Saturday, September 22, 2007

22 Eleasias, 1368: The Hidden Tomb

Before continuing onward, the party discusses what their present resources are, and how much more they need to aquire in order to reclaim Stago from the nixie pool. 2800gp is what it will cost, and Routunious tallies the collected community horde at 2655.53 gp in value. This amount does not include any privately held treasure by the individual members of the comapny.

Elessaria volunteers, "I can make up the difference from my personal treasure...if we can release the gnome, we should."

Time is taken to discuss the logistics of getting back to Tick-a-Tick to retrieve the remaining purse and then get it to Mara in exchange for Stago's release.

Elessaria, who can use the magic wand of perfect illusions, will go back through the caverns and cross the river. Then she will climb to Tick-a-Tick and use the wand to convince the automaton that Routunious has asked for the release of the treasure. With the coins in Tick, a golden armband from Degar, and 45gp of her own, the bounty will be met.

It takes Elessaria around 20 minutes to cross the river.

Meanwhile, the rest of the party who are hiding in an alcove waiting for her return are startled by a sound. It is Fink, who is coming around from the effects of the sleeping poison.

After another ten minutes climbing to the top of the stone staircase, Elessaria reaches the top.

Using the wand of perfect illusion, Elessaria creates an image of Routunious which she uses to direct Tick-a-Tick to move from the entrance and allow her to pass into the mushroom chamber. She hears a slither and flapping above, but sees nothing, and nothing further happens. She asks the illusion of Routunious to scan the cieling of the cave, abut the light cast by his illusory hat reveals nothing.

Elessaria gets the gold from Tick-a-Tick and goes to the nixie hole. She has the image of Routunious instruct the automaton to take a defensive position and guard her as she moves into the next chamber.

Standing at the pool's side is the friendly fungus, farting in sadness over the loss of Stago. If mushrooms could cry, that would be what this one was doing as it peered into the depths looking for the gnome it had befriended.

Elessaria considers her options in negotiating the trade. She declines to jump in with the accumulated treasure. Instead, she tosses a rock in the pool and waits.

After a few minutes, Mara the nixie rises.

The nixie demands, "Show me the money!"

Elessaria drops the treasure into the pool, and Mara is delighted. "That didn't take long at all! Too bad, I had so many more chores for him!" With that, she dives below and in another few minutes a nearly naked Stago emerges from the pool, coughing out water as his lungs readjust to breathing air.

"My clothes are in Tick-a-Tick," he sputters. They return to the mushroom room and the elf turns her back while asking the illusory Routunious to allow her to open the compartment containing the gnome's clothes.

Once dressed, Stago retrieves his translation brooch and headband from Tick-a-Tick. Elessaria asks, "We need to get back to the others...can you climb?"

"As well as I could before I became a hen-pecked nixie slave."

Elessaria instructs the illusion to remain with Tick-a-Tick, knowing he will eventually fade away as the spell's duration expires. The illusion tells Tick to maintain a defensive stance regardless of what happens to the priest.

The gnome and the elf go down the stairs, but though the agile ranger is able to nimbly navigate the first steo, Stago falls badly and injures himself. He is knocked unconcious. Elessaria is perplexed by the situation and decides she must attempt to carry him the rest of the way. Unfortunately, she stumbles and drops him to the next step. As she leaps the rest of the way to his body, she discoveres he is dead, having taken a terrible blow to the head.

Elessaria has a brief image of Routunious screaming about wasting 2,800 gold pieces only to have the liberated gnome die within ten minutes of gaining his freedom. She shakes it off, and tries to consider her options.

Above her, she hears the tell tale farting noise of the friendly fungus, who is trying to follow them down the passage. Tick-a-Tick must not have considered it a danger, or the mushroom man would have been sliced to bits. She wonders about a mushrooms agility, but not for long, as it loses its grip and tumbles down the steep face of the step above her and breaks into small pieces as it lands beside them.

Note: In this campaign world, you are unconcious when you reach 0 hit points, and dead when you reach negative your current hit point level. You continue to take 1 hit point of loss per day due to rotting, and at minus double your hit points you can no longer be raised, although a resurrection spell might work.

Elessaria decides to use the Stone of Recall, because the contract with Shandar stipulates that all healing of wounds in service of fulfilment of the contract up to and including resurrection is free of charge. She speaks the command word, "Return."

In a crackle of energy she and the gnome are transported back to the tower of the old wizard who now employs them. His cleric, Mina, resurrects the gnome and applies what healing is needed.

Elessaria gives Shandar a briefing on the current progress, and he tells her she should return as soon as possible. "Can I provide you any food, provisions or...potions of extra healing? After all, you did manage to die by falling off a step."

Stago grumbles, "A ten foot step and I hadn't gotten my land legs back yet."

"I'm willing to part with my most recent batch for half the normal cost."

"No, thank you," Elessaria declines, "But the rations would be very welcome."

Elessaria and Stago are teleported with their packs full of food to the stairs and manage to reach the bottom without further incident or injury. They are able to cross
the river on the rope bridge they had built the first time they crossed, deciding that it is probably a good idea to continue leaving it there should a hasty retreat become necessary.

Meanwhile, back in the caves, the rest of the party has been waiting patiently but nerves are getting a bit frayed. The tension is broken, however, when a spider falls from above, barely missing the halfling thief. The shouting and commotion are so loud that Elessaria's elven ears can hear the commotion even from so far away.

Routunious gets his knives, Duncan prepares to strike with his staff, and Degar hits the spider with his war-hammer.

He shouts with glee, "On the first try!" The spider becomes a mass of pulp from the force of the blow, and several members of the party wipe spider muck from their clothes in dusgust.

Breathlessly, Elessaria and Stago arrive, and are relieved that the situation is under control. They recount the adventure in getting Stago back and explain that the delay was due to a short trip back to Shandar's tower.

"We brought food," Stago says, trying to shift conversation away from his death. A subject that makes him profoundly uncomfortable.

The rations are distributed and the party decides that they should encamp here in this easily defended alcove and sleep. The rotation of guards is established and they settle in.

Elessaria awakens and assumes guard duty while Fink and Degar sleep.

Elessaria hears sounds coming from down the corridor, in the large chamber they thought was empty. Looking in that direction she is surbrised to see a giant beetle scuttling around. She waits, and observes it, but the giant bug doesn't approach.
She stays on duty for another 2 hours with no other incidents.

The sleepers awaken. The magic users study their spells, the cleric says his prayers, and Elessaria mentions the giant beetle.

She asks, "What, if anything, do we do about that?"

Routunious asks her, "It's been there all night and hasn't been agressive?"

They decide that they should simply leave it be, and as calmly as they can, they move on down the corridor, descending further into the wild depths of the caverns below Daggerdale.

They haven't gone far when they are surprised by flapping furry beasts with more legs than they should have and long beaks.

Stago, who has bitter expreience with such creatures, asks, "Stirges?"

Degar answers, bracing for a fight, "Close--these are stelurges, a bigger and nastier variety of the beasties."

"Of course they are," sighs Routunious and prepares for the carnage and blood loss that is certain to follow.

There are two of the creatures, and both swoop down to attack Elessaria.

The creatures are faster than they appear and have multiple attacks each round. One of them manages to sink its probiscus between parts of Elessaria's armor, and it grips her frimly with six legs, sucking her blood.

Stago casts magic missile at one of the creatures. Routunious throws two knives and misses on each attempt. Elessaria strugles in vain to pull the horrible creature from her shoulder while the other one continues to fly at her.

Fink fires his bow at the still flying stelurge, and hits it. The wounded stelurge circles back and makes a successful strike on Stago.

Stago whimpers, "Not again..."

Duncan casts a casts magic missile at the stelurge in Stago's chest, but to little effect. Stago passes out from blood loss.

Routunious attacks the stelurge in Stago with a dagger and misses. Elessaria grabs at the beast sucking her life's blood from her and tries to wrench it free, but fails.

Fink moves to Stago and Degar rushes up as well. The gruf dwarf straddles the gnome and prepares to strike the stelurge S croquet style with his warhammer. He hits the creature and it flies free of Stago's body and smashes against the cave wall, sliding down to the floor convulsing in its death throes and bleeding a mixture of its own blood and that of the gnome into a growing pool.

Routunious casts spell of cure light wounds on Stago, but it isn't enough to bring him out of his coma. Elessaria again tries to pull the stelurge from her shoulder but can't do it. Fink tries to help and still they can not pull the thing out of her.

Degar joins Fin trying to pull it free, but the effort seems beyond even their combined strength.

Routunious casts another cure light wounds on Stago and this time he opens his eyes and is able to pull himself to his feet.

Stago uses his ring of spell storing, and casts magic missile on the stelurge, and Elessaria manages to stab it with her dagger.

She growls through clenched teeth, "How many hits does it take to kill these things?"

Routuniuos casts another heal light wonds spell on Elessaria, to enable her to continue her struggle. Fink punches the creature but it only blinks and continues to suck blood from the elf.

Degar grabes the stelurge and pulls with all his might, but it won't come loose.

