surely, Chauntea smiles upon us and our quest, difficult though it may be.
Apparently, Chauntea is not the only deity following our little quest. I must confess, some of us were worried at Onor's passing, since he had no deity to sponsor him at the Wall of the Faithless. Before I could pray to Chauntea to grant him safe passage to the afterlife, Onor stood up, obviously a changed man. Where he had previously had a gaping chest wound from the troll attack, he now had scars with an intricate vine-like tattoo weaving from the middle of the scar branching down his arms like stripes on a tiger. The goddess Mielikki appears to have adopted him, no doubt for his selfless acts in Ashenwood.
Our little band was weakened from our fight with the trolls and decided to find a place to recuperate for a while. We attempted to create a clearing in a particularly dense area of brambles, and though the plants were more than willing to cooperate, we found it uncomfortable and ended up camping on a hunters' trail. Though we kept our campfire small and under control, we were constantly assaulted by snowfuries attempting to put the fire out. I have recently been blessed with the ability to turn air elementals away and was able to keep the snowfuries from destroying our camp. I cannot control just which air elementals are affected. Razzarie has an air elemental for a familiar, and it goes screaming off in the opposite direction whenever I use my ability.
We eventually did manage to all get enough rest to continue our quest. Onor ran on ahead down one of the two paths we were considering following. Luckily, Razzarie's familiar chose to follow him, as Razzarie was able to quickly alert the rest of us that Onor had found trouble up ahead. What we found when we caught up was unexpected-- a snow tiger was fighting with three ettercaps and least four giant spiders in a web-filled clearing. And though we arrived quickly, the tiger hardly left anything for the rest of us to help defeat. Onor discovered that the marks Mielikki left on him are more than just a reminder of his fight with the trolls-- they also allow him to become a defender of nature by shapeshifting into a very large snow tiger. No sooner had we watched the demise of the last ettercap, than dozens of newly sprouted vines came up through the ground and dragged us all quite a distance, eventually taking us to what must be the very center of Ashenwood. We were left standing in front of the largest tree any of us had ever seen, and, apparently, the being that was to give us our real quest. The tree told us that there was a great evil trying to gain a foothold in the forest and that we must put a stop to it before it destroyed the woodlands. We were quick to agree and head off in the direction indicated. We walked along for a distance in seemingly healthy woods, when we came to a spot where there was clearly a pall of evil settled over the area. As we walked on, the shadows got deeper and it became harder to see-- even with torches our visibility was cut by half. And then, something struck. Without hesitation, our party went after our assailant-- it looked very much like an owlbear, but our weapons did not always manage to harm it, even when it was clearly struck. I realized that it might be a creature that was drawing strength and energy from the shadows around us, and cast "daylight" on my scythe. Before I had a chance to hit the creature though, Jokar struck it, and combined with the daylight, the creature was slain. Vlad was very impressed with Jokar's killing blow, and told him that he would be welcome in the Owlbear Lodge if he brought the head of the beast (and the tale of its demise) back to Immilmar.
Unfortunately, killing the owlbear did not cleanse the forest of the evil or the shadows, so we continued on. We walked for many hours, occasionally even passing places we had already been, even though many of us are experienced travelers with a good sense of direction. For a long time we did not encounter any other creatures but then we were assaulted again, this time by a pair of horribly twisted tree creatures. As fast as we could cut them down, they healed and stood back up. This time, we were more prepared for fighting the creatures of shadow, and I was ready with another "daylight" spell. It weakened the source of their power enough that our fighters were eventually able to splinter the creatures into pieces that did not heal back together.
Moments later, we found the true source of the evil. Though we needed to rest, we did not want to allow any more evil to seep into Ashenwood. We stood in front of a portal that most likely goes to a negative energy plane. Tying ourselves all to one long length of strong rope so we would not get separated, and with Nithan in the lead, we plunged into the inky black portal….
.................. and into a shadowy chamber with four shadowy doorways and a very large, very shadowy statue dedicated to Shar, the Dark Goddess. Many times, I have suggested to my fellow adventurers to not mess around with altars and religious items they know nothing about. As usual, we needed a little refresher course. After Nithan suffered an energy draining retaliation from the statue, Vlad, Aeryna and a few others attempted to topple the statue at his behest by use of a length of rope (I would not let Vlad touch the statue, and he actually listens to me). Of course, it did not topple. Jokar was eventually hit with another energy draining ray of Enervation by the same statue, and at this point, we opted to study the shadowy portals around the room and ignore the statue of Shar. We started by throwing things through the various portals, casting divination spells to see which portals were safe, and, after losing a good deal of our rope, and Aeryna's favorite brick, we all just simply jumped through one of the doorways.
I found myself alone in a room with Jalana, facing three shadowy undead. Though I had no fear for my own safety, I did not want to risk Jalana, who had very little defense against the undead. I suggested we back out of the portal, hoping that the fact that only two of us arrived in this room indicated that the rest were in similar straits. I arrived in a room with Jean and Greyanna, but not Jalana. Again, we were in a small room with several doors and several shadowy undead. By unspoken agreement, we decided to stay and fight these creatures, and eventually Nithan and Onor arrived via another doorway. We were able to defeat the undead in this room, and had realized that by remaining in physical contact with one another while stepping through a doorway, we could at least all shift to the same random room.
After many different hops through various rooms of these shadow creatures, we all managed to arrive back in the main hallway with the statue of Shar. We opted to rest, and were fortunate to have the elf wizard Razzarie with us-- he provided a safe shelter via the spell "Leomund's Secure Shelter." Though I do not practice enough arcane magic to learn that spell, the elf and I did share our spellbooks with one another and I had time to learn one of his easier spells while we rested.
Once we were all recovered from the skirmishes (and encounter with the statue), we decided to clean out the rest of the undead that were sure to remain in the rooms we had passed through. By all holding on to one another, we cleared out several rooms and eventually came to a long hallway. In addition to the shadowy undead, the hallway had over a dozen alcoves, each with a stone statue that sprang to life when we arrived in the hall. It was a long battle, but we eventually destroyed them all. As we were going through the hall to head to the next room, we discovered a small door in the floor. Opening it revealed a key so black that it seemed to suck the light out of the hallway. It had 10 black threads attached to it, holding it in the center of the opening. While Jokar was examining it to see how best to remove it without setting off any traps, Nithan simply reached in and pulled it out. Apparently, the key was what was causing all the portals in this place to be random, or at the very least, was keeping all the shadowy undead from finding us. However, they now found us en masse. This time, we were prepared though, and were able to take them out as they arrived. And while this seems to be a major victory for the side of Good, I cannot help but think that our challenge has only just begun.
