Report: August 606

I did not have the time or the energy to write up a journal entry for the august gather.  The heat of the Daystar had convinced me I should stay underground. This time they call “summer” always makes me miss my home.  Thankfully Duncan visited us, and wrote his own, which I am repeating here. It can be found in it’s entirety on the Greyhelm message trees. ~S

 

From Duncan’s Journal, August 606 ER ~ Abbreviated.

Greyhelm ~ Keljin

In the month of August I decided that it was time once again to expand my horizons a bit….

We made a rather odd looking group.  Three gypsies made the trip.  Nicolai and Nadja were going down to see their friend Karahna, and they were taking someone named Jezebel with them…. Accompanying this garish and boisterous threesome was myself, Arcos, and Tovolia. 

Eventually other people began to arrive...

It was shortly after this that we saw our first action.  A few wandering pairs of undead attacked those of us that were around the tavern.  I believe they were leviathans or something similar.  They took no damage from my normal sword, but my silver dagger pricked them rather nicely.  After we fought off around half a dozen of these the tavern was peaceful again for a while.

Around this time a person who I judged to be a local came in to the tavern and helped us fight the undead.  He was well dressed and sported a rather jaunty hat.  I asked someone who he was, and I was informed that his name was Dominic and that he held the position of guildmaster in town.  I decided to ask him about the small magic stone I had found earlier.

When I approached him about the matter, he agreed to go with me to the celestial circle to have it identified.  When we got there we found a few other people already inside the guildhall and in the earth circle.  If I recall correctly, Douglas Bluewater was there working on trying to get some sort of spirit mark identified that had been placed on Crazy Eye Sam.  A moment after we entered, two undead burst into the rear door.

These were a different sort than the ones that had attacked the tavern earlier.  They were more gangly and had sharp fangs, and they cast nauseating poison at us.  I got caught flat footed and took a blast of the poison, but luckily I was standing right beside the celestial circle at the time.  Dominic merely recognized me inside, where I collapsed in a heap, and then he proceeded to take apart the undead with spells. 

I met a rather curious person at this point near the tavern.  He had a sparkly looking face, so at first I thought he might be some sort of fae.  But he was completely green and had leaves growing all over his body.  He said his name was Lazeroo, and I judged the he was probably one of the plant people that were mentioned in the newspaper as being an ally to the forces of Evandar.  He had a rather odd trick of phasing this way in and out of trees as a way of traveling.  I saw him a number of times over the course of the night helping out with the fighting.

Around this time we began to suffer attacks of a different sort.  Small bands of chaos elementals began to be seen roaming around the outpost.  They were able to hurl elemental chaos at us, and some had the highly annoying ability to become gaseous once they began to get in trouble.  They would then float around the battlefield until they found the right moment and spot to solidify and attack once more.

I saw Tovolia trying to speak with one of the creatures at one point.  He kept asking it why they attacking, but I don’t think he got a particularly satisfying answer.  One of the creatures seemed to be calling for someone.  At the time I didn’t know what to make of this.

Shortly aftermidnight I heard a great hue and cry come from over by the tavern.  I heard the words “attack” and “Mandrake”, so I guessed that this was going to be a big assault.  When I arrived I found that this was in fact the case.  Most of the adventurers that I had seen earlier were there and others were arriving just as I was.  I saw undead of various shapes and forms spread out in a wide semicircle surrounding the people who had set up fighting in front of the tavern where there was some light.

In addition to the undead, there were a number of cold black elemental shapes that someone told me was more chaos elementals.  They appeared to be assisting the undead during the attack.  Two figures stood out of the crowd.  One was a liche which carried a sword and wore a glowing crown of some sort.  The other was a regal looking undead warrior wearing armor and a gold filigree crown and wielding a large wavy black two handed sword with a skull emblem on the cross guard.  Obviously this was Mandrake, the Emperor of the Graveyard.

The battle was pretty dicey.  The undead minions were mostly just rabble, but here and there among them were some pretty strong foes.  Some were swinging polearms, and quite a few were using carrier attacks of various sorts.  I was struck by both a curse effect and a paralyze effect at different points in the battle.

Shortly after that battle started a somewhat strange thing happened to Douglas Bluewater.  Some sort of weird blue glow started coming out from the area around his next and surrounded him and his sword.  Everyone else just kept fighting like it was perfectly natural to start glowing blue when fighting undead, so I went ahead and did the same.

It was also at about this time we began to observe a large pillar of fire way far off in the distance.  By the glow in the sky it appeared to be a pretty substantial conflagration, but it also appeared to be several miles away.  We had some more immediate concerns at the moment.

At some point during the fight it left the battle that was going on around the tavern and made its way over to the guildhall.  Tovolia took off in pursuit and I followed as well.  Tovolia followed in into the front door, and I went around to the back door.  When I crept inside, I saw the creature pacing around trying to keep the earth circle between it and Tovolia.  Crazy Eye Sam and Katarina were in the earth circle at this point.  The creature was calling out to Crazy Eye Sam seductively, and she was visibly upset by its presence.

Tovolia kept edging around the circle.  When I stepped inside, we had the creature wedged between the two of us and the wall and the circle.  Tovolia made a lunge for it and I followed up, and a moment later we had beat the tar out of it.  Tovolia told me to stand back while he delivered a killing blow, which caused the creature to explode into a pile of dust.

