Chapter 28 - The Elephant in the Room
A hastily-scrawled note in Tuiz's pocket

About to confront powerful magic user — jotting note in case it alters memories (or worse).

At party, Amil says believes in “balance” b/w light + dark (suspicious!), then excuses self (errand 4 master), refuses help, exits front door. Gives obvious note “someone is trying to kill you.” (Ink same as dessert poison!)

4th + Lucky snooping downstairs. Toshiko-catmeleon speaks to them, leads them to room. Seems empty, but illusion. Inside is missing guide from Lacuna, tied up. She says kidnapped and brought here (by who?). Toshi is her pet (contradict Amil!).

Room is trap. Can’t exit. Magic paintings spill ink into room, floods. Lucky teleports out, calls 4 help. Other painting has giant gray horse-tentacle thing. 4th eventually kills it. We can’t find way into room, slowly break thru wall. Ink spills, but painting destroyed stopped flow.

Search Amil’s room, nothing suspicious. Search Braxtol’s. Magic desk has extra-d space, many ways to unlock. Book of rituals and code. We steal desk, but Raven flies out, warns Braxtol, we give back.

Tharn turns 2 Mezlia (master=Belladonna) for blood ritual 2 undo age curse.

Guide gone again. We go 2 ask Book wtf is going on.

Chapter 29 - Judge a Book...
Excerpt from Tharn's Journal

Well, today was certainly interesting.

After my meeting with Mezlia, I joined back up with the rest of the gang, who had decided that we should ask Book for information about our guide and how she came to be a prisoner. As usual, he was very direct with his answers, and assured us that he knew nothing of the matter. When we shared our distrust of Amil, Book made it very clear that Amil was unable to act against Book’s wishes (a little creepy).

We also learned that Book makes the ink for the tower with the aid of spectral servants, who do the pouring and mixing under his direction. As he has been doing, Daevon took a sample of the ink and compared it to the sample from our dessert a couple nights ago, and it was a match! That told us that someone in the tower had poisoned us… not very helpful.

As we were finishing this line of evidence, Amil returned from his excursion with two humanoids he was leading on leashes. The “reagents”.

It was time to take more drastic measures. Daevon convinced Amil to join us in our rooms, where we bound Amil and forced him to answer some questions about recent events. He told us that he had been given Toshiko by Braxtol, and that he knew nothing about the captive guide. This confirmed our suspicions about Braxtol. (Also, Braxtol apparently has an invisible imp).

As we questioned him, he grew anxious, as Book compelled him to bring the “reagents”, which he had already done. At this point, Lucky told us that he had found the prisoners, determined that they were terrified, and were certain they would be killed. Being Lucky, his response was to release them.

The tower’s servants informed us that Braxtol had left, so we prepared to search for him. The bulk of the preparation was figuring out what to do with Amil. We couldn’t just let him go, because he was clearly doing evil for Book, but I was unwilling to leave him tied up, because he wasn’t responsible for his actions, and tying him would likely cause him undue harm. The solution was to bring him with us. Daevon incapacitated Amil, and we carried him to the tower entrance, where we were unable to take him further. It was as though he was tethered to the tower. This threw a wrench into our plans.

Further complicating our pursuit was the fact that there was no trace that Braxtol had left via the only path. Even Kimya couldn’t pick up the trail. As the others took Amil back to our rooms, I went to investigate a commotion in the stables. Balthazar’s Nightmare had disappeared. Well, that explained how Braxtol had left. I tried to get Balthazar to help us track the Nightmare, which would hopefully lead us to Braxtol as well, but Balthazar was inconsolable, and unable to help us in his state.

With no direct actions we could take, we decided on a more thorough questioning of Amil. Tuiz used a potion he had created to read Amil’s surface thoughts. This would give us a more accurate idea of what Amil though of as true. Oh boy, did it.

Amil was definitely being controlled by Book. He was not happy with the actions he was being forced to perform, but was given no choice in the matter. Tuiz said he could sense the mind control through his minor telepathy. Amil let us know as well as he could that he felt we were still in danger, and that we would remain so until we left the tower. All this new information made it clear that we had been chasing the wrong person this whole time. We needed to confront Book more directly.

We made sure Amil was tied securely, and made our way to Book’s room. We were not at all prepared for what we found. Book drew upon the ink in his study to transform himself into a huge black dragon!