We were resting in the magical shelter provided by Razzarie again, when the few remaining undead that I turned recouped and came back for us. We had rested well enough that dispatching these last few was not quite as difficult as our previous encounters. Afterwards, we searched through the area we'd fought through and found a shadowy keyhole-- our shadowy key fit the lock and opened a stairwell leading up, though before we found the next room, the steps lead back downward, for some reason. Worse horrors awaited us on this new level.
The first room we encountered was lined with columns down each side, and had two huge stone minotaurs that came to life when we arrived. We dispatched them and found an onyx stone in each. They appeared to fit in a pattern of indentations we found in the wall behind where the minotaurs stood, and when inserted in the indentations, shadowy portals would open up in alcoves around the perimeter of the room. We chose to go through the first portal that opened, and found a room with three stone gargoyles, and another onyx stone sitting on a pedestal in the middle of the room. Onor, in his new tiger form, ran to grab the onyx off the pedestal, but not having thumbs in this form, just managed to swat it off-- it skittered across the floor. Apparently, this set off a deadly trap. A stone slab slid down behind us, separating us from Jokar and Greyanna and locking us in the room. Then, a poisonous Cloud Kill spell was activated. Bird and Jean's eagle died instantly, and seconds later, so did Jalana. It was then that I showed the party my new familiar, a celestial horddsa, or "gem rat" named Brux, who just happens to be able to tunnel through rock as if it were air. She was able to make some handholds in the stone slab very quickly, allowing our stronger party members to haul the door back up and let us out. We grabbed the onyx and our fallen comrade and animals, and quickly left the room. The gargoyles in that room never moved. The new onyx, when added to the pattern, opened another door. We decided it would best for Jokar to check the room for traps before we all investigated it. He called for my help at one point, but as I went to see what he needed, a stone slab fell between us, knocking me back and leaving him trapped in the room. Again, Brux came to our aid and made it possible for us to heave the door up. By that time, Jokar had dispatched two hell hounds and obtained another onyx.
The new onyx opened a new room, which was literally filled with undead and many stone statues. The undead were very, very strong and brought several of our party to their knees. By the time all were dispatched or driven off, we were in bad need of rest and healing, so once again, we are using one of Razzarie's shelter spells. Jean took this opportunity to attempt to reincarnate Jalana, and luck was with him, for though she looks different, she came back to us as a human female. Cosmetic differences aside, she appears to be her old self. We have placed our fallen animals in a haversack that will preserve them in stasis until we can determine if they can be brought back to us.
Things have gone very badly, perhaps worse than I realize. Razzarie came up with a brilliant idea of having his air elemental familiar go through the next portal alone, hoping to avoid traps and just bring out the next onyx. It would have worked perfectly, but the room was rigged with a Magic Missile spell that activated as soon as the onyx was moved. Razzarie was able to heal his familiar immediately with an electricity spell, thankfully. The next room was filled with stone statues, so we used Brux to go in and chew at the heel of a stone minotaur while Onor simultaneously broke another minotaur at the other end of the room. As they were destroyed, they released magical energy that caused us some harm, but not as much as an attack by an animated statue! The next room is where things went very badly for us. We attempted to do the same thing as the previous room, with Brux destroying one stone minotaur and Onor taking apart the other. This time, in spite of Nithan's attempt to check for magic, all the statues in the room except the one holding the onyx came alive, and as we hacked them down, they exploded. Worse, if one exploded next to another, there was a chain reaction, and one of these killed Nithan outright-- I had no time to get to him to heal him before he fell.
While part of me began to panic at the thought of losing him so close to our goal, another part of me remembered the black feather amulet I have worn since I was a child. I was always told it was magical, a gift from my parents and part of my family legacy, and I would know how to use it when the time came. At that moment, I knew I would give anything to bring Nithan back to me, and without hesitation, I unclasped the amulet from around my neck and placed it around his. The most amazing thing happened next-- the amulet was absorbed into his skin right where it rested-- it seemed to boil as it went through, but then it healed perfectly save for a scar in the outline of a feather. Within seconds, he was restored to life! I quickly dragged him from that room while our comrades finished being healed by Jean. The onyx was grabbed and brought along when they came out.
We hardly had any time to discuss what happened, as rest was badly needed by all of us and we just gratefully collapsed in the beds provided by Razzarie's shelter.
After a day of rest, we put the eighth onyx in place and walked through the portal it provided. We found ourselves in a room with two huge statues depicting Shar and Mask, both gods of darkness and shadow. The room also contained an altar, with one supplicant kneeling in front of it. Nithan attempted to take down the evil worshipper with a Magic Missile, but unfortunately, it bounced right back and knocked him over instead. The shadowy worshipper turned around, taking down a hood he was wearing. He looked just like Jokar! In a fit of inspiration, Jokar asked Aeryna to stab him, to see if his shadowy counterpart bled. He did not, but Jokar insisted fighting the creature alone, lest more of us be harmed by magical backlash. In spite of the terrible things this counterpart said about us, Jokar kept a cool head and was able to take out his dark twin. The shadowy figure fell and disappeared, leaving only a magical short sword and the last onyx behind. Jokar has not yet had a chance to determine if the sword is safe for him to use, but it would be a true blessing to him since he has sought such a blade for quite some time. My comrades actually left the altar room without touching any of the statues-- progress!
We now had the nine onyx stones needed to fit the indentations, and as we put them in place, a huge portal in the middle of the onyx ring opened. We all grabbed a hold of each other and jumped through together. When we all arrived on the other side of the portal, a familiar black reptilian face loomed out of the shadows to greet us. He was especially pleased to see Nithan, and said, "I have been waiting for you." And held up a feather.
As quickly as Nithan could say, "I disbelieve this" we all saw him torn to pieces by the black dragon. Of course, the warriors of our party immediately went to attack the beast, and a big ball of darkness canceled out the daylight spell I had been using to keep the shadows at bay. I could not believe that dragon had bothered to track us down here, and disbelieved it myself enough that I could now see the fighters ahead had nothing to fight. The darkness that one would have assumed the dragon had cast was, oddly, still there. I then realized that it was centered on Jokar-- he had purposely cast a Globe of Darkness in this Shadowy demi-plane! Had that been a real dragon using shadowy magic, things would have been devastating to the party. I must talk to him about this. At any rate, I recast my daylight spell so that the others in the party could see that there was no dragon. It took a while to convince them. We never did convince Aeryna, in fact, we had to wrestle her to the ground and knock her out, telling her when she came to that she had single-handedly killed the dragon.