……..Mandrake and the liche retreated a short distance away and rifted out, and this time they didn’t return.  A few moments later the last of the undead and chaos creatures were destroyed and all was quiet once more.

After the battle was over there was one finally piece of drama.  A new plant creature phased out of a tree right by the tavern and then collapsed into a heap of mulch.  Several people drug the pile of leaves and branches into the tavern and poured water over the roots, and that seemed to revive it.  The creatures said that it was Juniper, and explained that the forest was being attacked a good distance away.  That seemed to be the explanation of the large pillar of fire we saw off in the distance.  I left it in the care of some of the other adventurers and nobles, who spend a fair amount of time talking to it.

That was pretty much the extent of the excitement for the first night. 

Right after breakfast some of the local wildlife decided to show up.  Maybe they were attracted to the smell of the food.  A small fire breathing salamander crept up and tried to take a bite out of a few people before we killed it.  A scorpion came by a little later and met a similar fate.  A whole crowd of giant wasps came buzzing by at one point.  They didn't mess with us as long as we ignored them, but eventually the temptation was too great and someone tossed a spell at one of them.  That led to the predictable fight.

 

~At this time, Du’Kratha, Kier, Lady Akoya, Carak, Douglas, Simon, and I were brought to Faerie for Fenagle’s trial. Fenagle is a leprechaun who was born on Tyrra, and cannot travel to Faerie on his own.  Apparently his father had committed fey crimes, and Fenagle was on trial for his father’s criminal behavior.  These crimes included: Carving his initials on a Treant, telling a sprite sad stories, flatulence at the Queen’s table, shaving a satyr, and making unwanted advances on a pooka.  We were there to argue Fenagle’s defense.  The whole affair was ridiculous.  We were allowed to plead “guilty”, “not guilty”, and “guilty but funny”. Lady Akoya was recruited to work with the prosecution, and did a very good job of it.  I knew after the first bit of evidence was presented, that I needed to throw logic to the wind. The prosecution presented gloves as evidence for the first charge, which fit Fenagle. Since the gloves fit, he was guilty. We also realized that the Judge enjoyed drinking, and could be influenced by offers and toasts.  He also appreciated wild gestures and extravagance, and we found ourselves penalized if we did not gesture enough.  In the end, Fenagle was found guilty on a few charges, guilty but funny on one charge, and not guilty on a few others.  Fenagle was allowed to leave after paying a small fine.  The fey judge spoke to us after the trial, saying what they really wanted was a box, with a dragon turtle figurine inside.  Knowing how fey work, we made NO PROMISES.  As we were rifting home, another fey interrupted the rift, or kidnapped it, or whatever… I am not sure.  But we ended up talking to this fey before we returned home.  She showed us where this box and turtle was, and indicated how it may help us. ~Sinai

 

I left the tavern, and I noticed that a small pool of golden liquid had bubbled up not too far away.  I took a quick look at it, but declined to investigate it any further.  I spoke to some people about it later in the day, and they told me that the pool was infused with something they called "jester magic", whatever that was.  The pool caused a number of random beneficial and baneful effects.  That didn't sound like anything I cared to get involved with, so I was glad that I had left it be.

I passed the pool and started down a road that led out of town through some woods.  I had not gone very far when I heard something thrashing about in the limbs of a tree up ahead.  I moved a little closer to see what was going on, and a big fat spider leapt down and practically landed on my head……

I walked back towards the center of town, and noticed a small group of large ant like creatures marching towards the tavern.  I saw Baron Travador, Katarina, and a few other people there, and they were mounting a pretty effective defense.

I looked around, and I saw that there was a slow but steady stream of these ant things marching towards the tavern.  They were all emerging from behind the guild building.  I snuck over there and took a peek around the corner and saw that they were all burrowing up from a small mound of sand that had been pushed up in the middle of the ground.

I took a look at the mound, and saw a couple of pieces of treasure mixed in the sand and debris.  I grabbed up some stuff, but a moment later another ant popped up and sent me scurrying.  I ran over to the tavern and told everyone about the mound, and we all fought our way over to that spot to see what we could do about getting rid of the ants.

I tried grabbing up a bunch of rocks and stones and plugging up the mound with those.  That didn’t seem to work, though.  The ants just pushed them out of the way on their way out.  Crazy Eye Sam ran up and joined the fight at this point and skewered an ant or two herself.  Eventually Baron Travador managed to beat on the ant mound and stomp it flat, and that seemed to do the trick.  No more ants came forth after that.

After all that excitement and activity, I was in the mode for something a little less strenuous.  Luckily, just such an opportunity presented itself just a short time later.  I noticed a peasant lady or farmer of some sort looking around the edge of the woods and wringing her hands.  I went over to her and asked what was vexing her, and she said her poor cow had gone missing.

I figured this couldn’t be too hard of a task to accomplish.  She pointed out the path the bovine had followed, and the trail was quite easy to follow.  Presently I found the cow standing in a small clearing before a black icky looking pool of ooze.  The pool fairly reeked of chaos taint, and sure enough before I could do anything else the stupid cow shoved her head in the pool and took a drink.

