Thursday, November 09, 2006

Dorben 25 ---22nd Flamerule thru 23rd Flamerule--- Delving in the Keep reveals several surprises and a well armed Wraith

Adventure Journal of Dorben Wainfoster
22nd Flamerule, the Year of the Haunting


---By all that is good and holy, I hurt. That blasted creature, some kind of wraith I believe, is going to have some serious comeuppance in the future if I and my friends have anything to say about it. And that whole incorporeal ghostly thing is just terribly unsporting. If one can hit then one should be ready to be hit in return, not just let weapons pass on through. Just cheating is what it is. But if that see-through bastard does show its non-face again, I believe I shall keep a Moonblade spell ready from now on, to even the odds just in case. I may at least take solace in the fact that none of our company was slain by those cursed dark scimitars. Hopefully, our next encounter with Blackblades will end with its final destruction. And now that I have vented a bit about my aches and pains, I shall make record of the other eventualities of the day that lead up to this.

When we arose this morning at The Wall, we soon came to the realization that our Keep had seen fit to shuffle the attendance of our roster once again. We found Euphestas, Kaliki and Sa’d had been taken away while Nia and Illandria had returned. Over breakfast we told Illandria and Nia about the Beautiful Music occurrence that was the subject of conversation all around us, as well as asking them if they knew anything about the Vornax prophecies. Not surprisingly, they had not heard of the prophecies.

The discussion turned to what next adventure we might pursue. After a bit of discussion, we thought to return to Bloodstone village area to look in upon our Keep. Our thinking was that since so many of us had been called away by it, then perhaps something was occurring which we should investigate. But first we needed to set a few last things to rest here in West Wall. Specifically, Nia wished to find the two young guards she had “abandoned” when the Keep called her away, so that she might “apologize to them properly” and she would not be dissuaded from her course. We were able to restrict her to only a few hours worth of “apology” and all agreed to rendezvous at Highsun so that we might luncheon and then be on our way back toward Bloodstone.

While Nia was away on her errand, Illandria volunteered to look in on our horses and make sure all was in readiness for our departure. Trust a ranger to not be satisfied with the tender mercies of a city bound stable hand. Far be it from me to complain though, as I don’t think my animals have never looked better. Aedron said that he would make his way out to where the military forces were drilling so he might observe and learn more. Over luncheon he informed us that there were quite a few troops upon that field. No doubt they are still on guard in case of the possibility of the Blizzard Army moving against Damara.

I made use of those several hours pursuing further investigation into the Vornax prophecies at my Lady’s temple. Unfortunately, my investigations were not terribly fruitful. My inquiries were rewarded with directions to their archives on a subterranean level of the temple. I found their archives kept in good order and was soon received by Myrel, their caretaker. I admire the fellow for his good organizational skills, although I have a suspicion they are something of a defensive mechanism for him. From the thickness of the Gondish spectacles perched before his eyes, I would judge the poor fellow’s vision as quite lacking.

But he knew where his scrolls and books were located in his archives, down to the rack and slot. He was not familiar with the Vornax prophecies in particular but he did direct me to the “Prophecies, Apocalyptic, Underdark” section where I might begin my search. I was slightly distressed to see the section good Myrel had pointed out encompassed roughly several hundred scrolls. I attempted to narrow the search by sharing a few more possible descriptives but that really did not help much. This left nothing for it but to dive in, which I did.

Unfortunately, a great many of those scrolls were written in Draconian and so I was unable to properly analyze them. If I had thought to invite Meg along on my search there might just possibly have been a more productive outcome. I was disappointed to find that I could locate nothing related to the Vornax prophecies. In fact, there were more than a few writings professing to be prophecy that seemed to me little more than disjointed ramblings possibly fueled by something strongly fermented. I think setting fire to the Underdark may be a popular theme in more than a few dark fantasies. In the end, all I brought back from my explorations was a liberal coating of scroll dust and more than a few cobwebs. Not very appetizing, I must say. Thankfully, Meg was nice enough to clean me up with her cantrip spell before any wayward specks befouled our midday repast.

---We left West Wall behind us slightly more than an hour past Highsun by my calculation, and made good time. By early evening we were within sight of the hopefully-soon-to-be-named Keep of Light and Frost, right where we left it. I was slightly disappointed to see upon our approach that the lintel stone over the main entry doors was still blank. The interior did not seem changed when we first entered but we soon found that assumption to be wrong. We found what looked to be a kitchen where we had last found servant’s quarters. But most strange was the tableau we found frozen in time within that kitchen. A pair of what appeared to be some variation on air elementals were rising from the hearths at either corner of the far wall, apparently in the act of attacking a large earth elemental in the middle of the kitchen. Really quite odd. From what I saw of them, I would hazard a guess that the two rising from the hearths might be some sort of quasi-elemental; perhaps ash or smoke? I had only heard tell of such before but these did seem to fit the criteria. It seemed best to simply avoid that unusual trio since we could continue to explore the Keep without disturbing them. So we did not cross the threshold and simply took our explorations elsewhere.

