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Chapter 5 — The "Preparation Room"
They climbed up the stone steps into the ceiling some fifteen or twenty feet above, rising into another dark and massive chamber 50 feet high. The glowing omlar gem was able to illuminate most of the 50- to 60-yard cavernous room. It was empty of any visible life. Stalactites hung from the ceiling, but it appeared that any stalagmites had been broken off and filed down to make the floor as flat as possible. Large boulders and natural stone columns were distributed about the room, but the object that caught everyone's attention immediately was the portal gate in the center.

"The same black metal as what Samber uses," said Hakam.

They all approached the giant ring. It sat on a crude dais made of slabs of stone and was haphazardly embedded in concrete. It was about fifteen feet in diameter.

Szordrin, now holding the omlar gem, looked at the metal of the ring. It was made from five separate pieces. Each piece had the symbol of the Interlink Consortium of Bral etched into it. The discovery immediately triggered feelings of anger in the tiefling.

Solisar also looked more closely. "The metal is marked with the rune for fire," he explained, "just like on the odd faces of the omlar gem. It must be a portal to the Plane of Fire, though we have a scroll from the gynosphinx that we encountered that can help me identify this portal's properties more completely."

"At last," said Leokas, "we have found the portal for which the omlar gem is the key."

On hearing this, Szordrin stepped off the dais and handed the omlar gem back to Leokas. "I do not want to get too close while holding this then.

"Solisar," Szordrin continued, "use the scroll. I shall investigate the rest of this chamber in the meantime with my darkvision."

"I see in the dark too!" said Kytharrah.

"Come along then, Lunk, and I know that you are fast."

Kytharrah seemed confused but followed.

Solisar began reading the incantation from the scroll, while the other two elves and Hakam stood by. It took him about a minute, and during that time, he removed a small mirror from among his belongings. When he completed the final words, the glass of mirror began to glow a deep red color, and it looked to be covered in smoke.

"It is as we suspected," said the sun elf. "The portal activates for anyone passing through while holding the key. Actually, the key is only needed on the Material Plane side. That is, once through, the portal remains open back to the Material Plane, and, yes, its destination is on the Plane of Fire, though I cannot see through all the smoke to make out any details about the specific destination.

The others returned to report that they had found a tunnel on the opposite side of the cavern from the stairs. It seemed to slope uphill and curved to the north.

"What did the scroll reveal?" asked Szordrin.

"It leads to the Plane of Fire, but we cannot tell exactly where," Hakam replied. "I suspect that we would not be likely to survive travel through the portal at this point. That realm is not hospitable to most mortals of our kind, and I do not think that we have the magic to protect us from its heat."

"The Plane of Fire is more hospitable than many of the other Inner Planes," said Szordrin. "The Plane of Earth is just a big chunk of infinite earth and rock; the Plane of Air is just a big collection of infinite water, but at least the plane of fire has a bottom, has land to stand on. Because of the genies, there are even cities."

"You seem to know more about the place than I," said Solisar, somewhat surprised by this observation, "but is not the City of Brass still unsurvivably hot?"

"Well, yes."

"Hakam is right then," said Solisar. "We cannot pass through this gate now. We would have to come back with magical protections for all of us. Perhaps I could research such spells in Silverymoon...."

"Even with protective abjurations," said Hakam, "I will not pass through the portal without a backup plan for getting home. I shall have to acquire another planar fork tuned to the Material."

Kytharrah suddenly snorted loudly. He had spotted someone coming up the stairs. Belvin also noticed and watched as a hairy humanoid ascended. Short, pointed horns sprouted from his head, and he had long ears like an elf or goblin. The creature was garbed in leather armor, covered in studs and spikes, and carried a longsword in one hand and a handaxe in the other. When he reached the top of the steps, batlike wings unfurled behind him.

"It is Durbuluk," said Belvin. He raised his shield and scimitar.

Solisar heard the newcomer call out "Nomog smite thee!" in a fiendish tongue while pointing his sword toward Belvin.

A column of unholy fire enveloped the wild elf, and he screamed in pain as he hurriedly tried to extinguish the flames, only to find that they were no longer there; the magic was instantaneous. He dropped to his knees, his skin burning in pain.

Durbuluk leapt into the air, with a powerful flap of his wings, shooting up to the ceiling before any of the others could reach him. He hung with his axe arm around one of the stalactites.

"Belvin, are you...?" Leokas began.

"Do not talk to me; take him out!" shouted the druid. With that, he called out a frantic druidic chant, attempting to magically bind the half-fiend's wings, but he was in too much pain to complete the spell properly.

Leokas nocked an arrow.

Szordrin called out to the others. "Half-fiends have strong resistances, much stronger than tieflings!"

"Then aim for the stalactite!" Belvin replied.

Szordrin followed Belvin's advice and sent a series of force bursts at the stalactite, but the blasts did not break the stone. Leokas tossed the arrow that he had nocked to the the ground and reached for another one, silver tipped, more useful for injuring certain beings of the planes. Hakam moved off the portal dais and offered a prayer to Anachtyr to protect his companions, while Solisar rushed to Kytharrah's side.

"This is not play!" the sun elf instructed, pausing to enspell his own eyes with some divinatory magic. "Can you hit him with your 'goo bag'?"

Kytharrah tossed his last tanglefoot bag up with a powerful underhanded lob. It shattered and covered the hobgoblin cleric with a sticky mess. "Yes!" shouted the minotaur happily.

Solisar also tossed something up into the air, a tiny fragment of broken glass, which vanished.

"Try to fly now!" Leokas taunted, and he unleashed three shots of silver-tipped arrows in rapid succession. The first punctured Durbuluk's leather, but the second was deflected by either armor or magic force, and the third embedded itself into the stalactite.

Having caught his breath, Belvin retreated further back from the battle, easing his own pain with positive energy as he did so. Then, he began a summoning chant.

Durbuluk cried out in the same awful language as before, but this time, fire immolated him, thin, wispy flames of dim, purple light.

Again Solisar understood the words: "Nomog protect me with warm flame!"

"He is protecting himself from cold magic!" Solisar relayed to the others.

Hakam drew his sword and yelled out a command meant to dispel the enemy cleric's protective magic, but there was no response, and Szordrin, too, failed at attempting a spell of his own.

"I can shatter his stalactite," said Solisar, "but I need to get closer. Kytharrah, lift me up!"

Kytharrah grabbed the elf by the waist and lifted him nearly over his head, but it was a wasted effort. Two more arrows from Leokas found their target in Durbuluk's side, and then the fiendish hobgoblin let go, falling into a glide as a third arrow whizzed past him harmlessly. He glided directly at the opponent who had stuck him thrice with arrows, sword extended. Durbuluk came to the ground directly facing the wood elf, and drove his sword up with the added force of his quick descent. The blade plunged through Leokas' gut and the tip came out his lower back.

"I tried to fly," said Durbuluk in Common. He yanked the blade back out. "Did it work?"

Leokas could taste blood in his mouth, and he could feel the heat from the magical fire surrounding the evil cleric burning his skin. Time seemed to slow for Leokas, but in an instant, Hakam was at Leokas' side, before Durbuluk could take another swing, and positive energy surged through the wood elf. Durbuluk raised his sword again, but was distracted when a vial of some alchemical substance struck him, tossed by Szordrin.

Kytharrah set Solisar on the ground, grabbed his axe, and rushed over to flank the hobgoblin, while the sun elf tried to dispel the violet flames around the hobgoblin but failed to succeed.

Leokas, however, sprung back to land on the dais and drew an arrow.

"I know...." Twang. "...the most painful parts...." Twang. "...on your goblin body." Twang. Three more arrows joined their partners, and Durbuluk was beginning to look like a pin cushion. His attempts to deflect the arrows with his weapons or to strike the elf a second time failed.

"I feel no... ah!" Durbuluk's retort was cut off as a long-necked, blue-scaled, yellow-feathered creature with four sets of wings took a chunk of flesh and hair from Durbuluk's skull with its sharp beak as it swooped by. Belvin's summon from the Plane of Air had arrived. The four-eyed creature gave a high-pitched screech, as the flames about Durbuluk had burned it, and flew off to recover and circle about the massive cavern. Durbuluk now nearly stumbled over as dark goblin blood flowed onto his face from the head wound. He jumped into the air again and flapped his powerful wings to carry him some five yards into the air, but an arrow from Belvin now joined the others, puncturing one of the wings.

"Bree-yark! I yield!"

"Kytharrah, stay," said Solisar, but he readied a spell of his own just in case.

The elemental creature circled back for another nip at Durbuluk's head, as the half-fiend struggled to hover above them with powerful downward strokes of his wings.

"There are more where that thing came from," taunted Belvin.

"Spare my life, and I shall tell you everything that you want to know!"

"Tell us of Allu or I shall strike you with the wrath of the gods!" Szordrin shouted, pointing a wand of magic detection at the severely wounded foe and hoping that the half-fiend would not know the difference.

"This one is not a creature of chaos;" said Hakam, "we may be able to listen to him."

Leokas shot another arrow directly into Durbuluk's gut, precisely where the hobgoblin had stabbed him moments earlier.

"Now, I will listen." He lowered his bow, and Belvin dismissed his strange summon.

"Drop your flames, and tell us of Allu!" repeated Szordrin.

The fiendish hobgoblin dropped back to the ground, his goo-covered, arrow-punctured wings barely preventing him from crashing. Landing on one knee and bent over in pain, he dismissed his spell. Then, he strangely began laughing.

"I find it humorous that even his enemies do not know his actual name."
Session: 98th Game Session - Thursday, Dec 07 2017 from 12:00 AM to 3:00 AM
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Chapter 5 — The Room of Four Columns
The party returned to the cavern complex through the sea cave entrance later that evening, once the tide had lowered again. They still had yet to locate Allu's inner chambers. The interrogated hobgoblins had suggested that his elite forces might be holed up deeper in the caves, where they and Allu had retreated, beyond a massive chamber in the east with a ceiling supported by four thick columns. Supposedly, Allu's chambers were protected against the undead, they had reported, and Szordrin and Hakam had confirmed that at least one more minotaur skeleton and five smaller ones stood "waiting" in the larger room.

The lines of ash that they had left continued to remain undisturbed during their absence. Presumably, the six skeletons had not moved from where they were last seen. "I suppose that if you are already dead, it means nothing to you to stand around for a day," said Leokas.

For once, the group had the time to ready themselves for battle with knowledge of what lay ahead around the corner. Hakam lit up his shield with a prayer, while Solisar cast a similar light spell upon the omlar gem, enhancing the extent of the glow. Hakam increased Kytharrah's strength and protected him from evil. Szordrin likewise protected himself and also created false duplicates of himself. Solisar made his eyes see invisible objects and persons and created a protective forcefield around his clothing. Leokas prayed that Solonor would bless his next shot.

"Are we ready?" asked Szordrin, clutching a bit of bat guano mixed with sulfur between his fingertips, ready for a spell.

"Let us do this," said Leokas, nocking an arrow.

"We charge as soon as I finish casting this last spell," said Solisar. With that, he completed a brief incantation, and a piece of licorice root vanished from his hand.

They all felt a surge of energy and charged out of the cavern passage.

Solisar bowled the glowing omlar gem into the center of the large chamber, filling it with light, revealing five of the previously seen skeletons. A bead of red shot forth from Szordrin's fingertips and struck the ground in their midst, erupting with an echoing blast of light and flame. Bone and bone fragments were scattered in all directions, leaving only the minotaur skeleton in one piece. It threw its head back, as if giving a silent roar. An arrow from Leokas shot through what would have been its open mouth, puncturing the back of its skull. A huge chunk of that fell away, bringing the horns with it. It began to charge, but Leokas caused it to clang to the floor in pieces with a second shot.

Their own living minotaur rushed into the light, passing to the left past one of the four massive columns supporting the ceiling. He saw another skeleton, but it was the extraordinarily thick cloud shape that caught his eye. It looked like it had thick arms and fists, and it had glowing eyes in its midst. He swung his axe at it and found that it felt like he was cutting through something solid and mushy. The cloud parted in half and dissipated, its glowing eyes fading away into nothing. He stood for a moment confused.

Hakam ran after Kytharrah and spotted the same skeleton. He called on Anachtyr to send him a spiritual weapon, and a sword of force appeared before the skeleton and wasted no time in hacking apart the bones.

Three Szordrins charged around the other side of the massive column and saw another hidden opponent. "They have another mummy!" he shouted out in warning, before sending two beams of flame each from his three hand. One of the real beams struck the mummy soundly, but the others passed over her shoulder and struck the column. She was dressed and armed much like the three that they had destroyed the day before. The mummy had her eyes closed and held a posture of what might have been prayer.

Belvin and Solisar came behind Hakam, as two more skeletons rushed from out of the shadows near other columns and charged forward with scimitars waving. Solisar sent missiles of magic force toward the mummy, which he could now also see behind the column, but they seemed to have no effect on her. One of the skeletons came within ten feet of Kytharrah before he cut it in half at the lower spine and scattering its bones. A ball of fire came from Belvin's hand and obliterated the remaining one.

"That was more than six skeletons!" shouted the elven druid.

Then they all felt a bitter cold fill the chamber, which they could feel in their bones. The mummy opened her eyes, and they heard her scream some dark words that included the name of Akadi. A whirlwind blew suddenly through the chamber and a humanoid cloud coalesced near their young minotaur. The elemental being pounded into Kytharrah with the force of a hurricane, knocking him back but not hurting him greatly. It shook him up enough, however, to give the mummy an opening. With inhuman speed, she was upon him, slamming him with fist and mace. He roared in pain, taking three solid blows before at last avoiding the fourth.

Recovering from the feeling of bitter cold, Leokas and Hakam came to their companion's aid. The elf charged east past the column unto a metal-tiled floor and tried to strike the mummy with two simultaneous arrows from his bow. They missed, as mummy and minotaur circled around each other looking for openings to strike.

Hakam pointed at the mummy while stepping away from the reach of the summoned air elemental. The spiritual sword flew toward the undead priestess like a ballista bolt. She deflected the force sword with her shield, but the distraction was enough for Kytharrah to swing down at her embalmed legs, tripping her off her feet and flat onto her back. (It had worked for the previous mummies, so he figured that he would try it again.) Kytharrah hacked down at the fallen priestess, cutting deep gashes into her wrappings, and leaving her chest an ash-filled concave hollow.

Nevertheless, the undead priestess sprung up to her feet again, splintered rib fragments falling to the ground from her chest and mouth open in a shrieking curse.

Hakam silenced her by calling a column of holy fire down upon her, engulfing her in flame.

As she writhed about and burned into ashes, the elemental came at Hakam to avenge its summoner, but it was seared by magic fire from Szordrin, shooting just between Hakam and Solisar and nearly scorching them as well. The sun elf waved his wand to pummel the elemental with force bursts, while Belvin came up behind Kytharrah and healed him with positive energy from his palm.

The elemental, having lost a good portion of its mass from Szordrin's fire, took one more feeble swing at Kytharrah, who deftly dodged the vapory fist. The thing turned and flew with haste to get away, but with a lunge, Kytharrah leapt forward and swung down his axe, turning the otherworldy creature into a puff of air.

Kytharrah giggled at the bizarre effect. "Poof!" he said.

They all caught their breath, as the power of the hasting spell wore off, and looked around at the scattered skeleton bones and the four columns. Between the columns, the floor was flat and tiled with massive ten-foot plates of reddish metal. The columns were the work of crude masonry, with large red bricks.

"Ah!" Szordrin yelled out in pain suddenly, as fire that did not come from his own fingertips erupted around him. He had dismissed his illusion and simply been walking back toward the hall from which they had come. Looking behind him, a wall of violet fire, rising all the way from floor to ceiling extended the whole length from the corner of one of the square-based columns to the cavern wall, from north to south. Thankfully, his fiendish ancestry prevented him from taking severe burns, but he was going to experience what would feel like sunburn for several days after this, and his clothing was singed.

"No one move!" warned Leokas loudly. "This whole room may be trapped."

Szordrin picked up a stone and tossed it to the north, between the chamber wall and another corner of the same column. Nothing happened.

"We all already crossed over that way without incident," said Hakam.

"And I passed the other way the first time too," said Szordrin, while looking carefully at the column, floor, and ceiling. "There are scorch marks here on this other corner of the column," he said, but I cannot find the source of the flames. Belvin, summon your satyr friend and make him pass between the wall and this column to me."

"Not going to happen," answered Belvin.

"You have had him do worse," said Szordrin.

Kytharrah was bored and wanted to head down another tunnel he spotted on the northwestern corner of the massive chamber.

"Minotaur! Get back here!"

Kytharrah grudgingly obeyed. As he did so, a tuft of his fur fell from his chest, precisely where the mummy had previously pounded him with her fists.

"Kezef be bound, you have been cursed!" exclaimed Hakam. "Let me see to your wounds."

Meanwhile, Solisar cast his spell to detect auras of magic. "Yes, the line from the corner of this column to the wall is indeed trapped. The source of the flames is from the crack in the stone there on the wall." He pointed. "The columns themselves are not magical. Yet it did not trigger for the rest of us, as Hakam noted. Odd."

"It triggered on the second time," said Szordrin.

"Like the trap that crushed me," said Leokas with a shiver, recalling that dreadful experience many months ago now.

"Can a magical trap be directional?" asked Hakam. Then he shouted at Kytharrah, "Stay still until I can heal you, minotaur, or do you want all of your fur to fall out?" He examined the friendly beast's injuries. More fur dropped off, and the skin looked rotted and greenish.

"Skin smells funny," said Kytharrah.

"Spell triggers can be customized in all manner of ways," said Szordrin.

"There is another trap between the wall and this other column here," explained Solisar. "Kytharrah nearly set it off, if it triggers in this direction."

"Are we trapped then?" asked Leokas. "We can enter the center of the room yet not leave without harm."

"Perhaps that staircase is not triggered," said Belvin, pointing to where a wide staircase between the two eastern-most columns led up into the stalactite-covered ceiling.

"There is no aura about it," said Solisar, "so it is free at least from any magical traps."

"The hobgoblin scum called the room above the 'preparation room'," said Leokas, "and the location of the gate portal to Clangor."

Hakam finished his examination and curing of Kytharrah, but the skin was still gangrenous. "I cannot help him further today. I will have to ask Anachtyr for such power come morning."

"Kytharrah, how do you feel?" asked Solisar.

"Not as tough. Like bad nap."

"Are you strong enough to search this ash for more gems from the mummy?"

He happily obliged the elf. While he was thus distracted, the others discussed how to handle the traps.

"There seem to be only four of them," said Solisar, "two on each of the western-most columns. So the paths to the tunnel to our exit and to the one over there, presumably to Allu's inner chambers, are blocked."

"Perhaps there are other paths beyond where we can see across the chamber," said Belvin. He and Solisar, carrying the still-glowing omlar gem, walked around the eastern half of the chamber, beyond the columns. They returned with nothing to report.

Szordrin used his magic to feel the trap source remotely, as if with an invisible hand, but he did not have the dexterity to manipulate anything. He gave up and dared to cross the line of the trap to join the others, since they suspected it to be safe passing in that direction. Nothing happened.

"Well," he said, "this explains how the skeletons and mummy made it into this room and then were left here and could not escape."

