Hacklab

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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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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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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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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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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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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Aside on top the precipice
Occurring on the night before the party descends again into the mine

On the night spent on the precipice, Charlatan stays up late for first watch, taking his sister’s place. The paladin sits in her usual silent contemplation giving Charlatan a rare moment of honest introspection

Burn you.

Burn you and to hell with your stupid girlish fantasies.

You’ve already sold your soul to that witch of an elven goddess and now you sell your mind and body to the first shitstain from the underdark to come stinking up our lives.

What will I tell our father?

What will happen when I’m old and father and brother are dead?

I might be a disinherited fool of a half-breed, not knowing where to go and what kind of monster I might meet next, but at least I wasn’t alone in that.

And now you’ve taken that away from me.

Empty night, Miz’ry! It was our mother that left us! We would not be alive today if not for father. Much though you hate him- you owe him and humankind your life and yet you decide to spend it on the drow.

Such loyalty.

Fine.

If the only way to make you see reason is to show you how weak these chittering slaves of demons really are then that’s what I must do.


“Vola,” Charlatan says as the paladin looks towards him, away from her silent vigil. “If we get out of this alive, will you teach me how to fight?”

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An excerpt from the private research journal and spell tome of Mizry Jones
"Arcanum and it's forces: A study in opposition and enhancement"

It has been known to scholars of the magickal arts that the forces of the arcane can be channeled and uitilized by mortals skilled, lucky and/or determined enough to gain knowledge of its use. The forces can be channeled with different effects, giving us the 8 differentiated (excluding the 9th category of spells which seem able to be utilized by most mortals, and are therefore not bound by the same arcane restraints, nor gifted with the same power) schools of magick.
As in all natural phenomena, each of these 8 schools has an equal and opposite partner by which it is opposed. It is my assertion, which is as of yet unresearched, that each school likewise contains the potential to be enhanced by an auxiliary school. The common arcana symbol could be seen as evidence of this, as the schools are classified into their opposites, but with complementary schools placed perpendicularly:
image1__2_.JPG
Thus, as seen here, conjuration is opposed by evocation, as is common knowledge. A common application of this phenomenon is in conjured magical shields or armor, which are far more effective at halting the effects of an evocation than their mundane counterparts. However, if my assertion holds true, then both schools will be similarly enhanced by the use of either enchanting magick or transmutative magick. A pair of casters working together, therefore, could enhance the effects of each others spells, providing they have enough knowledge to know which spells enhance which other spells. By this I mean, not all evocations can be assisted by all enchantments, for only some evocations are aided by enchanting effects while the others are aided by transmutative effects. This theory, if true at all, will theoretically then hold true for every spell class. This idea clearly needs more research and practical application, however, and as long as my Idiot Brother and I continue this foolish adventuring nonsense, I plan on utilizing his inborn skills to enhance my own spells, and vice versa. Of course, he needn’t know of his new position as a Research Subject, for I am certain he would try his utmost to thwart my research, obnoxious fool that he is.
a sidenote
I have noted upon our most recent battle his previous untested skill with certain evocations. I believe the effects of his lasting lightning evocation could be lengthened when a subject is charmed or otherwise mentally impaired by one of my enchantments. I shall have to test this theory the next time we encounter undesirable creatures.

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Kheg Secret Diary 2
Days 20-24

Day 20 – Mid morning
City of Neverwinter

Like Tar only 17 days ago, Jack Winterstorm found that adventures along the High Rd. were no longer his calling. Jack had quickly grown tired of the lifestyle of a mercenary and wanted to concentrate on his original goal of helping rebuild Phandalin, but with Sildar Hallwinter dead, Jack needed to find another like minded individual and felt that departing now while he was here in Neverwinter was a good place for him to start working on his goal.

Twenty days ago Guntor and I set out with 6 others to assist in a security escort from Neverwinter south to Phandalin. This time however our purpose is different and so are the faces we travel with, but our hunt for fortune is steadfast and as the 6 of us continued to prepare for our trip south to Phandalin, we were approached by a cloaked and hooded figure that stood about 4’6”. It was Gundrin Rockseeker who surprised us when he stated that he wouldn’t be traveling to the mines with us. He said he still wasn’t well enough to travel, but gladly gave us the necessary directions on how to find the mine. Gundren also told us that the mine is enormous and therefore we should be prepared to spend multiple days in the dark. He also mentioned that encounters with the “walking dead” are a certainty as well as Yellow Mold. He even expressed concern for the safety of his two brothers.

