Chapter 132 - "You sir! Do you play the steel drums?"
In the morning Hordex decides that the strain of everything, the closed in spaces, the deaths and most probably the party members in general have just all become too much, and that sadly, he "...doesn’t want to be here anymore". Not having ruby red shoes and a small dog, this means a road trip back to the surface, which is fine, as even I, a Dwarf, could do with seeing a little sunlight again.
We are obviously sad to say goodbye to the little one, but we have all been around the block a few times and know what normally happens next – drop off one adventurer and lo and behold we bump into a mysterious stranger who just so happens to want to rescue a princess/has to retrieve an artefact stolen from their village/has had their family slain/run away to be a pirate* which all coincidently can be tied in to our current location.
And so whistling a happy jaunty tune on our way back to the surface, we all laugh and recount the good old days with Hordex, ‘remember when he did this?’ someone would say, while others laughed at Hordex’s stupid response to the situation or (quietly) pointed out that that event had actually happened to someone else still in the party, but along the way, we bump into no-one...
The whistling and laughing dies down a bit as we get closer to the surface, and now all of us are thinking that we may actually be losing someone for good, and the ‘remember when?’ talk turns to a more thoughtful approach, like when he saved whassname by taking down the monster before it got them, or actually helping fallen party members by selflessly giving out his own potions...and still no-one leaps from the bushes to boldly proclaim "Hello strangers! Are you a merry band of adventurous adventurers travelling? As I need to rescue a pirate……."
And now we are in sight of Milbourne. A place that hates us despite all our good intentions, and the least likely place to offer help. I can hardly see the following type of conversation between a stranger and a townsperson being used in terms of us – "Why yes, we know of an adventuring party, they come through here quite often! Wait here with our hospitality and good graces, and we will introduce you when they arrive!" Unless of course it was to mention that "..they normally return every so often to destroy something they missed last time…"
And now we are within a 30 yards of the Dwarven part of Milbourne. Maybe Dwarven part is stretching it a bit as it’s simply Snagger’s house, and we are straining to hear a conversation between a few people as we hide in the bushes – the authorities still want a word with us, and it would take too long to explain properly why holding us would be a bad idea for all concerned.
The conversation finishes, and then a cry of "...and here they are!" is directed right at our poor bush disguise as Snagger pulls a Human dressed in furs towards us. Snagger then continues, talking to both of us and indicating that he was telling the Human all about the party, and low and behold, we suddenly appear.
Queue the introductory questions, and Hordex slopes off during the conversation, now satisfied his quest is at an end and that a new one will begin for this Human, assuming he survives the rigorous party trials and tests that surely must follow. "Oh the pain he will suffer!" Hordex muses, chuckling to himself, "Oh the humiliation he will endure!" he shivers slightly, some of the barbed comments coming back to haunt him, "Oh the…"
Beard steps to the front of the assembled crowd. "You sir! Do you play the steel drums?" The party and Snagger hush, waiting the inevitable response, the baiting, the appearance of the black book and that scrappy little pencil, a question normally designed to stop most normal people in their tracks, but the Druid simply replies "Yes!" in his best Man from Delmonte voice.
"He’s ok by me then. No further questions." Beard walks off a few yards, sits and starts going through his pack. "You have signed a pact with the devil when you align yourself with Beard!" Robbie whispers to the Druid with a sly grin.
"....bugger." Hordex continues to stare, open mouthed. "All I had to go through, and he is only asked that?" He mumbles some more, but the words fade as he moves further away and are gone completely as he crosses the bridge and continues along the path to the main city, pickaxe across his shoulder like a redheaded stepchild of the seven Dwarves.
The Human begins to tell his tale, indicating that he is a Druid, and that his area was Blighted, with many plants and wildlife killed. He has tracked the evil Druid responsible, which he has found along his travels to be an accompanied by a dastardly Ooze Master. He has lost their trail a few times, but has picked it up again, and the last place they were sighted was passing through Milbourne. He understands that they are powerful enemies, and knows that he will need help to bring these people to justice, and while he was trying to work out how he could make it happen, learnt about us.
I listen intently to his tale, probably the only one who was – oh apart from Robbie, who blushes repeatedly at compliments, some he adds into the Druid’s story when he is not looking, and injects comments such as "..you are too kind.." while taking pretty much all the credit. I was deeply saddened by the omission of Princesses, or even just one, and without a Pirate or artefact woven into his tale, I turn to watch the figure of Hordex disappear on the horizon.
