The Coming

The Haunted Mansion

10 Theob 2787

(DM’s note: There was no game on 19 July as two players were missing. Also, this adventure log will become more brief as summer draws to a close and my free time is diminished.)

The party waited until the barge pilot had finished his meal and returned to the barge to sleep before setting off for the ruined tower that frowned over their camping place. Access to the hilltop was via a ruined, mud-covered stairway that once served the inhabitants of the tower. As the group negotiated this half-path, they were assaulted by a number of thorn-backed toads that hurled their spines as the party encroached on their territory. One was slain and the others wounded and driven off; no one in the party was seriously injured.

The hilltop tower proved to be attached to a large, rambling, burned out mansion. The place was clearly once beautiful, but a tremendous fire had gutted the building, leaving only a crumbling shell. The roof had collapsed, allowing plants and rain to wreck further havoc on the ruin. The crumbling tower was actually one of the better preserved portions of the house, as it at least retained a high, intact wall. When the party scrambled up the last of the path and entered the courtyard of the ruined building, they experienced the first of a number of disturbing events. The scene seemed to blur and they felt as if they were transported back to the night of the fire; the house in front of them was ablaze and they could hear screams of those that did not escape the flames. The fire was so intense that it actually burned the skin of the party. In moments, however, the house returned to its present state of collapse and the entire event seemed an unreal dream, and would have been, except for the burns and blisters the party carried with them. Shortly thereafter, the party spotted a a shadowy figure staring down at them from atop the broken wall of the tower, but it melted away into the night before anything further could occur.

The party moved into the interior of the place but the rubble and plants made any real investigation difficult. They experienced a freezing drop in temperature that numbed the bones and saw an ephemeral, glowing figure moving outside the house that vanished into the underbrush. They pressed into the base of the ruined tower, but discovered nothing of importance save a once grand though now thoroughly ruined fireplace. Fritzmaul then decided to call out to any spirits in the place, for it was clearly haunted – and was stunned when the glowing figure of a man materialized immediately in front of him. The man was human, older, and was clearly the victim of a mindflayer attack. He raised his left hand in warning and with his right pointed deeper into the house before fading from view. In doing so, he revealed a curiously real-looking ring on his left hand.

The party once again entered the shell of the house, moving in the direction the spirit indicated. As they did so, Pearigren experienced another horrific vision, this one of an ogre murdering a young serving girl. Eventually the party found themselves in the overgrown garden. Here they found the insane spirit of a serving woman, babbling and weeping uncontrollably. It lashed at the group with its smokey tendrils, stealing the sanity of all those that it touched and leaving in its victim’s minds a feeling of overwhelming grief and terror. It was eventually slain with magic missiles, but many other attacks simply passed through its shadowy body.

The ghost of the old man briefly appeared to the party as they explored the garden, but it vanished before they could reach him. They searched the spot where he was last seen, and discovered the shattered skull of a child. As Pearigren touched the skull, the party was subjected to the most horrific vision yet as they saw the rape and murder of the family members and servants that once lived in the mansion at the hands of a mindflayer and its ogre guards. Understanding now why they had been guided to this spot, the party gathered the few remaining bones and moved to a peaceful place in the garden to bury them. When the deed was done, the ghost of the old man appeared before Pearigren and reached toward her. She let the old man touch her shoulder, where she felt the slightest tingle of contact. As she looked into the ghost’s eyes, she saw a sign of relief as the old man faded from view. His ring, now solid, tumbled from his fading hand and fell at Pearigren’s feet. The events thus far had been so disturbing that the party debated whether or not they should just return to the quay. The ring, although elegant, was not magical and it seemed there was nothing else to be learned in the ruins of the house. Pearigren suspected that there were secrets left to uncover, and led the party back into the ruined tower where they first saw the ghost. There, they found a trap door that was buried under ash and dirt. The door would not open, however, until they touched the ring to its surface. The trap door opened slightly at the ring’s touch, revealing a wavering light flickering up from below.

The party entered a small passageway that led to a hidden alchemical lab and a couple storerooms. The area was not wholly free of guards, however, as a skeletal snake with a human skull attacked the party as they explored the place. This was some kind of constructed guardian designed to kill thieves and it very nearly killed Simba before it was destroyed. In the alchemical lab, the party found a cache of potions, books on alchemy and the planes, a spellbook and a book that detailed the process needed to construct a necrophidius, the skeletal snake guard. The spellbook contained a custom spell, Portal Ward as well as other spells. One of the storerooms contained a mannequin that held a number of magic items: a dagger, shortbow, ring of protection, cloak of resistance and bracers. The group guessed that one of the members of the household was once an adventurer, but they had no way to learn if this was an accurate guess. The same storeroom held a number of masterwork, though rusted, daggers and bracers. A small chest held a couple pieces of high quality jewelery. These finds led the party to speculate that the wizard that once lived here planned on making some of these into magic items.

The party left the ruined mansion, sealing the various doors behind them with the intent of using the place as a base in the future. They returned to the quay where they passed the rest of the night uneventfully.

Down the Cerrat

7 – 10 Theob 2787

(DM’s note: One player is on vacation and another arrived late. We did not accomplish much, so this log is short. For various reasons, all of them humorous, XP and an MVP were awarded anyway).

The party waited until nightfall on the 8th to return to the copse of trees outside the city and reclaim their belongings, using the same mechanism as they first did to exit and return to the city. They spent the rest of their free time discussing the plan and gathering needed supplies. They also learned from Rahim that there was a loose organization of those that opposed the mindflayers. These groups tried to remain separated from one another and never used real names or revealed their faces in an effort to limit damage to the organization if a member was captured. The party decided they might need aliases in order to further hide their identities. The gear people claimed and their identities are:

Galen “Book” Tailoring kit and cloth
Fritzmaul “Terrum” 5 flasks of oil
Simbul ”Amos” Belt pouch
Pearigren ”Midnight” local clothing
Obosh ”Shoo” n/a

Very early on the day of the 10th- an hour or two after midnight, the party slipped out of the city and made for the rendezvous point Rahim described to them along the banks of the Cerrat River. They knew that in an hour or two the city docks would be engulfed in flame and they wanted to be as far away as possible from the area when this happened. Once at the meeting place, they had only to wait a couple of hours before the logging barge they were seeking floated by. They used a dark lantern Rahim had given them to signal the barge, which steered for the shallow area at the appointed place. The steersman wore a black mask, as did the party per Rahim’s instructions. He indicated that the party should stow themselves and their gear under the large canvas covering that protected the cut logs from the weather. The area under the canopy was crowded but dry though it afforded only a narrow forward-looking view of the river and its surroundings. The steersman told them they would be stopping when the sun next set as there was a rough patch of river about a day ahead that could not be navigated in the dark. The last thing the party saw as the flap was closed was the steersman removing his mask and returning to his expected place at the helm. They could see that he was bearded, but nothing else before they were left alone.

The party passed the time by watching what little they could of the river traffic. The Cerrat River seemed peaceful enough and occasionally a team of mules could be seen drawing a barge upriver, presumably making a return trip from Capscai with goods bound for Qaet. Time seemed to pass slower than normal and it seemed a week before they felt the barge move out of the current and come to a stop. The steersman, once again masked, opened the canvas covering and told the party they were at the stopping point near the rapids they were told about. They could hear more of the river at this point, but could not yet see the turbulent water.

The stopping point turned out to be an old stone quay at the base of a low hill on the western shore of the river. Atop a hill was a crumbling tower that looked as if it had been sheared in half. In response to the party’s questions, the steersman would only say that it was said that the stone quay was once for the use of wizards that lived in the now ruined tower atop the hill and that the tower and hillside were said to be haunted. If not for the rapids ahead, no barges would stop at this point. The steersman also said that he was glad he was not alone, as he usually was when he was forced to camp here. While the masked steersman made ready a camp aboard his barge (he would not sleep ashore under any circumstances), the party quietly discussed a late-night excursion to the tower to see if they could uncover any of its secrets. The party was careful not to remove their masks or use their real names within earshot of the steersman.

Leaving the Finhold

23 Etissa – 7 Theob 2787

In the morning, the party made ready to travel back toward Thridein. The weather was warm and clear, but the mood was tense. Pearigren initially guided the party in a wide, southeastern loop away from The Knee and ensured the party took time to hide any signs of their passing. This approach meant that the journey to Missile Rock would take nearly three times as long, but everyone felt it was worth it. The party spent a quiet night in the forest and resumed their journey the next day. They had not gone far, however, when a huge praying mantis – at least seven feet in length and extremely well camouflaged– grabbed at Obosh from a nearby tree. The party fought back fiercely and was able to blast it with enough magic missiles to drive it away. Pearigren pursued it for a short time, but returned to the group when it was clear that the giant insect was truly driven off and unlikely to return. The party spent the rest of the day and another quiet night working their way slowly toward Missile Rock.