While the others bought supplies and visited with the local priestess, I took a moment to visit the miner’s guild and speak with Halia Thornton. She’s the same bitch I remember her being, but it turns out neither Gundrin or his brothers have a claim on the lost mines/Wave Echo Cave and with Gundrin in Neverwinter and both of brothers missing, the mines are legally up for grabs.

Day 20 – late morning
This morning we left Neverwinter with much greater spirit than what we had when we arrived for it was only a day ago when we were one man down due to the death of Amon’s, but even with the departure of Jack, today we seem as strong as ever and it was only moments after leaving the gates of Neverwinter did we run across a touchstone. 2 men were trying to strong arm people into paying a toll to cross the Thunderroot Bridge. Upon our refusal to give the 1 gp per person fee a single arrow shot out of the trees and high into the air; landing near our feet. With the assumption that we out numbered these bastard, I can’t say we took this threat too seriously. Miz’ry had already lost her patience with the two on the bridge and cast a spell that set off a chain of events that included more arrows and spells. The most impressive spell was that cast by Charlatan though. It was a bright, blue arc that struck one of the men making his limbs shoot from his torso before it became an 8’ ring of burning flesh.

With Charlatan’s demonstration of his capabilities, the remaining tough guy ran for his life with Hammer and I giving chase. We ended up in the woods when all of a sudden the tough guy stopped as if to beg for his life. Due to being a former gladiator, The Hammer must be used to this sort of begging and therefore become immune to it because he executed the bully on the spot. Hammer then scavenged the fresh corpse and found mix of copper, silver and gold coins. I must say, he’s taken to adventuring quite well and it hasn’t even been 24 hours since he started. What this guy lacks in brains he makes up for in guts.

Day 20 – Evening
The weather is starting to get cold and I can only wonder if we are in for an early winter. We reached the wayshrine where Vola prayed and Guntor summoned an owl. His yield was one of grey feathers and bright orange eyes. Guntor says the owl can be used to do recon; particularly in dark places, but my only thought at the time was how it might taste…just in case.

Day 21
It was late morning when a cold, stiff breeze blew in from the Iron Sea. It woke us up as if to tell us that it’s time to get our assess moving down the High Road. At noon we finally started making our way South again. When it was starting to get dark and call it a day we found ourselves in the known goblin area along the High Road. We decided to keep moving and push ourselves all the way to Phandalin which would be about another 8 hours of travel. Having 2 horses with us made the task much easier.

It was way past sunset when we turned east onto Tribore Trail and towards the ambush site that started this whole journey. We had thought about camping, but due to our proximity to the goblin cave, we opted to force our tired legs and feet to push on to the town of Phandalin and hopefully stay at my Aunt’s farm. Walking through the ambush site I can’t help but think of the first encounter. I took two arrows and fell off the wagon before anyone on the squad had a chance to react. The same for Amon, but he was worse off and as the blood continued to leave his body, his chance for survival fast approached zero. To make matters worse, our cleric was in the same position: on the ground and incapacitated. We’re a lot more experienced now, but probably more narcissistic too.
Goblin set traps were a big concern on this part of the trail, however with 4 of us having dark vision, the cover of darkness didn’t add to the concern. Of bigger concern though was the fact that the goblin cave was only 300 yards away and we had no idea if we were in for another ambush or not.

We made it to the goblin area with out incident and when we turned South on the short trail to towards Phandalin we were dead tired for It had been 16 hours when we last had a long rest at the wayshrine.

It was 4:00 am on Day 22 as we moved through town towards my Aunt’s farm. On our way we passed the Tealeaf Social Haus; with no red candles in the widows at that hour, Reed and Dak must not be ready for business yet.

As late as it was, I was a little frightened to be knocking on Aunt Qelline’s door and asking if the 6 of us could stay for the remainder of the night. After what she had done to tied up goblins, I now know how much violence she is capable of and as caring as she is, she has almost zero patience so it goes without noting that she was about as angry as I’d ever seen her. I just can’t tell you how relieved I was to see that her kindness could eclipse her anger.

While the rest of the crew were getting supplies, or meeting with the village priestess I took the time to check with the miners guild about Gundrin’s rediscovery. Halia Thornton was helpful, but still the same snappy, snotty bitch I remember. A little fact that I uncovered and one my associates will have to remain clueless too is that neither of the Rockseeker brothers have a legal claim to the Phandelver Pact Mines, Wave Echo Cave or the Spell Forge and better is the fact that Gundrin is in Neverwinter and his two brothers are still missing; and if Sildar Hallwinter’s fate is foretelling, I wonder if the brothers will ever turn up.

