Sorry about the length of this one, folks. In order to keep the secrets of our tricksy GM, this log actually covers three play sessions, including the extended one. Just as a warning, some of Bastian’s opinions have been caused by failed Insight checks. -Skewed
No sooner had Zepher and I exited the enclosure where the goblin Mosook breathed his last, we learned that the dwarf had fled in a fit of pique over being denied opportunity to practice upon the goblin. Suffice to say I was not surprised. I was surprised to learn that the crossbowman, Theren, had followed to try to talk some sense into it. I wish him luck, but I fear it shall be a difficult task. I am shamed to admit it, but I can feel nothing but relief at the temporary loss of those companions, for there is unresolved hostility between us that I would rather not have to address so soon. My relief was short-lived, however, for there was another body that was less-than-dead upon the pile. Another dwarf. My joy knew no bounds. Were it my choice, like as not I would have left it there, but the others felt we should heal the thing. And, as Kat’s magic is more draining than my own, it fell to me to heal it. Though having to use my talents is such a manner is galling at best.
Unfortunately, it was a shining paragon of dwarven culture. That is, rough and crude to the bone. It called itself Steak, which is surely accurate for such a meat-brained individual. I kept my distance as much as possible for a group of adventurers in a dungeon. Bad enough that the thing decided to follow us, I should not be expected to socialise with it.
We returned through the Halls, past the sacrificial altar of Baphomet. Zepher asked me to retrieve a moonstone from the eye socket. Climbing up with Amos’ aid, I successfully extracted the gem and stored it safely. Strangely enough, all the bodies that had previously strewn the room were gone. What could possibly want corpses, now that Malareth is gone? Perhaps it would be better not to know.
It was not long before we were accosted by a tiny reptilian man, nervously gabbling about the dragon Farallax, who was, according to the lizard, rather eager to see us. We travelled through the Halls, coming across a room floored like a chessboard. My companions warned me that some ensorcellment caused the pieces, those that were left at any rate, to attack if the proper movements were not made. Unfortunately, Zepher misstepped upon crossing, triggering the pieces to attack. I assume it was a misstep, for I find it hard to believe that someone would intentionally contravene the rules after warning me so explicitly against such an act. The pieces only seemed hostile to Zepher, so we continued cautiously along the board, trying to shield him from their ire, although he was ready to fall if necessary for the rest of us to continue on. His resolve was commendable, but the opposing queen mated him without more than a few minor scrapes and bruises, and we continued from there to the lair of the dragon Farallax. Amos assisted me to search for my fallen companions. Here he showed his worth, for he espied that which I had missed, and rappelled down into a pit himself to investigate on my behalf. A blessing, perhaps, that I did not need to go down myself, for the only part that was easily recoverable was poor Askad’s sword and hand.
We rejoined the others, and I elected to stay quiet, for Zepher seemed to have some knowledge and previous acquaintance with this dragon. I was careful to hide it from such a dangerous adversary, but I can feel nothing but scorn for something so vain and proud. After some treating with the dragon, and exchanging the head of Malareth for an intriguing suit made of russet leaves, the dragon revealed one of the reasons behind its overweening smugness. Beneath its horse-sized rump, encased in the same frost that rimed the walls of the lair, was the dwarf, Jorn. I suppose I must acknowledge its name, now that we have two of the pests to contend with. According to the dragon, Jorn had tasted something called Inviolation Ichor while poking around for ritual components. Trust a dwarf to stick its finger into every pot and cause trouble for others. According to the dragon, this Ichor causes an extremely contagious malady that can only be contained using intense cold, such as the dragon’s breath. He also told us that Theren had been seen fleeing the dungeon, although he was vague about when it happened. He also told us that the only hope for Jorn is to take it to a healer called Immil, but that we must hurry before the ice wears off and the contagion spreads, although we are safe until removing the body from the chill of Farallax’ lair.
Zepher questioned the dragon, showing as much servility as possible to stroke its ego, learning that the red mirror in the lair allows it to view places of interest. Upon asking about a sigil door, Farallax dismissed this, although so much so that it would likely be in our interests to investigate that which the dragon does not want us to. Everybody seemed to fear for Jorn, for the dragon grew more insistent in its desire to eat it, so we took the body, swaddled for our own protection, and exited the Twisting Halls.
Emerging into the light, we all spread out to try and find a horse Amos had hidden in the nearby forest. Not well enough, however, for it was only Zepher’s keen eye that spotted the beast. Seems like a normal horse, despite having a bone charm sutured into its ear.