At that point the cow started foaming at the mouth and her eyes rolled back in her head.  All of her hair started to stand on end and dark splotches started to show up all over her back.  To complete the picture of a chaos tainted animal, old Bossy turned to face me and let loose with a cowpie of immense proportions and stench.  Then she started to come for me.

I began to consider what options I had, and quickly decided I had only one.  I had no means by which to purge the chaos taint.  That just left me killing the poor cow.  I’ll not relate the short battle that followed or even try to make it sound interesting or heroic.  Face it, chaos tainted or not, it was a cow.

On the way back to the tavern, I got to thinking about that chaos tainted pool.  This time it was just a milk cow that drank the water.  What if a bear or a wolf or a dire elephant happened to wander by and take a drink?  I thought it might be a good idea to see if I could get someone to take care of the pool somehow.

When I got back to the tavern I asked around if anyone knew how to cleanse a pool.  Anno said that he had a cantrip in his tome that could be used to purify a well, and I figured that would be worth a shot.  So the both of us headed back to the pool to give it a try.

When we got there, I stepped back to give him whatever room he needed to work with.  While he was digging around in his pouches looking for components, I noticed that all those weird squiggly markings all over his face seemed to start to glow and move around some.  I nervously kept me hand near my sword just incase he decided to go nuts on me or something.  But once he found his components, he did a little hocus pocus and tossed a spell at the pool and it immediately cleared up.

When we made out way back towards the tavern, I saw that there were a small group of large armor plated monsters scuffling with people around the tavern.  They appeared to be umber hulks to me.  I ran over to join the fight, but umber hulks are a tad tougher to kill than milkcows, as you may imagine.  On several occasions they plastered me pretty good.

Once the umber hulks were taken care of, I decided to take another look down the road that led towards the river.  On the way down I spotted an old but well dressed man arguing with what looked to be a goblin.  They were playing tug of war with a small box or chest.  I wasn’t entirely sure how goblins acted here in the south, and I was thinking about sneaking up and pasting the little green guy, when I decided that might not be the best idea.  This looked like a private argument, and maybe none of my business, so I decided to just leave the two be.

A short distance later I spotted another goblin.  This one was prancing around some sort of strange metal contraption.  I watched him for a few moments to make sure it was just him, and that this wasn’t some sort of devious trap, but when I could spot no hidden ambushers I decided to ask him what his story was.

When I approached the goblin he stopped messing with the machine and greeted me.  I asked him what sort of machine he had, and he said it was an alchemy machine.  It had three levers and a small slot on the front of it.  I asked him how it worked, and he said he didn’t know.  He claimed to have just found it.

That struck me as a tad odd.  Who would make an alchemy machine and then just stick it in the middle of the woods?  It looked pretty heavy, so I doubt the goblin had carried it there.  The goblin explained that he wanted to try to get the machine to make him some intoxicant elixirs, but he couldn’t figure out how to make it work.  If I could manage to get it to work, he said I could have anything it made so long as he got to keep the intoxicants.

I figured what the heck.  Before I did anything, though, I wanted to make sure I had the benefit of a poison shield.  The last thing I wanted was for the machine to start spitting out nausea gas poisons all over me.  I was pretty sure I had a poison shield elixir on me somewhere, but for the life of me I couldn’t find it.

The goblin was getting a little impatient, so I decided to just risk it.  I grabbed two of the levers at random and gave them a jerk.  The machine hummed and whirred and rattled, and after a moment a small vial dropped out of the slot in the front.  I examined it, and it bore a neat and tidy label that read “Poison Shield Elixir”.

Well, that wasn’t so bad.  I chugged down the elixir and yanked on the levers once more with a little bit more confidence.  Soon I was holding a vial labeled “Euphoria Antidote”.  After that I managed to coax an “Enslavement Antidote” out of the machine.  Not bad.

The goblin was getting a little impatient, so I twiddled the levers once more and finally managed to get an intoxicant elixir to come out.  The goblin squealed when I tossed it over to him.  I tried once more and again produced an intoxicant elixir, which I figured should be enough to keep the goblin blotto for a good long time.  I decided that now would be a good time to stop pressing my luck, so I told the goblin I was done, and that he could have his machine back.

The goblin said that it looked real easy, and that he was going to give it a try.  I said go right ahead, and turned to walk over to a nearby tree where I had put down my bag of rope and tools.  No sooner had I got ten feet away than I heard a high pitched whine behind me.  I turned around just in time to see the machine and the goblin go BOOOOM and explode into a million pieces.  The explosion practically knocked me down, and completely drenched me in goblin juices.  Luckily none of the metal plates and cogs and gears that flew everywhere struck me.  Well, so much for my new friend and his amazing alchemy machine.


I scraped as much of the goblin off me as I could with a stick and headed back towards the center of town.  On the way back I ran into Baron Travador and struck up a conversation.  I mentioned the goblin and old man I had seen arguing over a box, and he got real interested.  He said that some people were looking for a box or chest that was supposed to be in the area that contained a dragon turtle.  It was very important that the chest be found for some reason, and he thought that perhaps this might be the chest.

He asked if I could take him back to the old man and the goblin, and I said that I would.  We started off down the road once more that led to the river, when suddenly a group of men jumped out of the bushes at the side of the road and attacked.  Two of them were swordsmen in plain soldier’s armor with no insignia, and the third appeared to be a caster of some sort.

