Sunday, April 21, 2019


Davian, The Blue Mage

The pain was intense.  I was on the verge of passing out.  In an instant, my vision went black, my ears were filled with a mix of sounds like that of a thousand voices screaming in terror during a windstorm, and a jolt of pain in the center of my forehead.  I gripped the opened lid of the chest I had been rifling through, gasping for air through gritted teeth.

After a moment, these sensations subsided and I felt myself again.  Once my heart rate slowed a bit, I started searching for answers.  Maybe I strained myself a bit fighting the Lady Castlelaterns bodyguard?  When I bent over to look through the chest, did I strain a muscle?  Then I found that secret compartment, with the robes, and that holy symbo - Ahhhhh!

Why does that symbol - Ahhh!

Okay, don't think about it, don't think about - Ahhh!

The others didn't seem to notice.  Okay.  Hmm, they're looking through the chest, why don't they respond the same way?

Wait, where's Keilier?  Why isn't he prattling on?  Is he doing this to me?

"Calm down son, just breathe.  While I'm with you, he can't hurt you." My father's voice returned for the first time in quite a while.  His sudden reappearance was a bit jarring, though it would have been worse if his presence weren't so calming.

That calming sensation lasted but a moment, until I started thinking of my father, and how direct the message seemed to be.  "While I'M with you" "HE can't hurt you".  It wasn't just a calming sensation anymore, it seemed to be more direct, more

Ahhhhh!  My head split open once again, and I had to stop for a moment.  WHY?!?  WHY WAS THIS HAPPENING?!?!

Silence, merciful yet concerning silence.  I looked to the others, they were speaking but I couldn't hear.  It was then I realized pressure had built in my ears, and as the pain went away, so did the pressure, and my hearing slowly returned.  I didn't so much care what they were saying, just that I could hear again.

I tried to push aside all thoughts of what just happened.  It could only lead to pain, and I wasn't sure how much more I could take at the moment.


"Wow, you took down Xanathar the beholder, now that's impressive."

I think Keilier could sense my skepticism, as he quickly followed with "Honestly, I'm as surprised as I am impressed.  Well done!"

"" I waited for the other shoe to drop, it didn't take long.

"You earned it.  With all the newfound fame that is sure to come your way, you have an even larger stage on which to make a fool of yourself.  Well done!"


"Just when I think things have changed, you manage to surprise even me with new depths of intellectual laziness.  'Davian, be prepared because Xanathar has an anti-magic field he can deploy.' Davian: 'Hmm, I'll cast fireball at those barrels.  While obviously in the presence of Xanathar.  Instead of using a very short fuse on the barrels of powder.  Which he couldn't stop in time.'"


After a moment, he continued.

"Though I guess I will admit that I'm genuinely impressed to some degree.  You bumbled your way through it, but you did what few with your lowly abilities could do."

I waited for him to say something else, but only stony silence filled my head.  This was a first.  I started to reply but was cut short. "You'll have a target on your head now.  Others don't know how narrow your victory was." That was it.  He wasn't his jovial, snide self, he actually sounded concerned.  

The silence was a chasm, I could hear the dinn of the tavern above as I lay in the basement, but I was trapped in my own head, with too many questions filling my mind.  Why has Keilier changed?  Did I underestimate the mortal peril I was in?  Keilier seemed to hate my kind, does he feel differently now? On and on the questions flashed before me, until a familiar voice returned.  Or, at least, it sounded that way, but so quiet.  I strained to hear, but the words were unintelligible.  It was my father, and though I was unable to make out specific words, his emotions did get through.  Peace, then concern, then a flash of anger, back to concern, and finally unease.  Yet more questions, stacking up, I could no longer concentrate on any one before the next was taking its place.  Finally, Keilier spoke up "Stop it boy, you're hurting my head.  Just stop, breathe, and sleep.  Stop...breathe...sleep."  With each word, I followed his command.  I didn't think about why, given my history with Keilier, I just did.  I pushed the questions from my mind, I took a deep breathe, and upon his utterance of "Sleep" I immediately fell into a deep sleep.  Or, at least, I apparently did, as it was the next morning when I opened by eyes.  The first word upon waking up was Keilier muttering "idiot".

Ah, back to normal.  Wait, should I be happy about this?


Friday, March 1, 2019

Into the Tyrant's Lair

Into the Tyrant's Lair

Davian struggles with inner demons

“How fortunate, we finally found your intellectual equal.  Mr. Muffins would make a great conversation partner for you.”

“The way I see it, you are the equivalent of Mr. Muffins.  Isn’t the staff the same as the stick Mr. Muffins sits on?”  My self-satisfaction lasted all of about 2 seconds before…

“In this scenario, that makes you Flutterfoot Zipswiggle.  That’s an apt comparison.”

Through the mental equivalent of gritted teeth, I did my best to ignore him, but he knew he had gotten the better of me, and I could feel the smugness radiate from a corner of my mind.

“You aren’t helping.  Xanathar knows we’re here now, and we don’t know what else we’ll encounter in this hideout.  I don’t need to be distracted at a time like this.”

“Ha, I’m glad you can admit to being a lesser being.  Lack of true planning, lack of information on this…place…, lack of intelligence to know that you lack the basics for survival.  It can all be summed up by one word: lacking.  Now, if you had only gained your magical abilities not through some unnatural means but through study, like a wizard…”


He continued, completely ignoring my outburst “…you would have learned the value in spending sufficient time looking for information on this place, or you would have scouted ahead with a familiar.”

Though Keilier had been talking this way since we first met, he still found new ways to open up holes in the mental wall I was building.  My father had used a phrase “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”  After dealing with Keilier for this long, I’m not sure it’s an accurate saying.  Much like being poked by a finger, a few times in the same spot doesn’t hurt.  After thousands of times, it can be excruciating.

I had been thinking about my father while Keilier blathered on in the background, and I could feel his presence reappear.  I know it’s just memories, and how I think he would guide me, but he has felt more and more real in recent months, probably my mind countering Keilier’s incessant ranting.  As my father appeared, Keilier diminished in volume until I could no longer hear him.

“Ignore Keilier, he’s a moron dressed in the garb of an intellectual.  Your team is doing well, YOU are doing well.  Poisoning the soup to kill everyone in the basement was a great idea.  Continue tearing Xanathar’s guild apart so we can get out from under Manshoon’s compulsion.”

“We?” I asked.  This was the first time his memories spoke personally.

“Yes, we.  I’m with you son, I’ve never left.  I swore I wouldn’t leave you.”

With that, I teared up a bit, remembering the day he was taken from me.  Torn away, after more than 25 years together, apart from the world.  My father, my traveling partner, my protector.  And I killed him!

“Shh, it’s okay son, you didn’t know.  Your powers are a gift, you must always remember this.  If I had to die so you could share your gift and make a difference in this world, it was worth it.  Remember, I’ll always be here.  I am here to be your guide, as I was for all those years.”  His voice trailed off at this, and with it a calming sensation took its place.

After a moment, Keilier’s voice returned.  It was the first time I’ve heard his voice in a somber tone.  “You must be careful, not all is as it seems.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked, not in a harsh way, but genuinely puzzled.  The group had been venturing further into the compound, but we didn’t seem to be in any immediate danger.

 “Keilier?”  Silence.

Quinn's new haircut

It was time to get back on track with our task of acquiring the remaining keys as well as working to satisfy the vows my companions had taken in service to Manshoon. Satisfaction of the vows would come in the form of Xanathar’s death. No small feat as I’ve been told repeatedly.

We requested Renaer to join us to gain more information about Xanathar and his lair. He came over and we began to discuss just that. Renaer informed us that Xanathar had not been seen in some time. He is no push-over either. His gaze petrifies, nullifies magics, and even disintegrates. A chill was sent down my spine. The lair is under magical surveillance all times of the day. One small bit that might help is the presence of a Harper agent in the lair. Thorvin Twinbeard had infiltrated the organization and might be able to help us in our efforts. The last bit Renaer could offer is the fact that Xanathar loves Sylgar, his goldfish.

As we absorbed the facts laid out, a message came to us from our bartender. A visitor was in the bar below and had requested an audience. I’m growing somewhat weary given the frequency of unannounced company.

We entered the bar and took immediate note of the one making the request. Urstul Floxin sat in a seat at the best table. His face was smooth as opposed to the scars when we last saw him.

“That face must have set someone back a lot of coin,” I quipped. “Last we saw it, it was covered with blood, cuts and bruises.”

Floxin smiled broadly, showing his teeth.

“I’m here to remind you all of your commitment to the cause,” Floxin said.

“You would come here to question our word?” countered Yasuo.

