Hacklab

Miz'ry Jones and the Temple of Dumathoin
The Power of the Dark Side

I do admit, I had a moment of doubt once the spiders began binding me in their webs. However, though I could sense Charles’ uncertainty, I knew that with the help of the acquaintances we’ve made, he would make it out of this mine and back to Neverwinter with his limbs intact. This was not an assurance I could have given had I remained with him instead. He’s always fared better on the surface, anyway, whereas I have always prefered the dark depths of the earth. Ergo, the decision to stay with this Drozz fellow was of little consequence to me. I had, of course, already entered into an unbreakable pact with a power greater than myself, so I felt no fear at offering up my services to a strange Drow. Given his proficiency at summoning up darkness, I could infer that he was indeed more experienced than I, though perhaps not by much.

Still, he clearly is not experienced with warlocks, as the web bindings were entirely unnecessary. I do not invoke the name of my patron lightly, and furthermore, he ought to have realized the significance of a deal made with a creature bound to the fay. I couldn’t break my word and live easily.

“Niamhierachtanach,” I muttered under my breath in Sylvan. I was fully trapped now in the webs, and couldn’t move.

Drozz, or whatever his real name was, clicked his fingers and the remaining spider began to exit the temple room. I couldn’t see through the magical darkness as it left, and was surprised when I was hauled off my feet and across the shoulder of the remaining bugbear. Terribly uncomfortable.

The bugbear carried me through the cloud of darkness and out of the temple. The corridor was similar, with some clear Dwarven excavation. I found it difficult to keep track of where exactly we were going, as the bugbear’s gait was jostling, and my view in front was blocked by spiders.

After a few turns, I was dumped unceremoniously onto the stone floor. It wasn’t painful, though there was the sound of ice cracking. My armor spell was still intact. I struggled against the spider webs for a moment, but they were too strong for me to break easily. I had to give up, and glanced around the new room as I caught my breath and fought to sit upright.

A table was scattered with papers, and I saw a few bottles of potions and poisons glinting among the stacks. A typical bedroll had been set out, and the room had a general lived-in quality about it. This was clearly where Drozz had decided to reside during his operation. More interesting to me, of course, was the unconscious dwarf lying tied in the same manner as I, though his face was bruised and bloodied. My heart hammered when I realized that he looked exactly the same as the dwarf that had brushed past Charlatan and I. What had I missed.

I couldn’t spare a thought for the conundrum at the moment however, as the drow himself was standing in a corner, leaning against the wall and twirling his staff around. I could see a glint in his eyes as he watched me, and I narrowed my eyes at him.

“These webs are absurd,” I told him in Elvish. “I’ve already sworn an oath, and you clearly know full well the magnitude of it’s gravity, or you wouldn’t have made me swear as such. Honestly. Amrahsach drahwenn.” Sylvan slipped into my speech again, as it often did when I was aggravated.

Drozz smiled at me, though the expression didn’t match his eyes. They were still fixed on me, deep purple and calculating and cold and discomfiting.

“My dear,” he said speaking Elvish back to me, “Miz’ry, was it?”

“Misery Jones, actually,” I replied, emphasizing the human accent that I’d fought against for years. I wanted to remind this wizard that I was, in fact, not a full drow, and therefore not as useful to him as I otherwise would have been.

Of course, if I was a full drow, there’s no way I would be subjected to this nonsense. Indeed, Drozz would likely be the one groveling. I rolled my eyes.

“Though I suppose Miz’ry is too formal for the likes of you. Just call me Dreya.” I thought his chosen alias was ridiculous, and gave him the Elvish slang word for lady in turn. Honestly, what sort of wannabe dungeon delver nicknames himself ‘dude’? What an utter lack of whimsicality.

Drozz narrowed his eyes at me, and was across the room and standing in front of me in a flash. “Don’t test me, girl,” he hissed, and bent down to grab my jaw. He forced my head up to look at him, and I glared. His grip tightened, became painful, but as soon as I made a sound of discomfort, he let go with a howl, his hand covered in ice.

He hopped around in an undignified manner for a moment, flailing his hand and trying to warm it, and I sent a brief thought of thanks to my patron for the boon of my wintry armor.

“Gremmel,” Drozz snarled, whirling towards the bugbear at the door. He growled some sort of command at him in Goblin, then stalked out of the chamber, slamming the wooden door behind him. A few small spiders fell from the ceiling.

The bugbear eyed me, and I felt a sudden swoop of fear. I was entirely helpless against it, though if it tried to do me too much harm, at least my armor would hurt it back. He didn’t seem interested in harming me, though, as he just stood and watched me.

“Gremmel, that’s your name, right?” I asked the thing in Common.

It grunted a reply that I took as an affirmation.

“Well, what did Drozz, the Black Spider, I mean, say to you?” I asked it.

It stared moronically at at me for a moment. “He say stand here. Watch pet until no more ice. Then he come back.”

I rolled my eyes again. Pet. Honestly. Still, I’d been called far worse things in my time, and a ridiculous title from a drow carried not a bit of the weight as the title of Vassal did from the Queen of Air and Darkness.

As minutes ticked by, I started to grow quite uncomfortable, as the webbing prevented me from sitting in a comfortable position. My mind started to whirl, catastrophizing, as I went over again and again what I had told Drozz. While I had offered assistance in terms of research, and within that parameter had implied that I would acquire knowledge, I realized as I pondered that I should have been much more specific. Drozz could set me in the middle of a warding or cut me open on a necromancer’s slab in the name of research, and per our agreement, I would have no recourse against him. Then there was the whole ‘serving’ issue, and I didn’t bother going over the details of what exactly that could mean. Disgusting. It had been an unwise thing to agree to, but of course when I had blurted it out, I hadn’t had time to think of a better exchange. Knowledge for servitude. That seemed to be the general theme of my life. I clung to the idea of expanding my spell tome, of finding the spell forge, of finally having the capability to cast a True Polymorph spell upon myself, and once I was a full drow, I would see this idiot put back in his place. A short time of servitude was nothing, in comparison.

My eyes flicked back to the dwarf, still unconscious, though in the silence I could hear his belabored breathing. If this was, in fact, the dwarf we’d been after, then that meant I’d wasted at least a part of my freedom on some calaoise beatanen. How could I have been so stupid? More importantly, what had it been? I racked my brain for information on shapechanging creatures, and I remembered. A doppleganger, perhaps? My heart started to race as I thought of Charlatan stuck with a creature like that. He was always too free with his words and thoughts. And he was far, far too trusting. I struggled violently against the webs, but they were just as immovable as ever. And at any rate, what could I do? I was bound by my oath. “Caoimeád sábháiltte eir,” I whispered into the dark room, hoping that the Queen of Air and Darkness would take time to hear.

I sat and plotted and schemed and worried, my back tensing and my legs cramping more as the minutes ticked by. I was bored, and found myself wishing the dwarf would wake up, if only so I could have someone to talk to. He remained stubbornly unconscious. After a time, I felt the cold cling of my armor vanish, and I looked up sharply at the bugbear. “Okay, it’s gone,” I said, speaking slowly and loudly. “Can you let me out of this spiderweb nonsense now?”

The bugbear grunted, as eloquent as ever, and prodded me in the side, hard.

“Ow!” I yelped, twisting away from the impact. The thing just laughed, a nasty, gruff sound, and did it again. And again. And I was off, shouting insults at it in Sylvan, which of course don’t sound insulting at all to someone who doesn’t speak the language. That’s why I love them.

By the time Drozz came back in the room, I was curled in a ball, my side a throbbing bruise.

He said something to the bugbear, and amused smile playing on his mouth, and the cursed creature finally stopped prodding me. I let out a sigh, but didn’t feel much like moving given the state of my side.

“With all that shrieking, you’ll call the undead down on us,” Drozz chided. He reached out and placed his palm on top of my hair as he spoke. “Quiet, child. You should have told me what your armor did, and we wouldn’t be in this situation.”
I swore at him in Sylvan too, though the effect wasn’t at all cutting as my voice was laced with pain. I was having trouble breathing.

“Now, I’m going to release you, but of course your hands are going to remain bound. I can’t have you casting that armor on yourself again and again.” He laughed lightly, a creepy sound. A quick slice of his dagger- jeweled and inscribed, I noted, becoming distracted by it for a moment- and I was freed, though my hands were immediately wrenched in front of me and lashed together with a length of rope. I rolled my eyes again.

“I’ve said already, this is entirely unnecessary,” I told him through clenched teeth. He tied off the last knot and hauled me to my feet. My legs were horribly sore at first, but I shook off the sensation and straightened up to my full height.

I noted with no small amount of glee that standing, I was able to stare Drozz right in the eyes, as I was of a height with him. My human blood at least served to give me more height that is typical of the Drow and I was suddenly grateful for the time I’d spend tromping around the country with Charles, because I was rather athletic compared to many of the casters I’d encountered.

Still, I wasn’t about to fight him. I’d lose horribly, for one thing, and more importantly, I would not go back on an oath made on my patron’s name.

“I will decide what’s necessary and what is not necessary, girl,” Drozz said. “For the time being, you will tell me what the purposes of that… traveling menagerie was. I’ve never seen a group so full of fools and cowards.”

I shrugged and leaned back against the wall, lounging in a picture of ease. “They told you already. The dwarf.” My eyes slid to the unconscious figure on the floor.

“Ah. Yes.” Drozz’s eyes glittered again, and he smirked. “A pity, you making this arrangement for, essentially, nothing.” He stepped forward, closer than was comfortable, but I didn’t move from my casual position. Let him think he had no effect on me.

I stared back at him, my face expressionless. “For knowledge, in fact. I want to know about the Forge.”

“You’re not in any position to be making demands,” he said, taking another step forward and grabbing my jaw again. I couldn’t help rolling my eyes. Typical.

“Knowledge is part of this… bargain. I’m more than happy to help you find it, or get to it, or research it, or anything along that vein that you require.” I didn’t move, nor did I show any kind of discomfort at being manhandled. He expected resistance on my part, I was sure, and I strove to surprise him with my reactions.

Sure enough, when I didn’t react, he released me and took a step back, his face hardening. “That’s useless to me. Your paladin friend, now, she would have proved an excellent meat-shield. Or even that dwarf, the one with the misshapen head. They clearly would have no reservations about charging into a cavern undead.”

“Well, it’s a pity you sent a craicsinn doppleganger with them, or I could have probably persuaded them to help you,” I said through clenched teeth.

He apparently didn’t like my attitude, because his fist lashed out and he struck me across the face. My head snapped back, but the blow was laughably weak. I laughed in his face, ignoring the mild twinge of my cheekbone.

“You figured that out, did you?” he said, his voice still calm. It was unnerving. “Well, perhaps you are rather more clever than I expected. Still. I will not tolerate any condescension from the likes of you.” He tapped my face, right next to my eyes, and I knew what he meant. I hadn’t inherited the typical slanted elven eyes of the Drow, and my eyes were instead a garishly round human shape.

“Caertryonn,” I replied, sneering. Weakling, in Sylvan.

He raised his hand as if to strike me again, but when he moved it, I could tell he was beginning to cast a spell. I couldn’t help flinching. He smiled at me again, and lowered his hand. “And you will refrain from speaking that wretched language. The Fey are nothing but an annoyance. If you must insult me, do so in Elvish, or at the very least in Common, so we can all understand.”

“I made no agreements about which languages I would and would not speak, therefore I am well within my rights to deny your request.” I lifted my chin in defiance.