Suddenly, however, the bloated creature must have reached its capacity, as it pulled itself loose of its own accord and clumsily flies off down a side passage of the caves. Elessaria throws a dagger at it, but misses and the dagger clatters to the floor.

She follows its path and scans the cieling with her infravision. She sees clearly the warm, red glow of the bloated animal hiding above them.

"I don't think it will attack anyone again until its digested what it took from me...let's leave it," Elessaria suggests.

Fink won't have it and shouts, "Screw that!"

The halfling nocs his short bow and lets an arrow fly, hitting the flying blood bag squarely. He fires second shot and the stelurge drops to the floor of the cave with the sound of a bursting water ballon hitting pavement.

Fink marches over to the creature to finish it off if it needs finishing. He considers stomping on it, but he's barefoot. He decides to decapitate it instead.

Degar drinks potion of healing, and shouts, "Well, that was too short a fight! What's next? The beetle? I ain't done killing!"

Elessaria cautions, "That's over 10 feet long, and already behind us. Let's leave alone. It's not attacking us."

They debate their next actions for about 10 minutes "Distance weapons!"
"No." We talk for 10 min. In the end, they decide to continue exploring rather than retrace their steps until they have to.

They also decide upon a new marching order with Elessaria bringing up the rear instead of marching in the front of the company.

"I've been injured. And I'm protecting you," she says.

Degar quips, "Right. From the beetle!"

Continuing down the hall. They come to a fork and decide to go right. Stago listens to the other passage as he goes by. He hears nothing.

They come upon a large cavern that has a pool of water which covers the entire floor except for the entrance into the cave and the exit on the other side. The water is crystal clear and reflects the light from Routunious' hat. The party can easily see the muddy bottom of the pool, which lies evenly and without feature just two inches below the surface.

Degar says, "Let's cross, or are you afraid of getting your feet wet?" Fink
mentions that maybe a rope around Degar would be helpful, just in case.

Degar declines, saying, "Bah, no dwarf needs a tether to walk across a muddy floor." And with that, he takes a defiant step forward into the chamber only to discover that the water covers a think and sucking mud. His foot held fast, he loses his balance and falls face down into the goo. At first the rest of the party supresses a laugh at his folly, but any laughter turns quickly to horror as they realize Degar is being pulled down into the mud as though it were quicksand.

The dwarf manages to turn himself over and upright, but both his feet are firmly stuck in the mud. He begins flailing his arms and shouting for help.

Fink tosses Degar the end of a rope, and Degar catches it. The rest of the party
grab hold of their end and prepare to try and pull him free in a combined effort.

With luck and tremendous effort they manage to pull the mud covered dwarf free.

The party turns around and heads back up the path they had just travelled, deciding the mud is too great an obstacle to cross. As they take the other branch, they feel the passage sloping steeply downward and the air becoming damp.

It isn't long before they find that the passage ahead is flooded. The only way to continue forward would be to swim.

Routunious asks, "Now what?"

"Anyone feel like swimming?"

Stago says, "The dwarf could use a bath." Degar ignores him, not because he wants to avoid a fight, but he is actually enjoying the tingle of the mud as it dries on his face. Perhaps the mud has some sort of restorative properties, magical or not.

Elessaria peers into the clear water with her fine elf eyesight and sees the
corridor appears to level off ten or 15 feet below and continues.

She asks, "How about Stago dive in and carry a rope under the water, just to get a sense of how much further the passage goes before it goes back up again?"

"If it starts back up again," Routunious says glumly.

"I'm tired of being in water," Stago protests.

"But you've had the most practice swimming of late," Fink offers.

"No, he's not doing anything that dangerous, we paid too much to get him back from the nixie to have him die on us for at least a week."

Everyone looks at Routunious in a bit of shock at his callousness. He stammers, "I'm just trying to be practical!"

Stago suggests the party can use the spider climb scroll he has and to climb the walls of the other room. He says, "This passage is clearly impassable and we know the corridor continues on the other side of the mud pit. If we all join hands and I cast the spell on all of us, the duration will be shorter, but we should all be able to climb the cieling and avoid the mud."

Elessaria asks, "What about getting back?"

"Maybe we won't want to come back," Stago answered matter of factly.

The party walks back to the mud pit, and continue discussing their options there.

"It's a piece of cake, I can cast it on everyone but myself and it should last for more than enough time to get across...but someone will have to carry me."

"I can do it," Elessaria says.

Stago asks, "Promise not to drop me this time?"

"I didn't drop you before!"

"Ok, so you held onto me while we both fell, nit picking details."

"Don't make me want to drop you and your chances of surviving will be better."

The party readies themselves and Stago casts the spell. They crawl across the the walls and discover that the passage on the opposite side of the mud isn't a passage at all, but dead ends in a room.

The cave appears empty save for a large stone sarcophagus in the center of the room which has ornate carvings and an inscription on the side facing you. The sarcophagus is completely bound in heavy chains with four elaborate locks. At the head and feet of the coffin are large candlesticks that seem to be made of solid gold, with a golden serpent entwined on each and a single red candle. The serpent’s eyes are red gemstones. On the other side of the casket is a candelabrum, also made of gold, with three candles in them.

The party stays in the entryway and look from a distance. The sarcophagus is covered by a layer of thick dust. The carved writing on the casket is in High Script, a very fromal kind of written Common.

Elessaria reads one side, while Stago goes behind the casket. He is careful not to enter the perimeter of the circle of candles, and reads the other side. The words say, "Beloved Belessaria, You Will Be Avenged."

Degar shouts, "By Grabthar's Hammer!" The party turns to see what Degar is shouting about and they notice a statue in a hidden alcove, which seems to be watching over the chained casket in the room.

Stago asks, "What do we know about Belessaria?"

Routunious searches his memory, "She was...poisoned, right?"

Elessaria remembers her talk with Shandar, and recounts what she can. "600 years ago, Daggerdale was originally called Merrydale, an open and tolerant dale that suffered from vampire attacks.

Stago interrupts, "Hmm, vampires, eh? Do we think these chains are to keep people out or to keep something in?".

Routuniuos shudders, "If our past experience is anything to go on, it's definitely to keep whatever's in there from escaping."

"But that was 600 years ago and Belessaria lived 100 years ago," Elessaria argues.

Stago mumbles to himself, "Hmm, what's 500 years to a vampire?"

Duncan asks Routunious, "What about turning undead? You can do that, can't you priest?"

"I'm not powerful enough to turn a vampire."

"Wait...we have a scroll that makes us invisible to undead."

Degar grumbles, "You can't be thinking there's any chance there's a vampire in that thing. Nothing ye've said indicates this Bellewhatsit was a vampire. Everything we've heard is that her husband was an over protective freak of a wizard who lost his mind when she died. It's probably chained to keep out grave robbers."

Everyone looks at him for a moment, and Routunious simply says sarcastically, "Yeah, right."

Friday, August 24, 2007

22 Eleasias, 1368: Delving Deeper

8:36 am
Most of the party are covered in blood, some their own, most that of slain monsters. They don't want to take time to wash, even though the blood smell might attract more enemies.

Degar shows the gemstones to Routunious, who is no expert in assessing value but he guesses that the amethyst, eye agate, and moonstone are probably worth in the neighborhood of 150 gp.

The dwarf holds up the eyeglasses, "What do you make of these?"

"My innate powers determine they are a device for helping someone see better," Routunious says with exaggerated effect. He laughs as he searches the next room where another three gems are found. The gems are a periodot, a rhodochrosite, and a
spinel, for a likely combined value of 1010 gp. In the third room they find a broadsword in good condition.

Duncan moves forward and examines the sword with his spellcraft proficiency. He determines that the broadsword is likely magical magic sword.

Degar says, "I could have told ye's down here and it ain't rusted."

"Yes, well, that would give you a clue, but I've determined it definitively."

The dwarf hands him the glasses, "Determine anything thing from these?"

Duncan handles the glasses, without looking through the lenses, and says, "These are magic too."

Degar gruffly harumphs at Routunious, who shrugs.

Elessaria says, "Until we can get them identified, Degar carries the sword and Duncan you take the glasses."

Routunious asks, "How are we doing on Stago's ransom?"

Degar, "We're short."

Everyone laughs at this, though they try not to.

"What? What did I say? Stop laughing, ye fools! Bah, I'm going back to look after Fink, I prefer the company of an unconscious halfling to idiots like yerselfs."

The bloodied warriors decide to join him and head back to the grotto. They move the heavy bodies of the owlbears to block off the corridor leading to the ants. afterwards, they wash off the blood in the rushing waters of the river.

Routunious asks, "What are we doing next?"

Degar says, "We're exploring! Away from the ants."

They establish a new marching order: Elessaria, Routunious, Duncan, and Degar (who drags Fink).

Further up the passageway, Elessaria peers into the next room. At first she sees nothing and then is surprised that something is in there slithering on the ceiling. Whatever it is has legs, many legs. It moves over her head and into another room.

The elf gets her bow out and calls a warning back down the line. Degar drops Fink and moves in front of the wizard to protect them both. Elessaria carefuly keeps
her eye on the ceiling, looking for further movement.