Next we found what looked to a bedroom shared by three individuals, if the number of beds were any indication. There was nothing of note at first, other than the beds and a wardrobe to one side. At the back of the room we found a small closet door. We found a good sized rat with blue glowing eyes within that closet. When the stasis was broken, I forget the particulars; the rat ran straight for the middle of our group. Nia and Aedron made to grab the creature up and we were all rudely surprised when the dashed thing exploded. The blue glowing eyes had not tipped me off, but the explosion made me recall something. I had heard somewhere, sometime, about a nasty little spell experiment such as this. Mages using their craft to imbue smallish creatures with explosive spell energies and the drive to find groups of their enemies. I haven’t the slightest idea how their magic subverts the creatures’ baser instincts, but that certainly seems to be the case. The rat certainly made a bee line for the very center of our group before it exploded. We will know to seek cover if we encounter such creatures again.

Since the closet was open anyway, Nia took a look within. She found a small box and withdrew it without thinking to let Aedron check for traps. Luckily enough, the trip wire that was attached to it seemed to be rigged to nothing more than a prank level trap; a small bucket that had gone dry long ago. Aedron examined the box and we found within it a scrap of parchment with a note written in golden ink. The gold ink made me suspicious and upon examination the note did prove to be written in Celestial as I had suspected. However, the body of the note amounted to little more than a simple note of things to be done in some other part of the Keep at some time.

This area was again turning out to apparently be “servants’ land” as before, but with a different layout. No sign of the seneschal’s suite or many of the other rooms we had found before. We did happen to find a small pin that appeared very similar to the seneschal’s badge we had found on our earlier expedition. We bandied about several thoughts as to what might be going on. But all was really nothing more than empty conjecture at this point.

As we continued on, we came to the large dining hall, which again seemed only partially reconstructed or collapsed, as the case may be. The room was caught in stasis so we decided to move around from the other direction before investigating a boot that appeared to be protruding from below the half buried dining table. It was while rounding to that far doorway that we found another discrepancy of this newest incarnation of the Keep. Where before there had been a large entry hall abutted to another large interior hall, we now found a smaller hall between the two. The differences were small but nonetheless just off enough to catch our attention. It made us wonder further as to what the future holds for us and our connection to the Keep. Also, within that second hall we found the chandelier had been lowered to chest height and was lit. But the really odd thing, the thing that caught us completely off guard, was the candle flames that were apparently flitting about independently of their respective wicks. Like very, very small fire elementals, although evidently not hostile. It really did pique our curiosity but we elected to leave it for when we had more time.

Moving to the entrance of the dining hall, we soon found the booted fellow beneath the table also proved to be not quite what we expected. Upon first observation it looked as if some person were trying to squirm under the table on their back. As soon as we broke the plane of the doorway time resumed and the booted feet did indeed begin propelling themselves and the person they were attached to toward hiding. My first thoughts were that perhaps this was some person struck insensate and possibly injured, instinctively making for cover. Then again, looking up and seeing a small flock of the free flying candle flames, I thought he could have simply been afraid of being attacked by a swarm of itsy bitsy fire elementals. A perfectly understandable instinct if one has no experience with such things.

Aedron attempted to lift the end of the table while Nia and I laid hold of the fellow’s boots. We did our best to speak to this person in a calm and soothing manner as we tried to extricate him. It was only when we had pulled the fellow from his hiding spot that it became obvious we had made quite a mistake. The “poor fellow” was in fact a zombie. Almost instinctively I touched the miserable wretch with a Cure spell and brought its tortured existence to an end. Aedron was nice enough to help me haul the carcass outside the Keep and burn it to ash in a hasty blaze.

We returned within and felt we might as well investigate the candle-less flames. Aedron was successful in tempting one with a bit of tinder. I thought to offer one of Emah’s candles, thinking we might be able to observe it for a prolonged time since the candles are not consumed when lit. Those we could see were flying too high for me to reach so Aedron picked me up above his head. I forget at times just how strong he really is. I extended the candle above my head and made what I thought were tempting sounds and motions. One of the flames flitted down to the candle wick and lit there. And then the candle was quickly consumed, which of course surprised all of us. Once again. The little flame got just a bit larger and we noticed that it was exuding positive energy, giving off the same feeling of calm and comfort as Emah’s candles. It shortly began to occur to us that these candle flames might be some sort of “matured” version of the candles because the flames all seemed to emanate the “warm & fuzzy” feeling, as we sometimes call it.

The puzzle of the living flames was left for later since we had no way to analyze them further at that time. After some further delving deeper into the Keep*, we found the layout had changed again, and after further delving, yet again. The first time we found a new stone set into the floor of the entry, carved with the sigil of our company. As we examined it, one of the mobile flames flitted close and settled into the stone where the candle flame was carved. The stone carved flame on the candlewick now flickered and cast light as the real thing. The second time we found the floor plan changed, this time quite significantly, seemed to be the last for now. The great entry hall had been replaced with several intersecting narrow hallways with multiple doors. In fact it seemed more reminiscent of a large manor house than a keep really.

