Baerstun

Through the Looking Glass
[Market day, mid-afternoon]

By early afternoon they had cleaned themselves up and eaten, and so the seven adventurers wandered around Baerstun together soaking up the sights of Market Day.  Wossname's messenger had found some of them alone and soon enough found the others in a large pack, but he eventually succeeded in delivering all of their invitations to the dinner:

The Honor of Your Presence Is Requested
at a fine dinner to be given at two hours past sunset in the
SMALL HALL of BAERSTUN KEEP
ROYAL QUARTER, BAERSTUN

Where Lord Wossname will celebrate the Most Excellent Achievements of his newest warrant officers in the august company of like-minded friends.

So among the many other things they needed were clothes that weren't smeared in sewage!  The party decided to convert some of Kral's gems to cash and scour the city for a few odds & ends before dinner.  Their first business foray was a bit lackluster, but they got a good feel for the ebb and flow of commerce in the city.  Their second attempt to sell the gems met with marginally more success – Rache shed crocodile tears and spun an incredibly convincing yarn about her debt and the dead veteran who had fallen nobly in combat, angling for another five or ten percent.  The tale was airtight except for the dwarf in Moradinnic robes claiming to be her creditor, and they escaped with a few exasperated looks from the proprietor and what they assumed was the fair market value for the gems.

They went back to the inn for a quick bite, changed into their armor, and headed out to look over 23 Temple Street before dinner.  The adventurers found a group of merry merchants sitting out on the downstairs patio enjoying strong drinks.  A brief discussion revealed that the upstairs tenants were quiet, kept to themselves, and had negotiated nearly double the usual rental price in order to retain all copies of the landlord's key.  One of the tipsy folks was the caretaker, and when the party threatened to break down the door on their authority as duly-sworn warrant officers, he hemmed, hawed, and invited them in to climb a ladder through the furniture hatch.  While they fiddled with the hatch and discovered it nailed shut, the adventurers began to immediately make loud noises about using Darg's door-opener, and the caretaker headed back to the kitchens to find something to pick the lock with.  Inebriated and entirely unfamiliar with jimmying locks – or eager to appear unwise in lawbreaking – he returned with useless bits of metallic junk.

A voice from the porch above hollered out "Guys!  It's already open." It sounded like Shard, but he had been right… ah.  Yes, it was him. When the caretaker looked up agog, Shard shrugged; when Bree cocked her head and gave Shard a quizzical look, he flashed a mischievous grin and gestured through the door, as though welcoming her.  His artfully-palmed lockpicks were nearly invisible.

On entering they found a fireplace, a beat-up rug that covered the furniture lift, and three bedrooms toward the rear of the apartment. The first room had black cloth over the windows and a thick black wolf’s pelt over a black leather curtain separating it from the common area.  The clothes on the hempen line in this room were ostentatious and out of date: sewer-stained leathern traveling pants, men's traveling clothes, and enough other items of similar cut and size that it was simple enough to deduce that Kral had lived here.  If that weren't evidence enough, the tenant's small map satchel contained traveling maps from all over Galena and other places – also very old and out of date – along with a freehand sketch that is unmistakably a rendering of Garon with notes like “amplify binding magic on joints with Farrigan’s Pinch” and “protect from fire using Brightbane’s Poultice – what about divine magic?”  Last but not least, a note was pinned to the straw pallet, written in a familiar hand:

Aladar can get you more money if you need it, so stop pestering me.  I expect progress, not excuses.  Don’t touch the expenses chest; everything in it is reserved for forging the Blade.  -DARJA

The second room was also blacked out with cloth over the windows and a heavy double-layered tapestry.  The only two sets of clothes in this room were both cut for a woman of middling height, and hung from the hempen rope clothesline as in Kral's room.  An up-to-date set of robes denoting a moderately high ranking Erathene priestess and a set of blacksmith's leathers with no scorching or wear-and-tear of any kind visible.  Not even the smell of a forge!  Curiouser and curiouser. The last feature of the room was a full-length mirror, which reflected the dark room and even appeared to cast its own dim flickering light. As Rache and Lenora checked it for signs of occult tampering, the others moved to the last room, where they found yet another abandoned and disheveled dormitory.

The clothes in the last room were cut for someone Bree's size: a female of extraordinarily short stature.  Her room appeared to be the most recently occupied: actual dirty dishes, clothes that appeared to be well worn, and yet another set of Erathene robes (these for an acolyte) and a set of blacksmith's leathers, unused.  Off to one side, her efforts at studying showed: a wooden alchemist's rack with several delicate glass spheres nestled inside, with no apparent opening or contents.  Her books contained recipes for all manner of strange potions, including eyesting, smokestick, and a blinding bomb, but reading through the recipes yielded no mention of the glass spheres; her book also contained a few names and addresses in the Stone Quarter, a sketch of an archway like the one from Kral's trunk, and a thin ribbon with a cheap silver ring on it.  Whomever she was, she kept horrid company, and they didn't feel at all bad about taking the books.  Darg grabbed the ring and headed back to the living room to see if he could puzzle out the diagram.

With everyone giving perhaps too many helpful suggestions, Darg eventually tapped the ring against the brick called out in the diagrams, and – voila! – the wood in the fireplace burned to ash and a chest appeared in its place.  The chest was unlocked, untrapped, and cool to the touch.  Inside Darg found 75 pounds of loose coin, totaling well over 500 gold [n.b. the exact total was 530gp, 800sp, 507cp].  Shard, Rache, and Darg immediately began talking eagerly amongst themselves, and when Bree heard the plan she eagerly counted herself in.  The four of them gathered up Kral's notes and began to piece together a missive in his handwriting to leave Darja speechless:

"Hey, I needed some money, so I cleaned out the expense account.  -KRAL"

Bree headed back to tell Lenora about the strategically useful mischief they had wrought, and found Lenora staring into the mirror where Rache had seen her reflection turn to smoke and slither out of sight.  When Rache had reached out to touch the surface of the mirror her hand met no resistance.  When Lenora asked Rache to describe again what she had seen, Rache obliged, and when she had the group's attention they all agreed that it bore a closer look.  Bree crept towards the mirror, poked briefly at it, and then walked back over to Lenora and had a short hushed conversation just below a whisper.  Darg tossed a fish through on a string.  A fish… on a string.  The rope was singed in pieces, but they did see that the fish had entered the reflected room through a wall that they could see.  Debates broke out, broad hand gestures of N-dimensionality and twisting pathways.  Lenora tried to pull the mirror off the wall with no luck, and turned back to talk to Bree about the possibility of exploration, when with a crackling fizzle, Rache stepped right through.

Chaos in the apartments now, as shadows swarmed in the mirror and Rache was visible off to the far side of the reflected room.  Inside, she was being attacked by shadowy figures dressed in black burlap. They were faceless, ageless, and tormented, and yet Rache could see in their motions the memories of Tarin the Stoat and an orcish witch doctor.  Once dead, twice dead, dead forever – they still stalked toward her and began casting powerful spells.  Tarin, never a spellcaster, surprised her by reaching out and pulling a long skein of silvery smoke from her ears.  She blinked, trying to remember any of the spells she had taught herself recently; all were blank to her. The two closed in on her, but a series of sharp popping noises echoed through the nearly featureless stone chamber, and her companions strode through the weird shimmering flames along the walls, split up by some trick of the light or the portal.

The four robed figures were living memories: servants charged with a vow of secrecy so powerful that upon their death their souls were stranded here in this mirror world to prevent them from falling into the hands of devils or demons.  It was an old trick, but its age did not make it any easier to pull off; whoever had condemned these four to this prison was a powerful spellcaster and likely a worshiper of Vecna, Orcus, or Gruumsh.  The four souls that were trapped here were manifestations of Tarin, Kral, Mariposa, and the orcish witch doctor, and they were understandably upset about being trapped.  They relished trying to pull the memories from their victims, but were not above resorting to the mundane and pedestrian solution of death by excruciating pain.  What other entertainment for a creature doomed to an eternity of keeping someone else's secrets?  Rache crumpled beneath the torrent of spellfire and mind-searing psychic intrusion.

Lenora was having none of it.  Stomping through the wall of flames she found herself closest to Rache and immediately set about pummeling Tarin's living memory.  Her third or fourth blow struck a weak spot and his featureless face began to slough off.  His robe burned, and his scream of pain carried like a blast wave.  Lenora and Rache both staggered back, but Lenora shook it off and strode back up to him. His fingernails were stretching out into elongated claws now, and the transformation to something hideous was almost complete when Lenora shattered his skull with her flail.  The corpse dropped to the floor and began to dissolve into the floor tiles like chalk drawings in a heavy rain.

Thea held the center of the room while Terciel and Shard lit into the others.  Darg attended to Rache, and Bree discovered herself alone up on the second floor of the chamber with no friends in sight.  "Rats," she whispered, "everyone else must be lost!"  Kral's memory came for her, but she dodged around it and soon found Thea and the others making their stand in the midst of the chamber.  Lenora stepped from one to the next, dispatching each one moments after it shrieked and began to melt into the hideous clawed abomination that Tarin had become.  The others concentrated on protecting each other, unsure what a claw wound from one might portend.  In moments the fight was over, and Darg managed to patch up Rache easily.  Together they were able to find their way back through the mirror, and they started a second search of the documents to see what might have been revealed now that the secret-keepers had been banished.
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The ignominious end of Kral, illusionist and sometime necromancer

 

"Are you sure we should be taking out the top hinges?"

