After a rest in the crypt we decided to ascend to the upper level of the monastery to fulfil our promise to Renwick to rid it of the stone cultists.  We returned to the well room in order to use the stairs there, but on opening the door, were confronted by three of the evil grey dwarfs.  Thorg, for whom they are a mortal enemy, gave an oath and charged in – the fight was short, helped by some mighty blows from the enraged Thorg, although one of the grey dwarves was able to demonstrate their unnatural ability to grow in height, but was still cut down.

Fresh from this encounter we ascended the stairs and re-entered the distilling room quietly, hoping to surprise the two alchemists within.  We ourselves were surprised to find it completely empty of people, although we did find a large number of bottles of brandy, one of which I took for later use.   The room to the south proved to be equally empty, and some sort of fighting practice room, rather than the shrine we had assumed from the chanting we had heard from there previously.  It was while investigating the previously locked door on the other side of the corridor however that disaster struck. I had just completed picking the lock when the door opened, and I was struck hard, three times in a row, and sank to my knees under the flurry of blows.  Fortunately Thorg was behind me and leapt forward to protect me, while I discharged a volley from my wand of magic missiles and pulled back to nurse my wounds.  My assailant was a woman wearing an ornate eyeless bronze mask.  She twisted and struck with feline grace, but was no match for Thorg’s raw power, and indeed Arielle was able to strike with almost as much agility.  We soon overcame her, and dispatched her to her evil and depraved god.  Within her chambers beyond we found a scroll describing the rise of the prophet of evil earth, as well as some money.  Sorrell cast some healing magic on me, and we were able to continue.

The other two doors on this side of the corridor both opened onto the same long courtyard open to the sky.  There were two other side by side doors at the far end, and 4 large gargoyle statues on the northern side, flanking a gap which I assumed held the door to the temple that Blinky had seen earlier.  We didn’t fancy the look of the statues, so continued along the corridor and around the corner.  The doors on the south side of the corridor opened onto a deserted scriptorium, where we found some books that we thought might be of interest to Bruelthenor.  The door at the far end opened into the entrance hall of the monastery, which was equally deserted.  A door on the far side led into another corridor, with more doors on the south side.  This time though, when we opened the first door, we found a barracks room.  Two cultists were sitting at a table by the door, while another half dozen were asleep at the far end.  A sleep spell from me cast one of them into a deep slumber, and we rapidly dispatched the second, but his cry awoke the others, and so we were forced to fight them as the struggled up from their beds.  Again, they fought with the lithe grace that we had come to associate with Arielle.  Just as my companions had finished dispatching the last of them, the door to the room, which I had been watching, opened, and some stone-armoured figures entered the room…

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Down among the dead men

My companions were feeling somewhat fragile after the fight, so we decided to have a rest soon.  Resting in the chamber with the well seemed ill-advised though, as people might come down wanting some water, so we decided to look and see if we could find somewhere off the beaten track.  We threw the bodies down the well and I performed mighty feats of magic to get rid of the most egregious blood stains.  Obviously anyone coming in might be confused by the lack of the normal denizens of the chamber, but hopefully our intrusion would not be the obvious first explanation that would come to their minds.

Looking for a place to rest, we listened at and then opened the northern door.  Beyond was a short corridor with a crossroads, ending in a bronze door (no signs of rot).  We advanced to the cross-roads, and seeing nothing of interest down either branch, decided to have a short breather here.  After our rest, we advanced to the bronze door and entered the chamber beyond.  This proved to be a vast crypt, with decaying bodies propped in niches around the wall and a huge tomb at the eastern end.  As we entered the room, six of the corpses shuffled forward and attacked us, but were swiftly dispatched.  Having finished them off, we advanced on the tomb and were surprised to read the inscription on it, which announced that this was the tomb of Samular Caradoon.  We had always just assumed that he would be buried at Summit Hall.  Close investigation showed us that the lid had been recently moved, so we decided to open it up ourselves, heedless of the obvious possibilities that opening long-sealed tombs hold.  Obviously this one wasn’t long sealed, given it had been recently opened, but possibly that just increases the risks.  Anyway, heedless, as I said, of the obvious risks, and trusting in our own valour, we opened the tomb to find, not some undead monstrosity, or even the ancient corpse of Samular, but instead a much more recently dead knight of the Order of Samular.  This sparked a recollection in my mind, and I remembered that the delegation that we were trying to find had been escorting the body of a knight of the Order of Samular – obviously this was the self-same corpse.

We, however, had no wish to encumber ourselves with a corpse for the exploration of the rest of the monastery, so opted to leave him there while we continued to explore.  There was another bronze door on the south door, but this proved as impossible to open as the one on the floor above, and a brief fiddling with the maps showed that indeed they seemed to be in line with each other – possibly they opened into a staircase that connected one with the other.  I was still unwilling to risk one of the Knock spells from the scroll we had been given, since there was a good chance it it might fail and I wanted to retain at least one of them to transcribe into by spellbook at some time in the future.  For that reason we instead left through the door on the western wall.  This opened into another shortish corridor, which ended in an iron door.  We listened at this, and heard something beyond, so cautiously opened the door.

The chamber beyond was a large cavern with a floor partially of red earth.  The western end was barred off as a cell, with a stout iron door giving access through the bars, and a door on the far side.  Within the cage, fortunately, there was a hideous monster looking like a cross between an ape and a beetle, and with four eyes, one pair of which had been gouged out.  This creature started howling and crashing at the bars as it tried to get to us.  It was making a lot of noise, so we decided not to linger.  Before we left though, I sent Blinky up the broad set of steps to the south.  She reported that these led up into a large temple.

After this, we went back through the crypt and wandered through a maze of corridors which led around the original room with the well.  There were many branches and dead-ends – most of which showed evidence of recent working – it looked like the earth cultists were excavating the basement actively.  Finally we found three rooms that were filled with prisoners, who told us that they had been captured by the earth cult and set to work excavating for the earth cultists.  Among their number (seventeen it turned out) was a dwarf who introduced himself as Bruldenthar.  I remembered this name as being that of one of the emissaries from the north – a dwarven sage.  He confirmed that he was and proceeded to tell us much of the fate of the delegation (which I had initially failed to recall due to the many adventures I had partaken in recently, but then recalled as he mentioned them) – they were attacked by earth cultists and most guards were killed.  Some river pirates ferried them over the Dessarin river and were paid with his books. Later, the air cult attacked and stole away one of the prisoners.  He was put to work in the mines, and his other two companions had been taken down below to the ancient dwarven city of Tyar-Besil.  He also warned us that there were grey dwarves around who helped the cultists. He was relieved when I told him that we had recovered his books for him, and indeed had mercilessly slaughtered the river pirates and the air cult..

