Forest's journal for the 12-14th day of Rhomdibberahn
Today I saw death, and it flew on wings….
Well maybe that is too dramatic, but I certainly am grateful my eagle companion gave us some warning of impending death.
We had just finished clearing the 1st level of this subterranean labyrinth and were headed back to the surface. Everyone was pretty tired, but in overall good health, (less our intrepid gnomes after battling the snake), unlike our earlier foray down to the lower depths which had proved so disastrous. As we headed back up and out of the entrance we began conversing between ourselves about how long we could stay at this location with our current food supplies. I assured the team I knew ways to find water in any environment, and of food I could definitely add to our provisions if we needed it by foraging and hunting the local environs. In this I am eminently skilled. Then someone thought of something I am ashamed to say I had overlooked, that the Protocs were running low on feed. As soon as it was mentioned I realized this environment was entirely unsuitable for grazing for such a large beast, and neither could I see letting them suffer in hunger. How I could have overlooked such a basic need of an animal in my care humbled me. This was going to be a problem that perhaps would require us to suspend our effort here and travel overland back to the settlement to the south, or head north to the next town to stock up on supplies before returning. A final option was to abandon this enterprise.
By then we had reached the surface and my link to Soar re-established itself. Almost immediately I felt an emotion of dread fear rush through the mental link he and I shared, and I looked up to see Soar in a full dive heading straight for us. It was hard to get any sort of definition from the overriding terror that was gripping the bird, but it did respond eventually to my inquiry of threat direction. I immediately turned to look to the south and raised my hand to block the glare of the sun, and get a good look at what it might be. It did not take long for me to notice just above the horizon a black speck rapidly growing in size. A chill went down my spine. Something visible that far away, and moving that fast, was indeed a severe threat. In my mind the first thought was "dragon" and within moments it had drawn close enough to see the giant wings flapping powerfully straight towards us proving my hunch correct. I shouted out to the party "A dragon approaching from the south, take cover" and moved to see if I could set the Protocs free. I wasted valuable seconds on the straps before realizing I would never make it in time. I then pulled my scimitar out and attempted to cut the straps, but looking over my shoulder I saw even that would take too long. I must admit, I ran for my life at that point leaving those poor beasts of burden with no defense. I am somewhat ashamed of that as well, first I had forgotten to plan for their needs, and then I left them to die, but nature can be hard sometimes, and the strong must survive. I have spent too much time in this dark malignant hole in the ground and away from nature to become so blind….
…but back in this hole is where I found myself. The entire party dived through the opening in what little time we had left, Wulfgar bravely standing by the entrance and waiting until everyone was in, even Soar, before he leapt in last of all. I was quite surprised to see my companion had entered this pit, through our link I had tried to get him to fly away and flee, but given the circumstances upstairs it really is not surprising. How none of us got injured in the frantic rush down into that hole is a mystery to me. They say sometimes a body can do amazing things when gripped by powerful emotions, and there was more than enough fear being generated to make everyone's heart race nigh on to bursting. We heard the booming sound of wings braking in the air as the dragon flared and prepared to land, so I shouted to the others to clear the first room in case of a breath attack. No sooner had we, than a burst of electrical energy filled that room. The ceiling itself then began collapsing under the weight of the leviathan and we retreated back to the skeleton room lest the dragon begin clawing away and digging for us like a fox after a mole. One of the last things we heard was a the loud braying of the Protocs left above cut short, then a deafening roar of satisfaction from the dragon. Those poor creatures had no chance and had become part of the circle of life.
Setting up a base camp in the skelly room, we went about making it as comfortable as possible, as quietly as possible, lest we give the dragon incentive to stay. For once I was in good health during a rest and was able to do a lot of the work in setting up, tending to the wounded and trying to recover some meat from the snake we had killed to supplement our food supply. Unfortunately we had little wood to properly smoke and prepare what remained of the snake, the only edible creature we had come across down in this place, and it was all we could do to get enough heat from the flammable debris we found to cook a day’s worth. Well at least that was one more day's rations to feed us, other than that we had two days worth carried in our individual bags and pouches before we would start going hungry. We spent some time in those hours pondering what made that dragon appear just then. Others wrote it off to sheer chance, but I have a feeling that chance played no part of it. The way it had headed straight for us from such a long distance, the fact that it was a blue dragon, known to be evil and cruel, and the fact that Xox was the mightiest of dragons and they all served him to the point that his powerful lieutenants used them as mounts seemed more coincidence than could be feasibly explained, but then again maybe I am paranoid?