"Well, the lock's stuck, so…"

Shard and Bree looked up from their discussion about the lock to find Darg pulling hinge-pins out.  When he pulled the second one, the door settled onto its remaining damaged hinge with a CLUNK.  Shard slapped his forehead and whispered to Thea for a moment.  She grinned, grabbed the door, and hoisted it as hard as she could.  Bree knelt by the door, plucked the hinge-pin out, and gestured the universal sign for "I have removed the hinge-pin; you may now pull the door back away from the doorway."  Thea took a few steps back and stood in the hallway.

The man inside looked old and tired, and sat at a small writing desk, dropping tiny white marbles into a crystal jar full of black goop, and writing in a large book that was open in front of him.  He seemed surprised to see them… and they were surprised to see Katya's team laid out on sarcophagi around them.  Immediately the questions flew: who was he? What ritual was behind the magic circle?  He spun an unlikely yarn: his name was Aladar (presumably the fled alchemist) and he was trapped in the ritual circle on pain of arcane torture by his master.  He told them of Garon, Kral's champion, who roamed the halls and would certainly destroy them, urging them to turn back and strike Garon down before they tried to free their friends.  Lenora explained patiently that they had killed Garon, at which he scoffed.  For a moment, a panicky look of grief flitted across his features.  Then he praised Garon's might and expressed doubt that the adventurers had done any such thing, at which point their suspicions began to congeal into real hostility.  Thea listened to the conversation from behind the iron door, holding it steady, waiting for her moment.

Terciel continued to take in the surroundings, looking for a trap or evidence of double-dealing, and he recognized the crystal jar on the floor: it was a match for the jar they'd taken from the Witch Doctor's trunk.  Terciel whispered to Darg "jar!  the jar!" and drew an arrow, letting fly at the jar and smashing it to pieces.  Black goop leaked all over the floor, and teeth and fingerbones spilled out.

 "Well," said the old man.  "I suppose you're not going to leave me alone until I kill you.  But I think I'd rather have Garon do the killing.  So: I think you must face the WRATH of my RISEN CHAMPION, GARON!!!"

 Faster than they could protest, Garon emerged from behind a narrow pillar, blade at the ready.  Gloves, cape, and even his flaming skull were all intact, despite the fact that Darg had the gloves, helm, and cape in his backpack.  Rache looked at Garon and immediately sensed something amiss.  Bree and Terciel scrambled out of the doorway just as Thea came charging through, still hoisting the steel door.  Roaring from the gut, she slammed the door into Garon so hard that the flames from his burning left hand were visible through the steel for a split second.  Darg squinted and cocked his head, puzzled.  Then Garon roared, and the thunderous echo broke their concentration; Shard, Darg, and Lenora involuntarily fled back through the doorway for a moment, their morale shaken.

 Then Lenora looked back over her shoulder.  She saw Shard, terror for his friends written on his face, and realized that she might well be the only one here who could rally all of them.  She whispered, "Hey, Shard.  We're going to go get your friends out.  Follow my lead."  She echoed Garon's yell with one of her own, the syllables indecipherable but the meaning clear, and then she leaped, arms outstretched, over Thea's shoulders.  Her shield hit the doorway between Garon & Thea high, and as it began to pivot over his head, she tucked into a roll, slid past the top edge, and landed behind Garon.  She ducked under the door as it crashed noisily to the ground, then turned back and swung ferociously with her flail: "Why! Won't! Anything! In! This! Hellhole! Stay! Dead!" she screamed, punctuating each shout with a blow from her flail.  Garon dropped to one knee before her assault, and Thea laid into him as well.

 Terciel covered for them, firing a flurry of arrows, but Kral (for it was he, not Aladar, who had been working the ritual) summoned a portal as soon as he was hit, and tried to disappear through it.  Rache put an end to that abruptly, summoning an invisible hand to unceremoniously yank him away from the portal.  "Try escaping again, you craven.  Just try it."  He opened his eyes wide in panic and disappeared, but Rache detected the tell-tale signs of teleportation.

"What a crappy huckster.  Might as well put him out of his misery."

 

Shard was still staring at the doorway where Lenora had just gone.  He decided that a leaping tuck-and-roll through a crowded hallway, while it might ordinarily be just his style, was probably more than his legs and back had left in them.  He felt the fatigue of the long day and so he jogged to the doorway and started taking potshots.  His friends were in there, and he was no good to them if he didn't at least try to stay alive for the assault.

 Rache and Bree moved around to the right, examining the gnome on the sarcophagus and the magic circle that linked the bodies.  

"This is… some kind of carnival foolery.  There may be a larger purpose but as far as harming us now, this circle is… Hey!  Guys!  The circle's harmless."  She stepped over the line and checked the gnome, but decided against moving her for now.  She looked carefully at the faceand noticed three orbs of red, gold, and blue fog swirling around her head.  The orbs shot out of a nostril, an ear, her mouth, or even from her eyelid, and swirled around the head for only a split second before popping back in a different orifice.  The three whooshed about, in a blur.  Darg might be able to wake her with his spells, and perhaps Bree or Shard had hands quick enough to snatch the blue orb… of course.  The blue orb.  "Guys!  It's the blue orb.  Pull the blue orb and you can break the spell.  And, ah… don't touch the yellow or red ones if you want them to live."

 Bree scampered through the titanic struggle in the doorway, distracting Garon momentarily, and then snatched the blue orb from Chelya's nostrils, waking her momentarily.  She relaxed her grip on Terciel, and then her eyes rolled back into her head and she fell unconscious again.  Shard ran to help the gnome, and woke her easily enough.  Darg and Thea continued to fight Garon in the doorway, but something about his movements didn't sit right with Darg.  He shook his head like a horse beset by flies, and finally saw it: when Garon's claw hit Thea, it appeared to sink into her armor but left no visible damage.  When his sword rebounded off the handle of her greataxe, it

left no notch.  He walked, carefully, through the flailing undead illusion, and joined the hunt for the necromancer.

 Kral, far from being gone, seemed to be skulking around the perimeter of the room trying to turn Katya's people against the interlopers. Bree went for Katya, but as she reached for the blue sphere, she stumbled, and the red and gold spheres smashed into her hand."DARG!" she yelled, "I'm going to need a hand here…!" Katya flailed on the table, gasping, and then fell all too silent.  Bree's face blanched but Darg hurried to her side.  He pinched the blue sphere away, placed two fingers on her tongue and his other hand across her forehead, and mumbled a quick prayer to Moradin.  Bright white light shot down his arms, infusing her with an almost lifelike glow for a moment, and she sat up awake.  "Hello, friend dwarf!" she said.  "I didn't expect to see you h…" and she fell back asleep exhausted.

 Darg and Bree moved counterclockwise while Shard moved around the other side of the room, snatching the orbs away.  Lenora, Terciel, and Rache stalked through the center of the room, searching behind pillars for Kral.  Thea bashed away at Garon, trapped in a standstill.  As the three hunters pinned Kral into a corner, Thea yelled "Oh, MAN.  Guys, this isn't Garon.  This is some kind of trick.  The whole thing is FAKE!" and kicked Garon's shins, annoyed.  She turned her back and headed towards Kral to get some real thrashing in… and with a horrid howl the illusory Garon disappeared.  Lenora and Rache staggered back for a moment as a thick cloud of psychic feedback whistled through the air towards Kral.  It shot into him like lightning, and in an instant he felt every blow Thea had landed on his projection.  He collapsed to the ground, then rose to one knee and with a flourish tore his face off: worms! Writhing worms!  ... Bogus illusory worms!  Oooga booga! 

 They weren't buying it.  Cornered, he tried in vain to teleport away, summon portals as distractions, misdirect their attacks into the walls.  Finally, he got clear: a safe spot, behind a pillar!  He teleported, gathered his strength, and turned toward the door to run… and there was Terciel, bow drawn.  "What IS it with you people?" he whined, and Terciel loosed on him.  This time there were no worms, no lightning, no portals, no fancy stage magic: he just died, and his dagger clattered to the floor at his feet with an all-too-mundane sound.

 Moments later, Darg and Shard had herded the survivors to the center of the room.  Katya's squad was intact, and with the exception of the gnome they were all conscious, if a little groggy. 

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Garon, Kral's Champion
[Friday afternoon, still well before sunset]

Once they wiped the last of the necrotic ichor from their boots, the adventurers headed up the staircase back to the upper chamber.  The witch doctor was dead, and Rache had tied his mace into her belt for further scrutiny.  Lenora, Terciel, and Darg looked over their shoulders at the circle bleached into the stone, and then followed Thea up the steps.  Shard was crouched in the door at the top of the stairs, an excited grin on his face.

"We've got the drop on them.  At least ten, maybe more.  They're standing there in formation, two guards.  I don't think they saw me."

They huddled together, whispering tactics.  Occasionally Bree's voice rose a little too loud; the third time Lenora shushed her, she said, "...but my new staff!  It was MADE for this.  I promise, this is going to be so much fun.  You gotta let me go first."  Shard crouched around the door listening intently.  Terciel nocked an arrow and held another in the palm of his draw hand, Rache waited in the stairwell.  Thea and Lenora held their breath in the doorway.  Bree stifled a giggle, pointed her fingertip at the crystal finial on her new staff, and it glowed with an intense white light.  She grabbed it in both hands, took a deep breath, and pelted down the hall towards them hollering.
"RaaaaaaaaaaaAAAHHHH!  TASTE THE RAINBOW!"

[Aside: It is not very often that you get to use the phrase "roll 17d20" without a trace of hyperbole.]