"If we spent the night here, Belvin and I could shape the stone to encase the traps," said Hakam.

"I could also dispel a trap for a few minutes with my druidic magics," suggested Belvin.

"Let us hold off on that for now," said Hakam, "in case we have another use for that. We still have to explore upstairs; we can deal with these traps later. I also have a scroll that can ward against flames if it comes to it."

"Let me examine the steps for mechanical traps," said Szordrin. They gave him several minutes, and he was convinced that they were safe to climb.

"Ready yourselves," said Leokas. "We ascend."
Session: 98th Game Session - Thursday, Dec 07 2017 from 12:00 AM to 3:00 AM
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Chapter 5 — The Handmaidens of El Sadhara
"Rise!"

   In under a second, a pile of bones, a discarded weapon, and a large horned skull flew together, and Kytharrah spun to find himself facing a minotaur skeleton. Without hesitation, he swung at the undead creature but struck the haft of its massive axe, finding that his new enemy was stronger than one might expect an animated pile of bones to be.

   With a dreadful rattling, several other giant-sized, horned skeletal warriors sprung up around them, two behind them down the tunnel from which they just came, and at least a couple more could be heard approaching from around the corner beyond their own living minotaur. Solisar immediately reached his fingers into his component pouch, looking for a piece of licorice root.

   The three female figures in the distance simply stood still, as Kytharrah's skeletal opponent swung its greataxe. Kytharrah easily parried the blow, but Belvin was not so lucky. At the back of the line, one of the new attackers swung down its large, curved horns, catching him off-guard and goring into his side, lifting him off the ground for a moment. When Belvin came back onto his own two feet, blood was flowing over his hip from a sizeable hole in his side, and he struggled to hold the wound shut with his left hand.

   A powerful shout came from Solisar, and all of them felt a rush of intensity flow through their bodies. Leokas flipped around Belvin in a moment and unleashed arrows at his friend's attacker at a rate that they had never seen before. Four arrows struck the thick bones of the undead monster, and fragments of ribs, a collarbone, a radius bone, and the massive jaw clattered to the rocky ground. It wobbled about awkwardly as if the necromantic magic could barely keep the bones together.

   At the other end of their line, Kytharrah, also empowered with extra swiftness from Solisar's magic, swung with fury, scattering ribs, severing the magical connection between upper and lower arm bones, and smashing through the thick but short femur of its right leg. The skeleton tottled, as the magics drew the split femur bone back together, but before the dark spell could complete its work, the living minotaur swung his head low, catching the monster at the underside of its lower jaw with his horn. With a bucking motion of his neck, Kytharrah ripped the heavy skull from the skeleton's body. It crashed to the floor, and the rest of the body completely dismantled with a noisy din.

   Solisar was more concerned about the three suspected mummies standing calmly by beyond them than about the skeletal monsters. He was chanting the final words of a spell and tossed a fragment of glass in their direction. Above him, two rays of fire shot down from the ceiling from Szordrin, aimed at more large skeletons clattering toward them from around the corner beyond Kytharrah. Hakam could not see these yet, but he held up his holy symbol anyhow and called out a loud rebuke against the unnatural abominations. Then, he hustled over to Belvin to aid him. As he approached, the wobbling minoatur that had gored Belvin moments earlier now swung its axe, driving deep into Hakam's sword arm. Hakam grabbed his own arm, as he saw the druid toss a gob of beeswax at their opponent. The gob stuck to its sternum, and then the entire skeleton was immolated in fire. It fell apart, and each bone continued burning on the ground.

   Belvin shouted a whoop of victory, but another equally large skeletal beast stepped right up over the burning bones of the other and swung at Hakam. Still clutching the bloody gash on his arm, he managed to spin his body such that the blow struck his enchanted shield. The force of the blow drove him to his knees, but it withstood the blade, and it meant that the undead minotaur's horns swung over his head, missing him.

   "Hakam, stay low!" shouted Leokas.

   Hakam obeyed and heard the sound of arrows whizzing just over his head. The fourth arrow split the sternum in half vertically, and drove into one of the vertebrae, knocking it from the spinal column and carrying it farther down the tunnel. The skeleton tumbled apart with a loud clanging.

   Kytharrah also found himself with a new opponent, which had stepped around the corner from the other tunnel, swinging and goring as it came. Kytharrah hopped away from the swing and deflected the horns with the shaft of his axe. He swung back, with hastened movement, splitting ribs and cracking the pelvis before the animated bones blocked his third swing with an axe. The axe heads locked together, and the two minotaurs began a tug of war. Szrodrin tried to assist from his perch on the ceiling by sending down three bursts of magical force. These shook up the skeleton a bit, allowing Kytharrah to break free. He swung his curved horn at his opponent as they pulled away from each other. The horn knocked the lower jaw from the monster's skull, but then the necromantic magic pulled it right back into place.

   Hakam, back on his feet but still clutching his arm, stepped behind Kytharrah. Grabbing his holy symbol with his right hand, he called out for the fourth time that day, "Anachtyr rebuke you!"

   The minoatur skeleton dropped its ancient axe, turned, and fled into the dark tunnel from whence it had come.

   Belvin came up behind Hakam and touched his arm, transferring a burst of positive energy to him. Hakam fell the wound beginning to reseal itself.

   No more skeletons were immediately present, but the three female figures stood firm, watching from the darkness.

   Solisar touched his clothing, which caused it to glow and shimmer briefly. "Need we fear their touch?" he asked. "Can they doom us with their mummy's curse?"

   "I know not," said Hakam, as he drew his sword, "but they will not be touching me."

   "Kytharrah," said Solisar. "Do not charge them. Only use your axe, not your horns."

   "If these are mummies," said Belvin, "no herbs can cure it if you are cursed by them."

   "What are we waiting for?" said Leokas. Still hastened by Solisar's magic, he rushed forward along the right cavern wall with two arrows nocked. Kytharrah snorted and also rushed forward. Szordrin scurried down the wall from the ceiling to follow behind Leokas, using a spell to protect himself from evil.

   However, as Leokas neared to point blank range and raised his bow, one of the mummies moved her head and looked directly into his eyes. Leokas stopped dead in his tracks and moaned, "Solonor save us." He visibly shook to the point of immobility.

   One of the mummies now looked directly at Kytharrah as well, but still he came forward to within range. He felt no fear, but he heeded Solisar's warning and stood defensively rather than make a first move.

   The first attack instead came from Hakam. The cleric rounded the tunnel corner and could now see his opponents in the dim light from the magic torch that Solisar still carried behind him. They were dressed in strange clothes, looking something like a painting from ancient stories of Calimshan. Silver holy symbols hung about their necks, shaped like clouds. They were priestesses of Akadi, just like El Sadhara. That much was clear to him. He held out his open left palm and offered a short prayer. A beam of energy as bright as the sun shot forward, striking the leftmost of the priestesses in the center of her mailed chest. She staggered backward, nearly blown off her feet by the power of the holy burst.

   The mummies now moved in response. The one that was struggling to still stand from Hakam's attack spoke in a dreadful tone. Only Hakam magically understood the words. "We shall be thy doom, priest of law." The words sent shivers through his spine, and he truly feared that he would not survive this battle.

   The second of the mummies lunged at Kytharrah with her huge mace, but he was ready and deflected the blow with the haft of his weapon.

   Then, suddenly, a thick, heavy mist filled the chamber between the adventurers and the three priestesses, as the third mummy finished a dread prayer, making it impossible for any of them to see more than about a yard in front of themselves. Solisar unleashed several ripples of magical force into the cloud, but he could not see the result and had to hope that they found a target.

   Kytharrah engaged the mummy priestess he could see through the cloud directly in front of him. He struck her in the left shoulder, but her chainmail absorbed most of the force of the blow. She deftly avoided two more swings from his axe, surprising him with her agility by springing away from one and solidly blocking the second with her shield with the loud clang of steel against steel. He could not connect with his horns either. She was a challenging opponent, much more skilled at fighting than those walking bones had been.

   Szordrin stepped in front of Hakam, who looked terrified, tossing a spent magic scroll from his hands as he did so. He raised his palms and blindly fired a scorching blast of fire from into the obscuring cloud, like a stream of dragon fire. There was the sound of metal striking the stone floor and echoing through the passage. One of the mummies within the cloud called out another curse upon him, but he felt no ill effects, most likely because he had taken the time to protect himself with his magic.

   Turning to his left, Solisar saw that Belvin, just like Leokas was petrified and shivering in terror. With little he could do to free them from their magic-induced despair, he drew his wand and simply started firing off more missiles of force repeatedly into the cloud.

   Using his magic to see without his eyes through the dense fog, Hakam resisted the powerful urge to flee, and created a burst of deafening sound directly next to one of the mummies. They all heard another clatter of metal striking the ground, and Kytharrah watched as his combatant dropped her mace, stunned by the intense sound burst just behind her. Taking this opportunity, he dropped to his hands as if doing a pushup and swung his horns, catching her legs and flipping her easily unto her back with a hard thud. Springing right back up to his hooves, he began to swing wildly down at her. The first blow hit soundly, indenting her chest in a way that would have instantly killed a living creature, but the chain mail held together. She rolled over quickly to avoid a second blow from the axe, but his third swing cut off a large chunk from her wide hip. His nose was overwhelmed by the sudden release of potent perfumes, as a cloud of ash puffed from the large opening in her torn silk pants and severed bandages. The young minotaur was confused my the complete absence of flesh or blood. It seemed like he had simply cut through a pile of thick cloths.

   Hakam appeared at his side and joined him in hacking down at the prone priestess. His first sword swing struck true, but the force of the blow was absorbed by her chain shirt. She rolled again to avoid another swing, and it struck the stone with a spark. He hit her two more times as she finally rose to her feet again, but each strike was deflected by the chain links. She knocked away another swing from Kytharrah with her shield and lunged at Hakam, bringing her heavily wrapped fist to connect solidly with his jaw, knocking him back a few feet and causing him to bite through his tongue. He could taste his own blood and spat it out.

   Outside the cloud, Solisar continued waving his wand. He could hear heavy fighting occurring, but he could not see how his friends were faring. Thankfully, Leokas suddenly seemed to shake off his fear and come back to his senses. The wood elf sprung into action and darted around the cloud, past Belvin, hoping to get around to the other side of it where he might be able to see their enemies. As he ran, however, he nearly ran into a hulking form. Instinctively, he dove into a somersault and rolled underneath the oversized greataxe of another minotaur skeleton. Popping back onto his feet, he raised his bow and let fly two arrows, knocking bones from the skeleton and causing it to wobble about as the magics tried to hold it together.

   Within the cloud of mist, Kytharrah once again attempted to trip the mummy with his horns. She swung wildly at him with her weaponless arm but missed, and moments later, she was flat on her back for a second time. He struck her two more times with his axe. The second axe blow struck her in her veiled head, and there was an awful crunching sound.

   Stepping behind Kytharrah, Hakam laid his hands on him. "Anachtyr grant you the strength of a bull," he said.

   "But I am a bull," Kytharrah protested. His thought was interrupted when the mummy at his feet moved. Shockingly, she was still "alive". As she murmured something, a sphere of dark energy was forming around her hand. He silenced her with a final swing that cut her head off. Her moving hands went limp, and the dark energy vanished.

   Just then, the third mummy appeared in the cloud, just on the other side of Hakam. She swung her heavy mace at the cleric, but he deflected it with his own shield. Bursts of magic rippled around her, coming from Solisar, but she seemed unaffected by them, and the amulet about her neck glowed. Then, a cone of fire lit up the cloud around her and engulfed her, and the fire singed Kytharrah's fur as well. The mummy's bandages caught fire and blackened but then seemed to go out again, as if some magic quenched the flames.

   "Move, you big oaf!" shouted Szordrin, from somewhere in the mist. "You are blocking me. I almost scorched you with that spell."

   "Okay," Kytharrah said. He jumped over the crushed and decapitated priestess at his hooves and now was behind the standing mummy, flanking her with Hakam on the other side. Hakam stabbed his sword toward her face, and as she avoided the attack, she opened herself up to a swing from Kytharrah. He took her down, nearly cutting her in half, as the blade cleaved through the charred bandages of her waist below the chain shirt.

   Back outside the cloud, the skeleton minotaur was upon Leokas, swinging its axe in a wide arc. The elf spun to avoid the swing, but the corner of the blade tore into his back, over his right shoulder blade. Leokas yelled out in pain and anger and continued his spin, while drawing another arrow. The shot blew apart the minotaur's hand, spraying carpal bones in all directions, and the axe fell to the ground. A second arrow caused the beast to crumble apart, and the bones lay still.

   Within the cloud, Szordrin evoked another cone of searing flame into the mist, seeking blindly for the third priestess.

   "Anachtyr, show me those who follow the path of evil," Hakam prayed. After a few seconds, he reported, "They are all destroyed." He immediately hustled out of the mist deeper into the cavern beyond where the mummies had been guarding.

   Leokas called back in answer to Hakam's report. "They are not all destroyed; I hear more skeletons down this tunnel."

   The mist faded away then, and Szordrin saw the missing body of the third mummy, the one first targeted by Hakam's holy magic, now burned to a charred crisp by the wizard's earlier magical attack.

   As the mist dissipated, so did the utter despair that the mummy's glance had laid upon Belvin. With a feral yell, a scimitar of fire grew from his clenched fist, and he ran toward the three fallen mummies and began hacking at them in rage.

   "Belvin, they are fallen," Leokas called. "Save your rage for the remaining foes." He nocked two arrows. "Kytharrah, go after the remaining skeletons. They are this way."

   Kytharrah and Belvin obeyed and came back to where Leokas stood in the other passage, the one which they had not yet explored. Hakam stood in his place, watching for if any other foes would appear in the greater darkness of the wide chamber that opened up beyond where the mummies had stood. Likewise, Szrodrin stood guard at the tunnel down which they had originally come here. He created several mirror image illusions of himself, just in case.

   The rest moved after the remaining skeletons that Leokas had heard. "I believe that Hakam's rebuke drove them this way," he explained to the others. As they looked about in the dim light of the torch Solisar still carried, they saw cracked anvils, broken forges, and wrecked weapon racks scattered in a mess about the tunnel, which varied in width from five to twelve yards.

   Kytharrah bounded forward, smelling something dead up ahead. After about 20 yards, he came upon another skeleton, as it stepped out of the shadows behind what was once a functional bellows. It swung at him.

   "Hello," said Kytharrah, swinging his axe in return and leaving a notch in its sternum.

   A rolling ball of fire and three missiles of magic, sent from Belvin and Solisar, respectively, crashed into the animated bones. Leokas ran up and loosed his two arrows. The one disconnected an arm from its socket, and the second punctured a thigh bone. The whole thing fell apart in a clatter.

   As the elf continued running forward, he nocked another arrow. He stopped suddenly and looked back, because he noticed that Kytharrah was no longer with him. The young minotaur was instead following Belvin's rolling sphere of fire as it headed over to the left wall from its earlier momentum.

   "Guiding light!" Kytharrah happily exclaimed.

   Leokas rolled his eyes at the absurd behavior, but he could work with this. "Belvin," he shouted. "Send the sphere up this tunnel to the left."

   Belvin nodded, understanding, and waved his hands and pointed. The ball of fire rolled further down the tunnel and then to the left, where the wide passage narrowed and forked. The tunnel lit up, allowing Leokas to spot two more minotaur skeletons, which were just standing there, turned away by the power of Hakam's earlier rebuke. The first jumped to the side to avoid being struck by the flaming sphere, but here came Kytharrah, rushing after it with a huge grin. He paused to defend against an attack from the one skeleton and returned two swings and a gore, which caused it to tumble apart like a tower of wooden blocks.

   Leokas followed behind, sending two arrows into the center of the remaining skeleton's skull. It cracked in the middle, and the weight of the massive horns ripped the top of the skull in two, and the horns clattered on the ground. The nearly headless skeleton staggered about, but it still managed to jump over the rolling ball of fire as it passed by at Belvin's direction.

   "Finish it, Kytharrah!" shouted Leokas.

   The minotaur charged at full speed and crashed horns-first into the undead monster, sending its bones flying in all directions.

   "Now, stay dead," said Belvin.

   They paused to catch their breath, and only now did their brains allow them to feel the intense pain of their wounds. Belvin and Leokas had clothes soaked in blood. "It appears that Allu lost soundly," said Leokas, as he hunched over gasping. "These must be the remains of El Sadhara's forces."

   "Was that all of them?" asked Solisar. "I cannot see any magic auras about."

   As if in answer, Solisar and Belvin heard Szordrin's voice whispering faintly. "Come back at once! Hakam has found more skeletons!"
Session: 96th Game Session - Thursday, Nov 16 2017 from 12:00 AM to 3:00 AM
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Chapter 5 — Carnage
"It is worth it for us to keep going forward in the dark, if we can manage it again," said Hakam.

   "I agree," said Solisar. "There is a slight chance that an alarm has not yet been sounded, if we are still far enough away from the main caverns of this 'palace'."

   So they continued for a bit farther as they had been doing before, with Szordrin walking quietly on the ceiling ahead with Kytharrah below him, while the others stayed a good distance farther back. The tiefling and the minotaur rounded an S-curve, and the others stopped and waited for a report. Szordrin could see that the passage widened ahead of them significantly, but it was hard for him to make out many details, as darkvision perceived differences in warmth, and most everything in this damp cavern was cool. There was some debris scattered all over the cave floor ahead, which did not seem natural. Some of it was reflective.

   He heard Kytharrah sniff and glanced directly down, that is, tilting his head back. His furred companion tapped his nose and flared his nostrils. Szordrin climbed down the wall to meet him. "Weird food and dead things," Kytharrah whispered, pointing deeper into the tunnel ahead.

   "Wait here," said the wizard. "Stand guard." He walked along the floor back to Solisar and the others and reported what Kytharrah had smelled.

   "'Weird food,'" said Belvin. "He means spices. He smells the Calishite mummy."

   "I agree with Belvin's assessment," said Hakam. "El Sadhara's perfumes were overwhelming. Does this mean that she is still here?"

   "In any case," said Szordrin, "the path immediately ahead is clear; it is safe to advance. I cannot make out things very clearly, even with my darkvision; we will need to risk a light."

   They moved around the bend. "Solisar, the torch," said Hakam. The elf came closer to the cleric, and the light revealed several splotches of dark, dried blood on the stone floor and wall. Bones were scattered everywhere, mixed with sundered weapons, shields, and armor.

   Leokas picked up a severed bone. "A thigh bone, I think," said Leokas, "but much too large to be a hobgoblin or even a bugbear. It is also very old, completely clean."

   "This is a human skull, is it not?" said Szordrin, pointing.

   Kytharrah had found a very large skull with horns, with a similar curve to his own. A minotaur. What had killed it? He glanced around nervously and sniffed.

   "Pajabbar," said Hakam, remembering the fact that el Sadhara had undead minotaurs in her service, the animated remains of the shock troops from Calim's armies.

   "Can you do anything about these bones before they are reanimated again?" Solisar asked Hakam.

   "We could grind them all to dust," he answered, "but I do not think that we have the time for that. I can certainly destroy them if they do become animated. You need not fear skeletons when in my presence."

   "Why are you still holding that skull?" asked Szordrin of Kytharrah.

   Kytharrah snapped off a horn and slid it behind the belt of his kilt, the one sewn for him by Ilthian. "Remember," said Kytharrah.