His calm demeanor seemed to slip a bit in face of my blatant disobedience. I hadn’t promised to agree to everything he said, only to serve him. It was still a foolishly open-ended promise, but if he wanted that much control over me, he’d have to resort to charms or beguiling enchantments.

“You will, and you will refer to me as heruamin only, and you will show some respect.” His voice sounded more spidery, the consonants clicking together as he spoke. I could tell he was angry, but I was absolutely not going to refer to him as “my lord,” no matter the language. My Lady would take issue with my loyalty being so divided.

“I won’t,” I said, switching to common and once again emphasizing the accent of my father’s region.

“Gremmel, tear off one of her fingers,” Drozz said, casually motioning the bugbear over.

“Wait wait wait!” I said, backing away as the bugbear approached, my heart hammering. It would take hours to relearn the motions of my casting without all my fingers. “Fine! Fine, yes, I get it, heruamin.” I spat that last part out with a vengeance, deliberately mangling the delicate elven pronunciation.

Drozz held up his hand, and the bugbear stopped where it was, a few feet from me. “Say it properly, girl. I know you speak Elvish, so stop pretending otherwise.”

“If my lady kills you over this lack of respect to her, I am absolved of all responsibility.” I glanced at the bugbear. “Heruamin.” I quickly added, without the garish accent that time, glaring at him. ‘My lord’ was proving once again to be hopelessly uncreative with his titles.

He was unfazed by my glare, and smiled in satisfaction. “Good. Good. Now, what are we going to do when your little band of nitwits comes to rescue you? I don’t need them to agree to help me, I just need them to clear this cursed mine of as many undead as possible. Tell me, what do you suppose the chances are of them going a different direction on their way back in?”

“I doubt they’ll even bother coming after me,” I said. My decision should not have surprised Charles at all, and he’d be furious with me, but given all I had lauded the Drow in the past, I doubted he’d think I needed rescuing. “And at any rate, they’re likely all dead from that doppleganger. Well done, you.” I rolled my eyes, and tried to ignore the odd emotion that was making my stomach churn.

All I had told Charlatan was true, was it not? I DID want to join with the Drow, after all. It was my life’s dream, wasn’t it? All I’d imagined about their underground cities, glowing with the beautiful green and blue and purple of faerie fire and their women encouraged to study or to become warriors… It seemed wonderful to me. Of course, I knew their reputation for evil and trickery and manipulation, but when I had read such accountings, they had always seemed to be the biased reports of the surface dwellers. Those whose vision depended on the light to see surely would never understand a culture that thrived in darkness, right? I told myself that my emotional discomfort was simply due to the possibility that Charlatan hadn’t escaped, but part of my mind was starting to panic. I’d entered this bargain, never really thinking I wouldn’t be able to get out of it one way or another. My plan was still, of course, to find the spell forge, use its power to polymorph myself into a full Drow, and then bring this foolish wizard to heel, as would then be my right. The more I thought about it, though, the more I became unsure if I’d be able to accomplish it, at least not without a horrendous amount of personal discomfort. Drozz was leering at me now, and I realized that perhaps some of the accountings, at least, hadn’t been exaggerated. He wasn’t a very pleasant or charming individual.

“I doubt they’re all dead,” Drozz was saying, “if they were wise and took the time to rest. I’m certain the large orc survived, at least. Probably not your brother, though. He looked rather weak. What a tragedy.” He pouted in mock sympathy. “It may have been helpful to have more assistance, but I am sure I will eventually manage to break through this blockade of undead with or without your friends. Or you, for that matter.”

I tried to ignore his implications about Charlatan’s death. He’d certainly escape, if nothing else. He was far cleverer than anyone gave him credit for, and even more than he gave himself credit for. I wasn’t in a position to be catastrophizing in my thoughts, so I mentally pushed aside the worry I was starting to feel, and instead resumed glowering at Drozz.

“Well, then you’re the fool for agreeing to my offer in the first place,” I retorted.

He raised an eyebrow up at the bugbear.

“Heruamin,” I hastily added.

“That’s better,” he said, and I could tell that he was starting to relax. He folded his arms and took another step away from me, eyes scanning me up and down. “You’re no use to me as a researcher, or whatever girlish notion it was that you had. I know plenty about the magic contained in this mine, and I certainly don’t need your help discerning exactly what is going on here.”

I wanted to cross my arms as well, and my wrists started to chafe as I twisted them in the rope binding them. His words made me feel like I was a half inch away from plummeting off the edge of a cliff to my destruction. “Well, I’ll be no benefit to you in any other manner, either. I’m only half-Drow, remember? Good luck trying to use me as leverage with your friends in the Underdark. I’m sure they’ll take you exceptionally seriously.” I resorted to sarcasm to hide my unease.

I could tell my discomfiture pleased him when he started to rub his hands together gleefully. “You speak as though you’re anxious to be sacrificed to Our Goddess,” he said, coming close to me again. “I have not forgotten that possibility. You must have had a surface-dwelling parent, yes? The spawn of such a traitor would bring me great renown, were you to be sacrificed on a high holy day.”

I honestly had not considered this option. I knew Lolth required living sacrifices, and often those found captive among the Drow would end their short and miserable captivity lying on her altars. Perhaps it was foolish of me to not see that this could also be my fate. I couldn’t stop the shiver of fear that crept up my spine. I didn’t let that fear cloud my intellect however, and I paused to think on the possibility.

“That would do nothing but earn you the wrath of your Goddess,” I said sharply. “How would she like being offered a soulless corpse, when she would have to go fight my Lady for claim over me? The Queen of Air and Darkness has dealt with the likes of your spider queen before, and I doubt either of them would be happy with you for forcing them into such a conflict over a worthless halfbreed. It would only serve to make you look weak, not that that’s hard for you, I’m sure.” I laughed at him to show my utter contempt for this plan of his.

Drozz’s face grew furious, but he quickly masked his anger and gave me a look of disdain. “Do not overvalue your importance, girl. I admit, you’re a curiosity to me, but I will not hesitate to kill you the moment I grow tired of your chirping. If you truly were a Drow, you would have a better sense of your place.”

He smiled again, that same cold smile that didn’t reach his eyes. It was far more terrifying than his anger. I wanted to take a step away from him, but the wall behind me prevented me from moving. Instead, I straightened to my full height and met his gaze calmly, hoping my face remained stoic.

“What is it that you truly want, my little trinket?” He was still moving closer to me, and when he next spoke I could feel his breath on my face. My stomach flipped with nervousness again, but I still tried to remain calm. “If you truly were after information, and the vast wealth of knowledge to which I have access, you would cease with these silly insults. I’m far more likely to give you what you seek if I am… pleased with you,” he continued, clearly enjoying my relative helplessness. He reached out and stroked my cheek, deceptively gentle, and it was all I could do not to roll my eyes again.

“Fine. Stop calling me ‘child’ and ‘girl’ and ‘trinket’- ugh-, and I’ll stop insulting you. I want knowledge, and power, and I want the Forge of Spells, just like you. I know more about magic than you think. And I can read every language. And, I have no talents outside the scholarly realm. So if you can’t sacrifice me, and you won’t let me help you, then this is completely pointless.” I sounded petulant, I think, but I increased the intensity of my glare.

Drozz just laughed again, which was really no more than I’d expected. He still was standing too close to be comfortable, and I shifted to try and get away from him. “Believe me, I have more than enough knowledge in arcane matters. Your input is little more than worthless. And when I do find the Forge, I have no intention of sharing its power with you.”

“So once again, we are stuck in a pointless situation. Why not cut me free and just send me up against the undead then? I could take out one or two for you, at least, though I doubt that’ll do much good in face of the sort of numbers you’ve implied.” I held up my bound wrists between us. My hands were numb by now, and I could barely twitch my fingers.

“Do you not understand the boon you have given me, by pledging yourself like this?” he asked, his voice silky. He ignored my bound hands and leaned towards me, flattening his hands against the wall on either side of my head. It was a typical posture adopted by individuals feeling powerful, and I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of reacting. I merely continued glaring at him.

“My mistress will be well pleased to see that I am capable of bringing a female like you to heel, even if your worth is only half as much as a full Drow. I can make sure you learn what you seek, and are taken care of, and aren’t harmed. Much. You just have to do exactly what I tell you. And show. Me. Respect.” That last bit was punctuated by him tapping me on the nose. It was degrading, but I still refused to flinch.

I did raise my eyebrows, though. His words made me think. If he was successful in taking me to the Underdark, it was definitely true that I had little recourse for escape. And technically, given my oath, I oughtn’t even contemplate escape. If Charlatan was smart enough to not come after me, then being whisked out of Drozz’s hands and back into the company of my injudicious traveling companions was unlikely as well. My eyes slid over to the dwarf, though, and I realized that given the stubbornness of my companions, they would try and rescue him still. If they had escaped from the doppleganger alive, of course. I didn’t have much hope of that. And furthermore, without myself or, possibly, Charlatan helping them, I couldn’t see them overcoming Drozz’s forces anyway. They’d likely die facing him again, as they would have had I not intervened on their behalf. Fools. They didn’t know when to accept a gift and walk away. This is why I couldn’t stand nobility and honor. They made fools out of the brave.

Given that rescue was improbable and likely impossible, Drozz was certainly correct. If he favored me, I would find myself in a powerful position once the mine had been excavated. If I helped him assure his rise in power as a wizard, I could surely pick up the information I needed as I assisted him. And given the way he was leering at me, it woudn’t be hard to win his favor. It would simply require a bit of groveling, probably, and an acknowledgement of his superiority at the moment. Not that I couldn’t keep his mind locked up in an illusion as soon as my hands were unbound. Ugh. But that was fine. He WAS more powerful than I, so it’s not as though I’d have to pretend, much. And at any rate, if I truly wanted to be a member of Drow culture, I’d have to learn humility or I’d be executed at the first sign of offense, if Drozz’s quick temper was any indication. At any rate, my attitude certainly hadn’t gotten me closer to getting my hands untied. I could bide my time, and surely think of some wonderfully complex plot against him, one that wouldn’t be a direct violation of my sworn oath. I sighed and carefully manipulated my expressions: petulant for a moment, then defeated acceptance.

“You’re right, of course,” I told him, letting exhaustion and resignation color the tone of my voice. “That was the agreement, after all. I’ll do whatever you say.” I wouldn’t do anything he said, of course, as I did have some standards, but he didn’t need to know that. My acquiescence surprised him, and he got an annoying smug look on his face. I intentionally forgot to address him by the title he wished, however.

He seemed surprised by my sudden shift and narrowed his eyes at me, studying my face for any deception. I maintained the innocent expression that made my lies all but undetectable. Then, abruptly, he seemed to take me at my word and stepped away, beginning to pace the length of the room. “Tell me, girl, what spells do you know?”

I blinked at him, surprised by this line of questioning. “Um, illusions, mainly. And I have a charm spell that’s proven particularly powerful against humans of the male persuasion.” I smirked, then continued my accounting. “My armor, of course, you saw that. Faerie fire too, and invisibility. I can craft some fairly strong illusions. I know a few rituals too, just basic ones. Message, dancing lights, and the like. Eldritch blast. But I can only cast-” I paused and took stock of my magic reserves “-probably one more powerful spell before I’ll need to rest for a short time.”

He snorted in disdain. “You’re barely any use to me, then. You haven’t even a useful attack, have you. A pity. I thought one of you had cast a fireball spell. That would have proven useful.”

“I’m aware,” I said, rolling my eyes. “My brother decided to waste it on your bugbear friends, instead of on the undead like we’d planned.”

“And he’s the one with the lightning spell too. Utterly useless.” Drozz sounded disappointed.

