17th of Rhomdibberahn
Last night we set up camp in the Skeleton room to rest up for what we hoped would be our last night in this dungeon. During the first watch of the night I thought I head some scraping sounds but could not ascertain there cause or exact location. I passed along a not to the following watch about it and took my rest. No sooner had I closed my eyes and passed into a deep sleep than I awoke with a searing pain in my abdomen and looked up to see a bloody skeleton looming over me with what appeared to be my blood on its claws. I rolled upright as Erg rushed in beside me and started attacking the creature. By this time the noise had awoke the entire party and everyone began attacking the skeleton from all sides, quickly dispatching the beast. Upon closer inspection it seemed to be the very one we had dispatched the day before, which left the party in a very disturbed mood. We tried many things to keep it from regenerating again, like smashing it to bits, scattering it, and attempting to burn the remains. Unfortunately we needed to add yet another day to our rest period due to the attacks of the skeleton disrupting our rest and inflicting more wounds that needed healing time.
The 18th of Rhomdibberahn was spent resting and relaxing. I used the time healing my compatriots and modifying my spear into a quarterstaff, for I had found a way to empower it using my nature powers and make it quite a lethal weapon. While not as likely to cause critical wounds as my scimitar, it would deal much more damage overall, and was another tool to keep at my disposal. We rested again that night and had no more disruptions to contend with, although we did notice the bones we had scattered had mysteriously vanished again. On the morning of the 19th we headed down into the bottom floor (we hoped) of the labyrinth and tried to discern a way to open the portal. Although we were able to redefine the doorway opening through extensive searching, efforts of Dax and Myself proved ineffective in finding a way to open it. We were at wits end as to how to gain access through the portal when we got the idea to comb the sand thoroughly to see if there was another key hidden. We lined up shoulder to shoulder in the sand room and began working our way across the room searching for something hidden in the sand. About halfway through the search we were surprised when yet another scorpion burst forth from below the ground. This lone creature was quickly overcome by the party but it inflicted damage to several of our party that required healing. This was to be a problem later in the day due to our depleted healing ability.
The search for a portal key continued and after a short search Comiza found a hard object under the sand which turned out to be statue of a fist. Upon studying it Comiza determined that it was a magical device empowered with the knock spell, just what we were looking for. We had a quick strategy meeting and set up a plan for opening the door. The wizard was going to have to wield the knock device to open the door, so we set up to support him, but when it only removed the seal and did not instantly open the door [DM note: Technically, the door was open. It was unlocked and unsealed. It only required someone to apply a little pressure to either side of the pivoting door to swing it open.] we shuffled back out of the room with the fire platform and reorganized with fighters in front to enter the room. As usual Erg went first and then everything went downhill from there when she walked forward into the room. As Erg walked about 10 feet into the room 10 of the bloody skeletons creatures animated and rose up inside the room and immediately attacked, quickly surrounding Erg. The other two fighters moved in to assist and a short defensive wall was established near the entry portal. The skeletons were much too powerful though and heavily armored. First fell Nyelo and then Erg, while Wulfgar fell back to the platform room, all the while being supported by fire from Comiza, Dax, and myself. Hiding behind his tower shield Wulfgar became a supremely difficult target to hit and a sort of stalemate was reached. The skeletons learned not to go near the door after we dispatched a second one, and this gave Wulfgar a window to reach in and drag Erg out as she had fallen just at the doorway. The skeletons would not follow us back onto the platforms and expose themselves to our fire. Whether it was because they had some small bit of intelligence, or they were magically warded from leaving, I donít know. We did manage to take out two of the 10 skeletons, and rescue Erg before eventually retreating, but if they are like the other bloody skeleton we killed they are probably reanimating as I am writing this.
By this time we realized we had been beaten. With our current abilities these foes were beyond our capability, so for now we are going to get another good rest and then head north to [Tendahm]. So camp was set and we spent the next two days foraging, resting, and healing before heading north. Maybe we will come back some day when we are more skilled and better equipped.