Routunious asks, "Was it more ants?"

"No, too many legs, too long a body."

Duncan drags Fink nearer the rest of the party. Order is rearranged as they move along the passage so that Degar has returned to guard the rear.

Looking into the room, they see a pool of water and not much else. They hear skittering that is moving away from them. Whatever it was, they seem to have scared it off.

Continuing down the passage they come to a a T-intersection, they choose to go left.

11:00 am
Elessaria comes upon a great opening, where the ranger is surprised by three of the fire bugs that she and Routunious remember from the the armory at Eagles Eyrie.

"Firebeetles," she says.

One of the strange quasi-insects, for they are not beetles in the natural sense, spits a jet of flame, missing the party.

Elessaria says, "Can we move them aside, I would rather avoid a fight."

Degar responds with mild derision, "Maybe ye could gently use your sword as a spatula and move the buggers with that."

Elessaria moves forward with her sword held flat, and low. The firebugs move toward her, one tries to bite, but she manages to step clear. Degar laughs. The other beetle shoots a jet of flame at the elf which burns her badly. Degar stops laughing.

The dwarf readies for a fight, saying, "Well, some fights can't be avoided, elf!"

Elessaria attacks the firebug that burned her, but misses. Routunious attacks the same, but also misses. Degar closes distance to attack a firebug.

Firebugs attack Elessaria w/their mandibles. Although the clicking mandibles of two of them are avoided by the ranger, the third spits fire and Elessaria suffers additional burn damage.

Degar attacks a bug and misses. Elessaria manages a hit on the bug nearest her.

Degar misses again, as Elessaria dodges another jet of fire. The bug that Degar battles bites him hard, causing damage. Elessaria dodges a hit from the bug she is fighitng but misses her next attack.

Routunious moves forward and casts cure light wounds on the dwarf. The fight continues and Degar suffers further wounds. Duncan rifles through his pack, draws out a scroll and says, "Here's a cleric scroll. Cure critical wounds."

Duncan gives the scroll to Routunious who uses it on Degar.

They continue fighting the bugs, and Routunious throws a knife, missing his target.

Degar misses again. One of the sbug bites Elessaria, and she falls unconscious and bleeding to the floor.

Degar jumps toward a bug, hoping to crush it with his own bodyweight, but misses as it scurries away. Duncan casts magic missile at one of the bugs and manages to kill it.

Degar frustrated by this encounter, begins to go into a battle rage. With increased power and stamina he violently attacks the firebeetle nearest him and...misses! He roars in anger and the beetle clamps down on his leg with its mandibles.

The beetle and Degar do a dance that would have been comical were it not for the dire consequences of its outcome. Finally, Degar hits the beetle and smashes it to pulp.

The remaining firebeetle scrambles up on top of Elessaria's fallen body and begins to eat the unconscious elf. When the party moves toward it, the bug shoots a flame at them.

Degar takes aim at the last bug, not even considering the possibility of hurting Elessaria if he misses his target, so complete is his rage. His swing strikes the bug and destroys it, although Elessaria does take a very minor hit as well.

All the bugs are dead and the dwarf manages to bring his rage under control instead of continuing to do battle with any living thing near him...including members of his own party.

Routunious quickly stoops down to attempt to stop Elessaria's bleeding. Elessaria Routunious pours an entire bottle of a potion of extra healing down her throat, which brings her around and seems to have repaired much of the damage she suffered.

22 Eleasias, 1368: Owlbears and Ants!

The first corridor they explore is a dead end, but there seems to be something there. The elf is confused at first, sensing something familiar and at the same time entirely alien in this environment. Then, suddenly, it dawns on her--"These are owl pellets," she says.

Routunious is not convinced, "These are bigger than an owl, how could they be owl pellets?"

"Something similar to them, then. Look. They are all the undigested parts, thrown back up...bones, something that looks like large chitinous from the hook horror or maybe giant ants, and...buttons."

"Let me see that!"

The priest shines his hatlamp on the objects and realizes that they are indeed clumps of undigested bone and gristle, flakes of exo-skeleton and there are copper buttons in them as well.

8:30 am
Elessaria and Routunious agree that if whatever left these pellets is big enough to eat something that wears buttons, they need to be cautious. They move down the first corridor on the right. Despite their caution, they are surprised when two enormous owl heads poke their heads out. These are not giant owls, however, they are some foul hybrid creature with the head of an owl and the body of an enormous bear.

"Owlbears!" Elessaria cries as the beasts attack her.

The first owlbear swings and misses with a claw, its second claw also misses, but when it lunges in to snap with it sbeak it catches part of Elessaria's arm and draws blood.

The priest and elf do a controlled retreat back towards the grotto, shouting warnings to their companions. Degar hears the commotion and gets closer, readying his warhammer. He shouts over his shoulder, "Wizard, ye might want to ready them scrolls ye found, they're no use to us if we're killed!"

Duncan shouts back, "How about Monster Summoning VI?"

"Whatever ye think, wizard, just do something to help!"

"First things first," Duncan sasy, and drags Fink away to a safer place.

Elessaria & Routunious move back, back, back and the owlbears pursue. The elf makes a stand near the entry to the grotto, her sword held ready. The owlbears close.

The first attacks, again Elessaria manages to dodge the claws by is caught by the owlbear's beak. As she clenches her jaw to repress the pain, Duncan readies the scroll and casts the spell. In a flash of light and slight odor of sulphur, three monsters appear in the grotto.

Duncan has summoned a Troll, Hook Horror,and a Minotaur.

The owlbears are surprised and distracted by the appearance of the summoned monsters! Elessaria moves back as Degar steps forward, but he allows the summoned monsters to make the first attacks.

The troll and hook horror strike first, the hook horror cuts a deep slash through the first owlbear, revealing internal organs and spilling a great deal of blood. The troll hits savagely with both its claws and sinks its teeth deeply into the neck of the owlbear. It shudders and falls under the weight of the troll. The other owlbear realizes its mate is dying. The remaining owlbear launches into a frenzied attack, lashing out at the hook horror. It misses with both its claw attacks but the bite cracks the exo-skeleton and the wound drips a yellow ochre.

The minotaur closes now, and attacks with the greatsword it holds, doing just as much damage on the initial blow as it does on its backswing.

Elessaria, in awe of the sheer power of these three monsters and grateful they are in her service rather than attacking her, moves back further into the grotto.

The troll attacks the remaining owlbear, missing with the first swipe of its clawed hand but its other talon sinks deeply into the other monster's flesh and it howls a horrible, painfilled hooting growl. The troll tries to bite down on it but comes up with only a mouth full of feathers. The owlbear twists under the troll and lashes out again at the hook horror, doing minor damage before missing with its other claw. The owlbear's bite does twice the damage that its claw had.

The minotaur brings its sword down again in a massive blow, nearly removing the owlbear's head. It dies. The three sommoned monsters look around, waiting for further instructions, but Duncan is too stunned by the display to utter any words. The troll begins feasting on the remains of the owlbears. The minotaur simply stands still, blinking and breathing heavily. The hook horror begins a slow clacking of its hooks and seems to be staring with hatred at the young wizard.

Degar breaks the tension, "Well, ye did something useful, afterall, wizard. How long will your pets be staying with us?"

Duncan snaps out of it and smiles. He says, "Maybe an hour?"

Elessaria says, "Then, have them move ahead of us in the corridor, if you please, Duncan."

Duncan orders the monsters to lead, and he follows them down the long passage way. Elessaria and Degar move up the tunnel where the owlbear's lair had been. Routunious elects to stay behind and keep watch over sleeping Fink.

Degar sees the room with piles of pellets and discovers a pair of glasses and three gemstones that had been overlooked in the previous excitement.

In the corridor Duncan and the monsters are exploring, a large swarm of giant ants are observed coming up from a hole in the floor that blocks the passage. They move as a collective body towards the minotaur, which is in the lead. They swarm over the creature, as it bellows loudly in pain.

Duncan watches in horror as the minotaur stumbles and falls and is immediately covered in ants. Some of the ants were probably crushed when the minotaur fell on them, but many more continue to arrive to take their place. The minotaur thrashes and screams in unimaginable agony until it suddenly stops. Duncan sees its fingers loosen on the greatsword, so ineffective against these giant insects, and then the monster disappears. Ants that had been on top of it hover in the air for a moment and then fall to the ground, looking for the meal they were enjoying.

Duncan, in a moment of pure academic conjecture, imagines that when he cast the spell this minotaur was plucked from its cave and stolen away from its mate and possibly even children...only to be returned a short time later dead and partially eaten by insects....that would certainly be a shock to his family!

Duncan is shaken out of his thoughts when he notices that the ants have noticed him and the two remaining monsters. Duncan slips behind the two creatures and orders them to attack the ants. The troll wades in and begins throwing them back down the tunnel. The ants chew deeply into its flesh, which quickly regenerates after each bite.

Duncan slips back down the corridor, he doesn't need to see the battle to know that it is terrifying. The troll is howling in rage and pain, and then suddenly, it stops. Duncan is certain that the ants have killed it...perhaps wherever it reappears it will regenerate there.