Having liberated the prisoners, we took them through the well-room and into the crypt, thinking of this as being the safest room in the complex, despite its macabre inhabitants (and although the earth cultists had obviously been there in order to place the dead knight).  At this point, it seemed likely to us that behind the unopenable doors probably lurked Samular’s brother Renwick Caradoon, who we had been told had transformed himself into a lich rather than die.  It would seem likely that he had retreated to the most decrepit part of the monastery and sealed himself in with Arcane Locks.  I used one of the Knock spells on the scroll to open the door, which it did.  We advanced up the stairs beyond.  Sat in a large laboratory at the top of the stairs was an ancient and desiccated corpse, whose eyes glowed with a keen blue light.  The sight was eerie and terrifying, but foreknowledge and expectation allowed us to master our fear.  Renwick was initially brusque and ordered us out, but I begged him to forgive our intrusion and mentioned our visit to the Knights of Samular at Summit Hall. This reminded him of his love for his brother and he forgot about compelling us to leave.  I established that he disliked the earth cultists occupying his monastery and had created a border with them that they did not dare cross, but would also be happy if they were removed.  He offered us a few ‘magical trinkets’, as he put it, if we would remove them, and also revealed that there was a stairway down to Tyar-Besil in the north-west corner of the basement – it seemed likely that this might be behind the door behind the monstrosity in the earth chamber. He did warn us that we might find the Earth Temple to be something of a challenge… With that he dismissed us and we promised to not disturb him again.  Relieved to have survived the encounter with so mighty and terrifying an interlocutor, we returned to the crypt to plan our next moves.

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We didn’t do that well

The next morning the elves arrived, late as usual.  We regaled them with more tales of our heroics the night before, and then departed on Cult Air back to Red Larch.  At Red Larch, Thorg toddled off to see if his new armour was finished, while the three elfesses drifted off to go and receive the accolades of the Emerald Enclave and Order of the Gauntlet.  I stayed in the bar of the Swinging Sword with Blinky, quaffing (and by Helm that owl can drink) and flirting with the barmaid.  The last laugh was on me though, as the three witches sashayed in thirty minutes later having received effusive but inedible thanks and a scroll with some spells on it that none of them could use (I’m guessing that no one in the Enclave or Order could use them either which is why it got palmed off on Huey, Dewey and Louie).  I had a quick look at it and instantly saw that it contained two castings of the Knock incantation, which isn’t one that I have in my spellbook yet, so offered to swap it for Reszur, the dagger of silence that we found in the catacombs under Red Larch a couple of weeks ago.  Arielle accepted on their behalf and pocketed the knife – I reckon I could probably have got it for less, but, hey, I’m feeling generous at the moment.  Soon after, a loud clanking noise heralded the appearance of Thorg.  He certainly looks better protected now, just not very quiet.

After a hard evening bringing the locals up to date with all our latest heroics, we rose relatively early and departed, initially for Womford where we picked up Therel and Theodorm.  The plan was that we would land some distance from the Sacred Stone Monastery and leave the hippogriffs hidden somewhere (maybe in a copse or cave) under their care.  We flew back to the Sumber Hills and put the first part of the plan, landing, into place.

The Sacred Stone Monastery turned out to be at the end of a long narrow defile in the hills, which opened into a natural amphitheatre ringed with cliffs.  The monastery stood in the centre, squat and ancient.  We circled round in the shadows at the base of the cliffs.  There was a garden at the rear, and one wing, next to it, looked dilapidated.  We decided that this was an obvious point of entry into the complex, as we would be less likely to be heard if it was deserted.  We snuck up to the garden gate and looked through the bars – the garden beyond looked overgown, and contained seven very lifelike statues, some caught in positions of fear and terror.  It seemed an unlikely subject for fine art, and a cult dedicated to stone seemed like the sort of people who might keep a basilisk for fun, so we decided not to investigate further.

Fortunately for us, there was another door to the east wing, on the far (southern) side from the garden.  It was not overlooked, so we were able to creep up to it unobserved as far as we were aware.  The door was locked, but I rapidly opened it.  The corridor beyond was dusty and unused, turning to the left thirty feet ahead.  A door to our immediate left revealed the sound of chanting when we listened at it, so we ignored it.  A door on the far wall of the corridor where it turned proved to be locked or barred, and with no keyhole on this side, so we ignored it.  Beyond the corner, the corridor entered an open area where four corridors joined.  Another door on our left also revealed the sound of chanting, so was also ignored.  A door to our right was unlocked, and opened carefully, to reveal a large room with several stills being warmed by large fires.  Two cultists were tending the fires, and did not see us open the door, so we closed it quietly and moved on.  The next door we chose was locked, and we were unable to open it.  The one next to it showed some stairs descending, which we took.  A landing ten feet down had some water buckets on it.  The stairs turned back on themselves and continued down, ending in a door.  We listened and heard some guttural grunting, but opened it anyway.

The room beyond contained a well, presumably the water supply for the monastery.  Several other doors opened into it, and in the centre, around the well, stood three orogs and an ogre.  One of the orogs asked for the pass sign.  None of us knew it, so Thorg, never one for complex negotiations, just charged in.  They proved to be tough and doughty opponents, and we were definitely rusty in the fighting department after several nights on the town, but Thorg was mighty with his (well, Thurl’s) greatsword, dispatching the ogre with a flurry of mighty blows, and I was dealing firebolts left, right and centre.  Before long, we stood victorious, if slightly bloody, on the field of battle — this is as much of this rubbish as I can take.  Blinky here, just to provide some objectivity in this account.  I have been summoned from the feywild by some pretty sad specimens in the past, but this lot take the biscuit.  Erky fired off about six firebolts and hit once I think.  I’ve met cuttlefish with more magical aptitude than he has.  And Thorg was lucky not to take Sorrel’s head off, some of his swings were so wild.  And the elves weren’t much better.  I’ve seen pixies that were more effective in combat.  Feyabelle might as well have been firing her arrows backwards for all the effect some of them had.  That said, when they did hit, they were pretty nasty.  And why is Sorrel fighting with a cricket stump?  Surely a battleaxe would fit the barbarian stereotype much better?  A truely sad, sad displa…  — right, that’s got that feather duster of an owl back in her cage.  As I was saying, I was truly heroic in the fight, and before long they all lay dead at our feet.  A rest is called for though, to lick our wounds, once we have checked what lies behind the doors.