When the party reached the vicinity of Missile Rock, they spread out around the area on both sides of The Knee while Fritzmaul began searching the bank and the bottom of the pool. During discussions on their way to the Rock, the party did not believe the literal meaning of the note they received – that the object they sought was actually buried under the large, flat rock. Instead, they reasoned that the message must actually imply that whatever they sought was buried nearby. While Fritzmaul splashed about in the pool, the others kept a watch in all directions. Despite this vigilance, a young boy managed to move up quietly beside Simba. He was walking next to the Knee as if he were following it northward toward the Finhold. Everyone immediately recognized him as Gaeg, one of the students at Thridein thought to be lost in the slaughter of the school courtyard. This gave them pause, for they did not want to kill a potential survivor and classmate, at least without being certain it was necessary. This delay proved costly as Simba realized too late that the boy was injured badly enough that he should not have been walking and what he mistook at first for blood was some kind of ambulatory, russet-colored, amoeba-like creature that scurried into hiding under the boy’s clothing. At the same time, the boy coughed or spit a red-brown wad of spores or seeds into Simba’s face. Simba could feel his sanity slipping away as the spores rushed into his lungs. Convinced that Gaeg was nothing but a shell for whatever was living inside him, the party responded with a fusillade of magic missiles and arrows. Gaeg’s body, now clearly wrecked, collapsed to the ground, but the russet amoeba slipped away into the nearby grass. The fluid nature of the thing and its small size made hunting it in the tall grass difficult. It moved and hid, spitting its spores at any that were close enough to find it. Eventually it was cornered between a number of the searchers and destroyed, but Galen was also affected by its sanity-blasting spores before it was killed.

While Galen and Simba tried unsuccessfully to clear their heads, the others resumed the search for the object indicated in Rahim’s note. Working together, the party found a crudely sewn leather pouch in the muck at the bottom of the pool. It seemed inordinately heavy and stiff. They decided not to open it but instead stowed it securely and then began to discuss their next move. Galen really wanted to return to Thridein and search for any books that might have escaped destruction during the battle there but Pearigren argued strongly against this course of action, instead urging everyone to continue with their true mission of continuing on toward Qaet. Eventually Pearigren won out, but this did not diminish Galen’s desire to gather books and other knowledge in the future.

For the balance of the 25th of Etissa and for the next 11 days, the party worked its way out of the forest and across the plains southward toward Qaet. They stayed well west of the Cerrat River as they journeyed, as a blasted, decaying forest was on the far side that did not look at all safe or appealing despite the cover it might provide. The weather grew hot and storms lashed the plains, making travel uncomfortable at times. The party was assaulted twice – once by a brain-like fungus that crawled on lanky tentacles and again by a huge bat – both undoubtedly creatures of the ruined forest across the river, but otherwise found the land to be empty. As they settled down to a cheerless camp on the evening of the 6th of Theob, though, they recognized they were nearing the edge of civilized lands. Farm fields dotted the distance and a city stood on the horizon.

The next morning, the 7th of Theob, the party ventured into the farm country. They tried as best as possible to avoid the fields and by a stint of good luck met no one as they worked their way toward a copse of trees a few miles from the city. From this vantage point they could see the gates and some traffic going to and fro on the road to the city, though they were too far away to learn much else. They spent the rest of the day discussing how they might best approach the city and begin searching for Rahim’s token upon the wall. In the end, they determined that they would wait for the middle of the night and approach the gates as near as they dared while remaining outside the few lights they saw nearby. They also decided to hide the bulk of their gear in the copse of trees so that they would blend in as much as possible with the peasants they saw earlier. There was some concern about Obosh, for dwarves were uncommon in the area, and he refused for some time to relinquish his axe and armor. In the end, however, everyone buried the vast majority of what they carried, keeping only daggers and belt pouches for the most part. Whatever they encountered in Qaet would likely not be solved by force of arms anyway.

When it seemed it had gotten about as dark as it would get, the party ventured toward the city, making for the closed gates. No guards stood outside, though the party was certain that the gate would at least be watched. For this reason they stayed well away from the circles of light thrown by the braziers at the gate, though they did pass close enough to the gate to see that several gibbets hung along the wall nearby, their unfortunate denizens moaning and weeping. Shortly after this gruesome discovery, the party spotted a large bird atop the walls west of the gate. Its markings clearly showed it to be a mocking bird. It hopped about for a short while atop the wall then flew off into the darkness to the west. The party followed as best they could, noting that the bird landed several times on the wall before finally stopping and allowing them to catch up. It tapped the wall with its beak and then soared off into the darkness. Presently, a thick canvas sack sailed over the wall and landed near the party with a muffled thud. One end of the sack was tied with a sturdy rope that traveled over the wall and out of sight. The other end of the sack was knotted closed. Inside, they found a number of black cloth masks. They donned these and then one by one used the rope to climb over the wall and into the city.

On the other side of the city wall, they found a large, silent man also similarly masked. He said no words to the party as he retrieved the canvas sack and rope and then motioned them to follow. Their mysterious guide led them down a number of twisting alleys and across dark quiet streets. Here and there light leaked out from around shuttered doors and windows, but there was little sound. He guided them to a door that opened into an alley strewn with refuse. Inside, the party could hear the muffled sound of conversation and the clattering of mugs and plates and could smell a stew or soup on a fire. Rather than leading toward this room, however, their silent guide led them into a storeroom and to a hidden trap door in the floor. He then departed without a word through the same door they had entered. The party descended the ladder and entered a well-lit room that seemed almost homey in its appearance. As they stood blinking in the light, Rahim stepped into the room from a small side passage.

The party was very happy indeed to meet their old mentor and master and in turn he was very pleased to see that his most advanced students had survived the attack on Thridein. While the party ate a warm, delicious meal, Rahim plied them with questions regarding the attack and especially the number of survivors secreted away at the Finhold. The party told the entire tale of the battle, the flight to the Finhold and the days spent afterward ensuring it was safe and ready for occupation. Rahim was deeply saddened that only half the student’s survived, but was extremely pleased with the party’s efforts, and especially pleased with Pearigren’s daring solo rescue of the three students in the days immediately after the battle. When he was satisfied with the state of affairs, he told his tale to the party.

Rahim was severely injured in his battle with the mindflayer and was in no shape to make it to the Finhold. He had enough presence of mind to remove certain items from the burned corpse of the mindflayer and secret them before heading south toward Qaet. He believed that the mindflayers would be looking for him, and he wanted to be as far from the Finhold as possible if he were found. He therefore came to Qaet, where he sought refuge with a secret network of resistance fighters so he could heal and prepare for an attack if he were somehow followed or found. When no attack came, he sent a message to the Finhold in hope that at least some of the older students escaped. He also admitted that he had heard rumors of possible mindflayer activity near Thridein in the week before the attack on the school, but that he had no idea the school had been discovered or he would have moved the students to the Finhold earlier. Rahim then showed the party the contents of the pouch they recovered from Missile Rock. Inside were two curious necklaces. The first was a delicate chain of light, silvery metal. It held a pendant in the shape of a featureless diamond slab of the same strange metal. The second necklace was a heavy steel chain. From this chain dangled a hollow, clear crystal globe about two inches in diameter. Inside this globe was an oblong, grayish lump of “something” about half an inch across. This mysterious object floated in a pool of thick gray-yellow translucent mucus. Rahim indicated that these necklaces were around the neck of the mindflayer he killed and he expressed hope that they might lead to a better understanding of their mindflayer overlords and a means to weaken or kill them. Both necklaces radiated magic. The delicate one radiated divination magic while the thick steel necklace radiated necromantic and enchantment magic. It was for this reason Rahim stored them in the curiously heavy pouch in which they were found. This pouch was lined with lead between layers of leather, which would foil detection and finding spells. After showing the party what they had recovered, he put the necklaces back into the pouch; he felt certain that any mindflayers sent to learn what happened at Thridein would use divination spells to find these items in hopes of finding the mindflayer that owned them, its corpse, or those responsible for killing it. Indeed, he was quite certain that a number of mindflayers were already in the area and were planning a major incursion to Thridein to learn what happened there. It was for this reason he sent for his favorite students.

The party sat quietly as Rahim outlined a bold plan. He intended to return to the Finhold ahead of the mindflayer force and hide the students deep inside or perhaps move them altogether. Their sorcerous bloodlines were too precious not to preserve and he was willing to risk his life to ensure his students were not attacked a second time. Furthermore, he asked the party to aid him in this effort, but in a manner in which was wholly unexpected. Rather than traveling back to Thridein and the Finhold, he asked the party to draw as much attention as possible to themselves as they could as they moved south from Qaet to Capscai. The idea was that the mindflayers knew that survivors escaped the battle and that survivors were likely to head for Qaet, where food and shelter were readily available. The plan involved making the mindflayers believe that the survivors were headed south, causing as much retaliatory damage as possible. To this end, in two nights time, other agents would set several boats ablaze in the Qaet docks. The party would already be out of the city by then, waiting on a logging barge that would pick them up clandestinely and move them downriver to Capscai. Once there they are to burn additional ships in the Capscai harbor and otherwise let it be known that people with sorcerous power were in Capscai. This approach would draw attention from the northern expedition that was forming at that very moment in Qaet. Furthermore, the party was to maintain ownership of the necklaces recovered from the dead mindflayer to draw further attention to them as they moved south. Until that time, the party was free to rest in Qaet and gather any supplies they felt they would need. As the city was full of mindflayers and their forces, strangers would be singled out for questioning as soon as they were found. For this reason the party was not permitted to leave this hidden room, though they could ask Rahim for anything they needed and he would ensure they obtained it. The party agreed to this task, as long as they could depart the city and recover the items they buried in the nearby forest. Rahim agreed to this stipulation and the party took their first real rest in some time.

Zoog Forest

22 Etissa 2787

The party recovered from the battle with the strange creatures and moved deeper into the mysterious cavern. Despite the ferocity with which the creatures attacked, it was clear that the party was substantially more powerful than their foe. Perhaps it was for this reason, then, that the group soon saw a strange procession forming at the edge of their torchlight and in the half light of the glowing crystals tucked under the mushrooms and fungus that filled the cavern. Groups of the small, feral creatures stood in neat lines while a clearly aged, decrepit member hobbled toward the party. This creature held a mushroom cap that contained a thick, faintly glowing liquid in its paws. Unlike the others of its kind, it’s bright, silvery eyes were more of a dull gray and they were barely luminescent at all. It approached the party slowly though fearlessly in what could only be described as a gesture of peace or at least parlay. When the creature reached Pearigren, who always remained somewhat in front of the others, it stopped and offered the glowing bowl to her. It trilled something to her in its weird, flute-like language and waited patiently until she took the bowl from its hands and sipped the glowing liquid. Almost at once, the trilling of the creatures became understandable to her and in return, she found she could trill her responses. The words of her companions faded into meaningless babble as she became fully aware of the creatures’ strange, musical language.

