Chapter 54 - "Testing the ring"

9th Day: In the morning we find that the Heathens bedroll is empty - he has sloped off in the night, and due to his disturbed nature, we do not spend any time looking for him. The rest of this day passes uneventfully.

10th Day: Plans are made over breakfast, involving light stones to light our way as we move towards the Grell area, basically sling shot-ing a light stone ahead of us hoping to catch a Grell hiding in the darkness. Soon we hit the pool area where the Eel took Beard. The party are now shuffling along in the darkness as we have decided that light shows the party up from a greater distance, with the Dwarves leading the way. This shuffling in the darkness is obviously hindered by LotD, who has decided to 'capture' Snagger with a noose, but fails as he cant see what's going on. We move on, exploring deeper within the cave systems, and soon we are heading down a long straight corridor - a perfect place for a trap. Not liking this corridor at all, we discuss how best to move along it, but with no where else to go, I move up first, and we separate so we are not all caught in one place.

I reach the end of the corridor unharmed, and with a quick look around in the next two caverns and seeing nothing, I motion for the next person to move up. Beard and LotD hurry down the narrow tunnel, when suddenly a Grell appears in the tunnel in front of them. With complicated movements from its many tendrils, a web is cast catching them both in its sticky mass. LotD, reacting more quickly than Beard, manages to get behind a small outcropping, and so is not stuck to any of the web, but has no where to move as the stickiness surrounds him. Two more Grell appear by me, one of which also moves into the corridor towards the little flies. LotD begins to burn the web from where he is, while Agador, moving up the corridor after hearing the commotion, drops a light stone down to help light the area. The second Grell in the tunnel also begins to cast a spell, and a green cloud appears in the web, causing Beard and LotD to hold their breath lest they retch their potatoes.

The Grell nearest me move's in and attacks, but luckily its many strikes fail to hit me, and so I shout out the teachings of Gorm. Angered by this sonic attack, a second Grell moves in on me, and LotD finally burns his way through the web on his side, while Agador does the same on the other side. With the green smelly fog still covering the area, and the flames and burnt sticky mass creating problems of their own, the people in the corridor fail to spot the lightning bolt, as wide as the corridor, thunders towards them. A fourth Grell has now moved into the area, just off from second of the caverns I briefly looked in. This Grell is a huge bloated thing, and earlier identified as being the leader.

To make things worse, the Grell is protected by spells - brief flickers of light are seen reflecting from an invisible barrier, and also the Grell flicks in and out of focus, the arcane spells of Blur and Shield. The battle is joined fully now, as both parties crash together. Some of the people at the back where luckily untouched by the lightning bolt, with just bristling beards or hair to show from their near brush with the electrical charge. Axes and Swords crash against Grell, and Salas and Beard move in to attack the leader. Agador drops the first Grell with a fireball weakened from my sonic blast, and Beard launches a massive strike against the bloated Grell. His strike, normally enough to pierce the toughest of armours, clatters off the magical shield, but this attack allows Salas to feint past and strike against the Grell's weak side, drawing ichor as Salas's spear is drawn back from the soft underbelly.

Two more Grell go down, another fireball from Agador, and a combined attack from the rest of the party against the last remaining smaller Grell. With all the party (although some badly wounded) concentrating our attacks against the Grell, we all attack with new vigour. The heavy protection spells cast upon the Grell work very well, and all of our strikes fail to connect. Magrick appears out of the darkness just in time to see Salas dropping his spear, and also 2 more Grell approaching the battle, heading towards Salas bending over to retrieve his weapon. Salas just manages to spot the motion of LotD drawing his wand, and ducks down as a booming fireball blossoms in his area, catching him and the two Grell, and with no time to examine his burns, is caught in a second blast from Agador.

