Godsday, Rainyday 14, CY 593
The next morning Kenric went to the Coy Nixie to get paid his 500 gold coin for working at the the ball. The Aslaxins were so pleased with Kenric’s work as a barkeep they gave him an extra 200 gold bonus. After that, he wandered over to The Tipped Tankard to meet the rest of us for breakfast. After breakfast we all went to Gurnezarn’s Smithy, my mentor, to sell the metal armor and weapons we had looted from the bandits at The Lucky Monkey.
After selling our mundane things to Gurnezarn, we then then headed over to Skie’s to do some dealings in magical goods. We entered Skie’s and she was very excited. She made us some coffee and brought us some wonderful smelling baked treats.
Kenric told her the story of what happened to us over the past couple days at the Lucky Monkey. As he was telling the story, Listens to Winds began to act out the story, but it looked more like he was having a seizure. She seemed to like the story despite the bad acting.
We then headed to court to deal with the four prisoners we had brought back with us. In the hallway,(…Thom digresses… now, back to the story….) It was crowded in the Town Hall hallway. We saw a couple of public defender type folks and then in the mob of people we saw Sir Alec Turcival. Braedon greeted him and Alec told us we had drawn Judge Legorand Tannin for the trial.
He tells us Tannin is tough. We select Braedon to represent us as our normal court-room representative, Gerran, was preoccupied at the Lucky Monkey with Shensen, that shifty drow. We entered the court room and there were only a few people in attendance.
The elderly elf sitting behind the bench looked cranky. Bob called the court to order while the Judge sifted through his notes.
“This morning it looks like we have the Moonhowlers vs a group of Peaceful Patrons of the Lucky Monkey. Who is bringing the charges?” the old geezer said in an officious tone.
Braedon stood up to the podium. “I am.” he said, matter of factly.
The prisoners were brought in, then, and we could see they were being represented by the same, slimy looking defender that handled our last few cases.
Alex stood up at that point, so Listens, still trying to fit into this alien society, stood up with him.
Braedon then addressed the court, “The charges we bring against these very non-peaceful prisoners is multiple murders, destruction of property and association with a lychanthrope.” Braedon just threw that last one in there to see if it would stick. The crowd gasped, so I guess it had the desired effect.
After a bit Braedon began becoming more eloquent than usual. We saw the hem of Braedon’s new cloak was glowing just slightly with a faint purplish light. Oh yes! This was the cloak Braedon had won at the Demonskar Ball ! It must have some sort of magic in it to make you talk better!
When Braedon had finished delivering a sizzling accusation against the Suel and Alleybashers, the defender, Torskelo Jusk (aka Smarmy Smarmalmouth) shouldered Braedon aside and stepped up to the podium. Smary explained how Korrin, one of the Alleybashers, was a citizen of Sasserine and Cauldron does not have jurisdiction over Sasserine citizens outside of Cauldron and that the Lucky Monkey was clearly not within Cauldron. Without further ado, the Judge ordered her to be extradited to Sasserine.
The next person, the female Alleybasher, Ildawind, was then brought up. Smarmy argued that there just wasn’t enough evidence to support Braedon’s claims. The Judge growled and threw the book at her, giving her sixteen years in prison. The next prisoner, a male Suel was brought in and the Judge gave him seventeen years – I guess one extra year just for being Suel. The last tribesman was then brought in – the drunken Suel woman – she still looked drunk. The Judge, for some unknown reason, simply let her go.
Well, we put two away, but we lost two, too. Nothing bad to say about Braedon and his new fancy cloak, but I think we kind of miss Gerran and his silver tongue.
On the way out of the courthouse we noticed that the water level in Cauldron Lake had risen even further! Time was running out and it seemed like only Jenya Urikas was even the slightest bit worried. Don’t these people know the are drowning?
I took a few minutes to visit Cauldron Couriers where I hastily wrote a letter to Gerran at the Lucky Monkey letting him know of the events in Court and let him know I notified his mom about where he was at. I then headed down to the Malachite Hold Forge to clean up a longsword for Kenric and to check to see if the Lake level was affecting the Hold. As I got to Kegans Lockshop I see there was a gnome behind the counter and she was trying on Kegan’s stilts that he normally kept in the corner. She introduced herself as Mardizg Mibbimottin – I’m just going to call her Mar. It turns out she was Kegan’s niece and was in town with the Jzadirune Reclamation League. I think she might be planning on running the lockshop while her uncle is still in jail.
After introducing myself, I proceeded to the backroom, opened the latch of the concealed door and tromped down the stone stairs to Jzadirune. As I reached the first landing, I could see there were gnome kids playing in the main foyer and the smells of tea and crumpets hit my nose. I noticed as I headed through the passages that Gnomergan was all cleaned up and it was a heck of a lot louder. The gnomes had been busy!
I headed into the Hold and the giant stone guardian bowed to me. “Madame, all is well in the Hold,” it said to me in a rough and rumbling voice.
I then saw a creeper dart from the shadows. I could see him only because he wanted me to see him, otherwise I am sure he would just seem like a flitting shadow to me. He waved at me and then followed me as I made my way to The Forge. My own creepy little bodyguard.
When I got to the forge it was also very loud. My two apprentices were working hard and helping them, at their side, was their families! I went up to one of them and delegated the task of cleaning up the longsword and told him when he was done to deliver it to Kenric at the Church of Pelor. I told the group to make sure the Hold was always kept clean. About that time Yathaub entered the Forge with some news for me. We went to my throne room to talk.
In the throne room it was just me, Yathaub and some creepers. “My Lady," he said to me softly, "we have heard word back from Duvek’s Mine. They wish to meet with you to discuss business. Their leader Aldrick Garthun and he wants to meet with you.“
I told Yathaub we could meet with them here at the Hold in five days time.
“I will send word,” he replied with a nod.
He then told me the small underground lake in the Hold had risen and the water was seeping in. I asked him to do a little exploring to see if he could find that elusive second entrance into the Hold. We all knew there was at least one other other entrance at one time located in the tunnel that led to the Underdark.
I also told Yathaub that I would offer to build a memorial for his lady, L’aila D’aub, in the Hold someday. He left to go and cry in his room. I’ll toughen him up one day. I then went to my room to store my loot and to clean up my armor.
While I was down in the Hold, Kenric and Listens to Wind headed to the Bluecrater Academy to determine Kenric’s fate. At the Academy the doormen guarding the front, Agden Eness and Musundo, inquired about Listens to Wind.
“Is this your guest?” they asked. “You know, guests of the Bluecrater Academy are restricted to the Grand Hall, Universal Library, Cafeteria , Alchemy classrooms, and the Auditorium.”
After Kenric gave them assurances he would keep LTW in line, they let Kenric and Listens to Wind, with Hoppy, enter the Academy.
Kenric first went to the Bursars office of Margorie Valentor. It occured to Listens to Wind that the space inside the Academy seemed much larger then what could be seen from the outside. They entered the Bursur’s office and asked for Cannon Althalos Runedald. The Bursur’s secretary told them that neither the Bursur nor the Canon were in their offices but if they wanted to make themselves comfortable, she would notify the first one she saw.
Kenric stated, “I’ll be in the cafeteria,” and the trio promptly left the office,
When they got to the cafeteria, the room was empty but there was free food! They were there for about fifteen minutes when Cannon Rundald rushed in. Kenric introduced Listens to Wind and Hoppy to the out-of-breath Cannon.
The Cannon nodded at LTW and even to little Hoppy, and then he started in on Kenric with a rush of workds. “Kenric, where have you been?" Runedald gasped. "Do you know what is going on?”
Kenric said he didn’t but told him the story of the Lucky Monkey. At this point, Listens to Winds started making sound effects to go along with the story. Kenric shot the barbaric ranger a withering look and LTW stopped and sat back down in his seat, content to eat his ham and cheese sandwich. (Game Note: Shout out to our Southern California following. What’s up dudes!)
The Cannon then interrupted Kenric, “We don’t have time for all of this," he said with a note of exasperation in his voice. "The chancellors are gathering and there is going to be an inquisition. Weer and Abradius’s bedrooms are off limits and you were caught in there. The She-Devil you took…”
Listens to Winds interrupted at that point. "You mean,Karina? She is not a devil. She is nice,” he said quite gruffly. The Cannon took a moment to look down at LTW who had a pickle sticking out of his mouth. The Cannon seemed a little shocked to be interrupted so. Clearly he wasn’t used to be treated with such indifference, perhaps especially from low-born tribesmen. He looked like he was about to blow up at LTW.
“I suggest we not mention this to Karina nor involve her in any way.” Kenric smoothly inserted. Runedald nodded his agreement and then continued.
“Sasha’s involvement should not be mentioned, either," he said. "What defense are you planning on using, Kenric?”
Kenric looked as if he had been goosed for a moment and then got his composure back. "Curiosity?” he said with a grin. Runedald grinned back and slapped him on the back.