The following day was more of the same, tending to the wounded, planning the next day's strategy, and getting rested up. I for one think I have learned quite a bit already and feel stronger than ever and more ready to do battle. I think everyone is improving quickly actually. Our battle of the previous day had been a marked improvement over the earlier fights, and I was ready to try out some new tactics regarding how I wielded my scimitar based on those combat experiences. I also had been visited by one of my Spirit dreams the other night, and now my powers feel markedly stronger. I have gained a better understanding of how to focus myself better through my spirit nature link to boost my strength, concentration, or reflexes for brief periods. My powers have even grown to the point where I can now manifest power over the elements to a certain extent, and this is quite exciting to me. Now I need to find ways to use it to our best advantage. The first thing I thought of was something pretty simplistic. Brute force is hard to overlook, and in battle training they always say "Keep it simple". So as much as I have always loved my scimitar I had no idea how brutally effective it was until I came here to Daeoria and had to wield it to defend myself. Used with two hands I have found it causes grievous wounds and with my full strength behind it, I find it knocks aside many defenses. How much more dangerous would it be if I were to take that thread of power nature has given me and let it flow through my muscles. If I spent less time trying to aim precisely and concentrated on dealing devastating two handed blows, I would be more like a butcher cleaving carcasses in half than a swordsman, but it would be fearsome. We shall see on the morrow's battle if it works.
The 14th of Rhomdibberahn
Another day's battle loomed before us. We are all a bit nervous going down below. Through the night watches the last couple of days we have been hearing the stones above us groan as if under a tremendous load. That dragon must still be up there waiting for us, so there is no exit that way. Below us we may find monsters that may be beyond our capability and overcome us, leaving us to no choice but to retreat and slowly starve, waiting and hoping for the dragon to leave.
No matter, we press on and head down the stairs, slowly advancing with Wulfgar in the lead. We reach the spot where the previous battle with the gelatinous cube had taken place to find the sticky remains still filling the hall. We decide to double back around the first loop of passageway and listen at the first door there. I managed to perceive the sound of movement inside but it is indeterminate as to the nature. We then chose to open the door but not rush in, setting up a flanking trap for the creatures within by the doorway, hoping they would charge as us when the door opened. As the doorway swung open we saw a room containing 5 skeletons and 2 giant spiders. My heart races, this is twice the number we have ever faced before, this is bad. The first skelly takes our bait and rushes through the door to be flanked by Nyelo and Wulfgar, but the skeleton is quick and deals a wicked blow to Wulfgar while Nyelo and Wulfgar seemed to be having difficulty landing solid hits. I had set up behind Nyelo to be able to cure him as he fought, but unfortunately it is Wulfgar on the other side of the hallway from the creature that was taking all the damage and I was powerless to help him.
While this was going on a spider climbs through the doorway, up and across the ceiling and drops down to attack Comiza in the rear rank farther behind Wulfgar, and once again I cannot assist. I call forth my powers and summon a Flaming Sphere over the skeleton but it seems to have no effect, the undead creature dances around the flames with agility while still fighting Wulfgar. Finally, with Comiza and Dax providing artillery support the first skelly goes down, and I take the opportunity to move up into his position in front of the door and apply my healing touch to Wulfgar.
By this time the Spider on Comiza has nearly killed the poor gnome and he expeditiously retreats down the hall to safety. Faced with a giant spider in front of him after Comiza retreats, Soar attacked the spider from one side while Wulfgar spun around and attacked its flank and that spider was quickly dispatched. A second skeleton charges the doorway and swings at me, lightly wounding me. I returned the blow with a mighty swing badly damaging the skelly while the other skeletons begin holding position in the room, while the second spider tries to start dragging off a large cocoon it had been feasting on. The second skeleton went down quickly to my next attack and I stepped back into the hallway giving Wulfgar another healing touch and hoping the skellies would follow back into our trap. A dim bulb of cunning must have remained lit for the skellies though, and they remain stationary, unwilling to charge.