We make good time, travelling through the forest. Amos volunteered to scout ahead, so we saw little of him the entire journey, save for when he checked in to report. We made good time, despite the fact that the meathead tried to feed Poison Ivy to the horse. Luckily the others were not so foolish and stopped him in time. Zepher used his magical arts to keep the body as cold as possible.
Eventually we catch sight of Cavendor Town. The stories seemed to be true about the state of it, although some of the cottages seemed to show signs of maintenance. As we approached the central manor of the town, I spied movement from one of the cottages, so we all delayed briefly to investigate.
We investigated the hovel from outside, but to no avail. Furthermore, neither entreaty nor threats shouted from outside elicited any response. Eventually, the meathead lost patience and kicked the door down. Attempted to, at any rate. Took the thing five good tries before the rotted and weathered old door finally gave way. Were the situation not so serious, it would have been amusing to watch.
Both Kat and Zepher spotted signs of habitation, so we entered cautiously, Kat in the lead. A dishevelled man sprung from hiding to attack. To my complete and utter surprise, it was the meathead itself who actually managed to calm the man. Will wonders never cease? The man, Vaughn, told us that Immil lived in the mansion on the hill. We left the man fretting about his door. Zepher offered him gold, as is proper, but it seemed that he would have no use for it in a place such as this. Unfortunately, Vaughn’s refusal of money left the other sullen, and they gruffly denied him any other form of recompense before leaving. I would have thought that my sister-elf was more empathetic, but I’m afraid I must have been wrong in my estimation. In my opinion the situation could have been dealt with in a more diplomatic manner, but the need was pressing.
At first glance, the mansion seemed derelict, being old and overgrown. However, upon closer inspection it became apparent that the mansion was merely lived in by someone very close to nature, a great lover of plants. Kat informed us that the garden was home to herbs only used by skilled practitioners of the healing arts.
Knocking at the main door provoked sounds of movement within, but it was only when Kat shouted for a healer that a door opened on the balcony above, showing brilliant blue eye sighting us down the haft of a crossbow. This man we rightly assumed to be Immil, who was justifiably suspicious. He questioned us about Jorn, and then went on a diatribe about various subjects, the untrustworthiness of dragons and the shoddy training of today’s Pelorites being foremost among them. Say one thing about this man, say that he can talk. Loath as I was to interrupt him, I had to interject on our behalf. For while I am perfectly content to let the dwarf perish for his stupidity, in true barbaric fashion he is endangering the rest of us as well. I would not will such a malady upon the others.
I could see only one way to expedite this process, and that was to… help… the meathead lift Jorn up to Immil. I shall say no more on this, for I would not wish my journal to fill to the brim with the vitriol that would likely ensue. Suffice to say, Immil cast a ritual upon the body, averting the crisis. Temporarily, at least. He then invited the meathead and I inside, stating that Kat and Zepher must remain outside.
But I digress. For then I was inside the house with Immil and two dwarves. My elation knew no bounds. The mansion itself was somewhat of a distraction, however, being full of books of every subject, strange artefacts, oddly-shaped curios and lovely paintings. The furniture was worn, but once it would have been magnificent. The meathead was busy gawking at this or that column or buttress, so was not able to annoy. Nor did he say anything useful, I might add. Meanwhile, I attempted to spy upon Immil as he treated Jorn, although he seemed to be investigating rather than actually healing. I was not able to hear much, but I gathered the following:
*Inviolation Ichor is indeed a very serious disease. Our precautions were justified, and the dragon’s information was accurate, thus far, including the necessity of keeping the victim cold.
*Something connected to Inviolation Ichor happened at or near Fallcrest, twenty years ago. Immil learned something there, unfortunately I could not make out from whom, just that it was a halfling.
*According to Farallax, Jorn had tasted a finger after plunging it into the Ichor. However, Immil in his investigation was primarily concerned with the back of Jorn’s neck.
*Immil seemed reasonably comfortable with the meathead and I, despite the fact that he didn’t seem to want the others around.
It was then that Immil finished his ministrations, and informed us that because treatment would take time, we should return after 2 days to collect the weakened dwarf. After this, he gave us the blessing of his god. I could feel vitality and clarity flooding through me at his benediction. Furthermore, he gave us both a potion that would knit our wounds, with the warning that anyone not of a similar mindset would suffer malignant effects were they to imbibe it. As he gave us these gifts, I blurted the question that had been on my mind regarding the Ichor on the dwarf’s neck. He regarded me suspiciously, while I mentally kicked myself for such a ham-fisted approach, but informed me that the Ichor had indeed been implied to the back of the neck. Perhaps Jorn, despite being a dwarf, was not so stupid after all. In this regard.