I narrowed my eyes, not liking his tone. “My brother lacks subtlety,” I snapped, twisting my wrists in their bindings again. I wanted to show this uppity- I stopped myself before my thoughts got the better of me again. I took a breath and calmed myself. “Illusion takes the most study, but it can be utilized to great effect by the cleverest minds.”

He turned and studied me again, frowning. “I could cede the point, I suppose. I saw no such example of your illusory powers when you were fighting, though.” He waved his hands in a mockery of basic illusion casting.

“I don’t like fighting Drow, and I’m not sure how effective illusion is against spiders,” I told him, lifting up my chin in defiance. “If you want an example, I can use it on your bugbear friend there.”

The creature in question didn’t react, of course, as we were speaking Elvish, and I doubted it had any more capacity for language in its thick skull.

“Hmm,” Drozz said, looking between me and the bugbear. “It would indeed be useful for me to see the extent of your powers.” He picked his staff up off the wall where it had been resting, then reached for me and threw me into the middle of the room. I stumbled, but caught myself before I fell. He really was almost laughably weak. No wonder he studied magic.

He held his staff against the small of my back. “I want to see your best illusion. If you turn against me, or show any sign of treachery, I will poison you and leave you in here to rot.” He kept the pressure on my back, but used his other hand to reach around and cut the ropes binding my wrists with a dagger.

I nearly cried out as feeling started to return to my dumb, sensationless fingers. They tingled like they were on fire, and I shook them to try and reawaken my nerves as soon as I could. While I was flailing about like an idiot, Drozz barked something in Goblin to the bugbear, who suddenly let out a disconcerting laugh and started towards me, popping its knuckles.

I gasped in surprise, as I hadn’t been at all prepared for sudden release and subsequent arcane test, but I quickly snached a piece of fleece out of the component pouch at my belt, and let my fingers twist and flow around each other. The movements of illusory casting were always my favorite, as I knew it would appear to an untrained observer as though my fingers were passing through each other. I murmured the words in Sylvan, picturing a sudden chasm filled with lava opening right in front of the bugbear’s feet. I made sure to visualize the heat that would suddenly fill the room, and the abyssal light that would emanate from the crack in the earth.

Sure enough, the bugbear suddenly stopped stock-still, arms flailing as though he were teetering on the edge of the cliff, and he let out a howl of fear. He stumbled backwards, falling onto his backside. He looked across the room at me, visible sweat starting to bead on his face. He glanced down at the floor, looking terrified, though there was nothing there.

Drozz cackled. “All right then. Well done, well done. End it now.”

I let out the breath I’d been holding, and let my concentration wander away from the spell.

The bugbear glanced at the floor again, clearly confused, then let out a roar of rage and started towards me. I reflexively began to cast Eldritch Blast to protect myself, but Drozz shouted a sharp command at it in Goblin, and it stopped, though it glared daggers at me.

I stiffened when I felt Drozz’s hand around my throat, pulling me back against him. “Well then, Oalwena,” he murmured in my ear, “I suppose you may prove useful after all.” He patted my cheek, then walked away to go speak to the bugbear.

I cocked an eyebrow at him as he went. What a ridiculous nickname. ‘The thing that idles the hands.’ I would assume, until proven otherwise, that it referred to my ability to stop enemies where they stood. It was an unimportant matter, however, especially now that I could feel my magic reserves reduced to only dregs. My hands still tingled, too, and I kept clenching them and unclenching them reflexively.
Drozz spoke to the bugbear for a time, then walked back over to me as I was pulling my hair out of my face. “Tell me, Oalwena, what do you know about fighting fla-”

Before he could get the sentence out, a sudden crash outside the room interrupted. There were some creepy creaking sounds, and the sound of metal scraping on stone, and Drozz stood abruptly.

“Stay here,” he said, grabbing his staff, and walked out of the room. He barked an order to the bugbear before he left, and then another command in Undercommon. I heard the chittering of spiders before the door banged closed, leaving me alone with the bugbear and the unconscious dwarf.

I looked at the door in momentary confusion, then realized that the undead must have encroached on the temple of Dumathoin. I would be useless in a fight now, without any of my weapons, and without the ability to recast my armor.

I looked at the bugbear, who was still glaring at me with hatred, but it showed no sign of attacking.

“He say sit. Rest, and don’t touch things,” it grunted, sounding bitter. “He go get spiders fight and leave Gremmel here to watch pathetic dwarf and -” It called me something in Goblin that I couldn’t understand. “Gremmel stand and make sure no trouble or tricks or reading of papers.” I just nodded at it, and went over to the unconscious dwarf.

I didn’t know much about healing, but I could tell that the dwarf was stable for the time being. I shook his shoulder gently, and he woke with a start, then groaned in pain.

I let him collect his wits, then helped him sit up. When he caught sight of my features, he let out a weak cry of fear and tried to back away.

“Relax,” I told him, keeping my voice quiet and calm. “I’m not going to hurt you.” I think it was the distinctly non-elven accent I had when speaking common that helped calm him, because he took a moment to register my abnormally light skin and the human shape of my face, then looked confused.

“Who are you?” he asked, his throat sounding dry. I took out some of my water and offered it to him. He drank gratefully.

“I’m Miz’ry,” I told him. “My, uh, companions, and I were sent here by your brother Gundren. We rescued him from some goblins.”

“Gundren?” the dwarf asked. “He’s alive?”

I nodded in affirmation.
“Well, that’s something,” the dwarf muttered. “So, where’s the rescue attempt, then? Why are you here all by yourself. There’s no way you snuck in here past that bugbear fellow.”

I stared at him for a moment, then flushed a deeper purple color. “I, um. Well, I may have made an agreement with this Drow to assist him in finding the treasures of this mine. I only did it to protect my brother, though, I’m sure you understand.” It was only a partial deception, at any rate.

“Aye,” said the dwarf, nodding sadly. “I’m Nundro, by the way.”

“Well, it’s an honor,” I replied, giving him my most winning smile. “We’ve been chasing after you for quite a time. I’m relieved to know that you are alive still. I had feared the worst.”

“Yes, well. I’ve certainly been better,” the dwarf grunted. “Say, I don’t suppose you could untie me? Then maybe we could make a run for it. Those are some mighty fine boots you’re wearing, and I’m sure they could help your escape.” His eyes glinted knowingly, and I felt a small tremor of guilt.

I glanced over at Gremmel, who was staring avidly at us. “I… don’t think that’s a good idea,” I said quietly. “I can’t- I’m in no position to help you.”

The dwarf looked at the bugbear too, then nodded. “I’ve agreed to foolish things in my time too, I suppose,” he said, and closed his eyes.

“Hey, wait!” I said, shaking him again. “What do you know about this place? Is the Forge of Spells real? The Drow won’t tell me a thing, but I know there’s got to be some reason he’s so hellbent on staying and fighting all these undead.”

“Oh aye, it’s real,” Nundro said, cracking an eye open to stare at me again. “And surrounded by undead, so it’s essentially useless unless you know how to kill a hoard of moaning, lurching cretins without getting your face eaten off.”

“But still,” I said, “it’s real.” A thrill of excitement shot through me. “Listen, Nundro, do you know how many more bugbears this Drow has lying around, do you?”

“I don’t know. He had six at one point, or maybe seven. Or ten. I really have no idea. I’ve been lucky he’s given me enough water to keep me alive. I haven’t had time to count bugbears, lass.”

“Niam cachu,” I swore. Typical dwarf. Grumpy and reticent. How obnoxious. Still, I did feel a bit sorry for the bony bruised lump that was his body, so I pulled some rations out of my pouch, enough to share. He tore into the dried meat and hard cheese and stale bread with relish, and I could tell he hadn’t been eaten properly in quite some time.

Without anything better to do, I joined him in eating, though my stomach was still churning slightly from the horrendous emotional upset I’d been going through. I forced down some sustenance anyway, because I knew I’d need to keep up my strenght.

Before I’d finished more than half of my meal, the bugbear strode over and snatched the little bag out of my hands.

“What this?” it grunted, sticking his nose in the pack and inhaling. “He say no move. He say you stay put. He no say food.” With that, the bugbear upended the remains into its own mouth, chewing messily. My eyes narrowed. No one stole from me.

“You’ll regret that,” I said, my voice calm and quiet. I had no powerful spells left, but I had enough magic in my reserves to gather energy and start summoning my eldritch ice blast. Before I was finished casting, though (my focus was too scattered to concentrate properly, I guess) the bugbear had me by the throat and pushed me back until I hit the wall.

I may have been a little stronger than Drozz, but I was absolutely no match for the bugbear as it began to squeeze my neck and cut off my air. “No magic,” it said, its putrid breath washing over my face. I wanted to gag, but I didn’t have enough breath to waste. I started to choke, and I beat my fist ineffectively against its forearms. In retaliation, it punched me in the stomach, and I would have doubled over were it not holding my throat too. I started to see black creep around the edge of my field of vision, and I had to use my concentration to fight off unconsciousness. I wished I had my armor.

I could hear the dwarf shouting something, but I couldn’t make it out over the thundering of my heartbeat in my ears. It was getting faster, and I felt the strength starting to leave my limbs. I was going limp when the bugbear released me. I couldn’t support my own weight, and crumpled to the ground in a heap, gasping.

“Out of control,” the dwarf was saying to the bugbear, which was stalking towards him, fists raised.

“Wait-” I tried to call, but my voice came out a harsh rasp. I reached out, trying to stop the bugbear, but I slumped to the ground again, unable to lift up my arm. I heard a nasty thump, and then the dwarf went silent.

The bugbear made a satisfied grunting sound, then went back to his position by the door. My head was still spinning, but I mustered up my strength and crawled over to the dwarf. He hadn’t been hit hard, apparently, and was still breathing. There wasn’t anything else I could do for him, so I sat back and glared at the bugbear, scrawling runes in the dusty floor. I wasn’t writing anything meaningful, as I didn’t know any rituals that would reduce the bugbear to a charred roast. I thought about trying to send a message to Charles, but with my magic expended as it was, I doubted it’d get past the door of the room. And I didn’t even know if he was alive.
I’m not sure how long I sat glowering at my runes, but it was long enough that I was startled when Drozz came back into the room, slamming the door behind him. He looked quite worse for wear, with a large gash open on his forehead and blood streaming over his face. His eyes blazed in fury as he approached me, and I felt a sudden flare of fear before my defiant side flared. I bared my teeth at him, ignoring the pain of my bruised abdomen, and got to my feet.

He didn’t stop until he was half an inch from my face, and I didn’t back down. His eyes glinted dangerously. “You had better pray to your patron that you are useful against these undead, girl,” he whispered. “If you kill enough of them, maybe I’ll reverse this.”

I wasn’t sure what he was talking about until he pulled a vial out of one of his pouches. I stared at it for a moment, but then realized exactly what it was when I saw the shine of its clear contents shifting from a light green to blue to brown and back again, looking oddly viscous as it sloshed. “No, wait- you don’t need that!” I said, stumbling back from him and raising my hands in defense. “It’s completely pointless, I already said I’d do what you want!”

“I know you did, Oalwena,” he said, his voice turning silky. I guess he liked the sight of me cowering. “I just need a little… insurance.”

“Fuck!” I swore, scared enough to use a human curse. “Look, Drozz, um, heruamin, I mean, or master even, if that’s what you want, look. I swear you don’t need it. I’ll fight as many undead as I can!” I barely saw him twitch his free hand, but the bugbear was across the room in a moment and I didn’t have time to think before I was reacting, ducking under its grasp and twirling away into a crouch. I stared wildly between Drozz and the bugbear, all too aware that I had nowhere to go with the wall behind my back. Drozz sighed.

