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Posted by the GM
De Exilio
Chapter 5 — Interrogation
Back on board, the famished and weakened hobgoblins sat below deck and leaned against the main mast, looking far more terrified than even Hakam about the fact that they were now floating miles above the ground.

   "It is safer this way," explained Szordrin. "Surely, you know that a blue dragon lairs in tunnels that connect to yours?"

   "Play?" asked Kytharrah.

   "No, we do not play with prisoners," said Leokas.

   Only two of the hobgoblins spoke Common, so Hakam used his magic to communicate with them in their language of Ghukliak. Szordrin cast spells for reading their surface thoughts and for understanding them, so that he could confirm that they were telling the truth.

   Hakam began. "When were you attacked?"

   "It was about ten days ago. It was hard to keep track after we became trapped."

   "Was it an ambush?"

   "No, it was a full-on assault. Hordes of undead poured into our caves."

   "Were they led by a mummy, a very powerful mummy in silks? Or did you ever hear the name El Sadhara spoken?"

   "There were several mummies, along with skeletons of humans, skeletons of minotaurs, and creatures that seemed to be made out of clouds and air."

   Hakam tried to describe El Sadhara in more detail, but the hobgoblins did not seem to know if she had been there or not.

   "Ask if they saw any human wizard," said Solisar.

   "...Or a human with red hair," added Leokas.

   Hakam asked them, but they had not.

   "Was Allu there with you?" asked Szordrin. "What happened to him?"

   Hakam translated.

   "The cowardly false god fled to his chamber when they attacked. We do not know what became of him, only that he abandoned us."

   "How many of you were there?" Szordrin asked.

   They answered back that there were hundreds of them, most of whom were slaughtered by the undead and elemental forces, unless a few members of their "special forces" had managed to survive somewhere. It was suggested that their high priest and the archwizard might have survived, as each was very powerful and were last seen retreating with Allu.

   "What were Allu's plans?" asked Hakam. "Why did he need to gather hundreds of you?"

   "Our god...." The goblin paused and spat. "Our former god was raising an army to retake Calimshan. He told us that Calimshan was his, that it belonged to him and had been taken from him in the ancient past. He told us that hobgoblins would rule once again, serving under him, and that the other races would be driven away. He told us that we would never be enslaved by the Calishite humans again."

   The goblin looked directly at Hakam as he spoke, with no love in his eyes toward the obviously Calishite man.

   Hakam did not try to argue that hobgoblins had never ruled Calimshan, but it was true that genies once did, though certainly not Allu. Instead, he changed the focus of the questions. "Have you heard of anyone named Samber? Or for that matter, Ramseb? or Rembas? or anything like that? or the Maker?"

   They had not.

   "I want to ask about Allu's 'palace' again. To the east of the tunnels where we found you, there is a massive chamber supported by thick columns. You said that Allu's chamber and a gate were that way, and now, there remain skeletons guarding the chamber. What are those columns supporting?"

   "The columns are supporting the 'preparation room' and the gate."

   "The 'preparation room'? Preparation for what?"

   "Preparation for war," said one of the hobgoblins. "Allu was waiting to summon an army of warriors from Clangor through the gate to unleash on the surface."

   When Hakam translated this information back to the others, Ilthian, who had been sitting quietly nearby, asked, "What is Clangor?"

   "It is where goblins believe that they go when they die," explained Solisar.

   The answer did not seem to make any sense to Ilthian, but she kept silent as Hakam asked another question.

   "You mentioned a high priest and an archwizard. Describe them."

   "The archwizard, Booyagh, is a puny goblin. Despite being a weakling goblin, he rose to power by slaying the other hobgoblin wizards in a spell duel, claiming that he wished to reject Maglubiyet, the goblin god, and serve Allu instead. So Allu accepted him, even though he is puny and small.

   "Durbuluk is Allu's high priest. He seemed clearly chosen from the beginning, for he is blessed with a mixture of fiendish and hobgoblin blood and is winged and horned. He came with some of us from the Marching Mountains and quickly replaced Bokkob and Martuk and Harngur, the earlier priests."