   Belvin gave him a large smile. For once, someone else in the party was collecting trophies.

   "I am going to scout farther ahead," said Szordrin. "Wait here." Kytharrah drew his axe and continued glancing around nervously with ears perked.

   Leokas motioned Kytharrah over. "Smell this," the wood elf ordered, indicating a large patch of dried blood on a large stone.

   "Goblin smell," said Kytharrah.

   "As I suspected," said Leokas.

   "We know that an undead army was seen coming this way by our dragon friend," said Solisar. "This carnage must be the result of the battle that was fought."

   "Yes," said Hakam, "these are 'dead' skeletons from her army. She had both human and minotaur skeletons. I recall that they were too stupid to even warn her of our presence when we entered the mummy's lair."

   "Where are the goblin bodies?" asked Belvin. "Were they victorious?"

   Szordrin had not been long. "Nothing at all down this first tunnel," he said. "It narrows after 20 yards or so and is impassible beyond that." Two more tunnels branched off from this cavern chamber where the battle had taken place. Szordrin went off down the second. The others continued examining the broken weapons. Some of them were goblin weapons, Leokas was convinced; some of the others were ancient looking, and Hakam was sure that they were Calishite craftsmanship.

   They also examined the structure of the chamber. The wall to their left was not a true wall; it was a row of massive boulders and thick columns with a few gaps between, but there were several spots where one might squeeze through to the other side.

   Szordrin came back again. "There is something moving just ahead, perhaps about 50 feet down the tunnel."

   "Fifty feet?" said Hakam. "Surely it will have heard us?"

   "It is humanoid, larger than a human," said Szordrin.

   "Bugbears, then," said Hakam. "They are larger." Leokas nodded in agreement.

   "I shall get a better report," said Szordrin, "but first a little magic." He recited the final words of an incantation and became invisible.

   Belvin drew his magic scimitar, and Leokas his bow. Kytharrah began wandering toward the other end of the chamber, where the final tunnel began. "Come back!" Hakam hissed at him.

   The minotaur obeyed. "Weird food is that way," he explained, once he returned to Hakam's side.

   Solisar was startled when he heard a whisper to his right. "Eight bugbears. Three of them are lying down. They are in a large chamber with no other exits. Lots of bedrolls and supplies scattered about. I was not detected."

   "They must be deaf," muttered Hakam. "We have been loud and not careful enough with our lights."

   "Can you shape the walls to trap them in?" came Szordrin's whispers again. "As we did with the Red Worm?"

   "I did not ask Thard Harr for such power this morning," said Belvin.

   "Nor is it in my power today either," said Hakam.

   "Did you not know that we would be entering a cave?" said Szordrin's voice.

   "I do, however, have the power to create a wall of stone from nothing," said Hakam, smiling. "My magics have somewhat improved since the last time we have been underground."

   "These are mere goblins;" said Leokas, "we do not need magic! I can drop one per arrow and can loose 30 arrows per minute."

   "It only takes a matter of seconds to sound an alarm," said Szordrin. "We may not have a minute."

   "If there are only eight, I do not even need half a minute," protested Leokas.

   "You may be overconfident," said Hakam. "Bugbears are larger than normal goblins or even hobgoblins."

   "I have slain goblins, hobgoblins, and bugbears alike," said Leokas.

   "I repeat," said Szordrin, "all it takes is for one to raise an alarm. Who knows how large the hordes of Allu are."

   "Or were," said Belvin. "We still do not know which of our foes were victorious in this battle." He motioned at all of the bones and blood around them.

   "Bugbears are not very smart," said Hakam. "They would have to have an elaborate system set up to sound an alarm to another part of this cavern complex, would they not?"

   "To be fair, goblins are tricky, though," admitted Leokas. "They often do have traps and mechanisms for sounding alarms to others in their caves. My argument is that I could down all eight before they could respond, so it matters not."

   "Your skill at the bow is the greatest ever I have seen," said Hakam. "Nevertheless, I have seen you miss. No, it might be better for us to explore a bit more before acting. I am concerned about what lies on the other side of these columns here."

   "I could send Ferry," said Szordrin. "He is as invisible as I and even more stealthy."

   So Ferry scurried through one of the tiny gaps between the thick stone columns of the wall behind them, though none of them could see this. They all stood ready for an attack as they waited for Szordrin to speak again. After several minutes, they heard some squeaking and assumed that Ferry must have returned. "Ferry says that there are several more wide passages on the other side. Directly on the other side was an area with a great amount of rubble, like the cavern had collapsed there. When he went to the left, he found a place with smelly food and kitchen tools. When he came back and continued down the right path, the tunnel forked, but he could see 'built things' and tools and such. He did not see anything alive, but there were more bones and more blood. He did not want to be gone too long, lest I worry, so he came back as quickly as he could and did not explore all of the tunnels."

   "Let us decide what to do then?" said Belvin, who was growing impatient. "Clearly, the mummy was victorious here. We came for the fire genie, not the mummy."

   "These bugbears might not be loyal to Allu," suggested Hakam. "Perhaps they defected. Maybe that is why el Sadhara's troops spared them. Or maybe that is why they have not attacked."

   "Perhaps it is best to capture and interrogate them then," said Szordrin.

   "Play?" asked Kytharrah.

   "We only need capture one alive," said Leokas.

   "The only reason why I am hesitant," said Hakam, "is that they are not attacking."

   "They do not know that we are here!" said Leokas. "Otherwise, the fiends would be upon us."

   "Bored!" said Kytharrah.

   "I do not know," said Hakam. "Something is not right."

   "Go speak with them then!" said Leokas. "Shout out for a parley. They will try to kill you in response."

   "I will advance to speak with them," said Hakam. "If any come at me, I will be ready to create a wall of stone, but I will leave a gap at the top. You can pick them off if they try to climb over the top."

   "Goblin blood will fall," said Leokas.

   Hakam enchanted his tongue to speak Ghukliak, and then they all advanced. All of them walked down the middle of the tunnel, and the magic torch that Solisar held lit the stone enough that it would have been impossible for the bugbears not to notice, yet none came out to meet them. "Foul creatures and servants of evil," called Hakam in the Goblin tongue, "you will speak with us as we will, or you shall meet swift deaths."

   There was no response. They could see the five standing bugbears now; the nearest was just over ten yards away. They did not even turn. The smell from the room ahead was awful.

   Then, Hakam took one more step closer, and it was as if this triggered some signal, for all five standing bugbears suddenly turned, raised their arms in front of them and began approaching, while making deep moaning sounds. One of the bugbears was missing an eye. Another's arm was only half attached. A third had a deep gash in its skull, its pointed ear dangling.

   "Zombies," said Solisar.

   "Leokas, how flammable are bugbears?" asked Belvin in Elvish. Not waiting for an answer, he began chanting.

   "This is not worth your magic nor my arrows," said Leokas. "They already have a fate worse than death."

   Hakam reached for his holy symbol and began praying, but the first undead bugbear was nearly upon him, shambling forward, morningstar in hand. Szordrin became visible, as he drew his dagger and swatted the bugbear's large, festering hand away from touching Hakam. Then, a column of fire erupted upon the bugbears, but Belvin's spell did not stop their advance, though it scorched black much of their rotting skin. "A wall betwixt us!" shouted Hakam, and instantly there was a thin wall of granite between them and the undead goblinoids. The wall left a five foot gap between it and the ceiling fifteen feet above.

   They could hear the creatures clawing and scratching against the stone on the other side, combined with their pitiful moaning.

   "It is a shame that the wall does not block their stench," said Belvin.

   "Well, we will not be interrogating these," said Leokas. "Let us go." He turned to walk away.

   "They had a large chest," said Szordrin. "It could contain valuables."

   "Feel free to go retrieve it, then."

   Hakam held up his holy symbol. "Anachtyr rebuke all of you," he said confidently, speaking toward the wall that he created, as Szordrin spider-climbed up the natural wall to the ceiling. "It worked, Hakam," Szordrin called down. "They are all cowering in the far corner."

   "Be quick then," said Hakam.

   Szordrin had a scroll out and tried to read from it, but he nearly lost his grip on the ceiling in the casting. The scroll dropped to the ground, its words fading into nothing. "Curse this mithral shirt!" he cried. "They are turning around," he then reported.

   "Anachtyr rebuke you!" Hakam repeated.

   "Minotaur, climb the wall!" commanded Szordrin.

   Kytharrah, delighted to be needed, was over the wall in seconds and landed firmly on his hooves on the other side.

   "Get the chest!"

   The minotaur obeyed. The large chest was nothing for him to carry, and he slung it over one of his broad shoulders.

   "Behind you!" called down Szordrin.

   Kytharrah spun around and stuck one of the zombies with his axe one-handed. It practically exploded into decaying body parts. A few moments later, Kytharrah set the chest down on the other side of the wall again before the others.

   Solisar examined the chest for traps, and when he found none, Szordrin opened it. There was a large amount of gold and silver coins inside. Mixed in were a couple items as well: a jar of oil and an ivory bust of an ugly female bugbear goddess or shaman.

   Szordrin handed his wand of magic detection to Solisar. "Use this and see if these are magical."

   The jar of oil was, emitting a transmutation aura. The bust had no aura, but ivory sold for a good prize in most places. They had Kytharrah carry the chest back to the rowboat. In the meantime, they returned to the S-curve of the tunnel, where they had first entered the larger chamber with all of the bones and dried blood, and they waited, taking this chance to eat some rations and drink from their waterskins.

   "Do you think that the minotaur could move that boulder over there for us to pass through to where Ferry went?" asked Hakam.

   "I do not think even a minotaur could move that stone," said Leokas.

   "When he returns," said Solisar, "we should continue down that remaining tunnel, once again dousing our light."

   "I am beginning to believe that nothing is left alive in this cave," said Hakam. "No doubt, el Sadhara zombified any survivors and commanded the undead to stand guard. They have no minds, so they cannot go beyond their precise orders. That is why they only attacked once we stepped into the exact area that they were instructed to defend."

   "Presummably, we shall find Allu's chamber nevertheless and with it some clues regarding Samber," said Solisar hopefully.

   When Kytharrah finally returned, panting like a dog from his excursion, they had him try to push the boulder. Indeed, he could not budge it. So, they readied themselves. Szordrin once again took his place on the ceiling among the stalactites, and Kytharrah moved forward below him sniffing, while the others held back, waiting for a signal.

   The remaining tunnel immediately turned sharply to the right, running almost parrallel to the one heading to the bugbears' chamber. On the left side, there were occasional openings, and Kytharrah peeked through to see another spatious chamber on the other side, but these cracks in the wall were not large enough for him or even a smaller human to pass through. He was able to spot a weapon rack on the other side, but it had been knocked over, and the spears were scattered on the ground.

   With each step down this tunnel, the smell of "weird food" grew more intense to his nose. It was a variety of smells, some of which he had smelled on some human or elven women, but others were definitely more food-like.

   After nearly 100 feet, the tunnel gradually curved to the left, narrowing slightly to a width of about ten feet. Here, there was an opening in the left wall. Beyond that, about 40 feet from him, Kytharrah saw three humanoids, standing in a row. They were curvy, like the females of many races, but their faces were veiled, so he could not be sure. Whoever or whatever they were, they each wore chain shirts and silken pants and sleeves. They had thin cloaks upon their shoulders and bore a pair of amulets about their necks. They each carried a large metal shield and a heavy mace.

   Kytharrah raised his axe in defense.

   The three figures did not charge, but one of them called out in a loud, feminine voice.

   Farther down the tunnel behind Kytharrah, Hakam, still under the influence of his tongues spell, understood the shout as a single word.

   "Rise!"
Session: 95th Game Session - Wednesday, Oct 25 2017 from 11:00 PM to 2:00 AM
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Chapter 5 — The Back Door
~ sixth-day, 6th of Hammer, The Year of Rogue Dragons, afternoon
Sea of Swords


The spelljammer splashed down in the waves west of great cliffs that formed the edge of Calimshan. Nearby was the remains of a shipwreck, its rotting mass still jutting out of the water, a sign of the rocks hidden below. Kytharrah dropped their anchors. Solisar did not have the power to make the whole vessel invisible; they prayed to their gods that the dragon would not patrol over the ocean while they were away. Ilthian, who remained aboard, would be safe from scrying below deck, but she would be helpless if a dragon landed on the deck and crashed its head and neck through the planks to find her. Belvin wanted to stay aboard, having little interest in the fire genie, but the others convinced him to come. He agreed, provided that they would return to the boat and Kamil soon.

   As they had done last Mirtul, the six adventurers all crammed into one of their small rowboats and began making their way toward the shallow entrance of a sea cave in the cliff. The tide was relatively low, and there was a narrow strip of land at the base of the cliff leading to the cave entrance. When last they had come to this "back door" to Yrevkethend's lair and Allu's palace, they had had to find a small inlet under an outcropping in the cliff to wait out the tide. Tymora had worked things out better for them this time, and they did not need to wait long before there was a walk-able sand "pathway". They tied up the rowboat in the same lee as before and set out.

   Ducking, they entered the cave entrance, which was only five feet high but about thirty wide. At first, the floor was covered with sand, sloping downward, before being replaced with endless barnacles, which crunched under their feet and hooves. The passage narrowed but also grew higher, so that even Kytharrah could no longer touch the ceiling.

   It was chilly in the cave, and water was dripping on them from the ceiling, as if it were raining. Kytharrah sniffed, taking in the smell of crabs, dead sea creatures, and salt.

   Each noisy step was disturbing to Szordrin, who was well aware that a dragon, with exceptional hearing, lived deeper within. "Remind me why we are even here again?" he asked. "What does this have to do with Walker or Samber?"

   "We have discussed this numerous times," said Hakam. "Finding Allu may be a good way to find Samber or at least learn what connection they have."

   "The Rock of Bral would have been a safer bet."

   "We will go there soon enough," said Hakam. "I have my suspicions that Allu is allied with or was summoned by Samber. We know that he has summoned other evil fiends, and we know his great interest in experimenting with other genies. We now have the power to find out and should not waste our opportunity."

   "The dragon never detected us when we last came this way," said Leokas, "if that is your concern. She lairs much deeper in the cave."

   "Sseth told us that Allu's palace is at least a mile from the cliffs," said Solisar. "This cave is massive and we have a long way to travel."

   "It is growing darker now," said Hakam. "Recall that I cannot see as well in the dark as the rest of you. If I recall, that means the fork in the tunnel should be soon where we can head up to Allu and away from the dragon's lair. We need to decide on a plan. Do we boldly march in and demand an audience? Or are we trying to remain undetected?"

   "If we were demanding an audience with the efreeti, would we not have used the front door?" said Solisar. "We are scouting things out first, especially if this mummy of which you have spoken to me has her forces here. Shall I turn all of us invisible?"

   "We should wait until we encounter any enemies, rather than waste the magic," said Hakam.

   "We cannot use any light if we wish to remain undetected," said Szordrin.

   "The corners of the cavern will block the light from traveling far, provided that it twists enough," said Leokas. "These walls are not very reflective."

   So they had Kytharrah withdraw his everburning torch. The light revealed a fork in the path ahead, just as Hakam had remembered. One tunnel went up, while the other twisted down. The tunnel that ascended was significantly narrower than the one leading down. They knew that the smaller tunnel led to Allu.

   Szordrin poked his head up the smaller tunnel and saw that it actually grew larger rather quickly after a short distance to be about a dozen feet in width and nearly twice that in height.

   "I will scout ahead, then," said Szordrin, looking back at the others, "walking on the ceiling. Kytharrah can follow a distance behind me, since he can also see in the darkness. If I spot any activity, I shall signal back to him, and then the rest of you can take action to hide any lights."

   This seemed as good a plan as any. So Kytharrah handed his "guiding light" to Solisar, and Szordrin cast his spell and climbed the wall up to the ceiling by his four limbs and began moving forward among the stalactites. "Tracks," said Leokas, bending down and noticing a pattern in the broken barnacles that none of the rest of them would have been able to spot. "Hobgoblins stepped on these barnacles."

   Kytharrah bent down and sniffed them.

   "Minotaur, you are supposed to be following behind Szordrin, not sniffing things," said Hakam.

   Kytharrah bounded forward.

   Thankfully, they soon climbed above the level of the water at high tide, and so the barnacles vanished. The ground was still a bit damp, but the "raining" also ceased.

   The tunnel continued relatively straight for what seemed like forever, reminding Belvin and Leokas of one of their earlier adventures together. They walked perhaps thirty minutes at a gradual incline. "So much for twisting tunnels blocking our light," said Belvin. Finally, however, the tunnel did begin to curve to the right and then again to the left, and Szordrin disappeared from their sight around the corner. Hakam took this moment to call on Anachtyr to grant him the ability to sense his environment without the need for his eyes, just in case Szordrin signaled back that they needed to douse their light. It proved to be a wise decision.

   The tunnel finished its ess curve and then made another. Kytharrah was just about to round the second corner, when Hakam could "hear" the incorporeal shape of someone or something next to the minotaur.

   "Minotaur! To your left!" he shouted.

   Leokas reacted to this before even Kytharrah did, loosing two arrows to the left of their friendly beast in hopes of striking whatever invisible enemy Hakam had sensed. The arrows were deflected into the wall of the passage as if blown by a strong gale. Moments later, two gusts of wind in rapid succession struck Leokas with an extreme force, knocking him back and nearly off his feet.

   With a firm command, Solisar enchanted his own eyes, and Belvin yelled out a jungle call, followed by pointing toward Leokas. The wood elf began to glow with a red aura. So did his invisible opponent, an only vaguely humanoid shape. The red-glowing foe was struck from above by several bursts of magical force from Szordrin's fingertips.

   "Anachtyr protect us!" shouted Hakam, while holding his shield ready.

   Now able to see the outline of the foe, Kytharrah charged with his axe to rescue his elven friend, swinging into the red aura. He struck something at least partly solid, almost spongy. Whatever it was, it had no odor at all. It moved quickly. He hit it a second time with his axe, but when he swung his large head down to catch it with its horns, it had moved too far away. Two arrows flew wildly, as Leokas jumped backward and tried to fight back, but two more blasts of invisible force struck him, and he dropped to his knees, with the wind knocked out of him, and gasped for air.

   Solisar waved his arms, sending a magical burst through the tunnel, and the red aura vanished, or rather dissipated, into nothing. The short battle was over.

   Kytharrah helped his red-glowing friend to his feet, and Belvin and Hakam rushed over to heal him with their magics.

   "Thank you," said Leokas. "I can breathe now. What manner of creature was that?"

   "An elemental from the Plane of Air," said Solisar. "To me, it appeared like an amorphous cloud. Belvin's faerie fire was a brilliant idea."

   Belvin nodded.

   "A stalker," said Szordrin. "Did not you others face one before I joined you?"

   "I would rather not recall it," said Hakam. "It broke my leg."

   "Was this an accidental encounter then?" asked Szordrin. "Or has it been stalking us this whole time?"

   "We would have noticed earlier," said Belvin. "It was guarding the entrance."

   "The last one certainly had been stalking us," said Hakam. "It spoke as much in its tongue. Mythlos could speak Auran. It was sent by El Sadhara."

   "It is at least possible that it is in fact the same one," said Solisar. "You cannot kill such a being unless on its native plane. It may have come back to finish its mission or been summoned by her a second time."