Despite his bleeding and burnt body, Salas again manages to impale the leader, and with a furious Beard hammering at the shield so hard that his hammer falls to the ground, and the exploding fireballs in the area, the woodsman seems to be the only person who has inflicted any real damage. The Grell leader now looks very angrily at Salas (well as angry as you can look with no eyes and a beak for a mouth) and as it turns to grapple the irritating Ranger, LotD takes the opportunity to fire some magic missiles into his bloated body. With multiple small cuts and the occasional deep spear wound, and tendrils hanging limp and useless, the Grell suddenly shows great speed and begins to move off. The burst of speed catches nearly all of us, and only some are quick enough to even attempt a strike at the departing Grell, and only Salas strikes true.

The spear thrust is all that's needed however, as the Spear is thrust hard enough to pin the Grell to the wall, killing it. Quickly a guard is set up, and while the Grell are quickly searched, I heal those badly wounded - mostly party inflicted burns on Salas. The Grell leader is found to be wearing a strange ring around one tendril, and LotD is spotted trying to pocket it, but proclaims he 'slipped'. We then move back to the pool area to rest, and no sooner are we there than Beard mounts his steed and charges into the water. He returns empty handed, and we rest for the remainder of the day. The night thankfully passes with no interruptions, and a good night's rest is had by all.

11th Day: After breakfast and prayer, the ring from the Grell leader is tested. The Grell was obviously protected by far more than the shield that the party's wizards use, so the ring is suspected to be one of protection. Thus, the 'testing' of the ring involves one person putting it on, and the rest of the party clubbing them. Clubbing random people raises the spirits of the party, and with each person wearing the ring, and clubs clattering from heads or armour, laughter echoes around the cavern, not heard from the party for a long while. That is until it's my turn to wear the ring, and LotD forgoes his club in favour of a knife that he slides between the chink of my armour. This is far too much for this Cleric to take, and so I bless the Elf with my Axe.

The ring is then examined magically, and it is found to be one of great power, making the target extremely difficult to hit, bestowing protection greater than a suit of Mithril Full Plate, and far more powerful than legendary items that are indeed quite legendary! Oh, and can quite handily be only worn by Elven spell casters to boot. The rings power was far too great to bestow upon any one person, and with the 3 Wizards, LotD, Agador and Magrick, all as deserving as one another, the matter is to be settled by that time old method - knucklebones. With the Elves all in a small circle, and other items and cash offered for the losers of the ring, the die are cast. Agador rolls the highest, and with what only could be described as glee on his normally unanimated features, he slips the ring upon his finger.

LotD takes the runner up prize of a brooch of shielding, while Magrick pockets the large pile of gold coins. Once the gambling has been done, we check our weapons, and prepare our selves again for the trip up to the caverns of yesterday. Going past the 2 small caverns past the long straight corridor, we reach a very large cavern, one that we cannot see the edges to as we appear from a side tunnel. Mapping out the cave, we discover 2 exits, and as we decide which one we wish to explore, we are hit by a dispell magic effect, stripping most people of their buffs. Quickly moving in to the centre of the room reveals nothing of any attacker, but a tall column of bluish glowing marble, which does not rise to the ceiling, is investigated.

The column obviously looked threatening to Quinton, as he shoots it with an arrow, while LotD from his vantage point at the ceiling drags himself along to get a closer look. After calling out that there are goodies on top of it, Quinton digs in his pack for a grappling hook and climbs up the column to fill his sack. Deciding to examine the goods later, we move to one of the exits, where we find a series of caves. As we move through the caves we notice that they become more and more filled with bones, and that some have pools of brackish dark water. A lapping of water is heard deeper in, and so we investigate, peering around each of the caves in turn with a quick search without disturbing any of the bones. We reach the last cavern, one far bigger than the rest, and containing a large body of water in one corner, with its own small 'beach' area.

The bones in this room where piled nearly waist deep in places, and I utter a quick prayer to the departed souls. Step forward the two 'Fools of a Took' Salas and Quinton, who begin to throw rubbish and bones into the brackish water. LotD suddenly cries out that he is being 'rooted' and then the pool erupts, water gushing upwards in a huge gout. The beast that appears from the water, a powerful squat creature with many mouths and surprise surprise, tentacles all a-flailing. Quinton is the first to be battered, slapped to the floor, and dragged in to be bitten, and Salas is nearly killed by the many tentacles that strike him. Once the thing has properly emerged from the water, Snagger calls out that it is a Deep Spawn, and then the History lessons from age old teachers flood back….