“Hold still, or I’ll poison you with spider venom too,” he said, twirling his staff. “Gremmel, hold her.”

I shook my head, but the bugbear backed me against the wall again and I tried to duck, but it caught me and spun me around so I was facing Drozz and it was holding me from behind. It wrapped a hairy arm around my chest, pinning both my arms to my sides. It grabbed a fistful of my hair with its other hand, forcing my head still.

“I don’t know why you’re so opposed, my dear,” Drozz said, making the endearment sound disturbing. “If you have no intention of betraying me, or double crossing me, or disobeying me, as you have already promised, then you have nothing to fear. I have the antidote. And you have thirty days to prove yourself.”

Thirty days wasn’t long when half my mind would be distracted over the fear of going suddenly blind at the whim of a sadistic Drow.

“However, if you are considering going back on your sworn word,” Drozz was stepping close to me again, as close as he was before, except this time I had no way to get away from him. I struggled against the bugbear, trying to break its grip, but it twisted my hair ferociously and I felt several strands pull loose. Drozz merely waited until I subsided, out of breath. “If this is what you are considering, then I hope that that active imagination of yours takes time to consider exactly how pleasant it will be for you, wandering blinded around Menzoberranzan with no one to help you, and with no knowledge of where to direct your spells. All you have to do is what I tell you, and I will be more than happy to administer the antidote.”

As he reached for me, I lashed out as much as I could and caught a chunk of his palm between my teeth. He nearly dropped the bottle with the poison, but he wrenched his hand free and backhanded me across my undamaged cheek. I felt a few more hairs part with my scalp from the force. It was a harder hit than his first attempt had been, and I let out a pained grunt.

“Behave,” he said, his tone silky again, “and this won’t have to be painful for you, silly girl.” He rested a palm over the growing bruise on my cheek, stroking his thumb over the bone lightly. Gentleness was far more disconcerting than violence, and I shivered, glaring at him.

“Don’t touch me,” I said, my voice sounding tight and pained to my own ears.

Drozz just laughed and didn’t move. “If you had just held still, I wouldn’t have to,” he reasoned, and opened the potion bottle. His hand on my cheek migrated to my jaw, and he gripped it tightly. Between his grip and the bugbear’s fist in my hair, I couldn’t move my head of my own volition. The bugbear pulled, hard, and my head went back with his grip. I could only watch as Drozz held the poison over my eyes and let the contents fall. I tried to shake my head, tried to wrench out of the bugbears grasp, tried to stomp on his feet, but he was too strong and his armor too thick to care about my efforts. I felt a few drops of poison hit each of my eyes, and was immediately assaulted by a burning sensation that made me cry out at its initial intensity. The burn quickly faded though, and soon I was left with only an itching behind my eyes.

Slow Darkness venom was familiar to me, but not so much that I was confident about my ability to whip up an antidote. The ingredients were quite exotic outside of the Underdark, which made it especially useful for Drow who wanted leverage over surface dwellers. I’d have a month, approximately, before my eyes dissolved and I was left blind. A restoration charm would potentially restore them, but there was no guarantee, and my vision would likely never be as sharp as it currently was.

I slumped, my eyes growing damp to fight the itching, and I fought to not let tears fall.

“That was far harder than it had to be,” Drozz chided, cupping my face gently again and nudging my chin up to look at him. My vision fuzzed for a moment, but I managed to muster up another glare.

“It didn’t have to be at all,” I spat.

“Well, my pet, I don’t trust you, so this is a mild insurance. It won’t harm you yet, so I don’t know why you’re fighting it.” His tone was so reasonable and it infuriated me. Still, I got control of my temper and refused to say anything in response.

The bugbear let me go, and Drozz patted me on the cheek, then left to go sit at the table that looked like it was serving as his workspace. I watched him for a few minutes as he started scribbling something, apparently done paying attention to me.

I got bored quickly, and cleared my throat. “So, what now, then?”

“Hm?” he asked, sounding surprised. He glanced up at me, then returned to his papers, not looking at me as he spoke. “Research, of course. All accounts say that Tjailanon had entered this place, and I must retrace his footsteps. His knowledge of evocation was extensive.”

I blinked at the name, surprised. Tjailanon the Bold, a councellor to the Efreeti King of the City of Brass, had been a wizard of no small skill. I wasn’t sure what he had to do with the Drow’s search, unless-

“Wait, you think Tjailanon was involved with the magic here?” I asked, suddenly intrigued. I moved towards Drozz and tried to read over his shoulder, but he blocked my view.

“I think a great many things, child, but I have not negated that possibility, yes,” he muttered, flipping through a few pages. “There are a few hints, here and there.” He glanced up at me then, eyes narrowed. “What do you know of him?”

“Ocrian period wizard, human. Councillor to-” I paused, trying to remember. Efreetian names were lengthy and obnoxious to memorize. “-Um, some Efreeti king. I can’t remember his name offhand.” I felt the familiar twinge of failure that I always felt when I didn’t have a complete answer. “Regardless,” I continued, trying to cover my horrible omission, “he was of almost legendary skill, and studied both the theories on the channeling of raw energy into the spells we know now, and the binding of enchantment into mundane objects. He was quite revolutionary. His cause and date of death are unknown, though he was said to be active in this area, and some of his books have been found and documented by the scholars in Tyr Nag.”

“Mm. Yes,” said Drozz, and went back to his reading. I watched him again, my foot starting to tap, and had to interrupt again.

“Well?” I asked him.

“Well what? Your knowledge is adequate but not exemplary.”

I glared again. “So? Do you think he was involved with the Forge of Spells?” My heart started to beat faster at the idea, and I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm. I rubbed my hands together. “If he was, then it must be found. It’s unacceptable to have the place overridden by undead, who can’t even appreciate its wonder.”

“Mm. Yes,” Drozz said again, still too occupied with his papers to look at me and have a proper conversation. “This is something we agree on. Now, do go rest and leave me be. If we are to have any chance against them, I must recuperate.”

I was angry at the dismissal. Hadn’t I proved my desire for knowledge was genuine? I couldn’t stop thinking about what I could do if I gained access to the knowledge that Tjailanon’s writings and artefacts would bring. They had the potential to alter our current perception of how the powers of arcana operated for mortal spellcasters. I thought of all the evidence they could provide for my various wild theories. I needed something to research, at least. “Can’t you let me read your notes or something?” I asked. “My knowledge of history may not be precise, but it is broad and I am excellent at discerning patterns and forming theories. I could help you.”

“Perhaps later, if you’re good,” Drozz said, scrawling a note. “For now, sit and stay quiet. Don’t bother me. Gremmel, watch her while I rest to make sure she doesn’t try anything. And remember, girl, I am the only being with an antidote to that poison for miles. Do not try me.”

I snarled in frustration, denied the opportunity to read, and paced the length of the room before I settled against a wall near the dwarf. I glared at Drozz for a few minutes, hoping the intensity of my glare would persuade him to change his mind. When it didn’t, I sighed and pulled out this spell tome to document my experience thus far.

The Drow is still reading as I write this last sentence, so I may finish here and organize my component pouch. This is not exactly the position I had imagined myself in when the trek into this mine began, but this captivity is not the worst kind imaginable, though I would prefer to have free reign of the information concealed in this mine without reliance on this Drow. I hope he has the antidote to the Slow Darkness. And I hope Charlatan has not been beaten into a pulp by that doppleganger. If he has, though, I am currently in no position to help, and ought instead to focus my attention on gathering as much knowledge as I can from Drozz while he seems amenable.

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Dream A Little Fever Dream
Or: The Hammer's Head Adventure

The cold, lonely precipice was covered in both dried and newly wet bile. The Hammer himself hadn’t moved in what felt like days other than to vomit. His skin was a grossly pale yellow, his beard unkempt, and he felt soaked up in his own cold sweat.

“Damn that salted pork…” he muttered to himself as he shivered from both the cold winds of the precipice and the inconsolable coldness within his own body. It turns out that if you eat meat that’s been sitting in a dusty crate for far too long it will wreak havoc on you. In the physical world he felt like hell, but in his own mental prison he was much, much worse off.

“And now, for your viewing pleasure, may we introduce a dwarf who’s strength is unmatched, who’s resolve is unbeaten, who’s head is slightly too large for his brain… THEEEEEEE HAAAMMMERRRR!” The formless announcer’s voice boomed across a large, open, twisted arena. As The Hammer tilted his head upwards, a crowd roared to life with excitement at the ensuing combat that was to come.

From what he could observe, the arena was a strange place. It had twisting, towering spires that seemed almost unnatural. The stone was mostly a dark gray or black, almost as if it was covered in a thick layer of soot. No sun was visible in the sky above as all that could be seen were dark billowing clouds. Any normal person would expect rain to be pouring down at any second, but the surroundings were dusty and bone dry.

The Hammer himself felt off. Everything around him felt off, like some titan took the world and tilted it ever so slightly that no mere mortal would notice with the naked eye. With him he had his namesake weapon, which was one of the few things that felt normal and natural to him. It was weighty, and swung true.

Per his normal protocol, he would have let out a guttural, primal yell while striking a pose. When he attempted to do such, barely any sound came out. It’s as if his voice was suppressed by some unworldly force. “Strange…” he spoke out loud, surprised that he could actually speak normally. The crowd seemed to simmer down and murmurs echoed around him.

From the darkness boomed the formless announcer once again. “And his fearsome opponent, a being so powerful, so feared, that mentioning it’s true name would cause everyone here to lose their minds! Ladies and gentlemen… I give you….” He paused for a few seconds, clearly for dramatic effect.

“A DUCK!”

The crowed shrieked in horror as none other than a white feathered, golden billed water foul marched out of the darkness. It uttered quacks that seemed to terrify the audience with each utterance from it’s beak.

The Hammer was very confused. “A duck? They want me to fight a DUCK?!” he thought to himself as he laughed at the thought of crushing the creature’s neck in an instant. It looks like he would eat well tonight once he plucked out all the feathers and such.

“Now… BEGIN!” The announcer bellowed as the crowd roared to life in a mix of cheers and screams, still clearly terrified by the white feathered water foul. The Hammer charged towards the duck, who seemed to be sitting completely still. Warhammer above his head, he brought down his namesake onto the creature with tremendous force.

However the only thing his hammer met was the dusty ground and a few scattered white feathers. The Hammer brought his hammer up again, looking around him in confusion. It seemed the duck was standing exactly where he used to be standing. And it was… laughing? Laughing as only a duck could, like a quack cackle.

The duck then spread its wings. In some unnatural way it began to increase its size and it became bigger. And bigger. And bigger. And even bigger still. It began to grow so large that it overtook nearly half of the arena space. The crowd was shrieking in terror, clamoring over each other trying to escape the monstrosity that this bird was becoming. “Well now I know why everyone is so damn afraid of this thing.” said The Hammer with a slight quiver of fear in his voice.

Before The Hammer could even react or gain a defensive position, the duck’s head swooped down with immense speed and gobbled up The Hammer straight into it’s mouth. He tried to scream, but no sound came out as he tumbled down, down, down, down…

The Hammer awoke suddenly, his eyes darting around him. It looked like he was in some kind of pub of sorts. Immediately he could tell that this was no ordinary pub. All of the patrons and staff were giant spiders. His first instinct was to start smashing everything around him until a spider crawled up to him with a mug of fresh ale in one of it’s arms.

“Drink, ssssir?” the spider maid-wench hissed and clacked at him.