However, in spite of the dragon being an illusion, Nithan was not to be found.
We continued forward to the next room, hoping to find him. Instead, we found a hallway filled with floating, flaming skulls. Thankfully, the skulls appeared to be nothing more than everburning torches-- Onor, Aeryna, and Razzarie each took one with them for lighting. The next room was odder still. We encountered a skeletal butler carrying a silver tray with a tea set, who politely enquired why we had come in through the dungeon entrance instead of the service entrance. He also explained that he was serving tea to the master of this demesne, and that we could follow him if we wanted to talk to his master. Marvin, as he is apparently named, thoughtfully pointed out traps for us to avoid on the way to Irvanis' arcane chamber.
We arrived safely, to a chilling scene. Suspended in the air was a glowing black globe, with Nithan held in front of it! We could see that the evil orb was sucking his life energy away from him. At the same time, Irvanis turned to Marvin and told him he was an idiot. Irvanis is a lich! As he was chastising Marvin, shadowy undead and a hideous construct of bones began moving towards the party. I was too far behind my comrades (at Jokar's request) to turn the undead and could only listen helplessly. Irvanis cast a spiritwall between himself and the party members in front of me, and suddenly most of us were running back the way we came. We were able to curb our fear after a few seconds of headlong flight, and I cast Bless on the party to strengthen our resolve to go back and save Nithan. Jokar said it was a bad idea to go back and that we should leave Nithan to his fate! I could not believe what I was hearing, but did not have time to stay and listen to his insane arguments about "holding the line" in a room that had nothing to fight in it. I ran back, as did Aeryna and Vlad. The others quickly followed, even Jokar finding the bravery to run back with us. We quickly turned and dispatched some minor undead, arriving back at Irvanis' chambers to encounter a bone golem preventing our passage. The golem tossed its head back and gave such an evil laugh that my brave barbarian and several other party members were paralyzed on the spot, and Aeryna actually died from fright. This left Jokar to battle the bone golem, with me attempting to keep him healed up enough to continue. I do not know what it was that happened to Aeryna when she went to meet the god Lathander, but she suddenly appeared behind Irvanis with a glowing mace and divine luminescence lighting up her features. She nearly destroyed Irvanis right then and there. Suddenly, however, a familiar wizard in red robes appeared, grabbing the black globe and telling Irvanis that he was moving against us too quickly, and disappeared. Irvanis howled his rage and also vanished from the room. We quickly finished off the remaining remnants of the undead (keeping Marvin with us-- he turned out to be a construct shaped like a skeleton, nothing more), and running to where Nithan's body lay. He looks so drained and sickly; it will take all of the healing skills of Jean and me to pull him from the brink of death this time.
I have no idea what my last name is.
The druids and I were able to heal Nithan, but he looks so tired-- as if he has aged several years or even decades. The druids stayed with him in the shelter provided by Razzarie, while the rest of us went about the business of clearing out the rest of Irvanis' rooms. Marvin was very helpful, pointing out traps and items of interest as we went.
I noticed the oddest thing while we were searching Irvanis' private bedchambers (which is odd in itself, I suppose, since I do not think liches sleep). Razzarie pulled a book off a shelf and simply disappeared, right in front of several of us, including Jokar. The first thing Jokar said was, "I wonder what is in this drawer?" and continued rummaging through the Lich's possessions! I do not understand him. I quickly asked Marvin where Razzarie could have disappeared to, and he told me that was the secret entrance to Irvanis' private sanctum. We needed to destroy that, so Vlad, Aeryna, Onor and I quickly followed where the elf had gone. We arrived quite suddenly in a small room with two stone minotaurs, a podium with a book, and several piles and chests of treasure. Our arrival brought the stone minotaurs to life, but we were able to quickly dispatch them. Jokar arrived, helping to search the treasure chests for traps. He was hit with a poison needle from one, but was able to avoid a similar trap in the second one. Brux was very excited about the treasure, and immediately pocketed six nice gems in her cheek pouches. After getting frowns from Jokar though, she spit them back out and looked sad.
When we stepped back out of that chamber, Nithan and the druids were waiting for us-- Utra and Vorona had announced our disappearance through the bookshelf and hearing of this, Nithan determined that he could travel if necessary. We finished searching Irvanis' lair. We destroyed his private chambers, after taking anything of value that was not nailed down. Irvanis had a very large (and very deteriorated) library, Nithan cleverly used a mend spell to save as many books as he could for us to carry back to Rashemen with us. My comrades also allowed Brux to have a few of the smaller gems we had found earlier for herself, for which she is immensely pleased. As long as Brux has something shiny for herself, she will be less likely to go riffling through the party treasury.
We found disturbing missives on a desk in Irvanis' library. The Red Wizards have been following our every move, and plan to destroy a temple to Eilistraee in the Dalelands at the end of Leaffall. That is only two days away! They were also, as we suspected, the ones causing the problems in Hlondeth for us, and were responsible for interrupting the mining operations there. I still feel bad that we did not Hlondeth of that evil. Also mentioned was "The Prophesy" that somehow involves my comrades and me. I hope that we can get to the Dalelands in time to stop them this time. Before leaving through the "service entrance" that Marvin had suggested we use, we had to go to one more room-- Irvanis' arcane laboratory. As soon as we opened the door, there were several spirits clutching and reaching for us. Chauntea's power was very strong though, and I was able to send two fleeing while the other was destroyed outright. Looking into the dark room, I felt a palpable evil-- as if tendrils of negative energy were leaking from the room-- we must have been near were the Planes of Shadows and Negative Energy converge. The walls were all carved with writing in a language that none of us could read, but if it was important to Irvanis, it needed to be destroyed. I used my divine ability to soften stone, melting the writing from the walls. There was a massive backlash of magical energy that staggered me for a few moments; if Irvanis had set a spell on those words, they had no more effect on me than that.