Pearigren learned that the old creature had a name that translated to The Walker Between and that these dangerous, secretive creatures called themselves zoogs. They had lived in this cavern for as long as any could remember. As they talked, The Walker Between guided Pearigren deeper into the cavern with the rest of the party following behind in confusion. While the creatures seemed to have set aside their murderous intentions, they surrounded Galen and watched him carefully and with barely controlled menace. More and more zoogs crept from the shadows as the party made their way toward the back of the cavern. Here the zoogs had created a strange village in the nearly petrified trunks of enormous fungus. An incredibly ancient stone circle surrounded by huge pillars of stone occupied a special place in their community. The Walker Between explained that it was a temple of sorts, though the deep carvings in the circle were symbols that represented madness or utter chaos. The alien nature of the village did not stop with this, though. Jagged areas of darkness hung like rigid clouds here and there. The partial branches of twisted trees poked through these dark areas, creating a forest with no discernible signs of support, as if the tree trunks that held the branches had been discarded while the branches themselves remained in place. When questioned about this, The Walker Between could only say that the trees were part of some other place the zoogs also live in, and that they sometimes go there to visit others of their kind. Once it was clear that the zoogs were not going to murder their guests, the rest of the party drank from the fungus bowl and joined their host in conversation. Only Galen was not permitted to drink; The Walker Between indicated that Galen was friends with their most hated enemy and would never be trusted. Apparently, the zoogs had a great enmity toward cats of all kinds, and Galen’s affinity to Shadow, his tattoo familiar, marked him as worthy of nothing but slaughter.

The purpose of this strange parlay was soon made clear to the party. The Walker Between and his people did not wish to do battle with ones as powerful as the party. They also wanted to learn more about another of their enemies: the “creatures from beyond the tunnel” (the trogs). Fritzmaul showed the zoogs the iridescent mail shirt he took from the slain body of the trog leader and described the destruction of the trogs. The zoogs grew ecstatic at this news and seemed to hold the party in higher regard, even moving a bit away from Galen in a sign of respect. The next concern of The Walker Between was the party’s intentions. He wished to remain in this cavern and was concerned the party may seek the destruction of the zoogs as well. Pearigren soon negotiated an agreement with the venerable zoog chieftain. None of her people would descend past the mushrooms that stood in the tunnel leading into this vast cavern and no zoog would go beyond these same mushrooms. Violation of this agreement would mean death to the transgressor. The Walker Between further suggested that if any from Pearigren’s tribe grew unfit, the zoogs would welcome this person as a culinary gift of sorts. Pearigren declined this offer, indicating that “her tribe” would not be sending anyone into the cavern intentionally. For its part, The Walker Between seemed to readily accept this answer. When it came time for the party to depart, Pearigren and Fritzmaul gave gifts of parting to seal their relationship with the zoogs. Pearigren gave The Walker Between a potion of blur, which immediately began to glow when the light of the zoog’s eyes fell upon it. The zoogs trilled excitedly at receiving such a gift. Fritzmaul gave The Walker Between the mailed shirt he took from the trog leader and this gift was likewise accepted with great admiration. The Walker Between touched foreheads with both Pearigren and Fritzmaul and gave them his blessing that they and those under their protection would be welcome. Even Galen would be safe if he came with one of these people, though at any other time the zoogs would slay him. The party then left the cavern and returned up the long, steep tunnel to the crumbling trog temple. Along the way, their speech gradually changed from the fluttering language of the zoogs to their normal mode of speech. The others filled Galen in on all that had transpired, as they were unable to speak with him until the magic of the glowing draught had worn off.

Once in the temple, the party searched the place thoroughly. Galen and Pearigren found a loose stone in the pool surrounding the claw-like alter. Under this stone was a small hole that held a rusted iron wheel. Turning the wheel caused the claw-shaped alter to divide and pivot, revealing a small cut-out area that held the bones of some ancient trog priest or hero. The bones were so old that they crumbled at a touch and the cloth that once wrapped the body was mere dust that fell away with each breath. Under the bones was a remarkably well-preserved spiked shield that radiated magic. The party soon discerned that this relic was a spined shield. They took this prize and returned the way they had come, climbed up the rope at the sinkhole and returned to the Finhold .

Roz approached the party while they were recovering from their expedition. She explained that yesterday evening, Thardon was standing watch outside the Finhold and saw a mocking bird hopping about on the rocks above the underwater entrance to the Finhold. Tied to its leg was a note. Everyone in the party shared a glance; the mocking bird was |Rahim’s favorite animal, because it could mimic something it was not, a trait he wanted his students to be able to master if they were to survive in the world once they left Thridein. Roz handed the note to the party, which read:

Give this to one of the five. It is for their eyes only. If none survived, the oldest among those that remain must undertake this task.

I fear to write to much. You must trust your instincts. Below the missile rock lies an item of value. Retrieve it. Do not handle the contents nor remove them, your very life depends upon this. Bring the item to Qaet. Come at night. Look for my token upon the wall. Do exactly as instructed.

~ R

The note was indeed mysterious but seemed to come from their missing master. The Missile Rock mentioned in the note was a landmark their clearly knew from their days at the school, but they had never been to Qaet and knew little more than that it was a city teeming with enemies.

As the sun set, the party began to discuss whether the note was truly from Rahim and how they might be able to find “his token” upon the city walls.

The Sinkhole

20 – 21 Etissa 2787

The party’s previous excursions into the deeper portions of the Finhold were both dangerous and profitable. As the party geared up for their descent into the sinkhole they discovered, they hoped that this new endeavor would bring a similar reward. Instead, they found something wholly unexpected.

Pearigren, the party’s designated scout, was the first one lowered into the hole. After 60 feet of featureless rock chimney, the area below her dangling legs opened into a cool, dark, dry cavern. She received a bit of a fright as she was lowered passed a large, four-armed, stone statue of a bipedal alligator god. The rest of the party descended one by one, spreading out along a steeply sloped rock that overlooked a large cave with a sandy floor. A quick investigation of the statue revealed that it was old, possibly very old, and showed signs of wear. Across the sandy floor, bones and a rusted manacle indicated that at one time, at least, intelligent beings used this cavern, though the purpose of such use was grim.

The party took the manacled bones as a warning and instead investigated a couple of smaller caves that led from the lower edge of the tilted rock to an area below and behind the idol. These caves descended and twisted somewhat and eventually met. Both looked as if they had been hand-worked a very long time ago but were so worn and collapsed that only a few signs showed that they were once straight halls. The walls of these caverns were pocked with what looked to be rat holes, though no rats could be seen. The party advanced cautiously into a small chamber riddled with rat holes and the sharp scent of urine. The walls were once ornately carved in bas-relief that had all but crumbled to ruin with the passage of time. The floor also looked to be finished, but settling and cracking had destroyed any semblance of order. With nothing more to learn, the party continued onward.

As they walked in the passage that joined this chamber to the first tunnel they investigated, eel-like creatures with long bodies and large mouths full of razor-sharp teeth darted out from concealed holes in the walls, returning to their lairs with lightning speed to chew whatever flesh they managed to rip from their prey. Fritzmaul immediately retreated from the area while the others tried to battle the creatures for a time. Galen was eventually so badly hurt that he collapsed from blood loss and would have died but Simba was able to drag his bloody body from the hall back into the chamber they had just left.

Once they had recovered from this attack, Pearigren led the party away from this side passage and back down the first tunnel they investigated. This tunnel led to a large cavern that might have one time been a grand hall, though now it was little more than a cave. Rat holes and cracks lined the walls and the party could hear a strange rustling and susurrus ahead. The far floor of the cavern was stained with what looked to be a dark, fuzzy carpet of fungus in which strange red sticks poked out periodically at odd angles. The cavern air smelled thickly sweet.

The rustling turned out to be from thousands of insects that fed upon the oily drippings of the red fungus, which was the source of the strange sweet smell in the chamber. This fungus was not simply a food source, however, as it also trapped any insect that was too greedy in a sticky mess, eventually killing it. As the party brought light into the chamber, a myriad of fat, white moths with wide, fuzzy antenna dropped from the ceiling and swarmed around the party. It became impossible to see anything in the swirling mass of white wings. Fritzmaul called upon his connection with the night sky to blast a couple of dozen of the moths, but they showed no signs of abating. The party withdrew up the passage they had just descended with the moths swirling behind and around them. Galen wisely placed a light spell on the cavern ceiling, which held the moths’ attention as the party retreated back to the large cave that held the steeply sloped stone.

With the lower caves explored, the party decided to move on to the sandy-floored area to investigate the bones. The large, open area and sandy floor were intimidating. It seemed like anything could be lurking under the sand to devour the unwary. They therefore descended into this area cautiously and sent only Pearigren and Galen forward to learn what they could about the bones, which seemed to be of some sort of reptilian, bipedal creature. The bones were picked clean and mostly intact. While they examined the bones, a thick, clear, jelly-like creature rushed at them from a small, nearby cave. The thing had four long, whip like tendrils that dripped a potent acid. It managed to lash and burn a few of the heroes before it was destroyed with magic and Pearigren’s well-placed arrows. The party regrouped to heal but had no time as the sound of their fight against the jelly had revealed them to the cavern’s true owners: troglodytes. These foul-smelling humanoids rushed from two side caves, wielding especially primitive stone clubs and even hunks of stone. Although the party suffered a few wounds, they were able to kill all those that attacked them. This battle had no sooner ended than a second wave of trogs rushed at them, presumably from somewhere deeper in the cavern complex. With the party weakened by so much fighting, this group proved harder to destroy, though they eventually killed all but one trog, who managed to get away.

