Crystal Assembly

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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Who Initiated This Fight, Anyway?

From the journal of Arjhan

So, suddenly we’re fighting with these gray-skinned, scimitar-wielding creatures who, on second glance, aren’t githzerai after all. As we all piled into the room, Solath took a hell of a hit – I can’t fault his bravery, but he’s not tough like Garth or me. I decided to retaliate, and caught their mage in the face with a blast of acid. He ain’t pretty no more.

The mage and a couple of others chose to engage us in melee, while the others stayed on top of the bookshelves and peppered us with arrows. Very irritating, it was, especially since they could teach Silvio a thing or two about archery (at least that’s what it felt like). They also had some sort of psychic scream attack that left us dazed and reeling.

As the fight continued (the gray guys are surprisingly tough), I learned a few things about the room. For one, the books on the shelves emit whispering sounds – very distracting, they make it hard to walk away from the shelves. For another, the gray bastards are quick learners; they kept dodging my attacks. I finally managed to accomplish something by healing Solath, who was caught out in the open and had an archer giving him a bad day. Kuruk them one-upped me by healing several of us at once with his divine magic. Silvio, meanwhile, was still trying to shake off the effects of the psychic scream.

Our defense finally solidified, and Garth and Uthrag pounded on the enemy mage while Solath’s conjured ball of fire rolled across the bookshelf top in pursuit of an archer. F’lar did his little invisibility trick, stabbed the mage, and almost immediately collapsed in a bloody heap.

The mage finally, finally went down, which marked the turning point as we quickly cleaned up the remaining archers. One tried to flee, but I slowed him with a blast of ice, and Solath teleported next to him and stopped him more permanently. Victory!

The battle over, Vysellis started whining about some damn shinies or other, ordering Solath to dig around in the grass that surrounded the statue. She seemed very upset that some gems were missing, and wouldn’t shut up until I lost my temper and spoke sternly to her. That quieted her for a minute, anyway. For a disembodied severed head in an orb, she sure is uppity.

Having taken a beating, we spiked the doors shut and made camp, discovering that we didn’t feel any real sense of hunger or thirst. Odd. I passed the time by cleaning up the mage’s skull for a trophy. During the night, someone or something rattled the door the gray bastards had been trying to flee by, but nothing else occurred. We did discover some valuable books, and the rather disquieting fact that many of the books in the library were blank. We deduced that the gray gith-like people had been somehow consuming the information from the books, and dubbed them “eaters of knowledge,” or eoks for short.

Next morning we decided to press on to the north and perhaps find the door-rattler. The next room contained a large statue of the god Ioun (I think Solath follows him) and another of the gray guys. As we entered, runes flared to life on the statue and it began emitting and unhealthy-looking energy.

Why do I know it’s not just a really gaudy reading lamp?

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Quit Bleeding All Over Everything and Do Something!

From the journal of Arjhan

Things were already looking fairly “interesting” when a new wrinkle appeared – some of the corpses at the bottom of the worm-, Uthrag- and Kuruk-filled pit began standing up and making moaning sounds. Zombies. And more carrion crawlers appeared. I decided that Garth, F’lar, Solath and Silvio ought to be able to handle one giant among them, even if he did have two heads. So I jumped into the pit – I think I pulled a tendon on that landing – and started showing those invertebrates what dragonborn are good for. Kuruk and Uthrag quickly climbed to safety – followed by one of the worms. Turns out they can climb like spiders.

More zombies crawled moaning from the corpse-pile, and then Solath used his ever-popular visions of avarice spell to draw them all to a central point in the pit. Giving him a thumbs-up, I proceeded to electrify the hell out of them, annihilating the zombies and badly wounding the worms. Point for the wizard-sorcerer tag team!

Meanwhile, things were going less smoothly up top. F’lar had taken a hit from a carrion crawler’s tentacle and could barely move; he was throwing shuriken and daggers at the ettin with little real effect. Garth was holding the two-headed horror back, but couldn’t hit to save his life. Damn, it’s a good thing he’s so tough. Half-orcs must have tough bones.