We each had unfinished business in the Twisting Halls, so we made the journey back to that stinking pit. Our first destination was the Sigil Door, which Zepher had been working on for quite some time, if he is to be believed. This was something I had no experience of, but Zepher was kind enough to explain the details to me, as he depressed each sigil just so. When the final rune was activated, the door trembled before swinging wide with a gust of wind. A column of heavenly light lanced down, glinting off a purple gem set in a finely-crafted golden chain. The amulet floated in the air as if worn on the shoulders of a great minotaur, and Zepher stared in awe at the amulet. The amulet sparked something deep in my mind, recalling a time, years ago, when I would study with my father in the small hours of the night, high above the ground in one of Rökholm’s mighty towers. A chapter on the religions of the realm bore a beautiful illumination showing a head priest donning such a vestment, resplendent after his purification elsewhere.
Zepher immediately tried to grab the amulet, to no avail. It faded and became incorporeal whenever any hand reached it, stymieing any attempt to claim it. The meathead suggested cleansing, which I am sure is a first for it, and dashed off to find the purification chamber. Kat went along to keep an eye on it. I elected to investigate a large basin in the adjacent room, provoking an unexpected occurrence. As I approached the basin, the waters cleared, and I felt as if I could see anywhere I desired. Of course, concern about the dragon was foremost in my mind. As I focused upon that concern, the waters swirled and resolved into a picture of the dragon himself, luxuriating atop his horde as his kobold minions groomed him. Perhaps the basin also gave me enhanced empathy, for I could sense that he eagerly awaited our return. I know not what devilish plan lies in store, but I doubt that it will culminate in anything but corpses and wealth for Farallax.
Zepher realised that the amulet should not be touched with bare hands, and summarily enlisted aid in being held up to minotaur height. The amulet settled around his neck, and he entered some sort of trance, a faraway look in his eyes. Snapping out of it, he rushed us to the prayer chambers to worship Pelor. Why I could not fathom, but we tagged along nonetheless. Wondering if another amulet could be conjured if the Sigil Door was once again opened, the meathead went into the other room and closed it behind him. For some reason, Zepher refused to part with the correct rune sequence. Despite this, the boneheaded dwarf forged ahead, pressing willy-nilly and triggering an alarm that rang through the entire dungeon. The dwarf was cut off from us, however, so perhaps it was a mixed blessing. While talking with Zepher, it seems that he had though the meathead was trying to steal the amulet from him, rather than conjuring another. While I can understand his reluctance to assist in such a matter, his manner seems ever so slightly too… covetous… for my taste. Couple this with his strange impulse of earlier, and I begin to wonder if the amulet is having some effect on his mind.
It was not long after the alarm sounded that Farallax emerged, trailing his Kobold bodyguards. Zepher immediately set to grovelling, but the dragon was more astute than previously, recognising the falsity and growing angry. It was then that he set eyes upon the amulet around Zepher’s neck. Such a light of avarice was kindle in the dragon’s eyes, such blatant greed I had not seen in all my days. Luckily, Zepher managed to convince the dragon that the amulet was in fact a curse, preventing him from sleeping, and that it could not be removed without killing him and then destroying himself, neatly forestalling the inevitable chain of thought that Farallax would take the amulet by force. Not that this would stop the greedy dragon, who invited Zepher into his lair to ‘lift the curse’. However, the meathead suggested that destroying the statue of Baphomet would help to lessen Zepher’s ‘curse’. The dragon latched onto this, and chivvied us all to the statue. We successfully navigated the chessboard once again, despite Farallax urging us to make illegal moves. Somehow it seems he does not properly know the rules. It soon became apparent that it was not necessary for him, for he merely launched himself into the air and flew across. Effective, if a touch ungainly.
Farallax immediately set upon the statue when he entered the room, but no matter what he did the statue remained untouched. His ire built further and further until he was raging uncontrollably at the statue, before he looked around with his avaricious eyes, realising that the moonstones were no longer in the statue’s eyes. He cast about, frantically interrogating us as to the whereabouts of ‘his’ gem. I tried to hide it from him, to deny any knowledge of its existence, but the foul beast could smell it upon me. With a mighty roar, he slashed me from scalp to sternum, sending my blood spattering over the walls and sending me crumpled to the ground near senseless. Zepher and Amos were kind enough to drag me to another room, where we rested while my wounds healed. Oddly enough, through my lengthy recuperation I noticed the kobolds paying obeisance to Bahamut.
Having gained the gem, and secure in the knowledge that Zepher would not try to leave the Twisting Halls, Farallax was content to let us explore. There was one area left completely unexplored, save for the brief foray Amos and I had undertaken earlier. Thus we decided to clear out the goblin remnants we had detected.