   "I agree that it is probably one of the mummy's minions," said Hakam, "but I suspect that Belvin is correct that it was here to guard the back entrance, not to pursue us in general. She only followed us to get to Samber, and she has him."

   "If that is the case," said Solisar, "it suggests that she has conquered the hobgoblins and Allu."
Session: 94th Game Session - Wednesday, Aug 30 2017 from 11:30 PM to 2:30 AM
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Chapter 5 — The Red Rysal
From below deck, Szordrin and Hakam heard Solisar's yell, and both were startled awake. Szordrin sprung out of his hammock and was on his way up the forward stairs immediately. Hakam picked up his sword and shield — he did not have time to put on his armor — and followed behind, touching his shield as he moved to make it glow in the darkness.

   As Szordrin came onto the deck, he saw Belvin moving in his direction while drawing his bow, the elf's skin looking like it was made of tree bark. Szordrin looked up over his shoulder to where Belvin was staring up onto the forecastle. There was Leokas, all but his right arm entangled in a fishing net. The stubborn elf had managed to nock an arrow anyway and was aiming at someone Szordrin couldn't see from his angle. He moved further out into the center of the deck, as Belvin also loosed an arrow. Now he could see one of the assailants, a masked man, dressed fully in red with two arrows in his shoulder. The elves loosed more arrows, but each missed, as the man was moving quickly, and Leokas was half-entangled. The man rushed at Leokas and pummeled him several times with what looked like a small sack. He then moved to put himself on the far side of Leokas, shielding himself from further shots from Belvin or any spell that Szordrin might cast.

   Szordrin heard Solisar nearby chanting spells, but he could not see him. Behind him, he heard Kytharrah grunting in frustration. Szordrin turned to see the minotaur leap into the air, reaching for the yard above him, but falling short and crashing back to the deck. A second assailant leapt down to the sterncastle beside Kytharrah and stabbed him with a rapier. Szordrin saw the sword pierce clear through the minotaur and emerge from his back. The tiefling turned to take aim with a spell. The masked fighter, springing back from Kytharrah and withdrawing his weapon in one smooth motion, drew a vial from his bandoleer with his left arm and was readying to throw it at Kytharrah. Despite the wound, Kytharrah lunged forward and tried to grab the man, taking advantage of his greater reach. The opponent skillfully ducked and avoided at first. Then Kytharrah caught hold of the man's extended wrist and immediately overpowered him, forcing the man to smash the vial against his own head. The strangest thing happened: both Kytharrah and the man with whom he grappled fell with a thud to the deck and did not stir.

   "What is happening?" Hakam had just reached the main deck.

   Szordrin motioned for the bow of the ship and rushed toward the stairs to the forecastle, while keeping his head low so as not to be seen. As his head came over the steps, he saw Leokas missing several shots; the man was too skilled at anticipating the ranger's shots at such close range. Belvin, however, had also come up the starboard side stairs. One of his two arrows did not miss.

   The man yelled out in pain and turned for a moment to observe his second attacker. Szordrin took this opening an fired off two rays of fire from his open palms. The injured man was still quite mobile and avoided the first blast, but the second struck him, leaving a blackened mark on his leather chestpiece. He stumbled backwards toward the rail. With a scream of pain he yanked the arrows out and chugged a magic vial he had in his left hand.

   Then, as Leokas and Belvin raised bows, the man suddenly jumped backwards over the rail, tugging on the rope to Leokas' net at the same time and hoping to drag the elf off the boat with him.

   But the man's left foot failed to clear the railing. Unbeknownst to him or anyone else on the ship, invisible Solisar had cursed the man with bad luck. He plummeted ungracefully into the water with a slam, rather than the smooth dive intended, and lost the grip on the net's rope.

   Leokas drew his knife and began cutting himself free, as the others rushed to the railing. Belvin dropped his bow and started removing his clothes.

   "Hold!" commanded Hakam from the rail. The man in the water stopped swimming and began to sink.

   "Take them alive!" shouted Solisar from the aft of the ship. He was now visible and was waking up Kytharrah. There was no visible stab wound on the minotaur, nor any blood at all. "They have not been using lethal force!"

   Szordrin, also at the railing, ignored this and blasted a bolt of lightning from his fingers to the water.

   Hakam could see the chaotic aura of the man below the surface. Suddenly, he began swimming again and swam below the vessel. "He is under the boat," said the cleric, "swimming to our left." Leokas acknowledged this by moving to the port side and readying his bow.

   Hakam moved toward the foremast and began preparing his most powerful spell, but then he felt a stern warning in his mind. It was the phylactery on his forehead.

   "Stop!" he called out. "Anachtyr demands that we spare his life. Solisar was right."

   There was a splash as a naked Belvin dove into the water.

   "What is Belvin doing?" asked Szordrin.

   "Quiet!" said the cleric. "I am listening for the man's thoughts. He is below the mainmast moving to the rear of the boat. Now he is feeling intense fear."

   From the port side, Leokas saw a fin break the surface of the water. "Shark!" he said, with a smile.

   A large shark lifted its pointed head out of the water and tossed the man's body onto the dock.

   "I yield! I yield!" yelled the man.

~~~~

Leokas and Belvin carried the nervous man back onto the ship. Leokas tied him up while Belvin got dressed again.

   Hakam and Szordrin approached the other assailant in the aftcastle. He was held tightly by Kytharrah. The minotaur had pulled off the man's mask, revealing a young face with dusky skin like Hakam's. Hakam noted that the man wore the turban of a rysal, apart from the red color. Was he some sort of pirate captain?

   "Where is Solisar?" asked Szordrin.

   "Go to Ilthian," said Kytharrah. "Told me don't let friend go," he said, nodding to his captive.

   Leokas led the other prisoner over and then set to work tying up the man Kytharrah held.

   "Good jump!" Kytharrah said to the man, after releasing him. "Fun play."

   The unmasked man eyed him strangely.

   Hakam pulled the mask off the other man. This one was not a Calishite; his features were more elven. His ears were pointed but not as pointed as Leokas or Belvin's. Perhaps he was a half-elf.

   Solisar joined them again on the deck. Then, Szordrin spoke firmly with the Calishite man. "Tell us who sent you or we shall kill you!"

   "I am not afraid of the likes of you," he answered. "Nevertheless, I have nothing to hide. I was sent by Atiq el Catahras and Hakamir el Wisynn."

   The adventurers looked at each other. Most of them shrugged; the names were not familiar.

   "There must have been a mistake," said Hakam. "We do not know these names."

   Szordrin did recognize the name Catahras, but he could not place it. "For what purpose?" he asked the men.

   "There is a price on the heads of those who kidnapped Atiq's daughter," said the man.

   "There is only one woman in our number," said Hakam, "and I assure you that she is not a Calishite. She is from a distant island."

   "And why would you suspect us?" asked Szordrin. "We just arrived yesterday, and had we wanted to kidnap anyone, why would we have stayed in port for the night?"

   "She was kidnapped months ago, not yesterday," said the man, "in the month of Kythorn. In that same month, my partner here had been keeping an eye on a certain pasha in this town, one Syan al Derak. We have reason to believe that Pasha Syan has connections to a secret society active throughout the Lands of Intrigue. Men from Tethyr had been visiting him at night. Then, one day, a Calishite priest and a coppery elf with blonde hair wearing a Calishite aba visited him, under the guise of selling gems." He looked directly at Leokas and Hakam as he said this.

   "Yes, we were here in the month of Kythorn," said Hakam, "and yes, we sold gems, but I assure you as a cleric of Anachtyr that we have no connections to any secret society; we were simply on our way to Chult. And what does this have to do with the kidnapping?"

   The man continued, "Shortly after you departed, aboard a ship called The Daisy, we learned of the bounty placed on your heads by the girl's father. El Wisynn, the girl's betrothed, was calling for the kidnappers' capture and execution. They even took her pet cat, it was said. Raisa, the girl's mother, claims that some of the kidnappers stayed at their inn many nights. She describes a handsome man with red hair and strange glasses, a priest, a large orc, and... 'a coppery elf with blonde hair wearing a Calishite aba.'"

   "Curse that bard!" muttered Hakam. It was Oma.

   "He admits it," said the half-elf.

   "El Amlakkar received a report today that two elves were seen in town," continued the human man. "We caught wind of this and thought that your capture might provide us the evidence we need to bring down Pasha Syan. We did not expect you to have a minotaur aboard, however."

   "That is me!" said Kytharrah.

   "So that is our failed plan. Feel free to kill us now, if you wish, but while Pasha Syan has escaped this day, know that you have not, for el Amlakkar and el Nallojal will not allow your ship to sail."

   "We are innocent," said Hakam. "Why would we kill you?"

   The half-elf snorted a laugh. "Three potions, not your innocence, are the only reason I am alive."

   "I could have bitten you in half," said Belvin. "I did not."

   "You attacked us," said Hakam. "We had every legal right to defend ourselves with lethal force."

   "Yet we used no lethal force on you," said the human.

   "The girl, Oma yr Atiq el Catahras," said Hakam, "was a traveling companion of ours. She was hired by a somewhat untrustworthy companion of ours, but it was no kidnapping; she went with us willingly. She is with him still. I can tell you where she is, if you will hold us innocent of the matter. Our dealings with this pasha you mention were purely business. We had gems to sell. We had no knowledge of his secret dealings."

   "As a cleric of Anachtyr, do you not have a duty to bring her back to her father and her betrothed?" asked the man.

   "I would, except that my god has given be a greater duty that involves saving the world."

   "Saving the world?" The man looked doubtful.

   "We have been tasked with preventing a mage of great power from upsetting the balance of the multiverse. Some of our number have literally been sent back from the Fugue Plane to stop this man. The only reason we are here in Teshburl again is to investigate one who may have connections to him."

   "That is a hard tale to believe," said their prisoner.

   "I shall drink a truth serum, if you desire it," said Hakam.

   "Not that we have the upper hand at the moment," said the man, "but I give my word that we shall not pursue you further if you release us and tell us the girl's location. I cannot do anything to remove the bounty on your heads, however."

   "She is on the island of Lantan, far west of here," said Hakam.

   "Tell us more of this secret society," Szordrin ordered.

   "They call themselves the Knights of the Shield," the man replied. "We think that they are trying to influence the politics of the new queen of Tethyr to the north, and worse than that, we believe that Pasha Syan may be trying to fund some of his efforts through the slave trade. It is hard to prove, however. They are a powerful, well-supported group, whose influence stretches as far north along the Sword Coast as Waterdeep."

   "Who are you?" asked Leokas.

   "I — tonight, we — are the Red Rysal," said the man.

   "I take it that you have not heard of him?" said the half-elf.

   "I think that one of the townsfolk may have mentioned you to Hakam and I when last we were in Teshburl," Leokas replied. "Something about blaming you for the lack of temples in town...."

   "The previous Red Rysal discovered that the Churches of Bane, Bhaal, and Cyric were kidnapping children," explained the half-elf. "When this was exposed, the populace revolted and burned every temple, good or evil, to the ground."

   "While I admit that we are not saving the world," said the human, "we do our part to end slavery, kidnapping, and corruption. The slavers have not been able to stay in business in this town for 45 years."

   "Why do we still have these good men tied up?" exclaimed Solisar. "They are telling the truth. This has all been a terrible mistake."

   Leokas and Szordrin immediately agreed to this, as slavery was an important matter to each of them.

   "Only if they do not resume attacking us!" insisted Hakam.

   "Agreed," said the large man. "Besides, I know that I cannot outmaneuver this minotaur of yours!"

   "More play?" asked Kytharrah, eagerly.

   Once Szordrin had untied the man, Kytharrah held up the sword. He had been trying to figure throughout the whole interrogation why he had felt the steel inside his gut yet there was now no hole and no blood. "Trick sword?"

   "Yes," the man smiled. "Trick sword."

   The man stared back in shock as Kytharrah stabbed the blade through his own bicep, grunting at the pain, but then grinning. He then lumbered over to Solisar, the rapier still embedded in his arm. "Look, I can do trick now like little sister. No blood." Then he stopped and put a hand over his mouth, looking embarrassed.

   "Give the man back his rapier," said Hakam. The cleric then turned to the half-elf and offered to heal him of any remaining wounds, as Szordrin handed him back his belt and bandoleer. (No one noticed that he kept two potions for himself.)

   "You said that slavery ended here 45 years ago?" asked Leokas to the human. "You do not look that old for a human."

   "I am the sixteenth Red Rysal," said the man. "The legacy passes through my family. My true name is Kanar yn Baral el Ehrat, but most folk know me as 'the Ox'."

   "Leokas," said the elf. He turned and offered his hand to the second man, who took it and stood up. "I apologize for striking you with one of my arrows," the elf said.

   "Forgotten," said the half-elf. "I am just thankful that we live in a time of magical healing. My real name is Oadif el Wajin. I admit that I am impressed by your skills. You were half-entangled in my net, yet still you unleashed six arrows at me in fifteen seconds!"

   "And your agility impressed me," said Leokas.

   "Until I tripped on the deck railing, I imagine."

   "That was probably my fault," said Solisar. "I cursed you." Then he asked, "How can we get this bounty off our heads?"

   "Again, I cannot do anything about that," said Kanar. "In fact, I request that no one learns that we were even here tonight. However, I sense that Atiq is a good man. Perhaps if you simply explained to him that his daughter left willingly,..."

   "I can certainly speak to him," said Hakam.

   "I am not sure that that is wise," said Szordrin. "If you fail to convince him,..."

   "I will not fail," said Hakam. "The man deserves to know what happened to his daughter. How can we set up the meeting?"

   "I have someone I know who can deliver a message to the Roving Rune for you," said Kanar. "As for you and your elven friend, the two of you should probably stay hidden for as long as you stay here, since you match the descriptions. As long as the bounty is still on your heads, someone else might spot you who does not attack with saps and enchanted rapiers!"
Session: 93rd Game Session - Wednesday, Jul 26 2017 from 11:00 PM to 2:00 AM
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Chapter 4 — Snake on a Spelljammer
Down on the ground, Belvin had Kamil crouch, and he hacked the head off the male lamia. He called to Hakam, "Do you see anything?"

   "No," the cleric called back. Hakam had walked through the wall illusion behind which the lamias had hid.

   Belvin then heard a sound.

   When Hakam stepped back through the illusionary, ruined wall, Belvin was gone, leaving Kamil there alone and Hakam confused.

~~~~

On board the spelljammer, Leokas heard Solisar's scream coming from the forecastle. He moved to the port side and readied an arrow.

   On the starboard side, Kytharrah heard the scream too. "Okay in there?" he asked. He had entered the forecastle and was approaching the door to the room with the magic chair.

   "Everyzing is fine," he heard Nulara answer, but when he tried to open the door, something or someone was blocking him from pressing it open, something or someone very strong.

   Szordrin finished climbing aboard with his spider magic and came up behind Leokas. The wood elf motioned for him to be quiet. Szordrin whispered a question about what was happening, but Leokas did not yet know. He opened the starboard-side door to the forecastle and cautiously entered, dropping his bow to the ground and drawing instead his longsword. He stepped to the door of the spelljammer helm room and stealthily opened it a crack. Tymora blessed them, for as he was doing so, the sound was masked by Kytharrah's shouting from the other side, "Someone hurt? I smell blood! Door is stuck!"

   With the door open a crack, Leokas could not see much, but what he did see was enough — the end of the tail of a very large snake draped across the floor.

   The wood elf back-stepped away from the door toward Szordrin, hand reaching towards his bow.

   Leokas' actions confirmed Szordrin's suspicions about what was happening. He withdrew a root shaving and quietly chanted some Draconic words. His movement grew suddenly faster. He picked up Leokas' bow and held it out for him to reach.

   On the other side of the helm room, Kytharrah shoved against the door for the third time and succeeded to force it open. For an instant, the young minotaur glimpsed his friend, Solisar, hunched over in the helm chair and covered in blood.

   "Go to sleep, you beast!" said Nulara, from behind the door. She shoved back, and slammed the door shut again.

   "No trick sleep!" said Kytharrah, shaking off the spell. On the contrary, he felt a surge of speed from the power of Szordrin's magic from the other side of the ship. Bellowing and snorting, he gave the door a forceful shove, but to no avail. Nulara was very strong! Frustrated, he drew his axe from its holder on his back.

   "You do not want to fight me," she said sweetly. "Do you have my bow for me?"

   Her charm was no more effective than her attempt to put the minotaur to sleep. Kytharrah was not sure what was happening, but he knew that Solisar needed help.

   "Solonor, swift death to my enemies," Leokas whispered, nocking two arrows at once, as he stepped back to take a shot through the slightly ajar door on the port side.

   However, Nulara heard him. Her bulky serpent tail slammed the door shut behind her, blocking Leokas on the other side so that she could deal with the persistent minotaur.

   But the minotaur was no longer playing. His large axe crashed through the door in a single swing, and Kytharrah heard Nulara shout out from the other side in pain or surprise or both. He began yanking back the shattered wooden planks with his huge paws. Nulara was there on the other side of the wrecked door. She was not wearing any clothes. Why? Was she about to change into a snake like Cassiera or Belvin? How did she grow as tall as him? Oh, she was half snake now already. Could Cassiera do that too? Cassiera was never that big of a snake though.

   Nulara gave up on the non-violent route of subduing the minotaur before her. She slashed wildly with her black dagger, knocking more broken door panels aside.

   Kytharrah stepped back and swung his axe. It was hard to swing in the confined quarters below the deck, but his blade cut across Nulara's bare midriff and then again through her lower serpent-like abdomen. Black blood and scales fell to the floor. She raised her dagger high for another swing, but Leokas kicked open the door behind her with his boot and loosed his arrows. One of the arrows drove deep into her back, but the second popped back out of her body without even drawing blood, and dropped to the floor.

   She shrieked in pain from the first arrow. Then, her tail slammed forcefully back at Leokas; it struck against the open door frame instead.

   Kytharrah took the opportunity to attempt to impale the lamia with his horns. They caught her below the rib cage and rocked her humanoid torso back, but when Kytharrah raised his head again, her chest was clear of even a scratch. Only her stomach was bleeding from his earlier swing.

   "Thard Harr, guide his swings!" Kytharrah turned his head for a moment to see a naked Belvin on the deck outside.

   Nulara took her opportunity and swung her dagger with enough ferocity that it could have cleaved off Kytharrah's arm, yet Thard Harr had heard Belvin's prayer and guided Kytharrah's instinctive parry of the blow. The black dagger miraculously got caught in the hook of the minotaur's axe blade. He twisted his wrist quickly, and the dagger blade snapped off its hilt with a crack.

   Nulara flew into a rage, slapping Kytharrah across the snout with the back of her hand. "You spawn...." Slap! "...of Baphomet!" Slap!

   "Ixen!" shouted Szordrin from his knees, where he was now crouched in front of Leokas, and a beam of flame shot from his hand. The fire wrapped completely around Nulara, causing her no harm at all, but it least it gave Kytharrah a chance to step back from the slapping.

   "She is resistant to the Weave!" Szordrin warned.

   Leokas nodded and began releasing arrows rapidly over Szordrin's shoulder, hasted by the roguish wizard's earlier spell, but Nulara was writhing about madly like a cornered animal, swinging her arms and long, razor sharp nails at Kytharrah. Only one of the elf's four arrows struck her in the arm, and she seemed hardly to care.