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a Short-Chamber Boxer-Henry .45 calibre miracle

Our rest after the first attack was brief, but allowed us to tend to the wounded and get them into the farm house to rest.  Two of the three steaders with bows in Feyabelle’s group on the roof of the barn were wounded, so we moved one of the steaders on the roof of the forge across to help her out.

The next wave attacked in a similar manner, but with six orcs in each of the four groups.  This time, we started shooting at long range, and this time the two groups attacking from the west side didn’t even make it to javelin range before taking enough casualties to break off their attack and flee.  We switched our concentration of fire to the two groups attacking from the direction of the ridge.  Having concentrated on the other two, these groups did make it into javelin range, and a javelin killed one of the homesteaders on the roof of the barn – our first casualty of the encounter.  Another round of shooting, aided by some potent firebolts from me, broke the morale of both groups though, and they ran for the ridge.  We continued our fire as they fled though, and only one of the twelve in those two groups made it back to the ridge.

The two large orcs were still visible on the ridge and so, when another attack was not forthcoming, we had a short rest and sent Blinky to have a look and see what they were doing.  She reported that some of the orcs were resting, while others were piling branches, twigs and grass into heaps along the ridgeline under the direction of the two large orcs.  One of the large orcs only had one eye, which identified him as a devotee of Gruumsh, the orcish war god.  That might make him a potent opponent.  Blinky could only see around eleven orcs in addition to the two large ones though, which was good news.

We guessed that they might be going to use the piles as bonfires to generate a smoke screen, as the wind was blowing from that direction, and we were proved right about an hour and a half later.   The sun was setting in the west behind us, and this made it difficult for us to see far in the smoke that started filling our position, while probably silhouetting us against the sunset.  As the smoke closed down our vision, I leapt on my hippogriff and flew over towards the ridge.  It was unoccupied, so the attack had obviously started.  I landed and started to try and kick apart the fires and put them out with a combination of stamping and prestidigitation, while keeping a ear open for sounds of fighting from the farmstead.  For this reason, for the account of the fighting at the farmstead, I only have the testimony of my companions to rely on, which is obviously less reliable than my own keen memory.

Over at the farmstead, shapes suddenly loomed out of the smoke at close range.  Our shooting was sporadic and ineffectual in the smoke.  On the left flank, a great orc strode forward and brandished his fist in the direction of Thorg and the farmsteaders holding that rampart.  A spectral ram leapt from his fist and tore a great gap in the rampart.  Six of his orcish minions leapt forward past him for the gap, but Sorrel used her nature magic to cause thorns to erupt from the ground in a circle around the great orc.  Four of the orcs died as the great thorns torn their legs apart, and only two reached the remains of the palisade, where one was killed by Thorg.  The orc brandished his fist again and another spectral ram battered Thorg, flinging him backwards.  As he clambered to his feet and prepared to charge the orc, Sorrel outlined the great orc in a halo of light and a final volley of arrows from the scouts on the roof of the house (who had been sniping at him during the fight so far through the smoke) felled him where he stood.  The orc on that flank was swiftly dispatched by the spear-armed farmsteaders manning the barricade.

On the other flank, five orcs rushed the barricade.  Drina the druidess used her nature magic to cause entwining tendrils to erupt from the ground in front of the barricade, but only one of the orcs was restrained by them.  In their initial attack, the orcs killed all three of the farmsteaders manning the barricade, leaving only Erned and Allyria to hold that flank.  They dispatched two of the orcs in return however.  The one-eyed orc was also on that flank but did not advance, instead flinging some kind of spell at Feyabelle. It failed to affect her, and she shot him with an arrow in return.  The two dwarves manning the western barricade rushed across to help Erned, leaping over the barricade in their enthusiasm to get to grips with the orcs.  Between them, and Allyria and Erned, they killed the remaining orcs.  The Eye of Gruumsh however attacked Feyabelle with a huge spirit-axe, but despite the damage from that, she was able to fell him with a final volley of arrows.

Thus ended the seige of Dellmon Ranch.  We found a magical ring on each of the great orcs – one a Ring of the Ram (the effects of which we had already observed), and the other a Ring of Protection.  The farmsteaders offered us 25 gold pieces each for defending them, but having seen the devastation wrought on their homes and lives (and indeed the lives lost, although we had kept that to only four of them, which was not a bad exchange for forty-two orcs slain) we refused their money and suggested that they needed it more than we did to rebuild their lives.

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Feeling under attack

Having spent the night at Summit Hall, we departed on wing early in the morning, taking a packed breakfast with us.  After a couple of hours of flight, but too soon to have reached Dellmon Ranch by my reckoning, we saw a column of smoke rising from behind the next ridge.  Cautiously, I sent Blinky forward to have a look.  He returned and said that a farmstead was on fire up ahead, but with no signs of any raiders.  We moved up and landed a distance away as the hippogriffs were somewhat spooked by the flames.  Thorg barged through the open door of the burning stead itself, and found an unconscious half-elf with a head wound.  He carried him out, and as he did so, the half-elf stirred and muttered something about his wife.  Thorg did a rapid search of the blazing stead and the outbuildings and I sent Blinky to check the nearby area, but we found no other people of any race.  By now the victim had recovered somewhat, and told us that his name was Selwyn and that orcs had attacked the stead and seized his wife and two farmhands.  Blinky confirmed that there were obvious tracks of a wagon of some sort leading away to the north-east – in the direction of Dellmon Ranch.  Feyabelle rapidly set to following the tracks on foot, while we took to our steeds again and proceeded on wing, but flying low and well behind Feyabelle.  I sent Blinky out to scout well ahead, with orders to return if he saw anything.  He soon returned and reported that there was a wagon up ahead by a stand of trees, with two humans slumped against it and four orcs resting nearby.  I used a messaging incantation to relay this information to Feyabelle, and she snuck into a firing position over looking them.  We coordinated our attack so that as she let loose with her first volley, we swooped in and attacked at the same time.  The firefight was brief – Feyabelle’s arrows and my firebolts rapidly finishing them off.  We landed and released the captives, and then proceeded towards Dellmon Ranch at Selwyn’s request, as that was where all the local population were gathering having heard news that orcs were raiding nearby.  Thorg bared his shoulders and pulled the wagon alone the last couple of miles to Dellmon Ranch, making it look like he was just carrying a picnic basket.