Eventually, Uthrag closed with the ettin and began whittling him away, and then we arcane spellcasters got involved. Solath made the ettin go in the pit, and Garth chased after him. The ettin ended up knocked prone, slowed, and immobilized at the bottom of a pit, with an angry half-orc in his face…well, one of his faces. He didn’t last much longer.

After the battle, and after Garth gave up digging in the corpse-pit for treasure (rather quickly, I thought) I heard a female voice coming from a small bag hanging on the wall. After some cautious prodding (and some harsh words), the source of the voice proved to be a magical obsidian orb, inhabited by the spirit of an eladrin woman named Vyrellis. Solath claimed this orb, after some very careful examination, and began interrogating the spirit. She knew the general layout of the pyramid, so after some consideration we decided to head north to the library.

The library is…large. Also spooky, what with the large, headless statue in the middle of the room. And Vyrellis admonishing us to “heed not the whispers,” with no real explanation. It’s also inhabited: a bunch of grayish, skinny humanoids – githzerai, I think – are scattered around the room. I’m not sure what happened exactly, but Silvio shot at one of them, and suddenly we’re in the middle of a battle.

Works for me.

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I Seem To Be In A Pile of Dead Bodies

From the journal of Arjhan

After a bit of rest and relaxation, we were called before Crystal for a new mission. A human scholar with the unlikely name of Billingsley wished to hire us to explore some sort of “Pyramid of Shadows.” It seems he had been having dreams about it, and wanted us to seek out this pyramid, investigate the source of his nightmares, and deal with it. After a bit of haggling – the man seemed to have no concept of what a band of highly-skilled adventurers was worth – we came to an agreement. Crystal also mentioned that the Guild might be interested in interesting specimens retrieved in our travels, and on that note, away we portaled.

We found ourselves in the jungle. After traveling for a bit, we encountered a large clearing, where we were promptly jumped by several humans and dwarves, one riding on a magnificent specimen of a rage drake. We spread out to do battle, slowing the rage drake with magical cold and assaulting the humans and dwarves with whatever we had handy. Uthrag, Silvio and F’lar tied up one side of the battlefield, while Kuruk, Solath, Garth and I dealt with the rage drake and the other attackers. The drake eventually reached melee range, only to be harassed by Solath, Kuruk and myself; nearby, Garth engaged in an epic duel with a single bandit who ended up knocking him on his ass.

I tried to lure the rage drake across a nearby stream, away from Solath, but the stupid beast turned on Kuruk instead. Eventually Solath brought it down with minimal damage to the carcass – psychic attacks are useful that way. On the other side of the battle, Silvio had been surrounded by bandits and had resorted to his longsword – I tend to forget he even has the thing. He dropped it as soon as possible and reverted back to archery. Elves; no stomach for close combat.

The last surviving bandits tried to flee, but Solath, F’lar and myself chased one down and taught him the error of his ways. Dragging his unconscious form back to the clearing, we were alarmed to witness a pyramid rise from the ground in the center of the clearing, and a ghostly tiefling asking Silvio: “What are you seeking?” Silvio answered something about baklava, and the next thing I knew we were somewhere else. Damn teleporting ghosts. I barely had time to stuff my rage drake carcass into the bag of holding.

We found ourselves at the bottom of a ten-foot-deep, fifteen-foot-square pit carpeted with corpses. Lovely, indeed. A two-headed giant with a sword in each hand peered down at us from above. Obviously the bellboy at this fine hotel; I must remember not to tip him.

We all decided that a corpse-filled pit was not the most tactically useful position to be in, so we swarmed up the sides just as something beneath the corpses began rumbling upwards. This proved to be a pair of enormous green worm-creatures with many tentacles – carrion crawlers. Even better, Kuruk missed a foothold halfway up the pit and fell back in, landing prone before the crawlers. Uthrag. Who is no coward whatever else he might be, elected to stay behind and protect our unfortunate comrade.