A blast of multicolored light shot out from her free hand, illuminating the chamber that Shard had seen… there were lots of skeletons, but the beams of light were lancing through them at a fantastic rate.  Bree skidded to a halt in front of the remaining guard, her staff shining brighter than a sunrod now, watching with awe as a cloud of bone dust billowed up through the air.  She instinctively crouched and got ready to backpedal, but the rest of the skeletons didn't move.  Bree crouched there for one more moment, then stood up and poked the staff experimentally into the air around them. "I said 'RAH' you guys.  And 'taste the rainbow.'  Can you taste it? Guys?"  She took a tentative step into sword range and noticed a sound like dried corn kernels in a fire.  Bits of bone were dropping off the back rank of skeletons now, and the one-two pitter patter was rapidly turning into a sound like a hailstorm, or the unfortunate but totally unavoidable collapse of a potter's wagon when someone has borrowed a cotter pin because it's cold iron and she really needs it for a spell. Bree saw that the back rank were still standing and stepped a little closer, waggling the staff, and watching as the edge of the illumination seared their bones.  As soon as it got to their backbones, they collapsed like the others, making a horrible racket. "Huh!  Well that was cool."

Bree turned around, silhouetted in the doorway with bone dust all over her robes, and yelled back, "Come on out!  I got 'em all!  And I figured out how this staff works, too. It's great! ...but, ah, it isn't going to stay lit much longer, and it's going to take a while to get all of its mojo back once it burns out.  So if there's a larger army out there, we'd better go find them."

They explored tentatively back to the south and east, consulting Darg for pointers on which doorways likely connected to rooms they'd been in.  Satisfied that they hadn't missed anything else, and pressed for time, they were faced with two iron doors: one set of large double doors to the south of the skeletons' chamber, and another a bit further east.  With no hints to choose between them it was simple to decide – they were close to the east door, so they checked it out.

Shard crouched near it, running his hands over the seams and panels first to check for any booby traps.  Finding none, he tried the handle, but it was locked.  He silently produced a set of lockpicks and set to work.  The satisfying CHUNK of the lock's mechanism startled him a bit, but he slipped the tools back in their place and peered through the crack in the door.  The room was dimly lit, and he turned back to the party with some hand gestures ("let me go in. looks safe").  Darg and Terciel exchanged worried looks, but Lenora nodded and stepped in closer to the door, ready to follow if anything went wrong.

The room was big: Shard could hear that just in the way sound was traveling.  A fire was flickering off to his right, unseen behind a pillar.  He moved quietly in that direction to observe.  There was a low hissing noise and the shadows around the pillars whirled past his feet.  Suddenly the fire was moving very quickly towards him!  It flickered past him leaving a trail of green sparks and then Fa-WHUMP, it detonated.  He brushed the acrid ash off himself and then froze: he could see the thing that threw it.  A skeletal commander, holding a massive broadsword one-handed.  In his empty hand another fireball was growing…

Darg saw the flash of green light, exactly the wrong color for fire, and his jaw dropped.  His mouth dried out and his heart began to race.  His feet were rooted to the ground, and he stared at the doorway. Lenora on the other hand was moving before the flash had died away; she knew Shard could handle himself in a fire for a few moments, but if he needed someone to pull him out of it, it was going to have to be her.  She rushed in and heard fighting to her right, flail drawn and ready to kick some ass.  Terciel was right behind her, arrows out, moving past the pillar, and there he was: the same burning skull for a face, the gloves on his hands glowing blue, the cape flapping without a breeze… and a broadsword drawn.  He turned in recognition and charged, bashing the sword into the wall above Terciel's head, and then narrowly missed trying to rake Terciel's guts out with his other hand wreathed in that sickly green fire.

Bree and Rache were next through the door.  Bree ran straight in, to the left of the pillar, hoping to line up a clean shot on its flank. She couldn't see off to her left, and wary of leaving anything behind her, she nonchalantly popped a miniature fireball into the darkness. The bright blast lit up everything in the tomb well enough to see that nothing was moving, so Bree turned right and stumbled onto the fight with her staff drawn.  Rache walked along the wall quietly, taking her time to line up a perfect shot but also trying to stay well clear of the fight; every time she saw an opening she let loose, blasting coin-sized fragments of bone away from his ribs and arms.  The green flame wreathing his skull seemed to protect him from most of the damage but it was clear that she was on his list.  Garon scowled and clenched his left hand, and the ball of flame wreathing it grew and grew…

Thea had taken her time: rather than panic and sprint headlong into the situation, she shouldered her axe and jogged after Lenora.  She followed the sound of metal on stone and heavy boots, and found the Garon standing there wearing the cape that had tried to choke her to death.  She picked up speed and was nearly at a full sprint when she delivered a sickening double-handed overhand chop high on his shoulder; her momentum carried her right into him, but she bounced back with her axe raised across her body defensively.  His armor soaked most of the blow, but now she had his attention… and now that she was looking him over she noticed a dim black fog oozing out from under the scales of his armor, settling into an ankle-deep cloud around his feet.

Darg looked at the fog uneasily, and wrapped the prayer beads from the holy symbol around his wrist.  He clenched the medallion and held it at arm's length, chanting prayers under his breath.  Beams of light pierced the skeleton's armor, and the fog bank began to diminish. With a ferocious roar, Garon set into them with sword and claw.  His screams were hideous, and his sword-work impeccable.  The bright light from Bree's staff seemed to dim the flames of his flaming skull, but he was nonetheless fearsome.  In between devastating swings of his longsword he lobbed more of the green fireballs.

Darg and Bree's spells in particular seemed to weaken his resolve, and with Rache and Terciel raining death on him and everyone else circling him with knives (and flails and axes) out, it was only a matter of time before Thea caught him with a telling blow to the midsection. His body crumpled, and there was a deep emerald flash as bone fragments and foul-smelling smoke engulfed the room, throwing everyone back a step.

Terciel stood up, his back against the west wall, and realized that the glove had landed near him.  He reached out a boot to kick it away, and it leaped up and grabbed his throat!  The other glove had landed near Bree and was trying to grab her throat as well.  Darg was stomping on the cloak, but it was slithering up his body and trying to smother him, too.  Worst of all, Garon's skull was still intact, wreathed in that sickly green fire, and was biting and shooting sparks at anyone who drew too close.  As the party moved in to surround it, the skull belched out a sizzling seed of fire which landed squarely in the middle of the room and detonated in a deafening roar.

The smoke cleared and Terciel was still being choked.  Bree was in a stand-off (a hand-off?) with the other glove, having escaped its clutches once, and Darg had the leather cloak wrapped around his head.  His prayers were muffled but apparently Moradin heard him: Darg's hands and armor glowed with a brilliant light, and once the cape was flung, sizzling, across the room, his face and beard were also glowing.  The glow died down, and Darg looked around to see if anyone else was in dire straits.  Everyone concentrated their efforts on getting rid of the spell-casting hovering skull, some of them at their own peril.  Rache laid in a scathing attack from the shelter of a sarcophagus niche, while Terciel peppered it with arrows.  His sixth or seventh shot struck the skull at a weak spot, shattering the bone and extinguishing the flame suddenly and apparently forever.
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What do you make when life gives you six dead orcs?
In which the bacon zombies' ick factor is topped.

[Game time: Friday – probably about 2pm by now]

The magic circle seemed a safe enough place to rest for a few moments, but the fact remained that they were below sea level in a catacomb full of the undead.  Exploration, then.  The basement's layout offered a variety of interesting options.  Darg pointed out a door that had figured prominently in his none-too-pleasant dreams, so the party elected to explore their other options first.  To the east, a winding hallway revealed a dead end with an iron-grated door on the south wall, a lever on the northwest wall, and gas-lamp on the east wall. Shard started examining the lever and the grated door, and Lenora grabbed Bree's cloak to keep everyone out of trouble.  When Shard pronounced it safe, Lenora let Bree go, and she promptly yanked the lever, popping open the grating.

They followed the curved hallway down a slight incline to the east, and discovered another barred door blocking their way.  Beyond this one there was knee-deep brown water with foul-smelling sludge floating on the surface.  Pacing back and forth along the curved hallway, Darg determined that they were just a bit south of the pit where they had seen the ooze smashed by the dark tentacled horror.  Something unspeakably fast and vile probably lived in the pit.  They decided that it probably needed to die, and so Bree lobbed a sunrod into the water.  The room was bathed in bright white light, and then something unspeakably fast and vile lanced through the water and flailed at the scalding light with a pair of heavy pseudopods.  It managed to swamp the sunrod and shove it to the bottom of the muck, but the glow surrounded it and backlit it.  The entire party opened fire in a deadly volley; it hurled muck at the bars, splashing Thea and Lenora and gluing them in place temporarily, but everyone stood their ground and riddled it with arrows and magic.  In seconds it was dead and dissolving into the water.  Bree moved the lever with her mind, cycling the man-trap of iron bars, and Lenora winced.  They all shuffled into the muck cautiously.  Thea retrieved the throwing hammers she had hurled at it, Terciel grabbed an arrow or two that hadn't gotten its fletching fouled, and Shard headed up the narrow tunnel to the north, where the pit was exposed.  He picked through the bones relieving them of the few trinkets that appeared to have value, and sloshed back to the south to report that it was a dead end.

The party got back out of the dank water, cycled the man-trap to get out, and headed back to the magic circle to recuperate.  It didn't seem to be filling them with white light or odd pencil-thin beams of energy, but at least it was a nice clear spot in the room with good lines of sight to the other doors.