The Deep Spawn are a terror to the underdark, and reproduce extra ordinarily quickly, and are a bane to the miners of Dwarfkin everywhere. A few spells are cast upon it, but the Deep Spawn resists them all, and we begin to back off trying to cover the heavily injured Tooks. The Deep spawn moves up quickly to attack again, and seeing that we will not all escape its clutches, we rush in to attack. Beard in the second rank on his stead is plucked from its back, and used as a shield against others. I shortly join him, and get many swords whacked into me, and also Beard is smashed into me at various times. From my vantagepoint high in the air, I can see everyone has joined in the attack, bar one - LotD, who appears to be pondering the battle in the background.

I start to become a far too effective shield, as I start to take a beating from my party members - first Agador cuts me in the side deeply, and then Quinton nearly cuts my leg off. Snagger is the only one striking true, while Beard and I club the beast from our upside down position. The Deep spawn starts to back off from the damage it has taken, and then suddenly heals its own wounds! Redoubling our efforts, we all strike at the beast, and nearly everyone hits it, with Salas hitting it with a fine strike from his bow, the arrow buried deep into one of its many maws. The Dwarven contingent, striking with the might of there forefathers, also hit the beast badly, and the Deep Spawn again bleeding heavily, retreats back into the water still clutching its Dwarven prizes.

Salas, hurling his bow to the floor, winds himself up, causing the Barbarian within him to rage, and screaming a battlecry, he leaps forward and attacks the beast. The first heavily spiked gauntlet of Salas smashes the teeth of the beast, tearing its mouth, but the follow up punch does the most damage, burying itself deep in the Spawns side, rupturing whatever organs the creature possessed - the Dwarven elders will be impressed when this story is retold. The Deep Spawn crashes lifelessly into the water, dragging myself and Beard, and obviously Salas - upto his arm in the beast, below the surface. During the battle, the paralysed LotD sends his toad off to speak to Magrick's toad to warm him of his plight, but the toad was obviously frightened of the battle and hid. Standing up out of the water, I manage to chuck a quick heal to Salas (as Agador crashes into the water to look for treasure) just as the last remaining Grell decides to show.

Shimmering into view above large bones, the Grell drops an obscuring mist to hide himself, and he also casts a slow spell on Salas. Salas's usefulness is reduced to splashing in the water to warn the treasure hunters swimming below the surface, and Beard surfaces to dispell the mist, allowing me to dispell spells upon the Grell itself. The Grell, angry now, begins to gesture, and black tentacles appear close by, plucking me from my steed, while Agador's fireball crashes harmlessly around it. LotD, now freed from his paralysis, is attacked as soon as he moves, and LotD burns it with his hands. Beard moves in close to combat the Grell, and Snagger cuts the tentacle that holds me. Quickly thanking Snagger, I move in to attack, ducking as another fireball sears overhead, but failing to hurt the Grell. My searing fire strikes, burning some of its tentacles, and the responding fireball from the Grell nearly takes me and Salas out.

The Grell is looking in a bad way, despite the many spells its has cast against us, but before we can move in for the kill, disaster strikes. Agador drops his bow, Magrick misses with every strike, and then LotD gets smothered by tentacles, and lies still. The remaining party members attack again, and this time the Grell drops, felled from a blow from Snagger I think, I cannot be sure from the carnage and smoke that surrounded the battle. LotD is brought out from under the Grell, and brought back from deaths door. The party are far too tired to do anything else, and licking their wounds (not literally, as that doesn't work) we rest amongst the carnage and bones of the Grell and the Deep Spawn.

12th Day: Resting for the whole day, we count the spoils. Searching the Grell and Deep Spawn area reveals much coin, scrolls and potions, a mirror for the vain LotD, and a rather nice shield, which now adorns my arm. One of the scrolls turns out to be a passage from a journal from someone called 'Hazakian the Wise', one of a party that has travelled through this area before us, but obviously not made a very good job of it seeing as how all the creatures are still about.