Tired and low on spells and healing, the group decided to retreat to the top of the steeply sloped rock area and rest. While it may seem foolish to try and camp so near a known enemy, the terrain was very favorable and afforded the party plenty of cover while preventing any sort of ambush from attackers. They set watches for the evening, which passed peacefully until the middle of the night. Obosh was on watch, looking out over the sandy floor of the cavern, which he kept lit by repeatedly placing light spells on stones and throwing them from atop his guarding place. He was shocked, however, when the perfectly normal cavern suddenly wavered and a huge centipede appeared in the center of the area. He knew at once that it had been summoned, but could see no spellcaster or other indication of how the creature came to be. The worm’s many legs allowed it to charge up the steeply sloped rock face and race amongst the sleeping party even as Obosh managed to shout out a warning. Fortunately, the party slept with their weapons close at hand and sprang into action when they heard Obosh’s cry. Although Obosh was bitten twice, he resisted the thing’s venom. Just as suddenly as the huge insect appeared, it vanished in a noxious cloud before anyone could land a telling blow. The party remained alert for some time, but ultimately decided that their position remained secure. They settled back down to rest for the remainder of the night, which passed uneventfully.

The Refuge

19 Etissa 2787

The party decided that they would head first to the right hand passage before investigating what looked to be a cavern leading deeper down. As they neared the mouth of the tunnel, Pearigren spotted a blue-white light coming from somewhere ahead. The party approached cautiously. Pearigren was in the lead, followed closely by the silent Tamil-Ro. Galen came next and then Fritzmaul. Last was Simba, who spent the majority of his time looking over his shoulder to ensure the group was not being stalked. The tunnel continued to bend to the right with the turn becoming sharper and sharper. All the while, the blue light steadily grew in intensity. As they rounded the corner, they saw that the light was given off by a clump of bulbous fungus that grew along the very edge of the floor of what was clearly a dead end. Pearigren and Galen (who had moved forward to see what could be seen) took a step closer and immediately plunged into quicksand. Pearigren just managed to keep from sinking below the deadly liquid while Galen was able to throw out a grasping hand and catch enough of the firm tunnel floor to hold himself above the surface. Obosh tried to pull Pearigren up, but Tamil-Ro stood awkwardly in his way, preventing him from getting a decent grip. After a few more desperate moments, she and Obosh finally clasped hands and with the dwarf’s help, she managed to get free of the muck and back onto dry land.

Once Pearigren and Galen were clean and dry, they continued to the only other tunnel leaving the large cave. The ceiling height dropped to 6 feet and the tunnel narrowed slightly as it descended and then terminated in a room with a lower ceiling yet. This cave was covered in stalagmites and stalactites and was damp. Pearigren and Galen noticed that the huge, white cave crickets had fled to the very back of this cave and even now they were hopping from shadow to shadow in the back of the place, trying to stay out of the light. There was a debate about killing the crickets as they explored this new area, but Obosh noticed that their current tunnel did not actually terminate, it only bent very sharply back on itself. Given this new path forward, the group pressed against the wall farthest from the crickets and continued onward. This new passage widened enough so that two could walk abreast, leveled out after a brief descent and the ceiling inched upward so the party did not feel as cramped.

Once again, a smaller tunnel opened on the party’s right, this one bending tightly back in the direction they had come. The party detoured into this tunnel, with Pearigren and Galen leading and Simba watching behind as always. The tunnel soon terminated in a small round chamber. On the back wall of the chamber was a man-sized statue that looked remarkably like the web-men Tamil-Ro had fashioned in the webbed caves above in that it was devoid of features and detail and was only vaguely humanoid in appearance. The figure’s arms were extended outward, bent at the elbow, palms upward, perhaps in a sign of greeting or welcome. A pile of clear quartz stones and mica flakes were in the palm of the figure’s right hand. Obosh noted that the statue was etched with magical symbols. Pearigren approached to search it more thoroughly, but when she drew within a few feet of the thing, the palm of the right hand began to glow brightly. The light, traveling through the quartz and reflecting off the mica, filled the chamber with a dazzling, colorful cloud of light. There was no immediate harm however, and the party was able to determine that the light was nothing more than a common cantrip they all learned how to cast at Thridein. Galen used magic to try and read the runes inscribed on the statue but found they made no sense from an arcane perspective. They were certainly runes used in magical formula, but conveyed no meaning when translated. Pearigren proceeded to search the statue and surrounding area, but could find nothing. Meanwhile, Galen examined the pile of glowing stone and the palm of the left hand carefully. He suspected that there was a puzzle to be solved before the statue would reveal whatever secrets it held. He decided that the stones must be balanced between the hands (and it did look like the left hand was cupped in a similar manner to the right), so he attempted to move one of the quartz pieces from the right hand to the left. As soon as he lifted the stone from the pile, he triggered some sort of arcane trap, for he burst into flame. He managed to put out the flames rapidly and was lucky that his clothing did not catch fire, so he was not seriously injured. He did drop the stone in surprise however. It was with some trepidation he retrieved it from the floor, but he suffered no further ill effects. The group spent ten or fifteen minutes further manipulating the stones both magically (via mage hand ) and physically, with no other surprises and no effect. Since a few members of the group had active spells cast, they decided that whatever mystery the statue may hold would have to wait and they retreated back down to the main corridor and resumed their exploration of the cave system.

The party did not have to go far when they reached what must be Ghan’s Refuge. The tunnel they were traveling bent sharply to the right and ended in a featureless though very rusted iron door. While Pearigren tried to open the door or find a mechanism to do so, Obosh examined a recess in the cave wall on the side of the wall nearest the door. This recess was no more than a foot wide and half that tall and was blocked by an equally rusted and pitted access door. Fritzmaul suggested that based upon the door’s position and size, it may be an arrow slit or murder hole of some kind. Pearigren checked it for traps and in doing so found that the access door’s latching mechanism was just as rusted as the rest of the door. The small plate fell open at her touch, revealing a dark room beyond. Obosh’s darkvision allowed him to spot a rotting wooden crate on a rock shelf nearby, filled with a number of vials or flasks. While Pearigren resumed her efforts to open the main door, Obosh recovered each of the vials by using mage hand to float the vials through the small door one at a time. When he had finished, he had four vials filled with a light blue liquid and four filled with a clear liquid. All were stoppered with wood stoppers and sealed with wax. Pearigren suspected these flasks were volatile, and a quick test of each revealed that the clear liquid was a strong acid and the light blue liquid was alchemist’s fire. Since the party had no other means of opening the iron door, they poured the remaining three flasks of acid on the door and then battered the weakened door down with Fritzmaul’s flail. The rusted iron fell away in sheets and chunks and the party peered inside to the room beyond.

The large chamber they saw was littered with what appeared to be human bones, swept together in piles and small heaps. Beyond the piles of bones were three passages that headed off in different directions. The entire room was lit with a soft, white, watery glow that emanated from somewhere on the party’s right. Tamil-Ro pushed forward eagerly and called out for Ghan in the peculiar hoarse whisper he had for a voice but there was no reply. What did happen was that the piles of bones swarmed upward and formed themselves into skeletons. Each was wielding a rusty dagger. Pearigren found herself nearly surrounded but was able to get her back to a wall and drop into a defensive stance. Other skeletons slashed madly at Tamil-Ro and their blades found their mark several times. Fritzmaul immolated one with a hurled flask of alchemist’s fire and Obosh smashed another with his axe. Tamil-Ro suffered another deep cut and staggered slightly. Simba saw this and rushed forward, placing a healing spell on their companion. Unfortunately, Tamil-Ro was an undead creature, something that the party suspected but had forgotten in the heat of battle. The healing spell flooded the already damaged creature with positive energy and turned his skeletal body to ash. Pieces of his ribcage and the spiders that lived inside him clattered to the floor. There was no time to grieve this mistake as the skeletons pressed the attack immediately. However, the party was able to move deeper into the room and bring all of their power to bear and the battle was soon over.

There was some concern over the death of Tamil-Ro, but the party felt that he had come far enough to learn Ghan’s fate and that while his death was an accident that could have been prevented, they hoped his spirit would find peace. Fritzmaul and Obosh investigated the shimmering light, which rose from a deep clear pool of water on the right side of the large room while Galen searched carefully through Tamil-Ro’s personal possessions to see if they could learn anything further about Ghan’s Refuge. The others stood watch to ensure the party was not ambushed by other undead.

Fritzmaul and Obosh discovered that the light was coming from a flaming torch lying on the bottom of the pool, partially hidden by a rock overhang. Fritzmaul swam into the deep, clear water and retrieved the thing, confirming that it was a common torch, now waterlogged, with a continual flame spell on it. Galen sorted through the items in Tamil-Ro’s backpack and discovered that in addition to his spellbook and diary, he carried two jars filled with an off-white paste ( cure disease, four doses) a fine dagger ( dagger +1 ) and a sturdy oak wand with inlaid brass ( wand of knock, CL 3, 2 charges). Finding the wand was an almost comical moment in that the party had asked Tamil if he had any magic that would help them bypass the iron door. He had been unable to answer coherently at the time, something the party had come to expect from him, and so they forced their way into this large chamber without the use of the wand. Finding the wand now, after all the effort expended to batter down the door, was indeed ironic. Obosh used one of the curatives in hope that it would help eliminate the crushing pain he was in because of the infected fly bite. He felt better immediately, and resolved to hold on to the the rest of the curatives should the party need them.