…….Eventually I remembered the incant and dropped his imprison and Travador proceeded to hack him to bits.

We came up with a few valuables but nothing in the way of clues or hints as to who they were or what they were up to beyond just simple highway robbery.  We then chucked their carcasses into the woods and continued on until we had found the goblin the old man.

They were standing right where I had seen them previously and they were still yelling at each other and pulling on each end of a small wooden chest.  The baron asked them to stop bickering for a moment and to explain themselves.  Both the goblin and the old man had the exact same story.  Each claimed the chest belong to them and that the other was trying to steal it.

The baron presented them with a solution.  He took possession of the box, and after a moment’s thought handed it to me.  He then asked each of them to describe the contents of the chest, and whoever correctly identified what was inside would get the chest returned to them.

Travador then took the chest back from me and awarded it to the goblin.  The old man then shrugged and said “Oh well” and walked off. 

Well, it looked like the box wasn’t the one that Travador was looking for after all.  We headed back towards the tavern and then went on our separate ways.  I decided to try exploring the other side of the town for a little while, and so went off in that direction and began to explore the woods.

……It was a short walk back to the field and we picked a small handful of the blue flowers.  Boo thought they looked a little more lavender than blue, but decided to get them anyway just in case.  She said she had no idea why Arcos of all people wanted little pretty flowers, but once I showed them too her she seemed reluctant to get rid of them.  As it turned out she hauled around those flowers for several hours until she met Arcos at dinner, at which point he laughed at her and threw away the flowers.  Apparently the flowers were some kind of inside joke that I still don’t quite understand.

…..When I turned around to head back, a spotted what looked to be carved stone off the road in the woods a little ways.

I crept over to take a look and found a small cave in a hillside with gargoyle like stone statues arrayed to either side of the entrance.  This didn’t look like anything I wanted to check out alone, so I headed back to the tavern to see who might be willing to investigate it with me.

….Boo and Shaiith came, along with the three gypsies Nicolai, Nadja and Jezebel, as well as Tovolia, a local fox scavenger named Valina and a handful of others I can’t recall.

They followed me to the cave, and we stood outside for a moment to try to figure out what the story was with the statues.  They seemed to be normal statues and they did not detect as magic.  Tovolia suddenly decided he was going to explore the cave and he boldly stepped inside.  I leaped to follow him, because I didn’t want Tovolia to spend any time alone inside with the, ummm, danger.

The cave proved to be quite small.  The bones of what appeared to be barbarians were strewn about the cave, but I couldn’t tell if this was a burial chamber or some monsters rubbish pit.  We found a couple of odd teardrop shaped stones that someone claimed was gargoyle tears.  I don’t know what we did at that point if anything to set the statues in motion, but a moment later they were all crowding into the cavern and wailing the mess out of us.

The gargoyles or stone creatures or statues or whatever they were moved a little slow, but they hit like a ton of bricks.  One of them backed Tovolia up against the wall and started pounding him like a nail.  Tovolia keeled over, and I had seen Tovolia fight enough to realize that his armor had up until this point taken most of the punishment and that he was playing possum.  For once, though, this didn’t seem to work, because the stone statue never let off pounding on him.

Tovolia eventually had to roll out of the way, and managed to bring up his silver sword to deal a ringing blow off the statue’s knee.  That staggered it for a moment, and Tovolia followed up his advantage and smashed it to pieces.

Nicolai and Nadja and Shaiith all were pouring out shatters and destroy spells, and pretty soon all the statues were broken and crumbled.  Someone scraped me back together into one pile and healed me back to one piece again, though I still kept snorting out sand and pebbles from my nose for a number of minutes afterwards.

We continued to explore the cave for some clue as to what the story was behind the weird stone statues, but nothing more revealed itself. 

I decided to do one last lap around town to see if I could find anything that needed doing.  When I reached the edge of town near a small copse of trees I saw what appeared to be a small raggedy looking girl crying.  When I walked over, I saw that it was in fact a small goblin girl, and she was crying her eyes out.

My two previous encounters with goblins hadn’t turned out too bad (for me, at least), so I decided I would try to help her out.  I asked what was the matter, and she pointed to a nearby tree.  She said her kitty wouldn’t come down.  Sure enough, perched on a branch about fifteen feet up in the air was a weird looking cat.  It was very dark and shaped a bit like a panther, and it had three tails swishing back and forth behind it.  When I approached the tree, it greeted me with a meow.

Luckily enough, I had owned a cat or two in my youth, and so I had another idea that I thought might work, and that did not have a great deal of inherent risk.  Just as I was about to put my plan into action, however, I heard my name being called.  I looked over at a nearby house, and I saw Jezebel leaning out of a second story window.  She yelled over to me to ask if I had euphoria antidote on me.

…….Once I had given Jezebel the vial and she had returned to the house, I pulled out what I had been looking for.  I took about a fifteen foot length of my rope and played it out on the ground.  I then began to slowly pull it back and forth in front of the tree, occasionally stopping or jerking the rope in what I hoped was an enticing fashion.  Sure enough, the cat’s eyes narrowed and his ears perked up.  I kept on making passes with the rope back and forth until presently the cat could stand it no longer, and it leaped from the tree and commenced to attack my rope.