Not one to deny a drink, he took it immediately and began downing the ale. He was extremely thirsty and at this point he would take a drink offered to him by anyone or anything, giant spiders included. As he gained more of a bearing on his surroundings the pub began to seem like any old normal pub. A crowd of spiders gathered around a table playing cards. Male spiders were clearly trying to drunkenly woo female spiders. Feeling a little more at ease like the entire room wasn’t trying to eat him he pulled up a chair and sat at a table. He motioned to the same spider-wench to bring him more ale. For what felt like hours the ale continued to flow into his gullet, bringing him to a comfortable drunken stupor.

Then, all fell silent. The front doors swung open and in walked none other than Drozz, the Black Spider. Oddly enough, one of The Hammer’s own throwing hammers was sticking out of his head. His gaze immediately locked on to The Hammer with fury in his eyes.

“Oh, The Hammer was it?” Drozz quipped with his debonaire attitude. “I believe this is yours!” He then proceeded to rip the throwing hammer out of his face and tossed it right back at The Hammer. Despite being drunk, he managed to dodge the flying hammer that was meant for his head. Unfortunately for him, it smashed right into an unsuspecting spider patron.

It was now that all eyes were upon him. The Hammer took out his weapon and prepared to smash as many spiders as he could. That did not last long however as he was met with a spew of web from all directions. It covered him so much that he could not move an inch. Slowly it crept into his vision, covering him until he was in complete darkness…

“Geeeentlemen!” was the first thing he heard as he opened his eyes again. No longer was he surrounded by web and spiders in a tavern, but his companions were all there. Even the know-it-all Miz’ry was present.

“Oh, guys! It’s so good to see you all!” The Hammer exclaimed excitedly. “You have no idea what I’ve been through. I was eaten by a giant duck, then I drank with some giant spiders—”

He was cut short by Charlatan. “My good dwarf, what do you speak of? We don’t know you. In fact, YOU attacked US with your little goblin friends who we made quick work of.”

The Hammer was, yet again, confused. “Goblins? But we hate goblins. I’m traveling with you all, remember?”

Vola stepped forward this time, towering over The Hammer. It was about now that he realized that he was completely bound. Not much of a change from his previous situation it seemed.

“Dwarf, tell us why you attacked us. I have convinced my compatriots not to harm you. If you do not co-operate however I will be forced to bring justice upon you for slaying one of our comrades!” she bellowed in an uncharacteristic way of her. Vola was normally very calm for a half-orc but it seemed her orcish side was really showing.

“Kill one of your comrades? Who—” And then he saw. The lifeless body of Guntor lay to the left of the party. His head was barely visible as all that was left was pulverized chunks. The horror began to creep over The Hammer’s face. “Did I… did I really kill him? I didn’t mean to, I swear! I didn’t mean to! THE HAMMER DOES NOT KILL FRIENDS!”

“Oh but you are NO friend of ours.” Kheg chimed in, shortbow drawn. “We already lost too many of our friends and didn’t have the chance to avenge them. Now we have that chance.”

The Hammer was in utter disbelief. He would never harm anyone he considers an ally. He didn’t kill for the sake of killing, especially those undeserving of it. What had he done? What madness has overcome him? Again he tried to scream but no words came out.

“Let us finish off this bulk-headed wretch.” Miz’ry said coldly as she charged up one of her icy blasts. The rest of the party followed suit, either drawing bows, readying their weapons, or preparing spells.

“Please, I didn’t do this. You have to understand! The Hammer did not do this!” he pleaded to his comrades.

Vola snarled at him. “May Tyr bring you justice.” All at once the entire party fired what they had readied at The Hammer. He screamed in pain as he was shocked, stabbed, shot with arrows, and burned by ice. The pain felt like an eternity. What was even more painful was the betrayal of his comrades. He felt the life slowly drain out of him as the assault continued and he faded into darkness.

The Hammer opened his eyes wide and proceeded to vomit violently to his right side. Heaving hard trying to catch his breath, he realized he was once again back on the cold precipice outside Wave Echo Cave. All of that madness had truly been that. Madness brought on by the sickness in his body. He felt terrible physically, but his mind was relieved to not have any of the previous insanity be real.

He wondered where his fellow adventurers were really up to down there. If they were safe, if they had found Miz’ry, if they had stomped the Black Spider for good. Maybe they were all dead. He sincerely hoped that wasn’t the case. All he could hope for is a speedy recovery and that his friends were okay.

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Scene from Charlatan's Training Montage
From atop Conyberry

Charlatan snapped awake, inhaling sharply. His eyes begin to focus on Hammer, Guntor, and Myrrdin looking concerned and standing over him. He is on his back and Hammer looks a bit guilty.

“Well, uh, Charlie… It’s The Hammer’s professional opinion that you need to learn to not get hit better”

“Yeah,” pipes Guntor, “You should probably learn to duck.” At the mention of “duck”, The Hammer looks panicked until he remembers the second meaning of the word. The rest of the party doesn’t seem to notice.

“If you keep insisting on being this dwarf’s punching bag and insisting that I heal you then I shall have to insist that I will be unable to render aid when it becomes most necessary,” Myrrdin says.

Charlatan can feel the pain of the hammer blow to the head. It’s less now thanks to the Druid’s skills but not gone completely. Miz’ry is sitting off to the side pretending not to notice what is going on, engrossed in her book and shooting disdainful looks at the foursome.

“Again,” Charlatan said and offered his hand to Guntor to help him up. It would normally be about this time when Peabody would interject and insist that “m’lord” has had enough practice for the day but thankfully Kheg was holding up his end of the bargain keeping the lad distracted with new Three-Dragon-Ante cheating techniques. Charlatan was feeling a real breakthrough coming on and they didn’t have much time before they would have to return to the mine.

“You’re sure about this, Charlie?” Hammer said, not yet readying himself in hopes that the sorcerer might give up his ridiculous request.

Charlatan nods, “No great reward without great risk. That’s something papa taught Miz’ry and I both”.

The group, once again, set up for a skirmish. Guntor stepped away from Charlatan and Hammer and readied his blunted, padded arrows. The arrows would still hurt, but Charlatan would be in no danger of dying.

“Ready?”, asked Guntor.

“Ready,” Charlatan confirms.

With that, The Hammer charges the half-drow– his weapon raised to the sky. He’s bested Charlatan many times with this exact same technique. The sorcerer just has no mind for combat. This time, however, something is different. Instead of simply the practice sword that he had been using, Charlatan has borrowed Myrrdin’s shield and is ready for the hammer’s assault. An arrow fired by Guntor flies towards Charlatan. Just as the hammer is about to reach him, The Hammer sees his friend make a decision. Charlatan steps just barely aside from the path of the arrow and raises his shield in order to catch the blow made by The Hammer. It is nimbly done, but the sorcerer still cannot stand up against a fully-fledged assault. The shield is knocked from Charlatan’s hand, but The Hammer catches a smirk on Charlatan’s face– just before he catches the arrow intended for Charlatan on his own.

The padded safety weapon does not phase The Hammer, but something is clearly different about the mage. The skirmish has reached it’s natural end as Guntor laughs appreciatively at the antics just pulled. “Well done, well done!” he says, coming over to clasp Charlatan on the shoulder.

“I think,” says The Hammer addressing Charlatan, “That you might just be ready for a hammer of your own”.

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Grok's Jurnal Entry 1

Grok lurn to rite from tribal eldor so Grok deside to keep jurnal. Now Grok can look back at past and reflekt on desishuns one day.

Today Grok go for hunting meat with Zerg and some lady orc who very pretty but not remember name. Too embarassed to ask name. She pregnant with orc child. Not my child so don’t care if she lose it. Is orc way if it die anyway. Wood not be wurthy of glorius battle.

Before goin’ out for meat hunting scouts say that fighting go on at Conyberry, the big floating rock thing. Maybe stupid no shirt hoomans get killed and we orcs go take over big rock! Grok volanteer to go chek it out. Zerg and other lady go with Grok too. We take our big axes and 2 javalins for hunting beast we may find. Hooman not off menu tho.

Our groop approach big rock town. We see stoopid not-dragon thing with even stoopider hooman petting it like it dog. Grok hate both of what he see. Hooman not look like stoopid shirtless mans that normally here at big rock town tho. Grok scream “FRESH MEAT!” and begin charge hooman and worm-flying monster. Both look weak and tasty.

Coward hooman probably shit pants cuz he run away real fast. Not fast enuff for Grok and friends! But Grok mad, and hungry. He deside to go for flying monster because he not fly. Grok notice before hooman run away like chiken he cut ropes on beast. Grok yell and take axe to puny beast. He hit and blood go all over. This make Grok happy and Grok yell with happy rage.

Happy rage turn to just rage when stoopid hooman shoot arrow at Grok. OUCHIES! HURT! Still kind of hurt but Grok not tell other orcs. They think he stoopid and weak if say.

The beast go high up and fly away, making Grok even moor mad. Grok yell at flying beast, but yelling do nothing. Lady orc take acshun and throw javalin at beast. It work! Beast fall down and die! This make Grok happy, but not happy enuff becuz hooman was escaping on rope! We chase.

Zerg was first to climb up rope after hooman. But hooman smarter than look and cut rope behind him. Zerg fall down and hurt ass. Grok laff at Zerg, but still mad at hooman for hurting orc friend and escaping.

Us orcs circle around rock town, hearing hoomans shout stuff about cutting ropes. They eventually pull up ropes to floating rock so we not able to climb up. Grok really mad and yell at hoomans that he can’t see.

But not all bad. We kill flying beast that look like dragon! Many tasty meat for tribe to bring home. We take dead beast and return to tribe. Tribe happy with meat but disappoint we no kill other hoomans. Talk of bigger attack on floating rock circle around camp. Orcs want floating rock, very good defense. Hard to attack with just 3 orc. At least Grok have battle wound to show off to camp.

Grok want to kill hooman and stoopid pepul that take over floating rock. Mabee one day we do that, hopefully soon.

Grok also hear word of half-breed scum that kill many orc in area. Grok also want kill. Grok want kill many things. Grok know that in time he kill lots.

This end of jurnal numbar one. Riting make Grok head hurt. Try to get better at riting so head not hurt so much. Wood rather kill than rite tho.

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Kheg's Secret Diary
Days 24-25

Day 24 – evening
Outside entrance of Phandelver Pact Mines

The remainder of today must not have been that bad if I’m able to write about it this evening, but clashing with a Drow is hardly typical.

After a short rest in the mid afternoon we made our way down the same corridor we saw the two surviving bugbears turn down an hour earlier. As we made our way down the corridor with The Hammer on point, I found it amusing that a human; a halfling; a half-orc and two half-drow were all following a halfwit dwarf into combat. As the corridor came to and end, we found ourselves standing in front of closed set of well crafted stone doors with dwarven script and a sigil chiselled into them, but most impressive — at least in my eyes — were all the gems set into them.

These double doors were very fitting for the room they opened up to. It was a temple to the dwarven god Dumathoin. There was question over the true inscription on the doors, but I was too busy thinking about how to pull the all the gems out to really care what it said. It was something about paying respect, but I’m here to raid the place.

With no need for a grand entry, Vola opened a single door and in we walked prepared for combat against 2 bugbears. Moral (aka Guntor) and Righteous (aka Vola) took the inscription seriously. They’ll brown nose the gods even when knowing full well that a melee could start at any second, I don’t know whether to be surprised by this or not?