   Kytharrah fared a little better, striking her several more times, and leaving black gashes across her brown skin. It seemed to him like he was swinging at a tree, not at a creature. He swung his horns and missed and then his axe one last time, before Nulara struck him on the face. It did not even hurt him. Instead, he giggled, as if someone had told a funny joke, before collapsing to the ground with a thud to enter a sleep of nightmares.

   Her first foe bested, Nulara now twisted her form around, and swung her tail at Szordrin, but the tiefling was able to concentrate enough to send off a dagger of ice from his hands. Some unseen force sent the icicle crashing into the ceiling. Nulara laughed.

   "What is happening?" called Hakam from the deck. He had finally climbed Ormur and could hear shouting and see the naked wild elf chanting a complicated nature spell nearby. A dark cloud was forming over the forecastle.

   "We are betrayed!" shouted back Leokas. "The minotaur and Solisar are dead!"

   "Yesss," hissed Nulara. A forked tongue shot from her mouth. "...and you will both join them." Her tail flashed, swatting at Szordrin. It was not a powerful blow, but he instantly felt like he had had too much wine.

   Leokas reached for another arrow, but his quiver was empty.

   "Oh, out of arrows?" she gloated.

   The wood elf drew two instead from Szordrin's quiver and let the first fly, striking her below her right collarbone. She lunged forward, trying to catch his neck in her hands, but there was another twang, and her body fell to the ground. Leokas had put the second arrow through her forehead at point-blank range. "Now I am out of arrows," he said.

   He wasted no time grabbing his sword and hacking off Nulara's head. Black blood gushed from the neck stump and her long tail twitched and writhed spasmodically for a long time in the lamia's death throes.
Session: 91st Game Session - Wednesday, May 31 2017 from 11:00 PM to 2:00 AM
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Chapter 4 — Lamiae
Leokas stepped to the railing of the floating ship and assayed his enemies. He had a perfect strategic vantage point. The creatures approaching were similar to centaurs in appearance with the lower bodies of beasts and bare upper torsos of stunningly attractive, tanned humans. There were five lamias in all, three of them with the bodies of large lions, one with the body of a goat, and the fifth with the body of a small deer or gazelle. One of the lion-bodied lamias was male; the rest had female torsos. Each carried a dagger in his or her hands or mouth. Beyond that they carried nothing else nor wore any sort of clothing or jewelry.

   Leokas stretched and cracked his neck and drew his weapon. He was ready for them.

   Nulara let fly an arrow at once. It whizzed past the neck of the goat-lamia. The lamia reached Nulara, hair blowing about wildly, and reared back, kicking with her forehooves. One hoof knocked the bow from Nulara's hands; the other struck her in the sternum, and Nulara fell to the ground.

   Leokas filled the lamia with three arrows, allowing Nulara to crawl away from the lamia's stomping hooves.

   The gazelle-lamia appeared to split into a total of five lamias, all of which rushed toward Szordrin in unison, surrounding him. Then Kytharrah, having rushed to the main deck and seen his friend surrounded, and leapt and crashed down unto one of the five, grunting from the painful impact. The lamia illusion popped out of existence. Szordrin darted behind his large companion for cover from the remaining four attackers.

   The two "lionesses" focused their attentions on Hakam. The first reached him and pulled him into a forceful embrace, before he could even draw his sword, pressing his face into her bosom. The second, stroked the back of his neck, while telling him how attractive and manly she found him.

   Hakam felt himself struggling with conflicting thoughts and emotions. The women were extraordinarily attractive to him, yet he knew that they were cursed and evil... and not women at all! It felt rather pleasant being held against the soft flesh of this fair creature.... No, she was a demon! She was draining his sanity. "Fiil," he mumbled. "Fiil tanmu!"

   Hakam felt himself being shoved back. He tumbled unto his back, freed from the lamia's grip as the magical elephant exploded out of the pouch where it had been attached to Hakam's belt. The two lamias were also shoved back. The elephant immediately pounded the nearby goat-lamia across the head with its muscular trunk, knocking her unconscious instantly. She fell limp to the ground and was then trampled to death by the massive pachyderm.

   The male lion-lamia was trying to leap onto the side of the boat. The first attempt, he failed. Solisar floated up beside Leokas, who was turning to seek a new target. He could not shoot at the male lamia, because it was too far below the craft. Solisar tossed a piece of glass down toward the lion, but instead of vanishing as it should have done, the glass simply fell to the ground below. "The Weave is not responding to me!" he exclaimed.

   Belvin swooped down out of the sky, braked with his wings, and morphed back into an elf, landing naked upon Kamil's back. He calmed his companion and guided the camel, who had been galloping away from the battle frightened, back to his pile of clothing and gear. As he turned around, he saw the elephant charging toward Kytharrah. The angry lioness who had lost her grip on Hakam had instead charmed the elephant with her sweet words and commanded it to attack the minotaur. "Kamil, fetch my pouch!" The camel bent down and picked up Belvin's pouch in his teeth, raising it to his master. Belvin began frantically to reach for his holly sprig, but he was not going to be fast enough. The elephant was upon Kytharrah.

   Moments before it would have gored its tusks into the young minotaur, Hakam yelled out from under the boat, "Fiil wa'iinkamsh! The elephant shrunk down into a figurine and rolled until it stopped near Kytharrah's feet.

   The other lioness-lamia followed behind, drawing her blade from between her teeth and waving it about her head. Leokas struck her twice with arrows, the second of which went through one side of her skull and came out the other. Then a column of fire fell down from the sky at Belvin's command and ensured that she was dead.

   From behind Kytharrah, Szordrin sent a ball of fire on the group of four identical gazelle-lamias as they were closing in. Each of them now shared precisely the same scorch marks on their otherwise flawless skin and the same grimaces of pain and anger. They leaned their human torsos forward, granting extended reach to their swinging arms, and clawed at Kytharrah. He noted that their fingers ended not in nails like Cassiera or Ilthian but in thick, pointed claws like his. At first he was confused by all the arms swinging at him, but he trusted his nose. "I smell you," he said, swinging his axe and cutting through the rightmost lamia's bare flesh and spraying foul, black blood. All four lamia's shrieked in pain. He swung again, and they dropped to the ground simultaneously.

   "I got all three," said Kytharrah, but he did not feel happy about it. They looked too much like Cassiera or Ilthian to him from the waist up, but the others who were smarter than him told him that lamias were very bad, so he tried to believe them.

   "Four," said Szordrin, as he spun around and blasted a jet of fire toward the lion-lamia underneath the ship where Leokas could not shoot at him. "You got four." The flames engulfed the male, and it stumbled. Solisar also flew out over the others, drawing his wand and shooting at the same target. At least his magic items still functioned. The male was persistent; despite the burns and magical pummeling, he leapt again onto the side of the ship. This time his claws caught hold, and he clung to the bottom of the vessel like a spider, with four lion claws and two humanoid hands holding onto the planks of wood. He began climbing the side.

   "Help me up!" It was Nulara calling. She had managed to climb up Ormur, but was having trouble pulling herself over the railing onto the deck.

   "Hold on!" said Leokas, who thought it more important to deal with the climbing lamia. He leaned over the railing and aimed his arrows straight down at the beast. A single arrow struck the male, and it crashed 40 feet to the ground with a thud.

   Solisar flew over and offered Nulara a hand. She took it, and he helped pull her aboard.

   "My zanks," she said. Then she drew her black dagger. "One is coming up the side!" she warned, readying herself.

   "Not anymore," said Leokas. He raised his bow and fired off two more arrows at the remaining lioness, striking her in her tawny, furred flank, just as she was raising her arm to point at Kytharrah. "Dreams upon you!" the lamia shouted.

   "I feel sleepy!" said Kytharrah.

   "Fight it! Stay awake!" urged Szordrin, coming now from behind the cover of the hairy beast. He completed a spell and sent a barrage of snowballs at the lamia female.

   Covered now in snow, with two arrows in her hide, and seeing all four of her companions dead or dying, she bolted to the north.

   Belvin started summoning allies to pursue her, as Hakam rushed over to the four fallen lamias around Kytharrah. They were still breathing, though a large pool of black blood stained the sand around them. "Which one is the real one?" he asked Kytharrah.

   "That one," said Kytharrah, a hint of sadness in his voice.

   Hakam plunged his blade through the left side of her back and then through the side of her deer-like body to ensure that she was dead. The three duplicates and the gore beneath them vanished.

   Leokas moved quickly to the starboard of the flying ship and watched as the fleeing lamia appeared again on the same side. He sent two arrows after her with a single pull of the bowstring. They struck her in the back. She staggered but then recovered and kept running, taking cover behind a ruined wall so that Leokas no longer had a line of sight.

   Four dire weasels appeared, and Belvin sent them in pursuit. Solisar had flown quickly back inside the forecastle of the ship and sat back in the magic chair. He directed the ship to move, and it jerked forward, positioning Leokas for a clear shot. He took it. The lamia fell to the ground. Moments later, she was overtaken by the four squeaking weasels who brought her to a disturbing end.

   "Victory!" yelled Belvin in the Elven tongue. He then rode to the male lamia to check that it was indeed dead. Hakam recovered the elephant figurine and began walking toward the false wall from which the attackers had come. Szrodrin, having cast another spell, jumped and stuck to the side of the boat by his magic and began to climb on all fours. Kytharrah picked up Nulara's bow and began to climb Ormur again. "I have your bow!" he called up.

   Nulara came into the central room where the magic chair was located, with Solisar sitting in it. "Ze battle is over," she told him. "We are safe. Zey are all dead."

   "Yes, I can see that."

   "Is zat how it flies?" she asked. Solisar was distracted, for he was trying to test his control over the vessel. Could he speak to the others on the ship through the chair? Could he do more than see and move? It had drained him of his magical power, yet he had been able to leave the chair and return, and it remained in the air in his absence.

   "Yes," he finally answered her, "though I still have many questions about it."

   Nulara's face was filled with excitement and delight. "Many years have I wondered about this ship!" she said. "You have served my purposes better than I had hoped; I thank you." With that, she stared directly at Solisar with a look of lust, or perhaps hunger.

   Solisar realized also that she no longer had an accent. He tried to get up, but before he could respond, her black dagger flashed in her hand. She plunged the blade deep into his chest with three stabs, an evil grin on her face the whole time.

   Solisar screamed. The shock of the attack meant that he did not notice the pain much. Instead, with his last strained, blood-filled breaths, he could sense that it was the poison of the weapon that was ultimately going to kill him. He felt his strength draining away.

   "My children proved weaker than I had hoped," Nulara said, as she nonchalantly slid the shoulder of her garment off with her hand. The thin fabrics fell to her waist, baring her breasts, and pooling at her wide hips. Then, it seemed as if she suddenly grew taller, and her clothing slipped completely from her body, revealing not the lower half of a woman but the terrifying form of a giant serpent. "At least there will be fewer mouths to feed."
Session: 90th Game Session - Wednesday, May 24 2017 from 11:00 PM to 2:00 AM
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Chapter 4 — Attempted Cleric-Retrieval: Second Encounter
Leokas gave Kytharrah some water from his skin. "Drink this; it will make you feel better. I tried to warn you that the old lady was not your friend."

   Belvin examined the minotaur's leg. "She yanked your bone from its joint. I cannot possibly set it again for you. I am not strong enough. You need to take your leg and yank it back into place, in this direction, like this. It will hurt."

   Kytharrah did as he was told, bellowing in pain, but he felt some immediate relief once his thigh bone was back where it was supposed to be. He tried to take a step, but the bone popped back out of its socket again, and he almost tumbled over.

   "You cannot walk on it until it heals fully," said Belvin. "Pop it back in place again. Then use your axe to lean on when you are walking from now on."

   "How will I run?"

   "You will not be able to, until Hakam fixes you again." The minotaur was horrified by this news.

   "How will he do that?" said Szordrin. "He is useless to us, even if we ever do find him, which remains doubtful to me."

   Szordrin had just drunk a healing potion and was now walking over to examine the bodies of the slain hags. He found a sapphire pendant on a gold chain around the neck of the hag that he had killed and a jeweled anklet around the hairy leg of the other. Under the ruined dome, there was also a small chest containing perhaps a thousand gold coins and an arcane scroll with an unrecognized spell or spells, which stretched out to about five pages in length. Szordrin then examined a large pot in the center of the floor and smelled its contents. The hag had been brewing something when they had arrived.

   Solisar came over. He could detect a necromantic aura from the pot's contents. The scroll appeared to be an evocation. "May I read the scrolls?" he asked Szordrin.

   While the sun elf did so, Szordrin removed a scroll of his own and read from it. Its magic words faded. Then he stared into the pot and sniffed again. He became aware that the oil would animate any corpse on which it was rubbed. Figuring that such an oil might catch a fair price on the black market, he carefully collected some in his waterskin.

   The others transferred the coins into one of the bags of holding, both of which were transferred from Kytharrah's pack to Kamil. Leokas then returned to the task of finding tracks. This was now far more difficult, since the zombies left humanoid tracks, and the haboobs had thrown up a large amount of sand, but Leokas took his time, and Belvin prayed for guidance for him from Thard Harr. Kytharrah sniffed about, still trying to help, though he clearly struggled. Belvin took the shape of a wolf to further assist.

   The ancient dwarven road seemed to fork here, one branch continuing to the southeast and another branching off to run due east. "The kidnappers took this eastern path," said Leokas finally.

   So that is the way that they went, calling out Hakam's name as they walked. Belvin remained in wolf form, and Kytharrah limped along near the rear.

   After 30 minutes, the road terminated at another running north to south admidst the ruins of some large structures. Leokas and Belvin paused to verify the trail of their quarry.

   "You are not limping any more," Solisar noted to Kytharrah. Looking down, the minotaur tested his leg. With a hoot, he ran about and leapt several yards joyfully, acting much more his usual self. He showed no evidence of the injury.

   "That is odd," said Leokas. "An injury like that, without the aid of magic more powerful than in our potion vials, should have taken months to heal."

   "It seems the Ioun stone around his head is more useful than we at first thought," noted Solisar. "It is most fortunate that he was wearing it when he took the injury. I was at a loss for how we would get him back up the cliff to our encampment in that state."

    Leokas nodded. "The tracks we are pursuing continued south," he informed them. So they all turned south. They had not walked very far in this new direction when they were blasted by a terrible sound, like a rasping cough, but so loud that it shook each of their bodies to the core. Kamil bolted to the northeast in terror, and Kytharrah almost fell to the ground from shaking. "That cough hurt!" The minotaur reached for one of his potions. Solisar did the same.

   Szordrin reached instead for a shaving of licorice root from his pouch. After completing a spell, he darted away, moving twice as quickly as usual.

   Their opponent revealed itself, bounding like a frog from its hiding place atop an old crumbled wall to their right. As it traveled through the air, they could vaguely take in its grotesque form. It was taller than most men, but it had a gangly shape to its hairless and sexless body. It had red-colored skin that appeared the texture of dusty clay.

   Kytharrah swung at it just before its feet hit the ground, spraying brown, mud-like "blood". Nevertheless, the monster landed by Leokas, and its head shot forward, as if its neck were a spring. The creature's head was somewhat triangular, and the neck attached near the top of the skull, the base of the "triangle". Its open, toothy mouth came so near to Leokas' face that it appeared to be kissing him. Before Leokas could respond, he felt a violent convulsion shake his whole body, emanating from the monster's mouth. He dropped his bow and stood there stunned.

   Their stalker's head retracted. Its face now leered from below its hunched shoulders, in front of its massive chest. It looked like it was going to make another attack, but Belvin had come to his friend's rescue, snapping his wolf jaws at the monster's short legs. It swatted at the wolf with its dangling long arm, but on a second attempt, Belvin caught tight hold and yanked his head back. The creature fell to its back on the hard sand.

   In moments, Kytharrah and Szordrin were upon it, cutting it to muddy pieces with axe and dagger.
Session: 88th Game Session - Wednesday, Apr 05 2017 from 11:00 PM to 2:00 AM
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Chapter 4 — Attempted Cleric-Retrieval: First Encounter
The pursuers climbed quickly over a gap in the low hills on the eastern horizon and then haphazardly descended a steep 800 or 900 feet on scree and frozen sand to the surface of the desert. The tracks were easy to observe but hard to follow, as the descent was precarious and slippery. The waxing moon did not provide many details of the expanse of dry ruins ahead of them. In fact, from here, they could see the remains of no structures at all, only a few strewn boulders atop a hardened flat of sand.

   The land continued sloping downward, though gradually, over a quarter mile before leveling out completely. They continued on, mostly in silence, following Leokas and Kytharrah, for another quarter mile, before Leokas stopped to examine the ground more closely. "I think this used to be a road," he said. "I do not think these flat stones are natural. They appear of dwarven cut to me. Yes, the tracks continue this way to the southeast."

   "It must be the Shadovar," said Szordrin. "That explains the armored bootprints and the guano smell. They must have superior darkness magics that allow them to continue seeing within it, unlike the darkness that Cassiera and I can create."

   The road became easier to follow, and soon there were more signs that a city once stood here — the remains of stone walls and columns.

   "A new smell," said Kytharrah, looking up from the trail.

   Leokas looked up from the ground and spotted movement to the south. A large figure was within the shelter of the remains of a domed structure. "Something is there under that dome," he warned.

   As if in answer, there was a high-pitched whooshing sound, and they found themselves engulfed in a haboob. Ferry, Szordrin's weasel, sensed the danger before anyone else and sprung safely from his master's shoulders. Leokas and Kytharrah were near the edge of the swirling column of sand and also leapt to safety. The others found themselves abraded by the violently blowing particles. A second vortex rose up an instant later, surrounding Kytharrah. "Bad sand!" he shouted, getting the stuff in his mouth in the process. He coughed.

   Szordrin spoke magic words and vanished from sight. The rest pressed against the wind and broke free of the sands. "Solonor, grant my enemies a swift death," Leokas prayed, as he nocked an arrow, but he did not yet have a clear shot at the figure under the ruined dome. Solisar, behind a protecting shield of magical force, heard a raspy voice completing another spell, an evocation of some sort that he could not quite recognize. Its result was clear, however; a third haboob spun into existence, once again pummeling several of them with tiny grit.

   Belvin, since he was on camelback, had now moved farther south than the others, toward some ruined square columns. He spotted something from the corner of his eye and spun Kamil around. A man was swinging his fists but missed. Belvin saw that he was dressed in caravanner's clothes, but his skin was dehydrated and shrunken against his skull. A zombie? But unlike any zombie Belvin had seen, the undead creature radiated dry, sucking heat like an oven. He slashed twice with his magic scimitar, and Kamil raised his thick toes to attack. The undead caravanner wobbled about, but did not fall.

   Kytharrah jogged out of the local sandstorm headlong toward the dome, whence he smelled "lady smells". An incredibly tall, decrepit and haggard old woman stepped out, dressed in a filthy and ragged burnoose. Her skin reminded him of the color of vomit, and her thin hair was iron-gray in color. The minotaur now blocked Leokas' clear shot.

   "My, aren't you a cute boy!" she spoke toward Kytharrah in Jotun, with an elderly, cracking voice. "I just want to hug you!" She raised wide her arms and smiled, baring her few remaining brown and black teeth. They looked rotted but sharp.