By now the sky was really threatening and the thunder and lighting was getting quite close.  I headed over to the tavern and only just managed to get inside before the sky opened up and the rain came pouring down.  It rained buckets for a half an hour at least before leveling off to a nice steady soaking rain.  The streets of the town were awash in six inches of water by this point.

I had only a little bit of company while sitting in the tavern.  Most of the people were no where to be found.  When I asked where everyone was at, I was told that everyone was here one moment, and then gone the next.  About an hour after the rain started a large crowd of people practically appeared on the doorstep of the tavern and made their way inside.  They said they have been transported to an area far away to help save Juniper’s forest from the menace that was attacking it. 

…..I spoke to Carak and asked him if there was anything specific planned for the evening, and he explained that plans were being made to assault Mandrake’s fortress in order to retrieve some spirit bottles. 

I saw there was some activity over in the guild building, so I wandered over to take a look there.  When I entered I saw that once again Douglas and Crazy Eye Sam were in the earth circle with Dominic nearby.  I sat down with some other folks and watched Douglas attempt to perform a formal magic ceremony to remove a spirit mark from Crazy Eye Sam, but when it finished the mark remained.  Dominic then took her over to the celestial circle to see if he could figure out what was going on.  I didn’t have anything to contribute to this process, so I went ahead and took my leave.

 
When I heard that the music had stopped in the tavern I went back inside.  I stood socializing for a bit when I saw John Random enter by the back door.  He looked around the room, and walked over to me once he spotted me.  He asked if by any chance I might have an enslavement antidote on me.  As chance would have it, I did, owing to my earlier experience with the goblin and the alchemy machine.

I handed it over to John who then left by the back door.  I short time later he returned and explained that the antidote was exactly what was needed.  He said that it was given to Karahna, who turned out to be enslaved to someone.  I never did learn who it was, because about that time we got interrupted by preparations for the next trip.

People were beginning to show up and get organized for the assault on Mandrake’s keep.  The plan as it was explained to me was for everyone to travel to Mandrake’s keep using a gate provided by Lord Breyland.  Once there, the bulk of us would mount and attack on the main gate of the keep.  Lady Juniper and her leafy allies would attack another portion of the keep at the same time.  While we occupied and distracted Mandrake’s forces, a smaller group would spirit walk into Mandrake’s workshop, steal the spirit bottles of his minions, and then escape.

I was told by Count Idrahil that they were having problems scraping up enough power components to perform the spirit walk.  I was asked to donate any spare power components to Akoya, and I gave her two or three.  More people started to show up and people started to get together into their various groups.  Carak gave a long speech explaining how this battle was going to be insanely difficult, and that if any had any doubts they should bow out now.  Of course, no one did.

….We all stepped through the gate and emerged on a road just outside one of the main gates of Mandrake’s keep.  Carak and the inside crew split off from the main group, and the rest of us proceeded to the gate.  Titinious had been put in charge of the main force, and he led us to the battle and arranged us for the fight.  The battle was joined almost immediately.

As it turned out there was very little room for maneuver or strategy.  There was a sludge filled moat surrounding the keep which appeared impassible.  Our assault occurred on about a 25 foot wide drawbridge that led to one of the gates.  The gate leading inside was protected by a circle of power, which meant there was no way we were getting inside.  Mandrake’s minions poured out of the gate, and the battle line formed right at the head of the bridge.

For the first part of the battle things were a stalemate.  We were fighting much the same minions as we had fought the night before.  Then some of the real threats starting showing up.  One was some sort of undead caster which would periodically step up to the front of the lines to cast half a dozen magically delivered death spells, followed by half a dozen arcane death spells.  He would then step back, only to repeat the process a few more times in the battle.  Our line practically wilted at this assaulted, but firmed back up once the death barrage ended.

In addition to this, we also faced a Death Jester, Dame Miranda, the liche, and finally Mandrake himself.  The people on the front lines were taking a frightful beating, but the healers were barely up to the task of picking them back up each time they fell, which was pretty often.  Things teetered on the knife’s edge of victory and defeat for around twenty minutes, and then things fell completely apart.

The inside group had completed their portion of the mission, and I later learned that Lord Breyland somehow rifted them back out.  A retreat was ordered, but it almost immediately became a rout.  Once we started moving back, the fighters in the front who got dropped weren’t able to be healed.  Our line got disorganized, and that knife’s edge we had been dancing on suddenly become of cliff we fell over.

People started getting dropped left and right.  Arcos was slowly backing up in front of me and he had two undead on him.  I tried to think of something to do to try to take some of the pressure off him when it hit the ground, and at that point I took off running.  Several other people were already ahead of me in full flight back towards the gate. 

At this point I decided to try to be a hero.  No one was immediately pursuing me, so I peeled off and jumped behind a tree.  My somewhat vague thought was that I would double back and try to pick up Arcos and any other people who got dropped once the pursuing undead pushed past them.  But as I looked back I saw that wasn’t going to be possible.  The liche was wandering amongst the fallen adventurers and raising them as undead and sending them off after their friends.