“This is merely a courtesy call,” responded Floxin. “We wouldn’t want anything to happen to your livelihoods now.”

“We are well aware of the arrangements made,” said Thia through gritted teeth.
Urstil Floxin

“Is that all?” I said with raised eyebrows.

“No,” stated Floxin flatly. “While you are performing your agreed upon tasks, you will free Samara Strongbones. She was captured by Xanathar and is held captive in his lair. She is a halfling.”

Floxin stood up. He stared me directly in the eyes and poured a bottle out on the table.

“Our business is now done,” said Floxin.

“Then get out.” I said.

Floxin slinked his way over to the door and exited with his bodyguard contingent. I was so angry as to have to deal with that slime once again. I kicked myself for not making a run for it with Floxin’s head when we had the chance.

“Lif, that ‘gentleman’ is not welcome here,” I said to our ghostly bartender.

A piece of chalk rose up and wrote out “banned” on the chalkboard. I smiled and nodded, confirming the notion. Unfortunately, we had little choice but to continue carrying out Manshoon’s wishes. We got ready for the day and made an appointment to meet with Davil Starsong of the Zhentarim Faction to glean more information for our incursion.

Davil was again found at The Yawning Portal. We sat and enjoyed a drink with him. He confirmed our information as supplied by Renaer. When asked about Samara Strongbones, Davil had two words. “Kill her.” We inquired as to why and Davil simply stated that she was a snake and couldn’t be trusted in the least. Seeing her die would be a service to everyone.

“Kill her,” Davil repeated.

We thanked Davil for his time and payed him to cast the nondetection spell one each of us. We stood up and exited the tavern. A bit of further preparation would be needed in terms of supplies and then we’d be off to deal with Xanathar. Each of us went out and procured enough potions and scrolls to help us in our quest. Healing potions would be useful in addition to some more specialized magic. We acquired animal friendship, water breathing and invisibility scrolls.

Feeling as ready as we could, we went back to suit up. Yagra was at the inn and was ready to go. She had already agreed to take us in the back way to Xanathar’s lair. We set out and made our way through the city. Yagra led us to one dark warehouse. On our way down the alley to the warehouse, I noted a pair of elves. They stepped out with their hands empty.
“We would like to have a quick word with you,” stated one of the dark elves. “We know you are heading into Xanathar’s lair and would ask a favor on behalf of our lord Zardoz Zord.”

“Go on,” Yasuo stated plainly with his hand close to his weapons.  Gearbox quietly informed Yasuo that his truesight allowed him to see through the magical disguises of the elves and that they were actually dark elves, or drow.

“Our master asks that you kill Gnarl Zimbrindas. He stole a bag of holding. For this crime, his head is the price.”

“I see,” I said. “We aren’t assassins.”

“Having Lord Zord’s favor is not a trivial reward for this task,” stated the other drow. “Think over the offer. We hope you choose wisely.”

They disappeared down the alley in utter silence. This felt like a bad omen, being met in the alley. Who else knows our agenda? Hopefully there isn’t a welcoming party waiting for us. Yagra continued to the warehouse. She entered and began navigating her way through the crates scattered about. She came to one crate which looked no different from the hundreds of others here. A quick push revealed a hatch in the floor.

Yagra gave it a tug and opened the hatch. This was the moment of no return. We’d come this far and might as well see it through. Each of us followed Yagra down a long spiral staircase. It came to an end in a small room with a single door.

We cracked the door a bit. The next room contained painted eyes all over the walls. It was a bit unsettling when trying to be unnoticed. I noted a magical eye stalk descend into the room. It looked about and then retracted, unable to see us through our veils of nondetection. We stepped in cautiously. I noted a hidden door on the wall opposite the door we came through. This seemed a good way to continue to sneak around. We all entered and closed the door behind us.

So far, so good. The room we entered was filled with lifelike statues. Too lifelike, recalling the petrification gaze of Xanathar. This must be a holding room for his frozen enemies. We maneuvered into the room and saw it make a turn. Around the turn we heard a little squeaky voice. I snuck up to the corner and peered around. A little gnome dressed as a jester was talking to a small puppet. The gnome’s sanity seemed to have left long ago as he sat in the hallway talking to the puppet. I learned the puppet’s name was Mr. Muffins and the gnome feared that he’d be next to suffer Xanathar’s anger.

I quickly slunk back and reported to the group. We decided this unhinged gnome could be a major problem to our sneaking about. I snuck back up and mimicked the gnome’s voice. The gnome got really quiet and perked up. He slowly began to come up the hallway towards me. I waited until he went past me and then I struck out. My rapier scored a hit. The gnome yelped out and turned to run. Before he was able to get anywhere, I hit him again bringing him down.
We quickly tied him up and searched him. Mr. Muffins was a dart gun in disguise. We located several poison darts in a pouch and quickly took them. The gnome looked at us in fear. He told us that his name was Flutterfoot Zipswiggle and he was Xanathar’s jester.  After we answered a riddle, he agreed to cooperate with us and informed us about the doors in the hallway and who resided in each room behind the doors. None of the rooms felt particularly inviting save the one at the end of the hall which appeared to contain Thorvin. Feeling pity for the gnome, we knocked him out and put him in a corner behind one of the statues. Hopefully that decision will not come back to haunt us.

The Stone of Galorr began to become much more animated. Yasuo took it out and we found it jerking towards the door at the end of the hallway and also towards a descending staircase. It appeared two keys were here. Hopefully this meant our fortune was turning in our favor.

We crept down the hall and cracked the door open on Thorvin’s room. It was incredibly noisy as a large pulverizing tool was turning the statues to dust. Thorvin was in the room but his back was to us. Plus, there was an albino gazer hovering over his shoulder and one of those magical eyestalks was in the room. This might have to wait until a better time. We decided to leave the room and explore more.
A quick notion struck me. Anyone can be a Xanathar agent. The identifying mark was the eye tattoo. We found some inks and made the eye symbols on our heads. At least somewhat looking the part, we continued on with our explorations.

We chose a hallway off the one we currently occupied. It contained another secret passage. We opened it up and made our way to the other side. It led into a large circular room which contained the largest fish bowl I’d ever seen. A strange little guy (seems par for the course at this point) was feeding the fish and chatting to it in some insane manner. The source of insanity appeared to be all the purple flakes floating around in the room. It was identical to the strange shop by The Skewered Dragon which we encountered hunting down Renaer and Floon months ago. The most disturbing however, was Xanathar himself was here.

The purple flakes began to affect our minds. Yasuo activated his breathing mask on his suit. That was a bit sudden seeing the mask clamp down hard and obscure Yasuo’s face. We retreated and figured we didn’t have much of a chance to win any battles under those conditions. Plus, knowing reinforcements would be moments away didn’t make anything easier.

Noska Ur'Gray
We left the secret passageway and found descending stairs to the lower levels. At the bottom of the stairs we encountered a large, raucous party. It appeared that all Xanathar’s troops were celebrating something loudly while consuming vast amounts of food and drink. All at once, the noise stopped as all eyes turned our way. A burly dwarf who sat opposite the room stood and demanded to know who we were and what business we had. I stammered a bit, looking for the right line. Yasuo, being more versed in military discipline stepped up. He yelled back for them to make way as we were on special assignment for Xanathar. The dwarf thought about it and let us through albeit begrudgingly. We wound our way through the mess hall and exited the other side. After we cleared the room, the party
went back into full swing.

The passage we chose took us to a kitchen. Some poor halfling chef was in a panic. He scurried all over the kitchen tossing this and that into a stew pot. He saw us and thanked whichever god he worshipped and told us to take over while he went to get more ingredients. Davian had a clever idea. He took the poison darts and emptied the contents into the stew. That should even the odds as I’m not certain we can make our way back should the need arise.

There was another door out the back of the kitchen. We quickly took it. It led into a dark, dank and dusty passage. We crept down and found a room. The Stone of Galorr continued to point excitedly into the room. We opened it up and found a study. There was a desk and a few chairs. A quick examination of the room resulted in a bag of holding. We deduced that the bag may be the stolen property the two drow had told us about in the alleyway. Taking a moment to check further, we found yet another secret passage off this room. It led down a short hallway into a room with twenty kegs of black powder. These must be the second key.

Fortunately, the kegs fit nicely into the bag. Once we had them all in the bag, we began to strategize for our next part. Then it happened.

The air began to turn. It developed an odor and began to burn. Thia announced a spell had been cast, cloudkill, and we should get out before it reaches full strength. That is all I needed to hear. I turned and sped out the passageway before it could take too much of an effect on me. In the study stood a drow mage and a large floating brain with a beak and tendrils hanging down below it. I was instantly repulsed at its appearance.