Daevon, being the book fanatic that he is, opened with the appropriately heroic line “I hate it when good books turn bad. I’m writing this ending” to get us all fired up.

Dragon Book, as I will call it from here on, broke a huge hole in the ceiling, allowing it access to the ink manufactury, and providing it a large area in which to move… if it could. For a while, Dragon Book tried to escape Daevon, but Daevon was able to force it to stay put in a battle of will that was truly awe-inspiring. Once it was able to move, it flew up a level and began throwing massive cauldrons to the floor where we were standing. From these cauldrons, ink poured, infused with the magic of Dragon Book. Touching the ink resulted in either scalds or frostbite, a truly nasty weapon either way.

Then, something horrible happened. A vicious blow brought Caleb down. This might have been the end, but Tuiz, thinking quickly, drew upon his blood magic to provide some healing and get Caleb back in the fight.

After this, Dragon Book used its superior mobility to strike at whichever of us was least defended. All the while, Tuiz ran, or attempted to run, between these various locations, never quite making it to Dragon Book. It would have been funny, if we weren’t in a deadly contest.

As the battle continued, ink kept pouring out of the cauldrons, reducing our mobility and giving Dragon Book more strength. It would land near a pool, drink from it, and then unleash a terrible breath attack at whoever was unfortunate enough to have angered it most recently. This did, however, give the hand-to-hand fighters a chance to strike blows, with Kimya surprising everyone when she was able to drag Dragon Book to the ground! While exposed in this way, we were able to inflict some heavy wounds, slowly wearing Dragon Book down.

Then, Dragon Book turned on me. The last thing I remember is the horrible black monster landing in front of me and striking out, then nothing.

My friends told me that after I went down, Daevon was able to deliver the final blow with a blast of light. Some hasty healing and a quick slap brought me to consciousness in time to see Dragon Book begin melting into a pool of ink, with the book lying in the center. We took a moment to recover from the devastating encounter, and Lucky saw that the letters ‘NK’ had reappeared on the book’s spine. Daevon, looking around the destruction, found some treasure, but we were not out of trouble yet.

With the death of Book and the loss of his magic, the tower began collapsing. We hurried from the scene to release Amil, who was overflowing with joy at being released from his servitude. We then found the other tower guests, who were preparing to leave the crumbling tower, and convinced (easily) Toralir to join us on our way back to the Lacuna.

Once out of the shadowy realm, we set about solving the problem of the lost guardian. Amil directed us to the crystal formerly linked with Book and told us how a new guardian could be made. When none of us offered to take the position, Amil said he would be the one. After some preparation, we performed a ritual with dancing, chanting, and a suitably occult rune circle.

During the ritual, Kimya shocked me by howling along with the chant! I’ve never heard her make a sound before! This warrants further investigation.

When the ritual was complete, Amil told us of an incredible connection with the Lacuna. He was able to “see” what was happening, “feel” passages that he had never known about, and was aware of incredible powers available to him within the Lacuna. With these powers, Amil sped us on our way to an exit, thanking us again for the help we had provided, and wishing us good fortune on our journey.

We scouted the exit, and were pleasantly surprised to find that there were no gnolls waiting for us. Hopefully our good luck continues, because we surely have more dangers ahead.

Chapter 30 - Out of nowhere, back to somewhere

So we come out from the tunnel, and at this point we’re all on alert because we don’t know how the battle went, or where we are. So we’re thinking we might be stepping out into a huge pack of gnolls. Then wham! From out of nowhere Lucky gets clocked on the head! So I’m looking around like “where are they? Where are they?” And Lucky’s like “Wait, it’s… mail?” Turns out it was the mail delivery, with a whole batch of letters his mom had wrote him. I guess they don’t deliver underground, or maybe we were under some magical wards, but as soon as we got out they were on top of that delivery.

So Lucky’s reading his letters while we’re trying to get oriented and decide to do, then wham! From out of nowhere an arrow grazes off my arm. And for a moment I’m like “who mailed me an arrow?” but then I’m like “oh here’s the gnolls.” Also it was totally a gnoll arrow. We see a figure on the faaaar bank of the river, and we’re like, first, “goddamn longbows”, but second “we’ll stop him somehow.” So Forth starts trying to head towards him, when wham! Out of nowhere the plants grab us. Some sort of druid magic. They don’t get Forth though, and she knows that spell couldn’t be cast from all the way on the far bank, so she starts looking around more, and totally spots a druid. She runs over and punches at him, but whiff! It goes right through. An illusion!

