Archive for September, 2005

Friends Far & Wide

Tuesday, September 27th, 2005

We defeated Alec.

Well, sort of.

As soon as the elfy-elf we had known as a halfling named Alec appeared
where Alec had been, Nigel and Greebo and I concentrated our efforts on
defeating his dragon, once known to us as an ape named Rodeo, and Adric
dispelled the wall of force holding Badl, Rock and himself
captive.  In short order, Rodeo was dead and Alec was slicing
Nigel to ribbons with a sword.  Cornering him, though, turned his
back to the rest of us and Rock and Adric were quick to attack. 
Badl took the shape of a tiger and waited for Nigel to get out of the
way, but even as Nigel tried to make an escape Alec hissed that he was
leaving Nigel something to remember him by and then delivered a blow we
were sure had struck Nigel dead.

Even as the elf’s sword struck Nigel in the chest, though, Snowdown
appeared behind him – a ghostly visage, serene in the face of such
destruction as we’d all wrought – and with a brush of her hands closed
just enough of the wound to let Nigel fall unconscious rather than
merely dead.  With that, Alec opened a portal and stepped into
another world, escaped.  That portal, though – the land beyond was
dark, unlit, and the stale air that blew through was clammy, bearing
the scent of dust and old bones.

Rock and I know that scent.  It’s the land of the dead, where we walked with other friends many years ago.

I have to confess that as soon as Alec was gone and we realized we’d
all survived our encounter I let out a cry of celebration.  There
were some high-fives exchanged, and as Badl healed Bonzo of his wounds
I thanked him for holding my equipment.  Bonzo even got a cape out
of the deal, being elected to wear whatever garment it was that Alec
had in halfling form.  The literal ape is simply too adorable, in
the same sense that a small dog in a sweater with a dog sewn onto it is
adorable, in his white, formal shirt and his crimson cape.

After tending to his ape friend, Badl turned his attentions to the
newly-dead dragon and the valuable reagents that can be gleaned from
such a corpse.  He and Nigel went to work, pulling out all sorts
of scales and juices and squidgy purple bits they would stuff into
sacks and vials and whatnot.  Yech.  Some days, adventuring
is not for the beauty-conscious.

After, we discussed what the day’s events had changed.  Badl
explained to us that natural shapeshifters are able to overcome the
effects of his polymorph spell, and so we are relatively certain that
Alec is a shapeshifter.  Yet again, their skullduggery is
afoot.  I really must start reading people’s minds when I ask them
The Question.  Adric emphasized a need to get some force or
another here immediately so that we could move on in our
investigation.  Nigel advocates that we get to Myth Drannor and
try to learn more about
these places as soon as possible.  As usual, I am full of nothing
but
concerns and a singular dearth of good ideas.  All I can think of
is my
worry for the friends I’ve made in all the parts of the world. 
Sometimes I feel that I am compelled to adventure less for love of this
life and more out of a fear of the ignorance that comes with
retirement.  Surely, I tell myself, there are evil cults and
sinister
cabals in brooding towers and shadow-drenched caverns in every corner
of the world, and surely no one can expect to stop them all.  Still, it is better to be the ones kicking in their
front doors, knives clenched in our teeth, spells at our fingertips,
than to sit at home and wait for one evil or another to interrupt
dinner with an apocalypse.

Rock and Adric are convinced that Alec – who said his real name, Lod
Tearthalas – is actually the Three-Faced Man.  As the illusionary
elf had told us, the dreadful Ur-dragon buried in The Tomb was the
mount of the Traitor, and true, Alec did have a dragon as his
mount.  I’m not sold on this idea, though.  Alec/Lod cried
out, at one point, that he, “first among elves,” would not be “defeated
by half-breeds and lesser races,” during our fight.  He might
consider himself some sort of heir apparent to the legacy of the
Three-Faced Man, but we know that the Seers of Kelemvor actually saw,
in their scryings, Alec being taken hostage by the Drow.  Adric
and Rock wondered whether this meant that Alec the Halfling was
possessed by Lod, restrained as he was in the same chair used to hold
the Traitor while his dragon died, but I really can’t make myself
believe one way or the other.  It hardly matters, in a way, given
that one way or another an elf from days so ancient no elf remembers
them has returned and has uppercase-P Plans.

Badl offered us his druidic glen as a teleport-point, so at some point
in the next day or two I will try to accompany him there so that I can
spend time studying the sight.  In the meantime, Nigel had a
shopping list of spells for us, specifically one which would let us
identify the vast horde of magical equipment we have gathered in our
time here, one which will prevent scrying, and some other spells that
would prove most useful to him.  Rock, Adric and I jumped back to
Elventree where we reported everything to Bliss (Rock’s wife) and
Jaycon, the leader of the defenses of the town.  He told us after
hearing our story that shortly after we left some of the High Elves who
have made their camp near Elventree came through town and examined
every halfling they could find.

We left Rock to spend the night in Elventree and Adric and I jumped to
Arabell, where we hoped to finish off Nigel’s shopping list and meet
with the Lothandrians in that city.  I dropped a note off at the
castle letting Lady Lall know I was to spend the night in her fair
city.  I have not seen her in some time, and at times like this I
somehow feel I need every powerful friend I have.  Upon visiting
the Lothandrians, their high priest at this temple stumblingly told
Adric and me that some other members of Adric’s order came through
recently looking for a halfling named Alec.