"We kill Druids where I come from Apple Picker" says Robbie suddenly, once the story is complete, and then the Elf wanders off to cause trouble elsewhere, leaving the Druid perplexed, a normal condition one acquires after meeting Robbie. With no-one now paying him much attention, the Druid simply picks up his stuff and follows the rest of the party, taking no refusal as confirmation that everyone will help him as we all try to silently hide in Snagger’s house without him noticing.
I study the book we have found, and taking Comprehend languages, discover it is written in Deep Gnome. The book is a Holy Scripture, and I am in awe of its radiance, yet strangely my fellow Brother, Beard, is unable to read it without wincing at its touch.
It is soon apparent that this ancient Holy work, containing the secrets of ancient lost spells, is none other than the Book of Exalted Deeds! Much training and deep reverent study is required though, and sadly it looks as if the book is half missing, containing spells from 1st through to those of the 3rd rank.
With the new Druid in tow, we get ready to leave once more, deciding to sleep above the ground before returning in the morning. We search for Snagger to take with us, but he is suspicious by his absence, and when I catch a glimpse of him hiding under water breathing through a reed in the duck pond as we pass it, I neglect to tell the party, wishing I could join him.
During our camp for the night, we explain the Underdark area to Beard and the Druid Apple Picker – who still hasn’t actually mentioned his name, while Robbie helpfully describes the whole place as "..full of doom!".
The next day we head back to the Altar, wind walking all the way. ‘Like a machine’ the party quickly and smoothly gets on with things - Beard and I put the spell points into the altar, and it sinks so that we can enter. Beard smashes through the wall of stone I left, and the light stones still remain on the floor where we left them. Agador drops into the room, and summons the earth elemental.
Suddenly the humming noise stops, and the two massive statues animate…..
As Agador prepares another spell, his elemental runs in, and takes a massive smack from the metal statue. The stones hum again, and frost builds up along the floor and ceiling towards Agador, catching him in a mini ice age and freezing his jollies.
Apple Picker starts his new party role well as he cannot even break through the Forbiddance and get into the hole to help, and so is forced to the back like a small child at a lunch queue. I cast Anti Magic barrier to allow a gap through the Forbiddance area, and call out for people to make sure they fly as they go through it or plummet like a thing without wings dropping 30’ to the ground.
Agador is struck by the statue, and his elemental who tried to grapple one is hit in return and crumples to dust on the floor. Beard starts to get ready to fight the beasts, while Magic Missile’s appear from the humming stone are aimed at Agador but thankfully wink out on his shield.
Robbie forgets he is in the Anti Magic barrier, and tries unsuccessfully to cast spells. He still looks confused as Apple Picker passes the befuddled Elf, crosses himself and leaps in through the hole. He drops 10 feet before stabilizing himself 20 feet from the floor, and immediately goes to work Flame striking a statue, but it seems to have done nothing.
Robbie now has a crappy rope trick that lies along the floor and then begins a song and dance routine as he tries to activate boots and hat. Beard has now moved through the hole, buffed and ready, and giant sized to boot. Robbie eventually tumbles through the hole, crashes to the floor and while dazed casts shield on himself.
Apple Picker Barkskin’s himself, and Agador, suffering punches and cuts, drinks a potion while calling out for people to help, and is luckily missed in combat as the statues tower over him and strike the walls and floor very close to his personage.
A statue moves up to attack the fallen Falcon, and Beard starts to hit the first statue. Robbie is warned against trying to Blink, as based on his current special talents today he would most likely wind up trapped on the Ethereal plane and milked by phase spiders, so he stands up and Lightning Bolts the statue and the orb. Giving his best smile, he stands ready to receive the applause he thinks he is due, as he has finally done something useful, and it appears he has slowed the beast in front of Beard.
Apple Picker casts Bear’s Heart on all in the area, giving people a few additional hits, but something has stopped me from getting the spells effects, and when I move to go through the hole, I am stopped by a strange effect, preventing me from joining the fray.
Beards strikes something hard protecting the statue, and it seems a Wall of Force is containing him and is also the effect blocking me from going through the hole. Apple Picker targets the sphere with a Flame Strike, damaging it further, and Agador casts Fire Brand on the sphere, and then a Fireball on the sphere, but fails to affect it.