   "Play?" said the young bull in the Giant tongue.

   "My pleasure!" said the ugly, old giantess. She sprung forward, with unexpected agility for someone appearing her age, swinging her foot-long, curled nails to catch hold of him, but he avoided the grab, ducked, and swung his horns. She also stepped aside.

   Leokas stepped to the side to get his line of sight back. "Stop playing! She is trying to kill you," he shouted to his young companion. Then he let fly his arrows. The first arrow struck her in the left breast with enough force to knock her heavy frame back. Two other arrows punctured her limbs.

   Before he could loose another shot, there was another eruption of sand from the ground. Solisar was caught in the blast once again and was nearly suffocated and blinded. He stumbled out of the swirling mass and downed a healing potion. "There must be two hags!" he warned.

   Red stained the wounded hag's sagging burnoose, as blood spurted from her chest; nevertheless, in a fit of rage, she shrieked and lunged at Kytharrah again. This time, her curved nails caught hold of him. Kytharrah felt like he had been slashed with knives. She tried to pull him in, but he shook her off. She swung again, but he dodged her. Now it was his turn. He threw his weight in her direction, but she dropped low to the ground below his center of mass and caught hold of his left thigh. Kytharrah felt a pop in his leg and found himself slamming hard onto his back. There was an intense pain in his thigh, and he could not move it. "You win!" he told the hag through gritted teeth.

   There was a crackling sound, and Szordrin appeared out of nowhere, a bolt of fire shooting from his fingertip. "...And I found her!" he shouted, in answer to Solisar's warning. From behind a column, a second hag emerged, engulfed in flame. She fell to the ground, shrieking in agony as her flesh rapidly burned away.

   "Sister!" screamed the first hag, as she stood over Kytharrah's prone form. "My children, attack!"

   Leokas silenced her, putting an arrow first in her throat and then through her forehead. Her massive form tumbled forward to the ruined stone.

   Belvin, still in combat with the ashen zombie, cut its head off with a final swing. Its body hit the ground like a sack of sand. In answer to the hag's final words, eight more desiccated zombies appeared, passing through a stone wall that had clearly been an illusion. Belvin moved southeast to meet them, swinging his scimitar above his head and yelling his feral war cry.

   The zombies were closest to Szordrin, and four of them now had him surrounded. He yanked a vial of holy water from his belt and splashed it over them. They moaned and writhed about as the blessed water burned their shrunken skin, but they were not deterred. All of them struck at Szordrin, bludgeoning him with their bony fists. Worse than that, the heat around them was suffocating. Were it not for his fiendish heritage, he might have passed out.

   "They are slow," shouted Leokas. "We can outrun them. Belvin, rescue Szordrin with Kamil." He then began firing off his arrows into the group of attackers, but the zombies did not seem greatly hindered by having arrows in their preserved husks of flesh.

   Solisar, finally safe from the still-spinning columns of sand along the road, sent forth magic bursts repeatedly at the zombies, striking several and dropping at least one of them. Kytharrah managed to get his uninjured leg under him, and balancing on it, took one of his healing potions and turned to face the zombies. Two of them were now upon him. The first swung its fists. Staggering forward, Kytharrah drew his axe from his back and cut the zombie clean in half. The second zombie lunged, and the minotaur swung again, sending a head and an arm flying through the air. Then the minotaur fell, drained by the supernatural heat of the cursed things. He felt exhausted and desperately thirsty.

   "We are coming," shouted Belvin. Kamil galloped up to Szordrin, and Belvin leaned to the side and grabbed Szordrin around the waist, lifting him from the ground. Szordrin, lying over the back of Kamil's neck began casting a spell, as they moved away from the pursuing zombies.

   "Get up!" Leokas said to Kytharrah. "We can outrun these monsters."

   "My leg is hurt bad," said Kytharrah in a parched rasp. His face showed growing worry at the realization that the magic of his potion had not fixed the injury.

   Flight was not necessary, however. Magic missiles from Solisar and a ball and column of fire from Szordrin and Belvin, respectively, burned up the chasing zombies, leaving nothing but ash in their places.
Session: 88th Game Session - Wednesday, Apr 05 2017 from 11:00 PM to 2:00 AM
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Chapter 4 — Ambush Averted
~ third-day, 13th of Nightal, The Year of Wild Magic, dusk
Adbar Road


By dusk, the wind had thankfully calmed. They had left Citadel Adbar behind them and now traveled over the snow from pillar to pillar.

   Suddenly, Kytharrah stopped, sniffing the air. There was something new, but similar to a familiar scent. "Puppies?" he said.

   Belvin began a guttural chant, waving his arms wildly. The magic revealed the shapes of animal auras where his eyes could not see them. "Eight large wolves, just in front of us!" he warned, using the Elven tongue.

   Solisar reached into his component pouch, spoke some magic words, and tossed some silver dust into the air. "Goblins," he stated quietly, so as to not give away that he had spotted them, "on wolves."

   "Yes!" said Leokas. Remembering the animosity his friend had towards goblins, Kytharrah growled.

   "Fight well, my friends!" said Tavis, who then turned and ran to put distance between Kaedlaw and the danger.

   With an elven grace, Galadrel dismounted from behind her son. "Ilthian, to me!" she called.

   Ilthian tumbled off the back of the camel and landed in the snow. She drew her carving knife before standing to her feet.

   Mythlos drew his sword and waited.

   Kytharrah was confused. He could smell the puppies, but he could not see them. Maybe they were still far away and only the elves could see them. He knew that elves could see far. He grabbed the javelin he had acquired from one of the dead ogres in Tosvin's fortress and readied to throw it. "I do not see the puppies!" he complained.

   "You will in a moment, Kytharrah," said Solisar, who was fumbling for a tiny vial of mica, which he snapped open between his fingers. He tossed the powder in the direction of the opponents that only he could see.

   There was a burst of sparkling dust, which outlined the form of two wolf-riding goblins. "I cannot see! I cannot...." shouted one of the goblins in its own language, which only Leokas could understand. He was silenced by the javelin from Kytharrah, which sailed perfectly through the air and took its target in the chest. The glittering goblin outline fell from its mount, impaled by the shaft. An instant later, the second goblin dropped from its mount, pummeled by blasts from Cassiera's fingertips as she sat atop her camel.

   Leokas, no longer with a goblin target, sent an arrow deep into the hide of one of the outlined wolves. "Leave some for me!" he called from his mount.

   Szordrin had cast a spell and held his hand as if ready to throw something. "Where do I aim my magic?" he called out.

   "Ten yards to the west of the others!" shouted back Solisar.

   A moment later, a flash of fire and heat erupted near where Solisar had indicated, accompanied by high pitched screams of pain. The snow below the blast was now slushy and splashes were kicked up as the invisible foes moved about.

   Belvin still saw the auras of the eight wolves and with a tribal yell caused the snow around their feet to turn as red as blood. Two of the wolves, also blinded by the glittering dust from Solisar, collapsed to the snow, as the magic sucked their strength away. Only two wolves were not now standing in the U-shaped stain. One of them was off to the side, standing back; the other, quicker than the others, had avoided the blood snow and bolted toward Mythlos. Its rider became visible to everyone as he broke the spell by swinging his morningstar at the moon elf, striking at the thick leather on his shoulders. Mythlos swung at the goblin's mount but it leapt away. It gave him an evil look with its red, glowing eyes.

   "Not wolves," shouted Mythlos. "Worgs!"

   Leokas dispatched the goblin with a single arrow in the back of the head and then sent two more into the worg.

   Solisar spoke more words in High Elven, and two more worg-riding goblins appeared, their magics dispelled, south of where Szordrin had unleashed the fireball. They were moving slowly from the effects of the red snow. Kytharrah bounded over and was upon the nearest in mere moments, slamming the rider from his seat and then swinging at the worg. The beast growled and avoided the blow, but its growl turned into a yelp as its side was pierced by one of the minotaur's horns. The second now-visible goblin rode up to defend his fallen companion and strike at Kytharrah's back, but he was blasted off his saddle by a burst of magic from Cassiera. Barely ten seconds had passed, and six of the eight goblins were already dead.

   The worgs, however, were much more of a threat. The one near Mythlos, with two of Leokas' arrows in its side, caught the elf's leg in its jaw, yanking him off his camel. The camel nuzzed and bolted, and Mythlos hit the snow hard. Belvin charged over on Kamil and then leapt from his camel's back to defend his friend, but Mythlos was already back to his feet with a kip-up and swung a blow with enough force to nearly severe the head of the worg that had attacked him.

   The other riderless worgs now had them partly surrounded. Kytharrah struck one as it darted past, and it tumbled onto its chest. Leokas shot at it twice while it was down, before it could get up on its feet again.

   Another faced down Hakam, who had dismounted and stood with his sword drawn. It growled at him, and then it spoke. "Smell tasty!"

   Hakam swung, striking it on the snout but barely drawing blood. "Stay back, fiend!" he shouted.

   "Bite your head...!" began the wolf, but then magic from Cassiera and an arrow from Leokas between its eyes finished it.

   One of the two remaining goblins, the one who was standing back off to the side, suddenly became visible, floating oddly in the sky. This one was clearly a shaman or adept of some sort. Pointing his dark dagger at Hakam, he shouted a command. (Leokas understood him to shout, "Fall down!") Hakam felt a strange sensation, but he fought against the urge to lie down with his mind and resisted the spell. Magic bursts from Szordrin's fingertips assured that "fall down" would be the last words the goblin would ever speak.

   Solisar was more concerned about the remaining goblin that only he could see. This one was wearing a full suit of goblin-sized armor, and he was holding his worg back just at the edge of the blood snow, waiting for an opening and watching how the other worgs fared. Solisar tossed more powdered mica at him.

   So the goblin leader, now effectively visible and sparkling, entered the fray. He charged at Mythlos, and swung his morningstar down at the elf, who intercepted the swing with his sword. At the same time, the goblin leader's worg lunged low and took Kytharrah's hairy leg in its mouth. It could not trip the heavy minotaur, however. Kytharrah lowered his head and gored the armored goblin, but the little creature deflected the attack with his shield, giving a deafening clang. Kytharrah was shocked that the little creature was still on his mount. The leader turned his attention from Mythlos to his attacker and struck the minotaur on the head with the armor-breaking weapon. Kytharrah's thick skull withstood the blow, and he cared little about the bump it would leave. He snorted a challenge back at the goblin.

   Most of the party now ganged up on the leader. Belvin and Leokas loosed arrows, Solisar and Cassiera sent bursts of magic force, Belvin sent a ball of fire, and Mythlos and Kytharrah swung their blades. The goblin could not avoid either the magical or mundane arrows, but his thick armor spared him severe harm. The worg dodged the flaming sphere, while the rider was surprisingly well-trained at defending the melee attacks with his morningstar and shield. At last, the minotaur, in frustration or perhaps an act of cunning, hooked his enemy's shield with his horns and, bellowing, ripped it off the goblin's arm with a toss of his head. It flew through the air and landed on the snow near Galadrel and Ilthian. "Stupid shield!" said Kytharrah.

   Meanwhile, Hakam found himself facing two of the remaining worgs. "Eat you together from both ends," said one worg, licking its jaws. They each kept snapping, but the cleric defended himself with his longsword.

   "Hakam!" shouted Ilthian, but Galadrel held her back.

   Szordrin heard her call, however, and galloped over. A burst of fire spread from his open palms and engulfed one of the wolves. It yelped and ran off, fur burning, before it collapsed and was still.

   The other worg, though, landed a bite on Hakam's shield arm. Hakam yelled in pain, and Solisar sent bursts of force into the worg until it released the cleric from its grip. Hakam then stabbed the beast.

   It growled and snapped again but missed. Szordrin opened his palms again, but no fire came out this time. "Curses!" he shouted.

   A short distance away, the battle continued against the armored goblin. His worg bit at Mythlos' legs and yanked its head to the side. Mythlos was thrown down onto the snow again, and his sword slipped from his fingertips.

   At the same time, the worg's violent thrashing caused the goblin leader to fall from the saddle. Kytharrah stood over the goblin in an instant and brought his axe down, cleaving breastplate and chest in two and driving the creature deep into the snow.

   Leokas loosed an arrow. "But his worg...." He loosed another arrow. "...will not...." A third arrow. "...fall!" Cassiera shot at the beast with her magic as well and Belvin directed the sphere of flame to strike the worg on its hindquarters. Singed and with several arrows stuck in its side, the worg would not give up. It stepped forward and mauled Mythlos, who had just reached his sword but was still prone. He called out in pain, as the worg chewed into his leg, and touched himself with the side of the blade to ease some of the pain with the sword's positive energy. Kytharrah rushed over and rescued his friend, striking down the leader's worg at last.

   One worg remained.

   "Curses again!" shouted Szordrin, who failed a spell a second time. Hakam was managing to hold his ground against the final red-eyed wolf. Each continued to inflict minor wounds to the other by tooth or sword. Cassiera galloped over and tossed a vial over Hakam's head that splashed acid unto the wolf's dirty fur. Belvin commanded the snow, and some of it rose up from the ground and shaped itself into a long lance of ice. Then it shot forward like a ballista bolt... and struck Hakam in the lower back, piercing into him and then bursting into shards of ice. The cleric fell forward to his knees.

   "Belvin!" screamed Ilthian. "What did you do?"

   "I missed!" shouted Belvin, and his voice showed genuine concern. He rushed over, hands glowing with positive energy, to try to repair his mistake.

   The worg took the opportunity to attack, clamping down on Hakam's right shoulder, but magic projectiles from Mythlos and Solisar killed it, and it released Hakam from its grip. Hakam fell back onto the snow, covered in blood, and Belvin touched the spot where the icelance had struck him. The magic sealed the wound, and Hakam stopped grimacing in pain.

   "I apologize," said Belvin. "Had I intended to kill you off, I would have done so back in Calimshan."

   "I am sure of it," said Hakam.

   Kytharrah ran up to Leokas and said proudly, "I killed a goblin!" Then he paused for a moment, frowning. "I like playing better than killing."
Session: 86th Game Session - Thursday, Mar 09 2017 from 12:00 AM to 3:00 AM
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Chapter 4 — Tragedy at Coggin's Rise
~ sixth-day, 16th of Uktar, The Year of Wild Magic, moondark
Coggin's Rise


Mythlos' watch was nearing its end; it was nearly time for Cassiera to relieve him. He heard commotion coming from the direction of the elder Pulkdrivvers' tent, followed by moaning, and it became clear that the two adults were engaged in an intimate moment.

   He looked down and saw that Cassiera was already awake. She motioned toward the parents' tent and indicated that their activity had woken her up early. He nodded, and tried to enter his reverie, still perched up on the thick branch of a spruce.

   "Gôr mig skâlla!" Betha called out with an embarrassingly loud volume.

   Cassiera shook her head, trying not to laugh. Then her eyes spotted movement in the shadows among the tree cover. Her monochromatic darkvision revealed the presence of a warm body where no human eyes would have seen anything. It was a small creature, with dark fur, some sort of animal. As the animal came closer, Cassiera saw that it was a wolf pup.

   "A puppy!" she said excitedly but quietly. "Come here, little wolf. It is safe."

   The little dog ran up to her without hesitation, its tail wagging.

   "You do not bite, do you?"

   As if in answer the tiny wolf sat down, its tongue hanging out of its mouth.

   "May I pet you?"

   But before Cassiera could touch the animal, Hakam let out a scream of pain, loud enough to wake anyone.

   Within the interdimensional space, Ilthian was startled awake. "That was Hakam!" she exclaimed. "He is hurt; he needs our help." She grabbed her carving knife, which was by where she was lying on the white, featureless "floor".

   "No, child," said Galadrel, grabbing onto her by the shoulders to hold her from getting up.

   Kytharrah, who had also slept up in the space, jumped out with abandon, and Szordrin rapidly descended the rope after him. Solisar cast a spell and vanished.

   Outside and below, Leokas was already out of his tent and nocking two arrows. In the darkness, by the blue light from Mythlos' sword above in the tree, he could see a full-sized wolf with Hakam's arm in its mouth and growling. Hakam was thrashing about, trying to free his arm from the animal's jaws.

   His two arrows plunged into the beast's side — or rather they should have. Instead, they seemed to hit and then fall off, leaving no visible sign of injury.

   Then another object flew past him. Belvin, having quickly mounted Kamil had thrown his dagger. The blade left a streak of silver along the wolf's back. It released Hakam.

   Leokas had encountered such a thing before, deep under the sands of the Calim Desert when they had first encountered a lycanthrope.

   This was a werewolf.

   ...And it was a pack of them, for Kytharrah painfully landed with a thud on the frozen ground from his leap from the sky to find himself facing two more approaching wolves, coming from the east. Mythlos, likewise, leapt from his tree branch, driving his glowing blade down onto the back of one of them. It punctured its left lung, and the wolf began wheezing as it struggled to shake off the heavy elf now on its back. Mythlos rolled off and extracted his sword and noticed a distinctive, sizzling, silver wound where there should have been blood. Kytharrah followed Mythlos' lead and attacked with his axe. The blade cut into a second wolf, spraying blood. This wolf then bit into Kytharrah's groin, teeth sinking in deep. The wolf that had mauled Hakam and two of its pack mates ran toward Kytharrah and Mythlos. Now four wolves surrounded Mythlos, snapping and growling at the moon elf, and one of them caught his leg, drawing blood and yanking his weight out from under him. He tumbled to the frosty ground.

   Meanwhile, the "puppy" that Cassiera had wanted to pet was now snapping at her with its little jaws, yapping as she continually avoided it. She tried to hum her enchanting tune, but it did not have the desired effect.

   "Anachtyr smite thee!" Hakam shouted, as he managed to clamber to his feet. A surge of holy fire fell from the sky in a column of swirling flame. Three of the wolves were engulfed, including the one that had bit him and the one that had tripped Mythlos. When the the fire dissipated several seconds later, only two wolves were lying on the melted snow, fur burned off to the skin. Beside them, curled in the fetal position, was a nude young woman.

   Only Szordrin, who had just reached the surface, recognized the body; it was Mara.

   Leokas reached higher ground and nocked his only remaining silver arrow. He sent it into the hindquarters of the wolf biting Kytharrah. It released him with a yelp and then wobbled and fell to the ground.

   Mythlos sprang to his feet from the prone position, avoiding another bite from the remaining wolf. He then decapitated it with a single swing. The head landed near Kytharrah's hooves and rolled, but the headless body was that of another woman. The minotaur was extremely confused. These wolves smelled like the Pulkdrivvers, and that body might look like Betha Pulkdrivver if she was not wearing any clothes. Szordrin rushed over to one of the two wolves that had been scorched by Hakam's magic and stabbed it through the neck with his dagger. Suddenly, there was Lander or Ander, also naked. But where was Brianna? Kytharrah did not know, but he knew that Cassiera needed help. The little wolf puppy was still snapping at her. He set his hoof on the wolf that had so viciously bitten him to stop it should it try to rise, then reached out his long arm and caught the wolf puppy by the scruff of her neck. She struggled in vain to free herself, yipping and snapping.

   Belvin rode over on Kamil and tried calming the creature with a spell, which failed. Then Cassiera spoke at the little wolf in a commanding tone this time, and as soon as the little dog's eyes met hers, she calmed. Instead of trying to bite Kytharrah, the wolf began trying to lick him.