21st of Rhomdibberahn
Well rested, we began our trek to Delahm. While still an arid climate, with primarily scrub brush for vegetation, the dunes began moving off to the west as we headed north and the land became flat. We ran into no other travellers during this leg of our journey, but as we drew near the town my eagle companion gave me a warning through our empathetic link that it spotted people to the west of town in an encampment. We also noticed the town seemed rather inactive as we approached closer. As a team we then decided to head overland towards the other party of people camped outside town to see if we could get some news. As we approached bearing no weapons in hand we attempted to hale the camp with a greeting. This was immediately replied to with a call to arms and a charge from the strangers who we quickly determined to be orcs. We managed to get a few arrows off as they charged forward, but then once again Ergís bloodlust got the better of her and she charged into the fray, quickly supported by Wulfgar, both of whom scored some wicked blows as they charged into the fray. I used those precious seconds before combat to cast bullís strength on myself and then to enable my quarterstaff power called Shillelagh. As I did this Comiza moved in behind me and cast mage armor and enlarge on me while Dax laid down a barrage of bolts from his crossbow. †
The sensation of becoming giant sized filled me with amazing raw power and almost stopped the orc leader in his tracks when he saw the transformation. Now I charged forward to where Erg and Wulfgar were in danger of becoming overrun by the Orcs and dealt a crushing series of blows to the two orcs to Ergís right. While not killing either one outright they were greatly wounded by my first swing. The Leader of the group then shouted something to his men and began running away (Erg later informed us he told them to remain and fight to the death). His escape was brought to a sudden halt by Daxís skillful crossbow shots taking him down from long range. Then within moments two of the other four orcs were down and the remaining two decided to live to fight another day and began running for their lives at an incredibly high speed. These we were unable to take down before they escaped in a cloud of dust. A search of their camp and packs revealed rations and hand weapons but nothing of any real worth. I was able to find a usable set of hide armor I gave to Erg and she returned my old set I had loaned to her a couple days ago since her chainmail had been destroyed by the Gray Ooze. †
We then decapitated the downed orcs and put their heads into a pack to show the townspeople they had nothing to fear from the bandits anymore. Our reception into the town was not what we had hoped for though. Everyone remained boarded up in their homes, not hailing our calls even after we explained what we had done to the bandits. Finding an inn, we found it locked and bolted, but we did determine there was someone inside. I shouted out asking if Gellidahr was present and that Derrigan had sent us to look for him. That at least drew a response and we began a conversation about how the town folk were now even more fearful since the two escaping orcs would go back to their thieves den and bring back a large group of bandits to kill everyone in the town for revenge. After assuring him we would make sure that would not happen we came upon an agreement that if we took care of their problem with the thieves, Gellidahr would gladly give us a free passage over the Ribbbon Sea. At this point in the conversation he finally unbolted the door and let us in. We spent the rest of the evening briefly questioning him for all we could learn about the thieves before taking what we hoped would be a good rest before the next day's inevitable conflict. †
By my reckoning it has been just over a month since we arrived in this place. Maybe as I said before I am getting too paranoid being away from my home in the woods, but I have been giving some thought lately to the chain of events that have brought me to this place. I am starting to get a feeling we are being watched, perhaps even controlled. From what I know of the struggle between Xox and Maexon, both parties have been struggling against each other for centuries like a game of chess. Thinking on all that we have accomplished in just a month, I can only imagine how far each of these two powerful antagonists have extended their influence throughout this world over the past ages. It seems at every step since we arrived we have been followed, corralled, or played like pawns. I think it goes without saying that each of these parties would try to monitor arrivals to Ashtakahr, Maexon to help those who answered his summons, and the agents of Xox to eliminate them. The ruffians who followed us incessantly from our first night in the city obviously had orders from someone to follow and try to capture us, as we heard from their own lips when we made our escape into the sewers, but whose side where they on? I assumed at first they worked for Xox, they certainly seemed thuggish enough, but Xox controls the government so they could have just arrested and interrogated us, unless the officials want to keep their suppression as quiet as possible. If Maexon sent them they surely seemed overly aggressive in trying to capture us by force, nearly killing us before we escaped. Maexon though would have to be incredibly careful himself to avoid taking in counter spies, therefore any test of allegiance would have to be hard. Contemplating all this was the fact we saw some of those ruffians slated for execution in the arena when we where put on death row by the Captain of the guard for the "Peaches" incident. Where they there because they had failed Xox, or because they had been found as agents for Maexon. For that matter maybe they just broke one of Ashtakahrís Draconian laws and were condemned to death and were there just by chance, or maybe they where just planted there to observe us and where not really going to be executed. You could spin this argument in circles over and over. I wish things were like in the forest, where a fox is a fox and a sheep is a sheep. Here you can't tell the two apart, although I doubt there are many sheep in this game.
There was more to consider as well. That owl that followed us as we travelled north after escaping the city was also more than a coincidence. The way it kept returning and keeping its distance seemed much to intelligent and out of character for such a creature. After hearing of the Wizard Solanthar(???) in the Domity of Quahn(?) to the north I had a sneaking suspicion this owl might be an agent of his or possibly even his familiar tracking our progress. Then again I must not fool myself into thinking an owl, no matter how noble a creature in the woods, could not be twisted and turned to the use of evil by the minions of Xox, not that we are even really sure of Solanthar's allegiance.
I have mentioned previously in my journal my feelings on the arrival of the Blue dragon, but now I see even more possible twists on its arrival, for on the very day we were thinking of possibly leaving the labyrinth for lack of supplies, its arrival forced us back down into the hole whereupon we subsequently found the relic that might be part of a key to overthrow Xox. Yet once again the question remains who sent it and why, or maybe it was just a coincidence? It would seem strange for Solanther to use an evil dragon to force us back into a hole to ensure we retrieved a relic, and just a strange for it to have left when it had us trapped if it was under the dominion of Xox. Then again nothing stopped us from leaving when we could not defeat the skeletons. This whole situation was a puzzle with too many missing pieces. We must turn this puzzle into a chessboard, and start planning our moves, and not simply be as pawns moving straight forward. Surely we can not fool ourselves into thinking we can be a King, or Queen and move with impunity on this board of intrigue against Xox's thousands of years of experience, but we can be knights, and move erratically and strategically, hurdling obstacles, striking from the rear and perhaps even someday if we play well and with support from others, checkmate the King.
[Minor editing and corrections provided by the DM.]