Yasuo came speeding out of the passageway with his mask down. He took one glance at the floating brain creature and charged it. I decided stopping the mage would be in our best interest to get my friends out. Fortunately, Thia, Davian, Yagra and Primara came charging out and joined the battle. The brain creature wrapped up Yasuo and tried to devour him. The armor protected him as we sent our attacks into each of our opponents. We poured our attacks into the brain creature until it sunk to the floor lifeless.

The drow mage then appeared to want to surrender. Thia had none of it and sent a barrage of magic missiles into him. His body slunk to the floor, joining the dead brain creature. Deciding someone had to have heard the fight, we retraced our steps quickly back to the kitchen. There the stewpot was empty as the haggard halfling attempted to keep up the breakneck pace. I made mention for him not to lick the stewpot as we exited out to the dining area.

Yasuo stepped into the dining area and narrowly avoided a crossbow bolt. Looking into the room, the once festive mood was replaced with a scene of misery as the soldiers laid about moaning. Only the dwarf was unaffected and had taken up position behind a table. He scowled at us and reloaded his crossbow. I ran into the room and flipped down the table. Without his cover, he fell quickly as we assaulted him with all our attacks.

That was certainly bound to be noticed. We stormed up the stairs. The gnome had told us of a room containing five dwarves who acted at the surveillance force for the lair. We had to get to them quickly. Fortunately, they were located behind the last door in the hallway. Opening the door, one of the dwarves was shouting an alarm to someone else in another room. We swept in and took out the dwarves. I mimicked the voice of the dwarf.

“Everything under control. Situation normal,” I stated to whoever was on the other end.

“What happened? What is going on?” demanded the voice.

“We had some intruders but they were dealt with. Unfortunately the troops fell ill in the dining area,” I answered.

The voice was silent for a moment. Then it came back.

“Alright. Thanks for taking care of the intrusion.”

I signed off and brushed off my brow. It seemed a good time to see if Thorvin would be of any assistance. We went to the end of the hall and opened the door. Thorvin was still there with the watcher. We crept in and got Thorvin’s attention. He looked alarmed. I quickly and quietly spat out that we were with Mirt and the Harpers.

Thorvin began to panic a bit. He quickly sent off the watcher and scolded me.

“Keep your voice down!” hissed Thorvin. “That watcher over there will rat us out in no time. Plus are the magical eye stalks.”

“Not any more,” I told Thorvin. “We took them out.”

“Oh, that’s too bad,” said Thorvin. “I wanted to spare them.”

We quickly brought Thorvin up to speed on our goals and the current situation. He thought about it a

moment and said we could blow up the lair with some of the black powder kegs. Placed in key locations, the entire lair could be demolished. Time and surprise were not on our side so we decided to run directly at Xanathar. Thorvin gave us a way to neutralize Xanathar’s anti-magic aura. We thanked him and suggested he get out. Thorvin left with the gazer, which turns out to be one of the keys to the dragon vault that we are looking for. He said he’d collect the halfling chef and the insane jester on his way out.

Ott the Fishminder
We went back down the secret passage. Our plan was to roll in two of the black powder kegs and then clean up whatever was left. We lit the kegs and rolled them in. After what seemed an eternity, one of them went off with a small bang. It seemed like there should have been a bigger boom. Fortunately it did seem to clear the air.

Quickly each of us flew into the room to take on Xanathar. The insane fish keeper was still in the room but we didn’t see Xanathar. He must have left. We’d have to sort that out later. First, this fight would need to be won. After a brief exchange of spells and swordplay, the fish keeper was done. Thia carefully took Sylgar into a smaller portable fishbowl and we placed that into a pocket in my armor. He’d be safe there for
the time being.

Now the question was what to do once Xanathar found out what we’d done and that we were the ones responsible…

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The Search for Kwalish

The Search for Kwalish 


The first thing we saw after vanishing from Manshoon’s hideout was a grinning Urstil Floxin, arms crossed, looking pleased to see us. As we began to materialize at the Gralhund Villa, we could feel ourselves being tugged away. We instead appeared in our tavern. The scene was all wrong. Yagra was stiff as a board on a couch. Mirt and Renaer sat looking sheepish. In front of us was a beautiful woman sipping wine. She thanked Lif for his service, dismissing him. The woman introduced herself as Vajra. The Blackstaff, here in our tavern! Vajra told Yasuo that we should be more careful and that he would find a spy outside in the alley. Yasuo returned carrying Haru, the Kozakuran coachman, who was frozen stiff like Yagra.

To my relief, Vajra was not here to harm us. She heard about our activities and could safely guess that we were after the hoard of gold. She informed us that should we find the gold, we may keep a portion. But the gold is Waterdeep’s property and the rest must be returned. It was embezzled from taxes. But the real reason Vajra was here was that she had a mission for us.

Our mission was to bring Kwalish--a powerful mage--back to Waterdeep, along with some documents. At this, a wizened gnome stepped forward followed by a golden orb with wings. The gnome, Anaxi Zephries, is a Cartophile while the golden orb, named Gearbox, is a monodrone Modron. The Modron people are ruled by mathematics and logic. Gearbox would be accompanying us on this mission, assisting us as he is able. Anaxi rummaged through his satchel of maps and found one that would lead us to Kwalish.

Vajra told us that she had seen signs of life in the giant statues around Waterdeep. It would be disastrous if they wake. She suspects Halaster is the cause of the statues waking. We must bring Kwalish back. The powerful wizard makes mechanical magic items (for instance, the Apparatus of Kwalish, which is used for diving under water). He would be able to help with whatever is happening in Waterdeep.

She said that we may keep any loot we find, but not the documents claimed by the Cartophile. Vajra handed us a carpet, telling us that it was a means of traveling there and back. So that we would not be hindered by the law enforcement of Waterdeep, Vajra granted us membership as Gray Hands. She said that if we prove ourselves, we may be elevated to Force Grey, the elite strike force.

Vajra and Anaxi departed. The Modron remained with us to aid us in our task. At their departure, the spell that froze our friends ended. Haru spoke with Yasuo and gave him a magical blade, then departed. Seeing our quizzical looks, Yasuo said it was a matter of honor and left it at that.

Having just arrived back at our tavern from our adventures in acquiring the mask key, we decided to rest that night before heading out to rescue Kwalish. Vajra said that we were heading to a mountainous region so we packed and dressed accordingly.

The next morning, we donned our gear and stepped onto the teleportation carpet. We appeared at the top of a valley. It was freezing! The wind howled and I don’t think any of us were dressed properly for this weather. We could see a large, floating island in the center of the valley. The island looked to be made of rock and was held aloft with fiery machines.

A creature further down the valley waved to us. As we approached, we could see that it was a regal gynosphinx. Most of her head had been replaced by machines. She informed us that in order to go on our way to the island, we had to beat her in a game of riddles. The gynosphinx claimed to know everything. If we could ask her a question she didn’t know the answer to, we could pass. Yasuo asked the first question: Who would be the next emperor. The gynosphinx gave a correct answer. How she knew Kozakuran current events, I do not know. One of the orbs that hovered around the her head flew over to Yasuo and zapped his head, stealing some of his intelligence. Now we knew the consequence of failing at riddles. We proceeded to ask a few more questions, and hey, why not ask useful questions, as well. So we asked some questions regarding our quest for keys and gold. We learned that one of the keys we are seeking--the “dangerous spice”--is brought to Waterdeep by Jarlaxle Baenre, a famous drow known to run smuggling operations. The powerful drow disguises himself and the crew of his ship as humans or elves. We also learned that “Gold” refers to a golden dragon who guards the layer of Aurinax. All of this is good to know, but it was taking a toll on our abilities.

Clearly we weren’t going to win this “game”...So we attacked before those orbs could steal more of our talents. The gynosphinx tried to disappear, but Yasuo shone the light of his blue eye and we could see her. Quinn’s angels finished her off. We had smashed some of the floating orbs during the fight, and they returned our group’s stolen abilities. We scooped up the remaining orbs to examine later.

Looking up, we saw a plume of flame as a boat came toward us from the floating island. It was piloted by what looked like a grim reaper. That’s...unsettling. We climbed on the boat and headed for the island, the pilot remaining silent for the whole trip. Three more figures waited for us on shore. They held staffs with crescents on top. One of them welcomed us to the monastery. I assume this whole island is considered a monastery. He said that the Grand Master would like to see us, and proceeded to lead us along a path. Looking at this man, he appeared human, but his face was flayed off. He told us that this is the Monastery of the Distressed Body. No kidding. We walked past all kinds of humanoids on the island, each with some form of bodily distress. We were all on our guard for whatever might come.