   Hakam took up his sword.

   "The fight is over," said Solisar, who appeared out of thin air in the middle of the dead werewolves.

   "No, it is not over!" Hakam replied. "Werewolves still live." He jumped off the slope where he had been sleeping and plunged his sword into one of the wolf bodies. Lander or Ander's dead twin now appeared.

   "Wait!" said Belvin. "Let me try to save these animals." He followed up his statement with another spell, but he could not remove the disease of lycanthropy from the little girl with his spell; she remained a wolf, held by her neck from Kytharrah's paw.

   "We cannot kill her!" Cassiera argued.

   "We are out of options," said Belvin.

   "Feel order's wrath!" Hakam shouted.

   "Faer fanil!" Solisar shouted in answer, seeking to undo the spell.

   But Hakam's hold on the Weave overpowered the sun elf's. A three-dimensional grid of blue-violet beams appeared in a 30-foot cubic area, trapping Kytharrah and the werewolf pup within. Kytharrah felt a painful burning sensation as the beams blazed over him.

   The small canine in his hands ceased moving instantly and became a little girl. Never would little Brianna sing again.
Session: 83rd Game Session - Friday, Dec 16 2016 from 12:00 AM to 3:00 AM
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Chapter 4 — Leucrotta
~ third-day, 13th of Uktar, The Year of Wild Magic, dusk
west of Lake Woe


The temperature was frigid and growing colder as the sun set early in the west. It was only a month shy of the shortest day of the year, and they were farther north than even they had been on the Great Glacier.

   They were heading west along the Clear Whirl River, which was neither clear nor whirling, instead flowing slowly from Lake Woe and filled with ice. They rode on camel back over the tundra as their beasts nuzzed. It was snowing, making visibility difficult, but at least it was not very windy.

   After their conversation with the melancholy storm giant paramount, Ramos, they had prepared for the next leg of their journey to speak with the queen of Hartsvale. The firbolg servants of Ramos had showed them a map of the locations of the other giant steadings surrounding the human country of Hartsvale. The map was not very detailed — the only human settlement on the map was Castle Hartwick, where the queen lived — but it gave them a rough idea of things and also confirmed that Galadrel's rumors were correct — giants of every variety indeed lived in the area, mostly within the Ice Spire Mountains surrounding the valley on nearly all sides.

   Hakam had continued to remain convinced that they had been divinely placed on the right track to solving their quest quickly. "The queen's son, as Annam's heir, is the true ruler of Jhothûn," he had said. "We could also speak with the High Priest of Annam and hear his story, perhaps, if we can find him."

   When they had returned up to the cloud palace to gather their equipment and say goodbye to the cloud giants, Solisar and Hakam had arranged with Skata and Bjorn a signal to use if they were going to scry on the group. This was because Solisar intended to enspell himself with a divination that would make him aware of anyone's scrying attempts. He did this, since he feared that either Iyraclea or Samber might scry on Ilthian and then use teleportation magic to confront them and/or take her from them. Hakam asked the giant siblings to activate and quickly deactivate their scrying pool before using it, which would be how Solisar would know that it was them watching and not one of their powerful opponents. They practiced their plan, so that Solisar would get a feel for what it felt like to be scried on while under his spell. The two younger giants were sad to see the adventurers depart, but they were also excited to see what new adventures they might have in a land so rife with giant history.

   Ramos had arranged for several rocs to fly the party down to the surface. The gargantuan birds had wingspans over 75 feet and could even bear a storm giant upon their backs. Belvin and Kytharrah were particularly fascinated by them. The rocs had special saddles attached to them, which had flat wooden platforms with railings and were intended for carrying cargo. The camels were made to lie atop them.

   The journey to the surface had taken longer than they would have expected. As soon as they descended out of the thick clouds surrounding the peak of Mount Woe, they understood just how massive Mount Woe was. Leokas estimated that it was four miles tall. It was exceptionally steep, erupting out of the center of a large lake. It was an inselberg, not a part of any other mountain chain.

   Looking about, they had taken in the landscape. Two long mountain ranges bordered them in to the north and to the south, and they could see a third chain farther off to the west. Everything was white, but unlike the Great Glacier or the High Ice, there were evergreen trees all over the foothills of the northern and southern mountains. A valley of tundra spread out between the two sets of foothills. Lake Woe filled the width of the valley from north to south, and they could see a river flowing west from it.

   The rocs had chosen a long and flat stretch of land upon which to land — a somewhat terrifying process for such a large bird.

   They had been surprised by how healthy and strong they felt once they had landed on the western shore of Lake Woe at the origin of the Clear Whirl River. The firbolg servant who had guided the flock of rocs to the ground told them that this was because of the altitude change. "You have been up where the air is thinner for many days now; your bodies are happy to feel thicker air again. I feel it too; my people are not meant for the clouds."

   The thick-bearded firbolg had also reminded them of the path ahead. "Follow the river west until it joins with another. Then follow it north into Hartsvale through the wide pass between the Ice Spires."

   After he had bid them farewell, the firbolg climbed upon his roc, and the party watched the impressive feat of watching the birds take to the sky again. Because they were so large, they had to run along the ground for nearly a quarter mile before achieving enough lift to take off.

~~~~

In the twilight of dusk, Solisar spotted eight approaching figures. They were short and broad and clearly were carrying axes.

   "Dwarves approach," said the elf.

   Hakam hailed them in Common.

   "Ho!" shouted back one of the dwarves, and then he trotted closer over the snow, followed by his companions. All of the dwarves were dressed in thick furs. Apart from that, they looked as "dwarvish" as one might expect. Their reddish beards were full of snow. The tallest and biggest dwarf — at only five feet — had a horned helmet and seemed to be their leader. He had his beard braided into two long strands. Standing next to him, another dwarf bore a silver necklace with a large emerald stone. They carried with them a mixture of axes and hammers.

   "What be these beasts?" asked the one they supposed to be the leader of the band.

   "Be these camels?" said the one with the necklace.

   "Be that a minotaur?" asked another.

   "Play?" asked Kytharrah.

   "You do not want to play with him," said Hakam, but a fourth dwarf said, "Sure, I shall play with thee!" He tossed his warhammer to the snow and rolled up his thick sleeves. "Come at me, red beast!"

   Kytharrah was delighted. He bounded over the snow at his magically enhanced speed, and before anyone else could speak, he had his massive hands on the dwarf, but the dwarf was both heavier and more surefooted than Kytharrah had expected, and the dwarf resisted being taken down and broke free. The dwarf then launched himself at Kytharrah's legs, trying to trip him. This failed, but the dwarf refused to let go of his opponent's leg, even when Kytharrah got a hold of him around his waist and began tugging. Eventuallly, they both tumbled to the snow and began rolling around. It did not take very long for Kytharrah to get the dwarf in a pin. After conceding, the dwarf immediately wanted another go at it.

   Several of the other dwarves circled around the two wrestlers and cheered and bet each other drinks in Dwarven, while the leader and the cleric continued to speak with the rest of the party.

   "We do not see us many elven folk in these here lands," said the dwarf leader, "and none of you humans look like Hartsvalers. Where be ye travellin'?"

   "To Hartsvale," said Hakam. "Do you know how much farther it is?"

   "Ye rightly be in Queen Brianna's lands now," said the dwarf, "though ye will not find many signs of it bein' so this far south, especially with winter comin'. Not much but silver miners in these here parts; all the farmers move into the villages for the winter."

   The cleric spoke up. "What purpose does such a diverse set of adventurers as yourselves have with such a tiny country as Hartsvale?"

   Hakam replied, "We are here to ask for aid in a quest. I am afraid that I am not at liberty to say more."

   "Are you from Calimshan?" asked one of the dwarves who was not watching his companion scuffling with Kytharrah. Excitement was in his voice.

   "I am," said Hakam, "from Memnon."

   "I have always wanted to visit," said the dwarf. "I have always wanted to see me a genie."

   "I do not recommend it," said Hakam, who had always been frustrated by tourists foolishly expecting to see genies in Calimshan when the monsters had been banished for millenia.

   Meanwhile, Kytharrah was now taking on two dwarves at once in a grapple. He was stomping around with a dwarf hanging on stubbornly to each leg.

   "You say that we seem strangers to this land," said Solisar, "but are there many dwarves in Hartsvale?"

   "Nay," said the leader. "We work in the silver mines back yonder where the Clear Whirl bends north."

   "Since I know ye be thinkin' it," said the cleric, "no, we be not miners. Not all dwarves be miners, ye know; do not be imprintin' us! We be hired guards."

   "Ye should take you caution," said the third dwarf. "We be trackin' a pack of leucrotta."

   "They be spotted near the mine several hours back," said the leader.

   "Thank you for the warning," said Hakam, though he had no idea what leucrotta were, "but we are well-prepared with our magics."

   "What are leucrotta?" asked Szordrin.

   "Creatures that should not be a part of nature," said Belvin. "They are carnivorous ungulates with skeletons not made of bone like other creatures. It is nearly as hard as adamantine."

   "Aye," said the dwarven cleric, "and their maws have no teeth but a bony ridge instead, can bite clean through steel."

   "They be much smarter than wolves or other pack animals," said the leader. "The only good leucrotta be a dead leucrotta. There be an open bounty on leucrotta pelts and skeletons in Hartsvale, and Earl Wynn has a reward for 180 silver bars out on this particular pack."

   "I do not see any hoof tracks," said Leokas, "nor have I for the last several hours, though of course the falling snow would cover tracks quickly."

   "The tracks headed east from the mine along the river," said the dwarf, "but then we lost them."

   "Again, thank you for the warning," said Solisar.

   "No offense to you, good strangers," said the cleric, "but we should continue on if we wish us to beat the coldest part of night."

   "No offense taken," said Hakam, "but might I ask you a quick question before we part, as we are new to these lands? Do the humans of these parts have any strange customs about which we should know?"

   "Stranger than those of most humans?" said the leader. "I think not."

   "How do they feel about magic?" asked Szordrin.

   "They do not fear it, if that be what you mean," said the cleric, "but it be not common either. Most of the magic be giant magic from the giant gods."

   "They have themselves many runecasters, as do both our people and the peoples of the giants," said the leader.

~~~~

Kytharrah was sad that he had to stop playing; it was the most fun he had had in a long while. Though he won every fight, the little dwarves were much tougher opponents than he would have guessed, and he felt smarter now knowing that.

   Leokas saw no signs of hoof tracks for the rest of the journey, though he had both Kytharrah and Belvin helping him.

   As the dwarves had said, they reached a silver mine later that evening. A very small thorp had set itself up over the area. There was a tavern or meeting house, and several simple, tiny homes where it was assumed that the miners lived.

   The mine itself was a surface mine — the ore was extracted without having to build tunnels into the earth. It must have been a relatively new mine, as their was only a single slope cut into the surface so far, on the west side of the thorp. An aqueduct had been built southwest of the mine, which diverted water from the river to the mining site when a sluice gate was opened. (They later learned that this surge of water was used to remove the "overburden", the top levels of rock and soil, from the silver ore. It was also used to crack the stone after fire-setting.)

   Torch light shone from the windows of the larger building. "Stay here while I inquire inside," said Hakam, while he dismounted from his camel.

   The place was a single room with no sign of stairs. It had scattered tables and a bar at the back. Several men in furs, all human, sat at the tables, half of which were asleep and all of whom had silver steins. A large hearth kept the room toasty warm, a welcome change, even considering magical protections.

   Hakam approached the barkeep, hoping that the bearded man spoke Common. He did. Hakam was told that this was no inn, just a place for the miners to relax after a day of weary work.

   "Would you be opposed to some of my company resting here for the night. Three women are with us. We have our own bedding." The cleric of Anachtyr set a couple gold coins on the bar counter.

   The keep quickly scooped them up. "Yes, yes, you may. Find yourselves a spot over there. You can move the tables out of the way. Mind you, most of the men are drunk, and they have not seen any women in many months, some of them."

~~~~

That night, Szordrin created an interdimensional space with his rope, and he and Solisar rested there with Ferry and all of the camels except for Kamil. Kamil, Belvin, Leokas, and Kytharrah camped outside, east of the tavern. (There was no stable here; they were told that horses were rare in Hartsvale, used primarily by the queen's men.) The other five, Hakam, Mythlos, and the three women, rested inside on the floor of the tavern, near the western wall.

   In the middle of the night, Cassiera was startled awake by a woman's scream from somewhere outside. She immediately shook Mythlos, who was near her, out of his trance. Then she grabbed her scimitar. Outside, Leokas had also heard the scream. He was out of his tent in mere moments. Belvin, who was keeping warm by sleeping against his camel, shoved Kytharrah awake. Inside the interdimensional space, Solisar was startled out of his reverie by a magic alarm that he had set. He woke Szordrin, tossed the rope through the dimensional rift, and began immediately climbing down it.

   "Stay quiet and head around the buildings," Leokas ordered the minotaur. Then the elf leapt up, grabbed a hold of the overhanging roof of the tavern, and pulled himself up. In the darkness, he could see no one out and about; all was still.

   Kytharrah stuck to the southern outskirts of the thorp and rounded the second-to-last building. Then he spotted movement to his right by the light of his everburning torch. "In there!" he bellowed, lowering his horns toward the mine. Then he smelled an awful smell coming from around the other side of the nearest house and paused.

   Cassiera stepped outside, just as Belvin galloped past her to the west toward the top of the mine. Then she saw Leokas land to her left, having jumped from the roof. He headed to another building and began to climb, so that he could get line of sight into the mine.

   There was a crash, as Mythlos exited through one of the western windows. Hakam finally woke up, as did Ilthian, who immediately clung to his arm. "What is wrong?" both asked together.

   "A woman screamed from somewhere outside," said Galadrel.

   "There are no women in this village," said Hakam, and he grabbed the sword by his bedroll.

   "Hakam, your armor!" warned Ilthian, but the cleric ignored her and shoved past tables and chairs as he rushed to the front door, which Cassiera had left swinging open. He stepped outside to see Cassiera looking around, searching for the trouble. Immediately, he heard Kamil nuzzing and what sounded like a bear trap snapping shut. He turned his head to see Belvin atop Kamil trying to speak calmly toward a strange creature that was climbing up the side of the mine. The beast moved with the agility of a goat up the steep slope. It was hoofed and about the size of a large stag, but the similarities with normal ungulates ended there. The creature's head was somewhat badger-like, low-slung and wedge-shaped. Its eyes glowed faintly an unnatural red. It was too dark to make out its coloration.

   Two arrows from a roof behind cleric plunged into the leucrotta's hide, and it yelped. Cassiera charged forward with her blade, and Hakam followed behind, as Belvin cast an unknown spell, which seemed to have no effect. Arrows continued piercing into the monster from the roof, as they saw the blue glow from Mythlos' sword entering the bottom of the mine.

   Simultaneously, a second leucrotta came around one of the buildings and galloped at Kytharrah. The young minotaur smelled his opponent's stench before he saw it. He swung his powerful axe and struck off the flesh from half of the creature's face, yet the denuded bone was unblemished, and black in color. It dropped to its knees with a yelp but then sprang back up and snapped with its bloody head, which now lacked an eye and an ear. Kytharrah hopped back, avoiding having his axe snapped in half by the monster's trap-like jaws. Kytharrah swung again, striking the creature's thick torso and almost knocking it off its lanky legs.

   "One is over here!" Kytharrah heard Szordrin's voice yelling from somewhere to the east. Szordrin and Solisar readied themselves against a charge from a third leucrotta, which had been hiding behind an empty guard tower. The latter wizard ran farther to the east, away from the tavern, while tossing a shard of glass, toward the figure they saw approaching in the shadows, and chanting a spell. Szordrin, likewise, followed Solisar, waving his hands and reciting. He shot two rays of scorching flame from his fingertips, but the leucrotta sprung from side to side and avoided any harm. This bought Solisar enough time, however, to extract a vial of colored sand from his pouch. He swung his walking staff toward the beast and tried to back away, but the leucrotta kept advancing on him. Just before the leucrotta could bite his arm off, he snapped the vial with his fingers, and a rainbow of red, yellow, and blue burst from his open palm. The lecurotta stopped in its tracks for a brief moment, its tongue hanging out of its mouth.

   Back at the mine, Mythlos stopped running for a moment, as magic projectiles from Cassiera and a column of fire from the sky from Belvin dropped the first leucrotta. Its scorched body tumbled back down the slope, still on fire, and almost crashed into the moon elf. "Help me!" screamed the woman's voice again. It came from one of the houses behind Mythlos, near where Kytharrah was holding his ground. Mythlos turned and ran back in that direction. He saw the leucrotta hanging from Kytharrah's arm. Kytharrah punched it in the face — what was left of it — and it released him. Thankfully, the leucrotta had bitten only through fur and flesh and not bone, else Kytharrah would not have had an arm left. Still, the wound affected his next few swings, and he missed. Leokas was now climbing a third building so that he could support the minotaur. "Help the villager!" called Leokas to Mythlos. The moon elf moved to find the door to the house, as Cassiera appeared behind him and launched her magic bursts to help Kytharrah.

   Hakam, instead, ran east to heed Szordrin's call for help. He came around the corner and commanded a mystical sword to appear behind the leucrotta that Solisar had temporarily stunned. It swung at the leucrotta's rump, and then Szordrin shot more fire from his hands. This time, his aim was true, and the leucrotta fell over and was still, its fur on fire. Hakam rushed forward and drove his real sword into the creature's body to make sure it was dead.

   Leokas finished off the remaining leucrotta outside with two arrows in the remaing side of its face.

   The adventurers gathered around the door from where the woman's cries had come. Inside the tiny house, they found Mythlos covered in the blood of a fourth leucrotta, which had been inside the house, somehow having figured out how to open the door. Its body was cut completely in half through its midsection. One of the miners' bodies was also there, sadly, half eaten. There was no woman in the house at all.
Session: 82nd Game Session - Friday, Nov 18 2016 from 12:00 AM to 3:00 AM
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Chapter 3 — Battle of the Twin Peaks: Part II
Kytharrah set Szordrin down in view of the two hell hounds, who simply stared at them from their steaming metal mats and sniffed. The whole area smelled of sulfur, which reminded Szordrin of hot springs he had once visited in the Underdark. One of the warhounds licked its lips hungrily.

   "Tosvin assured us that you would not attack us!" said Szordrin, pointing at the large, double door. It did not look like the dogs understood anything he had said, but they had not attacked.

   "Tosvin!" he called, but there was no answer from beyond the door.

   "Thank you, Kytharrah," Szordrin then said to the minotaur. "Good boy. Now take your grappling hook and rope from your pack and leave it here. Then go as fast as you can to get Cassiera."

   The minotaur smiled, because Szordrin had never been proud of him before. He even called him his new name!

   "Quickly! Go!"

~~~~

"Knuse dem!"

   Leokas and Hakam turned to see a hairy, ten-foot tall ogre coming through the door.

   Before either could respond, a strange cloud of mist blew through the ogre and came toward them as well. It was not the elemental, but it did have a humanoid shape and perhaps horns.

   "Pin them at the door!" shouted Leokas, and he let fly three arrows. They passed through the approaching misty form and struck the ogre. Two went deep into the ogre's gut, but the other did not seem to pass through his hide armor.