Shard pulled the south doors open carefully, revealing a narrow hallway and a staircase ascending back to the entry level.  The omnipresent clattering of skeletons off in the distance seemed to have stopped.  The silence was broken by a hideous chorus of screeching echoing down the halls, a grim mix of high-pitched keening and grumbling bass notes, as though a half-dozen mouths stuffed with rotten meat were all being made to sing the same words at once.  The noise repeated twice more, perhaps closer this time.  A slow shuffling slurp punctuated with wet splats came from upstairs.  Something very large and moist stomped around the halls up there, pausing every seven or eight steps to unleash another six-voiced howl…and the howls were getting closer.

Bree hollered up the steps "Who's there?" and a voice yelled back "You!  Little girl, I remember you!  Are you all alone down there?" Lenora and Terciel were hurriedly pantomiming silence, and Shard had blanched to a particularly wan shade of terra cotta.  Rache grinned wickedly and shouted "Yes!  We're all alone!"

The voice was raspy and weak but grew full-throated now, eager for the confrontation.  "You girls don’t know what you did… can you even fathom the freedom I have now?  No, of course you can’t!  Are you going to come up here and face me, or do I need to come downstairs and kill you?"  They looked at each other for a moment, puzzled, then shouted back "Yes!"

A ham-handed diabolical giggle rippled down the stairs, and the voice said "Alright… I'm sending someone to come get you now.  I hope you're ready!"  They thought they were ready, but even after all they'd been through, it gave them all a bit of a start.  It was a hulking slab of rotting olive-green flesh, bound together into a massive three-legged mess.  Arms jutted out everywhere, at least two of them wielding ancient bastard swords of eladrin design, likely looted for their size.  A quivering black morass bound the mismatched limbs and organs together and writhed between the body parts, occasionally shaping itself into a pseudopod, tail, tentacle, or foot as the creature's bizarre locomotion required it.  Bones boiled up to the surface, too: ribs sharpened to points, jawbones, and little sprays of teeth all forming false mouths anywhere there was exposed surface.  The whole thing was draped in a makeshift suit of armor comprising long iron chains and sheaves of dry-rotted hide armor pinned together with bone or steel.  It shambled down the stairs towards where Thea and Lenora stood side by side.

Terciel was the first to recover from, or at least act on, his revulsion.  He fired a quick spray of arrows into the monstrosity.  A putrid spray of necrotic goop leaked from the wound and came alive on the floor like mercury, trying to climb back up the creature’s legs. Everywhere the goop touched the marble, an acrid puff of smoke sizzled from around it and the smooth floor was left etched. Thea and Lenora set upon it with axe and flail, and as they scored heavier and heavier blows, something gave way inside the ball of corpses.  The black gooey web snapped, the abomination thrashed, and an orc’s body flopped to the floor.  The corpse was mangled but still recognizable as one of Thurig's men.  They continued to fight against the beast, but were assaulted from their left flank, where a horrid-looking little green person stood, dressed in tattered grave rags.  Most of them recognized the now one-eyed corpse of the witch doctor, now strutting around and cackling as he fired spells at Rache and Bree.  He screeched orders to the abomination in the doorway: "That one has my robe… and that one took my wand.  Kill them both and they will serve our lady in death!"

A thick milky-white bubble sat in his empty eye socket, but other than that the witch doctor's corpse was apparently promising enough to bring back intact.  The other orcs had not been so lucky, and surged mindlessly forward trying to trample Thea to get to Bree and Rache. Thea's axe bit back and knocked another orc off the pile.  The corpse on the floor at her feet swung a lazy claw near her, trying to grapple with her, but she retaliated swiftly with a heavy arcing chop that went right through it and buried her axe in the black and green mess assaulting them.

It swelled up, mouths and pseudo-mouths clenched tight, and with a rippling BRAAAAAAP let loose a throat-burning cloud of stinking grave gases that filled the room.  Nearly everyone within sight of it coughed and gagged, but Shard had sought cover behind a pillar and Bree managed to slip out of the way.  Most of the party were still gagging and choking on the stench when an orcish corpse stood up near Lenora and flopped across her left shoulder, disintegrating into sticky threads of ichor and bile.  As the abomination grabbed Thea in one of its tentacles, Lenora found herself stuck to the floor, screaming for someone to come help before it carried Thea off.  Rache seemed to be among the able-bodied but then the witch doctor quietly offered her terms for surrender.  She spat out a retort too low for the others to hear but he was enraged and laid into her with his mace.  A black fire shot along its handle and washed over her.  She gasped in pain and steeled herself for revenge.  Shard saw the situation beginning to fall apart and assaulted the witch doctor, blades singing as he sliced into the orc's putrid flesh over and over.

Darg and Bree fired salvos of magic at the fleeing flesh golem, and Rache squinted at the witch doctor, lips pinched into a scowl.  She looked away for a moment at Thea, then back at the witch doctor, and bolted.  A brisk sidestep through space, a crunching "pop!" and she was standing next to the thing.  She sprayed the beast with a burning spray of arcane energy, and it staggered to a standstill, dropping Thea.  It howled and tried to bite her, but now it was on the run. Shard continued to press the advantage, and ran out of luck: the witch doctor scored a solid hit, black flames and smoke swirled around Shard, and as he staggered back the orc teed off on him, blasting him with otherworldly power.  Shard went down hard, but help wasn't long in coming.

They began to swarm all over the witch doctor: Darg with bright flashes of radiant magic, and Rache, stepping calmly through the fray with her back to the beast, dealing out crackling bolts of infernal smoke from the orc's own wand.   Another of Terciel's arrows whistled overhead and caught the thing broadside.  So many corpses had fallen off and been slain that there were no longer any recognizable bodies in it, and it fell apart into an oozing puddle of decayed filth and loose bones.  Rache never looked back, firing shot after shot into the witch doctor at range while Lenora stepped in and lowered her shoulder.  Lenora hollered out to Shard, and the orc turned at the same time looking right into her swing.  Her flail caught him between neck and shoulder with plenty of downward momentum, and there was a sickening crack as seven or eight of his bones broke at once.  The orc collapsed for the second and last time.  Rache was almost upon him, still firing eldritch blasts when he fell, and she snatched the mace from his hands before it even hit the ground.  She turned it over once or twice in her hands with an appraising smirk, and nudged the body with the toe of her boot.

Shard stood up and rubbed his temples.  The undead orc's offers of alliance and surrender didn't add up.  He'd offered to make Rache a full partner, to teach Bree control, and to find "a use for" himself and Lenora… but he wasn't the boss.  He said that Kral had saved him and brought him back, but the terms of surrender were allegiance to his lady.  And he had threatened them with Garon's wrath if they refused, so it was only a matter of time before Kral, Garon, or the late late witch doctor's lady friend found them.

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La Cage Aux Feux
Celui Ci N'est Pas Un Chat

Game Time: Friday – early afternoon

Zut alors!  There was no respite – they had barely checked each other over and re-fastened their armor when Darg heard footsteps from the south, where the cloak had come  from.  The party rallied together and ran full-tilt to the eladrin tomb, where they rested unassailed for a few moments.  They patched each other's wounds, drank a few sips of cool water, and then headed back up to finish exploring.  Darg suggested the basement stairs, so they could be sure to not leave any unexplored routes behind them.  A stray memory plucked at his curiosity.

Nobody (not even Bree?) was in any mood to find out what was trampling towards them – at the cloak's behest? – so they agreed that Darg's plan seemed to have the most merit.  Shard scouted ahead to be sure the way was clear, and ducked down the stairs as soon as they could. He found himself in a brightly torchlit room with a white marble bowl perched on a large porcelain hand.  He called the rest of the group down and then ducked into the shadows.  He passed his knife back and forth between his hands, quietly watching the bowl and the door for any signs of hostile activity.

Bree, Darg, and Rache examined the room's furnishings for signs of strange magic, while Terciel looked into the bowl to figure out whether perhaps the forest scene was from the feywild.  As they talked it over, Darg remembered that a porcelain hand inscribed with runes was required for casting Unseen Servant, and he checked the hand for any sign of what this one's servant would do.  A strange thrumming sound emerged from the misty covering over the bowl, as though the portal were stretching or getting ready to open.  In a matter of seconds, the party determined that the brass torchieres were actually some sort of cages; the lantern wicks were some firey creature; and the portal to the feywild was almost certainly intended to release the swarm of buzzing stirges for the bats to feed upon.  The unseen servant would probably be there soon.  Darg looked up at the ceiling, closed his eyes, and turned until he was facing southwest.  "We're underneath the hallway with the drake statues.  Terciel, I think you might be right about them breathing fire."  The party set to work disabling the apparatus as quickly as they could.

Shard practically leaped from the shadows to lock one of the cages – he didn't need to be engulfed in flames any more today, thanks very much.  Bree got the next cage locked, and Thea followed suit.  Her fingers slipped and the bat within rustled and squeaked, its flaming aura surging momentarily.  She shook her head and rubbed her singed fingers together, then moved to guard the western doorway.  Shard moved to the last cage and also fumbled the locking mechanism.  Bree looked at the swarm of insects threatening to burst through the portal and decided that some preparation was called for.  She surveyed the room's dimensions, held her hands up to frame the cages, and grinned wickedly.  "Everyone stand back.  No, further.  Further!"  She wedged a thin glass globe between two of the porcelain fingers, and called over to Terciel to find a safe spot from which he could see – and shoot – the vial.  Shard eyed it, too, and made sure to keep it in sight.