In hind sight giving the bugbears one hour to prepare for our arrival by taking in a short rest may not have been the best plan because they took full advantage of it. The bugbears must have read Moral and Righteous really well, because standing in this room was a bugbear with a dagger up to the throat of a dwarf that none of us had ever met. Taking a hostage to control a situation works better if the opposition has a vested interest in the hostage, but with none of us ever having met this dwarf, the best thing he had going for him was A) Vola and Guntor are willing to save him with the rest of the world; and B) his last name was Rockseeker, but with this dwarf out of the picture, that only meant more gems for the rest of us. The bugbears had a plan, but it wasn’t well thought out from my point of view.

I just stood there thinking that “one wrong move” on our part, would mean the death of the dwarf and advance me 2/3rd closer to mine ownership. It was hard not to smile, but I knew that the conscious prone wouldn’t let the bugbears do the dirty work I needed done. I stood there thinking how easy it might be to douse the kidnapper and hostage with oil and cook them both with the single toss of a torch, but something was stopping me from turning these thoughts into a set plan. I had experienced this “something” before, but it has happened so few times in my life that I just haven’t experienced it enough to really understand it. I gave in and decided to just let the stand off take it’s own course.

So there we were standing face to face with not only 2 bugbears, but more importantly the dark elf known as the Black Spider was also in our company. We’d been looking for the Black Spider for 18 days and now that he had been found, it was a rather fearful moment and the fear intensified as four giant spiders suddenly appeared overhead.

What ever triggered actual combat, I can’t recall; I was too busy thinking about the gems on the doors. I just know I was suddenly throwing a flask of oil at the bugbear that didn’t have a hostage and bad aim put it on the the Rockseeker brother I actually found some last minute will in trying to rescue. With the dwarf now covered in oil, I was thinking this hostage really is closer to his end than even I had originally thought, because I had every intention of lighting the place up. Let’s face it, I owed the hostage nothing, but I owed it to myself to get out of these mines alive. I was surrounded by giant spiders and facing a dark elf. If the world needs saving, I’ll leave ti up to Vola and Guntor; I’m just here to profit from it.

Speaking of profit, the highlight of the time spent below today: I found a wand and two platinum rings in an underground lake and the best part is that the value of the rings total 30 gold pieces. And being the guy I am, I gave the wand to Charlatan Jones. It’ll help comfort him until he gets used to not having his sister around any longer.

Yes, in the other news today, Miz’ry Jones has taken a new path and won’t be with us as we make the world a better place. Miz’ry vowed her servitude to the Black Spider in exchange for the teams safe passage out of the mines, but the rest of them make it sound as if Miz’ry made some big sacrifice and took one for the team. It’s a life changing decision no doubt, and one that I know she will benefit well from. I for one wish her the best, but the others just cry like babies. Charlatan I can understand; he’ll never see his sister again, but the rest of them??

It is now evening as I sit here on a cold, windy, rocky, narrow precipice 200’ some feet in the air. We are joined by Nundro Rockseeker. Gundrin will be thrilled to hear of his brothers rescue, but I can’t say I’m trilled. Mine ownership was in my reach and now it’s slipping away. On such a narrow ledge maybe Nundro will slip too? If not for the sake of my wealth at least for the sake of my comfort. There is such little room for the 6 of us up here that even a halfling might have to let his feet hang over the edge while he sleeps.

While we try and make the best of it, Miz’ry is far below and the odds that she is in a warm, comfortable bed are quite high. The rest of us will sleep on rocks tonight and venture back into the mines to “rescue” Miz’ry in the morning. I’m going to help, but not because I think Miz’ry is not in good care, but because it’s so miserable up here on this precipice that I’m willing to take on Black Spider and his gang for round 2. My comfort level right now is so pathetic that I’d gladly take on Venomfang by myself just to get out of this agonizing above ground hard, cold hell.

I’d like to go into more detail on Miz’ry’s step up in drow society here, but when she was swearing to the queen of air and darkness to assist the Black Spider, I was diving for treasure. Regardless of the reason, this Black Spider is one OK chap in my book. It was very intimidating to stand before him for the first few minutes, but he really does know how to make you feel welcomed. He’s a giving and understanding individual and the world needs more people like him. He’s a credit to the drow race and Miz’ry should feel honored to be his assistant.

Day 25
Scratch what I said above about the Black Spider; he’s a prick. Since our first encounter, our venture in these mines has taken so many twists and turns that following the events would be more difficult than trying to follow Hammer’s logic.

“I may be dumb, but I ain’t stupid” — Urek Gorunn, aka The Hammer.

This is just one example, but Hammer’s nogging is loaded with ‘em.

For my sanity, I’m going to make this long perplexing story short. Drozz, aka Black Spider had employed a doppleganger to infiltrate us and it was working well until Guntor started to become suspicious. The others thought Guntor was paranoid ‘cause the man was like a pitbull that just wouldn’t let go and his intuition paid off. Gotta respect that!

As it stands now, poor Miz’ry still needs to be found and the party won’t rest until she is. Actually we’re licking our wounds as I write this, but when were done resting we won’t rest any more…maybe… That encounter we just went through with the doppleganger was something else, and we’ll be back on the hunt for Drozz and Miz’ry in less than an hour.

The good news is that another has joined us and right on time since we are — dare I say? — one man down. Just after we awoke from the night of hell, we could see a dark green haired, Wood Elf approach the base of the mountain. His name is Myrrdin, a young Mountain Druid sent by Reidoth to assist us in our search for the Rockseeker brothers. He’s a day too late in helping find any of them, but he’ll be needed in helping us rescue Miz’ry.

Day 25 – Late Morning
Phandelver Pact Mines

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Another excerpt from the private research journal and spell tome of Mizry Jones
A Rumination On The Effects Of This Ill-Gotten Power

This cold has been seeping deep under my skin. It’s strange, I’ve never felt affected by winter or snow or a lasting freeze. I’ve always enjoyed the woods covered in frost, where the plants are dying but remain beautiful. I’ve always appreciated the discomfort caused by a cutting wind, especially when paired with the warmth of a fire. Winter has always served as a reminder of my power, and where it originated.

Perhaps this new discomfort is a result of a winter spent in the far North. Charles and I have only ever experienced the Southern version of the season, and I admit that it’s significantly more mild. However, the others do not seem to be trouble as I am by this cold. I can feel my bones creaking when I try to cast, and even writing has become difficult as my joints stiffen. I do not think anyone has become aware of my discomfort, however, and I intend for them to remain ignorant. This is not a problem that they can help.

The only conclusion I can draw is that my oathbreaking has angered my lady. I am surprised she cares as she does, as surely my deception wrought enough chaos for her tastes. My mind seems to be dwelling on her emissary’s last words to me: In Hearts of Winter Only Suffering Resides. Until now, I had assumed that this was a description of my influence on external sources, i.e. a commentary on the suffering I could cause with the power I have been granted. I, at the time, had no compunctions about inflicting damage on others, and I have not cared a whit since for whatever harm I may have caused. The suffering of mortalkind and my role therein has simply been a part of my destined path, and while I have tried at times to mitigate the damage I have caused, for the most part I have caused suffering but done nothing that was not necessary for my continued surival.

However, now I worry that the emissary’s words may have been a warning, as well. Perhaps I have brought this deep, uncomfortable cold on myself. Perhaps now, that cold, emotionless center of uncaring that I have maintained is softening too much for my lady’s liking. My efforts at wreaking havoc and chaos and suffering have been inadequate, and therefore my lady is turning that power against me. I find myself unable to act, surrounded by these warriors with weak hearts, as they will not allow me to cause direct harm to come to any individual who is not actively attempting us harm. I felt certain, upon hearing that my lady’s minions had captured a mutual enemy, that my companions would have no qualms about me sacrificing Glasstaff to my lady’s mercies. However, their goodness runs too deep, and I know they would not understand the necessity. Moreover, and more worryingly, I find myself almost grateful for their persistent goodness. I do not know how committing cold-blooded murder would affect me. Likely it would cause me no emotional trauma, but I do not want Charles to see the depths to which I can stoop. I am not even sure I am willing to stoop so low now.

These companions of mine are no good for my health. If they had not all fallen in the temple, perhaps that initial realization that I could help them would not have entered into my head, and the entire situation that mandated my oath and the subsequent breaking of it could have been avoided. I am not sure why the idea to try and help these fools even entered my mind. I should have grabbed Charles and ran, as was my second instinct. I am sure he and the others believe that the trade I offered was born purely out of selfishness, and indeed, that is what I told myself as well. However, I can’t deny this pesky fondness I am beginning to feel for my companions, even when they perform some inevitably foolish act. When combined with my previous instinct to save them, and my most recent action against those ridiculous barbarians of hers, I can only conclude that I have grown far too soft for my lady’s liking. I am convinced that the presence of the Frost Wolves was no accident, and I am subsequently convinced that my action against them will do nothing to ease her frosty disapproval.

I suppose I must bear this distracting cold until I can think of a way to form my emotions back into their previous glacial state. I had pondered petty larceny but I do not think my lady will be satisfied with anything less than cold-hearted slow murder. Perhaps if we go fight these orcs, I can convince my companions to take some alive and thereby use them to fulfill my purpose. Frostbite is frostbite, after all, and my lady will appreciate any of its victims.

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An Orc-Load of Trouble

Guntor’s day started off great, almost poetic in fact; the dew of the morning bounced more of the infectious light onto his skin. Even though the ominous tendrils of winter were already starting to creep into everyday life he couldn’t help but be glad for this beautiful, if chilly, morning. As the sun began to awaken, the events of the day also became livelier. He even got to face the villainous Frost Wolves; now, he was sure that people would know his heroic deeds. The day then reached its zenith for Guntor when he found a blue skinned flying beast that was clearly meant for riding. His companions, recognizing the determined and slightly childish glint in his eyes, headed out through dense brush to talk with a banshee that could kill them all by accidentally stubbing a toe or finding a spider. They were almost willing to put up with Guntor and his infatuation with animals just to stay behind and avoid death-by-wail… almost.

It was a few minutes after the sun started heading West that Guntor’s day quickly changed. He had just finished naming the awe-inspiring beast Blue Lightning when Owly The Cartographer II pecked his ear, he isn’t well known for his naming skills.

“Yeah, what is it Owly? I’m trying to get you a flying buddy here pal.” He said as Owly tried to peck a warning into his thick skull.

It was about for pecks in, give or take a peck, when Guntor realized what Owly was trying to warn him about.

“FRESH MEEEEEAT!” shouted the Orc that had spotted the tasty looking, defenseless creature and the pykworm.

Guntor’s eyes opened to about the size of Owly’s and he felt about as small. Owly, the unappreciated hero of the group, immediately flew from Guntor’s increasingly drooping shoulders and knocked him on the head with a flapping wing on the way up. This snapped him out it; Guntor cut Blue Lightning’s rope and began praying to all the gods he had herd Vola mention. He decided to leave out the one’s Mizry talked about because they would probably just laugh and make him trip. Frantically Guntor sprinted for a rope that lead to the top of the center earth mote.

Peabody’s day started off terribly. The intense labors of collecting all those pelts and driving a wagon all the way to these unnatural flying chunks of earth only to have the wagon smashed by a group of uncivilized brutes. Honestly, the barbarism! Things were finally getting better atop the floating island.

“Initiative, that’s it. They’ll be impressed with my initiative.” Peabody said to himself as he looked down at an unconscious Iarno Albrek. He was particularly proud of the new rat-fur-shirt, which somehow made Iarno look even more pathetic. “Or is it ingenuity? Something with an ‘I’.” he was pondering this dilemma when many decidedly unpleasant things happened at once.