After a few moments when it seems obvious they will no longer attack, I stepped forward and begin hurling darts at the fiends. That was ineffective, nor did it goad them to attack us, and a stalemate began to form. Then Nyelo must have decided he was not going to wait any longer and he galloped past me on his mount and speared the spider with his lance doing considerable damage. I had to make a decision then and there whether to support my team mate or remain in that safe position. Seeing how successful Nyelo's charge was I decided to emulate him, and rush in, blade held high. It stuck home dealing a killing blow to the arachnid, but this left my back turned to the remaining skellies and I was in turn attacked by one, who in turn was flanked by Wulfgar. The battle ended relatively abruptly after that, with the skellies falling quickly and most of us in low health.
We then set about tearing open the cocoon to see if it was indeed Erg in there, and sure enough we found the dried out hulk of an orc wearing Erg's chainmail inside. Perhaps we should have been a little more careful dealing with such powerful magic but we were in such a hurry to see poor Erg resurrected we had Comiza perform the feat while he was still barely standing from his battle wounds. Much to our surprise the wand exploded upon use and the resulting blast, while minimal, was enough to knock poor Comiza out. We rushed forward to stabilize him and heal his wounds, and while doing so we could see the magic of the wand working, and soon Erg was with us again, and in much the same bewildered state Helmon had been when he was brought back from the dead. Wounded, and tired, but in much better shape than after previous battles, we went back up to our first floor base camp to recuperate.
15th and 16th of Rhomdibberahn
I have been working at accelerating the healing process by tending the wounds of our injured while we recuperate and am beginning to have great success. Once again we spend two days rejuvenating ourselves in preparation for more battles to come. On the 16th we headed out again and begin exploring.
We chose a door at random from the many that ringed the skelly/spider room and take one that led us into a passage, which we followed with Wulfgar leading the way. Prowling the corridors, wary of running into another ooze creature, we found yet another door. We then quickly noticed that the hallway turns left and another doorway seems to enter the same room as the previous door from that direction. A listen at the door is inconclusive and it appeared to not be trapped so Erg attempted to push it open. This door was made of heavy stone but Erg's strength was enough to overcome the drag, but unfortunately this left her completely exposed as three magic missiles slammed into her heavily. From the darkness inside we then perceived a single skeletal creature with flesh hanging from its bones. In one hand it wielded a wand and with the other a sword that shined in the torchlight. Finally a creature we can swarm thought every fighter's mind automatically, and we charged.
Erg, Wulfgar, and Comiza rushed in through the stone door, while I found that the other door was unlocked and I easily passed through and took up a flanking position on the creature. The fiend wielded its weapons well though, and Erg took a hit from its sword and dropped down to the floor, yet again near death. Comiza and Dax took up positions to provide supporting fire and score hits, but the creature deals returned heavy damage to Comiza with its wand of missiles and he had to retreat. The blades of the party then began chopping the creature to pieces like the bladed wheels of a war chariot through a line light skirmishers. It struck out viciously but was taking damage at a rate 3-4 times what it could inflict. [In the end] the creature even hit itself with one of the magic missiles that flew erratically from its wand every time it used it. In mere moments it lay on the ground in shattered pieces. We revived Erg and healed her as best we could. To her we also presented the sword of the enemy, a fine piece of master work quality. The wand we handed over to Comiza our sorcerer, I am hoping he will give us even better supporting fire now.
Though slightly wounded, we were in decent condition and I pushed the team to continue exploring immediately due to the limited time my strength boost would last. There were quite a few doors leading from this lair and we choose one at random. It led us into yet another hallway that we followed for a short way. As we rounded the first corner with Erg in the lead, she found another gelatinous cube right in front of her. Different party members all started shouting advice at Erg to retreat, but that is not Erg's way. She began hacking the cube with her sword, while Comiza and Nyelo ran back to the previous room to try to find doors that led to the flank side of the cube. Comiza's luck was not with him that day. The door right near him that he ran to was trapped (and the only door we had not checked for traps so far that day). A trapdoor opened under his feet and he fell out of sight of the party. Nyelo using the speed of his mount circled around and went through another door to where he could flank the cube. The ooze then attempted to engulf Erg, but she was too dexterous for it and moved back out of the way. This in turn allowed me to attack it because it had now moved forward, around the corner, and into our line of sight. I cast a flaming sphere on the cube to great effect while Dax stuck it with arrows. Erg then quickly dispatched it with a mighty double bladed swipe of his 2 weapons, rendering it into a lifeless gel.