After getting 8 hrs. of rest and taking care of our various business in Phandalin it was very late by the time we left the village and therefore the day only had a few hours of light left in it. That bit of time was spent walking in a southeasterly direction towards the hills and upon our arrival on the top of a hill, we made camp underneath a setting sun. The blowing wind here made our stay on this hilltop a little uncomfortable. A fire would have been welcomed, but with undead in the area, firelight was more of a negative than a positive.

The whole day I was expecting the Jones twins to lobby for a trek east to Conyberry to find the banshee named Agatha and ultimately Bogendles spellbook, but they haven’t brought up the subject since our stay in Neverwinter. I think they have their spell set minds preoccupied with the Spell Forge and are now just as eager to get to the mines as the rest of us.

Day 23
It was during Mizry’ and Vola’s watch when an owlbear wandered into our camp just after midnight and from what I’m told Guntor woke up on his own while I “slept like a baby” through much of it…lying bastards! They’re just jealous that I got the kill and with only one attack by splashing oil on the already electrically charged beast; and if they took the time to wake up Hammer, why didn’t they do the same for me? I sense a possible conspiracy, but why? Are they onto the fact that there is no legal claim to the mine? I’m watching my back from this point on with these so called “friends”.

The brisk and windy weather that accompanied us as we fell asleep was there to greet us as we awoke and so where a bunch of vultures that were feasting on a rather crisp owlbear thanks to me. From our hilltop vantage point we noticed trails that had been created by miners and ss we followed them we found ourselves going up slippery rocks and routing around only to end up not far from where we started. The trails were infrequently used and as we started to run out of choices, we opted for an even less trodden path. It took us far from the others and into the late afternoon when we found ourselves on another hilltop looking at a mountain with a stone face just barely peaking over the horizon. Still a bit early we decided to make camp here instead of move on; and only a stones throw from our camp, we found a large statue of a figure with a winged helm which we identified as the Tiberian statue that Gundrin had mentioned. Now even more eager for an early start we ate our rations and were asleep before the night arrived.

Day 24
Stoked over what we might discover today we were already making our way towards the stone face as the sun started to appear above the treetops, but just like a little over a week ago when we were marching through Neverwinter, our feet became cold and damp as the we foliage and condensation eventually worked its way into our boots. As we marched towards the stone face our hopes grew as much as the mountain did for we would have to tilt our heads to see the top with a degree as equally great as our forward movement. We estimated the height to be 400-500 ft. as we reached the base. According to Gundrin’s directions, from here we needed to find a pick axe and after roughly 3 hours of searching we found it once a very out of place tree branch used to help conceal the axe piqued our curiosity.

From here we counted out paces and found a very crude stone ladder that was obviously cut into the mountain by dwarves. The Hammer didn’t waste a second in starting to climb. Vola was only a few feet behind and eager to move forward, I started to climb too before we were all carefully clinging on the rock for our dear lives. Each hand and foot placement was carefully set and steady before the slightest movement of our next limb. No movement was too small as we struggled up the stone, and as if the grade wasn’t steep enough, we had the wind antagonizing us more and more the higher we climbed. It took several long minutes to climb about 150’ when the grade became less steep and we suddenly started to climb inward as the dwarven ladder ended at the top of a cave. As we peered into the cave, 60 ft. below were stalagmites, standing water, boulders and a person that was either sleeping or dead. Just as Gundrin had stated, the air form the outside flowed inward and down into cavern as if there was a vacuum but more mysterious is the repetitive, long, low booming sound.

Guntor released his owl to do reconnaissance before we all followed Hammer as he repelled down a 60’ rope and onto the cavern floor. As we reached the floor, we gathered around some supplies and the person we saw from above. This person was now in fact a corpse of a dwarf…a dwarf with a very strong likeness to Gundrin Rockseeker. Miz’ry examines the body and from the multiple cuts on it she determined that he was killed about a week ago. Miz’ry then notices that the dwarf was wearing magical boots made by Delmorham to aid in running and jumping.

The cavern has two area with a 20 foot drop separating them and a mine shaft can be seen below lower portion of the cavern. This 20 foot drop appears to have been dug out after the mine below it was built — probably by the Rockseeker brothers, so I can only wonder if there is second entrance to this place.

With this mine shaft in sight, Guntor’s owl again takes flight and goes off into even greater darkness. Upon the owls return, we proceed into the same darkness without torch or lamp light. Being the only ones who can’t see in the dark, Guntor and I slowed progress for we had to form a procession with us blindly holding on as we meandered through the maze like mine shafts. With Hammer on point, our curiosity directed our heading as we followed the continuous booming sounds and had I been as deaf as I was blind, I’d have been totally lost.