“That might just do,” he said, still grinning.
A page ran into the cafeteria at that moment in an excited rush. “It’s starting! It is starting!” he yelled across the room to them.
Kenric and Runedald walked slowly toward the procession rooms with LTW and Hoppy lagging behind – craning their necks every which way to gawk at the wonders within the Academy.
“I was curious about wild magic," Kenric continued. “There is a sign outside Weer’s apartments that says its a wild magic zone and that its dangerous, but we were in there and it doesn’t seem dangerous and I didn’t see anything that might be called wild magic.”
The Cannon thought for a moment and then said, “Wild Magic does exist and for some reason a patch of it has appeared within Weer and Abradius’s apartments. It’s just that it seems to pulse at times. Sometimes it gets into a rhythm, like a heartbeat, making it hard to detect. You just need to be there at the right time. Besides, you have to cast a spell with a known effect and then observe an ‘unintended’ effect before you can actually detect Wild Magic.”
He looked at Kenric seriously then, “You cast several spells while you were in those apartments and if you weren’t watching you may have missed it. Sometimes if you cast, say, a spell of Light within a wild magic zone, the change might be as simple as a shift in hue, making the light appear more green than normal, while other times you may cast a Light spell and end up with a Flame Strike spell instead. Very dangerous, indeed.”
At that point Kenric noticed there were more people in the hallways. Philoshia and Dayshoo, two members of the Cauldron Seekers, ran past.
“Kenric, good luck! We will all be cheering you on,” they said before pelting on up the hallway ahead of them.
A couple of pages stopped them at that point, “I’m sorry. Visitors are not allowed beyond this point,“ they said looking at LTW and Hoppy. “But you can wait in here,” they said, pointing to a dark side room that looked very much like an alchemy lab.
Listens to Wind ignored them and kept following the Cannon and Kenric. The Cannon stopped and looked back at LTW. “Pardon me, Mr. Wind,” he said, "I think it is best you don’t argue with the pages.”
Listens to Wind and Hoppy both hung their heads and, dejectedly, entered the Alchemy room with one of the pages.
Three minutes later Kenric and the Cannon finally reached the end of the hallway. The Seekers were all there waiting for Kenric where they wished him one more round of “good lucks.”
Kenric and the Cannon were then let into the processional room. In the room were a lot of people. At the bottom of the stairs was a platform with seats on it. The Chancellors were all seated on the platform and in a chair just off to the side sat a very dejected-looking Sasha.
The doors then closed and the heavy ruffling and murmuring diminished into a palpable silence. The Arch Chancellor cleared his throat before beginning.
“Ah, Master Belious," he said pompously, looking over at Kenric. “It is good of you to join us today. We have been having a nice chat with our friend Sasha, here, but . . .” Blah, blah, blah… [Thom rattled on for what seemed like hours before he finally had the Arch Chancellor get to the point.] "…so, I say, man; what in the name of the nine hells where you doing in there?”
Kenric looked a little scared and said the only word that popped into his numbed brain, “Curiosity."
There was a tittering of polite laughter about the room and the Chancellors all shared amused glances with one another.
Kenric got a little braver and continued, "You know, burned out room, sign on the door saying ‘wild magic’, and then, somehow, the portal opened.”
The Court of Wizards then spent quite some time interrogating Kenric.
After awhile they tired of Kenric and began to ask Sasha questions. They subjected her to some spells. Then they turned on Rundald about his experiences.
“Well," he said at one point, "I theorize that Sasha was sucked into the portal just before it closed, like a vacuum. Later that night after Kenric finished cleaning up all of the junk that fell into the room, I went back and was able to open the portal again. I quickly went inside. It was clearly a pocket dimension of some kind and it was very cold beyond. There was just a little junk lying about just inside the portal as most of it had fallen into the apartment when Kenric accidentally opened it. But there was quite a bit of greenish mud. I found Sasha just off to the side. She was cold, wet and not moving. I quickly grabbed her and stepped back through the portal and then moved to the far end of the apartment as the portal closed. When I got Sasha revived, she could not remember anything that had happened to her from about breakfast on. I suspect memory loss is a side effect of the exposure to the demi-plane.
“Since then Kenric and I have discussed the fact that this may have happened to Weer and Fator Abradius. They may have entered the portal, accidentally or on purpose, and succumbed to the effects of the demi-plane. They may still be in there for all we know.”
There was quite a loud ruckus in the room at that point as audience members and Chancellors, alike, gasped and murmured about this new possibility. These two lost wizards – long thought dead – might actually still be alive.
The Arch Chancellor then called the room to order. “I propose an expedition," he said with a new lightness to his voice. "Kenric Bellios, you have a week to assemble your team and venture forth into the portal and plane beyond. Investigate this place. Find out what you can about its effects, its origins, if its poses any threat to our Academy or to Cauldron, and see if you can find Abradius and old man Weer. And! I expect a full report submitted to my desk in no more than eight days time. Get cracking. Assemble your team!”
The courtroom erupted into a loud cacophony of shouts and raised voices. Rundald immediately turned to Kenric and offered to go with him on the expedition.
Kenric looked bewildered and never one to pass up an opportunity, looked up to the Chancellors and asked, “Soooooo . . . am I getting paid for this?”
Meanwhile, in the alchemy lab, Listens to Wind was left with one of the pages. LTW begged the poor guy to show him how to make a simple alchemical substance. Of course LTW (and Hoppy) wanted to help. So, the two (three) of them tried to make a smoke stick. (GM Quote: “We have left the sandbox. We are just winging it, just winging it!”) Listens, Hoppy and Inay, the page, spent an hour trying to determine the materials needed for the smoke stick. Inay finally began to show Listens to Wind how to make the thing when the stick briefly smoked and then went out. Not bad for two people who didn’t know what they were doing. It sounded to me from the description I heard that the once exasperated page was kind of enjoying himself by the end of the little alchemy session. Just as they finished they heard noises in the hallway as Kenric’s “trial” ended.
On the way out of the processional hall, the Cannon told Kenric that for the short few seconds he was in the demi-plane he didn’t really look around as he was more concerned with scooping up Sasha from the cold, green muck and getting her back through the portal before it closed. He told Kenric that however they planned to carry out this expedition that they would need a way to protect the mind and the body from the effects of the palce and to find a way to either keep the portal open while they were there or else to find a way to open the portal from the other side.
Meanwhile, outside the Academy, Braedon and Karina were on their way to the Church of Pelor when they decided to go shopping. Karina, having no memory of cities like this one, was amazed as she walked down the streets. She also noticed that no one seemed to care that her skin was kind of purplish and that she had two small horns protruding from her forehead. The truth is, there are lots of different sizes, shapes and colors of people in Cauldron when you just take a moment to look around. Sure, there were plenty of dwarves, gnomes, halflings, elves, half-orcs and the like running about, but there were also quite a few of these folks with strange oddities like horns, scales, wings and tails, too.
After shopping, they finally made it back to the church where Braeden immediately stripped down and climbed up the tower stairs to pray naked underneath the Church’s giant crystal apex.
While everything Karina had been experiencing this past week hanging out with the Moonhowlers was new and exciting, this unexpected behavior on the part of Braeden shocked her and she walked away in the other direction, the skin on her face blushing with an even pinker shade of purple.
Meanwhile back at the Lucky Monkey, it was raining again. The drow, Shensen, was fixing up the shrine to Fharlangan. Gerran approached and asked her, “Would you be opposed to returning to Cauldron? I have a shrine to put together there, as well. You could help me, since you seem to know what you are doing, and I have friends there that we could ask to take over the Inn."
She looked at him and frowned, “I will need to talk to ”/campaigns/moscowscap/characters/71194" class=“wiki-content-link”>Tyro about that and I could talk with him tonight. We Pathwardens have ways to speak to each other, even when we are far apart."
Gerran considered this and then added, “Well, I have some ideas on how we can turn a profit on this, Inn. I know people back in Cauldron who have money and resources. We could use that to help us out.”
Shensen frowned again and then looked over Gerran shoulder and said, “We’d better start something fast. Look." She pointed out the window where a caravan of carriages and people were trodding through the muck and gloom towards the Lucky Monkey Inn.
Gerran could see it was a procession of some sort. He could see three covered palanquins and over fifty people milling around. But there were no horses to be seen. All of the people were dressed in colorful orange and green clothes. A little boy with a tall bald man carrying an umbrella over his head to keep the pounding rain off his bright clothing were slowly walking up the path to the Inn’s front steps.
Gerran and Shensen hurried to the door, opened it and stepped out to welcome their new guests. The bald guy looked up at them and said, “Master Phacknuem wishes to inform you that the assembly from the Church of the Whirling Furies, as notified, are currently ready for our stay. Please make sure you respect our vow of silence. I assume you have the food we requested?" This last part was more statement than question. It also became apparent that “Master Phacknuem” was, in fact, the small boy under the umbrella.