Thea and Lenora stood side by side in the west archway, looking uncertainly into the dark room beyond.  Its strange blue glow reminded them of sorcery, and nothing good could come of it.  A dim glowing outline of a man was walking along the east wall of the room, towards their archway.  Lenora hollered out that whatever everyone else was doing, they'd better do it quickly.  Darg scrambled out of the way, and Rache ducked into the shadows near him.  She opened and closed her hand, watching the oily green sparks twirling between her fingers. The servant moved through Thea and Lenora and stood next to the bowl, and Bree whispered to Shard to get away from the last cage – there wasn't time!  He scrambled back into the shadows, crossbow drawn, and Bree backpedaled clear of the bowl.  Her hands crackled with thick sinuous bolts of arcane magic, and she let loose a ferocious … burst … of soothing … calming air.  The warm and tranquil scents of lavender and chamomile filled the room, and the air seemed to soften all sound for a moment.  The restless firey bats rustled in their cages, then their wingbeats slowed down.

The servant opened the portal, and the bowl rotated an eighth of a turn, dropping down a fraction of an inch with an audible "KERCHUNK". A thick cloud of cave stirges swarmed out to fill the air over the bowl and two of the four cages popped open.  Shard fired his crossbow and smashed the vial, spraying burning fuel everywhere, and dozens of the stirges dropped to the ground.  A huge burning bat flapped lazily out of its cage, half-heartedly attempting to set Thea on fire – she and Lenora laid into it, axe and flail, flail and axe.  The other freed bat made a low pass towards Bree, swiping out at Rache, and then flopped on the ground in a deep sleep.  The caged bats appeared to not even hear the commotion.  Bree sprayed a dazzling array of rainbows into the mix, and placed her foot on the grounded bat's body to make sure it didn't go anywhere.

Shard moved in for the kill, stabbing ferociously at the sleeping bat closest to him.  In moments he had opened so many wounds that it lay smoldering in its cage, dead before it could wake.  He moved to the other cage and just barely managed to slam the door on a bat that had awakened.  The hot metal sizzled against his skin, but he ignored the burns, jabbing and stabbing it repeatedly.  Darg, Bree, and Rache blasted the swarm of insects with potent spells, dropping dozens with each blast, while Terciel helped Thea and Lenora bring down the only bat that was putting up a fight.  They flustered it, driving it through the cloud of bugs over and over again, and stirges fell from the air in its wake like fat leathery fruits at harvest time.  Thea and Lenora gave chase, bashing and slicing its burning body over and over.  If it seemed invulnerable to the violence they visited on it, at least Lenora seemed to shrug off its scalding attacks as well.  She lit into it, scoring a half-dozen blows – forehand, backhand, overhand, rinse, repeat – and now the bat flopped feebly in the air, screeching angrily at her.  It reared back for a broken-winged counterattack and an arrow from Terciel silenced it. The bugs dissipated now, their swarm chased away and scattered by the group's spells.

Darg surveyed the battlefield a little more closely, squinting and shifting his weight from foot to foot, striding from wall to wall to figure out why the view through the archway looked so familiar.  He'd certainly never been down here before.  The flagstone floor was bleached and streaked with white as though scalded or blasted.  That was where – yes, the dream, of course.  This was the spot!  And that door to his left was where he had seen… yes.  Definitely, this was the place, which meant that the glowing place on the floor was a good place to be after all.  He tried to assuage Thea's doubts, and finally stepped into the light.

Immediately his wounds knit together, and he stood straighter.  Bree smelled magic at work and hopped into the light before anyone could stop her – she too noticed a calming and restorative magic working its way through her battered little body.  "Guys, come here – this is great!" she said.  The rest of the group stepped into the circle one by one, looking around at each other and marveling as their bruises faded from black to blue, green, gold, and gone.  They breathed the luminous air and grinned with almost giddy relief.  The feeling of well-being persisted right through the moment when a pencil-thin beam of bright blue light shot out from Darg's forehead, tracing a triangle in the air between himself, Terciel, and Lenora.  On the floor between their feet, a white cloud of mist coalesced into a stack of well-worn battle gear: a coat of mail, a chain belt, a bleached wooden quarterstaff with a crystal finial, and a priest's symbol of office: three quarters of a circle in gold, strung on a short leash of ivory prayer beads with a single sapphire charm in the shape of an evil spirit.

Darg and Bree looked at the gear on the ground with incredulous smiles, and started swapping it in for their dinged and damaged equipment.  Lenora and Terciel exchanged worried looks for a moment, wondering what exactly they'd gotten themselves into.

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Oh, You and THAT Army
In Which Tieflings, Skeletons, and Bree all do What They do Best

A few months after the end of the great war.  An eladrin and a dwarf work feverishly to put the finishing touches into the catacombs before the dedication ceremony and the sealing of the Map Room

"Damn, I'm out of the enchanted rivets."
"I keep telling you: they're not going to short us on the price of the rivets!  Why didn't you bring a full bag?"
"They're heavy!  We can't all be stout travelers of the stony deep.  I brought enough for the job and a handful of spares, but I keep messing up the setting, and I really want to get this just right.  Now I've got a plaque with one rivet in but not the other."
"Well, it's not like anyone's going to be tugging on it.  After it sits for a few centuries it'll probably just rust into place forever. Here – just jam a limestone chip in there.  It'll form a natural mortar."
"A limestone chip?  On its own?  That sounds-"
"-like a closely-guarded piece of dungeoneering lore from a stout traveler of the stony deep.  That's what you were going to say, right?"
"...yeah."
"Good, now hurry up, it's almost quitting time."

Game Time: Friday, still just about lunchtime

They patched themselves up as best they could from the misunderstanding with the ghosts, still nervous about their prospects for finding Ilian's allies alive.  Shard led the way, quietly stepping through the gloom while the rest of the group followed a few yards back.  He came to one of the circular chambers with a central pillar, and saw a pile of ashes and bones near the south wall.  As he stepped in to get a closer look, some movement caught his eye through the east archway.  He froze, but heard the party advancing from the rear, and decided to take cover behind the nearby pillar.

Rache stepped around the bend in the hall carefully, but her elbow brushed a brass plaque commemorating something, which promptly dropped away from the wall with a resounding CLANG, bouncing once, twice, and finally ringing and rattling to a stop like a coin spun on a counter. Lenora and Thea turned to see what it was, and with their attention to the rear missed the movement to their left – a pair of arrows whistled through the archway.  Shard scrambled forward to take cover behind the pillar, shutting his eyes for a second to fix the enemies' positions in his mind.  Behind him, armor clattered; ahead and to the right, four tall black marble statues lined an arched hallway, but the hallway went too far in the wrong direction to be a guaranteed route to sneaking up on them.  He popped out of cover, loosed a crossbow bolt at the first one he could see, and kept moving.  In the same instant the bolt smacked off the skeleton's shoulder, he pushed off his foot and found cover next to the doorway.  It would work against
an enemy with a flinching reflex – he'd have to see if it did any good against an enemy with no eyes or eyelids.

Thea roared and pelted across the floor, swinging her axe like a harvester's scythe.  Bree followed close on her heels.  Terciel and Rache worked an overlapping leapfrog assault, laying down arrows and curses.  Lenora moved more cautiously, but the situation looked good: the enemy didn't appear to have any coherent plan, and the classic
tactic of charging into an ambush seemed to have the desired result of breaking their position, and mopping up a retreat would be far easier than assaulting a prepared defense.  She backed up Thea and within moments the enemy had turned tail, firing haphazardly as they fled. Several of the enemies lay scattered and everyone pressed the attack.

Bree outran their front and found herself behind the enemy skirmishers' retreat, blasting away with spells, when it all went pear-shaped.  A heavily-armed skeletal  commander strode out from the southwest doorway and blocked the routing charge, directing other swordsmen into the fray while the skirmishers reorganized against the
south wall.  Their potshots became a series of concentrated volleys now, ripping into Thea's and Lenora's armor.  Bree found herself behind the infantry front, but ducking and weaving between the archers as they reorganized.  She loosed a brilliant rainbow spray that seared their bones, and then took a brutal retaliatory strike from one of the
infantry – they were moving east to close off the far side of the pillar and it was looking grim.

The commander's black leather cloak rippled as though he stood on an open windy battlefield.  He traded ferocious blows with Thea while directing a vicious counterattack up along the west side of the pillar.  Terciel set his feet and started firing from a safe position, but only got one or two arrows away when he saw a flaming skeleton
stagger through the same archway they'd charged through moments earlier.  Lenora heard Terciel's shout and cringed – a flanker! – but stuck to the eastern side of the pillar, holding one of the two fronts to relieve pressure on Bree, who was tumbling and swirling past blades as fast as she could.

More infantry marched into the room, and the southern front looked pretty grim.  The blazing skeleton stalked after Terciel and finally wrapped him in a burning bear hug, lighting his clothing on fire and singing his hair.  Terciel managed to get clear.  Shard listened on the far side of the pillar, counting Terciel's leather-padded steps and the clattering steps of the blazing skeleton.  He took a deep breath and got ready to charge in when another blazing skeleton lurched through the door and attacked him with a blazing fireball.  He shrugged it off and grinned.  He and Terciel pivoted around each other's positions, Terciel still batting the flames on his armor, as Shard pounced from behind the pillar.  He landed a wicked series of stabs and slices on the closer skeleton, raising a cloud of blazing embers and spraying chipped bone on the floor around him; when he finished, both skeletons were missing a few ribs and fingers.  One scowled and tried to scream – its flames surged around him – but Shard smirked and settled into a knife-fighting stance, ignoring the fire.