We arrived at a cathedral. The large double doors opened onto a knave. We could see balconies with robed spectators. Sitting on a throne at the far end of the room was a bone devil, flanked by two half-orc guards. The bone devil had long, sharp claws and a severe-looking staff. He wore a cloak that appeared to be made of flayed faces. Metal rings circle his tail and legs. In our presence, he ordered a monk killed. Other monks immediately stepped forward and jabbed the condemned with their staffs. A bright light shined between the crescent points of their staves, killing the monk.

We ask the bone devil--the Grand Master--if Kwalish is on the island. The devil replied that Kwalish is on the island that that he assumed control of the island from Kwalish. The Grand Master kept prompting and insisting that we had come to join and serve The Order of the Distressed Body, while we repeated that we were only here to find Kwalish. After this back and forth, the Grand Master signaled to his men and the fight was on. The spectators from the balconies leaped down, igniting their laser scythes.

Taking in our situation, I could see that the bone devil and his two half-orc guards were lined up nicely for a particular spell, lightning bolt, that I recently learned. I might be able to hit all three of them...So I ran over to the left side of the throne, getting all three in my sightline, and shot off a lightning bolt. Success! Of course, that drew attention to myself and I became the nearest guard’s and Grand Master’s target. I deflected the orc’s sword but couldn’t evade the bone devil. I cast another lightning bolt at the devil and sent Primara to attack, but she missed. Primara made multiple attempts to send the bone devil back to its plane of existence, but failed each time. Good effort, though. The bone devil mostly ignored her, except for one attack which caused a great deal of harm to her. Thank goodness Primara can heal herself.

Davian and Quinn appeared occupied with the scythe-wielding cultists, while Yasuo was fighting another foe. Yasuo looked like he was in trouble for a moment, seeming to turn to stone. But he recovered and continued fighting.

I felt a little surrounded in this battle. There was the half-orc and the bone devil, but then some others joined our party in the corner. At least the bone devil was preoccupied at times with my companions. At some point, another monk like the one Yasuo was fighting came over to battle me. I had just dealt some serious damage to a martial artist guard using my shocking grasp spell when I was faced with this adept newcomer. I barely had time to block his sword and was struck. I felt myself transforming, growing shorter. I saw a reflection of myself in the adept’s sword. So I had become a crocodile! Gurr! The adept looked panicked, and for good reason. I snapped at his leg, chomping down and thrashing him about. His screams ended and there I was, a crocodile holding a severed leg. I remembered who I was and spat out the leg as more cultists attacked. I managed to kill one of them.

I heard Yasuo in distress and shouted to Primara but my shouts only sounded like crocodile hisses. Telepathically, I asked Primara to run over and heal Yasuo who was engaged with the bone devil. Unfortunately, the bone devil struck Primara as she was healing Yasuo. Soon, Yasuo finished off the bone devil with his Wakizashi blade and we defeated the remaining cultists. Quinn’s guardian spirits are amazing! Oh my goodness, are they powerful. I recovered, returning to my elf form. We took the time to rest and to heal ourselves properly. That battle was a close one.

Before leaving the cathedral, we did some investigation. We discovered a portal behind the throne, but decided against venturing into it for now. Maybe we would return here if we had time. The Grand Master’s crown and scepter looked valuable, so we took those. I inspected the orbs we had taken from the sphinx. One of them granted proficiency in religion and the other granted proficiency in a language. Talking among ourselves, we discovered that Quinn, a cleric of Tempus, was not proficient in religion. We gave that orb to Quinn. I held on to the language orb for now. We also gathered up our enemies’ weapons. We investigated the magical swords that the priests had used. The Sword of Medusa petrifies its target, while the Polymorph Sword turns the target into something random.

Outside the cathedral was a scene of panic. People were running, there was shouting, and we could see that the island was sinking. We rushed over to the jail in hopes of finding Kwalish, but there was no sign of him there. In a massive chamber next to the prison, monks were shoveling ore into hatches, attempting to keep the machines fed which held the island aloft. We ran over to the next building which contained instruments for tanners, butchers, and alchemists. Grotesque masks were hanging, drying. A man was strapped down with monks surrounding him, preparing to flay him. We killed them and freed the man. We searched the building for anything useful, and found a magic suit. We took it for now, but didn’t use it until we could understand it.

In another building, we found five glass containers lined up along a wall. Live brains floated inside. We felt pressure on our heads and could hear the brains talking to us. They asked if we were here to save them. They explained that they were the ones keeping the island afloat. In exchange for helping us reach Kwalish and for keeping the island stable, we would have to rescue them. They told us about the importance of power cells, which can be found on each of the monks’ staffs. So we rushed around gathering as many power cells as we could find. The brains told us that Kwalish was located on a small island and the only way to reach it was ten floating disk. Each brain controlled two disks and each brain had a different personality that needed convincing to help us. Quinn intimidated Rodelek into helping us and deceived Corolis for his help. Keilier used logic to convince Duston to help, while Yasuo sang to Editha, who required a song. With the brains agreeing to help us, we rushed Kwalish. As we left, Duston called out, “beware the medusa!”

We leaped from disk to disk without incident and reached mini island. We opened the door of the single building on this island and saw many glass statues of hooded monks. It looked wrong, and we immediately understood Duston’s warning. There was a medusa in here. I remembered what I had studied about medusa and told the others to not look directly at it, just in case they didn’t already know. We could hear the medusa and see it through the glass statues. We made some attacks, but it was difficult when you could only use reflections to aim. We figured out that the medusa was undead, so Quinn sent it fleeing with a spell to turn away undead. It crawled to a corner and cowered. I cast a spell to stretch a web over the corner, preventing the monster from escaping. Then Davian cast a spell to shroud that corner in darkness so we wouldn’t accidentally look at the medusa.

With the monster safely out of the way, we could investigate the room and rescue Kwalish. There was another brain jar in this room, this one containing the brain of Kwalish. He was very particular about how to disconnect him from the island and about gathering up his precious creation, a suit. We all worked as quickly as we could. The island was sinking faster now and we didn’t have much time left. We wouldn’t be able to rescue the other five brains. I hate to break promises. While gearbox and Kwalish struggled to keep the island from crashing, we all worked to disconnect Kwalish and his suit correctly and to loot the room of anything of value. We set everything on our transportation carpet. It was piled high with platinum, additional power cells, potions, another set of magic armor, tools, books, and various other things. Once we were ready, we all simultaneously stepped onto the carpet and appeared back in our tavern.

The Blackstaff was pleased to see us return with Kwalish. As promised, she allowed us to keep all of the treasure we managed to bring back, except for the manual of iron golems. (Later, she returned this book to us and instead took the manual of flesh golems.) Also, Gearbox would stay with us now. He proved to be a useful distraction, aiding Yasuo during our battle with the Grand Master, and also kept the island afloat while we disconnected Kwalish. The Blackstaff departed with Kwalish and we were left to investigate our plunder. 

A more mature Quinn


Home never seemed so welcoming after our interaction with Manshoon. We’d need to start to strategize about our next course of action in this dizzying intrigue in which we’ve become entrapped. Our stride was brought to an abrupt halt when we entered The House of Spirits. Sitting in the bar was a sheepish Mirt and Renaer along with the Black Staff herself, Vajra Safahr! She had with her a well-dressed gnome companion, introduced to us as the Cartophile. Our reputation within Waterdeep must be growing for us to come back to this.

The Black Staff had a request for our services. It appeared to be urgent and knowing the Black Staff’s

reputation, the request should not be delayed or, heaven forbid, denied. Our ghostly bartender Lif brought us food and drinks while we listened to the details.

The mage Kwalish had been located. This mage is someone of the utmost importance to the magical leadership of Waterdeep and had been missing for quite some time. The gnome stepped forward at this point and introduced us to a mechanical construct named Gearbox. Gearbox is a monodron of the Modron race. It is quite logical and uniquely specialized to providing directions to Kwalish. Mirt stepped forward at this point and gave us a rug. The rug was a magic portal which would teleport us to the general area. Once we have secured Kwalish, we would all then stand on the rug once again to be returned to the tavern.

The plan seemed simple enough although the devil is in the details. Not much in the way of detail could be provided other than we’d be going into a mountainous region. No idea of who or what might be calling those mountains home. But we really couldn’t decline. We informed the Black Staff that we’d begin at first light.

The following morning we gathered up what we’d need for survival in the mountains. Once all was assembled, we all stepped onto the rug and activated the teleport spell. At once, we were transported to a high mountain top. The view was breathtaking, having never been far from Waterdeep. The air was clean and crisp, although the arctic temperature nearly took my breath away. Gearbox piped up immediately and indicated the direction we should follow. Scanning the area, we noticed a giant floating island contained within the mountains. Enormous engines kept it aloft.