Arriving at Dellmon, we saw much hustle and bustle as they prepared for the expected attack.  They had built earthen ramparts to connect the three buildings, and archery platforms on the roofs of the buildings.  Here we also found Ermon from Summit Hall, organising the defenders, who welcomed our arrival and asked us to help directing the defense.  Feyabelle confirmed that she could smell that there were many orcs nearby to the north-east, and closing rapidly, so we quickly prepared to be attacked.  I ascended to the firing platform on the main house, with four scouts armed with long-bows.  Feyabelle took the firing platform on the barn, with three commoners armed with shortbows.  Three more commoners with shortbows took the firing platform on top of the forge.  In the centre, Thorg and Ermon took the northern rampart, supported by Sorrel and [someone] (a fellow druidess), Arielle, and six commoners armed with spears, who made up in courage for what they lacked in skill.  The western rampart was taken by [Father] with four of his hearthguard, while the southern rampart was taken by [son] with the remaining three hearthguard.

The orc attack when it came was sudden and fast, but small.  There were only twenty of them, in four groups of five, and they attacked from all four directions at the same time.  We concentrated our fire from the roofs on the western and southern groups, and felled almost all of them.  Sorrel, Thorg and Ermon killed a few of the northern and eastern groups, and we wounded more as they withdrew.  They never closed to hand to hand combat, but rather just threw a single volley of javelins at us.  Several of us were wounded, but none severely or killed.  In contrast, fully eleven of the twenty lay dead when they pulled back, and they others had many wounds.  But they pulled back rather than fled – Feyabelle confirmed that there were many more, and we saw two much larger orcs on the ridge observing the attack – it was obvious that they were just probing our defenses and seeing how strong or weak we were, or whether we had any weak points.  I am sure that we have not seen the last of them by any means, but at the moment we are catching our breath and binding our wounds.

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All aboard

We descended through the tower, heading for Thurl’s apartment in order to rifle through his possessions with more thoroughness.  We were disappointed, and to an extent bemused, to find that Sorrel the rat had indeed successfully extracted all the interesting items from his correspondence.  There was an amount of treasure there that we thoughtfully pocketed, but no additional magical items beyond his greatsword (already pocketed, if that is the word, by Thorg).

Continuing down the tower, we headed for the bunkroom where we had espied the emaciated men who we had now been informed were members of the Howling Hatred.  It was unaccountably empty, although possibly we should have expected that at mid-morning.  Refusing to be derailed from our purpose, we tried the kitchen and found five them sampling the steam once again.  We called upon them to surrender, but they eschewed our offer and hurled themselves upon us with, well, howling hatred.  I suppose we shouldn’t have been surprised by that.  We made pretty short work of them, but as we were checking the area for more loot, a previously unnoticed door from the solarium was opened.  A figure appeared, and the next thing I knew I was bowled from my feet and severely injured by a wall of sound and fury.  Fortunately, some of the others were more fortunate, being protected from the brunt of the blast by kitchenware and were able to keep their feet.  Thorg leapt forward with his battlecry of ‘I am Thorg’ and with the aid of Arielle and Feyabelle, was able to rapidly dispatch the sorcerer.

A check of the rest of the level showed that we were now alone, so we continued down into the stables.  Here we were able once again to persuade the hippogriffs to accept up by donning the black-feathered cloaks.  Theodorm and Therel looked askance at the mounts, and offered to return on foot to Womford and keep the River Maid once again safe for us against any future need of it we might have.  We therefore paid them a handsome bonus for their trouble in having been kidnapped, and some weeks salary in advance, and then saddled up with our two captives and the rescued shepherd and returned to Red Larch.

We landed in Red Larch to some consternation and also considerable excitement.  Enderath pointed out to me that wearing air cultist cloaks and riding air cultist mounts might in some way lead people to jump to the conclusion that we were air cultists, and suggested that we should exercise some level of discretion in the future.  I agreed that it was a point that we should take under consideration.  Enderath was pleased with the recovery of the books from the River Maid, and paid me a good sum for them.  Indeed I now have so much gold that I can scarce spend it in a village like Red Larch, although the hippogriffs are costing a goodly sum to feed each day, a sum which I am only able to partially offset by the charging of a few coppers for locals and travellers to see them.  It is tempting, having made my fortune, to return to Waterdeep, but I suspect my patrons in the Harpers might view such a return askance and make life harder for me than I would like.  Also, it would please Feyabelle immensely I think to see me departed, and it pleases me most to not please Feyabelle.  Therefore I have made a further study of the arcane books that I have found and have decided that I shall follow the inclination of my race and delve into the magics of Illusion, as they come most easily to me, and I have no desire to make things unnecessarily hard for myself.

Speaking of my companions, and unnecessary hardship, it seems that they have their own agents in the town, for they have returned with tales of woe and inequity that must be remedied.  Arielle has found the location of the Sacred Stone monastery, and also information that it is linked in some manner with the Knights of Samular who reside at Summit Hall, and who apparently are worthy of trust in all matters.  Thorg was apparently at the same meeting but was characteristically un-forthcoming as to what was discussed.  Sorrell and Feyabelle have returned with tales of an ancient dwarven city under the Sumber Hills called Tyar-Besil (Thorg nodded taciturnly at this point), and also the suggestion that having found cults of air, earth and water, we should expect one of fire somewhere.  They also returned with news of a more urgent errand; a delegation of wood elves who are besiged by orcs at a place called Dellmon Ranch, and require rescue.  I would comment that I am not a boy to be sent on errands, but I have an affinity with the wood elves from my youth and so am always willing to help them (I think the only reason I tolerate Feyabelle).

Given that Summit Hall is on the way to Dellmon Rach, we fly there initially.  There we meet Lady Ushienne Stormlianner, who commands the Order of Samullar, an order of knights dedicated to Tyr.  It seems, in the course of a long exposition, that the Sacred Stone Monastery was founded by his brother Renwick, who, despite being a good paladin of Tyr, ended up descending to lichedom in order to save himself from death on the battlefield.  The Sacred Stone Monastery is no longer in the hands of those loyal to Renwick or the Order of Samullar, and they therefore charge us to determine that his tomb remains undefiled.  They have a more immediate need for us however, for one of their number, Erned Stoutblade, but recently departed for Dellmon Ranch in order to investigate reports of marauding orcs, and now finds himself besieged there by the self same orcs.  I recognise a direction from the gods as well as the next gnome, and resign myself that Dellmon is our next destination (Sorrell and Feyabelle had left me in little doubt of that anyway).

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Why is not one ever happy to see us?

After a restful night’s sleep, we emerged fully prepared (so we thought) for our anticipated initiation into the Order of Feathergale Spire.  Once accepted by Thurl, we would hopefully be able to use his antagonism towards the earth and water cults to attack them with his blessing and using his resources, while evaluating his strengths in order to take him down in his turn.