There was nothing more for us to deal with in these rooms, so we left through Marvin's service entrance, taking him with us. We arrived in a clearing beside the Ashenwood, but not the side we came in! I asked Nithan if he still had the stone Steev with him. He did, and we asked Steev if there was a way to get back to the side of the woods we originally came through. Suddenly the ground erupted with vines, pulling us quickly through the woods and depositing us where we had come in. Nithan thanked Steev for all of his help and put him back on the path as close as he could to where Steev was originally found. Perhaps we will get to visit him again some day.
For reasons not entirely clear to me, Razzarie turned into a flying steed and took Jokar to Immilmar ahead of the party to announce our arrival. Jean turned into a swift horse, after warping some wood debris into a skiff for us. We made good time over the snow, except at one point some trolls attacked us. Vlad tore one in half and Greyanna burned the remains-- the two remaining trolls left quickly, so we continued on to Immilmar.
We arrived several hours later and told our stories in the Witches' Hall. Word was immediately sent to the Dalelands of the Red Wizards' plans, which will give us time, since I am not certain we can get there in time to help. We will try though! The witches are pleased with Nithan and the other party members. In fact, as soon as those that needed healing (or raised, in the case of Bird and Jean's eagle) came back from the temple, Nithan and I had a quick, impromptu marriage ceremony. Luckily, he had two rings with him-- I was completely unprepared. The festivities following were thankfully brief, as Rashemi firewine tends to have that effect on the non-Rashemi born. Vlad was kind enough to carry Nithan back to my estate.
Jokar asked me to perform a similar ceremony for Greyanna and himself. While I am more than willing, one look at Greyanna told me that she was not ready to leap into marriage so quickly. Perhaps if we get to the Temple of Eilistraee in the Dalelands, which is where she and Nithan are from, she will be ready then.
Razzarie has had our unknown magical items identified and we have sold what we could to buy equipment for our trip to the Dalelands. The tome we found in Irvanis' sanctum is an ancient Roll of Heroes-- we must make copies of this; I am sure that scholars around the Realms would want to read it.
Nithan likes to haggle during trade-- he is not yet aware that Rashemi merchants offer fair prices for their services, and even cut their own profit when a Hathran (or her husband) is involved. I hope that he will figure this out before it gets him into trouble! I gave him a book on Rashemi history as a wedding present-- it might help, if he ever has time to read it.
I almost learned the hard way that the most important thing in a marriage is having a live spouse.
The day started nice enough. Comrades that were surprised by Nithan and my sudden marriage ceremony have showered us with thoughtful gifts. Jean gave me Phylactery of Faithfulness (a very useful item since I have devoted my time to Chauntea's teachings) and Nithan a Cloak of Resistance, Aeryna gave us matching rings that provide magical protection, and Onor gave us a very nice card (I think he drew it while in tiger form, but it is definitely unique in any case). Vlad's continued protection is gift enough from him, as he refuses monetary payment from me except for essentials; he is obviously quite happy for Nithan and me though. My aunt gave me two scrolls that I must find time to copy to my spellbook. I gave Nithan a magical travel cloak, as he has not adjusted well to the cold climate of Rashemen. Nithan seemed embarrassed that he could not find the gift he wanted to give me in Rashemen, but I am sure whatever it is he has planned is worth the wait. He indicated that he would like to repeat our vows in a temple to Eilistraee in Cormanthor. I am quite pleased at the prospect; I may be one of the first (if not the only) human females to ever be part of such a ceremony.
First, we had to save Eilistraee's temple from those that wished to destroy it. The Othlor allowed us quick passage to the Dalelands via a portal to try to reach the temple before the impending attack. We are now somewhere in Cormanthor. Greyanna and Nithan know this area well, and Jokar told us that he had a group of mercenaries he led before our meeting up with him. We arrived in a beautiful forest of giant trees that looks as though no one had passed through it in years. Within minutes of our arrival though, we encountered a band of ogre and orc mercenaries calling themselves the Bloody Talon. Jokar indicated that they were his own group and went forward to talk to them. I do not know what he said to them, but it was clear that they did not like it, for they attacked us immediately after his greeting. They were a small band though, and we quickly took them down.
Things did not go quite as well for us after that.
As Jokar looted the bodies of his former mercenary unit, Nithan heard commotion in the distance near the temple. He charged ahead without waiting for us, so those of us not looting dead ogres followed in close pursuit. We came to a clearing with an awful site in front of us. An army, as far as the eye could see, stood between us and Eilistraee's temple, and was already turning to attack us. Feeling we had no other recourse and wanting to eradicate as much evil as we could before we ourselves perished, we assaulted the army. Wave after wave of orcs came at us, each time incinerated by spells cast by my enraged husband. Huge trolls tried to outflank us, but were beaten back by a berserk Vlad, Aeryna, and Onor. Jean and I tried to keep everyone protected from the onslaught. Greyanna simply disappeared-- we assumed she had gone back to retrieve Jokar for help.
It seemed we were gaining the upper hand in an impossible fight, when Nithan managed to wipe out enough troops with a single spell that we could see the leaders of this evil army: a male drow, and a devilish creature called a Barbazu. I planned to destroy the Barbazu myself, but before I could do so, the evil drow cast a lightning bolt through the cleared area that Nithan had made, hitting Nithan, Vlad, Jalana and me. I am not entirely clear on what happened then. I was knocked out I think, as was Nithan, though neither of us were killed outright as Vlad had thought. Even in his rage, Aeryna said that when Nithan and I fell, that Vlad actually hesitated in his troll bashing, as if unclear what to do next. Aeryna had the presence of mind to yell at him to pick up our prone bodies and run towards our portal, not knowing the portal was a one-way device. Onor and Jean guarded our escape and Aeryna grabbed up the fallen body of Jalana as we left the battlefield. I came to as I was being jostled through the forest, and the first thing that came to mind was that I was a widow after 24 hours of marriage. I then realized that Nithan should not have been killed outright by such a spell, and told him to wake up. He told me he was dead and was not getting up this time. I pointed out that, in his new role as a husband, that this was no longer his sole decision, and he agreed that he was in fact, undamaged. We were now a safe distance from the fighting, and Vlad, realizing the dead bodies he had slung over his shoulders were having an argument, saw fit to set us down. He was obviously quite shaken; I am glad that he has Aeryna to help clear his senses! I healed those of us that I could and we waited for our other comrades to break off from the fight. Onor and Jean eventually made their way back to us, but Greyanna and Jokar were nowhere to be seen. Jean tried to bring back Jalana again via Reincarnation, but told us that her spirit did not wish to enter the mortal realm again; she will stay with Chauntea this time. I was also sorry to see that Marvin did not survive the onslaught-- we should have left him in Rashemen with the elven wizard Razzarie or my aunt Navarra.