Looks like another one of those days.

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So You're Planning to Taxidermy a God?

From the journal of Arjhan

The battle raged on as Solath’s illusion dragged most of the unfortunate human barbarians into the fissure in the middle of the room – their fault for having a gaping chasm in their fortress. I stepped forward and filled the fissure with lighting, taking a few axe-blows in return. This proved the turning point, as it was largely clean-up after that. However, before the battle was quite finished, Captain Eyeballs – I mean, Solath – noticed a figure on the other side of the room, watching us fight. Jaryn himself, atop a dais, standing beside some sort of firepit..

Jaryn made no move as we wiped out his warriors, bound our wounds, and strode across the room to meet him. He greeted us cordially, offering us all wine which he claimed would heal our injuries. Solath, Garth and I decided that accepting magical drinks from fallen paladins who had turned to serving evil deities of tyranny wasn’t necessarily the best course of action. Of course, Silvio, F’lar, Uthrag and Kuruk thought it was a great idea and guzzled away merrily. Their continued survival amazes me.

Jaryn proved to be morose and fatalistic, rambling on that Pelor was dead, goodness was pointless, there was no justice, and similar gloom and doom. One of the more depressive villains we’ve faced, actually. We eventually grew tired of this and gave him our standard “surrender or die” offer, which he predictably turned down.

The fight with Jaryn was oddly disappointing, since he refused to so much as swing a blade at us; instead, he focused on defense. Still more worrisome was the fact that the shadow he cast was large and misshapen…and there was a firepit between Jaryn and his shadow. Sure enough, as Jaryn fell, the shadow animated into a very large and quite hideous ape-demon…thing. This was Naraash himself, the self-proclaimed god: in reality, merely a demon.

Naraash first offered us the position of his Right Hand, sad position being recently vacated by Jaryn. We gave that offer the answer it deserved, in the form of blasts of fire and cold, axes, hammers, and shuriken. The battle was fierce – even though he was no god, Naraash was tough – but teamwork paid off. Eventually Kuruk went face-to-face with the demon, raining blows on him with his craghammer, and Naraash finally expired.

We cut off his head for a trophy – it’ll look dandy mounted over the fireplace – and quickly looted the place. Treasure in hand, we also discovered a secret escape tunnel in the wall behind the late Jaryn’s dais. Slipping quietly out the back door, we beheld a town in chaos, as the people of the Banite community below dealt with the sudden loss of their god and most of his church. We later learned that, upon Naraash’s death, the red stones in the amulets worn by the Death Squads all crumbled to dust. In the general chaos we were able to sip away fairly easily.

Another job well done.

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We Always Knew Solath Was a Flamer

From the journal of Arjhan

The giant suits of armor proved annoying, but not particularly dangerous. Solath hindered them with grasping shadows, I battered them with dragonfrost, and Garth and Uthrag methodically took them apart. One managed to prevent Kuruk and F’lar from moving for quite a while, much to F’lar’s annoyance. He broke free at the very end of the battle, and was able to destroy the final suit of armor.

Solath noticed a hidden door in the wall in mid battle – I don’t know how he keeps track of everything – so we immediately set about getting through it. This led to a hallway, collapsed at one end, and with a pair of double doors at the other. As the rest of us examined the double doors, Garth wandered off because he saw something shiny. Seriously, that was his explanation. He’d be dead long ago if he weren’t as tough as old boots.

Garth’s prize proved to be five purple amethysts set in the wall, surrounding what appeared to be another secret door. Fortunately for us, F’lar noticed tiny runes inscribed around the gems, and we deduced that they were the trigger for some sort of magical trap. After Silvio carefully triggered the trap from a distance, we collected the gems and tried to open the door, but with no luck. We turned our attention to the double doors and, not wanting to waste time on subtlety, promptly broke them down.