We made our way down to a gate on the mountain side which appeared to line up with a gate on the island side. There was a sphinx-like lady at the entrance. She would only let those pass who could ask her about something of which she had no knowledge. We each tried our best to come up with riddles and facts about the most obscure but it was to no avail. I attempted to ask her about the teachings of Tempus. She was well versed and refused admittance. On my failure, I felt a bit of my mind slip. My companions had a similar sensation. We came up with a solution to this impasse. One that Tempus himself would be proud.

The fight was quick and violent. Once it was over, we felt our senses regained. Several orbs that had been circling the sphinx lady were collected by Thia for later examination. I wonder how many had lost their mind in the attempt to gain entry. I didn’t have long to ponder as the ferry was on the way. We climbed aboard and were taken to the island.

Reaching the other side safely, we disembarked. A robed figure met us. He asked if we were there to serve the Grand Master of the Distressed Body. We had no idea what that was and indicated so. He then escorted us across the island. On our way, we witnessed a number of grotesque wounds on the people inhabiting the island. I tightened my grip on my shield while I steeled myself for what was inevitably to come next.

The robed figure led us into a large cathedral. It contained several balconies on either side and was
occupied by a number of other robed figures. On the dais opposite the door was seated a bone devil. The bone devil was flanked by a pair of giant half-orc monks, each wielding a huge greatsword. A pair of clerics were also at the front as well. We stepped up to the front of the cathedral. The bone devil then spoke.

“Welcome. Who among you are here to serve The Order of the Distressed Body?”

Not one of us stepped up or offered a reply in any way. The grotesque images we had witnessed were too stunning to offer any sort of response other than “None of us.”

The bone devil sighed and stood up.

“If you’ll not serve willingly, you will serve unwillingly in death or worse.”

I’m all too happy to bring a fight to end these atrocities. In the name of Tempus, the fight began. Yasuo strode right up front to engage the devil himself. Thia and Primara headed to engage the robed figures on the left side while Davian and I took the right. The evil cleric was a priority target and would be dealt with quickly and decisively. His mistake on partnering with this evil would be his last. Spells and blows were exchanged. At one point, he attempted to paralyze me in a holding spell. I guess he didn’t see my shield symbol for I am a warrior priest of Tempus and do not succumb to spells of that sort. I fought off the effects and put my rapier through his throat.

Spells were cast right and left, scoring hits against the servants of this evil cult. Surprisingly at one point, I glanced over to see how Thia and Primara were faring only to see Thia get hit with one of the Monk’s greatswords and was transformed into a crocodile. The sword-bearing Monk looked alarmed, and had apparently hoped she would turn to something less deadly. We pressed the attack and eventually overcame the cult members.

It took all our strength and our wounds were deep. I walked over to the cathedral doors and barred them. Then I sat down next to them and would cast my thaumaturgy spells to maintain the illusion that nothing was awry in the cathedral. Fortune favored us as it appeared no one really wanted an audience with the bone devil. We rested up, bound our wounds and meditated. After a while, we were set to head out again.

Chaos met us upon opening the door. Cultists scurried hither and yon in a panic across the island. We decided to use the disarray to our advantage and followed Gearbox’s directions to Kwalish. Gearbox led us to a building on the far side of the island. It had five brains floating in fluid-filled glass containers. The brains spoke to us and told us of the imminent and most likely disastrous descent of the island. Without the iron boot of the bone devil to enforce a work ethic, people began to flee the island. When that happened, the fuel was not being delivered to the tanks supplying energy to the engines. The brains operated in unison to control the island’s altitude. Without fuel, the entire thing was going to plummet soon.

We acted fast. I yelled at one of the brains as to how to get to Kwalish. The brain told me to be nicer and then said there were ten floating discs that led to Kwalish’s workstation. Each brain had control of two discs. This one agreed to keep the discs afloat for us in exchange for getting it off the island. We quickly agreed as time was becoming an issue. I tried yelling at the rest of the brains and got nowhere fast. We managed to convince each of the brains in turn that it was in their best interest to maintain the floating discs allowing us passage to Kwalish. We tricked on into it, sung to another, charmed the fourth and laid down a solid line of reasoning to the last.

Having our path secured, we hopped the discs to the floating islet containing Kwalish’s workshop. As we left the main building, one of the brains shouted out “Ware the medusa!” It was a strange thing to bellow but then again, we were talking to brains in glass containers. The workshop was filled with glass in all shapes and forms. Another brain floating in liquid was in the middle of the workshop. We detected some movement from behind the container. Each of us quickly averted our eyes. Someone shouted that it was a medusa but was undead.

“Undead!” I thought loudly to myself. Calling on Tempus again, I began chanting the undead repulsion words to turn away the undead. In the glass reflections, I could see the creature retreating to the far corner.

“Do not engage the medusa!” I bellowed out to my compatriots. “We don’t have to fight it as long as it is repulsed.”

Thia webbed up the creature for good measure. Then we made a quick decision to get Kwalish out on the magic teleporting rug along with whatever else looked important or valuable. We quickly and with much haste piled treasures and items on the rug while Gearbox took over functions of maintaining flight control of the island. Davian and Thia disconnected Kwalish from the various devices while Yasuo muscled Kwalish’s container onto the rug. I grabbed whatever else looked to be of value. Once the rug was piled high with us, Kwalish and his devices, and all the valuables, we activated the rug, teleporting back to our tavern.

Treasures spilled out with us. Several batteries were included which would power Kwalish’s container as well as an exotic suit of armor. Yasuo worked with Kwalish to understand how to don the armor and then use it to its full effect. Davian and Thia found some magical items to assist them in combat while I laid claim to a magical suit of studded leather armor. The pockets it contained would hold scores of items as I tested them out with the coins we took with us.  The armor also sprouted wings on command!

The Black Staff came to the tavern and was quite happy to see Kwalish returned to Waterdeep. She was impressed with our pile of treasure and muttered something about allowing us to keep whatever we discovered as our own. She only requested the Manual of Golems that we had found in order to, we assume, make Kwalish a new body.  She left in a carriage with Kwalish and we settled in, taking stock of our haul. This would help keep the tavern going for a while and then some as well as help us on our task to fulfill Manshoon’s mission. That will have to wait for another day.

A more seasoned Davian


“Well done boy, you didn’t suffer as much as a scratch on that island.”

“Thank you?” I thought with more than a touch of skepticism

“No, I mean it, well done.  You stayed out of the fight and let the lady take all the damage.  You really are the perfect example of what a sorcerer is.”

We were back at our tavern after a long, cold day, and I wanted nothing more than to be apart from the incessant nagging.  Lately the nagging has lessened to some extent, but he was still prone to letting me know the depth of his disappointment any time I did anything less than what a wizard would.  I’ve learned to tune him out to some extent, but it was often a battle of wills, with his winning more often than mine.

“And I must say, you made such a good choice when your power grew.  You chose fireball?  Do you have any idea how many things are resistant to fire?  Your wizard friend clearly is smarter, electrical damage affects so many more things.”

“Well then thank you for your assistance in guiding my growth.”

“One can only provide so much help.  Besides, you’re a sorcerer.” he said, spitting the word out. “I don’t know how you work.  You’re like an ant, they just knows how to do things and blindly go about their business without thinking; wizards are teachable, like actual people are, not like insects.”

“This again?  Your sharp wit just stuns me sometimes.” I did my best to drown him out, filling my head with what my father likely would have said.  I hope he would be proud of me, helping to save the town from the statues that are reanimating, though I can’t help but think about the poor souls onboard the no-longer floating island.  After fighting off the undead medusa and saving Kwalish (or, at least, his brain), the faces of those slaves fills my mind as they lay lifeless at the bottom of the ravine.

“Their fate was sealed the moment they were put in front of a furnace.” My father’s voice echoed in my mind. “You couldn’t save them, you had to think of yourselves and the people of Waterdeep.  Saving Kwalish is why you were there, and if you had stayed you would likely have perished with the rest.  Besides, they are now out of their misery.”

His words were both calming and unsettling, and I wondered why my mind felt this way.  Maybe in striving to silence Keilier, I was tapping into my subconscious.  Was this a coping mechanism that we have deep down, that would normally only manifest itself when asleep?  My father wouldn’t say such a thing, so it had to be my mind coping with the massive loss of life.

“I’m surprised you offered to ask a question of the sphinx, since you can’t afford to lose any intellect without becoming a slobbering pile of flesh.” Keilier piped up once again, apparently my mental rabbit trail lowered my defenses. “You just don’t get it, do you, your father…”

Deafening silence rushed into my mind as Keilier’s voice abruptly stopped.  I suddenly realized just how tired I was, and moments later I slipped into blissful slumber, with nothing but a reminder of the song my father used to sing when I was very young and had trouble sleeping.  A smile crept across my lips as the sound of the song filled my mind.