We had been warned of zombies, but this place was thick with bugbears; two separate encounters so far and the combination of oil and fire is making short work of them as it did the owlbear last night. In the first battle Charlatan use a scroll that sent fireballs into an oil drenched area created by Guntor. With an incredible sound, a big ball of flame sucked much of the oxygen out of the room stunning everyone so much that the two smouldering yet surviving bugbears surrendered. I must say that The Hammer is really living up to his name. He landed 3 critical blows in a row due to acute percision. His knot on the head may keep him from driving the horse team, but he sure can pull the weight.

During a short rest we had the opportunity to interrogate and rummage. We learned of a green flaming, flying skull and found some Tiberian coins that were made of electrum. …And where ever there are electrum coins, platinum coins are probably not too farway…at least that’s my theory. The two surviving bugbears seemed sincere in their offer to help lead us to their leader, the Black Spider, but like all humanoids, these two had integrity issues. Another battle with 4 additional bugbears resulted in the same outcome as the 1st. Only 2 bugbears survived another of our oil & fire approaches to combat and fled down a shaft into a room where they closed a stone door.

*_Day 24 – Early afternoon
Phandelver Pact Mines
Sword Coast_
*

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Character Spotlight: Guntor
Guntor Visits Home

Although Charlatan’s ‘plan’ and eager smile promised a night of adventure, wealth, and possibly imprisonment Guntor couldn’t bring himself to accept the invitation. Instead, he headed to the western edge of the city. As his feet carried him down the familiar paths and side streets Guntor reminisced about the past few day, something that had occupied most of his time since he had left the castle. He could still remember the horrid trip to Neverwinter; all the anger and paranoia that had accompanied him on that journey had finally subsided. The cobbled stones under foot turned into a well-kept dirt road that extended into a more heavily wooded area which opened up into a small clearing. A modest cabin took up most of the room in the clearing, and the rest was taken up by his father’s odd mix of unfinished woodworking projects that he would swear he’d complete soon. The familiar cabin brought a smile to Guntor’s lips and a dragged him out of his grim thoughts. He approached his parent’s home and let himself in. His mother looked up from what she was doing and gave him a quick smile then returned to what she was doing.

“Sit down, I was just about to make lunch.” She said nonchalantly, “Your father is off working on a house in the city so there’s plenty extra.”

Guntor tucked his pack, longbow, spear, and shield into a corner of the three room cabin and sat down at the table.

His mother glanced over to him and his meager provisions and asked, “What happened to that rusty old sword of yours?”

“It was a Great-sword and it wasn’t rusty.” Guntor retorted, “Anyway, I sold it to Alabatin, you know the town guard on the south side of town.”

“Good riddance, that thing was only good for tripping me every time you would come home, but I thought you said you’d never sell that hunk of steal though?”

She brought over a plate of meat and vegetables that she placed in front of him

“Well it hasn’t done me that much good recently, I’m thinking of trying something new.”
At that she looked at him more intently and noticed the bruises on his arms and small scrapes on his face. She didn’t say anything as she got her own plate and sat down, but Gungtor knew what she would say and knew that she didn’t approve of his ‘career decisions’ as she called them.

“If it makes any difference,” Guntor said through bites of rabbit and lettuce, “I’m not with that mercenary group any more. I’m with a group of adventurers, we’re making a difference and have even already been to Thundertree.”

This last statement made his mother look up with a surprised expression, “
really? I hope you’re not getting into things that are out of your league.”

Guntor thought for a second about the acid green dragon and said, “nah, we’re a pretty capable group.” Unwittingly his mind wandered to an image of Amon as he lay on the floor looking up at him.

“Something has happened hasn’t it?” his mother inquired with concern in her voice.

“Yea… We lost somebody.” Then he added quickly, “Don’t worry though, I’m fine.”

“She looked at him with sad and empathetic eyes, “Guntor, you don’t have to go, you could stay here. You’re still so young, you could just find a job here.”

Guntor laughed and exclaimed, “You’d love that wouldn’t ya’. Dad and I build another cabin, you marry me off, and then get me fat from all your cooking.”

The mood lightened and after a hearty lunch and conversation Guntor got up, hugged his mother, and promised that he would visit whenever he gets back. He was in good spirits when he finally got back to the group. He finally felt like he had come to terms with Amons death.

Claudia waved a goodbye to her son as he walked down the dirt path. She turned back to the table to clear it and noticed a coin purse sitting there. She opened it up and huffed at what she would later count up to be sixty gold. ‘This was just like her son,’ she thought, ‘to not even let her protest or refuse… how selfish.’ She smiled as she wiped away a few joyful tears.

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