We arrived at the pinnacle where the initiation, appropriately, was to take place (we have been curious yesterday to find a lack of a chapel or temple in the spire before realising that for an air cult, the top of the pinnacle was obviously where your temple would be).  Thurl was up there, with four of his knights, plus a priest of some kind that we had not seen before.  They were gathered by the edge of the spire.  We approached, thinking that the facade of a nobleman’s club would mean that the initiation ceremony would not involve any deep binding to some kind of evil spirit or the like.  Thurl welcomed us, but his speech of praise for the spirit of the air became more and more manic before he announced that no good initiation could take place without sacrifices.  There was an evil glint in his eye by this stage, and three of the strange emaciated men led some captives up onto the spire.  With horror, we recognised the shepherd who had led us to the graves, and our two hirelings, Therel and Theodorm.  Thurl announced with glee that in order by prove our worth to Yan-C-Bin, we must hurl these captives off the side of the tower as a sacrifice…

We hastily conferred by significant glances.  While we had all been prepared to cross our fingers behind our backs and swear false allegiance to the cult to infiltrate it, we all drew the line at sacrificing innocents to that end, especially those who had helped us and were friends of ours.  So, making a show of herding them to the edge of the drop, we subtly reassured them that they should trust us.  Sorrell then approached Thurl and started on some cock and bull story about how each of them should be given a chance of survival each – a feather from his cloak, ya-de-ya.  Whatever rubbish he was spouting, it convinced Thurl by some utter miracle, and he started to pluck some feathers from his cloak.  Sorrell used the opportunity to cast Thunderwave, as both Thurl and the priest were standing with the backs to the edge and right by the parapet.  Unfortunately the spell was unable to knock them from their feet, but the three emaciated ones were killed by it.  I quickly stabbed the knight standing next to me, and ran for the central stair.  Feyabelle, backed up and shot the other knight.  Arielle cast silence on the priest to stop him casting any spells, while Thorg charged at Thurl, but again he was able to keep his footing.  This was unfortunate, as he slashed at Sorrell with his sword, greviously wounding her.  Fortunately neither of the knights standing by her were able to hit her before she turned into a lion and pounced on the priest, knocking him off the parapet.  The two knights on the other side attacked Arielle, but did not hurt her badly.  I now fired my crossbow at one knight, and Feyabelle hit him with another arrow.  Thorg charged again at Thurl, and this time pitched him over the edge.  Looking over, he saw the priest floating slowly down the side of the tower to the ground, while Thurl had caught the tower about half way down and was climbing back up again.

Without Thurl and the priest though, the fight at the top was brief.  A single mightly blow from Thorg’s maul smashed the head of one knight from his shoulders, and the others were also soon dispatched by the rest of us.  Thurl had now disappeared, we assumed into the tower, so Erky scattered some ball-bearings down the steps, which Feyabelle followed with one of the bodies of the emaciated ones.  We could now hear Thurl charging up, so Erky cast fog cloud into the stairwell, to make the obstacles less apparent.  An incantation from below blasted to fog out of the stair case though, and Thurl emerged, shouting encouragement to his knights.  His face fell as he saw their corpses on the sward, and then Sorrell charged into him, knocking him back down the stairs.  He was now prone, halfway down the stairs, being mauled by a raging lion.  I lobbed the occasional magic missile at him (since those were guaranteed not to hit Sorrell) as Sorrell gradually gnawed his head off.  The rest released the captives.  Thurl was soon dead, at about which point Savra and the last knight appeared up the stairs.  Thurl’s headless body rapidly sapped their morale and they surrendered on the spot.  We accepted the surrender and disarmed them.  Thorg used the opportunity to grab Thurl’s greatsword, which shone with blue light when wielded – as sure a sign as any of magical enchantment.  What with his own greataxe, Jollivar’s maul and now Thurl’s greatsword, Thorg is now looking like a great-weapon salesman.  It’s amazing he is actually capable of standing upright…

Next steps, in case I forget in the dizzying excitement of being on top of the world:

There are a bunch of those emaciated guys in the basement that we could do with killing.  I’m not normally a fan of genocide, but they seem to be heavy duty cultists or something, so probably not best to allow them to pinky swear that they will be nice people from now on.

We should search through Thurl’s office now that we have a better opportunity and are not relying on a rat to work out which documents are important.

Return to Red Larch to touch base with the Harpers (and possibly some of the other factions as well).  I think I have some books somewhere that I should be returning (it’s like the library).  Maybe if we use the cloaks and Savra helps us, we can use the hippogriffs?

Which brings us onto the topic of Savra and the other knight that surrendered.  Need to work out if they are heavy duty evil dudes or just misguided like Therel.  If the former, who can we turn them over to?

Where is the River Maid?  Do we need it again?  If we can find it, and bag some hippogriffs, maybe we could build some sort of stable and flying off platform on it?  We could call it a hippogriff carrier…

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And with its head, we went galumphing back…

Still bubbling with enthusiasm, we are shown down to the hippogriff stables, and given cloaks that help them accept us as members of the Order.  Up close, the hippogriffs are even more intimidating than they are from a distance, but I boldly climb up behind Arielle and strap myself in.  Emergency exits are available on pretty much all sides, and I regret not having learned Feather Fall for my spell book.  If I survive this, I will make it a priority next time.  We have a quick conflab on tactics.  There will be four knights of the order also taking part in the hunt, mounted on giant vultures.  There is a low mist over the canyon where the manticore has been spotted, so finding it will be the first order of business.  We decide that splitting into two groups of two will enable us to double our chances of finding it, while also giving us enough staying power to fight it if we do while the other pair come to our aid.  And also allow for two pairs of eyes in case this is an elaborate plot to kill us in an unfamiliar environment.  We also have a secret weapon in the form of Blinky, who is another pair of eyes, and whose eyes are exceptionally good in the moonlight.  Manticores are just slightly larger than the prey she would normally go after…

We leap to the air with just a few tactical reminders, mainly to Sorrel to point out that raging or turning into a bear might both be inappropriate things to do when mounted on a hippogriff.  The mist is thicker than we expected and we agree with the four knights, who are hunting as a wing of four rather than two pairs, that we will holler if we see the manticore.  They, being properly equipped for these things, have a hunting horn.  We set off in divers directions, and it is Sorrell and Feyabelle who first encounter the manticore.  It is swiftly aware of them when an arrow from Feyabelle hits it squarely in the rump, and turns and flings a shower of tail spikes in her direction, hitting her mount.  Arielle and I sweep in, with Thorg as a wingman, and I surprise it with a quarrel from my crossbow while Feyabelle keeps up volley after volley of arrows.  A final set of magic missiles from my wand finishes it off before the vulture squadron even arrives – they appear to find us already sawing its head off.  We return to acclamation and astonishment at our martial prowess.  The promised ring is given and bestowed on Feyabelle for her devastating archery.  Thurl Mirroska is so impressed by our prowess indeed that he offers to make us initiates of the society the very next morning.  Our prestige is high, and we are offered a fine room on the top floor of the tower to bunk down in.  We politely accept the offer, hoping that it does not involve binding ourselves inevitably to some evil cult, but is more the aerial hunting society of the nobility that it pretends to be.