Gerran didn’t really know what to say to that so Shensen peeked over his shoulder and spoke up, “We can give you warm beds but you will need to provide your own food. We have had a terrible run-in with bandits a few days ago and they ran off or destroyed most of our stock.”
Over the next fifteen minutes the Inn filled up with colorful but silent monks. The group was paying well for one week of pure silence. Only the bald man would speak and he did so in hushed tones. He explained to Gerran and Shensen that the group would be meditating most of the day and they required a strictly vegetarian diet.
Gerran spent the next few hours trying to make a second master key and then planned on making temporary keys for all of the rooms. The drow and Gerran took turns staying up all night long, lighting lanterns around the Inn.
Around midnight Gerran reminded the drow that she needed to talk with Meerthan/Tyro. An hour later she found Gerran and took him to the Shrine where she whispered to him, "I have spoken to Meerthan, my master, and while he told me that I must remain here at the Lucky Monkey he also asked if you would be willing to join the Pathfinders?”
Back to the City: It was still early in the afternoon when Kenric, Listens To Wind, Hoppy, Canon Runedald and Sasha exited the Blue Crater Academy through the extra large wooden doors and stood on the steps to observe the city of Cauldron spreading out before them. The rain was coming down in buckets and a warm mist crept between buildings and down avenues. Listens could see that the water level on the lake had, indeed, risen significantly. The tiny huts crowded along the lakeshore where most of Cauldron’s poor lived were slowly being flooded. Most of those huts were built on stilts, but the water level had reached even the highest perched of these buildings and only the shabby roofs of some could be seen. Listens noticed how odd it seemed that the armada of fishing boats moored along the docks floated atop the high water mark like beasts in the fog ready to descend upon the city. He shook his head. This was bad. He knew this was very bad. What stupid people these Cauldronites are to build their city inside a giant mud puddle with no way for the water to escape. Stupid people.
A throng of mages suddenly poured out of the doors behind the small group. Kenric turned and saw it was the Seekers, the small club of misfits that had somehow become his one and only social group at the Academy. He was still unsure if being seen in their vicinity was helping or hindering his standing at the prestigious school.
The Seekers jumped up and down around him, congratulating him and patting him on the back. ‘Well,’ he thought to himself, ‘maybe they are good for some things.’
He turned to their leader, a dark young man named Jereeo, a Rhennee, he guessed, probably a misplaced native of the Duchy of Urnst or some such place. “Hey, guys!” Kenric said to them all, with a little bit too much cheer in his voice. “Now that I have this important mission, it looks like I’ve got a lot to prepare!”
The Seekers all looked at him with eagerness in their eyes. “With all of these preparations I need to make, I won’t have enough time to do proper research. Do you think you could help me with that?” The Seekers all looked a little crestfallen. They were really hoping Kenric would ask them to go on the mission with him, not do his research for him. But, alas, they all silently knew it would be rude to turn him down.
“Yea, sure. What do you need?” Jereeo asked, a bit sullenly.
“Find out everything you can on extra planer portals.” Kenric said. “Oh, and maybe look up planar cold effects and memory loss. How about see what you can find on wild magic in relation to portal activity, and see what you can dig up on the term ‘spellweaver’.”
The Seekers, as a group, quietly nodded and then did some grumbling and then slumped back into the Academy, the doors clicking loudly as the latch fell in place.
The top of the Academy steps were much less crowded when he turned to Sasha and said, “Sash, those guys might find something, who knows, but we should probably be safe and have a backup plan. We know Abradius was working on research into cold and death and the energies or powers or something that results when you mix the two. I have no idea what he could have been working with but could you dig around a bit in the Academy libraries for me? I would but I think the Moonhowlers are going to need me for the next few days as we try to save the city from imminent doom – or drowning or whatever.”
She smiled at that and then said, “Of course.”
“Oh, and we’re going to need some information gathering magic once we’re in there. Could you also see what kind of scrolls you can unearth to help us in this regard?”
She gave him a little hug before she slipped back into the Academy.
“Maybe I was pushing my luck with that last bit,” Kenric thought to himself as he watched his former tutor head back into the Academy.
At that point, Listens said, ‘Kenric. We need to go to these Kopru ruins to find Triel and the water wands. The others are probably waiting for us. We should leave now.’
“Oh yeah,” Kenric said, “the Kopru ruins. I remember reading about the Kopru a while back. They were very dangerous. They inhabited the lakes and rivers around here a long time ago. I think they were displaced by the demons who settled into the Demonskar over a thousand years ago. I’ve not heard of any being found alive. Mostly just fossils. If I recall, they had no vocal language that we know of but communicated telepathically. The old stories say they could take over a person’s mind.”
Kenric shook himself out of his rambling thoughts and saw Listens and Rundald staring at him. “You were so engaged in your history book regurgitations that you completely forgot the rest of us were standing here, didn’t you?” Rundald gently admonished.
“No way,” Kenric shot back, “I was reciting these things for your benefit. I don’t want you blaming me the next time a fossilized fish thing suddenly comes back to life and takes over your brain. Geesh!”
“Besides,” Kenric said to the Canon, “if you are going with me on this little expedition behind Abradius’s little portal, you’re going to have to do some research too.”
“Wait a minute here, Mister Belios,” Runedald said, “who’s the Canon here and who is the pupil? Don’t the Academy Canons tell their pupils to do their homework, not the other way around?”
“Really, Canon Runedald,” Kenric said, “you would think a man of your intellectual genius could do this kind of research in his sleep! I was just hoping you could figure out how to keep our minds from getting zapped when we walk into that portal and come up with a plan on how we can get back out again.”
“That last part will be easy. I’ve already figured it out,” he said with a wry grin. "I figure that saying the word “spellweaver” opens the bloody thing, all we have to do is cast a magic mouth spell near the portal and have it just repeat that word over and over again."
As Listens to Wind and Kenric headed back to the Church of Pelor, they ran into me walking out of Kegan’s Lockshop. We gathered up Braedon and Karina and headed over to Weirs to check out his potion and alchemy supplies. On the way over Listens to Wind and Kenric discussed the smoke stick Listens made with the page. Kenric shook his head and said, “Look Listens, I don’t know why you think that’s so cool. You can put any goop on the end of a stick, light it and it will smoke. Trust me.”
When we arrived at Weers Elixirs we noticed that his little shop was now only a block away from the water level on the lake. We all went inside and found the cranky old alchemist huddled under a woolen blanket in his dark and crowded little shop. The roof was leaking quite badly and Weir looked more miserable than he usually did.
As we approached the counter, Smoke climbed out of Kenric’s pocket. Weer ordered the little monkey out of his store.
“Get that thing out of here!” he screamed.
Smoke screeched back and threw a few pellets of monkey poo at the old man. Apparently he poo’d in Kenric’s pocket. (Game quote: We are now off the rails. Really off the rails.)
Vortimax Weer was mollified slightly after we dropped some serious coin on a few of his dusty bottles and a few smelly alchemy products.
After Weer’s we had to do some mundane shopping. Listens asked at Fine Leathers to see if a backpack can be made for Hoppy. Gerran’s mother was there, working, and she was delighted at the idea. She took the little lizard’s measurements. Hoppy seemed to like the attention.
It was now late afternoon so we went to the city wall to see if we could locate Private Krewis. Eventually we had to find The Glump to ask where he was. We found the Glump at one of the city gates. The boulder-like man…thing…whatever he is – that we know and love as The Glump told us that our young Private Krewis had gotten a promotion! The Glump told us we could find Krewis at Wall Unit 2 on the northwest end of town and that he works his shift in the evening. The Glump also told us he lives with his parents. Poor kid.
We headed to the West wall where we found Tarmy’s shift was still in progress. The little halfling stood on the wall and nodded professionally to all six of the half orc guardsmen that belonged to his unit. The newly retired Jero Stogley was also standing there with Tarmy and the two were shooting the breeze. We headed up the wooden scaffolding and reached the top of the wall near Tarmy. We told him we were looking for Sergeant Krewis.
“He’s on right after us. He should be here in about twenty minutes,” Tarmy said to us.
We decided to wait for him to show up. Tarmy and Stogley entertained us by talking about the good old times. Twenty minutes later it was time for the shift change.
We watched as Tarmy’s patrol of Wall #5 climbed down off the section of Cauldron’s walls and Krewis’s patrol of Wall #2 climbed up. When he finally got up to the wall with us Krewis looked at us and demanded, “Hey! Who is on my wall?”
At first we thought he was just joking. Krewis knew us from a few of the run-ins we’de had with him – usually involving the Glump. But then we realized he was dead serious so we introduced ourselves. Again.
Then we asked him about the Korpru ruins.