Neither Pearigren nor Simba heard anything stirring within the Refuge; it was clear that whatever help Tamil-Ro had intended to bring, he was too late. The skeletons put everyone on edge and they crept down the right hand tunnel as cautiously as they could. This short tunnel ended in a filthy piece of canvas curtain that blocked progress. Pearigren used her bow to move the canvas aside. What they saw astounded them. A man waring tattered wizards robes stood atop a jumbled, decaying pile of tents, furs, blankets and canvas on the far side of the room. His skin was tinged green and he had an abnormally large jaw filled with sharp teeth. The figure issued a prediction that no one would leave the Refuge alive. Pearigren immediately dropped the curtain and a the party broke out into an argument about how they should proceed. Without warning, the curtain flew open and the man-creature burst through. He slashed at Pearigren with his dagger and bit Obosh on the shoulder. Obosh felt a wave of magic wash over him that he could not resist; his muscles locked and he was unable to move. Pearigren retreated back into the large room while Galen raced forward to grab the paralyzed Obosh. Simba hurled magic missiles at the thing but it was protected by a shield that prevented the missiles from striking it. The creature clearly was magical in its own right, for it struck Galen with a dark gray ray that sapped his strength. The group began an unorganized retreat down the hallway and into the larger room. This blocked Pearigren’s line of fire and greatly endangered Obosh. The dwarf was dead weight and Galen was struggling to move him swiftly. The creature rushed up to Obosh and opened its jaws wide with the intent of tearing out his throat when Pearigren finally had a clear shot and struck it solidly with an arrow from her gravity bow. Obosh recovered and managed to stumble back into the arms of his friends. Most of their magic was either spent or useless against the creature and it seemed to sense this as it plowed into the group with wild, snarling abandon, slashing with its dagger and biting anyone that it could. Simba drew off from battle long enough to apply one of the potions he claimed from Rahim’s lab in Thridein ( oil of magic weapon +4 ) to his quarterstaff while Fritzmaul drank a potion he recovered from the same place ( potion of displacement ). The creature used this break in the battle to retreat and empower his free hand with a spell that caused his hand to glow with a pale, sick light. It also called forth two other skeletons from alcoves in the room it came from. One attacked Fritzmaul, the other never made it into the fray as Galen was able to destroy it with magic missiles.

The battle moved from one based on furious action to one based on maneuvering. While Fritzmaul sparred with the skeleton attacking him, the others tried to corner the creature and kill it. The creature was cunning and swift, however, and continually moved so as to prevent Pearigren from getting a clean shot. It managed to strike Galen savagely with its dagger and then again with its glowing hand, which was terribly cold and sapped his already lowered strength even further. The battle was not going completely the thing’s way, however, as Fritzmaul was able to destroy the skeleton attacking him and Pearigren was able to sneak an arrow passed her friends and into the creature. At last they had the creature surrounded and even though it fended off most of the attacks, Simba was able to land a terrible blow with his magically-imbued quarterstaff that split the creature’s skull.

The creature wore several pieces of expensive jewelry and wielded a dagger +1 . The party returned to the room where they found the creature and searched it thoroughly. In the pile of bedding, they uncovered a spellbook which Galen determined to be focused on necromantic magic and a carved, bone wand ( lesser animate dead , CL5, 4 charges). There was no diary or other information to explain what befell the wizards of Ghan’s Refuge. The rest of the Refuge was unguarded and the party explored it rapidly. Down the central tunnel they found a storeroom for food and other essentials. The stores had been deliberately destroyed and the food ruined. The final tunnel led to an alchemical lab and library, though it too looked like it had been deliberately destroyed. The library shelves had been pulled down and all the books burned in a large pile. A cold heap of ash was all that remained of spellbooks, scrolls and many tomes useful to arcane casters. Galen sifted through these ashes, saddened by the loss of so many books. Luckily he thought to search the pile magically as well and found that a scroll tube escaped the conflagration. Inside was a single scroll ( mage armor , shield , CL1) The others managed to recover some useful alchemical equipment, about 25% of the lab.

With the Refuge clear, the party made their way back toward the Finhold. They investigated the pool and fungus in the large room with the waterfall and found it to be safe enough now that the ceiling beasts were slain. They also investigated a side passage they bypassed earlier in the day when they were racing to catch up with Tamil-Ro. This passage seemed to carry the bulk of whatever water used to flow through these caves. It sloped steeply downward and finally ended in a 10’ wide hole that plunged downward into darkness some 80 feet below. The party decided that they had to fully explore the caves before naming the Finhold truly safe. They resolved to return to this sinkhole and explore it once they had a chance to drop off the alchemical equipment they found and take a well-earned rest in the Finhold.

Into the Finhold

16 – 19 Etissa 2787

Once most of the stragglers into the Finhold were provided with warm clothes and a place to rest, the party realized that Pearigren had slipped out of the cave without anyone seeing her depart. They had planned to investigate the webbed area at the back of the cave as soon as possible, but Pearigren’s disappearance caused the rest of the group to wait for her return. Roz mentioned that Pearigren had told her that she had a task to take care of and would be back as soon as she could. The vague message only served to increase the party’s tension as they waited on their companion’s return. As night began to fall, their annoyance at Pearigren’s absence turned to concern that ranged from her being in danger to her being a charmed or otherwise enslaved thrall of the mindflayer that attacked Thridein. The party resolved to set off after her in the morning if she had not returned at some point in the night.

The next day, the 17th of Etissa, dawned cool and bright, but brought no news of Pearigren. The party decided to wait a bit longer and organized the survivors now living at the Finhold into watches and established a simple but effective alarm system those on watch could use to alert those inside the Finhold. By noon, the party was worried enough about their friend that they set off toward Thridein, reckoning that Pearigren would almost certainly go there. The group traveled well off to one side of The Knee and kept as quiet as possible as they worked their way through the forest toward the school. As evening approached, the party spotted a group of figures moving northward toward the Finhold on the far side of the stream. A few tense moments passed when neither group could reliably see the other, but eventually Galen was able to discern that the travelers were Pearigren, Thycein (a boy of about 8), Naywyr (a girl of about 8) and Maedia (a girl of about 13). Relieved that they had found their friend, the party set up camp nearby and planned to rest, for it was clear that the younger children were tired and hungry and that Maedia was badly injured. While the rest of the party saw to the food and tents, Pearigren told her story.

She briefly described her decision to travel back to the school to see if she could find Rahim or Orvall (her old boyfriend, who had not made it to the Finhold) and learn what state the school was in after the battle. Galen strongly admonished her for setting off on her own and told her that such tactics would not be acceptable in the future, but Pearigren did not seem overly concerned with Galen’s reaction. Pearigren related that a troupe of ogres were encamped in the school courtyard, the apparent victors in the battle. She also related her daring rescue of the three children, which were being held in a crude log pen near the ogre’s camping spot. The children related that they believed that Rahim had killed the mindflayer that attacked the school, but that he was nowhere to be found. The children believed they were being held until a second mindflayer could arrive to question them about the school and the hiding place of any survivors. Thus, while Pearigren took a great risk in setting off on her own, her visit to the school was a success and denied the ogres and the mindflayers the opportunity to torture or charm their captives into revealing the location of the Finhold. Galen remained upset that Pearigren had left on her own and wanted to travel to Thridein to verify her story, but the rest of the group wanted to return to the Finhold and take care of more pressing business. Galen grudgingly went along with this plan. After an uneventful night in the forest, the party returned to the Finhold with the rescued children, arriving about mid afternoon. Pearigren set off almost as soon as the party arrived to explore the landscape around the Finhold to determine if there were any more defensible locations nearby, but found no place better place to resist an attack than the than the Finhold itself. With all mundane tasks addressed and the party unified, they spent a final night with the other survivors, resting in preparation for the exploration of the webbed area of the cave.

When the party awoke in the Finhold on the 19th, they put aside their differences and focused on exploring the webbed area at the back of the cave. While the others gathered their gear, Galen spent time investigating the webs at the back of the cave. It appeared that a chunk of fallen stone partially blocked a passage deeper into the cave. The area between this stone and the cave wall was completely blocked with dense, white webbing of a kind Galen had never seen before. Rather than being sticky or fibrous, the webs were closer to finely stretched wool or cotton. Every so often he could see a dull flash of green phosphorescence deep within the webs like a stroke of distant heat lightning. By watching carefully, he finally spotted the source of this curious phenomenon: shadowy outlines of four-inch spiders moved thither and fro inside the web sheet. These spiders had some sort of glowing gland on their underbellies that would wax and wane in intensity. His investigation also revealed that a very subtle draft of air moved through the webbing and into the Finhold’s main cave. This air was had an organic, acrid bite to it that attracted flies and beetles from the water’s edge into the wall of thick webbing.

When everyone was ready to proceed, Galen asked that the group not burn the webs but try to bypass the spiders peacefully. They did not seem to be aggressive or at least were not aware of his presence outside the webs and he believed there was no sense in destroying the entire colony if it did not represent a threat. Obosh used a sharp dagger he was carrying to carefully part the webs and cut them free of the stone with the intent of forming a passage to the tunnel beyond. He worked slowly and with care not to harm any of the spiders and they in turn merely scurried to the uncut part of the webs as he widened the rent he was making. The webs yielded reasonably well to his blade and he was able to thrust his head through the six-inch web curtain to see what lay beyond. He spied a rough, winding tunnel that curved sharply to his right some distance ahead. The left hand wall of this tunnel was dense with webbing that seemed mounded like a snowdrift piled high by the wind. The webs decreased in thickness near the ceiling and along the floor. There were dozens and dozens of the curious glowing spiders scuttling through this webbing. The acrid smell was noticeably stronger and the party could now hear a curious squeaking coming from some place ahead.