The room is indeed well equipped, but I do not feel sleepy, and am still anxious to penetrate the mystery of these well-seeming idiots.  There must be more to them than the chinless wonders that they appear to be.  I decide to go a-sneaking around the tower after lights out.  Arielle offers me the protection of her veil of shadows, although that will mean her accompanying me.  Sorrel also offers to come, in the form of a rat, to sneak into small gaps and the like.  So in the end, my solo wander becomes a charabanc of characters.  Still we are largely successful, mainly because the knights seem to have little concept of security.

The top of the tower is completely unguarded, as if they had no concern over arial attack.  We find the telescope we saw earlier, but it seems a normal gnomish artefact, with no magical enhancement above that normally found in such a device.  Descending the tower, we find that on the floor with the great hall, there are 4 chambers.  Sorrell examines each in rat form, and while unable to tell us in detail exactly what is there, we establish that two are empty and two hold two knights each.

The floor below has the kitchens and conservatory, now deserted, and a bunk room full of the strangely emaciated men that we have seen before in the kitchen and attacking us when riding vultures.  No clue as to their role and nature.  Their presence in the kitchen makes then seem like slaves or servants, but their role attacking us implies that they are warriors as well.

Returning to our floor, there are four large chambers, each a quadrant of the tower.  One we inhabit.  The rest are scouted by Sorrell as a rat.  One contains Savra Belabranta, which confirms to us that she seems to be some sort of second in command.  One contains two knights, and we surmise that two of the knights downstairs have been bumped from our room by us.  The last is the room of Thurl.  Sorrell finds a desk with papers, and we ask her to go and bring some out, provided that she can return them to roughly their original places.

The letters are most interesting.  They reveal something of Thurl’s motivations and explain something of his position, but also worry us somewhat.  There is one talking about Aerisi in most disparaging terms – he regards her as a spoiled brat prone to temper tantrums who just happens to have been favoured with finding an elemental weapon called Windvane, and who is dedicated to raising a demi-god of elemental air called Yan-C-Bin – the Prince of Evil Air. It also mentions Windharrow – he leads some minstrel band and is usually to be found toadying to Aerisi.  There is another one talking about Larrakh, the priest we killed in the tunnels under Red Larch.  It seems that he had fallen out with Aerisi for some failing, and was trying to get back into her good books with a display of over-zealous behaviour in taking over Red Larch.  We are described as his likely killers.  And a final letter comes from Aerisi herself, also describing us, and wanting more information about us.  So it seems likely that Thurl does know who we are, and is probably just toying with us, but also that he may not be entirely displeased with us having killed Larrakh, and possibly will be trying to us us against the earth cult, and maybe even Aerisi herself.  So he may not be entirely deceitful in offering to make us initiates, as I suspect he sees himself as potentially Aerisi’s equal or even superior.

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Rapid promotions for those who don’t lose their heads

As the adrenaline surge started to pass, we surveyed the wreckage of the room and started to feel the cuts and bruises that we had all received at the hands of Jollivar and his lieutenant.  The decision was rapidly taken that we should probably have a bit of a rest before continuing on our quest, so we barricaded the various doors.  In the process I saw that the desk by the fire had a number of papers on it, so I started to peruse them while resting my newly healed wounds.  The documents were not exactly exciting, but did contain an amount of correspondence that revealed that there were obviously four elemental cults here in the Sumber Hills, one for each element.  Feathergale Spire held the air cult, as we had already suspected, led by Thurl Merroska, a person who Thorg had already indicated he was interested in.  There were also letters to the leaders of the earth and fire cults, revealing the names of their leaders (Hellenrae and Elizar Dryflagon), but unfortunately not their locations.  In addition there was some information about the leader of the water cult.  It seems that Jollivar was merely a middle-ranking flunky, and the true leader was a strange character that he had never even met, but who apparently was covered in barnacles and had a great claw in place of his left arm.  He had come to the Sumber Hills seeking a spirit of elemental water (strangely for somewhere so far inland) and had found a magical trident called Drown. His plan – to summon Olhydra, Princess of Elemental Water.  Another letter revealed that Jollivar had given members of the earth cult passage across the Dessarin River with their captives from the embassy mission, and that they had then been attacked by members of the air cult in the Sumber Hills.  This explained the bodies we had found in the graves (one earth cultist and one air cultist, plus two others), and also that the captives must still be in the custody of the earth cult, not here in Riverguard Keep.

As I was perusing this information, a door in the corner of the room under the balcony which we had not yet investigated opened, and a woman came in, dressed as a servant.  She seemed confused by our presence in the room, and nervously asked where Jollivar was.  When we admitted that we had killed him, and his lieutenant, she broke into a broad smile, and greeted us as her heroes.  Anya, for that was her name, revealed that there were a number of servants here, kept as virtual slaves – indeed when some had tried to escape a few weeks ago, Jollivar had beaten them to death when they had been captured.  She also revealed that there were three men here from Womford, who had tried to join up as bandits but had been rejected and forced to serve in the kitchens instead.  She said that they were still loyal to Jollivar however, so might take his death badly, and would be unlikely to come with us.  We decided that Thorg and Storm (in bear form) would possibly be the best people to persuade them that a loyalty to Jollivar was not a good long term proposition, and that they should come with us, as we suspected that these were the three villagers from Womford who had left to join the bandits and that this early intervention might be enough to turn them back into a better path.  While they did this, I continued to flirt outrageously with Anya.

We rapidly gathered our group of those who wished to be rescued, and the three surly men from Womford, who accompanied us ungraciously, but were obviously intimidated by Thorg and Storm.  We now needed to leave, since the captives we were trying to release were obviously not here.  The obstacle to leaving by boat was the chain across the dock, so we decided that we needed to lower that, which appeared to be controlled from the final tower we had not investigated.  We decided that maybe now that we had killed Jollivar, intimidation might be the way to go.