He said he didn’t know what we were talking about. Hmmm. We had to think about that. The Fence told us Krewis would be able to tell us . . .oh, ya..duh.
“Triel,” Listens to Wind said, "we’re looking for Triel and we were told you would know something.
Sergeant Krewis brightened up at that. He seemed to remember something.
“Oh yes! I made a report about that. But Lieutenant Crathers didn’t seem to care. I told him that every two nights I see Triel Eldurast outside the wall and she walks right down there,” he said excitedly, pointing down into the darkness and gloom on the other side of the wall. Night had fallen early as the dark storm clouds had all but swallowed up any vestiges of sunlight and we couldn’t see a thing but blackness where the young lad pointed.
“She messes around down there, but no one believes me. They think I’ve gone bonkers. They say Triel would be crazy to hang around near Cauldron after all she did and that I don’t have the eyes of a half-orc and there’s no way I can see down there in the middle of the night. But I know what I have seen!
“This is great news. I’ve finally got someone who believes me! In fact, I saw her last night. Right about midnight.” Krewis grabbed the huge bullseye oil lantern that was sitting on a wooden table nearby. He deftly opened one of the shutters with a small metal hook to keep from burning his fingers on the hot metal and pointed the lantern’s intense beam down the slope.
“I’d say I see her about one hundred and fifty yards down slope. Right about there,” he said pointing the lantern beam into the gloom. “There is a jutting piece of rock down there right near a clump of palms.”
I rolled my eyes. No way a scrawny human like this pipsqueak could see that far at night. Hell, I was even having a hard time seeing where he was pointing that damn lantern!
“I can see her just briefly when she’s down there and then she just disappears. Its the weirdest thing.” he continued. “If you want to go check it out, the city gate is just down there. I can hold the lantern beam on the spot and you could go look around down there. You know I never hear her, I just see her. I can see pretty good in the dark.”
Karina, Kenric and Braeden stayed up on the wall with Sgt. Krewis while Listens to Wind and I went down to the gate. Once past the guards we walked down the muddy road in the dark using the lantern light to point our way. When we got out of the gate, maybe thirty yards down the road, we saw the light pointing to where we want to go. We left the road and headed over the rough jumble of boulders.
After about ten minutes and we found ourselves lined up with the lantern. We could see a clump of palm trees and a piece of basalt right in front of us. The ground around the boulder was worn down and flat. Then, just inside the darkest of shadows made by the boulder and the trees we could see a round tube of rock, five feet high and five feet wide, descending down into the earth. It was a lava tube! What was more, Listens got down on his hands and knees in the mud and found some tracks – it had been used by others, and recently!
At that point LTW and I decided to return to the others and tell them what we had found.
“We found the big rock and the palm trees," I told them once we reentered the city and climbed up the wall. “There’s a tunnel under the rock. We didn’t see Triel. Let’s all go down there and check it out a bit more. Safety in numbers, and all of that.”
I turned to Sergeant Krewis. “Keep the lantern trained on that spot,” I told him. “We are going to go back and search. When we signal you can shutter the lantern.”
So, we all left the wall, paid our respects to the Gate Patrol #6 and trundled down the muddy road to return to the spot. When we got to the lava tube we signaled Krewis. Somehow he was able to see us (I still think he was cheating – some kind of Darkvision spell or something) and he turned the lantern off.
I took the lead into the tunnel. The first fifteen feet were slick and slippery. Kenric cast a spell – he said it was some kind of mage armor thingy. The sliminess of the tunnel slowly went away as we descended. It was dark and my blind companions had to light a torch. The rock was smooth and perfectly round and the tunnel quickly increased to six feet across. The tunnel shot straight into the mountainside and down at an slight angle. We then noticed the heat. It was getting warmer the further down we trudged. Then I noticed the air was getting rather stale.
Another one hundred yards and the air began to smell bad. Real bad. It smelled like rotted vegetation.
We kept traveling and after about five hundred yards I saw a glow, green and flickering along the tunnel walls. Soon after the lava tube ended. It opened up into a vast cavern that was bright with phosphorescent glow and the horrible rotting smell was nearly overpowering.
I was standing on a large ledge about one hundred feet from the bottom of the southwestern corner of the cavern. Most of the cavern floor was filled with a greenish underground lake filled with stagnant water. About a hundred yards away, on the far side of the cavern and along the lake’s shoreline, I could see at least one building and about a half a dozen round doorways cut into the cavern’s wall.
To my left, about fifteen feet away from me on the ledge, I could see a small pile of planks sitting next to a small stone building built into the ledge wall. One of those round doorways led into the building and a small, smoldering campfire was on the ground just outside the doorway. A pair of heavy ropes dangled from a cage-like contraption and led out over the lake and down at an angle to the other building on the other side.
I checked out the building and determine this was old. Probably pre-dating the construction of Cauldron, itself. The stone of the building and door was oddly sculpted. It resembled a crude version of dwarvish stone masonry but it also appeared as if the very stone was melted, somehow. Rivults of what looked like melted stone covered every worked inch of the place. I determined it was melted by design, not as if from a natural phenomenon, and appeared to be constructed of the natural basalt that comprised the entire cavern.
The door was unique as it was circular and appeared to spin on a central axis. The door was also locked, much to my dismay. I didn’t see anyone about but I could hear voices from within the building. It sounded like two female voices. I listened more closely and I could hear the sound of dice rattling. Whoever was behind the door, they were preoccupied by a game of dragon bones.
I quickly went back to the mouth of the tunnel where the rest of the Moonhowlers were patiently waiting and I told them all I had seen. We discussed our options and ultimately decided to go back to the city in order to find someone who could unlock the door. Preferably in a quiet and sneaky manner, if you know what I mean. We normally would have relied on Gerran to do this, but the creep was currently shacking up with some gods-forsaken drow back at the Lucky Monkey. At that point I made a silent prayer to Moradin that Gerran should suffer a severe cramp in an unusual location. It would serve him right.
As we headed back up the tunnel and into the downpour we all kind of mumbled semi-silent curses to our good friend, Gerran. Fifteen minutes later we found ourselves at the Tipped Tankard, once again. It was still early in the night and the place hadn’t really started jumping yet. We found The Glump at his usual table with his usual tankard/bucket of mead. We also saw the Fence, Artis Shemwick, that Braedon had worked with to get the information on Triel. He was busy clearing tables and mopping in the corner of the alehouse.
I got a nice large and foamy pint for myself and we all slumped over to talk with The Glump. He was upset. Apparently, he had just got a note from his lieutenant telling him to let two people go from his squad. The note said one was too old and the other was just too smelly.
“Jimmy Boy is sitting right over them,” The Glump said while pointing over to a table with a depressed looking older gentleman who was just about to sink deep into his cups, “But Stinky was sent home. Probably to bathe. I don’t know. It just really upsets me. That’s five sackings from just my squad in one season. What is Skellerang thinking!”
We find out that Jimmy Boy is good at picking locks and that his real name was McCreedy LaCray. The Glump told us he’s only 50 years old, young for a dwarf but kind of old for a human, I think.
We thanked The Glump for his time and information and then wandered across the room to where McCreedy was sitting. We introduced ourselves (he knew who we were already – I guess our name is starting to get around. About time! Geesh!) and then we negotiated with him and offered him an equal share in the loot in trade for his help infiltrating the Kopru Ruins. He looked relieved and gladly accepted the employment offer.
“Well,” he said to us as we left the Tipped Tankard, “I guess if you are going to be unemployed, its good to only be so for a few minutes. It’s a shame about that wasted mug of ale I left back there, though.”
I think I’m going to like this guy. Here’s someone who has his priorities straight.
We got back to the lava tube and walked back down the tunnel. When we got to the ledge, again, I listened at the door and still could hear the voices. McCreedy then started searching the area and, in particular, the lock on the door. After a minute he whispered to me, “the door appears to be untrapped.” My, this guys might be old, but he certainly was more thorough than our previous lock picker.
Then he withdrew an oiled leather pouch and took great care at selecting a thin metal tool from a collection of odd implements inside the pouch. He applied the tool to an oddly shaped hole in the door and then unlocked it and opened it very slightly.
McCreedy and I took a careful look inside. It was an oddly shaped room. Inside and to our left was another door with a light shining from underneath it. To our right was a large winch mechanism attached to the ropes and cage structure outside the building. A circular window was cut into the wall located right above the winch. We figured the winch was some sort of mechanism that raised and lowered the cage between both shores of the lake.
As quietly as I could in full metal armor I moved to the door inside the room. I opened the door just a crack and peeked inside. I could see there were two humans, two females, in there sitting around a wooden table and playing a game of bones. Both were in various states of undress with discarded clothes strewn about the floor so I guessed this was some kind of kinky strip-dragon-bones variation. The things these humans will think of. I shook my head in disgust. The door was not locked so I kicked it open and rushed in, weapons drawn adn menacignkl ppooiuy . . . (Oh crap! Hoppy just ran across my keyboard! Bad chicken dinosaur! Bad!).