Friday, January 25, 2019

The First Key

The First Key


The moment I was compelled by Manshoon’s spell, I could feel my father’s displeasure, and Keilier’s disgust.  Keilier I couldn’t really care less about, but to experience the disappointment that my father would likely have at being forced into doing something against my will, that hurt.  I could hear him now, echoes of the man who tried to steer me down the path of good.  For a time, that pain and the pain of the compulsion spell drowned out Keilier’s rant, the one that was likely just beginning, and I could do nothing more than to reflect back on the events of the past few days.

I thought it’d be tougher to get past that forcefield and into the wizard towers than just digging.  How long could you be in that bubble before running out of air?  What was that thing the cult members were summoning?  Were they summoning it?  Were they keeping it at bay?  That wand we found, is a piece of the wizard who owned it still in it, like this staff and Keilier?  Why was Keilier trapped in the staff?  Was he stupid enough to get caught?  What happens to him if the crystal is destroyed? Ow, stop Keilier, I’m not going to do anything to you. Yet.

Ow, ow! Grr…stop it!  Have to think… Those teleportation circles are nice.  I wonder how many more we’ll find, and what will be guarding the rest.  Hopefully there aren’t any more floating things with flying snakes.

Was that the real Manshoon, or, the last cloned Manshoon anyway?  “You probably failed against a clone.  A Clone! Pitiful.  When I had a body…” “When you had a BODY, what?!” I shot back “…I would have resisted a spell like what he cast”, he spat out completely ignoring my retort “because I’m an actual wizard, not someone who stumbled upon magic.” “Were! Were a wizard! <sigh, massaging temples> What is it now?” “You didn’t even TRY to resist Manshoon.  Are you so daft as to think this is something to toy with?  The consequences if you go against the requirements of his compulsion are SEVERE!”.  “Yes, I realize this, but do you think we’d even be having this conversation if I resisted and he discovered this?  The rock told us we need to complete the same task anyway, so why fight it?”

With that, Keilier seemed to back away, and I didn’t realize until now that the pain from father’s disappointment seemed to have abated as well.  “Fine, you’re stuck now anyway, let’s resolve this as quickly as possible.  I HATE being told what to do, especially by an inferior such as Manshoon.”
“Yes, a mage who escaped death.  Quite inferior.”

Ow! My temples are going to be rubbed raw before I’m free of Keilier.


The Stone of Galorr is now in our possession. When I first held it, I could feel a strange, creeping sensation within my mind. It was mildly unsettling. Thia seemed interested in the academic uses of the stone so I handed it over to her. She began to inspect the stone and I could see in her facial expression the sensation happening that I also had felt. She said it would take some time before being able to use the stone as it needed to create a connection with her.

We each busied ourselves with chores and other matters that needed attending. The next day we came back together to see what the stone could do. Thia informed us that she had bonded with it and knew it would answer three questions a day. Immediately we discussed what should be inquired of the stone. The location of the dragon horde of legends seemed to be a good start.

We asked Thia to pose this question to the stone. It gave us a confusing answer about some key. Within the answer, we could tell there would need to be three keys. The location of this key seemed out of our reach for the moment. Perhaps there was one that was closer and within our abilities. We inquired about the other two keys. More riddles were given in answer.

Fortunately, one of the riddles referred to an abandoned tower within the town. It was home to two mages, one of whom had gone crazy in a rush for power. I truly hope Thia and Davian are not on this path to crazy. I’ve nearly had my fill of mad mages. The tower was, in truth, a pair of towers connected via a walkway. The entire structure had been protected by a magic field put up years ago and had been impenetrable for as long as it had been active. We set out to see if there was a way someone had not discovered.

We approached the towers and indeed found the impenetrable shield to still be in place. I had an idea to see if we could get under it. I took out a shovel and began moving earth. After a few minutes, a pack of kids came by. They informed us that this approach had been tried although the City Watch typically chases off anyone who tried it. I reached into my pouch and took out some copper pieces. Showing the kids the coins, I asked them to make sure the City Watch doesn’t disturb us. They lit up and ran around the tower.

Our work continued digging deeper and deeper. At one point, a commotion was heard around the side of the tower. We smiled to ourselves figuring the kids were earning their coin. After about an hour of labor, the bottom of the shield was found. We opened the hole further and squeezed under the shield.
“Now what?” was the question. We examined the towers for a way in. There was an open-topped walkway between the two towers that appeared to connect the second levels of the towers. That approach seemed promising, allowing us to surprise anyone or anything we might come across. The disadvantage is getting us all up before being noticed. Fortunately all seemed quiet on the grounds contained within the shield so we had little to lose. A quick flip of the grappling hook and up we went without notice thus far.

The smaller tower seemed to be the better choice for initial exploration. I checked the door and found it to be safe and unlocked. We carefully entered the tower. There was a statue of a wizard across the room from us with stairs both ascending and descending. As we all entered the room the statue came to life. It spoke a warning. We all tensed, waiting for a trap to spring or guards to confront us. After what seemed an eternity, neither occurred. Going up looked like the more promising option.
We entered a room that looked like a cross between a bedroom and a library. On the library side, we examined the books on the shelves hoping for something promising. Instead, the books flew off the shelves and began dive-bombing us. This was certainly a distraction, taking us away from our goal of discovering the first key. I ducked and weaved to the stairs across the room and went up to hopefully surprise whatever guards may be up there. I came across a magical room containing a large symbol on the floor. Unfortunately, the small floating ball creature took immediate note of my entrance to the room. It hit me with a paralyzing ray that seized up my muscles. I fell back down the stairs, feeling each hit but being unable to react.

I took note of my friends battling the last of the flying books. I shook the last of the paralyzing effects as they took down the last paged combatant. Quickly sharing what was upstairs, we elected to storm the room and take the creature down before any additional guards appear. We did just that. Yasuo took the lead and the three of us fanned out. After a series of exchanges, the creature was no more. Taking note of the room revealed it to be a teleportation chamber of some sort. The sort requiring a key to operate. This wasn’t a lock that would be picked so we decided to head over to the taller tower, seeing as we’d reached the top of the current tower.

We descended and set off the statue once more. Paying it no mind, we crossed the breezeway to the taller tower. This door was also safe and unlocked. The denizens of these towers must take a lot of comfort in the shield. We opened it and came into a room with a pair of staircases. One ascending, one descending. There were some casual voices coming from downstairs. It was unlikely that there would be anything of interest on the main floor and decided to go up.

Making our way up the tower as quietly as was possible, we came up to a room where three robed figures were standing equally apart around a circle. Each figure had a necklace with a strange symbol on it. More interesting though was the circle which contained a demon. My stomach turned and my teeth gritted at the sight. This work could not be allowed to continue. We charged up the stairs and slew one of the robed figures outright. The other two looked on terrified as the demon broke through the circle and flexed.

A feeling of pure evil and great power could be felt. I set my gaze squarely on the demon and said a prayer to Tempus. The spells came flying from my fingertips as holy bolt after bolt smashed into the demon. The radiant light of Tempus hit the foul creature hard. My friends also poured their collective attacks into the demon until it cried out and faded back to whatever hell it had come. There was no need to wait for any explanation from the other two figures as we spied evil symbols all around the room. Removing such people from the city would be a move to make Waterdeep safer for the citizens.

Taking a breather after the battle, no other guards appeared. We took the necklaces from the figures. Up still seemed to be the path for us seeing as we’ve not come across a key and there are still levels in the upper tower to explore. We navigated across a broken part of the stairs and came into the top room. The stairs led to a semi-circular room with a large, flesh humanoid standing on a plate in front of a door. I further spied holes along the bottom of the wall in the room. Seeing as it was unlikely butterflies would spring from the holes, we elected to stuff them up as best we could. With that done, we had little recourse but to approach the large unmoving figure.

Yasuo led the way as we inched down towards it. All at once, it came to life and stepped off the plate. A hissing sound came from the holes in the floor. A gas began to fill the room, although not as quickly since we filled in the holes. Yasuo performed an amazing feat, getting behind the creature and ended up standing on the original plate. Unfortunately the gas did not stop.