Well crap.  Now I was alone, with the entire undead force between me and the gate.  Luckily there was some woods on this side of the road, and so I pushed my way through the brush and advanced through the woods along side of the road.  Once I saw the glow of the gate, I gritted my teeth and moved back out on the road.  Undead were everywhere, but luckily half of them were adventurers that had been raised by the liche.  I was counting on the fact that if they saw me in the rear of the action then I would be mistaken for one of them.

Up ahead I could see that there was some fighting right at the mouth of the gate.  I started to run towards it.  I heard Lord Breyland call out twice “Is everyone through the gate?  Is everyone through the gate?”  I ran up and yelled “NOOO!!”, but apparently in the confusion I wasn’t heard.  Just as I reached the line of undead in front of the gate, Lord Breyland stepped through and the gate closed.

I skidded to a halt and just stood there for a few moments with my mouth open.  NOW what in the heck was I supposed to do?  Then I realized I was standing right in the middle of about five risen undead adventurers who were now turning around and staring at me.  I took off down the road just as blows started raining down on me, and I quickly outdistanced any pursuit.

I ducked off in the woods again, and thought hard about what to do next.  The undead were by now all up and down the road.  The gate was gone, and I had no expectation of it opening again.  The only thing I could think to do was to sneak back to the keep and see if maybe I could find someone else stranded like me.

I picked my way through the woods and finally come up along side the road opposite of where we had fought the battle.  I could hear a women’s voice, and I finally saw that it was Nadja.  I could barely see her through the trees and my fogged up glasses, but I could hear her clearly.  I think she was in a circle of power.  She was begging and pleading with the liche to give up all the fallen adventurers to her.  She was claiming that if she got her friends back, she would go back into town and retrieve the stolen bottles.

The liche wasn’t buying any of it.  He finally agreed to give her back one person, and that was it.  She asked for Nicolai, but it seemed as though Nicolai wasn’t among those who were held captive.  She described him several times and implored them to look to make sure he wasn’t there.  Eventually she decided to take back her sister, Jezebel.

I couldn’t tell how many people the undead had at this point.  I heard Tovolia’s name mentioned, and there was of course Jezebel.  Now that Nadja had her back I have no idea how she planned to get back to town.  I was just about to move to see if I could get a better look at her when I was served another surprise for the night.

I heard a noise behind me, and it quickly grew to the sound of an army marching.  I turned around and stared into the blackness through my streaky glasses and saw an large force of undead crunchy through the woods and coming straight at me.  There was absolutely no place to go.  They were on one side of me, and right behind me was the forces of Mandrake.

I figured I was done for right then and there.  In desperation I threw myself on the ground beside the tree I was hiding behind and threw leaves on top of me.  I just knew that there was no way this was going to work.  My heart was in my throat as the undead came tromping up to were I was at.

And then they marched right past me, or over me to be exact.  Two of them actually stepped on me.  I can only believe that they were working under orders that didn’t have anything to do with me.  Once the passed me and marched out onto the road in front of Mandrake’s forces I sat up and got a good look at them.

They seem to be led by nine creatures that resembled Mandrake closely.  They were skeletons with regal looking crowns and ornate armor and weapons.  I took them to be Emperors of the Graveyard.  Additionally there were nine more similar creatures that look a little less powerful,and a little more shabby.  Backing them up were dozens of huge skeletons with sharp fangs.  They marched up to Mandrake’s forces and one of the Emperors started shouting out orders.

“Lesser undead, destroy yourselves!”  Many of the minions of Mandrake looked to be in the process of doing that when the liche shouted for them to stop.  “Who are you, and who sent you!” he screamed.  The new emperors became issuing orders to both Mandrake’s forces and their own.  The liche then countermanded these orders.  Back and forth this went for almost a full minute, with each side trying to wrest control verbally from the other.

At this point I spotted Nadja and Jezebel skirting the undead and heading for the road.  Just as I got up to follow them the liche somehow managed to assert final control, and he ordered all the undead into the keep.  I saw them move to obey just as I caught up with the two gypsies.  All three of us ran down the road to the spot where the gate was.  Unfortunately, none of us could figure out what to do next.  Nicolai took this moment to emerge from the woods and join us.  He had somehow gotten left behind as well.  Nadja was ecstatic to see him.  At this moment, one of the weird leafy green guys rifted out of a tree right beside us and told us he could take us back to town.

Finally, a fortunate break.  But for some reason Nicolai was already walking away back towards the keep, and Nadja was following him pleading for him to leave.  I stood there looking back and forth between those two and Jezebel and leafy guy.  Finally I told Jezebel and the leafy guy to wait two minutes and then I ran off after Nicolai and Nadja.

I caught up with them down the road and found them in quite an argument.  Nicolai wanted her to go back, and she wanted to stay with him.  I watched them argue for a little bit, and briefly considered slugging Nadja and hauling her back, and finally decided that would most likely end up making things worse.  I finally told them that I was leaving, and I started back towards Jezebel and the leaf guy.

……I decided to head back to town.  It seemed to me that things were pretty much over for now, and I wanted to see how things were going to end.  Also, if there was going to be a rescue attempt mounted to get back the captured adventurers, I wanted to be a part of it.  Just as we said our goodbyes and parted company, Jezebel turned to me and handed me back the bag I had given her with my magic cloak in it.  How she had managed to hold on to it the whole time is another story in itself.