Lenora noticed the commotion and realized that her talents were called for elsewhere.  Rache had been moving forward dispatching enemies left and right, and so far had been unblooded, so Lenora headed to the rear to help put out the fires.

Bree was in deep trouble: bleeding from a dozen wounds now, she bravely gave as good as she got, blinding and dazzling the enemies around her, forcing them to swing and miss nearly as often as they hit… but the infantry were implacable and they had the advantage of numbers.  With Thea pinned down fighting their commander and Darg
stuck behind the bottleneck, things looked grim.  Darg asked Moradin's blessing and for a moment glowed with a piercing white light which drove the enemies back and bought Bree some breathing room.  Just as Lenora's flail finished the job Shard had started, Bree's luck ran out, and she passed out – whether from exhaustion or blood loss, Darg couldn't tell.  Terciel was still fighting bravely, but his armor continued to burn and flicker, and every time he fired a shot he barked a curse in Elvish and shook his bowstring-hand.  Oh, for a divine rainstorm right about now…!  Darg looked through the crowd and saw little he could do for Bree, but as he ran past Terciel summoned a reserve of divine energy to cool the flames.  An icy breeze seemed to leap from his hands and extinguish the flames, swirling around Terciel as though it had a life of its own, and Darg pressed ahead to the eastern pinchpoint to try to bull his way through before it got too ugly.

Rache was backed against a wall, cursing eagerly and spraying infernal energy in all directions.  Just as it appeared she was cornered, she ducked under her cloak and reappeared a dozen steps away – a crackling nova of black light shot out from around her feet where she landed and shattered a pair of skeletons – and she finished the
ducking motion and reappeared where she had started.  They turned their backs on Bree's prone body and charged Rache, who grinned a little despite herself.

Without Darg to keep her healthy, Thea looked as though things might turn against her too… but then she struck a ferocious blow and the commander's skeleton crumbled.  The cloak fluttered to the ground, and Thea heaved a sigh and began stalking forward to press the advantage. Before she could engage the next enemy, the cloak flew up off the ground and wrapped itself around her head as though to smother her. Blinded and wrapped up, she couldn't press the attack, but had to instead claw at its corners until she could peel it away from her face.  A quick struggle was all it took – a moment later she flung it to the ground, where instead of coming to rest, it rippled away on a
thin cushion of air.  "Dammit to the nine hells, another one!" hollered Darg, while Lenora breathed a sigh of relief that at least Bree was unconscious and wouldn't be chasing after this one.  She chastised herself quietly and smashed through another skeleton's skull with her flail as she pressed the attack and tried to come to Bree's
aid.

Bree shook off the worst of it and pressed herself off the floor as Darg hooked a hand under her armpit and helped her up.  With the commander beaten, it really was a mop-up operation now, and the team rallied through the pain and exhaustion.  Whomever had sent the pincer maneuver knew their team's strengths and weaknesses… to an extent. Shard's racial gifts – doubling the team's ability to stand knee deep in fire and still deal out punishing amounts of damage – had broken the flanking press that threatened to take Terciel out of the fight and roll up the entire team.  Terciel was singed, but had still laid down a withering volume of arrows that had dropped the commander early.  Bree had fallen and might have been lost if Rache hadn't been able to wade in.  Lenora pondered the tactical and strategic implications of their attack: why hadn't they sent anyone up the stairs to the west if they really wanted to break the group?  Perhaps this Kral was a better strategic planner than the ghosts gave him
credit for.

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You Shall Not Pass...Unless You Ask Very Politely
In which Enemies are Treated to a Skittles Commerical, and Terciel Does His Impression of a Dramatic Rodent

Game Time: Friday, mid-day – with apologies for a very belated and almost certainly muddled version of the events as they transpired!

Illian's messenger met them in the tunnels while they searched for any sign of Katya's squad.  A few sling bullets and crossbow bolts strewn around the Map Room were enough to worry the entire party, but most especially Shard: if Katya's squad were defeated, what chance did his new allies have?  How hard must Illian come down on him for letting them all down?  Damned if it would happen on his watch.  His mouth was opening to send the messenger back to Illian with the news when Lenora gave the same command.  The messenger eyed Shard for a moment, saw assent, and nodded back before turning to sprint down the walkway through the sewer.

They opened the Map Room mural again and headed down into the Lower Ocean Catacombs once more.  Stopping for the Feymoss had been simple and uneventful, which was a relief to everyone – Terciel was glad to visit his ancestors' tomb again, and Rache was glad to have insurance against Gutar's threats, as little as they swayed her.  When the party suggested heading back to the surface to ensure Rache was free and clear, she blushed for a moment and then explained just how little Gutar worried her, and how much Zlata and Illian must be counting on them to rescue Katya's squad.  Shard smiled grimly and asked which hallways they'd already ruled out.  He looked down each doorway, opening and closing his mouth to get a taste of the air and listen for anything that might be lurking there, and then headed south along the path they had chosen.

As soon as he saw the graves, Shard couldn't shake the feeling that something horrible had happened to the people buried here.  He stepped into a shadow and felt a chill deep in his bones.  For a moment his breath caught as though he'd been thrown off a cliff towards water, and his body was straining to buy him an extra second of life.

 

Stepping into the oddly-shaped chamber he saw angled pillars of black stone everywhere.  As he crept closer, a handprint appeared and began to drip blood down the face of the tomb.  He turned back and reported what he had seen, worried that his new allies would think him crazy or a coward, but they took it in stride and began to compose a plan.

Bree suggested a probing strike to draw the spirits out where they could be seen, and then a follow-up assault to pull her bacon out of the fire.  After a brief discussion of the alternatives, she ran in, but a few steps later was assailed by the same doubts and terrors that seized Shard, and a moment later, found herself rooted to the spot as blood wept from the walls.  Summoning as much arcane energy as she could muster, Bree clapped her tiny hands once fiercely and spread them apart in a swift semicircle: a blast of rainbow lights sprayed through the murky tomb, making the blood flash different colors, and from behind several pillars came unholy shrieks of agony.  The radiant
light in her spell had burned them badly, and it looked for a moment that she had struck a decisive blow.

"Who is it that dares disturb our tomb?  Show them we mean business, and are not to be trifled with."  An authoritative voice rang out, salty with the cadence of the sea, and at his command spectral figures dressed in tattered sea rags floated through the walls and surrounded Bree.  She was still rooted to the spot when they began to howl and
wail, intimidating more than injuring Bree — but their spectral fingers sunk into her flesh and did plenty of injury as well.  The party surged forward to come to her aid, lashing out at the bloody handprints on the walls and the looming sailors' ghosts.  Darg and Rache were stuck behind their comrades in the rear when they noticed ghosts beginning to seep through the walls at them as well.

Bree gamely socked it to the ghosts, outnumbered and loving it; Shard shook off his fear and waded in with his knives flashing; Lenora and Thea shouldered their way into the room swinging heavy steel.  As Terciel fired arrow after arrow through the ghosts, Rache mentioned to him off-handedly that she'd seen something that Terciel might be
interested in when she had been at Gutar's the previous evening: the scrying ritual indicated that Narmo Mornamarya is here on the mortal plane, and is running some kind of slaving operation.  It's unclear for now whether he knows that Liante is dead.  Terciel was taken aback briefly but kept his game face on, unsure if Rache was trying to spoil
his aim, or to guarantee that he heard the news before they all died together here in this forsaken place.

Darg's attentions were divided as well, torn between trying to turn the undead on the spot and rushing forward to where it would be more effective.  As more and more of the party became mired in the paralyzing shrieks, the Captain's bloodlust seemed to peak, and he ordered "a double dose of what we gave the others," which brought the
party up short.  A few seconds of brief truce stretched out into minutes, but the walls kept weeping blood and the drowned sailors' ghosts hovered.  In the parlay that followed, the party learned that the Captain and his crew were immune to the rituals Kral had used to raise the rest of the zombies.  The Captain at first attributed it to
his crew's high spirits, but eventually admitted that an old mariners' superstition had saved them: those wise to the superstitions removed a particular fingerbone and a particular tooth from each corpse, and the crew's bodies had all been rendered irresurrectible.  The Captain was right about their spirit though: they had plenty of it.  Long before this latest rash of living dead, Kral and his champion Garon had come to the catacombs to raise the undead, and they had resisted.  They had also resisted helping the "other" champions – and here the captain asked them directly whether they were the latest champions sent down, and had their temples sent them with the equipment they'd need? Garon, the captain said, had killed the last champions in the catacombs' basement, and there was no reason to think his powers had waned since then.

They took the captain's warning about Garon seriously, but pulled doggedly on the thread of "the others," and learned that a group of the living had been brought this way by some undead only to be turned back by the captain's crew, who delight in frustrating Kral's works ever since his failure to resurrect them pulled their spirits back to this spot.  The Captain had heard of another group of spirits, similarly trapped and even more ferociously territorial, and swore that the undead – if they had passed to the south at all – had done so by a passage east of his tomb.

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I Never Could Get the Hang of Thursdays
Wherein Osmund thinks Rache robbed him, Shard's age is a problem, and Garlosk identifies an emblem.

[Thursday, around lunchtime]

After a late brunch with Lord Wossname, the party decided to head back to the Golden Goose Inn, settle in for some lunch, and divide the spoils while they discussed their situation.  There was plenty of petty cash to go around, and after setting aside an eighth share for the ritual casters, there was just about 100 gold pieces for each party member.  After lunch, Shard and Lenora and Thea set out, haggled over the value of the last few mundane goods, and the total for everyone came nearer 120 gold.