A Fireball engulfs Agador in return, and he slips as he tries to escape, smashing into the wall before the full force of the explosion rolls over him. He drops, quite dead, the long sword by his side fused together in his scabbard**
Beard teleports out of the wall of force, next to the orb, and strikes it shouting "....this is for Agador!"*** but the weapon bounces from it with one of those ringing noises you normally get in cartoons, with Beard vibrating away. Robbie casts magic missile twice, and these seem to have effect, even though both hit. Apple Picker follows Robbie into a corner of apparent safety, and cures himself.
I try and Ethereal through, but the Forbiddance stops the Etherealness, and the Wall of Force blocks my entrance, leaving me with a weird sensation of uselessness. The ‘corner of apparent safety’ (tm) containing Robbie and Apple Picker is Hail Stoned, and they are both hit with large frozen stones to the head and buttocks. Beard whacks again at the sphere with three solid whacks, and this time dents the humming object. Robbie moves and Lightning Bolt’s the pair of statues, and hasted, Magic Missile’s the sphere.
Apple Picker Flame Strikes the sphere with no effect, and I try to Dimension Door into the room, but the Forbiddance effect still remains, again stopping me from entering the room. Angrily I sit down and consult my ‘How to get past a Wall of Forbiddance Force’ book, which only has one chapter, covering one page, with two words written in it. The words ‘You can’t’ are written in large print, meaning that I really should have flicked through it before I bought it.
Beard is attacked by the slowed statues, and he hits out again at the sphere, which is looking bad, with sparks and smoke billowing from it. Another hit from Beard, and it suddenly implodes and the entire room is caught in the blast.
Robbie’s cloak is caught in an outcropping, and he gets tangled up and doesn’t manage to escape the blast. He gets caught badly, and his buckler shatters in the blast.****
I drop through the ceiling as the wall of force disappears from underneath me, and Robbie Lightning Bolts the statues and again fires off more Magic Missiles.
I move up and Heal Beard, and then try Destruction on the closest Statue, but it does nothing. I then get struck very badly, and Heal myself back to full. Beard continues to strike at the beast and I continue to miss when I attack.
With both me and Beard fighting the statues, I am only getting small attacks through, but luckily for me, the giant sized Beard is still being attacked by both of them. We continue to attack the same statue in an effort to bring it down, and are not being hit too much allowing the others to regroup and ready themselves.
Robbie Lightning Bolts the pair again, and then Greases the area, and with one of my lucky hits that I am getting in, I strike the statue in the leg and it stops moving and slowly falls over as its final pose was off balance. Huzzah!
I then retreat slightly to heal myself from the massive beatings I have taken, whilst also utilising my high wisdom by staying back just out of combat range in case of grappling. Beard gives the remaining statue a massive canning, and Robbie is helping with some of Beards borrowed arrows.
I move up behind Beard and Shield Other him, following this with some light healing to get him ready to take down the statue. The statue is hit again with four powerful strikes, yet still remains standing.
Another few good hits smash into the beast towering above us, but then my cover is reduced as Beard shrinks back to normal size before my eyes. As I can now be plainly seen behind the bearded one, I believe it may be time to go, and do so, moving to a safe distance. Beard is struck twice badly, but with me absorbing half the damage, he still stands, albeit staggered slightly. Robbie’s lightning effects suddenly wear off the statue, and he returns to normal speed, lashing out with multiple attacks amongst those near enough. Thankfully, all survive the crushing blows, just as he is crushed by Beards last attack.
We move the dead wizard up stairs, and then Robbie casts Knock on the sarcophagus, while the rest of us sensibly hide behind the bookcases. The contents of the sarcophagus are two casks and a wand case. Opening the case, we find the wand is crafted from ebony with moonstones and gold filigree, and the scrolls are of Teleport which by the looks of it, have been written by a Wizard of near epic level. One of the casks has three gold rings laid in velvet, while the other is full of gems.
We leave the room and make camp on the wall of stone above, and the next day I resurrect Agador, and we spend most of that day identifying the rings and wand – a Ring of freedom of movement, a Ring of regeneration, a Ring of dancing lights (plus some other powers), and a Wand of magic missiles.
*Delete as applicable
** Oh, that was harsh. Not only did he roll a 1, he took full damage, died because of it, and had to make saves for all his equipment.
*** No really, he did.
****Another 1 for the fireball saves, and more melted equipment. At least he didn’t die...