It was well past midnight by the time my leafy green friend popped me back out of a tree back in Keljin.  He was gone before I could even get my bearings so I never even got to thank him for the ride.  Nadja, Nicolai and Jezebel were now miles and miles away heading back north.  Tovolia was a prisoner of Mandrake’s forces.  When I last saw Arcos he was an undead.  That pretty much accounted for all the people of traveled to Keljin with.  It looked like I was pretty much on my own from this point on.

I saw that I popped out of a tree over by my cabin.  I surveyed the town, and saw some activity over by the guild building.  I went over to the guild hall and went inside.  I saw a couple of people sitting around socializing, a few people messing around in the earth circle, and nothing at all where the celestial circle used to be.

I asked someone what happened to the celestial circle, and they replied that it had been destroyed in a backlash.  I was told that since all the spirit bottles that were recovered were rendered, and since there was no way to perform a destroy magic formal on each individual bottle, someone came up with the bright idea to have Akoya create an intentional backlash in the circle in hopes that the effect would destroy the bottles.  The very first attempt produced a backlash which destroyed all formal magics in the circle, including all the bottles and the circle itself.

I thought that was a pretty amazing story. From what I understand, there are plenty of seriously nasty things that backlashes can do to the primary caster, and not a lot of effects that would have accomplished the destruction of the bottles. Akoya was taking a huge chance with this strategy, and even if she didn’t end up getting screwed by a backlash, it would almost certainly consume a lot of components before the desired effect was reached.  Yet, she managed to hit it first try.  Fortune favors the foolish, I suppose.

 

A couple of people asked me where I had been, and I explained that I had been left behind when the gate closed.  Quite a few people didn’t make it through the gate, as it turns out.  Several people told me that of the twenty or so people that made up the attacking force, only about eight made it back through the gate. 

When I told my story about getting left behind at the undead keep, a few people gave me an odd look. They very politely but firmly suggested that I present myself to the celestial circle in order to get checked out, and then they realized that there was no longer a celestial circle.  I couldn’t help but be somewhat amused by the situation.

Next I heard some shouting from outside, and I went to see what was going on.  The noise was coming from one side of town over by a road.  I went over there and found several people crowded around a circle of power.  Inside of the circle was the liche and Baron Travador.     
      
I didn’t follow all that got discussed.  As close as I could tell, the liche was there to try to convince people to give back the bottles.  I didn’t see a lot of negotiating, however, and what I heard was mostly a matter of bravado, threats, bluster and insults.  I was having trouble determining if Travador was a prisoner or being controlled, or just confined in the circle.  When the liche went to rift out Travador began attacking the liche so I guess he was just confined. They both ended up rifting out, though.

I wandered about a bit after that to see if anything else was going on.  I ran into Arcos and spoke with him for a moment, and so learned that he had in fact made it back through the gate.  I saw some other people creeping around in a group with their swords drawn. I asked Simon what was going on, and he warned me that Don De’beo had been seen skulking around, and that I should be careful.

 

I had read a little bit about this guy, and I knew he was some sort of undead character that used a lot of alchemy.  I was still feeling pretty fresh, and I was looking for a chance to do something worthwhile, so I added myself on to the group that was looking for him.

We walked around the edge of town peering off into the bushes and shadows, but couldn’t find much of anything.  Then someone ran up and said that he had been spotted on the road leading down towards the water.  I ran over in that direction, and was somewhat concerned to see that no one was following me.  I went ahead and chanced it anyway and padded down the road as quietly as I could.

About thirty yards down the road I ran into about three people standing across the road facing a fourth person who was a little further down.  Don De’beo was clearly the person we were facing, and I recognized Carak and Count Indrahil among the people who were talking to him.  They were trying to convince him of something, or negotiate with him or something similar, but I wasn’t even trying to follow the conversation.

I went back up the road again to see if anyone else was coming.  I think one other person followed me back down. Now there were five of us facing De’beo.  Count Indrahil leaned back and whispered to me “Get ready”, so I knew we were about to attack.  Someone yelled “Now!” and we all leapt at De’beo and started pummeling him.

He started flinging gasses like crazy.  Luckily for us we were all prepared with poison shields.  There were so many of us and we were moving so fast in the dark that it was hard for De’beo to hit any of us more than once.  After I took a gas globe across the front of my shield I chucked it to the side of the path to offer a smaller target.

De’beo realized he couldn’t slug it out with us. So he desecrated himself and started running back up towards the town.  I ran a couple of steps after him, and then remembered that my throwing dagger was strapped to the back of my shield.  So I reversed directions and grabbed up my shield again, and ran back after everyone else.

 

When I got to the top of the road I saw that someone had imprisoned him.  He was still desecrated, however.  This meant that the caster could not get a killing blow off on him.  There was a hurried debate over the best way to take care of the situation.  In the end, about eight of us all stood in a circle around him waiting with weapons and spells drawn and ready.  When the imprison was dropped, De’beo got blasted by a fury of damage, but was almost immediately imprisoned again by Du’kratha.  This time he wasn’t desecrated, so it was a simple matter to killing blow him, and that was that.

With that matter taken care of, I went back inside the guild building to rest for a bit. A short time later a spirit entered the circle looking for a resurrection.  It seemed to be the spirit of Don De’beo, or rather the man he was before being turned into an undead.  Right after the resurrection began there was another disturbance outside.