I took the both of them down in an instant. Braedon was right behind me and he bound their wounds before they could perish from the sudden and violent loss of blood they just suffered. Being two semi-naked females, Breaden, true to form, was right by their side. Our mighty hero and savior of horny women everywhere.
Listens had procured some iron manacles during one of his shopping trips in town and he pulled a set out of his backpack and attached them to our new prisoners. I think I saw Braedon begin to drool. Please! You’re a man of the cloth! Men..grrr.
I left the priest of Pelor to deal with our prisoners and went to inspect the outer room with Kenric, Karina and McCreedy – who I have begun to call “Gramps”. I kinda like the name. Don’t know what Gramps thinks of it, but then again, I don’t really care.
The circular window overlooked the underground lake, far below us and the ruins that appeared to be the “Kopru Ruins” we were looking for. Kenric had given us the lecture earlier in the day…the Kopru were a race that was in this area a thousand years ago, they were eight to ten feet in length with long tails, claws, heads like fish with tentacles protruding from their mouths. Lovely. I looked around and didn’t see any about. Kenric reminded me they were long extinct. I nodded…just to make him feel better…and then I looked around some more to see if I could see any fish-headed, tentacle-lips walking around down there. You can never be too careful, you know.
I noticed that the green glowing stuff on top of the lake seemed to be a glowing algae, of some sort, but we couldn’t determine much more until we could get much closer to it.
The normally quiet Karina suddenly spoke up at that point, “Wait! I am sensing a very faint hint of magic nearby!” She crouched down and moved closer to the window above the mechanism. where she pointed out a small, polished stone stuck to the wall. Kenric and Gramps checked it out and Gramps realized that all you would have to do is touch the stone to activate whatever magic it might hold. Kenric studied the stone from a distance of about three inches and told us he could see the beginnings of an alarm spell. Kenric told us it would be very unwise to push or touch the button. Duh.
At that point I got bored and went back into the other room where Braeden and LTW were interrogating our prisoner. I noticed there was another door in this room that I had not seen before, so I moved to the back of the room to check it out. It was unlocked so I opened it. Inside was a small closet with a lot of wooden shelves full of food stuffs. The food wasn’t the cheap stuff either; cereal, fruits, pastries, and two small kegs of oil. There was a barrel of water and a small flask full of expensive brandy which . . . immediately after I examined it appeared to be empty. Yum.
We put the two prisoners in the small storage room, blind folded them with the red sashes they had been wearing and gagged their mouths. Gramps shut the closet door and then locked them in.
It was at that very moment that Listens to Wind suddenly started feeling very strange.
He told us later that it started with a sudden and odd urge to climb down to the the beachhead below the ledge. All we saw was the large, pale barbarian turning on his heel and mentioning to Kenric that there was " . . . a pretty lady who is in danger. I must rescue her before it is too late." And then he simply walked out of the building and began climbing down the cliff face towards a slim section of beach just south of our ledge. It was a long way down but the crazy Suel just didn’t seem to care.
Braedon just kept asking, “Pretty lady? Where’s the pretty lady. I don’t see a lady.” Karina and I both gave an audible “harrumph” in perfect unison.
From our vantage point on the ledge we scanned the beach below us for some sign of a lady or any other life to speak of. We were still rather confused as to what LTW was up to and how he knew a lady was in danger when Karina spied an odd shape on the beach. What I first thought was just a large smooth rock buried in the smaller rocks and pebbles turned out, on second glance, to be the body of a monstrously sized creature that looked very much like an enormous seal or, perhaps, a beached whale.
Kenric looked down and was shocked to discover that he actually didn’t know what the creature was. Listens suddenly stopped climbing down the cliff as he began to slowly come to his senses. He looked up and quietly told Kenric that the ugly seal-monster thing might have just tried to infiltrate his thoughts and was trying to get him down there on the beach!
But at that moment LTW grew quiet again for a moment. “No,” he said. “It’s not the ugly seal thing. I can see the image of a beautiful lady in my mind. She is talking to me in my head. Its so strange. I want to do the things she is telling me, but part of me knows it would be very dangerous. I don’t know what I should do. The pretty lady is now telling me that she is a captive of the seal thing down there. She is telling me that only I can kill it and set her free….it’s…it’s my weapon,” without losing his tenuous grip on the cliff face he nodded toward the large, two-bladed silver sword strapped to his back.
“She is telling me that only this sword can harm the beast and that I must slay the creature to set her free,” he continued saying. “But, I think she is using some magic on me to compel me to do the things she asks! This must not be a good lady. If she were good she would just ask me to do it and not try to force me. What should I do?”
Kenric and Karina begin to discuss the seal monster on the beach. While Karina cannot seem to remember anything about her life before waking up last week in the Bluecrater Academy, she has begun to remember knowledge about distant places and people. While I’m not sure I understand completely, Kenric says she is remembering details about different planes of existence. Different worlds! He has told me he thinks she is a tiefling – some kind of mix of mortals from this world and demons from another. I’m not sure I believe that completely, but Karina does have purple, blotchy skin and tiny horns protruding from her forehead. I don’t know, maybe its true. But one thing I know for sure, Karina is nice. And I like her. I don’t care if she is part demon. I like her just the same.
Both Kenric and Karina agreed that the seal thing on the beach was not anything of this world, but just then Karina had one of those memory flashback thingies and said she realized what the thing was . . . dunh dunh DUNH!… a skulvyn!
She said she remembered that the things would gather in massive underwater schools. The creatures were intelligent, ferocious and evil to the core. She suddenly looked a little afraid.
We decided if this creature was as dangerous as it sounds that we didn’t want this thing at our backs while we were investigating the rest of the ruins. It would be best to attack it now while it was sleeping. We tied two of our supply ropes together to make a single one hundred foot length of rope, tied one end to the winch inside the building, and dropped the rest down the cliff onto the beach below. Listens to Wind went down first.
Ten feet above the beach he stopped to recon the area. Then he quietly continued to climb down. Just before he got his feet onto the rocky shore he began hearing the sound of water lapping on the shore . . . but, to his confusion, he noticed that the water in the lake was not moving at all. It wasn’t even rippling. Then he realized that the lapping sound was actually coming from the creature!
At first he thought it was just the creature snoring. He could see the length of the giant beast stretched out next to the water about fifty feet from where he was about to set his feet down. The creature’s head was hidden from view. All he could see was its giant, grey seal-like body, complete with four sets of flippers. He noticed the ends of the flippers looked more like giant metal fans with razor sharp edges. He also realized at about that time the creature was not snoring, but laughing. Oh god.
The creature then rose up from the beach and turned its massive head to look at Listens to Wind. A long, pink snake-like tongue slid between rows of sharp-pointed teeth and it licked its blubbery fat lips. The creature’s eyes were red and glowed with a malevolent inner fire.
Listens to Wind screamed like a little girl.
The creature moved much faster than a beast that size should. It quickly lumbered like a seal across the beach, heading straight for the LTW snack hanging from the rope a couple feet off the beach.
From above we saw a ring of power or magic emanate from the beast like the ripple of a drop of water hitting a calm pool. The wave of power flowed out in a split second and crashed into Listens to Wind. We could see him get thrown back as the wave hit him. He told us later that the magic, or whatever it was, made him feel dizzy. His stomach turned and he felt like he was fighting his way through molasses, but he reached deep down inside and was able to shake off the effect.
Listens to Wind quickly took a potion of Bulls Strength. He said it tasted like buttermilk. (Gaming discussion ensued here where we pointed out to Thom that bulls don’t have milk . . . but they do, he reminded us. Childish laughter followed.)
Kenric cast some kind of Stinky Cloud spell right in front of the creature. Green mist billowed out all around the thing. I thought of rotten eggs and Braedon’s occasional flatulence and was secretly glad I wasn’t down there on the beach with that cloud. But, as we found out, this was an “other” world creature with other-word immunities to the magic of this world. The cloud didn’t appear to have an effect at all on the thing. Braedon started to pull up the rope now that LTW had jumped/fell off the other end. We thought we might be able to tie me to it and then drop me down there. No way was I going to actually try to climb that stupid rope!
Since I couldn’t do much else I yelled down to Listens, “Stop screaming and be a man!” I think it helped.
The skulvyn suddenly changed course and dove into the water and under the thick green algae. Listen’s response to this move was to just say, “Crap. Crap, crap, crap, crap.”
McCreedy suddenly grew a pair and started climbing down the cliff face to help LTW. With the creature under the algae, Karina and Kenric said they really couldn’t help much either. Braedon finally managed to pull up the rope and I helped him tie it around my waist.