Nithan, who is taking this attack on the temple very personally, has been disguising himself as an orc and going back to the perimeter of the army to pick off guards one at a time while we looked for Greyanna and Jokar. Greyanna, we found out, had kept a cool head and snuck around invisible, finding a secret entrance into the temple that the army had not found. We will attempt to gain entrance this way, so that we can help defend the temple from the inside. At least, with all our suffering today, we can let them know exactly what they are up against.
We helped hold the temple, but at a terrible cost.
Things started out well. Jokar discovered that one of the captains of the mercenaries was an old "friend" and decided to go to the enemy army's camp to infiltrate them, hoping to provide us with information about the upcoming attack. Grishthor, the Barbazu we had fought earlier, was willing to listen to him, even giving him some mercenaries to lead in the attack against the temple.
While Jokar was attempting this, Greyanna was showing us the hidden entrance to Eilistraee's temple. Getting in required taking out several orc perimeter guards from the amassed army, which we managed easily enough. The entrance looked like a pile of rocks-- obviously an illusion covering the doorway. Greyanna assured us that it was well protected against anyone unwelcome entering. A short hallway brought us into the temple. Its inside looked like a forest glade, with the boughs of the gigantic trees forming the roof and walls. Good drow clerics were everywhere, and Nithan introduced me as his wife to the head priestess. The dark elves are very accepting, and it is pleasing to me to see another religion that venerates Nature as much as my own does. We were escorted into the courtyard (which again seemed like a sheltered glade), which held a fountain, a pair of sealed double doors at each end, and a parapet about 15' high around three walls. These walkways were filled with drow and elven archers, intermingled with other races determined to hold the temple. We took our places around the courtyard and waited for the inevitable attack by the evil army.
In the dead of night, the attack came. Not from outside, as we expected, but up through the floor. In two different corners of the courtyard, the earth erupted as Umberhulks tunneled up through, with drow assassins following close behind. Chauntea wants this temple to stand as much as Eilistraee must, for she gave me the divine ability to shape stone-- I threw a pebble and had it expand into a huge stone slab, crushing one Umberhulk and several evil drow attempting to access the temple courtyard through the floor, sealing that area from entry. Vlad and Onor were making quick work of another Umberhulk, with Aeryna providing crossbow bolts from the parapet. I saw Nithan go down, being stabbed by one of the drow assassins. Time seemed to stand still while I attempted to get to him from across the courtyard. As I did so, the army outside broke through the double doors, filling the courtyard with trolls and several more drow. Jokar's mercenary unit had also arrived, somehow aware that Jokar was playing them for fools-- Aeryna thankfully had a Rope of Climbing that she used to pull Jokar up the temple wall and away from the army as they pitched spears and shot arrows at him. In the most selfless act I have ever seen him perform, Jokar, wounded himself, rushed to Nithan's side and poured a poison neutralizer down his throat. Assured that my husband was safe for the moment, I turned back to the drow pouring through the floor in front of me. Having learned the power of bright light against the evil creatures of the shadowy demiplane we so recently left, I lit the blade of my scythe with a Daylight spell, causing the evil drow to shrink back against the walls, unable to see in the holy brightness. Vlad and I, now joined by Jokar, finished off the evil creatures, as Onor struggled to fight off the effects of the drow poison on himself. Jean (and I am sure Chauntea will forgive him for this) used Jokar's bottles of alchemist's fire to destroy the trolls, along with Nithan's use of fireballs, while Aeyrna fought to get the temple doors closed again. Just one minute after the battle began, it was all over. Bodies of temple defenders were strewn everywhere.
It was then that Jokar asked were Greyanna was.
We found her in the main hall, lying with the dead clerics that had fought so hard to keep the temple out of enemy hands. There were not enough dead enemies here to account for the damage done. Nithan discovered that a huge seal in the floor of this area had been yanked aside-- stairs led down from it. Once again, I find myself chasing after my drow husband as he runs forward, as if to tear apart the evil with his bare hands. At times like this, he appears more savage than any Rashemi warrior I have ever met....
We descended the stairs and found ourselves in a great hall, with a doorway etched with ancient Elven runes that read, "Hall of Heroes." Nithan felt it necessary to point out that we should not touch anything, and even had the nerve to tell me to keep Brux in line (I was quite miffed about this, as his own Utra has been the only familiar in our party to ever act on instinct rather than the will of her master). Brux is a good rat, and knows not to eat gems that do not belong to her. Nithan swept through the ancient tomb without a glance left or right. We walked through the long hall, coming to another door with runes marking it as the "Hall of Kings." Nithan hopped over a stone in the floor carved with all the symbols of elven deities, and warned us that those that did not have good intentions, or possibly those not of elven blood, could not pass it. We stood for a moment looking worried at several suspicious piles of dust surrounding the seal in the floor, and then Aeryna and I decided to cross it, both of us firm in our faith that our own beliefs coincided well enough with those of the elves. As we made it through unharmed, the rest of our party quickly followed. We were able to quickly catch up with Nithan, who was busily blasting orcs with powerful spells as we arrived in the same hallway with him. The orcs that had survived the initial onslaught ran away and we gave chase. I noticed, to my horror, that Nithan had three arrows sticking out of him, and though he would not stop to let me remove them, I did my best to heal him up anyway. We continued in our frenzied pace until we encountered several drow warriors and a huge ogre. The ogre took quite a few blows from our warriors before it finally went down. One by one, the drows' poisoned crossbow bolts quickly knocked out Jokar, Vlad and Onor. Luckily, Aeryna fought with such strength and enthusiasm that the drow were taken out. In spite of our heroic efforts to finish off the evil creatures who had infiltrated this holy place, we were not fast enough-- as the last of the drow were killed, a familiar red robed wizard appeared, grabbed a book from an alter visible one room away from our battle, and teleported away again before we could reach him. Discouraged, we woke up our fallen comrades and headed back up into the temple. Dead temple clerics were still everywhere. Jean attempted to reincarnate Greyanna, but she did not come back to us. Jokar, incensed over the loss of Greyanna, and Nithan, enraged over the theft of the book, threw open the temple gates, and we went to face the army. The entire army!