Dispatching Arielle to take the rescuees to the boat and warn them to get under way, we crossed unobserved to the final tower.  We cautiously opened the door, and saw three sleeping figures in this half of the tower, the other half being obscured by a curtain.  In the corner was a capstan, that obviously raised and lowered the chain.  One started to rouse from his slumber, but I rapidly cast a sleeping spell and he quietened down.  Now I started to wind out the capstan while the others investigated behind the curtain.  There they found a cot with the sleeping form of the lank-haired man who had first let us in.  He roused as they entered, because of the noise from the capstan, and was rewarded by a swift blow to the head from Thorg’s newly acquired maul.  This shocked him rapidly into wakefulness, and he demanded to know who we were.  His imperious manner quickly subsided however when he was shown Jollivar’s severed head.  He rapidly agreed that it was probably best for him to let us leave and accept his rapid promotion in the ranks of the water cult (of which we surmised he was part because of the pool of water around his cot).  He agreed and called out through the window of the tower to tell the guards that the River Maid was leaving on a special night mission.  Happy that he would not prevent our egress, we left him with Jollivar’s head as a keepsafe and leapt aboard the boat as it coasted out of the dock.

The journey back to Womford was swift with the river current and uneventful.  Our welcome was gratifyingly warm, and we toasted once again as the heroes that we so obviously are.  A warm welcome was enjoyed by all throughout the night.

The next morning, Thorg was adamant that we should go and investigate Feathergale Spire, so we set off in that direction with an itinerant merchant who was heading up the Cairn Road in that direction.  We left the River Maid in the care of Thedorm and Therek, paying them a week’s salary in advance to look after it and keep it ready against our return.

The journey to Feathergale Spire was uneventful, although filled with the usual local talk of strange weather and ill omens in the Sumber Hills.  I revealed to the merchant that we were heading to Feathergale Spire to investigate these strange happenings, and he seemed please by this.  After we had left him and struck out for the spire itself, we encountered three strange flying bird-men, who landed near us and approached us with no obvious signs of ill-will.  Given their non-hostile stance, I advanced and parleyed with them.  They revealed that they were Aaracockra, and that they were keeping an eye on Feathergale Spire because of its association with an evil air-cult.  They asked us to infiltrate it on their behalf, and find out what they were up to.  They were unable to do so, as their were obviously Aaracockra, but felt we would be able to.  They promised us aid if we got into trouble – mentioning that the inhabitants of the spire were in the habit of throwing people off the top of the spire to execute them, and that they would catch us if that happened.  Buoyed by this assessment of the likely outcome of our attempt at infiltration, we agreed to cooperate with them.

It was almost dusk by the time we reached the Spire, which was impressive indeed.  It was situated on a crag above a ravine, with the only access via a drawbridge across the ravine itself.  The drawbridge was raised when we arrived, but a bell hung from a post by the side of the trail, so we rang it.  A window opened on the far side and a female head popped out, asking us our business.  I explained that we were poor sell-swords, down on our luck, and looking for hire.  She seemed to accept this and lowered the drawbridge to let us in.  She met us at the door and introduced herself as Savra Belabranta, greeting us warmly and offering to take us to Thurl, the master of Feathergale Spire.  I greeted her equally warmly, and accepted her kind offer.  She led us to the centre of the spire where a spiral stair led both up and down.  We ascended to the very top of the spire, where there was a lawn laid out on the flat peak, with four spires at the edges and a tall spire in the centre.  Jollivar’s notes had revealed that he though that Thurl was a pompous idiot, and that assessment seemed apt.  He greeted us warmly, and told us much of the Feathergale Society as a group of nobles from Waterdeep who had decided to revive the ancient and noble practice of airborne hunting.  I laid the flattery on with a spade, grovelling in my praise of his hospitality and of the wonders of what he had achieved.  He appeared to lap it all up – either he is a dupe in the hands of others, or is an incredibly good actor, for he never slipped from his role of an idiot fop from Waterdeep looking for thrills.  There was certainly no hint of fanaticism.  He invited us to a feast that very night, for they were celebrating the tenth anniversary of the founding of the Feathergale Society (although the exact founding date was slightly contentious, so they could legitimately have celebrated this feast on any night in the preceding week or so).

Prior to the feast, Savra showed us the hippogriff stables at the base of the tower, although we did not linger there for apparently they were trained to attack all those not accoutred as members of the society.  We briefly glimpsed the kitchens on the ground floor as well, spotting four very emaciated figures sniffing at the steam from a bubbling cauldron.  The sight piqued our interest, although we quickly hustled on.  It was only later that I remembered the three members of the society who had ambushed us a couple of days ago, and how two of them had also been freakishly emaciated, while the leader had been a well-fed nobleman.  What strangeness indeed was going on here?  We were then shown into the great hall, where the banquet was just about to start.

The walls of the great hall were covered in trophies, mainly of flying creatures.  Pride of place was given to the head of a wyvern, which we were told had been killed by Thurl himself.  Obviously if this was true, under his foppish exterior he was hiding a dangerous warrior – we must not allow ourselves to be taken in my his mask and underestimate him.  The feast started and we were given positions of honour as guests, and asked to tell of our deeds.  I avoided all mention of Riverguard Keep or of the tunnels under Red Larch (although I would not wonder that he would already know of events there and might even have worked out that we were involved).  Instead I regaled them with the tale of the strange and depraved necromancer that we had defeated with his habit of dressing zombies in women’s clothes – suggesting coyly what that might say about his sexual proclivities.  The tale was greeted with much mirth and our health was being toasted, when a servant rushed in with the news that a manticore was on the move.  This was obviously a creature that was being kept under observation, as all the knights in the hall leapt to their feet and cried that it must be hunted.  Thurl also leapt up, and declared that it would be so, offering his ring to the person who would kill the manticore.  He turned and invited us to join the hunt, offering us aerial mounts if we accepted.  Caught in the excitement of the moment, we readily agreed, since manticores are dangerous and evil beasts, and killing one would be a boon to the area, even if we were doing it in the company of those who we suspected to be evil themselves.  We had best watch our backs though, in case Thurl has worked out that we were those who killed the air cultists in Red Larch and is using this hunt as a cover to hunt us.

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As the watchman slumped against the wall, and it became apparent that no one was watching the watchman, I led the rest of the party across the wall walk and into the shadow of the keep.  We paused briefly for me to listen at the door, but I didn’t hear anything, so we cautious started opening it.  This was met by a shout from inside (strange how they didn’t assume it was just the watchman coming in to relieve himself), so i threw caution to the wind, threw it open and rushed in.  I rapidly assessed the situation within.  Two of the strange water cult warriors were sitting at a table on my right, while another two were reposed on a bunk straight ahead of me.  I’m a lover, not a fighter, so I used my small size and nimbleness to dash across the room in front of their startled faces, and slide under the occupied bunk on the far side. As I did so, I used a minor magic to extinguish the torch on the wall next to the door, leaving only one torch illuminating the room.  I reasoned that we could all see well in the dark, and they might not be able to, so this would give us an advantage.