After carefully opening up a passage through the webs, the party moved into the tunnel beyond. The left wall proved to be extraordinary as it was not solid but was instead a large opening that was completely sealed with webs except for eight to ten six-inch circular openings at various heights along the corridor. At first the party believed these to be entrances to spider nests, but they soon discovered these openings were more like web tunnels that linked the current passage to a vast cave beyond. Peering through one of these tunnels like a porthole revealed a beautiful and curious grotto below.

The current tunnel was something like a balcony that overlooked a bowl-shaped cave. The webs on the other side of this tunnel extended down in a curved sheet from where the party stood down to an ill-looking pool of water at the bottom of this basin. Hundreds, maybe thousands of the phosphorescent spiders crawled over these webs, hunting a myriad of darting, black insects – beetles most likely – that rushed around near the water’s edge. The squeaking came from a cloud of bats that hung inverted from the ceiling of the cave, jostling and flapping occasionally. Their thick pile of guano was the source of the acrid smell and the foul color of the pool below. Lastly, the ceiling above the pool was devoid of bats, for the place was the habitat of a curious plant or insect that grew in long, phosphorescent streamers that dangled above the pool. Once everyone had a chance to take in the bizarre natural beauty of this cave, the group moved cautiously onward.

The tunnel gradually widened as it bent to the right and opened into a smaller though no less interesting cave. On the left, two featureless, roughly humanoid shapes formed entirely of webbing stood guard like sentries. They carried rusted metal shields and wielded no weapons save for a long, sharpened stick that was not gripped, but instead was pierced through their mitten-like hands so that they had the appearance of guards holding spears. The party’s attention, however, was focused on the far side of the room where the webs were piled the thickest. What clearly was once a human male reclined in the center of the webs. The desiccated figure wore rotting, thick robes that could not hide a bare rib cage. Inside, glowing spiders flexed and quivered, giving the figure the illusion that it was breathing. A particularly large spider sat on the figure’s head like a diadem, its glowing abdomen resting in the center of the figure’s forehead like a green jewel. When the party entered, this curious figured sat up and struggled to its skeletal feet. Pearigren noted that the figure’s right leg was shorn off at the knee but the lower leg had been reattached with webbing. It gazed at the party with empty eyes and then began to speak in a hoarse whisper.

It used a curious mix of words that left the party unsure whether the figure saw itself as an individual or as the collective intelligence of the spider colony. It appeared confused and forgetful as to its purpose, though it believed the party was there to aid it since they did not harm “his subjects” (the other spiders in the colony). It was manic at times, trying to recall things that were once important to it. It seemed most focused “on the lines”, a phrase that went unexplained until the creature pulled a rotting backpack from the webbing nearby. It jealously guarded the contents of this bag but eventually handed the party a battered, faded book that at one time must have been finely made. It did not take long to determine that the book was a spellbook and the “lines” were the symbols and other arcane writings of various spells. The creature had some dim recollection of the purpose of such a book and exchanged the spellbook for a second, less well made book. This proved to be a diary dated from the year 2759 and focused on the writer’s search for a place known as [[Ghan’s Refuge]], a collection of wizards and apprentices hiding from the mindflayers in the last days of the Wizard’s War. From this diary the party learned that the writer’s name was Tamil-Ro, a wizard that hoped to enter the safety of the enclave. As a offering of his good will, Tamil was bringing a number of unguents and other curatives to the Refuge in anticipation of curing a rumored disease that was spreading through the place. The writer apparently believed that the enclave was located nearby, someplace in these caves, but was unsure of its exact location. The mission was never completed, however, as the writer’s leg was severely wounded by a beast in the water in what is now called the Finhold. The writer soon died of these injuries, leaving his quest unfinished. It was obvious to all that the diary writer and this strange, webbed and decayed being were the same person.

When reminded of the events in the diary and reminded of his name, Tamil-Ro grew more lucid and even more frantic, insisting that the wizards in the Refuge were in urgent need of his restorative salves and potions. He resolved to set off at once to complete this journey and the party had to scramble to keep up with him as he moved rapidly through the webs at the far side of the cave and vanished into a narrow tunnel. The party cut their way into the tunnel and met up with him at the next intersection. He seemed unable to make a decision as to how to proceed. The chance that anyone from the Refuge was still alive was slim, but the group agreed to help him find this place if it existed. After a brief discussion, the party led him down one of the corridors at random, hoping they would find this enclave and put the troubled soul to rest.

The tunnel they chose led downward to a much larger cavern. Stalagmites and stalactites made footing treacherous and from somewhere ahead the party could hear the rush of water and the chirping of crickets. Pearigren sent a dancing lights spell out into the cavern, revealing a waterfall that filled a small pool and a collection of fungus along the pool’s edge. Huge white cave crickets leapt away from the light and fled deeper into the cavern. The party set off across the uneven floor, giving a wide berth to the waterfall and fungus area, when suddenly large dark shapes fell upon the party from the ceiling. The group had only a moment to realize that some of the stalactites were actually some sort of creature before their lights were doused and they were lost in magical darkness. Galen was wrapped into the membranous wings of one of the creatures and was bitten savagely. Chaos ensued as party members tried to find one another in the dark and separate friends from foes. The creature gripping Galen crushed him in a deadly embrace and he collapsed to the floor while other party members struggled to find their way out of the shroud of darkness and determine the nature of the attackers. Tamil-Ro seemed to be able to see well enough in the darkness and was able to render the creature attacking Galen unconscious. Others drew weapons and tried to find their foes by feel. The creatures proved to be clumsy fighters and fliers and did not manage to injure anyone else despite repeatedly diving upon them from their roosts on the ceiling. Eventually, the magical darkness faded, allowing the party to concentrate their magical power on the things and the battle was soon over. An examination of the creatures revealed them to be cloak-like, with thick, membranous wings edged with talons along the ridges of their wings. Their natural coloring and ability to hang upside down made it hard to spot them among the many natural stone formations in the cave. After the battle, the party healed Galen and the other injured members and tried to determine which one of the two passages they would take to leave the dangerous cavern.

The Fall of Thridein

12 – 16 Etissa 2787

Galen claimed the ring and the party headed off to the northwest to locate some of the fungus they had to collect. After an hour of walking in the quiet, cool, woods, Pearigren (who regularly walks ahead of the group as a kind of scout) spotted a strange sight. A young boy of about nine years was standing atop his father’s shoulders and was using a stick to try and knock some of the fleshy fungus off a tree. Nearby, a woman and what appeared to be her daughter sat looking up at the pair. The family was dressed as tradespeople, though their clothing looked filthy and disheveled. The family had their backs to Pearigren, so she decided to hide and watch what happened.

As Pearigren crouched in hiding, the father and son managed to free a sizable chunk of the fleshy fungus. As soon as the fungus was down, the father and son gathered it and tore into it, eating it with wild abandon. The mother and daughter grabbed a few pieces of the fallen fungus as well and began devouring it greedily. Their sudden movements finally gave Pearigren the chance to see the faces of the family members. A thick pool of fleshy fungus-slime fell from the father’s mouth. This was gathered by the son, which crammed this drool into his own mouth. This disgusting occurrence matched the overall appearance of the family, which was gaunt if not skeletal. Their eyes seemed unfocused and burned with a feverish intensity. As they consumed the last of the fungus they began to search anew for another chunk, communicating in what might pass for a crude representation of the Common speech, as if they no longer recalled each others names and could only mumble, slur or shout bits of broken words. Pearigren had seen enough and the women were getting too close to her hiding place for comfort. She tried to back away quietly, but her movement attracted the mother, who lumbered at her on shaky legs, hands outstretched, screaming incoherently.

A great battle broke out as the rest of the party rushed to Pearigren’s aid. The family had no weapons but their filthy, bony fingers, but this and their savage brutality was enough to down both Galen and Fritzmaul before they were all finally slain. Searching the bodies did not reveal the unfortunate family’s identity; only a worn leather bag around the father’s neck that contained a few silver coins and a silver ingot on a cheap silver chain. The wounded party members were healed and the group carried out a search of the tree trunks and limbs in the area. It wasn’t long before they had a sample of the fungus, which they handled with care given the scene they had just witnessed. Despite the fact that it was getting late, the party immediately began their return trip to the school. They did not want to stay anywhere near the area where they found the family.

The days of the 13th and 14th passed pleasantly enough. The weather remained clear though cool and the party encountered no trouble as they worked their way back toward Thridein. The morning of the 15th, however, began with a steady rain that mimicked the rain that slowed them their first day away from the school. The party had planned to reach Thridein by midday, but once again the weather delayed them, and they did not reach the vicinity of the school until late afternoon. Perhaps, in hindsight, that was for the best.

As they neared the more familiar woods about an hour outside of Thridein, Galen noticed that the forest nearby looked strangely disturbed. No one could quite understand what was wrong until Fritzmaul, who seemed to be more in tune with the forest and the natural world than the others, discovered a large footprint gathering water. He suddenly realized that this whole section of forest was beaten down; a large number of creatures moved through the area some time ago. Looking more closely at the footprint, he discovered it was that of an ogre. Galen noted grimly that the path of destruction was headed directly toward the school. The party began to rush along the now obvious trail, afraid of what they would find when they arrived.

