Crystal Assembly

I Can See Clearly Now, the Gnome is Gone...

As we recuperated from the shitty battle, the bandit archer – I never did get his name – declared that he was heading back to Gresh and the bandits to report what had happened. The other bandit elected to stay with us. During our rest, I managed to complete my latest taxidermy project – a flogger made from a tentacle of the giant killer otyugh we just killed.

We decided to continue north, though the doors in the room with the ridiculous paddle-wheel trap. We were hoping to find an alternate entrance to the water-filled room we’ve been told exists here, but instead we discovered an L-shaped room – more of a wide hall, really – with mirrors placed here and there along the walls. As we carefully avoided looking at the mirrors and debated the wisdom of entering the room at all, Solath suddenly declared that he had caught a glimpse of a flaming skull floating in one of the mirrors.

This seemed bad, but before we could react, F’lar charged across the room to the set of double doors directly across from us. As he approached, one of the doors opened to reveal a devillish-looking character – a cambion, I think – armed with a greatsword, which he promptly swung at F’lar. We piled into the room to the sound of activity to the right, around the corner of the L. Kuruk joined F’lar at the door as Garth blocked the other way, backed up by Solath and myself as Silvio took potshots from outside the room. Uthrag charged across the room and leaped over F’lar’s head, bursting open (or possibly just knocking down) the remaining closed door.

A flicker of movement in one of the mirrors heralded a fireball that struck in our midst, badly scorching Solath. I melted a hole in the mirror with an acid orb and moved to back up F’lar, Kuruk and Uthrag, but moments later, Garth was confronted by two more cambions along with a couple of…dwarf ninjas? Strange, dwarflike creatures in dark clothing, their faces concealed. Whatever they are, they bleed. Garth held them all off, despite absorbing several blows and being set on fire at one point.

On the other front of battle, Uthrag hammered away at the cambion, finishing him off with an ear-splitting bellow to the face. Silvio’s deadly arrows took down another of the dark ones, this one next to Uthrag. The creature’s body disappeared in a burst of black mist, and Uthrag shouted that he was blind. Seconds later, Garth slew another of the strange creatures, and also fell victim to their blinding death-burst.

Solath and moved to aid Garth as he fell back, blasting the foe with lethal magic. I felt fire sear my back and realized I was blocking one of the mirrors – the flaming skull was attacking with rays of fire. Since I am resistant to fire and my companions are not, I elected to stand where I was and block the line of assault. Several more flame rays hit me; painful, but they did little damage.

Meanwhile, F’lar berated another cambion with unlikely comments about its mother, and Uthrag took someone down – even blind, he’s deadly. Garth, still reeling, was unable to block the advance, and I took a few hits before Solath, Garth and I managed to retaliate. It hurt, but I gritted my teeth; I’m a battle-sorcerer, dammit!

I caught a glimpse of F’lar climbing atop Uthrag’s shoulders and heard him shouting directions, then a cry of victory as Uthrag connected. Those two would be hilarious if they weren’t so dangerous. I got in a lucky shot with my acid orb and melted a cambion’s face off, then heard F’lar yelling “Not that way, you blind oaf!” followed by the sound of a gnome hitting the floor and Uthrag’s bellowing and running footsteps. Another door crashed open beyond my sight. I guess Uthrag got bored.

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So I'm Prone in a Giant Pit of Shit?

From the journal of Arjhan

Fortified with bacon, we pressed onwards. We entered a room that was suspiciously empty save for two stone statues, with two exits in the far wall. We sent F’lar, Silvio and Solath to examine the place, and to our vast non-surprise they reported evidence of a trap. A twenty-foot square section of flooring seemed to be suspicious, and we debated whether to bypass it, or attempt to trigger it. We retrieved a corpse of one of those reaper guys, intending to use it to set off the trap. Garth, however, decided he ought to jump over the trap so we could drag the corpse all the way across it. Before we could think this plan through, he had tied a rope around his waist, shoved the other end into my hands, and took a running leap.

He cleared a good fifteen feet – not quite enough. As his feet hit the floor, there was a clanking of machinery and the entire floor dropped away, the wall coming down to create a new floor like a giant paddle-wheel. I yanked on the rope, but not fast enough – the trap snapped it off before I could drag Garth to safety. We heard his shouts fading as he plunged down a chute or a slide or some damn thing.

Bu we had our own problems: rats. Specifically, undead rats with creepy red eyes, that had been clinging to the inner wall (which was now our new floor). They proved both aggressive and fragile, and we made short work of the half-dozen or so that had appeared.