From my position under the bunk, I could observe little of the start of the fight, although there was the clash of steel.  I could hear Thorg’s characteristic stream of Dwarven invective that was a sure sign that he had missed, and the appearance of a large pair of furry claws in front of the bunk told me that Sorrel had once again transformed herself into a bear.  Seeing that the bunk above me was still occupied, I stabbed upwards through the mattress and was rewarded with a scream of pain.  Unfortunately whoever I stabbed wasn’t killed by it as an arm wielding a sword appeared over the edge of the bunk and scythed under it.  I was unfortunately overstretched and unable to extricate my sword from the mattress to block it so the hideous serrated edge of it caught me and tore through my scalp and shoulder, ripping open my flesh.  I was gratified though to see Sorrel tear my assailant’s arm off with her next blow.  Rolling out from under the bed, I stabbed at another one of the warriors, bleeding heavily from various claw and bite wounds, finishing him off.  As I caught my breath, I saw that my companions had finished off the rest of the warriors.

Given the noise they had been making, obviously in an attempt to summon reinforcements, it was obvious that taking a rest wasn’t really an option.  I gladly took a potion of healing that Thorg proffered and quaffed it, which staunched the worst of the bleeding.  Hopefully I won’t be left with any kind of permanent scar.  While I was doing this, Sorrel barged through the other door of the room while Allyria barricaded the door behind us.  Slipping round Sorrel, I saw that the door opened (or would have opened if Sorrel had used the handle) into a short corridor.  To my right was the balcony that I had seen over the great hall.  I could see Jollivar and his lieutenant standing by the fire, and two more of the warriors rushing up the stairs towards us.  Seeing Sorrel they briefly paused, but a roar from Jollivar spurred them on.  Assuming that Sorrel had things in order, I went the other way up the corridor to investigate the door at the far end.  Trying to listen with all this noise seemed pointless, so I opened it.  The room beyond occupied the whole of the semi-circular end of the keep and was sparsely furnished as a bedroom.  My interest was attracted by some chests on the far wall when a shout from Feyabelle attracted my attention.  Tempted as I was by the chests, and irritated by the rest of the party’s inability to function without my aid, I turned back to help them.

Thorg told me afterwards what had happened.  The two warriors had advanced on Sorrel.  She had grabbed one, snapped his spine in half and thrown his limp body over the balcony to the floor below.  Feyabelle had used the opportunity when Sorrel moved forward to plug the other warrior with an arrow, and Thorg had finished him off with his axe.  By now though, Jollivar and his lieutenant were advancing up the stairs, one on each side.  The lieutenant was now shimmering with icy blue light light though, and Jollivar had transformed into a strange boar-man hybrid, human in body, but with a boar’s head.  Feyabelle had hit the lieutenant with another arrow, causing her blue light to briefly flicker and diminish somewhat in intensity, but Jollivar had charged straight up the stairs and into Sorrel, knocking her off her feet and slashing her with his tusks.  Sorrel had clawed back, but the deep slashes she inflicted had healed with preternatural speed.  Recognising from her lore the unnatural healing of a were-boar, Feyabelle had realised that magic or silver weaponry was required to hurt Jollivar, so had called me.

As I reappeared, the lieutenant transformed as well, metamorphosing into a great constrictor snake of water.  Feyabelle shot it, knowing that he arrows would do no damage to the were-boar Jollivar.  Thorg slashed at it with his axe, cleaving it mightily, but also suffering himself from the intense cold that was radiating from the blue light.  With his blow though, the blue light flickered, faded and vanished.  On the other side, Sorrel, having realised that her claws were not hurting Jollivar, rushed at him and knocked him right back down the stairs.  Once again, though, he stood up, straightened his broken arm and started charging back up the stairs.  Realising the need of the situation instantly, I whipped out my wand of magic missiles and blasted him with three of them. This time Sorrel stood aside from the top of the stairs, so Jollivar was unable to charge her down, but he wielded a great maul in one hand.  He hit Sorrel with it, sending her reeling.  Sorrel once again grabbed him and hurled him down the stairs, and I send three more fiery darts into him, but this was a slow way of inflicting damage upon him.

Meanwhile, now that her icy blue aura had dissipated, Thorg, Feyabelle and Allyria set about the lieutenant with a vengeance.  She managed to throw her coils around Thorg and start squeezing, but that was her last action.  A blow from Allyria finished her, and she transformed back into a woman as she died.   Sorrel and I were continuing to struggle against Jollivar however.  Thinking quickly, now that the lieutenant was dead, I shouted at Feyabelle to grab my daggers and attack Jollivar with them, as they were magical and would at least hurt him, unlike any of our more potent weapons.  She did so, and Sorrel quickly adapted to the idea.  Rather than throwing Jollivar down the stairs, she grappled him in a bear hug and swung him round to face Feyabelle.  She plunged both daggers into him, not once but twice, as he wrestled to escape Sorrel’s grasp.  I fired another set of fiery darts into him.  Still he rages and struggled, trying to break free from Sorrel – was there nothing that would fell this monstrosity.  We were conscious that our attacks were mere pin-pricks to him, but at least he was now bleeding and showing signs of exhaustion.  Thorg leapt in to try and help restrain him, but was unable to get a good grasp, and Sorrel once again pinned him for Feyabelle to stab.  Thorg in his turn grabbed the daggers off Feyabelle and lunged with them himself, putting all his strength behind them to push them deep into Jollivar’s flesh.  He screamed in pain, as I hit him with another three fiery darts, and slumped in Sorrel’s arms, transforming back into a man as he died.  At last, our thousand cuts had finished him, but we were all weak and battered ourselves.

Sorrel and Thorg rushed downstairs to barricade the great doors of the hall before Sorrel slumped and turned back into a woman again.  Allyria and I investigated the room upstairs that we had not seen.  It also was a bedroom, but the floor was covered with a mysterious sheen of water.  Concerned, we returned to the great bedroom at the far end, which we assumed was Jollivar’s.  The chests turned up some sacks of coins and gems, but nothing more interesting.  We returned to the watery bedroom, which we assumed belonged to the lieutenant.  Espying a chest under the bed from my low eye-level, I cautiously advanced across the floor and extracted it.  It too proved to contain coins and gems, but also two scrolls containing spells that I had not seen before – one for hastening a person for a brief period of time, the other for creating a wall of water.  Both looked rather complex for my current understanding of the magic arts.  Downstairs, Sorrel and Feyabelle started to leaf through a large sheaf of papers lying on a desk by the fire…

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