   "Why do you supposed that this priest and wizard may still live?"

   "They retreated to Allu's chambers, which are defended against the undead."

   "How so?"

   "The walls of his chamber and of his throne room and treasure rooms are of flaming fire, fires too hot for simple hobgoblins like us to survive."

   "Why did you choose to stay and serve Allu in this place?"

   "He promised us freedom. Did we not already answer you that?"

   "But what made you think that he could keep his promises? What made you believe him?"

   "I imagine that, as a genie, he had the power to create food for his growing army, for one thing," suggested Solisar.

   The goblin that could understand Common nodded, and then spoke his own answer in his tongue. "Before he abandoned us, Allu granted our every desires. We only had to say, 'I wish for...,' and it would be ours — food, females, treasure, anything."

   "From where did all of you come?" Hakam asked them. "How did Allu find and recruit you?"

   "Some of my friends, who are all dead now, claimed to have been former pirates on the Sea of Swords. Karlack here was a former slave as were a good number of us. Most of the rest of us were former subjects of Guthash, King Under the Marching Mountains."

   "What about the blue dragon who shares these tunnels with you?"

   "What about her? Her tunnels only connect to ours where they connect to the sea cave. Allu told us that she was too foolish and proud to think that an army of goblinoids lived right under her snout, crafting weapons and forging armor. For our part, we always used magic to hide ourselves if coming in from or going out over the desert. In any case, no one has seen her since the beginning of the year."

   Hakam had run out of questions to ask and came over to his companions to speak to them privately. "We are probably going to have to fight the remaining skeletons to see if we can enter Allu's inner chamber."

   "That should not be too difficult for us, provided that El Sadhara is not there," said Leokas.

   "Even if she was here, she may have left her priestesses behind in her place," said Hakam.

   "It seems that she came to confront Allu, and he fled," said Solisar.

   "She had confronted him in the past, when his agents destroyed her statue of Calim," said Hakam. "Was this her final revenge for all of that?"

   "How did she find this place though?" asked Leokas. "It was hidden."

   "I wonder if Samber helped her," suggested Hakam.

   "I thought that you considered Samber and Allu allies," said Szordrin.

   "Maybe they cannot be connected," said Hakam. "If it is true that Allu was here when El Sadhara attacked this place, he could not also have been her prisoner, as Jayce reported to us. So one cannot be an aspect of the other after all."

   "You are only guessing about everything," said Belvin.

   "I do not think that our prisoners can tell us anything else," said Szordrin. "We should get rid of them."

   "Did you sense any lies with your magic?" asked Leokas.

   "None at all," answered the wizard. "Their thoughts matched up with their words. They had a bit of hatred toward Hakam for being a Calishite, but that was about it. Mostly they were thinking about how confused they were that we would have rescued them and not outright killed them. And they were thinking about how hungry they were."

   "I object to just abandoning them in the desert without any supplies," said Solisar. "They cooperated with us more than we ever expected."

   "We can provide some rations," said Hakam.

   "Can we not also supply them with some of their weapons from the cave?" asked Solisar.

   "An elf would give weapons to goblinkin?" Leokas appeared shocked.

   "Are there not jackals and other mundane dangers in the desert?" said Solisar. "If I understand the geography of the region, there are no towns or villages until many day's travel by foot. There are blue dragons overhead and El Sadhara's undead below the surface. And are the rumors of purple worms in the Calim Desert only rumors?"

   "They are true," said Hakam, "but no cheaply crafted goblin weapon will protect them from a sand worm. I agree to providing them weapons; it will not make a difference. We can send Kytharrah back into the cave to retrieve four of them; I believe that the tide is still low enough."

   This was done, and an hour later, Belvin sat in the spelljamming helm and carefully lowered it into a region of soft sand east of coastal cliffs. The four hobgoblins looked in shock at being handed both a couple day's of food and a weapon for each.

   "Die well," Leokas said to them.

   What was perhaps intended as an insult seemed to have been taken as a kind farewell by the hobgoblins, and a couple of them responded with something in the Goblin language. "Braeunk vhos trolkh."