From behind him he heard a raucous screech, and when he turned all he could see was a flash of blue fall from the sky. Peabody was most astonished by this sight, but before he could decide whether to run for a building or risk a peak, Guntor screamed up, “Peabody! Come here!”

His butlery duties took over and carried him almost all the way to the edge when he was brought back to what little senses he had. Peabody called out, “Y… Yes, what is it?”

“Wh…What!?” Guntor sputtered back as there was a sound of a large ‘OOF!’, “Just come here!”

Not fully grasping the severity of the situation, Peabody huffed and grabbed a spear that he had been using as a makeshift hoe in a fruitless attempt at the beginnings of a garden. He trudged over mumbling, “Oh, Charlatan’s inept companions. It’s a good thing he had enough sense to put me in charge. They would be positively lost without me.” Then he reached the edge and was greeted with a sight that killed the words in his mouth. Guntor was hanging from a rope he had just cut below him and three Orcs were jumping as high as they could trying to reach him. Peabody stood there absolutely befuddled, his eyes fixed on one Orc in particular. It was a female Orc, a gruesome sight on its own, but this one was very muscular and very pregnant. Something about abs on top of a baby bump made Peabody want to throw up. Guntor began shouting things at him and scared whitless Peabody did what he asked. Peabody pulled up ropes as Guntor shot arrows and pestered the Orcs.

Finally, after what seemed like days of siege, the Orcs picked up their prize meat and stomped away; Guntor sat dejected and muttered something about Blue Lightning and Peabody began making a pair of rat-fur-pants that weren’t for Iarno.

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Grok's Jurnal Entree 2
Stoopid Fandalin Hoomans

Grok head no hurt and Grok bored so Grok rite in jurnal.

Shim’ra, lady orc from hunt other day get mad Grok forget her name. She hit Grok with club. Grok not hit back cuz he dezerv it and she pregnant. One thing to lose baby in gloreus battle. Another to lose to stoopid angry orc in stoopid fite. Grok not forget Shim’ra name no moor.

Not much happen latly. Grok remembar time a week or so ago when stoopid hoomans from place call “fandelin” come to fite orcs. Was eezy fite cuz hoomans bad at fiting.

Was kwuiet day. Sun shining, stoopid birds woodnt shut up. Grok think about smash birds for bein loud but birds very fast. That change when tower sound horn. Enemy come, gloreus battle come! No bored! Grok pick up big axe n charg out with orc brothurs.

Grok see stoopid hoomans come over hill. Not big groop, eezy pikins for orc. Grok n orcs yell and charge. Hoomans look afrade of mity orc tribe. Hoomans charge too. In feeld orc n hooman clash. Blood spill! Rage take over Grok. Grok see stoopid hooman with sord n sheeld. Sheeld no help hooman. Big axe smash sheeld n gash deep into squishee hooman. Stoopid hooman yell in pain, blood go evrywere! Grok yell in victoree of gloreus kill! Axe get stuck but Grok yank out with much eez.

Grok look for next hooman to make die. Stoopid hoomans not stand chanse to mity orcs. Many dead alredee. Grok see fallen orc tho, Grok get mad and yell. Rage stronk. GROK STRONK! Grok charge thru hoomans. Grok see hooman with bow aim at Grok. Hooman fire but Grok too fast. Hooman bad shot. Grok yell as Grok jump attack hooman with big axe. AXE LAND IN FACE! Stoopid hooman head split and crush! BLOOD! Axe no get stuck this time.

Grok get 2 gloreus kill so far. Grok yell in victoree, but Grok also get coky. Stoopid hooman take Grok by suprize. Grok try to doge but big sword cut Grok across chest! GROK MAD! Stoopid stoopid hooman make Grok bleed bad! Hooman not afrade like othar stoopid hoomans. But Grok stronker than hooman! Grok slash big axe and he cut hooman like hooman cut Grok. Hooman bleed! This please Grok. What not please Grok is hooman still alive! This hooman tuff.

Tuff hooman make anothar slash with big sord at Grok. Grok no surprize this time and doge sord! Now hooman look scare. Grok raise mity axe and with roar that make hooman shit pants he bring down axe HARD! Hooman split open! BLOOD! GUTS! Feeld staind with blood of hoomans! Also orc but not as much.

Hoomans that alive still yell “RETREET!” stoopid hoomans run away. Some cary dead or dyeing. Plenty of dead hoomans to gnaw on for orcs. Orcs yell at coward stoopid hoomans. Taunt them with severd heads and guts of hoomans.

Orcs and Grok return to tribe. We have many dead hoomans to eat and bones to use. Sad tho we have som dead orc brothers. Orcs gather wood n lay dead orc on pire. Orc bow head in respekt n honor fallen brothers in gloreus battle. Grok take honor of lite funural pire. Wood burn. Orc brother body burn. Grok sad to rite this. But Grok nevar forget fallen orcs. Grok use memury to make Grok mad in battle. Mad Grok mean dead enemy!

Grok rite enuff today. Hopfuly Grok rite about not sad time. Gloreus battle not sad tho. Next time Grok will rite more gloreus battle n adventoor!

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Hunting with The Hammer
Don't hunt with the Hammer

Foreword: I love The Hammer so much I just had to include him in this. Also, sorry if i accidentally misrepresent any of your characters.

After the quagmire with the Orcs Guntor felt Tense and jittery. He looked over at Peabody and saw that the poor manservant was practically reduced to a puddle; occasionally muttering things like, I’m going to die here,” and, “mother was right, I never should have left Neverwinter.” With that pathetic example as inspiration, Guntor decided that he needed to go out for a bit. He got up and brushed himself off then walked over to the rest of his companions. He couldn’t see Kheg, which wasn’t uncommon, Charlatan and Mizry were sitting together a few yards away, and The Hammer was putting on a hammer juggling display for Owly.

The Hammer thundered a chuckle and haughtily proclaimed, “HA! The owl is wide eyed in amazement at my hammers!”

“Of course he’s wide eyed, he’s an owl.” interjected Myrrdin with an unamused remark

“Then he’s um… Double wide eyed!… or super wide eyed?… Either way the owl likes The Hammer’s hammers.”

As if to prove that his display was impressive, The Hammer started adding hammers until he was at ten in total. Myrrdin did seem impressed, but he took a large step back- looked down and thought for a second- then took another step. Guntor walked over to Charlatan and Mizry who were talking intently with each other. Before Mizry noticed Guntor and stopped, he overheard a little of what she was saying; something about feeling cold and aching joints. Guntor thought that was a little silly, of course she was cold and achy; ‘it’s winter and when we’re not killing something we’re running from something trying to kill us.’ He dismissed these thoughts with a what-can-ya-do shrug to himself and a mumbled, “Southerners.”

“Yes Guntor?” asked Charlatan as Mizry looked down and seemed to be engrossed her own thoughts

“Well, I just wanted to let you know that I was going to go scout out the surrounding woods… Maybe do some hunting too. It should only take about an hour.”

“Are you sure that’s wise? The Orcs could b…” began Charlatan, but he was cut off by an, “Ow!” from the hammer. It was quickly followed by nine more and the sound of Myrrdin helping the dwarf to his feet.

Guntor quickly stated, “Don’t worry, I’m going in the opposite direction from their rock tower, or whatever it’s called. Besides, I can’t stay cooped up here any longer.”

“Ok,” Charlatan reluctantly agreed, but then quickly added, “One hour, only one then we’ll have to come look for you.”

“That’s fair.” Stated Guntor, already walking to one of the ropes, “Next time when you’re not so busy I’ll take you with me.”

Despite her lost demeanor Mizry chuckled, “Charlie hunting… That I’ll have to see.”

“Hey,” remarked Charlatan, and by then Guntor was already down the rope.

Guntor stood at the bottom of the rope and inhaled. He was already beginning to feel better, there was something about the earth motes that didn’t seem natural; Well, besides the chunks of earth floating forty feet in the air. They just didn’t feel right under his feet. Owly Peered over the side. Wearing, as close as his owlish features would allow, to a quizzical look. Guntor extended his thoughts to his flying friend and told him he could do what he wanted. Guntor knew Owly could find him if he needed to; anyway, he didn’t want tracking wildlife to be too easy, that would take out the sport of it.

He set off at a full sprint, shedding the day’s anxiety with every bound. It took him about five minutes to get to the edge of the woods. He stopped and got control of his breath. Pulling out his Bow he headed into the woods, It felt good in his hands and while he was walking he looked down at the weapon. His father had given him the bow when he decided to join the mercenary group. There, he had met Amon, Jack, Kheg, Reed, Dak, and Dain. He suddenly became a little troubled when he realized that he couldn’t remember most of their faces, but was comforted by the memory of all of them siting around a fire in the mercenary camp and deciding to escape their commitments to the mercenaries.

Guntor still felt a warmth in his chest, reminiscent of when Amon first spoke at that fire about how they could do so much more, adventure around the lands, become somebody, become heroes. Guntor twisted the bow to see the front of the thick flat wooden arms and ran his fingers over the small carvings scratched there with a small pick-like tool he carried around. Going out from the grip in both directions and sometimes two or three abreast was a small catalogue of what he had done so far. There was a tied up goblin; a cape that was painted red; Vola’s shield of Tier; a book Mizry called her “Spell Tome” under one of the many rings Charlatan wore; a nothic; a goblin, rump in the air, digging through a barrel; a dragon worshipers mask; a Green painted dragon head, Venomfang, which didn’t do the beast’s horrific beauty justice; a bugbears club with a crown on it; an owl; a hammer; a spider painted black; and most recently a floating earth mote.

Guntor couldn’t help but smile. This is what he’s accomplished, and there was still much more room left. His smile turned bittersweet when he twisted the bow back to its normal position and spotted the small names on the lower arm: Dain Ironfist, Amon Arkham, and Owly Cartographer I. His eyes were then drawn inexorably to the upper arm where there was a carving that was much bigger than the ones on the front. It was a campfire with a shadowy figure behind it, giving a speech about how he could do so much more.

Guntor hadn’t noticed when he had stopped walking to lean up against a tree, but he was pulled out of his thoughts by a light trotting on the forest floor. He looked up, suddenly alert, and stalked his way toward the sound. There, maybe twenty feet away, stood an elk. Guntor’s mouth fell open, Elk were rare on a good day, but with winter coming on he thought all of them would have made their way further south where the gloomy winter wouldn’t kill most of the plants they preferred. This elk was old, definitely past his mating days, but still young enough to survive the infamously dangerous forests. Guntor slowly pulled out an arrow, careful not to make a sound; He had heard thousands of hunters relate stories of how close they got to achieving a kill as worthy as this animal; only to botch it with a careless movement. The arrow was free of the quiver and immediately perched on the bow’s string. Guntor pulled the bow taught. Hoping that the care he took with his bow would keep it from even the slightest creek. The string was now to his cheek and the elk was still grazing, but it perked up its head by pure instinct and scanned the area. Guntor had seen enough animals do this to know what was going on, He hadn’t been careless and the elk didn’t know he was there, but like every animal- especially older ones- this elk was listening to a kind of sixth sense. He knew from past experience that if he was mostly obscured and kept perfectly still the creature would remain completely unaware of him. Guntor held his breath. He was mostly behind a tree. Perfect. As for staying still, Guntor felt as content as a baby bird asleep in its nest. The elk made an observable decision to not head its sixth sense and turned back to the ground to graze. Guntor allowed himself a half-gin. It’s a fine end to a noble beast he thought as he released the arrow.

He would have hit the elk square in the heart… He really would have, except at the exact moment he let go of the string there came from behind him a thunderously booming, “HELLO!”