   Kytharrah had just reached the ground again on his quest to get Cassiera's gutted body. He heard Leokas' cry and remembered a time when Solisar and Szordrin were looking over his things. "You should throw this whenever we need to pin someone in place," they had told him. The young minotaur had had no idea what they were talking about at the time, but it seemed to him like this might have been what they meant. So he grabbed one of the two strange bags hanging from his belt and tossed it — over Leokas and Hakam and over the gaseous form. It was a lucky throw. The round bag burst open, covering the wounded ogre in a thick goo, which immediately hardened upon exposure to the air.

   "Meg sittende fast!" shouted the ogre, as he struggled to pull himself free, but his large, warty feet were glued fast to the floor.

   So the battle was joined again. Solisar cast an unknown spell. Mythlos charged forward, and Belvin was right behind him, with a blade of fire growing out from his clenched fist. The moon elf swung his sword at the incorporeal figure. It looked like the moonblade made contact with something, as the figure twitched and began to materialize. Hakam stepped to Mythlos. "The strength of the bull be upon thee!" he said, laying a hand on the elf.

   The strength of the bull would not be enough, however. The form took full corporeal shape, revealing a hulking, blue-skinned, white-horned giant standing ten feet tall. He wore an ornate chain shirt and bore a massive sword at his back. He held his giant-sized palm forward, and a magical blast of icy cold shot forth. Leokas leaped out of the way, avoiding most of the burst, but Belvin, Hakam, and Mythlos were covered in a hoary spray of frost. Belvin wobbled about, stunned by the bitter cold. Mythlos fell flat to the ground.

   "Mythlos is down!" Leokas warned. Hakam knelt at Mythlos' side, as Solisar waved his magic wand from the southern wall, but the magic was resisted. Belvin then gave a feral yell, and a column of flame roared downward from the ceiling of the passage and scorched the oni, blackening much of his skin. It spat and reached for its greatsword. Having successfully sent positive energy into his companions body, Hakam stood quickly back to his feet, drawing his own sword. The cleric parried a powerful blow from the giant, and then Leokas stepped back into view and launched another arrow. It struck the oni in the forehead, and the magical giant fell backward to the ground with a thud.

   "Nice block, Hakam!" said Leokas, as two more arrows sailed from his bow and struck the glued ogre. It roared in pain.

   Mythlos, restored to health, stood up and took in the situation. The ogre was still struggling against the glue, and the oni lay at his feet. Suddenly, the oni twitched. Mythlos slashed at him, cutting his body wide open.

   "Are you not coming up?" Szordrin shouted down from the ledge. "The dogs are tame!" The tiefling had tied two ropes together and dangled them down. Mythlos and Belvin ran for the rope, hoping to ascend before more reinforcements could arrive, the latter healing himself as he ran.

   "Kamil! Come, my camel!" Kamil, in his shrunken form, galloped around the corner from the east where he had been hiding.

   "Bevege seg, Prompansikt!" said a voice from within the palace, and someone shoved at the stuck ogre.

   This shove helped him burst free from the glue, and two other ogres now rushed past him.

   Kytharrah giggled as he rushed over to Cassiera. "He said, Prompansikt" Then he saw Cassiera and remembered his task, ceasing his giggling. He somberly stuffed her intestines back into her belly and picked her up to cradle her body on his arm.

   "Ormur!" Solisar called from the southern wall. The magic rope slithered out of Mythlos' bag of holding and came toward the sun elf rapidly, as he moved over to join Kytharrah. "Tie me to the minotaur!" he shouted, and he grabbed unto Kytharrah's back. The friendly red beast began climbing up the wall with his magic, with Solisar securely fastened to him.

   "More are coming!" warned Leokas, as he nocked another arrow. The ogres were now twenty feet away, shaking their heavy clubs.

   From Kytharrah's back, 30 feet up the wall, Solisar sent a spell into the passageway, and a burst of glittering dust filled the area. The ogres covered their eyes.

   This was followed by a powerful shout from Hakam. "Feel order's wrath!" A three-dimensional grid of beams of blue energy filled the passage. All three ogres roared out in agony and two dropped to the ground, still. The third wobbled about just within the open doorway. Leokas struck him in the arm with an arrow, and the ogre fell with a final moan.

   Kytharrah reached Szordrin, and Solisar commanded Ormur to free him.

   "Kytharrah, go back and get Hakam. He will not be able to climb the rope without falling." The minotaur did not delay.

   "What should we do now?" the tiefling asked Solisar. "We are too short to reach the door handle, and there are no secret doors."

   "Whatever we do, stay hidden," said Solisar, dragging Szordrin away from the ledge. "Remember, that elemental is patrolling on the other side of this rift. Corellon's mercy that it has not heard the battle yet!"

   Leokas continued to stand his ground at the passage opening, arrow nocked. He saw one of the ogres get up, but he held his fire for a moment. The ogre stumbled into the wall, blinded from the glitterdust. "Hvor alle gâ?" he said.

   Then, the ogre was shoved forcefully against the wall by something or someone invisible. The ogre stumbled to the ground again and ceased moving.

   "More still!" warned Leokas. Knowing that he could not hold off an invisible foe, he rushed to the southern wall, and used his spider-climbing magic to begin ascending.

   Belvin, climbing on the rope below Mythlos, heard Leokas' latest warning, and pointed his finger at the ground, speaking a curse in Sylvan. The snow turned red like blood, the same magic the undead ice climber had used on them. If anything alive was still coming through the doors, it would have its power drained when in contact with the ground.

   Kytharrah reached Hakam, the last of the party still below, as the cleric stood just at the edge of the blood snow. Kytharrah picked him up. "Wait!" said Hakam. "It is regenerating."

   Hakam pointed at the oni mage. A stretch of intestine hanging from the monster was moving back into the creature's side.

   Up above, Szordrin and Solisar heard Hakam's statement and understood.

   "Fire?" asked Szordrin.

   "Or acid," Solisar replied.

   They each peeked around the corner. Not seeing the elemental across the rift, they both stepped out again. Solisar sent a burst of magic down at the oni's body, striking it. The intestine stopped its movement, at least momentarily. Szrodrin read from a scroll of fire, but he made a mistake while waving his arms to finish the spell.

   "The Hells! That was my most expensive scroll," he cursed, as the magic lettering vanished forever.

   Below, Hakam healed himself and ordered Ormur to tie him to the minotaur. Just as Kytharrah reached the wall, he sniffed something. He grabbed his axe. "Sneaky!" he shouted, and he swung into the air but did not connect with anything.

   "Ormur, untie me! untie me!" shouted Hakam. Then he spun around, clutching his holy symbol. "Be held!" he shouted at his invisible foe.

   Solisar heard the minotaur and glanced down. By his magic, he could clearly see the two invisible oni mages, passing through the air with their magical flight, thus avoiding the blood snow. He sent another burst of glitterdust down on them. "More oni, flying!" he warned.

   "Step aside!" said Szordrin. He rushed to the ledge, as Mythlos was pulling himself up, and readied himself. "Thric austrat!" he called out pointing at the glitter-covered form of one of the flying, invisible oni mages, just before the creature reached the ledge. Yellow bands of magic appeared and wrapped themselves around the oni's wrists and ankles, and he dropped like a rock, falling 70 feet to land directly atop his companion. Both glitter-covered oni lay still.

   Leokas and Belvin joined the others up above. "The elemental!" said Leokas, pointing across the rift.

   The creature of wind and ice had at last discovered them. It flashed from the other side like the gust of a hurricane. It flew to Kytharrah and Hakam faster than either could have anticipated, lightning flashing in its eyes in anger. It struck Kytharrah with a powerful slam, knocking the minotaur back. Hakam bravely swung into the whirlwind-like creature, shouting, "I smite thee, creature of chaos!" but it was like trying to swing into a hurricane, and his sword was nearly yanked from his hand by the force of the wind.

   "Strike!" shouted Belvin, in Sylvan, and a bolt of lightning obeyed, lighting up the elemental's form.

   Szordrin quickly took a tiny piece of parchment from his component pouch, rolled it into a cone and placed it to his lips. His voice was then heard loudly on the other side of the rift. "Come on! The patrolling guard has left its post. The path is clear."

   Shockingly, the bluff worked. The elemental was about to pummel Hakam and Kytharrah a second time, but it stopped and looked up to the north peak. Then it burst through the air and back to its post, crossing the distance in under a second.

   Kytharrah grabbed a nuzzing Kamil, as Ormur tied Hakam to the minotaur's back. "The strength of the bull be upon thee," said Hakam, and Kytharrah rushed up the wall one last time.

   Up above, Belvin was summoning a fire elemental to ensure that the three oni would not regenerate their wounds and come after them again. Mythlos had the figurine of wondrous power ready for when the elemental figured out that it had been fooled.

   "No," said Hakam, when he came over the edge with Kamil and Kytharrah. "Use it to block the door."

   "I could not reach the handle," said Szordrin.

   "Minotaur!" said Hakam. "Open it!"

   Kytharrah pulled down on the latch to the double doors. They were not locked.

   Everyone rushed through.

   The room was large and mostly empty. On the far wall was Tosvin, his insectoid body stretched out, arms and legs shackled to the wall with thick bonds of solid ice. Above his head was some sort of massive, iron cauldron. They saw a drop of clear liquid drip from a hole in the bottom. This struck Tosvin's head and sizzled like acid. The gelugon writhed in pain, an unnatural sound escaping from his throat. Then his massive compound eyes stared in their direction.

   They all heard in their minds his melodious voice. Well done, partners.
Session: 80th Game Session - Thursday, Oct 20 2016 from 11:00 PM to 2:00 AM
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Chapter 3 — Battle of the Twin Peaks: Part I
"Whoa, Man! Get a shave!"

   Krynn, the satyr, made a disgusted face, lowered his head, and sprang forward, charging at the easternmost barbazu guard and ramming into it with his curved horns.

   The hellish guards had no idea whence this new creature had come, but they also did not care. One of the door guards disappeared and reappeared behind Krynn, flanking him. The one to the west stepped forward to get a better view of the strange intruder. The guard that Krynn had rammed dropped its glaive and swung its claws. Krynn avoided the first swing, but the second left a gash across his bare, hairy chest.

   "Ha! You will have to try harder than that, devil. This gorgeous chest is made of fey skin!" By the time the fawn finished his sentence, his skin had sealed itself back up; there was not even a scar. He swung his head at the devil a second time, while drawing a long, wavy dagger from a sheath hanging from a belt around his waist.

   The guard behind Krynn prepared to swing, but Krynn was not alone.

   "Strike!" shouted Belvin. The guards had not noticed the dark cloud that had quickly formed overhead. A bolt crashed down from the cloud, striking the devil and shocking it. A half-second later, an extra large arrow plunged into its back, the first shot fired by the young minotaur Kytharrah in combat. Leokas' teaching had worked.

   One by one, the rest of the Misfits sprung from around the corner and began unleashing magic. Unfortunately, the devils had a level of resistance to magic, and all eight magical projectiles sent at the devil with the arrow in its back were deflected, and it took a swing at Krynn's back. Again, there was a streak of blood, which immediately went away.

   It still caused the satyr pain, however, and he hopped to the side with a strange bleating sound. Krynn then spun around and swung his wavy dagger, but the devil deflected it with his claws and then lunged, grabbing the satyr in its claws. The tentacles of its "beard" sprung forward, snapping with the strange orifices at the ends. A few of them made contact with Krynn's face. He yelled out and kicked the devil away with his hoofs.

   "Strike!" shouted Belvin, as another bolt fell from the sky, just as Hakam stepped out and struck the devil with a ray of intense light from his outstretched palms.

   Mythlos magically appeared through a rift, swinging his sword madly at the solitary devil guarding the door, but the devil avoided the first swing and ducked to avoid decapitation. Mythlos' moonblade stuck itself in the ice wall beside the door. The door guard screamed in rage, tossing its glaive to the side and instead swinging its fist. It punched Mythlos on the side of the jaw and then caught him by the neck with its other hand. It pulled the moon elf closer, and then Mythlos too found the ends of the devil's tentacles sucking on his face, before Mythlos was able to free himself and remove his sword from the ice.

   The remaining of the four devils was calling out loudly in its Infernal tongue. Leokas, who had been turned invisible by one of his companions, now appeared behind this guard and filled him with three arrows.

   It was not enough to take it down, however; it finished its summoning and there was a powerful smell of sulfur as four repulsive and writhing blobs of pseudo-humanoid flesh appeared on the battlefield — lemures. The devil who summoned them then vanished.

   The lemures surrounded Leokas, swinging their claws. Leokas was struck by several blows, but his armor protected him. He leapt to the side and stuck to the wall like a spider, using another magic trick that they had planned beforehand. He scurried up the wall and out of the reach of the four minor devils.

   Kytharrah had dropped his bow and charged at the nearest barbazu, reaching behind his back and removing his battleaxe as he ran. He slashed at the devil, as the devil turned to face him. As it was about to return a swing, it was pummeled by two bursts of magic from Solisar's wand. Enraged, the devil cursed in its tongue, and then it, too, vanished.

   Back at the door, Mythlos swung a blow of devastating force at his opponent, leaving a silver wound diagonally across its chest. "Use silver weapons!" the moon elf shouted, before stabbing the devil in its gut.

   Leokas, still stuck to the cliff wall, heeded this advice. He jumped back to the ground, landing adjacent to the slow-moving lemures, taking a few scratches from their claws as he nocked two silver arrows simultaneously and sent them flying through the air at Krynn's remaining opponent, who was dodging another head butt. Cassiera was sending a non-stop barrage of magical bursts from her fingertips at the same devil, and Belvin called down another lightning strike. It swung a claw weakly at Krynn, but four clones of Szordrin ran along the ice wall, and all four completed the words of a spell. There was a loud boom near the devil, and it reached up to cover its ears. Cassiera's next three pulses of magic knocked the devil to the ground, and moments later, Hakam decapitated it, sending its essence back to the Hells and leaving only its glaive behind.

   "Minotaur! To Mythlos!" shouted Leokas, as he shrugged off more painful scratches from the four lemures that once again were attempting to surround him. He got back onto the wall and began to climb, hoping to get to the ledge high up that Hakam had found the day before for a better tactical advantage. Belvin sent a bolt into the crowd of lemures and rushed to help his friend.

   The minotaur obeyed Leokas' instructions, turning and charging at Mythlos' opponent at the door. He struck the devil with a staggering blow. With its black blood spurting out, it attempted one more attack with its claws and failed, before Mythlos finished it off with a final swing. Then, the moon elf healed himself.

   "Huzzah!" shouted Krynn, raising his dagger and leaping ten feet straight into the air, but the battle was not over yet. They heard the sound of one of the bearded devil's voices high above.

   "It is summoning!" yelled Solisar in warning, before waving his magic wand in the direction of the lemures and blasting one of them.

   "Let them come!" Krynn shouted, and he pounded his chest. As if in answer, with a flash of flame and smoke and the smell of more sulfur, another bearded devil appeared ahead of Krynn and swung. The satyr deftly jumped over the swing with a hearty laugh, jumped over the devil's head and stabbed it in the back.

   Mythlos charged at the newly summoned barbazu, passing Belvin, who was now surrounded by moaning lemures. The devil struck Mythlos on his left thigh, but the elf continued moving and cut off all of the devil's tentacles with a swing. Cassiera struck him with her magic, and Kytharrah ran up, joining the new melee and contributing a solid blow from his axe that left black organs hanging out of the devil's belly. It roared and spat at Mythlos' face, swinging its glaive down, but Mythlos parried the blow and cut both of the devil's arms off in a single swing. It fell forward into the snow and burst into black smoke.

   Solisar heard the devil up above them speaking with the hell hounds. "Are you not going to help us?" He heard the dogs growl in response.

   Leokas reached the ledge and peeked quickly to see if the elemental creature Hakam had seen patrolling the fortress hallways yesterday was there. It was not, yet neither could he see the devil on the other side of the missing bridge, which he could have sworn he had seen seconds earlier as he climbed the wall. He crouched behind the ice pedestal for cover if the elemental should return and to get a clear shot if the devil should come into view. It did not.

   "Cassiera!" the four Szordrins shouted. "Behind you!"

   She spun around, hand to the hilt of her scimitar, but the barbazu that had teleported behind her was already swinging. A look of shock came over her face, and she felt a wet, spongy mass touching her hand. Looking down, she saw her intestines hanging out of her body. She then fell back onto the snow.

   The Szordrins, Krynn, and Kytharrah rushed to her side. The minotaur struck with a blow that knocked the enemy's glaive aside and took a chunk from the top of its skull. Solisar waved his wand, but the devil deflected the magic and teleported away, just as it looked like it was about to fall over.

   Dropping to their knees, the Szordrins each removed a potion vial from his belt, and one of them placed it to Cassiera's lips. Her head tilted to the side and all the liquid poured out. Szordrin touched her neck. There was no pulse. "How can you be dead?" he called out. "I wasted a potion for you!"

   "Little sister?" said Kytharrah, trying to comprehend why the potion didn't heal Cassiera.

   "Maybe some alcohol will help...." started Krynn, and then his summons ended and he vanished.

   Several yards away, Belvin was surrounded by lemures. Mythlos tried to step over to engage them, but Hakam stopped him. "Mythlos, your wound is spurting blood; you'll pass out!"

   The moon elf tried to heal it with his sword, but this failed. Hakam put pressure on Mythlos' leg; the blood kept coming.

   Three arrows from up above dropped two of the lemures, freeing Belvin, whose arms and face had been bloodied by them. The wild elf, rushed over to Mythlos with glowing hands and was able to stop the blood flow from Mythlos' thigh with his magic.

   The lemures kept approaching. Mythlos spun around and obliterated one with a swing, cutting it cleanly in half. Hakam stabbed his sword into one of those lying on the ground with arrows in them, and its form also burst into smoke and vanished.

   Leokas was about to shoot at the remaining lemure, but he heard the sound of wind rushing behind him. He tumbled forward over the ledge to get out of sight of the patrolling elemental and began coming down the wall again, dropping to the ground from ten feet up.

   One of the Szordrins touched Kytharrah after completing a spell. "Lunk, carry me and climb up that wall as fast as you can." All Szordrins pointed at the far wall leading up to where the hell hounds were.

   "But," he protested, looking at Cassiera.

   "Are you fast or not?"

   "I am fast. Uh, which you?"

   "The left one. Not that left; your other left!"

   The minotaur picked up Szordrin, rushed to the wall, and began climbing up using Szordrin's magic, as Solisar shot at the remaining lemure with his wand and then Mythlos finished it off. A lightning bolt annihilated the last of the fallen lemures before Hakam could stab it.

   The field was cleared of enemies but at great cost. Leokas reached Hakam's side, and the two looked in the direction of Cassiera's body.

   "Anachtyr will bring her back," said the cleric. "I can take care of this in the morning."

   "We will need to keep her body safe," said Leokas.

   Solisar hustled over to her still form. Then there was the sound of a creaking door, and the sun elf heard a loud voice in a dialect of Giant with which he was not very familiar. "Smash them!"

   Leokas and Hakam turned to see a hairy, ten-foot-tall ogre coming through the door.
Session: 79th Game Session - Thursday, Oct 06 2016 from 11:00 PM to 2:00 AM
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