Daevon is like “illusion, shmillusion” and does his bolt-of-light thingie at it, which somehow seems to hit? He tried to explain how he knew that would work but I think it was a lucky guess.

Anyhow, then these two start yelling at each other, which maybe shoulda been our first hint that they weren’t gnolls. But it wasn’t really two, ‘cause around then a jug of some sort of magical cold comes crashing down and freezes the plants that are still grabbing me. And not long after a jug of magical fire crashes down… quite a ways away. So we suspect there’s a third one of ‘em, who doesn’t have good aim as the archer. Not that the archer is really doing much lately.

Anyhow, Caleb helps me get free, and we’re starting to suspect these may not be bad dudes, but I’m like “why take a chance?” They seemed to be trying to kill us. They weren’t that good at it, but when that happens it’s no joke. So I run over to the druid to see if some magical fire can hit this illusory druid the same way Daevon’s light bolts can. And I don’t think the magical fire did, but taking a big overhead chop sure did, because I hit something about halfway down the druid. Lucky takes that cue to hit it with one of his firebolts — sizz! — and the illusion drops and we see an unconscious halfling woman.

The remain two yammer at each other a bit, but we’re now pretty sure these aren’t bad guys. Forth goes off to search for whoever was throwing the potions at us. I get the halfling druid in a headlock, ‘cause you can’t be too careful, and then, uh, give her some healing. She comes to, upset at first of course, but in a headlock so she can’t do much. And I convince her to call the others off. They’d been calling us gnolls, which we assured her we were not.

It was ‘cause of the gnolls’ illusion magic, right? They expected to see gnolls disguised as humans. And I don’t know if you’ve heard this, but folks worked out a system to signal that you’re a good guy, which of course we hadn’t heard of, because we’d been living literally under a rock for a week.

Anyhow, those three give us the skinny and introduce themselves. The druid was Vic… Vicki? Victrola? They call her Vic. The archer’s Falovar Deadeye. And the guy with the potions, who by the way wasn’t throwing them but had a portable catapult — how cool is that? — is Gerard. We ate lunch together. Nice folks.

After lunch Forth and Tharn did some aerial recon up where the gnolls had been, and then we decided to get back here. Fortunately, we have a portable boat. Well, I guess all boats are portable, kind of the point of them, but this one is easily portable over land, y’know? Carried it with us the whole time. Anyhow, we deploy that and sail down here back home. We popped by the Queensguard to report what had happened, of course, and Oddward told us some more about what the gnolls have been up to with the raids and the move to the gray forest and such. And then we came right back here to see you all, and get some of this great grub! Sure beats trail rations.

Hey hey, we’re back for lunch! And we went shopping! Err, uh, sorry, just for adventuring gear, nothing for you. But check out this cool stuff we got, which is totally going to help us beat the gnolls. First we nearly cleaned out the reputable item shop, picking up this nifty flask which just has water in it now but supposedly is going to have a new potion every day, and also a collar for Kimya that can heal her, and some gloves for one of the magic users. And then we decided to stop by the bad side of shopping, Piacular Peculiarities. It took us a bit to find it, but we ran into Matrim and he knew where it was. Anyhow that was some tougher haggling, but we came out of it with a nice matched set: this little goat figurine can turn into a giant terrifying goat— yeah, okay, I don’t blame you for laughing. I want to see it too, but it can only do it once a week so I don’t think we should use it now. But anyhow I also got this ring, see, which lets you talk to animals. So we can be like “alright goat, charge at the gnolls on the left or whatever.” I wonder if Lucky could ride it. And would that make it more or less terrifying? Hmm. Maybe we should test it out…

Chapter 31 - Smoke on the water

Durr Derr Darrr, Dur Der Da Derrrrr, Durr Derr Darrrr Der Durrrrrr

Nah, just kidding. We didn’t leave to actual fanfare, just a few shocked looks as Daevon snapped his wrists and made our little boat box expand into an impressive river boat.

But actually, I’ve gotten ahead of myself again. Before the actual leaving there was much to do.