Only the hook horror remains to occupy the ants and within moments, it too stops clacking. The ants have done in minutes what two huge owlbears had been unable to even attempt to do.

Duncan flees into the grotto shouting about the ants. The party listens to the description and look down the passage, but no ants seem to be following the young wizard.

22 Eleasias, 1368: Into the Depths

6:00 am
Drying themselves on the other side of the river, the conversation turns to Stago.

Fink says, "I realize that you who have travelled with him have a closer attachment than the rest of us...but that's a lot of treasure to try to find to get him back. Are you sure he's worth it?"

Elessaria smiles, "Worth it and more, though don't ask me again after we've gotten him back."

Degar and Routunious explore the grotto. Using the bright glow of his hat they explore the ceiling. Everyone searches for secret doors. Elessaria discovers one on the left side of the grotto.

Degar examines the door, then moves to the passageway, axe ready, just
in case. He nods for Fink to move forward and examine the secret door for traps. He doesn't feel there is a trap, but also doesn't think that makes any sense. He hasn't found any traps, but his intuition tells him that there must be something else guarding the door. Gritting his teeth, he begins his attempt to pick the lock.

After spending ten tense minutes, he gives up. "You need a key," he says.

Turning their attention from the door to the spider statue, Fink agains tries to detect traps but says you never know if there is a trap until you find it or it springs on you. Then, before anyone can stop him, Fink climbs up on top of the statue to attempt to discover any secret compartments that might be hidden there. Unfortunately, rather than discovering a secret compartment, he discovers that the statue is covered in contact poison and it has been absorbed by the halfling's bare feet. The party watches him shudder for a moment and then collapse on the statue, sound asleep. They have no idea what has happened to him.

Degar mutters, "What the--?"

The dwarf moves forward quickly and drags Fink off the statue. Routunious goes over to Fink's sleeping form, but has no idea what could have caused this.

Routunious asks, "Is it the Dream Fever?"

Elessaria shakes her head, "No, this was too sudden. The Dream Fever causes illness for several days before the sleeping takes you..." She thinks hard, examining the spider from a distance and suddenly a connection is made.

"Drow," she says, "dark elves worship spiders. Because spiders are poisonous, the drow are very skilled in a wide variety of poisons, and often use sleep inducing poison on their weapons to take their enemies more easily. This statue is probably covered in a contact poison, and he's sleeping now because his feet touched the statue."

Routunious, nervously looking around him, asks, "What do we know about the Drow?"

Degar says, "Not much. Underground elves? I've heard of them, but never seen them. Evil, is all I know. Black skinned devils with white hair."

Routunious walks around the spider statue. Upon closer examination, he realizes that the spinnerets of the statue appear to be some kind of clasp.

Routunious takes his knife-spear and pries the spinnerets open, revealing a secret compartment. Inside is a rolled up parchment and a key.

Suddenly, gas roils into the room from out of the statue. All of the party begin coughing and scratching at their skin. Routunious and Degar seem less affected than Elesaria and Duncan, but all are nauseous and feeling ill.

Degar and Elessaria KNOW they're lucky and realize that the trap must be quite old for the gas to be degraded so.

Routunious uses the knife-spear to lift the parchment and the key from the compartment. The key has a spider motif. He points to Elessaria. "You're an elf with
gloves. You read it."

Elessaria takes the scroll and opens it, but the written language is alien to her.

"I can't read drow," Elessaria says.

Routunious asks, "Where is the brooch of translation?"

"Stago had it, I suppose it is with his other belongings packed in Tick-a-Tick's chest compartment."

Elessaria says, "This may be important, I might be able to translate it without going back..."

She sits down and spends after about half an hour, she gives up, saying, "This is the best that I can do."

"I have (3),(4)(5),(6)(7) know if your memories are (13)(14)(15) your
The 13th and 15th words are the same. Below the message and to
the right: "(18),(19),(20)" and then below that: "(21)."

Degar says, "That wasn't much help."

Routunious suggests, "Let's use the key on the door."

"Better if the thief does that," Degar says, pointing at the still sleeping halfling. Duncan gets water from the river and splashes Fink's face. Fink is now
wet and sleeping.

Elessaria approaches the door. Degar is beside her. Duncan and Routunious hide behind the spider, with the body of Fink. Slowly, cautiously, she slides the key into the lock.

Elessaria turns the key. Tumblers click and move. She can't push the

Routunious suggests, "Pull it?"


"Lift it?"


Degar says, "Try sideways!"

Elessaria tries pushing it to the left, and nothing happens. She tries pushing it to the right and it slides quickly in that direction--so quickly that if she had not been deft enough to pluck the key from the lock it would have broken as the door slid into the rock.

Inside the room is a treasure chest!

Degar jumps in front of Elessaria and goes to the chest.

"It has a lock," he says and prepares to bash it open.

Elessaria stops him by saying, "Wait, try the key!"

Degar tries the key, but it doesn't fit. Instead of proceeding with the bashing plan, the dwarf hangs back and examines the chest. It looks like a lunchbox. The handle is a rod of ivory held by rings.

Degar lifts the chest. It is very heavy.

"You're as crazy as Stago," Elessaria says.

He shakes it and hears a heavy rattling, almost a clunking, inside.

He puts it down and says to Elessaria, "Try something pointy."

Elessaria uses her short sword and pries open the top of the chest. They look inside and see a large number of silver and copper ingots. These are small, probably equal to 5 coins of the corresponding metal.

It takes 5 minutes to count the ingots. There are 250 gold ingots. This is equal to 125 gp, 300 copper ingots, equal to 1500 cp or 15 gp.

"Why the secret door for this?" Degar asks. They continue searching the room and the chest but find no more secret doors or panels.

Looking at the chest again, Degar says, "The ivory rod here looks like it slides between the rings and has silver caps on both ends. Maybe they come off." Then Elessaria exampines the ivory rod, and discovers that it is a tube containing two pieces of parchment. She gives them to Duncan.

Duncan examines them, and says, "Yes, they are spell scrolls, but without identify, I can't tell what they might be."

Degar carries all the silver ingots which weigh a little over 12 pounds and a single copper ingot, for reasons he will not divulge.

After discussing options, Elessaria and Routunious decide to act as a small away team and leave the others in the grotto with Fink while they explore the tunnels a little further out.

22 Eleasias, 1368: The Stairway

1:00 am
After studying and praying for two hours, Routunious and Duncan return.

"I've been thinking about the mushrooms," the priest says.

Elessaria asks, "What were you thining about them?"

Routuionious responds, "About ways to dry them down here. If Stago were here to assist, I might try using the nitre."

Degar interrupts, "No, that would ruin the mushroom. It needs to be done naturally, I tell ye!"

Routunious waves him off, "No, anything natural can be accomplished by means magical, if one understands how to attempt it. What I realized was that create water is a reversible spell. I've prayed for the ability to reverse it and...." The priest casts dispell water on the mushrooms and they instantly become perfectly dried pieces of fungi.

Degar whistles, "Verrrry clever....for a top dweller!"

Routunious smiles at the compliment, "Thank you."

Their levity is interrupted by the sound of skittering somewhere around them. They search for the source for nearly an hour, but find nothing. The caves are silent again.

2:00 am
The party prepares to make the descent to the bottom of the giant stone steps. Each ledge drops about ten feet to the next level.

Elessaria jumps down, avoiding any injury, and she examines the husk of the dead hook horror.

Degar asks, "How did it die?"

Elessaria shouts up, "It was in a a battle, one with edged weapons."

The dwarf postulates, "Probably fought with those guards and got wounded, crawled down here to die, I wager."

Elessaria checks the next ledge down and the rest of the party prepares to follow her. Degar clumsily falls from the ledge and hurts himself, but eventually all are down to the next step.

2:34 am
The party jumps to next level. Degar again, stumbles and falls, injuring himself still further. They jump again, and this time everyone makes it without injury. The party, now accustomed to the activity, continues jumping to the bottom of the series of ledges. Degar drinks a healing potion.

Degar, embarrassed, says, "You'd think that caving would be more like mountaineering...did I mention I'm skilled at mountain climbing?" and is at 11HP.

Eyeing the bottom, the company observes a dead bark creature. Also, there are two angelic colums on this side of a 30' wide underground river that is roaring past the bank where they stand. Across the river are two demonic pillars.

Duncan asks, "How are we going to get across that?"

Elessaria wonders, "Are we sure we even want to?"

Degar suggests, "Let's toss the halfling across this river, and he can hold a rope to tie off on the other side!"

They examine the dead bark creature. It appears to have been killed by a combination of edged weapons and blunt trauma, such as might come from a club-like weapon.

Degar looks at the columns and the edge of the river. There seems to be a remnant of a bridge that once spanned the river between the two sets of columns. Signs indicate it was intentionally destroyed with tools.

Elessaria touches one of the columns. It feels like wet stone.

The adventurers spend a good deal of time debating what to do now. They are fearful of attempting the brambles again, and decide that they should try to cross the river somehow...but probably not using the plan of tossing Fink across. All the plans, however, involve rope use, and all the rope is back in the mushroom cavern with Tick-a-Tick.