   As the spelljammer lifted off from the sand, Solisar asked Leokas what their final statement meant. "It is a common goblin farewell," the ranger explained. "It means something like, 'If you die, do it quietely.'"
Session: 97th Game Session - Thursday, Nov 30 2017 from 12:00 AM to 3:00 AM
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Tags: Chapter 5 , Recap
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Posted by the GM
De Exilio
Chapter 5 — Survivors
With his natural eyes, Hakam could barely see more than a few feet in front of him now, since Solisar's torchlight had moved away, but he could still sense the shape of everything within about ten yards of him, as magic helped his mind to process the subtle echoes of sounds through the chamber. Thirty feet was not very far, however, and it was clear that this was the largest chamber yet in this subterranean place. If he was standing in the corner of a giant square facing inward, the walls to his left and right were irregular, as one would expect for a cave, but at the far corner stood something that "felt" very smooth and artificial to his magical perceptions. As he scanned the area for motion, he saw something else, and this with his eyes. A magical aura, revealing the presence of evil, well beyond the range of his magical blindsight.

   He sensed Szordrin coming up beside him. "What is it?" the wizard whispered.

   "A source of evil," Hakam whispered back. "Can you see anything with your fiend's eyes."

   "A dark pillar holding up the ceiling, about twelve or fifteen feet wide. It is not natural."

   "I sense it too," said Hakam. "Can you see anything to the right of the pillar. I sense three sources of evil."

   "I shall move a bit closer." Szordrin did so, and then quickly came back to stand beside the cleric.

   "Humanoid forms, rather thin. Not as large as minotaurs."

   "Bone thin?"

   "Probably so." He extracted a copper wire from his pouch and held it to his lips. "Come back at once! Hakam has found more skeletons!"

   Hakam healed himself with positive energy while they waited, and they were soon joined by the others around the bodies of the three mummies. Hakam and Szordrin whispered what they had seen.

   "Kytharrah, go back a ways and guard us in case more skeletons attack from behind us," Leokas directed. "If you see any more, destroy them all."

   Kytharrah obeyed.

   "They are not attacking us," said Szordrin. "Let Hakam and I go deeper into the chamber for a better look."

   It was not long before they returned. "There are five humanoid skeletons and another giant, horned skeleton," Szordrin reported.

   "I suspect that they were commanded to guard something," said Hakam, "since they have made no move to advance toward us — perhaps an entrance or perhaps El Sadhara herself. I suggest that we avoid them."

   "If they are simply mindless skeletons, that gives us time to explore the rest of these tunnels first," said Leokas.

   Solisar was looking down at the scorched and broken bodies of the mummies. "These have items of magic," he said. "Abjuration magics. Their armor and one of their amulets glow, as do their cloaks, which have resisted damage from all of our fire magics."

   "Are they dangerous to touch?" asked Szordrin. "Can we be cursed if we take them? Should I use telekinesis to pick up the items?"

   "They have been destroyed, so I believe that their curse is spent," said Solisar.

   "I believe that he is correct," said Hakam, "but I would not risk touching their fell kind. I suspect that they are wearing Calishite mail, enchanted to cool the wearer in the desert heat, though mummies would have no need for such things in undeath."

   "Kytharrah," said Szordrin, "come help me search their bodies."

   Kytharrah did so, and he seemed to have no emotional hindrances to ripping through their bandaged bodies searching. Each limb was unraveled or torn open, and the desiccated ash within poured out. The area was filled with pungent perfumes. Each mummy had had a large blue sapphire buried in its wrappings about where her heart should have been, and another on her forehead. (No one else noticed when Szordrin secretly pocketed these latter three gems.) Hakam stepped on the three unholy symbols, grinding them into the stone. They gathered up the amulets until they could identify them later, along with three silver aspergilla, the unholy symbols, and the chain shirts, and stored them in their magical sack. Belvin, Hakam, and Szordrin each donned one of the magical short cloaks, as Solisar seemed convinced that they were of the same magical properties of resistance to harm as the ones that he, Leokas, and Kytharrah already wore.

   All this time, the skeletons deeper within the chamber made no movement toward them nor any sound.