As you’ll recall, we’d returned back to Glissana after our journey North and all that Lacuna stuff. We hadn’t done what we set out to do and so we decided to again set off to pursue that.

But again, we set out later. First there was the excellent welcome home party and some good night’s sleep home in a real bed. It was most excellent to see everyone again and they were oh so happy that we returned in one piece!

But it wasn’t all rest and relaxation. We reported in to Oddward at the Queensguard center and got caught up on the news. He also was able to provide us with a really useful map of the Grey Forest which is where we’d decided to go to pursue the Gnolls who were no longer a huge army encamped up north but were now a fragmented force hiding in the forest. But first we did some shopping and picked up some fancy new magic gear and a pile of rations for the road. Kinda jealous Daevon learned how to survive without eating though at least he was willing to carry a lot of stuff for us. Plus, it would be sad if you couldn’t eat tasty things anymore… though I guess he can eat he just doesn’t have to eat.

Sorry, I got distracted by thoughts of sticky buns there. Where were we?

Oh right, getting set to head off. I can tell from your faces you think I’ve wasted enough time with boring town stuff, so we’re off. New red armbands tied, we set sail on the magically folding boat!

As you know, it’s really quite fun to sit up on the prow of a boat and watch the scenery roll by. On this particular day it was nice and warm with a light breeze as we sailed lazily downstream. As we floated along I noticed a large log floating in the river in front of the boat. I tried to shatter it out of the way and it reared up and attacked us!

Turns out it wasn’t a log at all but a huge crocodile! How was I supposed to know they float like logs as they wait to ambush prey? It was at least as big as the boat, maybe twice that size, and it was not happy. It rammed the boat and knocked a bunch of us into the water. After that it was mayhem.

I tried to blast the croc before it wrecked the boat and we ultimately succeeded, though it got really weird. I kept trying to zap the croc and instead caused a huge burning ring of fire and like, a weird scream and funny smell that didn’t do anything. At least, I think I caused that. It was really hard to tell though because it seemed like all the nature in the area was upon us. There was the huge crocodile, of course, plus, like, a dozen swarms of stinging insects, a bunch of birds, and A HUGE SNAKE!

Yeah, I know!

So anyway, while the dumped-in-the-river crew was fighting their big ole snake, we finally managed to kill the croc and then poof! It just vanished into smoke. One moment, huge thrashing crocodile. The next moment, deep purple smoke on the water! As it vanished into nothing, I swear I heard a little giggle.

Of course, at first I thought I’d fortunately caused it to be blown into smoke, but all the other menaces similarly poofed. I mean, not that surprising for a swarm of flies, but definitely weird for hawks and snakes and crocodiles. Poof! Poof! Poof! Lots of smoke on the water. Afterward Daevon explained how summoning works and though I don’t quite understand how it works it makes sense that someone or someones had set conjured animals against us. They poofed because they weren’t real; or something.

So we’re going to mop up the little gnats when suddenly we notice it’s getting dark, but it’s still probably midafternoon. At this point I bailed out, diving headlong into the river along with the others. A SUPER EPICALLY HUGE ENLARGED ENORMOUS OUTRAGEOUS MONSTROUS HUGE GIGANTIC BIRD was coming for us. It was probably as wide as the river! It eclipsed the whole sun! Of course I bailed!

I’m surprised it didn’t crush the whole boat. Though that was probably quick thinking from Daevon, changing it from boat to box instead. Anyway, I look back and this SUPER GIGANTIC ENORMOUS GARGANTUAN COLOSSAL BIRD has grabbed Tuiz and is flying away. So I banished it to another dimension.

Surprised that worked so well, I mostly treaded water and maintained my concentration until the last of the pests decided to bugger off. Or maybe they all got poofed. It was kind of hard to tell with everyone thrashing around in the water. Well, everyone except Daevon; he sank like a rock in his shiny new armor. But it’s okay, I don’t think he needs to breathe either at this point and was able to blast his light rays from the bottom.

Once things settled down, we gathered together and Daevon re-popped the boat. When the banishment ran out, we noticed a large eagle — just, like, a regularly large eagle — appeared but by that point we’d made it far enough downstream that it didn’t chase us.

Afterwards, we tried to be more attentive, but the rest of the journey passed simply. We packed up the boat again and went afoot just before we got to the abandoned fort at the edge of the forest.