Fink climbs back up, only to discover that Tick-A-Tick won't give him the rope without a command from Routunious to do so. Fink calls down to the priest and tells him he will have to climb back up and help him get the rope.

This is a long and difficult process for the priest, but he manages. In spite of some minor damage along the way, eventually the party is back together and armed with ropes at the bank of the river.

Unfortunately, Dunacan has a nasty slip on the wet rocks and and gets injured. He eats a hunk of magic mushroom and is healed.

After hashing through and trying several different options, it become obvious that the only plan with a chance of success is, in fact, tossing the hobbit across the river with a rop tied to him. Fink is not thrilled, but is willing to do his part for the cause.

Elessaria ties a rope around Fink and tries to throw him across the river. She fails and he plops into the whirling waters and nearly drowns as they pull him back in to shore. He lies there on the rocks, unconscious and breathing shallowly. Routunious casts a cure light wounds spell on him and he recovers slightly. While he is still too weak to protest, the elven ranger picks him up and throws him again, this time succeeding in making her throw to the other side of the river.

On the other side...the battered halfling scouts. He shouts back, "There's some kind of grotto over here on the other side of the pillars!"

Routunious asks, "What can you see in it?"

"There's a stone spider statue and 3 passages that branch off from the main chamber."

Elessaria shouts over the roar of the water, "Can you tie off your rope to something so we can pull ourselves across?"

Fink shouts back, "I'll try!" He searches the area and decides that the evil looking pillar will make a sturdy anchor. He expertly ties off his end of the rope and sits down to rest, waving to tell the others that he has done it.

The party makes a sling with a blanket, and Duncan is the first to cross. All of the others follow without incident, and find themselves stading in the grotto with the stone spider.

21 Eleasias, 1368: The Mushroom Circle

After recovering from the events of the nixie pool, the party moves down the side passage in a new marching order without Stago:


The passage returns them to the large, domed cavern with the circle of mushrooms. There is an earthy subterranean smell, is is dank and warm, and dominating the center of the cavern is a mushroom ring.

The little Friendly Fungus is walking with Elessaria now, farting in consternation at the missing Stago.

Routunious examines the mushrooms, in quiet calm now that there are no more wood woses to disturb them. His proficiency with herbalism allows him to make some conjecture about the fungi in the ring. His knowldege is limited though.

Degar steps up next to him and says, "Ye know where them mushrooms grow, son?"

Routunious, perterbed, says without looking up, "Obviously they grow underground."

The dwarf continues to pester him, "Do ye know what else grows underground?"

"Do tell."

"Dwarves do. They get born, they grow, and they die underground. If I was wondering about something that lived underground, I might ask a dwarf about it, but that's just me."

Routunious sighs, "Do you know anything about these mushrooms?"

"No, but I like to be asked." The dwarf roars with laughter and Routunious turns back to his study of the fungi. Degar taps him on the back, saying, "I was just joking...Yea, I know a thing or two about 'em. That tall one, with the twin caps, that's got healing properties. A magic mushroom and a lucky omen when you find it in the wild. A fresh one, eaten right off the stalk, that will heal ye complete. It's like a potion of heal. If you pick it, it stays fresh for about a day. After that, it starts to rot a bit and that spoils it. You can dry them, though, and though they aren't as effective as when they're fresh, they're still pretty good medicine and they keep forever that way."

Routunious is intrigued, "Can I dry them here?"

"Nah, not in a dank and drippy cave like this. You need drying rocks and heat, an oven, that sort of thing."

Routunious takes out a bottle and begins collecting spores from the mushroom, for possible later cultivation. He fills an entire bottle and then cuts off a steak-sized chunk that is good for around 20 bites or so.

2:15 pm
The Friendly Fungus keeps walking back to the pool and looking into it while making obnoxious noises. He seems to have gotten very attached to Stago and misses him.

Degar and Routunious go around the circle of mushrooms looking to see if there are any shriekers, and they find none. Then they move over to examine the wall of brambles and thorns that blocks the passage leading off to the right.

Elessaria also walks the perimeter of the mushroom circle, examining it very closely. She notices that there are thirteen growths which look less like mushrooms than they do young, tiny nightshades. These things are mossy and soft, with shoots that have just burst through the ground. They have unnervingly human-like faces.

The elf calls Degar and Routunious over. She says, "You're the experts, what are those things?"

Routunious says, "They could be baby wood woses, I suppose."

Degar shouts, "Let's kill them!"

Elessaria stops him, shouting as he lifts his boot to stomp on one, "No!"

"Why does she have to spoil all the fun?"

"We don't know what they are," Elessaria says, "and until we do, we aren't going to kill them."

"Have you looked inside the ring yet?" Fink asks.

No one is willing to go inside the mushroom ring, until Fink volunteers to climb up on the shoulders of Tick-a-Tick and look inside the ring. They all agree this is a good idea, and he does so.

"There's a glint, a reflection, in the middle of the mushroom circle," he says, "let's go in!"

Elessaria attempts to dissuade further investigation of the mushroom circle. "We have many tasks and all are vital...we have to stay focused. There's the over-arching goal of finding Shandar's Staff of Negation. There's the political situation of Constable Tren versus Randall Morn. And Degar's quest, of course. Clearing Duncan's name and also getting Fink out of debt...and not least of all, releasing Stago from the nixie."

"That is a lot for a To Do list," agrees Fink, "but something shiny might be money and that could help with some of those goals."

"Alright, but if you're going in, we need a plan," Elessaria says.

The decide to tie a rope to Fink who, will creep in between the mushroom stalks to the center. He does so and spends twenty minutes searching. All he finds is a broken potion bottle, an intact and full potion bottle filled with a blue liquid, and four pieces of amber that are worth about 20 gold pieces.

When he emerges from the ring, Routunious barks out, "What did you find?"

Fink tosses the potion bottle to him. Routunious catches it and examines it.

"It's a blue liquid," Fink offers, helpfully.

"I can see that. It must be a potion of some kind," Routunious says.

Fink pokes at one of the tiny bark creatures. He says, "There were many footprints
of bark creatures. Or wood woses, whatever you want to call them."

"Keep searching the area," Elessaria commands. Routunious and Duncan go around the room and look down a narrow corridor.

Elessaria, Degar and Fink go to the bramble-blocked corridor. They hear a rustling, and bend in to take a closer look. Suddenly, the rustling increases and a bark creature pokes out it's wooden head. The party is just as surprised as the wood wose, who quickly pulls its head back through the brambles.

As the party recovers from the shock of seeing another bark creature, portions of the wall of thorns begin move. Tendrils of vines and sharp thorns shoot out. Degar
and Fink are caught in the vines which encircle them and begin to constrict like pythons. Each tendril of vine is covered in iron hard thorns that cut deeply into the flesh causing a great deal of damage.

Fink quickly collapses from blood loss and slips out of consiousness. It is like being entangled in a rope of daggers.

Duncan and Routunious see what's happening and try to determine some means of helping the halfling. Elessaria hacks away at the vines with her sword.

Degar relaizes that the more he thrashes, the more damage he takes, and he attempts to stand as still as possible, despite the pain.

2:20 pm

Elessaria again hacks away at the vines, but now they fight back! The elf takes a very serious wound from the whipping motion of the vine.

"Don't move!" yells Routunious.

Degar adds to the warning, "Take another thrashing like that and you're unconscious!"

Fink moves frantically in an effort to escape and dies a grisly death. Elessaria suffers additional damage, though minor, as she has taken the advice she was given and is trying to remain motionless. She continues to bleed.

Degar slips into a battle rage, but in a tremendous effort of will he manages to suppress the rage and stop it. He realizes that in a rage he would tear himself to ribbons under the current conditions.

2:31 pm
Finally, the branches and tendrils withdraw into the wall of thorns.

Elessaria has taken damage as the vines retreat and she falls to her knees. Routunious runs over to her and attempts to stop Elessaria's
many bleeding wounds. He fails!

He cries out, "Oh, my God!"

Elessaria continues to slide toward death.

Routunious gives the elf an entire bottle of Potion of Extra Healing , and although it doesn't restore her completely, she does regain conciousness.

Routunions examines the tattered body of Fink, lying in the blood that is pooling from hundreds of punctures. The priest removes a scroll tube from his pack and unscrews the cap. He removes a scroll and reads it over the body.

The priest finishes with the command, "Arise!"

Fink has been successfully raised from the dead. Routunious cradles the disoriented thief and gets him to eat a bite of the mushroom.

The flood of health released by the fungus is miraculous, and Fink smiles up at Routunious.

Routunious says, "You're indebted to me."

Fink replies, "Get in line."

3:00 pm
The party ponders what to do now, after recovering from the battle they fought with the vines. Clearly there are more wood woses in the area, just behind the wall of thorns. It seems as though they also have the ability to use an entangle spell to cause the wall of thorns to deal horrific damage to anyone trying to get through the wall.

Fink suggests, "Let's burn it!"