The battle was on. Once again, spells and weapons flew, striking the creature again and again. It took a combined effort but we defeated the fleshy guard. Its bonds fell apart with a last strike and puddled on the floor. We quickly got through the door and slammed it shut behind us, escaping the gas.
We were on the other side of the tower now. It was a small work area which led into a bedroom. We looked in to have our gaze met by a floating skull. Magical energy flowed through the skull as it demanded to know why we had disturbed it. No answer would have satisfied it so we took up our weapons and spells once more. Thia and Davian hit it again and again with their arsenal of acid sprays, freezing rays and magic missiles. Yasuo scored several hits, sending the skull bouncing into the walls. My guiding bolts flew once again, finding their mark. The skull finally shattered and the room became calm.

All of us exchanged looks and decided no one is going to disturb us up here. We took a long rest while examining the contents of the room. Lo and behold, we discovered a key. Thia and Davian determined it must activate the teleport chamber in the other tower. We’d be certain to put their theory to the test once we have had a chance to recover.

No one or thing did disturb us. We descended the stairs and made our way back to the teleport chamber. Thia and Davian set to work, determining how it operated. Once satisfied, they inserted the key and we all stood on the platform. With a quick turn of the key, we were whisked off. The next thing we knew, we were in a strange room with transparent walls. There was a solid door at our front but was regrettably locked and beyond my skill at lockpicking.

Out of one of the walls, we saw a woman in red robes take surprised note of our arrival. She hustled quickly out of the room she was in. There was no other choice but to wait until someone came for us. Someone did indeed come to open the door after a short while.

It was a solitary man dressed in a blue hooded robe. He smiled and gestured for us to follow him. He said our arrival had been expected. All around, the hallway was amazingly clean and lit with the magical glow of sconces placed along the walls. We came into a larger room where our host walked to the center. He turned to face us as the platform he was standing on rose up a bit and a gong was sounded someplace. A wand appeared in his hand and we were in battle once again.

Seeing as our goal here was to find the first key and not battle hosts, I elected to try and see if I could check the doors to our right. My friends had the attention of our host and I had no doubt more trouble would be coming along at any moment. With my eyes on the prize, I ran over and tried the doors. Locked. Damnit, I guess we’ll have to beat this guy and determine our next course of action then.  
This mage was no pushover. Fortunately for us, neither are we. As we engaged in battle, the doors I tried earlier eventually opened. Two more opponents entered and were all too eager to continue the battle. One was the red robed woman we saw earlier. The other was an impossibly fast swordsman. Tempus was watching over us and must have smiled as we claimed victory over our opponents. When the final strike had landed upon our “host”, he turned into water and made a puddle on the floor. They each had a necklace with the same symbol that the demon-summoning robed figures in the tower had. We grabbed them up and made our way down the hallway through the now open set of doors.

It led into a room where two halflings were engaged in some form of martial arts. One of them asked if the situation had been dealt with. I played along and claimed that it had been dealt with. Then they took a closer look at us and inquired as to who we were. We showed them the necklaces to which they appeared satisfied. We made our way around the room as they set back to their practice session.
We entered the room on the other side. It contained a man who looked exactly like our host.
“Manshoon, we presume?” said Thia.

“I was expecting you but have to admit I am disappointed at how long it took for you to come,” said Manshoon.

Davian took note of a mask on Manshoon’s desk. It was the first key mentioned by the Stone of Galorr. Manshoon noticed his interest in it.

“Do you want this mask? It means nothing to me and you can have it. However, I want you all to do something for me,” said Manshoon.

“What do you require?” Yasuo answered.

“I want you to kill Xanathar,” Manshoon stated flatly.

“We have no issue with Xanathar. Why not perform this assassination yourself?” I queried.

“That is not how I operate,” said Manshoon.

“I have worked hard to ensure my existence is nothing more than rumor and hearsay. It is my wish to keep it that way.”

“If we refuse?” quipped Yasuo?

A dark glare was given in answer.

“Do not try me,” threatened Manshoon. “You can walk out of here with the mask and only need to perform this one task. There’s no need to die a needless death now.”

Given our battered condition and knowing our spells were exhausted, we had little choice. We begrudgingly accepted the deal. Manshoon came around and said we would need to take a magical binding vow to ensure our dedication to assassinating Xanathar. If we did not complete this task in one month, we would suffer an agonizing death.

Manshoon began to work his magic. He set to work on each of us in making the vow. I closed my eyes and steeled my mind and heart, asking Tempus to shield me. My soul became a fortress as I felt the spell try to pierce my inner being. A short battle of wills took place before pushing back against the vow. I had resisted the spell. Not wanting to play my hand and allow Manshoon to notice the spell had not worked on me, I made to look serene and accepting of the vow. He appeared to buy it.
“Now that the vow is complete, I can teleport you anywhere you wish to go,” said Manshoon.
We decided it best to return to Trollskull Alley to determine our next course of action. With a quick motion from Manshoon’s hands, we were whisked back home. What have we gotten ourselves into?


Shortly after we arrived back to our tavern, we were approached by Yagra who requested that we hide other Zhentarim at our establishment. We politely but firmly refused. Zeraj seemed upset by this, apparently because his girlfriend lives across the street. Well then maybe the girlfriend would be willing to hide him and the others. We are already taking a risk by sheltering Yagra, and we’re only doing that because she is a friend of Quinn’s.

Now that we were safely away from scene in the alley, it seemed like a great time to investigate the Stone of Galorr. Primara informed me that she detected the presence of an aberration in the stone. Quinn must have seen my inquisitive expression and he offered me the stone. I took it. I felt something--like a slug--crawling through my mind. The sensation was both disturbing and curious. My mind felt a little less sharp than usual and I didn’t like that one bit. But in the pursuit of knowledge, I would attune to this slimy green stone. We needed to rest, anyway, after our harrowing adventure to acquire it. This was a good opportunity for me to connect with the stone since I need less sleep than the others. I learned that the stone’s name is Galorr. It can be used to cast legend lore and holds three charges, which can be regained once per day.

That evening (we had rested in the middle of the day), the Cassalanters arrived at our tavern wanting to speak with us. Lady Cassalanter did all the talking. She apologized for the incident with her doppleganger butler in the alley, saying that she hadn’t wanted it to go that far. She explained that they were in desperate need of the gold in the hidden vault. She said they had bargained with an entity using the souls of their children as collateral, and they must destroy the gold to fulfil the contract. The Cassalanters requested our help then departed our tavern. I just don’t understand it. Who would bargain using their children's’ souls? Why even bargain with a nefarius entity in the first place, unless it was under duress.  It is challenging to decypher people’s motivations and intentions. I’m finding that there is much to be suspicious about in Waterdeep.

Back to the matter of Galorr. I told my friends about the stone’s abilities and of course the first thing we wanted to know about was the vault. I asked the stone, and it brought to my mind a poem. Something about a tyrant’s love entombed and Myrkul blessed. (Quinn informed us that Myrkul is the god of death.) A vigilant knight that allows kin to pass. An ancient lock that needs three keys. Ending with a warning to not take what’s there. We decided to seek out Renaer for more information, and headed to the Castle Ward. We found him in a bar and not in a frame of mind for intelligent discussions. Renaer invited us to stop by his house the next day.

We arrived at Renaer’s house at noon and started asking questions related to Galorr’s poem. Renaer pressed us to know what this was all about, and after some hesitation, we decided to share that this was related to the vault. It’s just so tricky to determine who to trust. Regarding the part of the poem about the boughs of a vigilant knight, Renaer said that a treant named Sir Oakenheart guards his ancestors’ tomb. Anyone of his mother’s blood can enter freely. Renaer became angry (not at us, but toward his father). He said that his father probably hid what we were looking for in his mother’s tomb. We invited Renaer to accompany us to the tomb when the time came--when we had gathered the three keys.

Speaking of three keys, this was our next question to Galorr. When we were back at our tavern, I asked the stone about the keys. We received a new poem that indicated we would need to go to the sewers to find a pale tyrant. We asked Yagra about a pale tyrant in the sewers and she proceeded to tell us we would need to go far into the sewers. The problem is that there are mages throughout the sewers, scrying for intruders and reporting to Xanathar. Yagra offered to accompany us for 1,500 gold. She mentioned two entrances: one at Skullport and one at an underground river. She also said there was a fighting competition coming up, which would be another way in. It may either get us close enough to Xanathar or act as a distraction. Yasuo volunteered to enter the competition. We decided to return to this subject later and to continue exploring our options.

We decided to ask Galorr about the other two keys. The next clue said that there was a mask of rage in the tower of the brothers mage. Keilier had some helpful information about that, so Davian relayed it to us. Long ago, two brothers in Waterdeep sealed themselves up in Kolat Tower, and may have died there. Over time, Duhlark became paranoid and suspected that his brother,Alcedor, was selling secrets. Alcedor left, but Duhlark remained. Quinn said that the tower is abandoned and surrounded by a forcefield.