Guntor jerked and the arrow that was intended to hit the elk soared into the sky. Fearing the worst he turned around as the elk took this opportunity to bolt from sight. Guntor was relived and slightly peeved but mostly relived to not see an orc, but instead, he saw a red bearded dwarf with a lump on his head stood there on top of the lump were a series of intertwined twigs.

“What are you doing here?” inquired Guntor out of pure curiosity. He wasn’t angry or annoyed because his brain was so confounded that it completely forgot about anger.

“The Hammer came to find you.” Said The Hammer.

“Find me? How did you find me? I’m in the middle of the woods!” he gaped; then he added, “and I’m hunting, being… you know, sneaky.” He admitted meekly.

“Oh, That’s what you were doin’ all serious like. Well, anyway, Owly lead me to you of course.” Claimed The Hammer, as if this were just a normal conversation in any pub. In confirmation Owly swooped down from a tree carrying a twig and alighted on the dwarf’s head. He then began furiously jostling the twig with his beak and a talon, trying to weave it into the nest he was making.

“Why is he making a nest on your head?” asked a mentally anguished Guntor.

“Because I told him to.”

“W…W…Why?” he inquired, now completely defeated and reduced to a stupor.

“Well,” The Hammer began, “he wanted to sit on my head and I told him ‘No!’” he explained, even doing a bad miming of his own voice. “So then, Owly said, ‘Who’ and I told him I didn’t know ‘who’s’ head he could sit on, but then I thought about it.” Which to Guntor seemed very unlikely. “Who has an Owl hat!? NOBODY!!” He proclaimed.

“And the nest?” asked Guntor, cringing in fear of the answer he might receive.

“Owly’s got sharp talons. I didn’t want to scratch my lump.”

Guntor was beginning to regain a little more mental capacity and conversationally stated, “Why not wear a helmet?”

The air around them seemed to explode with sound as The Hammer leaned back and gave the biggest belly laugh that Guntor had ever seen or heard. It lasted for a good two minutes and even required The Hammer to stop and gulp down a few breaths before continuing again. During which time Guntor’s brain once again short circuited as he tried to figure out what was funny; Had something happened? He was in the middle of giving himself a complete pat down to make sure that he hadn’t sprouted horns or other hilarious appendages; when, The Hammer finally stopped due to almost passing out.

He wiped big tears from his eyes and announced, “A HELMET! HA! A HEEELMEEEET! MEEEEEE, WEAR A HELMET! Ugh… You’re funny! A helmet… Why would I wear a helmet…”

Owly ‘whoed’ in annoyance after having to do head acrobatics to keep from falling.

At this point the shattered pieces of Guntor’s brain made a futile attempt at understanding and simply gave up; accepting the jovial dwarf’s logic. “So why exactly did you look for me?”

The dwarf’s facial muscles spasmed with whiplash as he suddenly became deathly serious. “I found out why people don’t wear owl hats…” he said in a macabre tone while gazing into the distance with sad unfocused eyes.

“You found out birds make their nest’s with poop.”

The Hammer gave a disheveled nod of acknowledgement and added, “Now he won’t leave the nest.”

“Owly…” reprimanded Guntor with a stern look.

“Whoooo?” came the faux innocent response, and if owls had shoulders they could shrug, Owly’s would have shrugged. After a few seconds of looking everywhere but at Guntor, Owly ‘whoed’ a sigh and left the lump nest he had fashioned. The Hammer, who seemed to have already resigned himself to a life of owl headedness, opened his eyes as wide Owly’s, as if a miracle had cured him. He casually brushed off the nest, which just a few seconds ago was an impossible action. He began plodding away, but turned around and remembered, “Oh, and everyone’s looking for you. You’ve been gone for about three hours now.” Looking relieved and confident The Hammer swaggered away without a care in the world, even stopping to pick a flower or swing a hammer at something.

Trepidation filled Guntor and fear froze him. ‘Charlatan’s gonna’ be mad…’ he thought, ‘and Mizry will kill me! Then Kheg will take all my stuff as I die…’ a shudder ran through his spine, ‘and worst of all, Myrrdin will keep me alive just to give me an hour long lecture on how to tell time with a stick some sap and a leaf.’ Guntor sprinted toward the earth motes. His only hope was to get there while everyone was looking and pretend to have been napping in some corner the entire time… It didn’t work.

Later that night a carving of an owl on a dwarf’s head was added to the bow.

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Kheg's Secret Diary3
Days 25-33

Day 25 – Mid morning
Phandelver Pact Mines

Myrrdin had joined the search party only a couple hours before Hammer found he needed to exit the mines due to a really bad case of food poisoning, but we were fortunate enough to have Hammer at full hammer swinging health as we battered a doppleganger only minutes ago.

After an hour of recouperating at the mine’s entrance, Miz’ry’s search party of 5 headed towards the last place she was seen, the temple of Dumathoin. We knew we were on the right track when we opened the temple doors and heard the sound of metal crashing onto stone for discarded weapons had been placed against the door to serve as a makeshit intrusion alarm.

Guntor’s use of the dancing lights spell revealed spider webs, but no giant spiders. As we conducted a room to room search, we found one door giving off an electric shock as a deterant for unauthorized entry. Charlatan cast Mage Hand and placed the hand against the door to draw the electrical charge. The lock was then picked and the door was opened without further injury.

Within the last 20 days, we’ve found 3 bodies lying on the floor and all had been badly beaten by Black Spider’s minions. There was the human body found in the goblin cave that is believed to possibly be Gundrin Rockseeker’s travel companion, there was Gundrin himself at Cragmaw Castle then there was Gundrin’s brother found dead only yesterday. Today wasn’t any different except for the cause of death perhaps as we find Gundrin’s other brother on the floor. Vola was able to determine that he was killed earlier today.

Charlatan found evidence that Miz’ry had been in this room due to her backpack being left behind. With the trail getting warmer and warmer, Guntor put his owl on another swift scouting mission and as we followed its path we found ourself walking in what appeared to be a 10’ deep dwarven built trench that led us into a large cavern. As we entered the cavern we could hear Miz’ry’s voice, but the depth of the trench made it impossible to see our surroundings. To make matters worse, we could see a flying, flaming skull which Myrrdin told us was a type of undead.

Charlatan managed to scale up the wall towards his sister’s voice. Sure enough Miz’ry Jones had been found, but with the flaming skull; Drozz; a giant spider; the bugbear Gremmel; and 5 zombies all in the same cavern, it was clear that extracting Miz’ry wasn’t going to be an easy operation. Working for us was the fact that the undead were in a battle of their own with Drozz and his crew. Working against us was the fact that the undead were very indiscriminate of their victims. As the rest of us scaled the wall and on towards the melee even Guntor’s owl got in a strike on Gremmel.

Myrrdin was in possession of the wand pulled out of the lake the prior day and although none of us knew what it was for or how to use it, Myrrdin felt that this battle was a good time to do some field testing. The initial test was successful as Myrrdin made what may have been his first kill as a zombie became the target of Magic Missiles.

During the melee Miz’ry is grabbed by Gremmel and only a moment later Gremmel hits the ground as he crackles and fries from a spell cast by Charlatan. With Miz’ry now free and running towards what is actually a dry canal, the rest of us follow as the flaming skull takes pot shots on us. Undetered by the attacks from above, Drozz relentlessly chases Miz’ry with vengence and uses Magic Missiles and poison to try and thwart her escape, but his attempts came to naught. Miz’ry and her rescuers were able to join The Hammer on the precipice where we took another well needed rest. An hour later we decended the cliff face and headed towards the foothill a quarter mile away that Charlatan’s horses were left at. The horses were no longer there, but all the blood left behind made it clear that the horses had their own melee. With a ½ moon starting to show a camp was made.

In the morning of Day 26 Myrrdin believes he saw Drozz climb down from the precipice and do it with amazing swiftness. With the thought of Drozz on the hunt, we felt it best to distance ourselves even more and headed to Phandalin as fast as we could go. We marched into the night and reached our destination around 12:00 am where once again Aunt Qelline was kind enough to allow use of her barn.

With the wind starting to become bitter cold, the whole trek last night was a long, harsh, constant reminder to get winter clothing today (Day 27) and that’s just what we did. Some of us bought tents too.

After the new equipment purchases, I decided to visit that bitch at the miners guild before we moved on to Neverwinter. I’m not quite sure why we’re going to Neverwinter, but I want to speak with Gundrin about mine ownership. Currently there are only a handfull of people that know where the Phandelver Pact Mines are located and if the rediscoverers - the Rockseeker brothers -, or atleast the 1/3rd that is still able to breath isn’t going to put a legal claim to it, then I will do what should have been done more than 27 days ago. The place is too valuble to go legally unrecorded and ownership agreements between myself and Gundrin can be worked out amicably some other time. I just hope my gut feeling about Halia Thornton is wrong, but the vibe I get from that bitch tells me that she’ll fuck Gundrin and I over on this. I so badly didn’t want to divulge the exact location of the mine, but it seems I had no other choice if a legal claim was to be filed.

On Day 28 we wake up to bone chilling tempratures on the High Road just short of the wayshrine and by late afternoon we were in Neverwinter. As cold as it is, I can only question the name “Neverwinter”.

Hoping for a private meeting, on Day 29 I tell the others that I’m going to look for Gundrin. Unexpectedly Vola, Myrrdin and Miz’ry want to come along. We find Gundrin coinless and living at a temple and although he had recovered from his near death experience after two weeks of sadistic captivity he still looked like shit. Before I had a chance to tell him in private that I filed a claim on the mine, he told us that he never filed a claim for fear of claim jumpers. His fear was shared by myself as I told Halia Thornton the exact location of the mine and by hearing this from Gundrin, I now worry even more. I came to Neverwinter to tell him about the claim I made and amicably start a mining operation and why wouldn’t he do that with me? All of his other partners are dead, so who else is there? Besides, he’s homeless. Now that I hear him mention his reason for not making a claim in the first place, I can’t find the dignity to tell him what I’ve done, but since when did I ever care about dignity? All of this would be a bit easier if it wasn’t a follow up to the dreadful news of his 2 brothers’ homicides. My timing couldn’t be worse. With all that on my mind, I left without even thinking to give him some coins so that he could stay at an inn until we left for Phandalin.

On Day 33 after 5 days in Neverwinter, Miz’ry has finally completed all of the research she was doing and was ready to leave. Gundrin says he is anxious to get back to Phandalin and get the mining operation off the ground. As for myself, I’m also anxious that Gundrin get the mining operation off the ground.

To our surprise, Vola was even more anxious than the rest of us to get moving. She left a note explaining that she felt the orc problem was of much greater importance to the people of the Sword Coast than Sister Grarail’s desire for information on a spell book written by Bogendle. Vola said she hoped to meet us in Wyvryn Tor as soon as possible so that we could join her quest to appease the god Tyr. She also went on to say that she had planned to travel to Phandalin with us, but she unexpectedly obtained a horse she calls Thunderfury and wanted to take advantage of the speed it gave her. By our best estimations we should meet Vola in Wyvryn Tor in about 5 days.

While preparing to leave Neverwinter for our trek south, we found a large caravan preparing to do the same. We tought it best to merge with them so after waiting for the caravan to finally get going we had left Neverwinter quite a bit later than we would have liked. Although rather early, due to such a late start, the caravan decided to camp at the wayshrine instead of camping in a less familiar section further south on the High Road. We found that although it is bitter cold outside the circle, inside it is warm, but the inside was taken up by the select few of a caravan we had merged with. The majority of us had to rough it on the frigid outside.

Day 33 – Early evening
Wayshrine, High Road

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