Elessaria shouts, "NO FIRES!" She has a very strong aversion to any sort of open flame in this area, though she can't explain why.

She forces calm into her voice, and says, "Let's go forward, through the other passageway, but with new battle order."


The party moves to the only unexplored opening off of the mushroom cave. They discover, however, that Tick-a-Tick is too big to fit through it without major excavation.

They look a short ways beyond the opening, and see a tunnel, with floors descending deeply in steps. On the first step below them is the dessicated exoskeleton of another male hook horror. Far below they hear the sound of roaring water.

Elessaria says, "This seems like the most defensable position available. We should sleep here. Once we've slept we can replenish your spells and prayers to prepare for the next set of challenges."

Routunious makes a primitive alarm. by stringing pots and pans on a rope near the lip of the cliff. Tick-a-Tick stands watch completely blocking entrance into the tunnel. Everyone sleeps for eight hours.

11:00 pm
After awaking from their sleep, the party divides up. Routunious goes to a private area to commune with Gond and make his prayers known. Duncan goes to a private area and studies his spell book, memorizing th spells that he believes will be most useful this day.

21 Eleasias, 1368: Gone Fishing

As they eat their rations amid the farting of the fungoids, the party members hatch their plan to rescue the priest.

Stago asks, "Does anyone know what kind of woman that green skinned creature that took Routunious is? And those bark skinned things, what are those?"

"I have never seen a nixie, but I've heard of them often enough...I believe that is what has taken Routuinious. As to the tree people, I have no knowledge."

Degar says, "A nixie. Aye, that makes sense, though I don't know what one is doing underground. They're forest creatures, ain't they?"

"They somewhat resemble their sylvan cousins, but nixies are creatures of fresh water, and are possible to find in lake or pool, and sometimes rivers, though it is rare. It is even more rare to find them underground, I would think, but not impossible. I have heard they possess a potent charm spell that can bend the will of men to their every desire, but I thought that it took a group of them to cast it. This one appears to be solitary."

Fink asks, "Are they evil? What does it want with him?"

Elessaria answers, "They are neither evil nor good, they serve only their own interests. The purpose of the charm is to capture male slaves to do their work for them, and in this satisfy the cravings that come with lonliness, I suppose."

Duncan asks, " do their slaves...breathe underwater?"

"Nixies can cast a water breathing spell on their victims, which they can bestow on any creature, or remove, once per day."

Degar is thoughtful, then says, "I know having a priest is a blessing. But, if he's a breather of water and not of air now, and if he's charmed as ye say to adore this green skinned lass who's keeping him as her slave...what good will rescuing him do? He'll only choke to death on the air while trying to claw his way back to her, won't he?"

"It is a risk...I don't know if the effect is permanent, or if she might be persuaded to release him and restore him...but he is one of us, and we leave no one behind."

"Very well," the dwarf grumbles, "but how do ye plan to get him?"

They all make suggestions, and in the end it is decided that they will tie a bag of
copper pieces to the other end of a rope that's attached to Tick-a-Tick. Elessaria, the strongest swmimmer, will dive into the pool of water and attmept to fetch Routunious. Even if she can't get to him on the first dive, at least they will have a better idea of what is in the pool.

The plan is agreed upon and Elessaria.

As Elessaria starts to remove her armor, she says, "Degar, I'll need you to keep hands on the rope, if I tug it, then you'll have to pull me up as fast as you can." Fink and Duncan retire from the pool chamber.

Elessaria practices holding her breath with Degar timing her efforts, to get a sense of how long he should wait before pulling her up anyway. Then, satisfied they have prepared as best she can, she straps on her sword and holding tight to the bag of coppers, she dives in. The elf sinks past the surprised nixie and touches down at the bottom to the pool, which flares out into a rather wide, domed chamber. She notices a opening, like a cave to one side and near it a hut made of woven living water plants. In it, she sees Routunious acting like a domestic servant, cleaning and repairing the nixie's home.

Elessaria beckons to Routunious who starts toward her, but the nixie intervenes and seems to be able to telepathically command Routunious to return to work.

Suddenly, Elessaria notices movement above and around the hut and realizes that several giant fish are now circling the doorway like guard dogs. The nixie swims above, watching as Elessaria takes out her sword and heads toward the entrance of the

The fish attack! The first fish misses as it streaks toward her flashing needle-like teeth. The second fish is actually an eel, and it snakes in and bites for a great deal of damage. Elessaria tries to get her sword in for a strike, but she is unused to underwater combat and comes nowhere near her target. Her lungs begin to ache from the need for air.

The fish swims in from behind and bites Elessaria, drawing more blood. Again the elf tries to counter and misses. The fish bites her again and again. Routunious watches mournfully as he continues under his compulsion to do his chores. Another strike from the fish rips away a large chunk of flesh from Elessaria, who winces in pain. She has had enough and tugs forcefully on the rope. Degar immediately begins pulling her up with a steady, hand over hand motion.

Neither the fish nor eel pursue her, and the nixie watches her ascent with a smile of satisfaction. Her home is safe from intruders.

As healing is given to Elessaria, the company bickers about what to do next.

Elessaria stops any talk of leaving the priest behind, "It doesn't just come down to loyalty. As the party's only cleric, there is no question. Routunious must be saved."

Stago pulls Duncan aside and asks what spell the mage has memorized today.

"Burning Hands," he replies.

Stago says, "Cast it on my ring of spell storing. I'll cast my color spray. I have a scroll of water breathing--"

Elessaria interrupts, "You have a what?"

Stago explains, "Let me finish...I think that if we all hold hands while I cast it on one of us, it will affect all of us, but for a much shorter duration than if I'd only used it on a single target. We'll use the scroll and then we'll swim down there and attack the nixie. If she is defeated, the fish will swim away and it is very likely the priest will snap out of it and be his old self again."

"Why didn't you suggest this the first time?" Elessaria asks.

Stago replies, "You're the leader, I wanted to give your idea a chance to succeed."

"More likely you forgot you had it until just now. If the duration of the spell is diminished by the number of people it is cast upon, then Fink and Duncan should remain in the cave with Tick-a-Tick. We three should be adequate for the assault, and we might need the extra time. How long for three of us?"

Stago replies, "About four hours."

"Let's do it."

The gnome removes all of his items, save for a dagger, his clothing and the ring. He
casts scroll of water breathing on the away team.

As the away team descends deeper into the pool, they get closer to the astonished nixie. At 20 feet, the males in the away team find it difficult to take their eyes off of her. Degar shakes it off, but Stago succombs to her charms. He has fallen hopelessly in love with the enemy. Degar can tell what is happening and as he sinks past the nixie he swings at her with his axe, shouting through a torrent of bubbles, "Take that, ye miserable little useless creature!"

The party touches down at the bottom of the pool. The nixie, who seems able to tell which males are affected and which are not...perhaps because the charm also establishes a telepathic link between nixie and slave. Stago seperates from the party and goes down the corridor by the hut at the nixie's behest.

The fish and eels immediately attack the remaining members of the away team. Degar takes a deep bite from the fish, and it swmims past his reaching fingers. The eel chomps into Elessaria. This time she manages to stab it with her weapon, however. Degar connects with his axe and wounds the fish. It is still able to fight, however, and hits Degar back with a fierce bite. Degar fights back, but misses.

The eel also manages a lucky and damaging bite on the elf.

Meanwhile, Stago & Routunious have been commanded to walk through the cave and down the passage. The water is calm and still, like the water of the pool, but at a certain point they feel a tingle of energy, as though they have walked through a wall of force. Suddenly there is a change in pressure and the water has a current. They keep walking, though it is harder to keep their footing now, and exit the passageway to begin walking along the bottom of an underground river.

Back at the fish fight, Elessaria hits the eel and slices it in twain! Although seperated from its body, the eels head still manages a final bite which deals a great amount of damage. The elf tries to pry the jaws apart and remove the head but before she is able to, she passes out from loss of blood.

Degar sees this, but cannot help as he is still engaged with the fish. He decides to break away from the melee and give aid to Elessaria. The fish tries to take advantage of the fleeing dwarf but somehow misses its attack.

Degar surprises the fish by spinning in the water, bringing his axe in a beautiful arc which slices through the water, the fish and leaves both halves the bloodthirsty creature slowly sinking to the bottom. He swims to the unconcious elf.

Meanwhile, Stago has caught a fish in the underground river and gives it to Routunious. Routunious puts it in a bag he is carrying. Stago swims up to the surface to takes a look.

He sees an immense space of a giant cavern through which the river rushes. Upstream there is a shattered bridge and columns that resemble some sort of evil beings. After doing his best to commit the surroundings to memory, he submerges again and returns to gathering dinner for the nixie with Routuinous.

In the nixie cave, Degar grabs Elessaria and begins pumping his way to the surface with the elf in his arms. Breaking water, he bellows to Fink and Duncan, "Mushrooms!"

The dwarf has to submerge again for a moment to breathe more water, but by the time he comes back to the surface Fink is there to give Degar a mushroom. Degar puts
it in Elessaria's mouth and makes her swallow. She begins to heal.