There followed an intense few seconds as we debated how to get down to where Garth was (hopefully) still alive. We quickly decided to drag one of the stone statues over, trigger the trap, and use the statue to jam it open. Uthrag and I wrangled the thing into position, and then, fearing for Garth’s life, I stomped across the trapped area of flooring.

Turns out it was the last row of floor tiles.

I slid down a chute and came to an undignified halt in a large pit – a large, occupied pit, with a nice soft layer of crap. Garth was battling some sort of large, tentacles monstrosity that looked to be close kin to an otyugh. I gasped out that help had arrived.

I later learned that the second activation of the trap had released another handful of undead rats up above, which is why the rest of the party did not immediately follow me. Kuruk did appear seconds later, surfing his bearskin like a child on a carnival ride – to land directly on top of Garth, knocking them both down. I would have laughed except for the flailing tentacles of the foul-smelling monstrosity that was trying to eat us. The bandit archer joined us as well.

A resounding crack echoed from above, and half of the statue tumbled down into the pit with us. I guess Uthrag’s grip slipped. Garth, Kuruk and I proceeded to pound the monster with weapons and magic, although Garth kept slipping in the crap and flailing around as if he was drunk.

I heard more noise from up above, and then Solath’s voice telling me to get out of the way; seconds later, a flaming sphere appeared and began roasting the shit-monster. I got a little scorched, but it felt good. Then F’lar made his entrance. I heard Solath shout “You runty bastard!” and he tumbled down on top of me; at the same time F’lar made some kind of leaping, tumbling dive off the chute and over Garth’s head…into a pile of crap. It would have been hilarious if not for the threat of Certain Doom.

Anyway, the six of us lit into the crap-monster with everything we had. It took a terrific beating but kept flailing around, smelling worse and worse. I later learned that Uthrag, Silvio, and the other bandit were preoccupied with yet more undead rats spilling out of the walls upstairs. Given that we were going six-to-one and losing, I found this explanation to be slightly lacking, even though Silvio said he was forced to resort to hand-to-hand at one point.

Eventually, thanks to iron and magic and healing to keep us up, the beast went down under Garth’s massive hammer. It smelled even worse dead than alive. After still more clanging and banging and cursing, we disabled the trap and made our way out of the shit-pit. Good thing there was water a couple rooms back.

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If You Want to Get Head from a Hag...

From the journal of Arjhan

I came awake with a serious mad-on and no enemies around on whom to vent my wrath. Then the spider-guy who had conjured up the webbing around us showed himself, trying to escape Solath’s flaming sphere. I lobbed an acid orb around a stone pillar and between two trees, hitting him squarely (I was the pitcher on my softball team as a child) but a flying charge from Garth took him down.

Across the battlefield, another of those plant-people appeared and took a shot at Silvio, and received a gnomish dagger in return. Then Garth came howling through the trees, braking branches off with his face and running about seventy feet in a few seconds in order to hammer the plant-guy into mulch. Apparently they’d pissed him off.

We searched the area and discovered a rune-inscribed stone circle in the middle of the room – the runes said something about necrotic energies, and we deduced that the spirits of the dead were empowering this…whatever-it-was. Figuring that whatever our enemies wanted, we wanted to break, Solath and I did our best to disrupt the thing.

We continued north, finding more bushes and hanging vines. F’lar was scouting ahead when suddenly we heard him cry out in pain and anger. Charging forward, we discovered another of those damn reapers hacking at our gnome, and beyond them, an extremely large pig; a dire boar, in fact. A marvelous specimen. We surrounded the reaper in an effort to rescue our comrade, and the reaper unleashed a spray of needles upon us – ironically enough, missing F’lar, who had gone invisible at the earliest opportunity. Another reaper appeared and blasted us all again as we were grouped up like bowling pins. Then the pig charged.

It was shaping up to be a rough battle, and it got even better when someone yanked the dire boar back – a hideously ugly humanoid female; a howling hag, I believe. She screamed at us, the sound causing our ears to bleed, as we shouted threats about taking her head. The pig, unable or unwilling to push past the hag, ran off.

Silvio absorbed a number of hits, and was staggering around bleeding before Kuruk managed to heal him with divine magic. As we turned our wrath on the hag, she howled at us once again and then vanished – apparently they can teleport. Coward. Uthrag’s greataxe cut down one of the reapers, and seconds later, Silvio’s arrows struck the pig (which had returned when the hag moved out of the way) through its tiny eye, killing it. The other reaper decided discretion was the better part of valor and fled. However, it lacked the hag’s teleportation ability, and within seconds Garth rand it down and pounded it into the dirt.

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If You Can Point Out Which Section is the Head...