Near the school, the party heard screams and smelled smoke. Fritzmaul used magic to detect the presence of a powerful aberration. The party’s worst fears were realized: the group of ogres and the mindflayer that left Bent Saw must have been heading to the school and were now attacking the place. Fritzmaul felt that the school and all those there were lost and that the party should flee as best they could and save themselves. The others agreed that they were no match for the ogres and mindflayer, but they wanted to get a closer look to see if they could help Rahim. Eventually the group decided to keep their distance but circle around the school to the northwest in hopes of learning something useful. All they could determine, however, was that the school was under attack and that the woods nearby were on fire. Occasional screams and yells were mixed with the bellows of ogres and the high-pitched shrieking of apes, a favorite animal of Rahim’s and one he could reliably summon.

Suddenly, Thardon, a student at the school, burst through the trees. He was gasping for breath and clearly surprised to see the school’s most advanced students at the edge of the battle. He quickly related all he knew: Thridein was under attack by a large group of ogres and a mindflayer, he did not know where in the battle Rahim could be found, and that they had just a few minutes warning before the attack began. Many students, particularly the younger ones, were unable to get out of the school in time. The older students fared better and were able to escape into forest to set ambushes for the oncoming ogres. A pitched, chaotic battle now raged in the woods all about the school, with pockets of students, apes and ogres battling it out or hiding from one another. He also indicated that Rahim had grown increasingly uneasy after the party was sent away and arranged for the students to meet at a place called the Finhold should there be trouble at the school. The Finhold was a cave at the edge of a pond several hours upstream of The Knee, a small stream that trickled passed the school. Apparently Rahim had prepared the place as a fall-back should there be trouble at the school, but told no one of its existence until it was clear that the school was in grave danger.

The debate about how to proceed broke out anew. Once again, Fritzmaul wanted to leave the area, even avoiding the Finhold, as he felt it would certainly be compromised by captured students. The rest of the group, however, wanted to press closer to the action to see if they could help. The group eventually sent Thardon on toward the Finhold while they moved into toward the battle. As they neared the school, they could see that the ogres, as powerful as they were, were not having an easy time of it. A great wall of thorns, clearly Rahim’s work, blocked their path and the party could hear ogres inside grunting in pain as they were stabbed by the wall’s many barbs. Apes and ogres battled among the trees and there was the roar of fire and lighting from somewhere ahead as someone, hopefully Rahim, worked powerful magic. The forest was on fire in several places, though the heavy rains earlier in the day and the generally cool, damp weather over the last week prevented the fires from raging out of control.

As they took all of this in and quietly discussed how they might work their way closer to the school, a little girl named Adilan came rushing through the trees, crying hysterically, her face a perfect mask of terror. Behind her came a huge ogre reeking of burned flesh. Fully half of its skin was cracking and black and the beast looked like it had lost what little reason it had. It reached out its huge hands to pull the girl down by her flying ponytail as the pair blundered into the party. It seemed stunned that it would run into the arms of its enemies just as it was about to catch its prize and hesitated just a moment. That delay proved fatal, for the ogre was slammed again and again by magic missiles . It’s blasted carcass crashed forward and skidded to a stop at the feet of the party. Adilan hurled herself into Pearigren’s arms and cried uncontrollably, disjointedly describing the many horrible things she witnessed between lurching sobs. Pearigren finally managed to calm her down and set her on the path toward the Finhold, telling her that they would save everyone they could. The party moved more deliberately into the smoke and flames near the school, fully expecting that they would not survive the battle to come.

(DM’s Note: At this point, the players were given the opportunity to use the Luck Points they had accumulated during the Organic Character Creation Process. Each party member could use Luck Points to accomplish one or more story objectives through exposition rather than roleplay. A party member could choose from the following: visit Rahim’s alchemical lab, rescue their boyfriend or girlfriend (if they had one) or find out more about their parents. Everyone save Galen chose to use their one Luck Point to slip into the alchemical lab to see if they could find anything useful. Galen used his one Luck Point to help Roz, his long-time crush, escape the battle. Obosh, who was the only character with two luck points, used his second point to learn more about his parents.

Those visiting the labs were not disappointed, and they garnered many useful potions. Galen found Roz in a smoke-filled clearing with an ogre bearing down on her. He was able to distract the ogre, lead it into the smoke and slip away with Roz before the thing could find them again. Obosh ducked into Rahim’s record room after he left the lab and found a diary that detailed information about his birth at the school and contained important clues about his parents’ identities.)

The courtyard of the school was a heart-wrenching slaughterhouse. Many of the younger students, most no older than 7 or 8, were killed leaving the school or were carried outside and beaten against the white marble walls of the courtyard. The entire area near the school was a chaotic, flame-and smoke-filled battlefield. The party could not find Rahim and struggled to make their way into and around the school. A number of ogres lay dead in the area, a testament to the fierceness of the Rahim’s magic and the power of Thridein’s students. They did not see the mindflayer or Rahim, and could only assume that the pair were locked in a magical duel elsewhere.

As the party began to slip away from the school, they were spotted by a ogre. This one was uninjured and was spoiling for a fight. It wielded no weapons, but rushed at them with an ear-splitting scream. Its huge fist laid Galen out cold with a single blow, but that was the last thing it did as the Roz and the party slew it with arrows and magic missiles . After this, the party retreated back toward The Knee and away from the battle. The area nearby was aflame, but they took a few moments to heal their wounds and listen to Roz’s story. She could only say that she and Haim (another older student) were running into he woods when they suddenly encountered the mindflayer and his ogre guards. Rahim appeared out of no where just then and unleashed a fiery attack, and Haim rushed in to help. The ogres that acted as the mindflayer’s personal guard killed Haim and threw his broken body into a tree. She fled the area before they could reach her. She did not know whether Rahim was alive or dead or if he was even able to damage the mindflayer.

The party decided that they could do nothing more at the school except prepare a place of safety for whatever survivors managed to escape the battle and make it to the Finhold. They used the last of the daylight given to them to hike far into the woods, staying within earshot of The Knee. They walked as late into the night as they could then bedded down for a few hours rest. During the night, Obosh spotted a a small group moving along The Knee. It turned out to be Drilani, a friend of both Roz and Pearigren, and two young students. Obosh directed the footsore students to the camp, where they rested in relative peace and safety for what little remained of the night. Drilani could add little to Roz’s story except to say she is positive that Rahim and the mindflayer were engaged in battle and that she saw Rahim land a roaring column of flame on the mindflayer. She could not be certain if the mindflayer was injured or destroyed by the spell, however.

The next day, the 16th, the tired band of students resumed their march along The Knee and eventually reached the place Rahim had told the younger students about. There they found Thardon and Adilan, who slept in the woods nearby, waiting for older students to lead them into the Finhold. With the party’s arrival, all of the survivors entered the underwater cave that gave access to the Finhold and climbed onto the rocky shore inside. There they found a store of clothes, torches, tools, fishing line, hooks and a number of other useful though mundane items all well sealed and stored here for just this sort of emergency. While the other students sorted through the supplies, the party explored the rest of the Finhold. At the rear of the place they found a number of stalagmites that were covered with a thick matting of spider webbing, effectively forming a wall that blocked access to another part of the cave system.

Over the next several hours, stragglers from the battle arrived in ones and twos. Some were injured and all were tired and and in a state of shock. For a time, the party was busy helping those that arrived and discussing what their next step would be. Foremost on their minds was Rahim’s fate and whether any students had been captured and if so, how long it would be before the mindflayer was able to extract information about the Finhold from its captive.

Lastly, Obosh never seemed to feel quite right after being bitten by the giant fly. The wound seemed to heal well enough, but it remained painful. As the party aided the newcomers to the Finhold, the pain grew from something that merely bothered the dwarf into something that was incredibly painful. It is now clear that Obosh suffers from some grave malady, but no one has the skill to determine what ails him or how to cure it.

A Meeting With Tyvek

7 – 12 Etissa 2787

After dinner, Rahim explained that he occasionally meets with a woodcutter named Tyvek at a meeting place a couple of hours west of the Bent Saw lumber camp. Rahim brings alchemical items useful to Tyvek and in return Tyvek supplies Rahim with specialty foods, goods and information. The meeting place is beside the roots of an enormous tree outside of Bent Saw that was toppled years ago, possibly during The Coming. Rahim has not seen Tyvek since their final meeting before the snows. They coordinate these meetings in advance, with Tyvek checking at the meeting place for Rahim every day during the arranged meeting time to ensure the pair meet. The party is therefore quite likely to meet Tyvek, though they may have to wait as much as a day at the meeting place to ensure they meet him. The party is given a satchel that contains a number of sealed jars and vials to give to Tyvek in exchange for his information and anything else he has to trade.

Additionally, Rahim would like the party to gather a new sample of the fleshy fungus that grows on the trees beyond the Bent Saw camp. Rahim has always been deeply concerned about the growth and believes it to be slowly spreading. A new sample would allow him to continue his experiments into the nature of the stuff. This blight is typically found several hours northeast of Tyvek’s meeting place, but it will take some skill to find a sample as many of the trees in that area were not afflicted last year. The chance of finding the growth increases as one travels northeast, beyond Bent Saw, and nears the blighted forest east of Bent Saw. However, the danger also increases as one nears this corrupted forest and the party is warned about straying too close to it in their search.