Inside was a stairway leading up, and we heard the sounds of footsteps and hushed movement. At the top of the stairs was a very large room, split in two by a fissure in the rock. Solath lead the attack, using magic to drop a stinkpot sling stone (taken from my midget hillbilly cousins a while ago), which produced the sound of coughing. Solath then lead the attack more literally, rushing up the stairs to engage the enemy. The enemy ended up being several wild-looking human warriors, a couple of hobgoblins, and some skeletons wreathed in flames. One of these firey undead managed to set Solath on fire before the rest of us could come to his aid, but Kuruk was kind enough to throw a mug of beer on him to help douse the blaze. Where he got the beer, I don’t know. I assume it’s a dwarf thing.

The battle continued, and our defense solidified, with Uthrag and Garth getting to the front line and Solath using magic to lure two of the enemy into the rock fissure. A human spellcaster appeared and blasted us all with some sort of hellish power, only to fall under our combined counterattack. At one point, F’lar threw a dagger between Uthrag’s legs and took out a human – it made me wince to see. Uthrag and F’lar are both lucky that little gnome’s such a good shot.

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No Demonic Frenchy For Me, Thanks

From the journal of Arjhan

The tiefling proved an annoying opponent, striking out with his twin short swords and then becoming invisible. Fortunately, our keen-eared wizard Solath noticed footprints appearing amongst the rubble, and we proceeded to blast the hell out of the area. There was a brief uncomfortable moment after the tiefling reappeared when F’lar attacked him and received some sort of “demonic Frenchy” attack that left us all feeling queasy. Fortunately, we managed to take him alive, remembering that Jaryn was said to have a tiefling companion.

The tiefling (after being tied up and persuaded to speak) proved, in fact, to be Dajani, a companion of Jaryn. From him we learned that Jaryn made it to the Pillars of Night, but there our captive’s information became…less useful. He seemed very vague and disoriented, and gave no clear answers. We eventually deduced that Jaryn had sworn himself to Bane and become “the Right Hand of Bane.” Dajani, likewise, seemed to have dedicated himself to the Dark God.

After some consultation between Solath, Kuruk and myself, we came to the conclusion that Dajani’s conversion was natural, not the product of enchantment; as such, magic could not cure him. Since he had willingly surrendered himself to Bane, there was no help for it. Although there was talk of tying him to a stone, or to Uthrag, and dropping him in the river, we ultimately gave him a warrior’s death in honor of the heroic adventurer he had once been. With this grim reminder or our enemies’ power, we continued on.

Glasur the moonboat captain informed us that we had come as far north as the river could take us. He promised to wait for us for a week, and so we struck out overland, heading north. A couple days travel brought is in sight of the infamous Pillars of Night – and a town, built into the mountainside. We estimated about 5oo warriors and twice that many noncombatants; mostly human, but some dwarves and dragonborn as well. We saw no elves or gnomes. The symbol of Bane was displayed prominently.

Since the town itself was not heavily guarded, we covered any obvious holy symbols and such, and simply strolled in. By joining in work gangs, weapons training classes, and the occasional religious sermon, we picked up a fair bit of information as we maneuvered towards the far side of town. In particular, we learned that the talismans with red stones that we had been collecting were carried by the Death Squads…fitting, perhaps, that we had acquired a hefty number. We also confirmed that Jaryn was the Right Hand of Bane, which post he apparently won by decapitating the previous cult leader, Larkazh the hobgoblin. Unnerving.

This seemed too easy, as indeed it was. As we reached the doors of the stronghold, carved into the side of the mountain, a doppleganger on horseback rode up out of nowhere and denounced us. Thinking quickly, we rushed inside and slammed the doors behind us, which activated some sort of triggered magical effect. Although the outer doors sealed firmly, all of the interior doors did as well.

With some effort on F’lar’s part, and some assistance from the rest of us, we managed to get one of the two other doors in the room open. Beyond lay some sort of storage chamber, lined with giant-sized suits of armor. A quick blast of arcane ice toppled one to the floor, lifeless, so we strode in with confidence…at which point the remaining suits of armor animated and attacked us.

Typical.

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