From the journal of Arjhan

The battle raged on with Uthrag still trapped within one of the shambling mounds. Another crawled out of the pit near myself and Solath, so Solath teleported to safety as I continued around towards the satyr. F’lar took a pretty serious hit, but teleported away with his cloak just in time to evade a second strike. Meanwhile, the satyr had slid down into the pit in his efforts to aid the mounds with his magical pipes.

Our luck started to turn when I finished off one of the mounds with a blast of arcane cold, and seconds later Uthrag tore free, covered in leaves and sap. F’lar killed the mound that had lately held Uthrag with a thrown dagger – I’m not sure how that works; I guess he hit a vital spot. I took a beating from the last mound, and would have gotten consumed if not for Garth constantly harrying the thing. With all of us against one mound and a satyr, the battle ended soon thereafter.

I took the satyr’s head and pipes as trophies, and decided to try taxidermying one of the scythe-wielding fellows as well. We briefly considered attempting to stuff and mount a shambling mound, but gave up when we realized it had no distinct body parts – just a heap of plant matter.

After a moderately restful evening, we decided to head west. To our surprise, we soon found ourselves – outside? The ground was once again turf, and clear blue skies were overhead, although no sun was visible. Unnerved, we crept forward cautiously. A squirrel darted up a tree, and I blasted it with acid just to be sure – for all we know, there could be venomous hell-squirrels in here. It melted like a real squirrel, though.

Suddenly, Solath and Kuruk were shouting warnings about spider-creatures, and we were under attack! Some sort of vaguely humanoid spider-things in the trees, and seconds later, more of the reapers. As we advanced, the reapers gestured and vines erupted from the earth, entrapping myself, Solath and the bandit crossbowman whose name I don’t know. One of the spider-creatures conjured up magical webs around us, but we all simply smiled and unlimbered our ranged attacks.

The reapers vanished, and the spider-creatures started taking a pounding. Suddenly the reapers reappeared and did their best to reap me. I must have blacked out for a bit, and when I came to Kuruk’s voice was thundering in my ears, and there was a dead reaper next to me with one of F’lar’s daggers in his eye-socket.

Now I’m mad.

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Looks Like the Priest Has a Firm Grasp on the Pickle

from the journal of Arjhan

Our epic battle against the Giant Death Pickle from Hell continued. The bandits charged forward, and the skinny guy eventually went down. I was sorry to see him fall – he was a scrapper. I took out my anger on the cave bears, and between us all, we immobilized them and pounded them with steel and arcane fire. Solath finally killed one, and then focused his attentions once more on the Pickle of Doom.

However, it was Kuruk who went toe-to-...er…vine with the monster, beating the seeds out of it with his craghammer. After the poison dryad went down, it was only a matter of time as the rest of us joined in and sliced the pickle into chips.

The battle concluded, we gave a decent burial to the two bandits who had died – they’d fought bravely and earned our respect. We continued south with F’lar in the lead as scout, and paused while he crept up to the next room. Suddenly there was the sound of music up ahead and F’lar was stumbling back in, shouting something about “plant monsters in a pit.” Unsurprised, we charged in.

The room proved to have a large pit in the center which contained three…things that resembled nothing so much as huge, animate piles of compost. Shambling mounds, I believe they’re called. Across the pit was a satyr. Since they had made the first attack on F’lar, I returned fire on the pit-bound mounds. As the rest of the team charged in, some green-cloaked, scythe-wielding guys emerged from a side door and assaulted our flank.

I was working my way around the side of the pit, peppering the mounds with magic as I edged towards the satyr, when Garth decided it would be a good idea to leap into the pit and engage the mounds. Moments later, one of the vegetable monstrosities grabbed Uthrag and…swallowed him, I guess. It sucked him inside itself, although from the amount of noise coming out of the thing, he’s far from dead.

Solath, never afraid to try new tactics, teleported into the pit in the midst of the mounds. As the rest of us yelled at him for an idiot, he unleashed a pair of devastating combat spells, stunning all the mounds (and Garth – oops) and then teleported to safety just as a leafy tendril swept down at his head. Upon his safe reappearance, he explained: “I told you guys I was going to magebomb!”

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"Oh God! It's a Giant Pickle!"

From the journal of Arjhan

The quickling darted here and there, stabbing people – I saw Garth take a solid hit. To their credit, the bandits stepped up and fought. One little skinny guy in particular fought like a demon – impressive. I kept expecting him to take a hit and go down, but he just would not quit.