Obosh asks Rahim about what they can expect to see on their journey. Rahim explains that forest is always changing, especially after the snows, but that the three-day journey to the fallen tree has always been safe enough. Rahim once encountered a 10’ tall tentacle rising up from the ground that whipped and moved as he approached. He could not tell if it was part of some larger beast or just a bizarre occurrence related to the after effects of The Coming. He gave it a wide berth and never learned more about it. He did explain though that no matter what they hear, they should not enter Bent Saw. The camp is overseen by Lord Simpson, a sniveling though cruelly shrewd man and his eight brutal, ogre guards. The camp contains about 80 men, women and children that do fairly well for themselves as woodcutters and hunters, though Lord Simpson demands a quota of wood from each cutter be sent to Qaet free of charge, presumably so he can profit from a similar exchange from the Lord of that city.

The next day is spent gathering needed supplies from Thridein’s stores. Rahim has never risked owning beasts of burden, so the party must distribute the load of tents, packs, food and other needed items. Many of these were crafted by the adventurers during their time at the school. Galen asks permission to take one of the school’s books along to read, but Rahim refuses the request, as the books belong to everyone and are extremely precious and therefore cannot be risked.

The party sets out on the 9th in a cold, steady rain. The trackless forest is hard enough to negotiate on dry days and the group is discouraged to see how little progress they made by the time they must make camp. The night is cold, almost freezing, and if not for the tents and blankets they brought with them, the night could have proved deadly. It warms the next day and the traveling is easier. As they move away from their camp, they realize that they are now farther than they have ever been from the school. The forest seems an almost happy place, however, and the group makes good progress toward their goal. As dusk sets, Simba is certain the party is being watched. Unsure of what to do, the party holds off setting up camp. Pearigren finally takes charge of the situation, instructing everyone else to set up the tents and start a fire while she scouts the area. Bow in hand, she vanishes into the brush around camp, but returns with no new information.

That night in the cold hours before dawn, as Fritzmaul warms himself by the fire, five disembodied hands , their wrists and forearms dissipating into wispy trails of shadowstuff, spring from the undergrowth surrounding the clearing in which the party camped. The crawling hands batter him, and he can only let out a strangled warning shout as the last claw manages to get a grip on his neck and begin to squeeze. The others spring from their tents, weapons in hand, and a desperate battle breaks out. Galen rescues the nearly unconscious Fritzmaul by blasting the claw from him with magic missiles, while Obosh claims two with his axe and Pearigren pierces one with an arrow. Once the party is sure that the camp is safe, the still-twitching claws are gathered and burned in the fire. The rest of the night is spent restlessly, but the next day dawns clear and bright, which helps mitigate the horror of the attack. Fritzmaul does, however, take the opportunity to point out to Pearigren that Simba was right about feeling watched. Pearigren can only retort that she saw nothing and the camp site certainly seemed safe enough.

The journey that day, the 11th of Etissa, was uneventful as was the camp that night. If they had not been delayed by rain, the party would have been at the meeting place by now. Instead, they had several hours worth of travel ahead of them on the 12th before they finally reached the huge roots of the toppled tree. They approached warily, and once they found that Tyvek was not there, hid themselves nearby. While everyone else found bushes to hide in, Galen sat in the shadow of the huge root ball, playing with Shadow, a small, black magical cat that was both a familiar and a living tattoo that could paint itself onto Galen’s body and even move among his other tattoo markings. After a few hours of waiting, a man matching Tyvek’s description approached the tree from the direction of Bent Saw. Upon seeing Galen, he froze. When he spotted the poorly hidden Fritzmaul in the bushes nearby, he evidently suspected an ambush and fled. Fritzmaul and Galen persuaded him to stop and eventually convinced him that they were friends of Rahim, but Tyvek remained suspicious until he met Obosh, a dwarf that had been described to him by Rahim during a previous visit. Once convinced of the party’s authenticity, Tyvek took to them warmly and they had a pleasant lunch on foodstuffs that were considered luxuries at Thridein.

The party delivered the satchel and Tyvek provided them with grim news. Early yesterday morning, Lord Simpson had his guards wake everyone and had them gather outside their cabins. A mindflayer had arrived, carried into camp on a howdah by 25 savage ogres. The mindflayer spent some time alone with Lord Simpson before examining the children of the village, presumably looking for arcane talent. When the mindflayer reached the 3 year old daughter of Padan, a young widow, the thing ran its tentacles repeatedly over the child. No one saw exactly what happened next, but Padan lept at or struck the mindflayer with her fists. The mindflayer prevented his guards from killing her and instead had them hold her as other ogres broke both of her arms and both of her legs. The mindflayer then threw the child atop her broken body. No one dare help the woman, who writhed in agony all the rest of the day, her child crying beside her and begging her to get back up. It wasn’t until the mindflayer and his retinue left camp that night that her neighbors carried her back to her hut and set her bones. Some of the alchemical items in the satchel would help mend the widow’s broken body.

In addition to this story, Tyvek mentioned that the mindflayer left to the north of the camp, presumably to visit a mining camp in the hills north and east of Bent Saw. He also provided the party with a large wheel of fine cheese and a few bottles of honey mead. Finally, he asked the party to tell Rahim that he hoped to meet him in two months time at this place. The party thanked him for this news and considered immediately returning to Thridein to let Rahim know that a mindflayer was in the region, an event that had not happened in five or more years. However, since the mindflayer left northward rather than southwest toward the school, the party felt it was safe to carry on with the remained of their mission. They asked about ruins or other interesting features nearby, but Tyvek knew of no such places. Tyvek made his way back toward Bent Saw while the party gathered their belongings and headed further to the northeast in search of the fungus sample.

About mid afternoon, Pearigren caught the scent of something foul and eventually determined that the smell was coming from a decaying animal nearby. She left the group to scout ahead and followed the increasing stench to a large, lion-sized beast that had crashed into the lowest branches of a nearby tree. It had evidently been there a week or more as a portion of its decaying carcass had sloughed off and lay in a heap of rotting skin and feathers at he base of the tree. A loop of intestine hung down from its broken gut, dangling like a hangman’s noose over the forest floor. Galen approached and recognized the creature as a hippogriff, though they could not determine what had caused it to perish and wedge itself into the tree as it had. Pearigren noted that the dead creature had the decaying hand of an ogre in its mouth and that one of the fingers on this hand glinted with gold. All of these observations were secondary, occurring only after everyone overcame their disbelief at the huge flies, each more than 3 feet across, that were feasting on the remains. The flies seemed non-threatening, allowing the party to gather beneath the tree to examine the gruesome spectacle.

Pearigren placed magic on her bow and attempted to shoot the flies from the carcass. This proved to be nearly disastrous, as her first arrow skipped off the tough outer shell of one of the flies and struck the bloated body of the hippogriff. Three giant flies buzzed angrily toward the party while the rotting body of the hippogriff split across the stomach, disgorging three huge, wriggling white maggots. The flies used their thick proboscises to stab Galen and Obosh. Pearigren continued to fire and retreat, placing an arrow through the faceted red eye of one of the flies and piercing another through the abdomen. Meanwhile, the maggots lumbered toward the group and spewed a thick stream of vomit consisting of digestive juices and decayed hippogriff intestines at Galen and Simba. The flies were eventually killed and the maggots surrounded and destroyed. The party took a moment to heal its wounded members. While the fly bites on Galen and Obosh seem to heal well enough, the skin remains swollen and tender.

Pearigren and Obosh have an impromptu archery competition, attempting to shoot the hand from the beak of the dead hippogriff. Obosh finally succeeds in knocking the hand free. Pearigren determines that the ring was magical and that it would help keep the wearer warm (ring of endure elements). Meanwhile, Galen used a stick to sort through the rotting carcass at the base of the tree and managed to find a few hippogriff feathers that were filthy, though in reasonable shape. He used magic to clean the feathers, which he hopes to use as quills. Once everyone had a chance to recover from the battle, the party gathered their gear and continued northeast in an attempt to find samples of the fleshy fungus.


7 Etissa 2787
The rest of the students were taking their meal in the common area. The dull murmur of their chatter filtered into Rahim’s quarters where his most accomplished students had gathered. For a time there was little talk as everyone focused on their meal. It was customary for Rahim to begin speaking first; until then, everyone would eat in silence. A feeling of tension had been spreading throughout the day. By meal time, it was almost palpable. Utensils clicked and there was the occasional scrape of a goblet against the wood of the small table where they ate but there were no other sounds. The students concentrated on their plates and kept their eyes down as if it would be unseemly to share a glance given the mood of the room.

It took the students a few moments to realize Rahim had pushed his plate aside and was watching them. One by one forks dropped and eyes were raised, first to Rahim and then to one another as each sought to understand their master’s continued silence. When he at last spoke, he sounded more tired than anything else, though the feeling of tension increased nonetheless.

“Word has reached me…” He paused and shook his head as if trying to clear his thoughts. The students looked to each other questioningly at this faltering introduction. "Well, there are always rumors, of course, but I think I shall need some help in a few days time, should these rumors actually come to something.

As you surely know by now, I have contacts outside Thridein. I aid them in various ways and they in turn provide me with information and some of the things we cannot make for ourselves here in our sheltered enclave. I am due to meet one of these contacts soon, but I believe it would be better for the rest of the students if I remained here for a time. I therefore will need to send you in my place. The journey is not long and it will be a true chance to put into practice all that you have learned here."

Rahim did not need to ask if there was interest in assuming this new duty. These students were as ready as they were ever going to be. He knew it and more importantly, they knew it as well. It was time. Seeing their confidence and resolve bolstered his spirit and almost drove away the nagging fears that had plagued him recently. He forced a smile then and tried not to make it seem grim. He almost succeeded.

“Well then, we have a number of things to discuss. Fetch my map from the cupboard and I will tell you of Bent Saw and Tyvek and what you must do…”


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