The final clue from Galorr talked about a dangerous spice of fire and fury from a distant shore. We decided that of the three clues, we had the most information about the tower and it seemed like the easiest location to get to out of the three. So off we went to the Southern Ward to seek the mask of rage.

Approaching our destination, we could see two dilapidated towers, one tall and one short, connected by a bridge about midway up. We could not see the magic field protecting the place, so Yasuo used his magic blue eye. There was, indeed, a magic wall. It stretched from ground to sky, wrapping all the way around the property. We could see a dead bird here and there near the barrier. We tested it, tossing a stone first and then reaching out to touch it. It was safe. The birds must have died from the force of impact flying into the wall.

Digging at the base of wall, we discovered that the forcefield extends down into the ground. Of course it does. That would have been too easy. Quinn decided we should dig more and see if there was an end to the wall somewhere underground. Some street urchins approached us, interested in our efforts. The children said that people had tried digging before but they had never gotten through, having been caught by guards while still digging. Quinn presented each child with a copper coin, asking them to act as a distraction. The children gleefully ran off. We eventually dug down far enough and found the edge of the magic barrier. The children returned, excited after their successful distraction of the guards and offered to fill in the hole behind us.

We could see lights shining from inside the tower, so it must not be abandoned after all.There was no door at the base of the small tower, so we approached the main building. The door had a complicated lock but Quinn managed to open it. The room we entered contained stacked boxes. They were stamped and looked new. We could hear some men in the next room playing poker. We snuck back outside and decided to climb to the bridge connecting the towers, and enter the smaller building. Yasuo easily climbed a rope to the bridge and pulled the rest of us up.

We entered the small tower through the bridge door. There appeared to be no one in the room except for a statue of a bearded human wizard who was aiming a wand at the door. Upon entering the room, the statue came to life and proclaimed that he was Duhlark Kolat and we should leave or be destroyed. Nothing happened immediately. Yasuo scanned the room with his magic blue eye and saw nothing hidden. We decided to avoid the statue and climb the stairs to the next level.

The next room seemed uneventful. We only saw a bookshelf with Alcedor written above it, and found nothing useful here. We continued to the next room where we saw another bookshelf with Duhlark written above it. These books flew off the shelf and battered us. At this, Quinn ran upstairs and we lost sight of him for a moment, but then he fell stiffly back down the stairs, not moving. The rest of us dealt with the barrage of books. We then took on the flying snakes and spectator that Quinn had roused on the next floor. Davian and Yasuo successfully killed the snakes and I landed the final blow to finish off the spectator. Go team! One fight at a time, Quinn…The room with the spectator contained five chests secured by padlocks. Examining the chests, we discovered that the padlocks were illusions. We decided to come back to these chests later. On the floor was a ring of runes--a teleportation circle--where the spectator had come from. We were unable to activate the circle and since we had run out of rooms to explore in this tower, we headed back to the main tower. On our way, we concluded that the the first level of the smaller tower had been used as a toilet. The stench was terrible. No need to investigate that floor.

We crossed the skybridge to the larger tower. We didn’t see much in the room we entered. Yasuo used his blue eye which revealed invisible stairs leading to the next floor. We found some chests, but there was nothing of interest. Onward and upward. The next floor looked ransacked, with shattered glass, an empty cabinet, and not much else.

We could hear talking coming from the next floor so we crept up silently. There were three men in robes chanting, staring at a demon that was slumped over within a ten-foot circle of runes. We rushed in and attacked the robbed figures. They looked startled and afraid, looking between us and the demon. I think we misunderstood what they had been doing. Rather than summoning the demon, maybe they were chanting to contain it. Once their chanting ceased, the demon roused itself and looked hungry for a fight. But before it could do anything, Primara drove the demon back to its home plane. Relief washed over me. That barlgura demon looked tough, and we didn’t have to fight it! My goodness is Primara powerful. I’m glad she’s with us. A fight ensued with the robbed figures and we defeated them, naturally. They each wore a silver ring with an embossed M on it. We took the rings.

Onward to the next floor. The room we entered had a creaky floor held in place by iron clamps. The floor was detached from the wall. Curious. There were two levers on the walls of this room, as well. Not knowing what else to do, and reluctant to pull the levers, we climbed to a ledge that connected to the next floor. Looking inside the next room, we could see a large creature standing in front of a door. The creature appeared to be pieced together to resemble a large, seven-foot-tall naked man. It was standing on a pressure plate and it did nothing when we entered the room. We could also see small holes along the bottom of the walls. This whole room was a trap and we knew it, but didn’t know what could be done about it.

Thinking back to the previous floor, Davian and I decided to use our mage hand spells to pull the levers and see what would happen. We needed to get through the door that the humanoid monster was guarding. Maybe pulling the levers would reveal a new path. Davian and I positioned ourselves at the entrance to the upper room and peered around so we could direct our mage hands. We pulled the levers. Instantly the floor shot up. Davian reacted in time, but the floor smashed into my head. My vision went black and the pain was unimaginable. The next thing I knew, Primara was standing over me looking horrified. She told me that she had rushed to my aid at once. Thanks to the healing powers of Primara and Quinn, I was well enough to continue. Though I felt ridiculous for having sluggish reflexes.
At this point, our only path lead us through the room that was certainly a trap, past the giant monster (a golem?) and through the door it was guarding. Assuming that the small holes along the walls were part of a trap, we set about plugging them with whatever debris we could find. Then it was time to approach the golem. Yasuo walked forward. The golem came to life and rushed at Yasuo, releasing the pressure plate. Gas started to pour through those small holes in the walls. A fight ensued, naturally, with the added danger of the gas. Thankfully, our efforts to plug the holes seemed to help. Once the golem was defeated, we stepped through the door it had been guarding and took a short rest.
Looking around, we could see a large rune at the end of the room. None of us knew what it was. There was a hidden door in this room which opened into a bedroom. There was a mummified body on the bed. There was also a flaming skull, hovering, that demanded we get out of its house. It shot fiery rays out of its mouth and began to chant something, but we stopped it by force. We then searched the room and found a book titled, The Man from Damara, which contained a small compartment. Inside was Duhlark’s wand! I took it. How exciting! I wonder if I can dual-wield wands. Wouldn’t that be fun?

Having come to the end of this tower and unsure of where to go next, I used the Stone of Galorr to point us in the direction of the key. It pointed toward the bridge, so we made our way back to the shorter tower and to the top floor with the teleportation circle. Before we attempted using the circle, we looted the chests in this room. We found some healing potions, among other things, that might just come in handy wherever the teleportation circle sends us.

We discovered that the silver rings we had taken off of our fallen foes are what operate the teleportation circles. Donning our rings, we stepped into the circle. We appeared in a room with glass walls and purple mist outside them. A woman spotted us, but then she left. She probably went to notify others of our presence. Shortly after that, a man walked in, welcoming us to his sanctum. This appeared to be Manshoon or one of his clones. He offered us a tour and led us to a large room. Looking around, we could see a symbol on the wall of a winged snake biting a coin. There were 12 metal masks hanging on another wall. I felt the Stone of Galorr tugging toward the east, indicating the direction of the key.

Our host stepped over to a plate in the center of the room. Gongs went off. Thus, another inevitable battle ensued. This Manshoon, a simulacrum made from ice, melted into a puddle. A woman strode through the room’s double doors accompanied by a man. She appeared to be a confident swashbuckler and he a mage. They both put up an excellent fight, but we won in the end. Searching our foes, we we found two more teleportation rings like the ones we had used to get here.

We exited the double doors and entered a huge room. The room was beautiful, with alabaster walls and floor. Two halflings were sparring. Time for another fight? Not this time! Quinn handled our brief interaction with these two, making us appear as if we belonged here. They returned to their sparring while we moved on in search of the key.

The next room contained the key, but it also contained Manshoon. A metal mask sat on a table. The Stone of Galorr went crazy, confirming that this mask was the key. Manshoon was expecting us and knew why we were here. A fight, I mean, a conversation ensued. Manshoon tossed the mask to Quinn. Was it really going to be that easy? Not quite. In exchange for the mask, Manshoon wanted us to kill Xanathar. We didn’t appear to have a choice in the matter. Manshoon was clearly stronger than all of us and we were already tired from the day’s battles. To ensure that we would follow through with our end of the deal, Manshoon magically bound us to the following terms:

  1. We may not mention Manshoon’s name.
  2. We may not act against any Zhentarim.
  3. We must kill Xanathar within 30 days.

Manshoon offered to teleport us anywhere we choose. We thought about teleporting to the next key, but we were in no condition to continue battling without a rest, first. We therefore requested to be teleported to our Trollskull Manor taphouse, The House of Spirits.

We appeared at Gralhund Villa, instead...