   "Come," said Leokas, "let us see where the other tunnel continued. It forked after some 75 to 100 feet."

   As a group, they returned to the wider tunnel with all the scattered remains of weapon forging.

   "I suspect this was where Allu was making weapons for his army," said Leokas.

   "But El Sadhara destroyed all of it," said Hakam.

   They reached the fork and turned first to the left, where they had destroyed the last two of the minotaur skeletons. On the left wall was a large column and a massive boulder placed too tightly together for a human to squeeze through to the other side. On the right was a pile of rubble as if from a cave-in.

   "We sent Ferry through here earlier," said Szordrin. "That was the boulder that Kytharrah could not budge, and this was the collapsed tunnel that Ferry mentioned to me."

   Kytharrah sniffed. "Food," he said, and he rushed off ahead of them. The rest hurried after him, lest he run into any trouble, but there was no sign either of life or undeath. The tunnel narrowed to five feet in width and then entered a smallish, irregular-shaped cavern chamber. All about it were nasty-smelling dried meats and kitchen implements.

   "Ferry found this too already," said Szordrin.

   "It is clear that all of the goblins are dead," said Hakam.

   "...Or they are holding out somehow on the other side of that boulder fall," said Solisar.

   "Are you suggesting that some of the survivors may have barricaded themselves rather than become zombies?" said Leokas.

   "It is what I would have done," said Belvin.

   "I should be able to confirm that," said Leokas, "if we have not already trampled all over the evidence. Stand back here for a bit. Solisar, may I have the torch?"

   The ranger approached the rockfall carefully with the torch and examined the ground in the area all around. Then, he came to the others and handed back the torch. "There certainly are goblinhobgoblin — tracks underneath some of the boulders that have been propped up over the others. There is no doubt that goblins passed that way into a tunnel."

   "I shall send Ferry through the rubble," said Szordrin.

   His little weasel companion was nervous about his mission, but he accepted it anyhow and scurried underneath and between the fallen rocks and rubble. He was not gone long. He crawled up Szordin's clothing to the perch on his shoulder and squeaked into his ear.

   "Ferry says that there are a few hairy people on the other side. They seem sleepy and weak. There is no decaying. They are alive, not dead or undead.

   "Shall we send a message to them perhaps," Szordrin concluded.

   "I could write it in their language," said Leokas.

   "Could we trust any response that they might send back?" asked Hakam.

   "Considering the circumstances, I think it would be in their best interest to send an honest reply," said Leokas, "and you know that none of us has as much hatred for goblinkind as I."

   "Let me see if there is a secret way beyond all this rubble first," said Hakam. He prayed for special vision and guidance from Anachtyr, but the magic did not reveal the presence of any secret doors or passages in the immediate vicinity.

   Solisar provided a strip of paper and a feathered pen and ink, and Leokas laid it against a flat stone to scribble a message, trying to keep the letters sloppy, in imitation of how he imagined a hobgoblin to write. The message read, he hoped,
We were sent by Captain Grak. We have come back from the sea. We found and killed many not-dead. What has happened here?

   Leokas handed the paper to Szordrin who put it in Ferry's mouth.

   "Drop the message and then run immediately back to us," said Hakam.

   "He does not understand Common yet," said Szordrin.

   "He needs to wait for them to write an answer, does he not?" said Solisar.

   "I shall tell him to wait under the rocks where he will be safe while they read it and respond," said Szordrin, who then began chirping and squeaking.

   Ferry nodded his little head and then scrambled down Szordrin and into the rubble. Szordrin knelt by the rubble to retrieve Ferry as soon as he came back. The bearded tiefling looked worried, but he could sense no terror in his familiar, only mild fear.

   The weasel popped back into sight several minute later, the same strip of paper in his mouth.

   "We forgot to send them a pen with which to write a reply," said Solisar.

   "Nevertheless, they wrote an answer," said Szordrin, holding it up. "It seems to be in blood." While written in blood, the letters were much neater than Leokas' message.

   Leokas took the strip and read it aloud.
Undead, not "not-dead", attacked us. Only five of us left. Who in the Hells are you? Who is Captain Grak?