I walked out back and found Carak arguing with Gwalchmai and some of his buddies.  Gwalchmai was apparently upset about Valteria being captured by Mandrake’s forces, and he blamed Carak for somehow screwing things up so that they couldn’t get him back.  I think this was relating to the ealier visit by the liche, and that Gwalchmai thought that Carak should have traded the bottles for the captured adventurers.  That was at least what I understood from what I heard.  Gwalchmai even went so far as to suggest throwing Carak over the wall of Mandrake’s fort, to which Carak replied that he would jump over the wall willingly if he thought it would bring people back.

I don’t know how far this would have eventually gone, because at that point we were interrupted by some shouting coming from inside.  I went inside and looked out the opposite window and saw a group of about half a dozen glowing eyes approaching the guild building.  When I looked closer I recognized Shaiith, Valina, Valteria, and several others who had been previously captured by Mandrake.  Well, now I knew there wasn’t going to be a rescue mission, because they were all back in town.

The undead adventurers launched an immediate attack on the guild hall.  About half the people there exited out the back door, and the rest of the people crowded into the earth circle. I think more people might have been tempted to go into the earth circle, but as it was it was completely full.

I ducked out back and ran around the building with some other people to attack the undead.  From behind me I got clipped by a pin spell that took off my shield magic spell.  I turned around and saw someone else creeping back away from me.  I thought at first it might have been some idiot adventurer who thought I was an undead.  But when I called back and asked who it was, I hoarse voice replied “Nevermind who this is.”  So it looked like we had someone else after us.

I went back around the building and tried to join the fight, but things were badly disorganized at this point.  The undead adventurers were pretty tough customers, and were clearly not just simple created undead.  In addition to the glowing eyes, they all struck very hard, took a frightful amount of punishment, and could cast earth spells.  The first couple of attacks on them sent people scrambling in retreat, and pretty soon we were all spread out in ones and twos all over the place.

I ran in a few times to get some back attacks and then retreated, but I saw the futility in that.  I couldn’t sustain the attack enough to kill anyone, and they would just heal themselves once I backed off.  In the dark it was very hard to keep track of who was who.  From the back, all the undead looked pretty much like everyone else, since they were in fact adventurers.  I circled around and bumped into Khorvai, and the two of us stuck together for a little while trying to find a good opportunity.  I saw the undead fight for a moment with some people, and then they moved off leaving two people on the ground.

I waited until they had moved off enough and crept up to find Simon and Count Indrahil.  The Count was imprisoned by his own hand, and once he got the chance he threw up a circle around himself, Simon and me.  That gave us a chance to get healed up and to get our act together.  We got some protectives up and waited for a chance to attack.

 

Khorvai and some others started attacking some of the undead not too far from us, and the other undead moved to join the fight.  We chose this moment to drop our circle and join the melee.  When we crashed in on the backside of the undead, the battle turned.  Two of the undead went down, another peeled off and ran, and that just left one to face the rest of us.  A couple of people chased down the one that ran, and I helped finish off the one that stayed, which happened to be Valteria.  Sadly, when we finally brought him down, he crumbled to dust just like the rest of the undead.

We started collecting up belongings and searching around to make sure no one had fallen in the darkness.  Everyone once again starting heading back into the guild building, where the earth circle was rapidly filling up with spirits waiting for resurrections.  I was one of the last people to head inside, and just as I reached the door I got hit with another pin spell flung at me from outside in the dark.

I cast a release spell that I had in one of my items, and hastily scrambled inside.  I told some people I had just gotten attacked, and they said that it was the Blade Bother, or Brother of the Blade, or brother of Mister the Blade, or something like that.  Lazeroo, the leafy green guy I had met the first night, was in the guild building for some reason at that time, and he stepped outside to take a look.  I heard him yell “There he is!” and then he took off running.

I ran for the door and got outside just behind Simon.  Lazeroo was off and running after a dark figure, and he was chucking spells like crazy.  The dark figure was zig zagging back and forth to avoid the spells, and this gave Simon and me a chance to catch up.  Simon was ahead of me, and rather than try to push past him I settled in to a steady pace in case the chase lasted for a long time. 

The dark figure must have realized he wasn’t going to get away from all three of us.  He ran over to a sandy area and quickly traced out a circle and raised a circle of power.  He stood there inside of it croaking out some hoarse threats at all of us, and then he rifted out never to return.  After the excitement of the chase, I thought that was a rather anti-climatic ending.

By this time it was starting to get close to morning.  I had been going pretty hard for several hours, and I was just about done for.  Surely, I thought, this would have to be the end of the excitement for the evening.  I said my goodnights and crept off to my now empty cabin and went to sleep.  Later on I learned that I missed a couple of pantherghasts showing up, but I can live with that.

Thus ended my first trip to the lands of Greyhelm.  I had managed to survive unscathed, but several of my friends were not so lucky.  My gypsy companions were already on their way home, and I still did not know the fate of Tovolia, who was not among the adventurers who came back as undead.  Rather than head back immediately to my home in Therendry, I was to spend the next few weeks in Keljin resting up and finishing off some loose ends.  Finally it was time to head back to my home town of
Exeter
, where Duke Pinetree of Therendry was holding a grand tournament.  At that is where I’ll begin my next tale.