As we were walking through the gates of the temple, I was struck with a very strong vision. I saw a familiar city on the coast of an island. Dark clouds boiled over the city as lightning arced repeatedly into the sky. I could hear the cries of the land dying and the screams of gods falling.... Freeport. And I know if we do not act, the world will follow....
The first destructive spell that Nithan cast took out several dozen orc fighters, but they stood back up as undead. A few blasts from his Staff of Fire put them back down, while Jean used an entangle spell to hold off some larger creatures. Nithan had cast invisibility on Onor, which allowed him, in tiger form, to sneak through the entire army and launch himself at the Barbazu unseen. Onor nearly had him too, but the Barbazu teleported himself to another part of the field. Onor, visible again, used his momentum to take out an Otyugh that was following the army, and then bounded off to look for the escaped devil. The drow wizard that had nearly killed us in the previous skirmish was easily killed this time by one of Nithan's spells. Jokar, Vlad and Aeryna worked to take down the larger ogres and trolls that were getting too close to the temple, while I just did my best to keep everyone healed up that I could reach. With the exception of a few orcs that ran screaming from the field, never to return, we defeated the entire army, though the Barbazu finally must have teleported himself back to the Nine Hells, as we lost sight of him as well. When there was nothing left to exact vengeance from, we returned to the temple and simply slept for eight hours, utterly exhausted.
As soon as the sun came up, I realized that Chauntea had blessed me yet again. A quick look in a mirror showed me that my eyes had turned gold, and my normally black hair had strands of leafy green throughout. I had received another divine ability as well, and went immediately to the chamber where the slain clerics were. Someone had gone around and laid them all to rest in more stately positions, but could do no more. I could. I was able to channel divine power enough to reincarnate the head priestess. She came back to us in the form of a beautiful female centaur, and though she may eventually have herself changed back into a drow, seemed happy enough with her new body. In turn, she went about raising the other clerics so they could work together towards healing the temple and surrounding land of the evil army's destruction. As Greyanna was not among the raised, I will have to pray for a spell to Speak with Dead so I can determine why she refused to come back. We hope to find another cleric who can make another attempt to resurrect her-- my gift from Chauntea does not guarantee that one will come back in the same body a second time. I went back to my comrades to find that they were watching Carrion Crawlers cleaning up the battlefield. Though Carrion Crawlers are unnatural creatures in the strictest sense, they are performing a service to the temple by clearing away the corpses of the evil army. Aeryna and Jokar went out to scare off the Crawlers, ending up shooting a few full of crossbow bolts. The rest of the Crawlers simply cleaned up the carcasses of the dead Crawlers and continued on with their meal, so we left them be.
After sharing my vision of destruction with Nithan and the others, it was agreed that we should find out more about the Prophesy we are obviously involved in. I suggested going to the library at Candlekeep, the center of all written knowledge in the Realms. I then contacted my Aunt Navarra asking to have my companions teleported back to Rashemen first so we could rest a day before making the trip, and she agreed to do so if we walked to the place in the forest where we had originally arrived. We did so and a portal opened for us.
While in transit though, we all felt a strange lurch and next found ourselves in a familiar summoning circle, minus Onor. I will have to contact Aunt Navarra to see if he at least made it to Rashemen, though it is clear to us that our mysterious patron wants us back in Freeport. Exactly three months from the day we first arrived here, and with Vlad the only one that had not been here before.
We immediately headed off towards the Temple to Oghma. Then Nithan said, "I need a drink" and we suddenly were headed towards the nearest tavern. Nithan is the one among us least likely to say such a thing. When I inquired about it, he said that he thought Aeryna had suggested it. She assured him she did not. Nithan stared at her skull helmet (where Bird lives) for the longest time, and then walked over and pored some fire wine in. As we saw Bird's feet drift out of one of the skull helmet's eye sockets, Nithan declared that we no longer needed the drink. It appears, after all this time, that the Legacy contained in the black feather amulet I carried for so many years allows him to hear Bird's thoughts. It does not work for Jean's eagle (a regular bird) or Vorona (a magical raven), so perhaps it only works with non-magical ravens. Or maybe just drunk ones.
We headed off to the temple to see if Brother Egil was available. He came out to greet us, but seemed troubled. It appears that there is a plague sweeping through the poorer district of Freeport called "Scurvytown" and nearly all the available clerics are there trying to keep the plague from spreading.
We decided we would do some investigating on our own, as this plague could be related to my vision of death and destruction. Jokar looks so sad without Greyanna that I suggested to Brux that she try to cheer him up. She has spent half the day happily perched on his shoulder chattering in his ear, and the normally gruff tiefling actually gave her a rather expensive moonstone for her efforts. She was delighted! As we were walking through the city, I suddenly heard a voice in my head saying, "The num-nums are going away!" After a few seconds of letting this sink in, I realized Brux is referring to Jokar's gem pouch-- apparently pick pocketed by someone in the crowded streets. Jokar, with Brux and I, ran towards where Brux knew the gems to be headed. Then Brux informed me, "The num-nums are down!" and sure enough, there was a 4" hole at the base of a building, just small enough to drop a bag of gems into. Or a gem rat. With a "Wheeeeeee!" Brux followed down a pipe and landed on a pile of "num-nums." She quickly located Jokar's bag, and stuffed her mouth as full of gems as she could. We had to get Aeryna to bring us her Rope of Climbing (or "Weave Snake" as Brux calls it) to help my tiny familiar climb out of the gem depository. Jokar gave Brux another expensive white pearl for her troubles. It is comforting to know that if something happens to me, her dietary requirements will be provided for her!
Nithan decided to go reacquaint himself with his contacts from the last time we were in town, while the rest of us looked for an inn. After finding inn after inn full, we finally ended up at the Broken Mug, a dwarven inn with just one room left, and rather close to Scurvytown. I found the dwarven innkeeper pleasant enough and we took the room, asking for meals to be sent up to us. Jean and I chose to stay in the room with Vlad on guard while Aeryna and Jokar went downstairs for drinks. Just as I was closing my eyes to rest, I heard, or rather ceased to hear, sounds from the tavern area. I suspect Nithan has caught up with us, and did not bother to disguise his drow heritage from the dwarves....