Unknown to those on the surface, the nixie begins to take the threat seriously now that her guardfish have been slain. She swims out to Routunious & Stago, and beckons them to follow her away.

Just below the surface, and still holding onto Elessaria with one arm, Degar eats some of the healing mushrooms himself. Restored, the dwarf and elf wave to Fink and Duncan before they submerge and swim down to the nixie's underwater lair. They find it abandoned but full of gems and art objects.

With neither the nixie nor her slaves anywhere to be found, the pair collect the items from the nixie hut and bring it to the surface. Doing so takes about half an hour. They leave the items with Fink and Duncan to catalog, and swim back down to look for Stago and Routunious before the duration of the spell expires.

The items they have stolen from the nixie include:
Alexandrite (200 gp).
Carved coral statuary of pregnant female nixie with the inscription "Acquar" (1300 gp)
A male version of the statue with the words "Stago'oquar" (300 gp).
Scrimshaw (30 gp)
Azurite (10 gp)
Carnelian (50 gp)
Citrine (50 gp)
Coral, black (100 gp)
Jade (100 gp)
2 Jaspers (50 gp each)
Onyx (25 gp)
Spinel (500 gp)

After examining the treasure, Fink and Duncan put it into Tick-a-Tick.

"You know," Fink says to Duncan, "this is a lot of of treasure. And when they jumped in the water, they left a lot of magical items up here for us to watch, and I suspect that this metal fighting machine here, you could probably control it the same way that Stago did when the priest went after that fish woman."

"I don't think I like what you're suggesting."

"I'm suggesting that there are bad people after me and that this pile of loot would go a long way to getting them off my back."

Duncan, shocked, says, "Surely you're not suggesting we steal from these people and abandon them to these tunnels!"

Fink shrugs, "Why not? I've known you a lot longer than this Severed Head crowd. Why should I be loyal to them?"

"No. I'm not going back on my word."

Fink gives up on the argument.

Down below, Elessaria & Degar swim through the cave and down the corrider at the bottom of the pool. They also feel the tingle as they pass through the strange energy barrier. It takes a moment to adjust their swimming to the motion of the current that is on the other side.

Standing at the edge of the corridor which empties into the underground river is the nixie. They hear her voice in their minds through some sort of telepathy.

"My name is Mara. Why have you come here to kill my pets, take my slaves, and steal all my wealth? I tried to help you in the Wood Wose attack."

There is a long debate about whether or not the help that she offered them could also be construed as an attack, and that the taking of slaves is just as wrong as the theft of material goods.

In the end, they strike a bargain. She will trade one of her slaves for the treasure that the party has stolen from her. She will release the second when they have found and given her treasure of equal value to what they took.

Degar and Elessaria feel they have little choice, their water breathing spell is soon to wear off and they would not be able to harm their companions should the nixie order them to defend her.

"Agreed," Elessaria says.

The nixie asks, "Which one do you wish to take, then?"

Elessaria considers it, and decides that because they have Duncan, a priest is more immediately of value than an illsuionist.

"We would take the priest now, and will return soon for the gnome."

"Nixie," Degar questions her, "what can ye tell us of the caverns and the pool ye live in? We're not here to plunder yer goods, but took them only to use as a tool to bargain for the return of our companions....our real mission is to find information that will solve a problem on the surface, out in the open air of the town."

Mara considers this, and says, "Long ago, my pool was the source of water for the fountain in the courtyard of the temple. I kept it pure and clean for them...but that was so long ago and the fountain no longer flows...the priests no longer visit me and care for my needs."

Elessaria asks, "Those creatures...the ones made of called them something."

"Wood Woses," she says, "Some people call them Night Shades. I don't like them. They started showing up after the priests went away. I sleep at night, though and that's when they prowl the caverns. I'm afraid I can't tell you much about them. I don't leave my pool very often, and no matter how lonely I get, they aren't the kind of company I'd like to keep."

"Thank you," Elessaria says.

Degar asks, "Where does this river flow to?"

"Eventually it feeds into the River Tesh, when you come back with the rest of my treasure, I can help you breathe water again and escape this way."

Elessaria grabs Routunious' hand and tugs him down the corridor, "We'll keep that in mind."

They all travel to the bottom of the pool and Elessaria swims to the surface to explain the deal they have struck. All of the treasure is dumped back into the water and Routunious is released from his charm spell.

3 hours later, everyone is topside, except for Stago who has remained with the nixie.

They make ready to continue their quest, with the added need to aquire a great deal of treasure to purchase back their friend.


Thursday, August 23, 2007

21 Eleasias, 1368: Deeper, Darker, and More Dangerous

9:00 am
The party, in battle order, march down the tunnel until they come to a fork in the passage where the excavated shaft meets the natural caverns below. In front of them is an enormous formation where ancient stalgtite and stalactite have met. Here the downhill slope ends and the cavern in front of them is more or less level.

Illuminated by Routunious' hat light, the party is struck by the immense natural beauty, and so are startled when they hear a strange farting noise.

After looking amongst themselves, they see walking toward them a small mushroom on legs, with arms, and a very human-like face on its stalk. More lurk in the shadows behind it.

Elessaria asks, "Is this a mushroom man?"

Degar and Stago confer, and Stago says, "I've never seen a myconid, the correct name for a mushroom man...but they are generally larger and we've never heard that...noise...associated with them. I think this is something else."

Degar says, "I've heard tales of wee critters like these...Friendly Fungus they are called. I never thought I'd see one, so I didn't pay any attention to what those tales told."

Stago brightens, "Friendly Fungus, of course! I think that their flesh has curative properties."

Elessaria says, "If they are friendly, we're not eating them."

They walk into the cavern and see more fungoids. They sidle by...except for Stago, who attempts conversation with one of them. The Tendrils from Friendly Fungus reach toward Stago. The gnome scratches the cap, and instead of farting, the creature emits a sputtering purr.

Stago exclaims, "It enjoys head scratching!" Stago stops scratching the fungoid and has to hurry to catch up to his fellows. The fungoid follows him. The party emerges from the tunnel into a large room. The cavern is moist with moss and earthy smells, and the floor and walls are slick. A circle of enormous mushrooms in the center of the cavern hides the other side from view, but they can see squat, dark shapes moving in the shadows, circling around on both flanks.

The party discusses what to do next.

Stago pipes up with a suggestion, "Let's toss a torch into the circle of mushrooms and see what happens."

Elessaria reacts very strongly against this suggestion. She seems to be having some sort of memory or premonition that fire in these caverns would be very bad. Routunious agrees with Elessaria, but without the emotional underscoring to his reasoning. Stago is barely dissuaded.

The party decides to retreat from the room, and returns down the passageway they have just traversed. Behind them, in the large cavern amid the mushroom circle, they hear the sound of breaking glass.

Stago pleads with them to take direct action, "Whatever is back there, it's just going to follow us!"

The party returns to the point where they met the fungoids beneath the natural column. The fungoids seem very agitated and are waving their arms and emitting sharp farting noises.

Elessaria asks, "Does anyone else thing they want to lead us somewhere?"

Routunious nods, then asks, "Yes, but to rescue us or to take us into a trap?"

"Let's hope they are as friendly as their name would imply," she replies and begins following the fungoids down the other pathway. This passage opens into room with a large pool of still water. reflecting the hatlamp of the priest. The dark surface of the pool hiding anything that might be submerged within it.

Stago examines the ceiling. Even though he is actively looking in the shadows of the uneven rock formations above them, the entire party is surprised to see something floating in the air above them.

It looks big and mean, like a bloated dwarf made entirely of wood. Three more of the creatures move in from the passage beyond the pool.

The Bark-creature that is flying, spits at a viscous liquid at Elessaria, and it hits her in the face. She screams in agony and stumbles backward against the rock wall.

Duncan, the young mage, casts magic missile at one of the creatures on the ground that is advancing toward them. They strike it unerringly and seem to cause the monster pain.

As she shakes her head and grimaces through the pain, Elessaria realizes that her limbs are slightly numb, and she immediately understands that the creature's spittle has poisnoned her, causing a degenerative nerve damage that is likely to get worse as time passes. The fungoids farting becomes even more agitated.

Stago also casts magic missile at the same creature Duncan attacked. It staggers, then cries out, "Ainecotte, I come!" As it shouts, it splinters into kindling.

The gnome shouts to the priest, "Enkat? What the Nine Hells is Enkat?"

Routunious shouts back, "A little busy here." The priest tosses knives at one of the two remaining creatures on the ground. One of the knives thuds into the bark-like skin and stays stuck there, the other clatters on the stone as it flies past the head of the creature. The knife that hit seems to have drawn blood...which oozes like sap from around the blade.

Fink fires an arrow, hitting the same creature that Routunious struck. More sap spatters out where the arrow strikes home. Elessaria & the halfling avoid the sap.

Fink fires another arrow, but misses.

The creature, in turn, strikes out at Elessaria with its club, but misses her even in the elf's weakened state. The other two creatures close on the party.

Degar intervenes and attacks the one on the ground with his hammer. The creature attacks him at the same moment. Degar misses, but the creature hits him in the face with his spiked club. The damage is only slight, but the Dwarf's face feels like it is on fire. He cries out, "Poison!"