We then set about rescuing Comiza and Dax lowered a rope to him. Comiza had landed in a dark sandy pit taking little if any damage in the fall. He had had the presence of mind to keep quiet, and nothing bothered him in the short amount of time it took before he was pulled to safety.
We then decided to press on, relatively sure that we had cleared nearly all of the 2nd level already. As the hallway turned back towards the direction of the skelly/spider room we were pretty sure we had cleared the level when Erg nearly stepped into another ooze creature. This one was a living gray slime coating the floor. Being in single file we could not support Erg well other than a few artillery shots from the sorcerer and rogue. Comiza, using his new wand against the ooze ended up striking Wulfgar in the back with an errant bolt. Wulfgar was none too pleased. Erg fought valiantly, but once again dropped to the ground exhausted and vanquished by the wicked acid attacks of the ooze. Her armor was melting away before our eyes. I hid my beloved scimitar at the sight of that, sliding it into its scabbard over my shoulder. As she went down I ran forward and jumped over the ooze to attack it from the other side so Wulfgar could move up and take Erg's place. It may seem silly but in that moment of jumping over the ooze I may have only cleared 5 feet horizontally, but I was flying like an eagle in my mind. As I did it I invoked my eagle totem and attacked with my spirit claws and beak as I landed. Never having used my totem power this way in combat before I was expecting to do minor damage, but I had underestimated the power that my enhanced strength gave to my claws, and it was impressive. After the damage Erg had already inflicted on it, my own attack literally tore it to shreds, killing it instantly. After I withdrew my totem power I set about reviving poor Erg once again. As I worked on Erg I could hear Wulfgar telling Comiza in no uncertain terms where he would stick that wand if he were to hit him again. “It was an accident” I thought, but he was right, we better be careful with it nonetheless. Somewhat weary and out of healing power, we decided to call it a day and retreated back to the first floor to rest.
The 17th of Rhomdibberahn
Through the night we heard no sound of the Dragon above. We healed and rested, while Erg tried in vain to construct some sort of armor out of the carapace of the dead spiders. It was really rather amusing, and repugnant. We decided to send someone up to scout above and see if the dragon was gone. As usual the job fell to Dax, our sneakiest member. Dax took the assignment and bravely scaled the now enlarged opening, all the while alert to see if the dragon remained. It turned out it had given up and flown away. Little remained of our gear, the Protocs were devoured, and the wagon was twisted and mangled. Most everything had been trampled and ruined. He was able to salvage two days rations for the party and then he headed back. Conferring between ourselves we determined to press forward with the exploration. This time we were all ready to go with a single days rest. While not one hundred percent up to speed, we felt confident enough, and were worried we did not have enough rations to delay another day. This time we would be taking the stairs down to the third sublevel.
As we went down the stairs we immediately came upon two doors next to each other on the right. Listening determined nothing and we detected no traps. Entering the first room we found no threats, but a search of the room yielded two excellent finds however. The first was when I noticed the shiny glint of an object. Moving forward I found it to be a ring. The other item was a piece of paper which Wulfgar picked up. Studying the ring between Comiza and myself we determined it was a ring of fire resistance, and I asked the party if they minded if I kept it in holding and no one objected. I let them know I would gladly give it to someone who had specific need of it in the future. The paper object appeared to be a [faded and crumbling] hand-drawn map. I think it was Dax who said he was sure it represented our current floor, as the area we were in appeared to match part of the map. We then turned our attention to the second room. It was much like the first, void of creatures and containing an item of great worth. What appeared to be a plain sack left on the floor under closer scrutiny was determined to be a bag of holding. It was given to Dax to carry for now.
Pressing onward, the corridor made two ninety degree turns just like it showed on the map and I became more confident Dax was correct about it. The corridor continued straight for a while then turned hard right again. Just beyond the corner on the right hand wall was a carved stone door with an intricate design. In the middle of the door was a triangular shaped slot that appeared to be made for some sort of special key device. Unable to budge the door it appeared that we needed to find this key if we wanted to get in. I then looked at the map again and noticed it showed an open room just north of us. In a certain part of that room there appeared crosshatches, but that part of the map was incomplete. It would certainly not hurt to search there I thought.