Suddenly the skulvyn reappeared out of the water just mere feet from where LTW was standing and it leapt at him, mouth and teeth prepared to chomp. Kenric immediately cast two of those magic missile things he’s always going on about. The green little balls of light sizzled and flew out from his fingers fast as a bolt of lightning, intercepting the creature mid-pounce. We watched as if in slow motion as one of the missiles bounced off the creature while the others seemed to land true. Kenric later said he saw the creature flinch when the second missile hit it.
But, Listens to Wind was ready for the lunge by the creature and his silver-enchanted weapon flashed so fast I couldn’t even see the movements. LTW bristled with magical strength enhanced by the potion he had downed moments before. There was a sudden spray of blood and before we could take another breath, the creature lay dead and twitching on the beach with Listens To Wind’s sword protruding from its brainpan.
Listens spent the next few minutes pulling the creature onto the beach. The creature had four tails that were razor sharp. Listens cut the tails off the creature and then tried to wrap them in a blanket, but the blanket just tore away whenever the cloth came in contact with the razor sharp edges. Eventually he just tied the tails to the end of the rope and we pulled it up. The tails were so sharp that their edges scored the stone face of the cliff whenever they came in contact with the rock!
Karina and Kenric then used the rope to climb down to the beach. Listens to Wind, Kenric and Karina walked down the beach looking for shiny things. Kenric also stopped to study the body of the skulvyn. He drew out a knife and took some body bits as samples to study. He took claws, fangs, whiskers, and other body parts and stuffed them into the magical backpack we got from Tongueater.
LTW spoke up then. “The pretty lady is still trying to talk to me in my head,” he said glumly. “She says she is being held in the ruins across the lake and that we should go through the southern door and we should kill anyone we see in there. She says we are suppose to be stealthy and to do this as quietly as we can as there are many people in the ruins. She says they are bad people, but I don’t know if I believe her.”
Kenric looked concerned at this and thought silently for a moment.
“I suspect it is not a pretty lady at all that is talking to you, Listens To Wind,” he said to the giant, pale tribesman. “I’ve been thinking about this turn of events and I believe it actually might be a surviving kopru that is saying these things to you. My research on the kopru revealed they could take over your head, you know, control you. Maybe there is one, or more than one, still alive around here and its trying to use you to do its dirty work.”
Listens looked thoughtful and then slowly nodded his agreement.
“Yes,” he said, “she, or it, said that my sword was the only thing that could harm the creature on the beach. Could she have somehow known that my sword had been enchanted and that was the only way to harm this skulvyn thing? At first she told me that she was a prisoner of the skulvyn. Now that the skulvyn is dead she is telling me that she is a prisoner of the people in the ruins, which I assume are Triel and her people. Maybe it now wants me to go kill them.”
“That is very likely,” said Kenric. “And, perhaps, after we have killed off Triel and company it would compel you to kill us, and then it would kill you and then it would have its ruins back.”
Kenric, Karina and LTW all shared a shiver as they thought on those chilling prospects.
“Well,” LTW replied, “we are here for Triel. If any kopru show up we’ll just have to deal with them. And, if there is a pretty lady, we can rescue her.”
“And keep her away from Braedon,” Karina threw in.
Kenric, Karina and Listens climbed back up the cliff. Kenric examined the planks that were stacked up near the winch-house and tried to figure out what they might have been used for.
After some study he realized the planks were probably used to load things onto the cage. McCreedy moved a few of them aside to see if anything was hidden under the woodpile but didn’t find anything.
While those two were trying to figure out the tram device, the rest of us went back into the tiny stone hut to speak with our prisoners a bit more. We unlocked the door to the closet and found the two guards still tied and bound in the darkness. Braedon casts a healing spell on the girl Alley Basher to revive her. McCreedy got in close to her and threatened her.
“Tell us what you know about Triel and we’ll let you live!” he said in a snarly voice. She just stared back him with a look that told us she wouldn’t be cowed easily.
Then Braedon tried to be friendly to her. Bad cop, good cop routine, you know how that goes. She looked at him and sighed, “Alright, what do you need to know?”
“Where’s Triel? We need to find her. It’s urgent,” Braeden asked in a kind voice.
“She is down in her apartments. Across the lake.” she replied.
“How do we get down there?" Braedon asked.
“Take the cage,” she replied.
We then asked her a whole boat-load of questions about the ruins, themselves. We asked about doors and rooms and traps and how many men she had down there. We learned quite a bit, too. She told us that we needed to first remove the lock on the winch before we could even use the cage to get across the lake. We learned that Triel’s Allybasher guards were desperate for money. Our prisoner told us we could probably offer 50 to 100 gold to each Alleybasher we met to buy them out of Triel’s service. The Alleybashers really hadn’t worked with her long enough to be loyal.
We tried to get a general layout and a sense of her defenses from our prisoner and after a few more minutes of gentle assurances from Braedon, she caved and spilled what she knew about the place. According to her, Triel had distributed the wands amongst her lieutenants – and she had two of those. One was a creepy bald halfling who surrounds himself with spiders. She told us the halfling had a few guards and had taken up residence in the southern portion of the ruins. She said we could get to him, Skaven Undermead was his name, by approaching the southern door along the beach shore.
She then told us the middle doors along the beach front would get us to Triel’s apartments, but to be careful as they were well guarded and trapped, too. Triel had kept most of the wands to safekeep, herself. Apparently Triel also had a pet frog of some sorts which lived by itself in the western end of the ruins. The frog may have had a wand, as well.
Trakalar, was a gnoll, most likely it was dead but apparently it didn’t know it was dead. Trakalar was the second lieutenant and he lived in the northern ruins. He had somehow raised a large dinosaur skeleton back from the dead. She said the guard really didn’t like to work with Trak as he was a little too creepy.
Braedon asked her a bit about the Alleybashers and how they had gotten involved with Triel. She told us that the Alleybashers had ruled Cauldron’s underground for decades. Jacob Gleerow, the past proprietor of the Slippery Eel had been their leader. The City Council, Mayor Severen and Captain Skellerang had tried to run them out several times but always failed. Jacob was just too good for them. But then, last year, the mysterious Last Laugh Guild showed up in town – out of no where! A big mob war happened and the Alleybashers lost. They had found Jacob’s head floating in the Cauldron Lake one night a few seasons ago. We thought this might mean the Last Laugh had taken over the Slippery Eel, or maybe it was their base of operations. We would have to look into that little morsel of information.
Our prisoner then went off about Triel and how she just wanted to make all of them (the Allybashers and the Suel tribe) rich and that she didn’t want to hurt anyone. Braedon scowled at that and told her Triel has already killed many people.
Braedon then spent the next few minutes proselytizing about the glories of Pelor. I rolled my eyes at this but somehow he seemed to get through to the woman. I think she truly was interested in what Breadon was telling her. She said if they let her go she would head straight over to the Pelor shrine and make an offering. Well….we were feeling nice and charitable at the moment…but we weren’t crazy. We tied her up and tossed her back into the closet.
Outside at the tram we set the planks down to make a flimsy bridge so we could climb into the cage. They sent me and Braedon across the lake first. The cage was very scary to ride in. It swung back and forth so we had to grab the bars just to keep our balance. The stench and sulfur from the algae growing on the lake far below us was strong and hot and steamy clouds of the stench would billow up and make us gag. We finally made it safely to the beach on the far side of the lake and immediately kissed the ground. It was both rocky and sandy and progress across the beach in our heavy armor was slow. We saw what appeared to be a path cutting up to another small building.
Braedon and I took the path and hid behind the lower winch house. We tried to do it quietly but we do wear plate armor! When we got to the winch house we listened at the door but didn’t hear anything. The door was locked so we went to the other side and peeked in the small round window. We could see it was a twenty foot by thirty foot room with a large spool and some complicated machinery for the winch.
Kenric, Karina and Hoppy, along with a few barrels of oil that we found in the upper winch house went into the cage next. While the cage was coming down we kept an eye on things from the beach.
Listens to Wind and McCreedy cut Kenric’s rope into sections. They tied a section around their waist and then made a small loop around the other end of the rope and tied it to one of the tram-ropes. These were safety harnesses.
(Thom: “I will make you a bet we will finish this game in five years. If not you can shave my head.” We don’t think so but we probably can’t shave his head because he will be bald in five years. So we decide that after five years if we haven’t finished this game; either a total party wipe OR fight the final boss, Thom will buy us all a beer.)
Listens to Wind and McCreedy began “walking” down the rope. I think they were both kind of showing off a little bit. They each picked one of the ropes that the tram traveled up and down on and they balanced on it and slowly walked down toward us at the beach. After a few steps Listens fell so he decided he should just shimmy down the rest of the way, clinging tightly with his feet while climbing hand over hand upside down. Then McCreedy fell with spectacular results. The knot he had tied around the rope as a safety harness came undone then he tried grabbing for the rope but missed! Our new lockpicker and trapfinder plunged seventy feet down into the algae-laden lake! At the last second he pulled his fall into an acrobatic swan-dive and he survived the treacherous fall. After a few seconds of regaining his senses he began to swim towards the shore. At that point I thought I could hear LTW quietly chuckling to himself.