Garth eventually managed to pin down the enemy, even though a second quickling appeared to wreak havoc. After some fierce give-and-take on the battlefield it became obvious that we were getting the best of the quicklings and their plant-people allies. They attempted to flee, which was a mistake – they went down in a flurry of attacks as they dropped their defenses. Not fast enough, quickling.

We pressed on into the next chamber, where we discovered a female plant-person (a dryad? I’m not up on plant-people) flanked by a pair of cave bears, and some gigantic leafy monstrosity that I can only describe as a Giant Death Pickle from Hell. Undaunted (well, only a little daunted) we sallied forth against the dilly menace. Garth lead the charge against the pickle, and was the first to discover that the dryad, or whatever she was, exuded a poisonous aura. Unfortunately we had little recourse; short of retreating, we had to enter the clouds of venom in order to eliminate the pickle and its companions.

I can’t believe I just wrote that.

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Never, Never, Never Trust Strange Women You Meet in the Dungeon

From Gresh and his men, we learned that the next series of rooms to the south was home to some “singing statures” that greatly frightened the bandits. Expecting golems or worse, we devised some wax earplugs and pressed on, ready for battle. The statues proved not to be animate, but they did indeed sing: celestial hymns praising Moradin, Bahamut, and other noble and upright deities.

We cautiously made our way through and, in a nearby room, discovered a small church to some deity or other, inhabited by a young human peasant woman. I distrusted her immediately and attempted to interrogate her, but she professed ignorance, claiming that her name was Danna and she was afraid of the bandits. Solath muttered “this will not end well” as F’lar tried to befriend the girl in his own…unique way. I kept close just in case as F’lar’s hands commenced to wander. Danna seemed suspiciously accepting of this.

To no one’s surprise, Danna turned out to be a succubus, no doubt trapped by the celestial-singing statues. She suddenly kissed F’lar, and just as fast, devils started appearing out of thin air. Silvio loosed a pair of arrows at the diabolical bitch, only to hit F’lar, who leaped in the way and took the hit. Things got even worse when, at a word from Danna, Uthrag turned and clobbered Solath, and moments later Solath blasted Kuruk. Even after Solath’s magic pulled F’lar away from the succubus, she proved amazingly agile and hard to hit. Her luck didn’t last, though, and Silvio put another of his barbed war-arrows through her eye just before the last of her devillish minions went down.

The succubus dead, we debated taking trophies. It was decided that having the preserved head of an infernal temptress around was probably a bad idea, so we harvested her batlike wings – they’ll look great over the mantle – and reconnoitered with Gresh and his boys. We decided to continue south, to the region held by the fanatical plant-people and their fey and beast allies. Gresh even lent us four of his boys as backup, although I have my doubts as to how much help they’ll be. I’m keeping an eye on them.

We entered a large, heavily overgrown room, and as we began exploring around this enormous hedge that cut the room in half, we were jumped by plant-folk! One one side, a handful of plant-people engaged Solath, Garth and Silvio, while on the other, a lightning-fast quickling slipped past the bandits, slashing wildly. Hopefully I, Uthrag, F’lar and the bandits can take him out quickly and get over to help our wizard.

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If You Can Deal With This Haired-Out Bitch...

We pressed on to the east, after having some firm “discussions” with F’lar regarding his choice of diplomatic tactics. The next few rooms were blessedly dry, and eventually we came to a largish room inhabited by a number of humans, armed with clubs and crossbows. I quickly stepped forward and offered them greetings, explaining that we were a band of mercenaries who had become trapped here (mostly true). Their leader came forward, a dragonborn, and I managed to establish a rapport with him. There are some things non-scaled people can’t really understand, although the “brokeback dragons” comments from my companions were rather bewildering.

Negotiations went surprisingly smoothly, as the bandit leader – one Gresh – seemed a reasonable sort, not eager for a fight that would doubtless cost him several men. He portrayed his band as “honorable bandits,” a contradiction in terms if ever I heard one, but he didn’t seem to be deceptive. He and his men are just as eager to escape as we are.

Eventually we reached an arrangement – one of Gresh’s men had turned into a hairy, wolflike monster, how he never did explain, and the bandits had him locked in a side room. If we could dispose of him, Gresh would gladly share information about the dungeon and its inhabitants. As the bandits (except for Gresh) fled to a stoutly-barred room, we threw open the door to the hairy monster’s room and gave battle.

The unfortunate bandit proved to be an especially large and angry werewolf. Solath lead the charge with some sort of slowing enchantment, and the rest of us closed in. The werewolf attacked in a frenzy, disregarding Garth in his efforts to destroy the rest of us – a mistake he regretted, as Garth battered him repeatedly with that gigantic hammer of his. Solath, at one point, made use of his mage hand to “attack” the werewolf in a very unusual way, but the less said about that, the better. We emerged victorious, if a little scratched; F’lar in particular had taken a gnawing.