Jean, Vlad and I went racing down the steps just in time to see Aeryna quickly and calmly defuse a bar fight even before it began. Just as Jokar was gearing up to throw himself into a brawl with Nithan versus forty dwarves, she grabbed them both and tossed them out the front door of the Broken Mug, following them and latching the door behind her as she did so. I had Vlad buy a round of drinks for the dwarves and quickly explained away the incident to the innkeeper. Oddly, she seemed very sympathetic towards me when I told her that Nithan was my husband, asking if I had attempted to have the curse removed that had charmed me into such an arrangement. I thought it best not to go into too much detail with her. Jean and I went out the front door as well, to catch Nithan up on our reason for staying in a dwarven inn, but he had disappeared. Aeryna and Jokar were heading back inside, catastrophe averted. Jean and I looked around briefly for Nithan, and heard a call for help from a nearby alley. Normally, of course, we do not frequent alleys, as they always lead to disaster, but the adrenaline from the last incident had not yet left us so we stepped into the alley to see what was happening.
We found a frightened halfing who told us that a ghostly arm had reached through the wall of the building he was walking past, attempting to grab him. His shriek and our subsequent arrival scared off his would be assailant. The halfling, who goes by the moniker "Happy," was on his way home from work in Scurvytown. He mentioned that many of the people that had fallen sick from the plague had been assaulted in a similar manner. Jean cast a healing spell on him even though he was just roughed up, and we offered to walk him the rest of the way home, chatting briefly with him and letting him know where we were staying in case he needed further assistance. Afterwards, we returned to the Broken Mug and retired for the evening.
We only had one bed in the room, but it was still empty when we arrived back, everyone else having taken a spot on the floor with their bedrolls. Nithan was not yet in for the night. Jean transformed himself into a bird and roosted with our animal companions, so I took the bed. Nithan must have spent a good deal of the evening completely invisible, as he appeared in the bed a short while later with news of his adventures. Apparently, there had been six deaths as a result of the attacks in Scurvytown-- those unfortunate victims who had not had magical healing available to them had perished, with the rumor about that they were in turn becoming the ghostly creatures themselves. Freeport had finally completed the building of their lighthouse, and the festivities for its official opening were to be held the next evening, with dignitaries from throughout the Realms attending. Nithan said the cost of the lighthouse had drained the town's coffers dry-- this grand opening was crucial to the city's financial future.
In order to save time, we decided to split up for the day. But first, I needed to contact Leech, as I was sure he was still in Freeport. He was, and met us at the tavern within minutes, disguised quite successfully as a dwarf. He still called Jokar the "Zhentarim spy," but otherwise seemed pleased to see us. I asked him to contact Aunt Navarra to let her know where we ended up during our teleport, and to see if she knew where Onor had ended up.
Jean, Vlad and I, accompanied by Leech and Utra, went to the Temple of Oghma, but first stopped by Happy's house to make sure he was okay. His wife thought that he was thanks to us, but we decided to check for ourselves, and visited him at his workplace in a Scurvytown fish market. Halflings are such a delight to be around-- I miss Deldiira when I see them. Jean cast Remove Disease on him just to be safe, and after reporting back to Happy's wife that all was indeed well, we continued on to the temple.
This time, Brother Thuron was available to see us. We told him about the vision I had prior to our arrival in Freeport, and the prophecy that we feared was somehow linked to us. He was able to produce a copy of what he thought was the prophecy in question, though it was in a language neither Jean nor I spoke, so he had to translate it for us. He told us that we were most likely the "Sowers of Chaos" mentioned in the prophecy. Since it was clear to me that Chauntea wanted me to come to Freeport, this troubles me greatly-- for why would my own goddess send me here to cause destruction when she obviously wants it prevented? Jean copied down some notes from Brother Thuron's interpretation and we left.
Brux, who I left to spend the day perched on Jokar's shoulder, reported to me that Jokar has been becoming increasingly reckless-- he apparently tried to get some wizards to upgrade his magical rapier for 1200 gold pieces, when the cost would have been 24000 gold-- and told them that they were ungrateful for not helping one of the Heroes of Freeport. Seeing as we have not actually helped Freeport yet (and may not be helpful at all!), this does seem to be odd behavior. Having Greyanna around seemed to be what kept Jokar from straying from the path of Good, so when I got back from our errands, I decided to remedy that. I do not have the power to bring someone back in his or her original body, but, with the soul willing, I can bring them back as a new creature. Greyanna seems delighted with her new form; I can only hope that Jokar can keep an open mind when he sees her....
I had sent my comrades out of our room while casting Reincarnate on Greyanna. Then I had to send Vlad to find clothing that would fit her. Luckily, he found Aeryna and Jean sitting with Happy, and asked if we could trouble his wife for a spare set of clothes. Happy was delighted to help us and soon returned with some suitable clothing, which Aeryna brought up to us. Greyanna is now only 2' 10" tall and a mere 29 pounds-- it is difficult to get Aeryna not to carry her around on her shoulder as she does with our birds. It probably is helping Greyanna adjust to her new halfling body though. The next sensitive issue was convincing Jokar that she was, in fact, really Greyanna. He was gracious about it, though I could tell he was struggling with the idea of being betrothed to someone so tiny. Greyanna, at least, is happy to be among us again.
Shortly after our impromptu reunion, Nithan, having snuck out again, returned to the Broken Mug with an ensorcelled net, telling us it was time to go hunting for the creatures responsible for terrorizing Scurvytown. Nithan had plans to bring one back to a shopkeeper named Otto, who would dispatch it and provide us with a magical item for our troubles. We would simply destroy the other creatures as we found them. We left the inn and headed in the direction of the poor district, Nithan scouting far ahead, when we all heard him shouting, "Vlad, help!" Looking down the street, we could see a wooden bench hitting the front door of a bakery. Vlad took off to aid the bench, assuming Nithan was the one wielding it. Vlad bounced right off the door in front of me, but my own momentum caused me to splinter the door from its frame as I went through it. Half the party went crashing in after me, with the other half scaling an outside wall, for there were sounds of people screaming in the rooms above the bakery. Aeryna, Jean and Greyanna arrived upstairs via the outside of the building to help the family being attacked while the rest of us attempted the stairs from the inside. The creature, similar to the other reports from other attacks, was able to slip past my comrades upstairs by simply sinking through the floor. Vlad tried to hit it, but it continued through the bakery floor to the cellar below. I found a trap door and attempted to go down to fight it-- it grabbed my ankle with a touch as hot as flame, while Vlad smartly hoisted me back out. The creature came partway back up the floor into the bakery. I attempted to cast Make Manifest on it so it could not slip past us again, but its willpower was strong enough to shake off the spell. However, it was not strong enough to resist a blow from Aeryna's holy mace, and promptly turned to dust when she struck it. Jean and I patched up our scrapes from the fight, and after making sure the family who was attacked would be okay, we headed out into the night to look for more of the creatures.