Listens to Wind continued to climb across the lake while Kenric headed to the beach to try and help McCreedy ashore. As Kenric reached the waterline he suddenly saw movement across the lake. On the far side he could see a partially submerged tunnel that we had not seen before. There was a distinct swell of water emanating from the tunnel mouth. Kenric yelled out to McCreedy, “Hey! Gramps! There’s something swimming in your direction! And its going pretty fast!”
McCreedy was thirty-five feet from shore when he looked back. Whatever was in the lake was big and it was moving underwater near the surface about as fast as a galloping horse. At the rate it was moving it would catch McCreedy before he could make it safely to the shore. McCreedy then let out a scream like a little girl. “Not another girly-man,” I thought to myself.
We all heard Kenric’s warning cry so we moved down to the beach as fast as we could. We could see the wake that was moving fast and heading right towards McCreedy. There was not much I could do so I kept an eye on the doors leading further into the ruins behind us just in case Triel or her guards had heard the commotion.
Kenric began casting a spell as McCreedy continued his mad-splashing-screaming swim towards us. Karina shouted encouragements, “You can do it older-man-person! Swim faster. I just met you and I don’t want to see you get eaten so soon!”
The creature swam very fast and was only about fifty feet away from McCreedy when Kenric finished his spell. Suddenly a bluish crocodile appeared right between McCreedy and the creature. The crocodile was enormous. The light blue glow shining off its scaly hide was eerie to behold. And the giant croc started swimming just as fast toward the approaching creature the moment it appeared!
As beast and crocodile collided there was a great rush of water. Green algae fountained high into the air and a mist of blood and brackish water erupted all around. The giant blue croc’s mouth and massive teeth flashed white and snapped with an audible cracking noise. The sound of the collision resounded throughout the cavern with a loud “boom!”.
We got our first look at it as the creature struggled within the massive crocodile jaws. We saw fins and scales and a giant fish head – it was a Kopru! We thought these were all gone, but before us was proof that at least one had survived the centuries.
The crocodile and the Kopru were in a titanic fight to the death. Braedon cast a spell and a glowing heavy mace appeared in the air above the kopru. The mystical weapon of the god Pelor began striking the creature all about its fishy head.
McCreedy was still thrashing mightily in an attempt to swim to the shore when he suddenly realized that he could stand up and he began to sprint toward us, throwing water and algae up into the air as he splashed ashore, exhausted but twice thankful to be alive.
At that moment the crocadilla-monster thrashed about one last time and we saw the kopru’s fish head separate from the rest of its body. Well, perhaps NOW the kopru race was finally extinct. And good riddance if it was.
The giant blue croc Kenric had summoned spun lazily about in the water, gulping down bits of kopru. It even looked like it gave us a big crocodile smile before it suddenly disappeared with a soft “pop”. Kenric said it had returned the world it had come from. I wondered what that world would look like, all full of giant blue crocodiles. Hmmmm.
After we checked to make sure everyone was in one piece after that harrowing crossing over the algae lake, we quickly went on the offensive. Just beyond the lower winch house and the beach we could see a series of round doors set into the cave wall to the west. While the rest of us hid behind the winch-house, Listens and McCreedy crept south down the beach to the furthest door.
McCreedy checked the door for traps and didn’t find any, but they could both hear the sounds of people talking behind it. They motioned for the rest of us to join them and we clanked and creaked in our heavy armor to their position just outside the door.
We stormed the room. Kenric led off with a shot from one of his many wands. This one put two of the six guards to sleep. LTW and I charged in and quickly took out two more while Karina blasted another one with her eldrich fire. The guards didn’t have much of a chance and we took them all out moments later with hardly a sound. We checked them over and found four of them were unconscious but still alive. We tied up the ones that were still alive and gagged their mouths with those handy red scarves they wore on their arms. We also arranged the tables and chairs that once decorated this twenty by thirty foot room so we could have a defense from the outside door and from the other door that seemed to lead further into the ruins.
When we were finally ready, McCreedy and LTW took point once again, checking the interior door for any dangerous traps and listening for sounds on the other side. When they signaled the all-clear, we opened the door and I got ready to charge anything that was in my way. Instead, i was looking down a long, angled stone hallway with several round doors and guttering torches set in sconces.
The next few minutes became a whirlwind of battle and I’m not entirely clear of the details. The first door we tried on our right held a number of Alleybashers, some were asleep while others were still alert. I charged into the small barracks-room and the Moonhowlers dropped into our accustomed battle formations, I slashed and cleaved with my axe, Listens To Wind was by my side tearing great holes in the enemy’s defenses with his massive, gleaming double-ended blade, Kenric and Karina stayed back and fired bolts of magical energy into their midst while Braedon and McCreedy mopped up any stragglers.
Somehow during the battle in the barracks several doors flew open and more Alleybashers and even a few Suel tribesmen found their way down to our battle. But our plan was sound and we cut them down. Even when it became apparent that we were going to easily defeat them and some of the Suel tried to run back the way they had come to sound the alarm, we were faster and we caught them and killed them before they could get far.
As the last Suel warrior fell before us, a door on the south side of the hallway suddenly spun open and we saw a small, bald halfling in robes and furs standing there. He didn’t draw blade or even appear to cast dire magic in our direction, instead he just shouted at us, and let me tell you, that was some shout. It was almost the loudest thing I had ever heard in my life, half of the moonhowlers clamped their hands over their ears in shock and my head rang like a church bell after that little Skaven finished.
Then, quick as a wink, the little turd turned tail and ran back into his apartments. We gave chase. LTW and McCreedy ran through Skaven’s library and lab and then rounded the corner to his bedroom but found the small room empty. Only a bed, a desk and a few overstuffed bookshelves – but no sneaky halfling was to be found.
LTW was sure he must have slipped under the bed and as he went to upend the thing a sudden gust of air rose from the ground before him and buffeted him mercilessly.
Back in the Hold…my Hold…an ancient creature from the elemental Plane of Earth watches over my realm. It is alien and strange but it obeys me and recognizes me as the true ruler of the Malachite Hold. The creature that attacked us now was similar but from an elemental plane in polar opposition to the Plane of Earth. The air elemental must be loyal to Skaven for it attacked us with great vigor. Only the magical blade of Listens To Wind stopped the creature and after a few seconds of trading blows, LTW dispersed the thing with an audible popping sound.
We searched the room in earnest but we found no evidence of Skaven, nor any other exit from the room other than the one we had entered. We were confused as to how he had given us the slip!
However, we did recognize the room from Celeste’s vision about the wands. This was where she said we would find one of them. Karina began to concentrate and finally she sensed the presence of magic nearby. After dismantling one of the bookshelves, we found it!
We spent the next half an hour, or so, exploring the maze of rooms that made up the south end of the Kopru Ruins. We found many supplies, weapons, foodstuffs and more than one trap, but we did not find Skaven anywhere.
One of the doors we tried to open that apparently led further south into the complex was blocked by heavy strands of webbing. We remembered Celeste’s warning about a spider she saw in her vision of Skaven’s bedroom and we decided to wait on that room until later.
Eventually we found a very well hidden door at the west end of the hallway. It lead to another dead-end hallway, but at the far end we noticed a strange blue-green glow that seemed to emanate from the walls. We could not find a source of the strange glow, but Kenric did find another hidden door.
This door led to a massive vaulted chamber that was full of rounded alcoves and stone vats set into the floor. Shambling around amid the vats and mumbling to itself was a very strange and very large frog-like being. We remembered our prisoner’s warning about how Triel had some kind of frog as a pet. We figured this must be the very one and we also decided an ambush of the poor fellow might be our best approach.
McCreedy and Listens to Wind snuck into the room and hid behind two of the vats and waited for the right moment. When the frog-thing had its back turned we all charged the beast. The battle that followed was semi-epic.
When the frog saw us, it turned and bellowed out a mighty sound from its gullet that nearly blew the helmet off my head! McCreedy got a giant face-full of the blast and nearly went down. Braedon cast a spell on LTW to make him grow ten feet tall, but not before the frog summoned forth a fellow frog-like creature from the Abyss-knows-where. The two frogs talked to each other during the battle and we learned their names were Scree and Scrud. Scrud was none-to-pleased to be summoned into this mad battle and the two of them tried to summon forth a third and, apparently, more powerful ally that they referred to as “Crowley”.
We didn’t want to meet this Crowley fellow, so Braedon cast a spell of silence on the two frogs and shut them up. In the moments that followed we battled the frogs fiercely and Scrud went down in a pile of ectoplasmic goo. Scree was a bit more crafty and suddenly dropped to his knobbly, froggy knees and begged LTW for mercy, his big, wet froggy eyes were too much for LTW and he found he could not strike down such a pathetic creature.