By this time the sun had set and we were considering staying within the Keep or at least making camp nearby. And so we set forth to check through the new rooms of this new Keep once again. We did not get far as it turned out. The first door we checked revealed a nicely appointed sitting room, octagonal shaped. The furniture of heavy wood and leather, bookshelves on the walls and tall narrow slit windows were the first indicators of my “manor house” evaluation but they were actually the second things we noticed. The tall black cloaked figure crouched in the middle of the room; THAT was the first thing we noticed.

We thought it would be best to confront this new invader here and now. For that matter, we thought there might be a slight possibility that this could actually be a civil encounter. That turned out to be nothing more than a pipe dream. A mocking, violent, soul rending pipe dream armed with twin scimitars which it seemingly drew out from its own substance. The thought of the creature brings fear and anger coursing through my blood even now.

We had set forth a rudimentary plan which amounted to little more than all of us being ready as soon as the plane of the door was breached. We did so and the awful sepulchral laughing which greeted our first inquiry of intent was enough to set us on edge. As soon as the hood raised and showed that the echoing laughter emanated from the pitch black depths of an empty cloak, the decision was made. I attempted to Turn the undead thing and send it back to the hell which spawned it. I felt my Lady’s power surge through me but even with the assistance of the phylactery we have so recently acquired, the damned creature was too strong to be repelled by my efforts. I informed my friends that we were in for quite a fight and began to ready my spells.

Evidently, my attempt to Turn the creature greatly perturbed its poor depraved soul. It drew forth twin curved black blades and attacked with skill. I was not the only one to feel the bite of those damnable scimitars. But after I called forth a Holy Rain to scorch its ghostly substance, I quickly became its favored target. The blades felt like they cut beyond flesh and slashed apart my very life essence. The fight was really quite intense and horrific. Even Aedron was hard pressed to strike the creature, and on at least one occasion that I observed, his axe passed straight through the creature with no effect. Nia related later that she had tried to flank the creature but it seemed to her that particular tactic did not have the desired effect it has had on other opponents. It reacted as if perhaps it knew the ways of the Rogue even better than Nia. From the hall behind us, the sitting room was not terribly large after all, Illandria and Meg did fine work launching arrows into the incorporeal bastard, even though their marksmanship was hindered by the torrential downpour of the Holy Rain within the room. I also thought to use a Cure spell upon the wraith but I was unable to touch the nimble blatherskite. The spell did not go to waste however, as I was able to use it upon myself shortly. Unfortunately, the monster struck me a pair of resounding blows on a moment later. I believe I apologized for fouling Illandria and Meg’s shots before Blackblades struck that final time and I lost all hold on conscious thought.

If not for the presence of my good and true friends I would have most assuredly perished from this world, again. And even more horrifically, it is very likely I would have arisen as one of those cursed creatures. I owe my friends a great debt of gratitude. The rest kept the wraith from me while Illandria reached forward to heal me somewhat with one of the Cure wands we purchased for just such an emergency. As soon as I regained consciousness I called upon my Sacred Healing ability so that all of our party would gain some healing, even should I fall again. I had planned to heal myself a bit further and then rejoin the fray, but that was to soon prove unnecessary. It seemed we had dealt Blackblades enough harm that it chose this point to laugh mockingly, fade to complete etherealness and run away through the nearest wall. We tried to give chase; “we” meaning “all but me” actually, as I was only barely upright and staggering at that point. But the dark cloaked ne’er-do-well eluded us and made good its escape.

Needless to say, we no longer felt it prudent to spend the night at the Keep. We locked up behind us and made our way out to the horses, right where we left them and seemingly unfazed by the recent changes to the edifice. I protested only feebly as Aedron lifted me bodily up into the saddle. I felt too weak to complain properly about being handled like a child and in truth, his concern was touching. On a positive note, as we turned to make our way to Bloodstone we noticed that the lintel stone over the main entry of the Keep was no longer blank. Our sigil, the symbol of the Company of Light and Frost, was carved into the stone of the lintel for all to see. Even with the pain that wracked me body and soul, a smile still crossed my face as we rode away. Even though we may need to evict some squatters, it would seem we have a home.

Well, my eyes are tearing up for some reason, must be a great deal of dust in the air for some reason, so I should bring this writing to an end for now. I found just enough energy to doff my armor, say my prayers, crawl into bed and write up this entry but now I am right at the end of my tether. I am exhausted and hurting and my body cries out for rest. By my Lady’s grace, I shall write again soon.

*****

Adventure Journal of Dorben Wainfoster
23rd Flamerule, the Year of the Haunting
-Very early morning


---Well now, this is something you don’t see everyday, Chauncey. “What’s that Edgar” you ask? Not even fully risen from my night’s rest and already a discovery of wondrous proportions. Even as exhausted as I was last evening, I am certain I placed my banded mail upon the arming stand before taking to my bed. And yet I arise to find a suit of full plate resting upon that same stand. It is my armor, of that I am certain. It feels as familiar as the other. This is further proof; my feet have been set to a path of discovery. I wonder what today will bring. By my Lady’s grace, I shall write again soon.

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