We brazenly made our way to the first room, only for one of the goblins to recongise Kat and Zepher!
We were readying the attack when a strange halfling entered the room. She didn’t seem hostile, merely slinking over to a corner and hiding herself from the goblins, so we prepared to fight the obvious threat. No sooner had we begun to advance than a cry of rang out in goblin from a further room, telling our adversaries to fall back. It seemed to me like these goblins were not particularly hostile, but the others charged forward, and the battle was joined. It went much as battle does, each contributing their own to the fray. It was when the tide turned in our favour that the goblins started crying out in supplication to someone, or something, called ‘Karaash’. Desperately, they seemed to be readying themselves for some momentous even to happen. When nothing materialised, they cried out once more, this time openly to a large urn on one wall.
Zepher warned us that the Urn was full of Everburning Embers, which could potentially do great damage to us, advising us to exit the room as soon as physically possible. Amos refused to quit the room, and so for some inexplicable reason the meathead thought it would be a good idea to bull in and kick him in the unmentionables! Of course, he then merely tugged ineffectually at the now falsetto Amos. As for me, during the exchange of blows I attuned to the Feywild to teleport myself behind one of the goblins, attempting to clear a path for the others while removing me from the room in the process. Soon after, a bugbear stood up behind the brazier, tipping it over to fill the room some of us had only just managed to vacate. Amos skilfully dodges the flying embers, and manages to dance his way to clear ground. Kat and the meathead were not so lucky, however, being set ablaze from the bugbear’s attack, as well as suffering the burning floor now covered in hot coals. The bugbear brandished an elaborate longsword pulsing with red veins, shouting in glee at the damage it had caused.
We quickly despatched the remaining goblins, one of whom sputtered something as it fell to Kat’s blade, before pressing the attack against this Karaash. The hobgoblin seemed particularly intent upon the meathead, and carved a great gash down his front, rending him asunder, though not incapacitating him. The meathead is durable, I will give him that. We surrounded the hobgoblin, slowly whittling his vitality piece by piece. His sword was devastating, biting deep into Kat and seemingly draining some of her life essence in the process. It was then that the halfling sprung once more out of hiding and felled the hobgoblin. He had nothing of worth save for the sword, which went to Kat. It remains to be seen whether this was in fact a gift. Kat herself gave an amulet to the halfling, as thanks for saving her life and finishing Karaash.
The halfling quickly set to rifling through some barrels that were in the room. The others did not object, so I kept quiet. Until the third one, that is, when she uncovered Sara stuffed into it, hidden away. I… could not do anything. The sight of her, crammed pale and unmoving in rough wood, it unmanned me. I only snapped back to my senses when the halfling started removing Sara’s possessions. I had to put a stop to it, but not before her knives had been taken. This I let go, for I know she would want those knives to be put to good use. The other barrels contained rations and trash, nothing of particular import. It was a unanimous decision that if we allowed Zepher to be taken back to Farallax’ lair, it was almost certain that he would not exit. It was then, I think, that we truly resolved to slay the dragon.
Of course, with the fighting done the kobolds slunk back in to take us to Farallax. Thinking that we should cull some of the dragon’s minions before taking him on, we tried to lure them into the room and trap them, so they could be dispatched without alerting their master. Alas, but they were too spread out. We followed them back through the halls. I could not get a good count of them, but I surmised that there were at least 5. Zepher tried to remove the amulet on the way, only for it to tarnish and crack. Donning it repaired it slightly, although it still seemed adversely affected. How very odd. I suppose that touching it with the hands is still forbidden. Nearing Farallax’ lair, we quickly broke off and dashed to another room, containing a large brazier and a sigil upon the floor. We could hear the scurrying and gabbling of the kobolds as they scampered to report our sudden shift. Zepher explained to me the function of the room, as we all formulated a plan. We would hide along the walls, slaying any kobolds that ventured in, then tipping fire upon the dragon as soon as it entered. Zepher quickly nailed one of the doors shut, while I examined the sigil upon the floor. It seemed as if I should recognise it, when suddenly it hit me. I had heard of this sigil from an old wanderer who had shared a fire with myself and the others before my first ill-fated venture into these halls. He seemed a bit addled, and most of what he said was nonsense, save for a snippet describing this rune to perfection and hinting as to how it works. Well, with a quick examination I was able to figure out how to deactivate it.
Now we are waiting in this room, huddled against the walls with readied weapons, waiting for the dragon to crash down upon us. Zepher is hiding behind the brazier, waiting to dump fire upon the dragon. The tension is mounting, and I can only hope that we survive this next battle.