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Who Needs a Key When We Have F'lar?

From the journal of Arjhan

As we were preparing to continue our exploration, Uthrag raised the possibility of interacting peaceably with the creatures we might meet, instead of shooting them on sight. Yes, our fearsome barbarian axe-swinger is advocating diplomacy and negotiation. I wasn’t sure how to react either. In any event, we all agreed that some conversation can’t hurt, and may net us some information. We are, however, keeping in mind the fact that the inhabitants of this place were imprisoned here by devils for betraying said devils.

Before we set out, it was decided that this room would make a good base; accordingly, F’lar somehow crafted us each a new key to fit the room’s lock. That gnome is full of surprises.

Onwards. We found a room littered with bones, and when F’lar opened the door to the next chamber, a positive avalanche of skulls poured out. He might have been buried, but fortunately we had taken the precaution of tying a rope to our gnome, and simply yanked him out of danger. About this time bunches of large rats emerged from the other bones scattered about the room, but Solath’s flaming sphere and a few burning sprays from yours truly took care of them.

We continued on, with F’lar (no longer roped) leading the way down a corridor. Reaching a doorway at the end, he paused and gave us the signal for danger (hands flailing over his head). The room turned out to be quite large, full of water, and inhabited by two exceedingly large, black-scaled lizardfolk. Naturally, everyone immediately looked at me. Racial profiling is wrong and hurtful.

In any event, I made my way forward and started cautiously addressing the blackscales (their accents were so thick I could barely understand them). Meanwhile, Uthrag and Garth marched straight towards the lizardfolk, looking like…well, aggressive warriors. Thanks for the help, guys. We also noticed a handful of smaller, green-scaled lizardfolk – poison dusks, I think – swimming about the room.

The blackscales were unfriendly but seemed willing to talk, at least until I accidentally used the term “hillbilly lizards.” I was trying to recover when F’lar, apparently bored with the talk, threw his dagger.

Into one of the blackscales’ eyes.

So much for diplomacy.

We waded into combat – literally – except for Kuruk and F’lar, who were hampered by the four feet of water and their own short stature. The blackscales went down surprisingly easily, but the poison dusks and their shaman were tougher. Couldn’t hit worth goblin droppings, though.

I lost track of the battle briefly when, maneuvering to get a better position, I got sucked down some random pipe and spat out elsewhere in the room. When I’d recovered, one of the poison dusks was holding F’lar underwater in an attempt to drown him. Enemies or not, I couldn’t help but sympathize. F’lar did partially redeem himself moments later when he climbed up Garth’s back, unleashed a flurry of shuriken at the poison dusks, then fell back into the water.

Finally the last poison dusk went down. After that, it was time for a quick gnome-beating and then we continued on.

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Come On, Garth! Are You Going To Let the Gnome Do All the Work?

From the journal of Arjhan

Solath and F’lar immediately identified the glow of the statue as a glyph of warding, and F’lar set to disarm it, aided by Solath’s shouted advice. The eok closed with us and did that psychic scream thing again, and more of ‘em started pouring in from the other doors. One proved to be another spellcaster of some sort, and Vyrellis started screaming that he was a “splinter” and to kill him. Since I’ve got to problem with taking down the enemy spellcasters first, I started blasting him until he ducked into a side room and disappeared. Wimp.

Of course, before he disappeared he did conjure up a magical sword that floated around attacking us.

The remaining eoks quickly fell prey to the Solath/Arjhan arcanist tag-team combo, as Solath’s visions of avarice spell grouped the enemies and I blasted them with magical energy. They didn’t go down though; these gray guys are tough.

The wizard reappeared – in a corner behind us, blasting us with more magic. Between that and his floating sword of stabbing, this guy’s really starting to annoy me. I took it out on his boys, finally dropping a couple of them.

Garth and Uthrag, apparently sharing my sentiments, charged the eok wizard and proceeded to impress upon him the error of his ways. The other eoks started getting wise to my spells, dodging and tumbling to avoid them. Fimally, Silvio put the wizard out of our misery with a positively terrifying arrow-through-the-left-eye shot that pinned his corpse to the wall. I guess he finally remembered to use the sharp arrows.

With the eoks dealt with, we explored the area, discovering some uncomfortably grabby animated curtains, of all things. There was also some sort of covered…magical pagoda area, which apparently provided protection from necrotic energy. Not sure what that’s about, but it’s time for a rest.

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