And that, that seems like a good place to end for tonight.

Chapter 32 - Spiders and Owlbears and Crocs, oh my!

I had expected to find gnolls at the towers. Instead, our approach was uninterrupted. When we got to the base of the first tower, we couldn’t immediately discern an entrance. Only after brushing aside some vines were we able to locate a door. Two large iron barriers prevented our entry. At least until we put Tuiz on the job. With the screeching and cracking of well rusted hinges, the door swung open just enough for us to squeeze inside.

The interior of the tower was clearly deserted, as a thick layer of dust covered everything. The air was permeated with a rich, musty scent of death and decay – not overpowering, but enough to make it clear that things had lived (and consequently died) here.

None of that would have been threatening if it weren’t for the contents of the tower. The floor and walls were lined with coffins. According to my companions, the tower’s architecture bore strong resemblance to some of the old buildings in Glissana, dating this structure to some time within the reign of the Necromancer King. With this knowledge, we were wary of dormant undead that might still be in the tower.

We decided the best course of action was to examine one of the coffins. At a safe distance, that is. It was easy enough to remove one of the coffins from the tower, but the coffin was locked. Who locks a coffin? Lucky for us, one of us was prepared with some lockpicks, and we were able to open the coffin. Inside, we found nothing. The smell of decay coming from the coffin was a bit stronger with the lid open, but otherwise, nothing.

With that out of the way, we walked around the bottom floor until we found the stairs up. The second floor was an open area without much in the way of furnishings, so we continued up. The third floor was clearly the living quarters for the troops at this tower. There were ten beds, each with its own desk. Some of these beds and desks were in rather poor repair, but that was unexpected, given how long we estimated it had been since this place was inhabited.

Unlike the previous floor, this room had a door. The light seeping in from cracks around it suggested that this probably led to the bridge we had seen. Once again, Tuiz managed to force the door open, we were able to see the path across to the other tower.

The second tower was far more interesting. The top floor had two rooms. The first of these that we entered was decorated as I would expect a commander’s quarters, except that in place of a bed, there was an ornate coffin on the floor. We ignored this, but searched the rest of the room, finding nothing of interest.

The other room turned out to be more exciting. While most of us looked at the room from the doorway, Lucky walked over to a desk and started to examin its contents. When he opened the top drawer, a fountain of water erupted, covering Lucky and quickly filling the room before draining out the door. However, the fun wasn’t over. Away from the source, we could feel the water around our feet solidifying and holding us in place. Lucky, well, wasn’t. He’d gotten a face-full of the stuff and was quickly turning into a Lucky-shaped statue. Not wanting to be exposed any more than necessary, I threw him a rope, and we were able to pull him out.

Fortunately, the substance quickly grew brittle and crumbled into sand, freeing all of us. With the danger passed, we completed our search of the desk, finding a pouch and a scroll case. The pouch contained 9 of what we assumed was used dust of dryness, while the scroll case contained what had probably been a scroll, before it was drenched and solidified.

Moving on downward, we came to a room with a large map of the surrounding area, showing the terrain and various points of interest. Everything on the map concurred with the information we had, making it a nice find, but largely useless.

The bottom floor of that tower was much like the bottom floor of the first, so with nothing left to see, we left the way we had come.

From the towers, we proceeded east along the river. I had expected to feel at home in the woods, but these woods were anything but welcoming. First we came upon an owlbear, which I scared off using my newly acquired ring. Then we had to fight of a tree. From there, I scouted ahead, only to walk face-first into a giant web. Once my friends arrived, we were able to dispatch the spider, but that is an experience I hope never to repeat. Just past the spider web we found a clearing with bright red flowers, under which were the bones that once belonged to the spider’s victims.

From there, we continued, fighting trees and avoiding any clearings with those red flowers. Around that time, we decided it would be a good idea to look for a suitable place to spend the night. The first place we found was on a small pond, which unfortunately contained a very large crocodile. We were able to escape, but still needed a place to sleep.

We split up to search, and while looking, found not one, but two gnoll patrols. Fortunately, they didn’t seem to have noticed us. We planned to move away without alerting them, but one of the groups definitely spotted us, and we saw a blue and red ball of light fly up through the trees and descend in an arc. They were alerting someone, which probably means it’s time to stop writing.


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