   "Ask them if they can move the boulders on their own," said Hakam.

   Leokas wrote a second message.
Can you move the big rocks? If not, we will come back tomorrow.

   Ferry delivered the message, this time with a pen pre-dipped in ink, and carried back their reply.
We cannot move the boulders. We trapped ourselves.

   "Hobgoblins are not the most intelligent creatures," said Leokas, after reading back the message.

   They prepared a third message and sent this one with a small package of rations.
Where is our god, Allu?

   The reply:
Allu has abandoned us. Thanks for the grub. We have not eaten in two days.

   "The genie either fled or was banished," said Solisar, after Leokas read the reply.

   "Are we certain that he is an actual genie?" asked Hakam.

   "Did you not see us fight him with Sseth outside the monastery?" replied Leokas.

   "Yes, I did see the tail end of that, but have we considered if he might actually be an aspect of Samber? We have seen Samber use powerful illusions before, such as the Maker."

   "What would be his motivation to do that?" asked Leokas.

   "He needs more worshipers, does he not?" said Solisar, "From what I have learned about him from you, it would make sense for him to seek out new worshipers so that he might obtain true godhood."

   "But Allu led a small number of the hobgoblins from Samber's island," said Leokas. "Why not keep them there?"

   "To evangelize amongst the hobgoblins of Faerûn?" suggested Hakam.

   "To protect his created worshipers?" suggested Solisar. "In any case," he continued, "is it not likely that Allu and Samber have met, if they came from the same tiny island?"

   "More than that, I suspect that they are at least allied," said Hakam.

   "We simply do not know these things yet," said Belvin. "What good does it do to postulate at this point? All I know is that Allu tried to kill us all and take back the omlar gem; in contrast, Samber healed my arm."

   "Let us ask them where Allu's chamber is," suggested Szordrin.

   Another set of messages passed back and forth.
Is Allu's chamber to the east of here?

The tunnel to the east leads to Allu's throne room of fire and the gate.

   "Gate to what?" asked Szordrin.

   "Is it the gate for our omlar gem?" asked Leokas.

   "To the Plane of Fire?" asked Hakam.

   "That is what we have supposed before," said Leokas. "We know that the omlar gem is a portal key and has something to do with elemental fire."

   Kytharrah was, at this point, exceedingly bored and had wandered off back down the tunnel to where it had forked. He continued along the new passage. He could soon smell the strong smells of bodily waste ahead and figured that it was where the goblins releaved themselves. He returned to the others, who were still talking. They had sent one final message to the surviving hobgoblins, repeating that they would return the next day.

   "We cannot possibly take on El Sadhara if she is still here," said Szordrin.

   "I agree," said Hakam. "We can certainly eliminate her remaining skeletal guards, but if she lies beyond them, we are doomed."

   "I do not know about the rest of you, but I am going back to the ship," said Belvin. "I was nearly gored to death today, and I would like to rest with Kamil before the blue dragon finds our ship and eats him."

   "I agree," said Hakam. "Let us return, hide the spelljammer in the clouds, rest, and return in the morning. I shall pray for the power to move these boulders, and we can interrogate these survivors to learn more about what happened here."

   Everyone agreed, so they began to head back.

   "We should leave a trail of ash near wear we fought the mummies, in case anything should cross it in our absence," said Szordrin.

   "An excellent idea," Leokas replied. "I should be able to identify any tracks left as well if that happens."

   "What about the skeletons?" asked Solisar. "We defeated them, but will that truly stop them from being formed again by the same necromantic magics that brought them to undeath to begin with?"

   "You are correct," said Hakam. "An evil cleric or another mummy could easily create them again if we leave enough bones."

   "I, for one, do not want to fight the same skeletal minotaurs again," said Solisar.

   "Then we need to scatter the bones far from each other," said Hakam, "or else smash all of them to powder."

   "What if we just take all the skulls and dump them in the ocean?" suggested Szordrin.

   "Bones do not need a skull to be animated," said Hakam. "It would be better to toss the hip bones into the sea."