I, however, had no such sensibilities and sunk the edge of my axe into Scree’s skull. No more frogs.
When the battle was over we found ourselves in a large room. There were large stone vats with a that same blue-green light shining dully out of them. There appeared to be some kind of liquid inside the vats but it really was just the flickering light. We discovered it was an illusion.
We were able to discern the room was probably used long ago by the kopru for religious services. Inside the vats Kenric found several petrified egg shells.
We searched the room fully and Karina detected a faint aura of a magical items nearby. As we moved through the room we searched all the alcoves and the vats.
Vat #1 was full of dust.
Vat #2 had brackish water in it and some white egg shells that were broken and a few shells that were still whole. Listens to Wind thought they were Kopru eggs. The eggs looked petrified. Listen to Wind reached in and tried to grab an egg but it was fused to the bottom of the vat.
Vat #3 was full of dust.
Vat #4 had broken egg shells on the bottom.
Next to Vat #4 was a bunch of rags. Karina cried out that she could smell magic around the odd pile. We took immediate interest. Listens to Wind picked up the rags and a bunch of stuff fell out.
Vat #5 was littered with egg shells.
Vat #6 was filled with algae sludge.
Gramps took some of the scum with him in an empty vial.
After dividing up the pile of loot, we went back through the door we originally came in. We moved down the south west hallway and I used a torch to burn a path through the webs that were blocking the way south.
We came upon a large room that smelled of insects and was covered in webs. Karina mumbled, “There’s magic in here, too.”
Kenric got a clever idea and asked me for my torch. While I certainly don’t need a torch to see in the dark, I realize that many of my fellow Moonhowlers are completely blind in the absence of light. So, I have gotten in the habit of securing a lit torch off the top of my backpack. My companions call me the “dwarf torch”. I kind of like it. I just hope I don’t actually catch fire one of these days. I reached back and yanked the torch free, handing it to Kenric.
Kenric then waggled his fingers a bit and said a strange word that sounded a lot to me like “gnoll head”, but I could have been mistaken.
Then he cast a spell that allowed him to float the torch out it front of him about a dozen feet, clearing the cobwebs at a slightly safer distance, just in case their were live spiders hiding in their midst. Clever mages. Every adventuring party should have one or two about, I think.
Suddenly there were spiders everywhere, and they were big! As big as dogs! Listens threw a javelin at one and nailed it to the floor where it wriggled out its death throes. The spiders ran toward us on top of the ceiling and skittered along the walls. It was a little disorienting. Kenric yanked a wand out of the magical haversack he was carrying and shouted a command. Gouts of flame shot forth and bowled into the oncoming wave of spiders. Many died there immediately, falling to the stone floor and curling their nasty legs in on themselves. The flames also burned away the webbing they were using to climb along the ceiling and walls and they fell to the floor. As they tried to right themsleves, McCreedy, Braeden and I slammed into them with our weapons, slashing, stabbing and bashing anything that moved. Within seconds the wave of spiders was defeated and we walked among their crushed and smoking bodies.
Eventually the room was cleared of webbing and we now saw we were in a cave. There were three skeletons in various nooks and crannies. One was a gnoll that had a bone scroll tube wedged in its ribcage. Kenric opened it and pulled out an ancient, crumbly bit of parchment with faded ink scrawled upon it. He said it was an arcane spell that allowed him to summon simple creatures from a faraway land to aid in our battle . At first I as impressed! But then I asked him what kind of creatures he could summon forth. When he told me with this spell he could summon a snake or a rat or even an octopus, I was underwhelmed. When I asked him how long the creature would stick around and he told me about six seconds I found myself rather bored. Ho hum. Next!
The next was a human skeleton but the bones were thicker than what you might find on a normal human. We found a tribal head piece around its skull and a necklace of leopard teeth. It also had a hollow gourd wrapped in a leather strip attached to its wrist. There was liquid inside the gourd and it was sealed with wax.
The final skeleton was a gnome. It had all of its clothing still on it and in its backpack we found a magical wand. Kenric checked it out and then pocketed it.
We moved back out of the cave and then went to the south east. I was in the lead with my torch reattached to my backpack. Up ahead the hallway opened up into another cave. It was full of webbing. A large creature stepped out of the webbing and threw a net of cobwebs at me and Braedon. We realized these were ettercaps ! The strange human like creatures that were also alot like spiders. I had never seen one before but every kid growing up in the orphanage had heard Patch’s scary bedtime stories about these things!
The web it had thrown missed Braedon but I was caught fast in it. I couldn’t move!
Listens to Wind threw his javelin at it and then ran up to the ettercap with his sword drawn. Karina blasted another one that has appeared with her eldritch fire and Kenric flamed it with his wand. McCreedy snuck up behind the second one with his dagger drawn.
Braedon attacked the one that had thrown the webbing on me. He smashed into the creature with his morning star, killing it with a ferocious blow and sending its body flying across the room to slam into the cave wall.
The remaining ettercap attacked McCreedy and I flexed my considerable muscles, ripping the webbing away from my body. The battle continued and McCreedy stuck the last beast in the eye, killing it.
We then looked down the cave hallway in front of us and at the end of the long cave we see a shadowy large figure. We heard a small voice say, “Little Goro is hungry.”
A large creature began moving through the webbing towards us. We could see it was a spider bigger than any I had ever even heard of! It was covered in sharp spikes the size of spears and it had a leather strap and “saddle” attached to its back. The halfling we had been hunting, Skaven Undermead was riding it!
I saw Skaven grinning at me as he cast a spell. Suddenly a phantom cat appeared right in front of Goro the Spider. It was hideous! It had fangs and was covered in mange. It pounced on me with its huge yellow fangs and claws tearing at me! I felt my life force nearly tugged from my body such was the fear that coursed through me, but somehow I shook off the terror and I survived. The cat disappeared into thin air. It was just a phantom trick. That halfling would pay dearly for scaring me so. (Just for the record, Braenna initially failed her saving throw and would have died! But, luckily she had a few spare Fate Points and used one – succeeding on her second saving throw. Whew.)
Braedon then cast a spell of his own and summoned a giant gold glowing beetle. It appeared right in front of Goro and the two giant bugs began a vicious battle. The halfling continued to throw spells at us in rapid succession. He shot an entire volley of arcane energy missiles at us before we could get close enough to engage Goro.
As I finally got near, suddenly the halfling sipped a potion and disappeared. We continued to fight the massive spider. It killed Braedon’s bug, but not before it bought us precious seconds to reach the battle-front. The spider was gross. With a massive burst of air, it literally shot two fangs out of its mouth. One fang bounced harmlessly off my shield and the other shot over my head towards McCreedy, but he dodged it. The fangs were nasty because they were still attached to the spider by a thin, ropey membrane. The spider began to suck its fangs back into its mouth! Ugh!
As LTW, Braedon and I rained blows down upon the spider’s thick carapace, we began to see wounds appear on our body as the creature’s spikes found exposed skin. This thing needed to die. It was an abomination to nature itself.
But suddenly the halfling appeared again. This time he was standing upside down on the ceiling and nestled in a thick pile of webbing. How did he do that? With a mighty blow, LTW killed Goro, the harpoon spider, and then spun on his heels and knocked the halfling unconscious! Yeah Team! We put Skaven in manacles and gagged him with one of those red armbands. This guy was going back with us to stand before the court and pay for his crimes!
What’s more, we found one of the Water Control wands on his person, along with a lot of other nice loot. Plus, we found a stash of treasures that Goro was keeping at the back of it’s cave and there was another Water Wand in there, too! That brought our total up to three! Only five more to find. Grrr. I hate these Ebon Triad cultists with a passion.
We then quietly and quickly hauled all of the loot to the beach. From the beach we moved everything up the ropes, using the winch and the cage, to the cliff top. We also took our prisoners with us. Before we left, McCreedy took a few minutes to trap the winch mechanism with his own devious trick. Now if anyone tried to use it the winch would break and hopefully drop the unsuspecting riders into the lake.
We got the loot and the prisoners out of the ruins without Triel or her guards being any wiser and managed to get into the city as the sun’s light began to peek over the horizon. Wow! This was a very long day and we needed some rest. But first we took everything to the Church of Pelor and dropped off our loot in our apartment that Iksy guards. It was raining hard and we noticed the water was rushing down the streets in great streams. Ash street was now completely underwater. We need to find those wands. Fast.
We wanted to take our prisoners to City Hall and get them processed into the jail, but we realized that if we did we wouldn’t get the chance to question them properly. Also, we knew the courts would act fast in Cauldron and if we deposited these prisoners this morning, we might have to appear before the judge tomorrow – or even later this morning! And we just didn’t have the time. We had a city to save!
That was when I remembered my own jail cells. Yep. The Malachite Hold had its own cells. I never thought I would need them . . .