Shard ran into Terciel and Darg down at a fletcher's shop, and they were both of a mind to hunt down someone who could make arrows or bolts from the cockatrice feathers.  After a short shopping trip with Darg, they managed to find a fletcher and an enchanter who thought they'd be able to make something with their ample supply of feathers. He promised them he'd get to work on the enchantments, and he thinks he can have four bolts and four arrows by Market Day.  

Thea came back with word of some likely tanners and leatherworkers who had agreed to help sew up the fantastically large alligator hide they had stripped from the sewer gator.  Darg suggested that he and Bree ought to hit the books, and Bree said that while it sounded entertaining, she thought maybe reading the text would be a surer path towards learning the rituals.  Darg grudgingly agreed, and they began gathering up their books for a long afternoon of study together: Bree learning to conceal writing using the Secret Page ritual ("Dear Secret Page, today everyone went off and had fun while I was stuck studying a bunch of boring stuff.") and Darg learning how to command an Unseen Servant.  Before he settled in, Darg took another look at the old coins and helpfully identified several of them as coming from the reign of King Devon IX, and the others as possibly foreign.  That gave Shard an idea: if anyone could figure out the origins of foreign coin, it would be the dockmaster's moneychanger.

Most of the party headed down to the Ocean Quarter, with Rache begging off to take care of some personal errands and Darg and Bree stuck studying.  They entered the moneychanger's offices utterly unprepared for his (hmmm! haghhhh!) dedication to his job.  Garlosk turned out to be an enthusiastic and mildly obsessive dragonborn with a fanatical sense of detail but not much in the way of social graces.  Taken aback and a little creeped out, the party members were nonetheless able to conduct their business and learn some interesting facts about the money they'd found on the dead traveler in the eladrin tombs.  Fifteen gold pieces and 39 silver were distributed as follows:

* 13g, 35s from Galena, from the reign of Devon IX
* 2g, 3s from the Caliphate, from the reign of Anand (Ralan's youngest brother), probably contemporary with Devon IIX
* 1g from the reign of of Devon IIX
* 1g and 1s Coronation piece, from the marriage of Rebecca to Ralan al'Mahsood; the gold features Ralan (King Roland I to you) and the silver features Rebecca.  The pieces were minted at the time of their marriage and would have been souvenirs for anyone lucky enough to attend the wedding.

...and the strange key and chain turned out to be the key to a guest's strongbox at the Bear's Crown (formerly the Barrows Crown) Inn. Garlosk offered the party 217 gold for the entire collection, or 200 gold for the Coronation pieces alone, and offered to put the party in touch with his brother in Bel Ashard if they found anything of historical significance.  In his professional capacity, Garlosk is extraordinarily knowledgeable about the value of coins, but it seems that he has developed a passion for the topic that extends to a lucrative hobby on the side as well.

After much frivolity, the party took their leave of Garlosk and headed for the Bear's Crown in the Royal Quarter.  They popped in to the Temples of Avandra (where they came across Rache) and Melora (where a sailor tugged at Terciel's sleeve with an odd request) and then headed across town.  They decided that, the Bear's Crown being an upper-crust sort of place, that they should pose as two well-to-do travelers – Rache and Terciel – and their retinue of assistants and servants. While Shard impressed the barmaid with his deft social skills and impeccable hand-eye coordination, Rache and Terciel talked the innkeeper into helping them search for the lockboxes in the upper rooms.  In the process they signed themselves up for a short stay at one of the nicer inns in town, but it turns out to have been well worth the rent: in one of the upper rooms, they found a magically-concealed strongbox which contained a thick green book and a short letter.  The letter read:

"Darion,

I compiled this volume after my first journey to Axtamectal as a favor to Silvia, who attended Rebecca on her travels to meet and wed Roland.  On their return from the desert, I received a letter from Silvia thanking me for saving Her Highness' life. I hope that it arrives and finds you safe in Baerstun on the errand you have undertaken. Once I finish my work for the Prince I will make greatest haste to find you.

Tarpin"

...the book was a copy of Tovenaar's Tenderfoot Tourists' Tome, which was interesting enough to the assembled folks downstairs.  When they made their way back to meet up with Bree and Darg, Bree just about fell out of her chair.  Tarpin Tovenaar – THE Tarpin Tovenaar, famous wizard and infamous free-traveler, mysterious and daring, always showing up wherever he was needed – had actually made a copy of his travelogue with all of the rituals he had learned and used on the way, and now she was going to have the opportunity to see it, read it, study it, and learn his rituals!  "A Brief Lesson In the Creation of an Explorer's Fire" sounded especially promising.  Rache had also noticed some interesting recipes therein: a different recipe for Clearwater Solution, an antivenom that looked particularly potent. Terciel just wanted to read the account of Tovenaar's travels – he was eager to get a head start on understanding the perils of travel between cities in this bizarre mortal realm.

Darg and Terciel headed down to the Ocean Quarter to grab some beers at the Flying Firkin for Darg's study break, debating whether Darg should resume his studies with Aladar's books, or if perhaps one of the rituals in Tovenaar's Tome might be a better use of his time: Banish Vermin?  Fastidiousness?

Rache went with Bree to drop by Osmund's shop to ask for a look at his rituals, and Osmund called them inside, his voice nervous and sharp. As they stepped through the door, Bree noticed a chalk line drawn across the doorway, and a small copper homunculus  on Osmund's desk chimed and rattled.  He yelped and demanded to know what kind of sick joke they were playing, what they wanted to steal now, and hadn't his payment been enough?  After a few more moments in this vein he calmed down enough for them to get the story out of him: someone had shown up just after he closed up shop, gotten into his store despite the barred door, snatched the violet feymoss from his shelf, and disappeared from view before he could lay hands on them.  The copper homunculus is one of Drawmidge's rituals intended to identify a traitor or thief; the weakness of the spell is that it can be triggered by a blood relative of the guilty party, but Osmund wasn't buying it.  He reasoned that:

(1) It had only been a scant few hours since they dropped the feymoss off at his shop, and he hadn't told anyone else that he had received the moss,
(2) It was extraordinarily unlikely that Rache or Bree's siblings would just happen to know that he had come into a supply of the stuff, and target him for burglary
(3) ...therefore it must be Rache or Bree who had done it.

After a quick trial of walking in and out of the door, Osmund narrowed it down to Rache, who managed to not betray too much emotion at his accusation.  Osmund demanded his gems back as collateral against them returning his feymoss, and suggested that he might be able to divine the thief's true identity if he had a sample of Rache's hair and blood.  Bree suggested that granting a request like that from a man so obviously angry with them would be foolish if they didn't have some sort of insurance against abuse, and collected samples in kind. Osmund told them he'd start setting up a divination that very evening and might have more leads for them in the morning.  He was willing to give them 24 hours beyond that before he reported the theft to the city watch and named Rache as his prime suspect – "for all the good
it will do me, with you lot so close to Wossname."  By sunup on market day, Rache will be a marked woman, unless the party can manage to scrape together some more feymoss.  Osmund kicked them out of his shop so he could start the ritual, and Bree and Rache started the long walk back from the docks to let everyone else know what had happened.

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Into the Stoat's Den
Note: this summary begins in media res. During the section of combat skipped, there was lots of fighting and one group of bandits covered their retreat by starting a fire in the warehouse, consuming barrels of whiskey in a line across the floor.
[Tuesday, late afternoon]

Lenora sized up the wreckage around them between deep breaths as she stepped back towards the horrid noises in the galley.  The bandits and thugs had no leadership to speak of, and had fallen back in disarray almost as soon as the fight started.  Lt Grennec and Sgt Melia chose a good fighting position and fought fiercely, but had been outflanked by Shard.  Lenora's team had been outflanked, too – twice – but Terciel had spun on his heel and dropped the flankers before they could drive a wedge between the two halves of the group.  Darg had stayed close and kept them patched up when it got hairy, and now came Lenora's favorite part of battle: cleanup.  Shard was slipping from crate to crate with his crossbow out, and the few bandits left in this room had no idea he was there… he had this locked down; time to help the others.  She nudged Darg and they jogged back towards the stairs, weapons at the ready, and found the source of the horrid noise: it was Rache.

She was standing there, hands out in a gesture of… peace?  And making the most horrid noises Lenora had ever heard.  But the ogre appeared to be listening, and then growl-howl-grunting some sort of reply.  It sounded like a conversation between two rabid bears being crushed in a landslide, but it was definitely conversation.  Rache pursed her lips, looked over her shoulder, and said "Thea, everyone, wait.  He's… he's going to stop fighting."

There was some smoke coming from the training room, and just as things started to quiet down, the door that the sentry had been guarding opened up.  A voice called out "hey, did you kill them a-" and then Tarin stumbled into the light, mouth working open and shut like a trout.  Dagog's club was hanging limp at his side, and they were trying to talk to it, and… Tarin cursed loudly and profusely and set out at a dead run towards the kitchen.  He hollered to the remaining survivors to get the warehouse door open and slipped out towards the kitchen like a weasel on fire.