   "It would be faster to toss such bones over the stone wall that you made into the chamber with the bugbear zombies," suggested Solisar. "That way, if any new skeletons form, they will be attacked by the zombies."

   Over the next hour or so, the party went through the tunnels of the cavern, gathering and smashing bones. (They noticed that all of the hobgoblin skulls had been gnawed by bugbear teeth, likely eaten clean by the zombies. All of the minotaur skeletons were much older and had no teeth marks.) Once they had convinced themselves that the formation of new skeletons would be impossible, they used the ash from the fallen mummies to mark lines over the floors of several tunnels.

   At last, they returned safely to their flying ship to be greeted happily by Ilthian. She was very concerned to see the blood-stained clothes of Belvin, Leokas, and especially Hakam, but they assured her that their magics meant that they would be fully recovered by morning.

   Leokas flew the spelljammer high into the sky, where it floated two miles over the seas west of Calimshan. They took rest on their bed rolls or hammocks below deck and passed the night.


The next morning, they returned to the surface and dropped anchor again. This time, Belvin stayed behind on the spelljammer with Ilthian, having little interest in rescuing hobgoblins. Leokas was in favor of doing so only because he wanted to interrogate them further.

   During his morning prayers, Hakam had requested the power to shape and move stone again. They waited for low tide; then they got into the row boat and traveled to the sea cave opening.

   As they crunched over all the barnacles at the entrance, Hakam looked about for the presence of evil but saw no sign of any here near the entrance. "There is no point traveling through the tunnels in darkness anymore," said Hakam. "We know that the skeletons that remain will not leave the room that they guard or sound any sort of alarm."

   "I assume that we are rescuing the goblins first?" said Solisar.

   "Yes," Hakam replied.

   When they reached the first line of ash, Leokas examined it for a long time. "I am certain that nothing has passed this way since we left yesterday," he said. "We are safe, at least until we are ready to engage the undead in the eastern chamber."

   "What further information are we seeking from these hobgoblins?" asked Solisar. "Have we considered that?"

   "And what are we doing with them after we are finished with them?" asked Leokas.

   "I suppose that you will want to execute them," said Hakam, "but my thought was to release them in the desert."

   "They will be as good as dead if released into the desert," said the wood elf. "That seems a fair fate; let the gods decide."

   They arrived back at the location of the tunnel collapse.

   "We need to inform them that we are not goblins," said Solisar. "If they come out and see elves and humans, they will be like rats trapped in a corner and may attack out of fear."

   So, Ferry delivered another message.
We have returned to release you, but we are not goblinkin. We want to ask you more questions. If you come out with no weapons, we will give you food.

   Ferry returned with a single word in reply:

   Hakam used his magic to form the fallen rocks and rubble into a small tunnel, such that the hobgoblins would have to come out crawling on hands and knees. Shortly, the first hairy goblinoid head appeared, and after a few minutes, four exceptionally skinny human-sized goblins dressed in ragged clothing stood in the middle of the party. None of them spoke; instead, they looked around nervously at their "rescuers".

   After a pause, Hakam spoke. "What happened to the fifth? I thought that there were five of you."

   A hobgoblin spoke in broken Common. "Other said, 'Better die than trust elfs,' so we cut off head."

   "Fair enough," said Leokas.

   "Where food?" said a second goblin. "You said food."

   Hakam handed them each the promised rations, which they gobbled down unceremoniously in seconds.

   "It is not safe to linger here," said Hakam. "You are going to come with us back to our ship, where we have questions to ask you. Then, we will drop you off at the next port."

   As they led the way back to the cave exit, Leokas protested, "I thought that we agreed to drop them in the desert."

   "Maybe the desert is our next port," he replied.
Session: 97th Game Session - Thursday, Nov 30 2017 from 12:00 AM to 3:00 AM
Viewable by: Public
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Posted by the GM
De Exilio
Chapter 5 — The Handmaidens of El Sadhara

   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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De Exilio
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.

Session: 95th Game Session - Wednesday, Oct 25 2017 from 11:00 PM to 2:00 AM
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Posted by the GM
De Exilio
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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