As we walked along the docks to reach the poor district, we saw a fire out on the water. Jean transformed himself and flew out to see it-- it was a pirate ship already burnt to the waterline. What was even odder still was that it was not attracting a crowd-- the docks were fairly empty. Unable to do anything for the ship, he returned to us on land.
I used Detect Evil to help us pinpoint where the attacks had taken place, hoping to find the creatures in the vicinity. There were "hot spots" all over Scurvytown, though most led to dead ends, since the creatures have no need of doors or portals to travel. Using Nithan as "bait" we managed to attract one, and with Jokar's speed and Vlad's strength, even capture it in the special net, but it managed to wriggle out. Aeryna attempted to subdue it with a club from her mace, but it collapsed in a pile of dust, just like the first one. While this is much preferable to having it loose in the town again, Nithan was noticeably upset by its sudden obliteration. We knew there were at least two more out there though, so we continued our hunt.
We passed near ogre tavern called Krom's Throat. A drunken ogre stumbled out of an alley looking for trouble. Nithan dismissed it with, "I have no time for this!" and continued on his search. The ogre looked baffled for a moment and then continued on his way. We encountered some orcs wandering through the streets singing. Nithan actually joined in one such sing-along, but I suspect the orcs were much too drunk to have noticed. The last set we passed must have sobered up very quickly-- we suddenly heard them screaming. Quickly catching up with them, we found them being attacked by two of the creatures we sought. Allowing Aeryna to destroy one with her mace, we were able to catch the other in the net and subdue it enough to haul it to Otto's Magic Sword Shop, where the shopkeeper was waiting for us. Otto was actually amazed with how easily the creature was dispatched, but kept his word and handed Nithan a shortspear enhanced with a magical ability to allow the user to attack incorporeal creatures. Nithan in turn handed it to Jokar, who often gets frustrated when his attacks pass through a monster.
Dawn was soon to approach, so we headed back to our room at the Broken Mug to get a little bit of sleep, hoping that we had destroyed all of the evil creatures plaguing Scurvytown. We did stop and let the innkeeper know of the ship we had spotted on fire. She told us that we saw the ship of Kothar the Accursed, a pirate captain and crew sentenced to death on a burning ship, and whose haunted ship reappears from time to time as a bad omen. Knowing now that it is a ghost ship, I wonder if we should make plans to destroy it ourselves next time it makes an appearance.
We started our day off after having slept quite late, headed back to the temple to read, for ourselves, the prophecy Jean and I had spoken to Thuron about. We had a copy of Thuron's translation with us:
And, true to form, Nithan managed to disappear somewhere between our inn and the temple.
When the rest of us arrived at the temple (after one quick stop at a gem cutter's so that Jokar could spoil my Brux some more!), we were told that Thuron was gone for the day and that the prophecy we wished to view was locked in a vault to which only Thuron had access. As we stood and discussed our next course of action, we heard a scream from an area of the temple where the brothers transcribe books and ran in to find Brother Lucius cowering in a corner. An amulet showing the Yellow Sign rested on the book he had been copying. Though it turns out that Nithan had turned invisible, snuck in, and left the amulet there for another of the brothers to find, Lucius was the unintentional victim. It did spark an interesting revelation once Lucius had his wits about him again-- he had been having recurring dreams about the cult and underground temple from which we had rescued him three months past. I am not sure if his dreams are related to mine, or just from the stress of his ordeal, but we agreed then and there to go back to that temple and make sure it was still not in use.
After nearly an hour's walk back across town, we found the abandoned building through which we had accessed the temple on our last visit to Freeport. Lucius had told the city guard about it, but it appeared to us to have been left untouched for quite some time. We recalled the hidden staircase behind a barrel inside the building and passed through it. The temple below appeared as we had left it, with an added layer of dust in the corridors. We encountered and dispatched several wraiths not present the last time-- perhaps they were the cursed remains of the cultists we had fought last time. The bodies of those cultists were not present. Just as we fought off the last of the undead, we encountered the devil Grishthor we had fought in Cormanthor, along with a Red Wizard of Thay. A pebble turned into a boulder allowed me to knock the Thayan from the doorway, separating him from the barbazu, which my comrades quickly attacked. The cowardly devil disappeared. We ran to the room that the Thayan wizard had fallen into, but he too had escaped. We are unsure now whether they follow us or we follow them. We continued our search of the temple and found a hidden area behind the altar we had not noticed on our first visit. The niche was now empty, but looks to have once held an idol or statue of some sort-- no doubt an icon of this degenerate cult. Apart from a few splinters and the remaining undead that we dispatched, the temple appeared truly abandoned. Jean and Nithan found a small inlet of water in a corner-- Jean transformed into a fish so he could check it for us, as it went quite deep. He found only cavefish, but also felt a current, so it is possible that the temple has another passage in and out. I am trying to decide whether to cast water breathing on the lot of us to search further, or get back to the task of making sure Freeport is not destroyed. It all seems to tie together in the prophecy, but fearing that we may be the "Sowers of Chaos" makes me hesitant to know what to do….
After making the decision to save the lighthouse (and the Realms), our heroes rushed to the docks to take a boat out to the new structure. Upon arriving at the docks, city guards attempted to arrest them for the murder of a town councilman the night before. Rather than going to get an alibi from Otto, or finding some other simple way of clearing themselves, the would-be heroes were led in an assault on the city guards by Jokar. Lenore and Vlad tried to end the battle with diplomacy rather than bloodshed, but it was too late once the fighting started. After taking out the guards, the group hopped into the nearest boat, they had Jean turn into a dolphin to tow the boat out to the lighthouse. Instead of working together though, the group split up. Nithan teleported to the top of the lighthouse and encountered several cultists who immediately grabbed him to use in the ritual they were performing with the crystal rod stolen several months ago. The rest of the group tried to make their way up the 200 feet of the lighthouse through various staircases, many of which were hidden. They managed to kill five clerics in yellow robes and disrupt the ceremony, but unfortunately, enough of the ritual had already been performed that the prophecy nearly came to pass. As it was though, the crystal rod held such a large charge of magical energy that it blew the top of the lighthouse off, killing all the heroes and cultists.
Brux, the little gem rat, managed to chew her way out of the rubble and is hanging out with Leech, much to his surprise.
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