Everyone bolted for the door after him pretty much in the same instant.  The tales of his previous escapes had a galvanizing effect on Bree, who leaped through the door heedless of the danger.  Thea came after him with her axe out; Lenora waded in with her flail at the ready.  Rache gurgled something hideous and throat-mangling at Dagog, and he roared and shouldered his club, stomping into the room behind the faster, smaller combatants.  Pinned against one wall of the kitchen, Tarin stomped on insteps, gouged eyes, and kicked shins to get an opening.  Stumbling over a painful blow to the shoulder from Thea's axe, he staggered to the south wall of the kitchen, hopped up on a pair of small crates, and grabbed a crane hanging from a long iron rail bolted to the ceiling.  "The door, get the door," he hollered, and two of his thugs headed that way to try to make an escape of it.  Dagog swung his greatclub, throwing timbers and wreckage from the dining table everywhere, and knocking the only other brigand down in a daze.  Bree made a scooping gesture and then a strange pinching motion, and splinters assembled themselves into a fist, tightly gripping the rail next to the crane.  For good measure, she flung a hissing mote of energy through the air, trying to blast apart the wheels and bearings holding it together.
map overview
 
figurines 
 
Terciel looked into the kitchen and flinched when he saw the table smashed to splinters.  He looked over his left shoulder and saw the top of a stack of crates through the tiny slit window, then looked back at Tarin getting ready to take the crane-rail-express into that very same room.  How convenient!  Terciel stepped through space and appeared atop the crates, pulled a pair of arrows out, and went after the two bandits, one who had already begun opening the long barn door, and the other coming up behind Shard.  A kill!  ...and a miss.  Rats. He reached for more arrows blindly, keeping his eyes on Shard.  The tiefling slithered in close, slicing the spooked villain's throat as he gaped around looking for the archer.  Terciel noticed Rache flanking around the stairway – with Terciel on the high ground and Rache in his way, Tarin would not be leaving through that exit – and so he hollered to Shard: "The door, get the door!"  Shard pulled the warehouse door back closed and began working on the chains and locks. Rache's last words to Dagog had been quite convincing – he tugged and strained trying to pull the iron crane rail off the ceiling.

Tarin's crane awkwardly trundled through the room, and he yanked his knees up dodging blasts of radiant light ("damned dwarf!"), sizzling black energy ("she's pretty ka-HEY!") and thick great-axe blades whistling past ("Yeeeesh!").  The splinters fell away over his hands,the crane made an unpleasant groaning noise, and Tarin the Stoat left the room far more slowly than he'd intended to.  His only remaining companion counted the party's weapons, saw Tarin retreating, and did some quick mental arithmetic before leaping after Tarin to secure a ride on his legs.  He missed and flopped awkwardly on the ground next to the flaming whiskey barrels.

Lenora shouted "cut him off!" and Thea put her head down and charged, hurtling past Tarin with her axe out, throwing herself off the ledge and setting herself directly in his path.  She spun on her heel to see him slowly rumbling along the track, dropped her axe, and tried to leap up and grab his ankles to slow him down.  He pulled away just in time, and Thea landed face-to-face with Steve, who had also been trying to grab Tarin's legs.  An opportunity to curry favor with the boss!  Steve swooped in and picked up Thea's opportunistic greataxe,took a big heavy swing, and buried the head in her scale armor. He westled with it for a moment, got it loose, and raised it to defend himself.  Thea sized him up calmly and pulled out her backup axe,switched up her grip to be sure of the weight, and took him apart – the forehand swing took his wrists off, she snatched her own axe out of the air (letting the hands drop away on their own) and took his head and legs off with the backswings.

Tarin continued to roll further down the line, hands stinging from the repeated blasts of magical energy throwing steel shavings into his knuckles… this crane was not going to last much longer.  Shard waited in the shadows behind the crates; Lenora and Darg headed for the ledge to give chase; Terciel pulled the arrow back to his cheek, then he turned his head and whispered a word to the bowstring.  He sighted down the arrow again, relaxed, and let a pair of arrows sail towards Tarin.  The first whistled past, but the second hit him in the shoulder with a thunderclap, and as Thea glanced up to get a bearing on him, she saw him tumbling head over heels.  Tarin barely landed on his feet and staggered into a half-assed fighting stance.  "Ten shares of treasure," he offered, "I'll take three and you can each have one. I owe you that much for getting rid of my buyers before they got to be a pain in the ass!"

Shard and Lenora moved in to surround him in a pincer movement.  In a panic, he jabbed his fingers into Lenora's eyes and spun to sweep Shard's legs out from under him.  Ordinarily this would be a great opportunity to bury the knife and finish someone, but Tarin had become quite a savvy businessman recently, and he knew that 7 minus 2 still left him Way Outnumbered with no nearby doorway.  He fled.

Thea looked across the room, up at Terciel, and over the flames at Rache and decided her best bet was to cut off his escape – or anything else she could get her axe into.  She sailed over the whiskey barrels, turned the corner, and waited for Tarin in the narrow space between the crates and the wall.  Bree looked around at the chaos, shouted "I love you guys!" and leaped over the flames herself to join the fray.

Everything began to collapse into chaos – Shard stood up and took a shot at Tarin as Lenora weaved blindly across his line of fire. Terciel clambered across the crates to get to a better position and ended up firing two arrows nearly straight down at Tarin, both plunging deep into his flesh.  He staggered back, coughing blood, and offered fifteen shares of the treasure – two to each party member and one for himself.  Thea edged closer and swung her axe – another vicious hit, and he reeled, begging them to let him take his letters and flee before his employer found him out.  Shard closed in and struck him in the neck, plunging the dagger deep before he could sweeten his offer any further, and the party set about the unglamorous work of cleanup.

Putting out the whiskey-barrel fires was simple enough for a pair of tieflings; extinguishing the fire in the training room was a little harder.  Rache kept Dagog placated and had something resembling a conversation with him, at which point the party set about tallying up the spoils in the warehouse.  The most interesting items were Tarin's papers, which seemed to indicate that not everything was quite what it had seemed.  The party set about discussing what to do with the warehouse, the loot, the piles of iron, and the spare ogre.
 
Tarin "the Stoat"
Tarin "the Stoat." Rest in Pieces.  
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So a farmer tries to cross a river with an ogre, an orcish platoon, and seven adventurers...
In which the party wonders why they even have that lever.

[Game Time: Tuesday, later in the afternoon]

The sound of the trap banging against the stone walls echoed down the vaulted ceilings of the sewer, and in the brief silence, Shard heard the sound of seagulls coming from further down the tunnel.  Stepping past the dangerously sharp ironwork, he noticed a rowboat in a little nook on the far side of the water.  He clambered across the fence that was blocking up the tunnel, hopped down on the other side, and discovered the Surly Mermaid, a five-man rowboat in poor (but recent) repair.  Packed in with it were all the things you'd need to maintain such a boat: oars, rope, an anchor, materials for patching, and even some sailcloth.  Laying in the bottom of the boat was an oilskin pouch with a note written on it:

ALARM
BOAT
CORN
DOG
FARMER
GOOSE
HELLFIRE

Shard looked it over, left the rest of the items for later, and began clambering clumsily back across the grating.  Meanwhile, Bree was running her hand over the stone wall and checking to see where her Rat-In-The-Box was pointing.  As she moved along the wall her hand plunged right through the bricks as though they weren't there.  Bree played at disappearing through the bricks while the rest of the party split their attention between the illusory wall and the strange words on Shard's note.  Bree found another door inside the false wall, and after Shard delicately shoved it open with a wayward elbow while checking for traps.  Through that door was yet another door, this one
made of thick steel.  Mounted in the wall next to it was a brass panel with two rows of four levers labeled alphabetically: ABCD and EFGH, with the B and F levers connected with a tie rod.  Strange…!

The party decided that the letters on the levers corresponded to the words on the crib-sheet they'd found in the boat.  The only lever that didn't have a label was the "E" lever, so Bree offered to pull that one first.  Everyone held their breath and Bree pushed it upwards.  It made a quiet ka-chunking sound and some faint noises like a chain-pull
or machinery grinding, but otherwise, nothing appeared to happen. Bree pulled the lever back down, and this time there were no noises whatsoever.  Curioser and curioser.  Thea kept going over the words in her head: farmer, corn, goose, dog, boat… she asked Bree if maybe it had anything to do with that old puzzle.  Terciel and Rache stood
close to Bree in case their ability to teleport was called for; Shard and Lenora stood nearby (but not TOO nearby) while Darg and Thea stood back by the wooden doors in case it was a trap.  The three ladies up front debated and counted on their fingers… corn, then goose?  Could this be something to do with that old riddle?  If that was the case, Lenora asked, where was the Hellfire?  Rache offered to provide some, if they came up short.

Finally, they agreed that it must be the old riddle about the farmer. They puzzled out how the farmer could get everything across the river safely, and pulled the levers, each time wincing in case some horrific trap should be sprung.  The farmer and his goose, the return trip, the grain, return with the goose, the dog, return empty-handed to pick up
the goose, and… voila.  With a series of ever-more-complex noises, the latch gurgled, clanked, and finally clicked. The door swung slightly ajar and the party peeked inside.

There was a prominent alarm bell, a spear and sword rack, a large animal-skin rug dyed a lurid maroon color, and a lantern lighting the small foyer.  Rache snuck out and looked around, and noticed an orcish officer sitting in a chair next to a reinforced wooden door.  He was polishing a pair of boots while his spear, longsword, and shield sat next to him.  Rache headed back and informed the party, who spent a few moments whispering in hushed tones.  The plan was simple: fill him with arrows, nail him with spells, and charge him quickly with swords and knives to finish him off.  Terciel tested the tension on his bow and pulled out a pair of arrows; Rache crept up as close as she dared; Bree passed a fizzing white bolt of energy from hand to hand; the rest stood by, weapons drawn, ready to rush the lone guard.

Terciel and Rache unloaded almost at the same moment, Bree fired a magic missile, and the guard jumped from his chair, bleeding and confused.  He snatched up his  weapons hollering "Intruders! To arms! To arms!" and ran through a door to his right.

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