Just past the locked door the corridor ended in a large room with floors covered in sand just like on the map. The sand seemed to get deeper as Wulfgar walked forward into the room, like the floor was sloping down but the sand remained level. Wulfgar walked into the middle of the room by himself about ten feet ahead of the rest of us who remained in the corridor when ripples came bursting towards him from the sand and out popped a giant scorpion, followed by two more moments later. It attacked Wulfgar immediately and a wild battle ensued. [Nyelopubski] charged in lance first and attacked a second scorpion that was moving to flank Wulfgar effectively stopping it in its tracks while I decided it would be best to invoke my strength before fighting and called forth that power. Dax and Comiza moved to assist with their usual artillery attacks and Erg also charged, bloodlust in her eyes.
The scorpions numbered three and each one of them struck with both claws and a wicked poison tail. Considering we were less than fully healed to start with I was a bit worried. Wulfgar was already reeling from hits and then he and I took another friendly fire shot when Comiza used the magic missile wand again. As soon as my spell took effect I charged in next to Comiza and scored a powerful hit to that one which cleaved its shell and allowed me to carry the attack through to the scorpion attacking Wulfgar scoring another powerful hit. Nyelo withdrew and prepared to charge Wulfgar's enemy, leaving me alone against the one on the left. At that point I took a wicked retaliatory strike from one scorp which left me feeling weak as I could feel its poison coursing into my body. Then I felt a blow from behind and realized I had been hit by Comiza's wand of errant missiles as well. Low on health I was torn between retreat and fighting on. I knew I could not take another blow like that, but the scorpions too were starting to stagger from the blows they were receiving and I took the chance of staying in position and taking another mightly cleave at them. Luckily the carapace of these creatures was not as hard as they appeared and my scimitar was once again was able to tear into two of them in a single stroke, killing both I believe, although it may have been someone else that dealt the fatal blow to the second one, it is hard to remember what happened in that short desperate battle.
The final scorp was now surrounded by those of us that remained standing, and before it succumbed two more of us lay on the ground and had to be revived. As soon as the fight against the scorps ended a scuffle broke out between ourselves. Wulfgar was none to pleased to have been hit in the back again and was making good on his threats against Comiza. He grappled the little gnome while Dax disarmed him of the wand. I also moved in to assist if necessary. I hope he does not harbor ill feeling against us too long, Comiza was being very obstinate about it, but three incidents of friendly fire was too many, especially after being warned. Perhaps we will give it back to him later, but for now this thing needs to be put away. It may work well against isolated enemies, but is a terrible weapon to use in a general melee. Once again we healed as best we could, but the party now needed to rest again. Before we left we started searching the room. I started looking in the area marked on the map with crosshatching and after a few minutes of digging in the sand managed to find an object that appeared to be a key. I guess it was a treasure map after all. We found nothing else of value in the room.
The general party agreement was that we should take a rest, but I and a couple others wanted to try out this key. We went back to the carved stone door, the only door remaining that we had not explored yet, and began studying it again. We searched it for traps and then I invoked my powers searching for any magical presence. I quickly detected a very strong aura of magic, and with further examination I detected it was of the school of enchantment magic. This allayed much of my fear about opening the door in our current weakened state and I decided it was worth the risk. Studying the slot and the key I found the correct way to insert it, and the door then mystically disappeared revealing a dark room with a smooth polished floor. Other than that we could see nothing. I decided to take one tentative step into the room. Immediately I found myself glad I had not gone farther, for the floor disappeared beneath my feet and I found myself floating on an invisible surface suspended over a pit at least 20 feet deep, filled with surging flames. Curiously the heat did not feel oppressive as I stood there floating over it. It was pretty obviously then that this room was a trap, most likely of the maze form. At this point Dax had a brilliant idea and he went back into the sand floored room and scooped a large amount of sand into the bag holding. Returning, he passed it to me and I began to spread it liberally before me to find the invisible pathway above the flames. Doing this, I worked my way across the room finding a zigzag path towards the far wall. Upon reaching the wall I intently studied it and thought I could make out a seam which might be a portal of some sort, but I could not figure it out. At that point I called in Dax to try his skill at doors, but when he tried he could not even make out the outline I had seen.
At this point we knew we were on to something big, but if it was an enemy beyond the passageway we would not be ready until we had recuperated. We backed our way out carefully and decided to give it another try on the morrow.
[Minor editing and corrections provided by the DM.]