Elessaria draws her bow, nocs an arrow and lets loose at the creature she has been fighting. The creature's head nearly explodes from the force of the arrow hitting it. Sap flies everywhere, but all of the party manage to avoid the spatter pattern. The creature falls, unable to crie out because it no longer has a mouth.

Elessaria and Degar feel the increasing clutch of the poison on their nervous system.

Because of their heightened sensitivity in the heat of the battle, no one is surprised when up from the center of the pool appears the head of a very beautiful woman. All of the funoids begin to purr when they see her.

She has light green skin and dark green hair. The beautiful woman of the pool shouts to them, "Quick! Hide in the water!"

Strangely, each member of the party feels a compulsion to obey the illogical command, for surely if they hide in the water they will drown. They all resist the compulsion, however...all, that is, but Routunious.

As Stago fires sling-bullet at one of the remaining bark creatures, Routunious begins running toward the pool of water. Fink hits the bark creature Stago is attacking with one of two fired arrows.

As Routunious gets nearer the edge of the water, the woman in the pools shields her eyes from his hatlamp and shouts for him to take it off. She seems very afraid of it.

Degar misses his attack on the other bark creature. Routunious flings away his hat as he leaps into the pool. The lovely green woman grabs him and kisses him. When she releases the priest he sputters and gasps, and she drags him under the water.

"He's drowning!" Elessaria shouts.

Stago looks into the pool and sees Routunious smiling and waving back at him, seemingly happy as a fish.

"No!" Stago shouts to Elessaria, "He's breathing water, now."

The green lady begins tugging at his robes, and pulling Routunious deeper into the water.

Elessaria, still suffering from the sap poison and fighting one of the bark creatures, fires again with her bow and misses widely with her first shot, but the second hits squarely. It cries out, "Ainecotte!" Then it falls to splinters, clattering down the stairs.

The strange nymphette in the pool swims to the surface and pulls hat underwater. Suddenly everyone is plunged into darkness. It takes a moment for those with infravision to shift to that spectrum. During that transition the last remaining bark creature, the one flying in the air, strikes out at Degar and he feels the rush of air as the spiked club narrowly misses his head.

Fink climbs into the pool of water, hanging on to the ledge. He ducks his head under water, shouting through bubbles at Routunious.

Stago fires a magic missile at at the flying creature and causes some damage, as well as releasing a fine rain of poison sap from above.

Routunious surfaces with Fink, and chokes on air. He can't breathe out of the water since he kissed the green woman. She swims up to grasp him in a hug, kissing him deeply again and then submerging to pull down Routunious's pantaloons. She struggles with his robe and as they sink again it is just barely possible to make out that they are engaged in an act of sexual congress.

Degar again hits the bark creature, causing it to explode into splinters which rain down around the angry dwarf.

Elessaria goes to the pool and dips her hands into it, using them to wash as much sap off of herself as she can. The green woman under the water looks up from what she is doing at this unclean use of her water and frowns. Elessaria doesn't care, even after washing the sap from her face, arms and hands she continues to worsen as the poison spreads through her system.

Degar checks body of fallen bark creature but it has no treasure. Suddenly, he gets a bright idea and pushes his warhammer into the pooling sap oozing from the creature's wounds.

Stago retrieves all of his sling bullets that he can find.

Elessaria scratches a fungoid's head. It makes a mournful noise and leads Elessaria to the cavern-room with the mushroom large circle of mushrooms. She is too weak to resist. Degar and Duncan follow with weapons drawn.

Because Routunious is underwater, Tick-a-Tick stands motionless.

"That's a problem," Stago says. He uses his wand of perfect illusion to create the image of Routunious -- complete with voice -- to command Tick-a-Tick to move toward the pool. Stago ties rope to Tick-a-Tick and then tosses the other end into the pool.

Meanwhile, friendly fungoid has lead Elessaria to a large mushroom and is pointing to it and farting. It gestures as though funneling food into its mouth.

"You want me to eat it?" She asks, then says, "I'm too weak to argue."

Elessaria grabs a hunk of the mushroom and eats it. Almost instantly she has a convulsion and breaks out into a hot sweat. She falls to her knees but feels strenght flooding through her and knows that she is regaining control of her musculature.

Degar explores the small alcove just off the room with the pool and finds a pile
of treasure:

2849 gold pieces...he pockets 100 pieces before calling out to the others to divulge his find. In addition to the gold, there are 6,700 coppers and a suit of brigandine armor that the dwarf is certain has an enchanted quality to it.

Elessaria returns to the pool chamber and says, "We need to rest and recover before we undertake the search for the priest. Set watch and take turns eating and resting.

21 Eleasias, 1368: Into the Crypts

The party steps through the wedged portcullis and enteres the corridor. The priests of Lathander were buried here; the high priests in graves and the lesser priests in the alcoves on either side of the passage. Long, narrow alcoves are stacked three high along both walls of this tunnel, and the floor is covered with graves. The graves are covered by large slabs of stone and bronze depicting the deceased and listing their titles and accomplishments. All of them seem to be priests and warriors devoted to Lathander, the god of the morning.

Elessaria walks in, steps on a grave and holds her breath. Nothing happens. Degar follows her in. He whispers, "There are crypts everywhere ye look. You have to hand it to them, these priests didn't waste any space."

Elessaria walks down the hall, and rounds the corner and sees that the crypts here have been excavated and a tunnel has been dug behind them. Stago walks around the other way, and joins them. He peers down the tunnel that has been dug through the graves there. They decide it would be prudent to thoroughly search the crypt area before venturing down the tunnel.

He finds a door with a fairly complex lock. He takes off his armor to better his chances for lock-picking, and other thieving skills. He checks for traps, but doesn't detect any. The halfling manages to pick it the lock in 5 minutes time.

Once the door is opened, Fink & Degar look inside and see a small stone chamber with two benches and a mural on the wall of Lathander descending from morning clouds. The benches are covered with yellow tablecloths and set with golden candlesticks, blackened silver censers, and a pink stone disk, Lathander's holy symbol.

"This is interesting," Fink says. The halfling spends an entire hour searching for traps in this hidden chapel, but finds none. Outside, to pass the time while the thief does his work, Routunious explains about the altar service and the ethics
and foolhardiness in stealing holy items from the temples of gods."

"We should leave it. At least for now. Close the door and if we later decide to take it with us, we know where it is," Elessaria decides.

Fink protests, "If we close that door, it will relock, and I don't know if I can open the lock a second time."

Routunious says, "Then that would be a sign from the gods that it wasn't meant to be."

"Let us enter the tunnel," Elessaria says.

This passageway was made by tearing down the back wall of a crypt alcove and then tunneling down to the natural limestone caverns below. The company steps through the opening onto a rough stone tunnel sloping downward.

Just around the first bend they find the bodies of two slain guardsmen which lie next to the battered body of an enormous, insect-like creature that almost fills the narrow tunnel. The insect creature isn’t moving, but they can hear clacking noises from the tunnel beyond.

Elessaria moves guards around. Piecemeal, as they are rotted. The giant insect proves more difficult to move.

The elf asks, "What is this thing?"

Degar and Stago both reply in near unison, "Hook horror."

"This one's a male," Stago says.

Routunious asks, "How can you tell?"

Degar replies, "Because its littler than the females."

"What does a female one look like, if that one is little?"

Degar points behind the priest and says, "Like that."

Coming around the corner in the passage beyond the dead bodies is a behemoth with enormous claws for hands. It clacks the claws together in a percussive warning of impending doom.

The party falls into defensive positions, and Stago fires magic missile from his ring of spell. Tiny crackling magic bullets spring forth and strike unerringly against the chitinous hide of the creature with little to no effect.

Routunious & Fink move closer, in order to make use of their ranged weapons. Routunious readies his throwing knives and Fink nocs his bow.

Degar jumps on top of the bodies of the dead guards and prepares to use his hammer to deadly effect.

Fink moves in front and fires bow. He gets off two shots, but only one hits the creature. Degar brings his hammer down and cracks the exoskeleton of the female hook horror.

The horror swings its massive claws at degar and the dwarf manages to duck or dodge them both times. The dwarf has to move backward quickly to avoid the razor sharp beak, and nearly loses his footing on the corpses upon which he stands.

Elessaria misses both of her arrow attacks. Routunious readies a knife to throw, and the hook horror lashes out at Degar again. Though it misses with both of its claws, its beak manages a strike and it rips into the dwarf's flesh at the shoulder.

Stago fires another magic missile from his ring and this time the missles blast through the creatures natural plating, leaving smoking holes as it collapses to the floor of the tunnel. Degar is still bellowing with rage and leaps on the unconcious creature and bashes its head but can't quite seem to kill it. Elessaria approaches and uses her longsword to sever its head, ending its life once and for all.

Degar says, "Thanks, elf. I'll toast you with a draft of extra healing potion."

Fink checks bodies of the dead guards, and even the hook horrors. The first guard he examins has 18 gold pieces, the second only 16. The hook horrors carry no treasure of any kind.