What Adric and I didn’t tell him was that when Adric questioned the
departed souls of the orcs they fought at The Tomb two days ago, they
told him that they had come in search of Alec because their god,
Grumsh, had sent them a vision of the orcs marching under the command
of “fell masters,” stripped of their freedom and enslaved by some other
force and that Alec somehow held the key.

Kelemvor sent us to the Tomb, where we learned a Beshaban had come on
behalf of her ill-omened Goddess.  Lothander and Sylvanus each
sent their own representatives (Adric and Badl, respectively), and
while there we met violently with orcs of Grumsh.  Now we find out
the High Elves know of Alec, as well, and more Lothandrians than Adric
have been sent to seek Alec, also? 

Many gods and many people have been mobilized by this one being, and
none of it bodes well for our world.  It is never a good sign when
the gods themselves chase mortals.

Tomorrow, Adric and I will travel to Selgaunt, where he hopes to gather
some of his fellow Lothandrians to bring back to The Tomb to secure
it.  I need to get to the Kelemvorian temple in this city, also,
and have them cast a Sending to notify Berol of the latest
developments.  If Alec has escaped into the land of the dead,
Berol must know – it’s his god who rules that place.  I admit, I
hope to learn whether Lady Lall has heard of these rumblings, as
well.  The Cormyran peerage is a complicated and bureaucratic web,
but its many strands carry much information.  If I happen to find
a Sunite temple in Selgaunt, well, all the better.  Any source of
information we can tap will be useful to us in days to come. 
After all, what if Alec/Lod already knows of the other four places of
power?  What if he’s on his way there now? (more…)

A Word of Explanation

Wednesday, September 21st, 2005

An editor’s note, if you will:  the post below is the summary of
our last game, sort of, because it ended in the midst of an extended
battle.  I don’t really have a mechanism for Whitten having
written a journal entry between rounds, though, y’know?  So there
you have it.  It’s what Whitten thought after the last round of
the night.  We play again this weekend, so next week I’ll post
something more normal. (more…)

A Moment In Time

Wednesday, September 21st, 2005

We are fighting Alec, the halfling we came here to rescue.

It’s all rather hard to explain.

This morning, we discussed what to do with The Ruins.  I don’t know what they’re called, so that’s what they’re called now
We agreed we should seal them off.  Adric though we should ask the
Lothandrians and the Kelemvorians to dispatch some troops to guard the
place, but Rock worried we’d just be attracting attention to it. 
I advocated just sealing it shut and leaving it be for now, as did
Badl, Nigel and others.  Badl very rightly emphasized that we first need
to seal off the entrance from the Underdark.  He and Nigel were
able to magically seal the place and then Badl disguised the entrance
and even covered over the door to The Tomb.  I spent the morning
studying the observation deck so that I can safely teleport
there.  That gives us two points inside – the main cave and the
first observation deck – to which we can go in an instant. 

Adric summoned a magical breakfast for us, and together we debated and
discussed our next steps.  Badl thinks we need to consult with
someone more knowledgeable about the ways of the world, particularly
the ancient world, and I wholeheartedly agree.  He suggested
Candlekeep, the headquarters of a god of runes and writings. 
Adric suggested Elmwood, where there’s a temple to Oghma that owes the
Tinker Trading Company a favor or two.  We tentatively discussed
going first to Elmwood (by way of Elventree), then to Candlekeep, then
possibly to Myth Drannor – Nigel’s favorite destination of them all due
to its potential for slaying any number of Drow.

Ultimately, though, the question of where to go next rested on what we
were going to do with Alec.  Most people in the party didn’t trust
him, though I personally felt that all he was guilty of was adventuring, but
we had absolutely zero grounds to hold him captive or otherwise
imprison him.  We decided that we really needed a better sense of
how well we could trust him before we made a decision, so we sat him
down and Adric and I explained that we knew that there were people
after Alec and that we felt strongly that he was, one way or another,
central to how all this was going to play out in the long run.  If
he would let us question him, as a show of good faith, and we came away
from it feeling we could fully trust him, we promised we would tell him
everything we’d learned and take him with us so that we could offer him
better protection than he’d had before we got here. 

Alec gracious agreed, on the condition that he be able to read my mind
while I read his.  I saw no problem with this, and so he and I
took off all our magical equipment and sat down opposite one another
while Rock, Badl, Adric, Nigel and Katarina prepared to ask him
questions.  Bonzo – a perfect gentleman, as always – stood by
holding my stuff while Nigel carried Alec’s.  Alec and I opened
our minds to one another, and before we started I said I’d like to do a
quick head-count since we knew we’d already been magically spied on
once already.  I went around the circle – quite surprised to learn
I could see nothing of the minds of Badl, Nigel and Katarina – as
everyone thought their names at me. 

The second surprise was that Rodeo, Alec’s ape companion, thought his name at me.

The third surprise was that there was an extra mind belonging to someone as yet unseen.

I called out that someone was amongst us without our knowledge and
Nigel and Adric asked where.  I could locate his general location,
but nothing more.  I cast a spell to see through invisibility and
Nigel and Adric each dropped a dispel in the area.  They did not
reveal our unknown guest, but their spells did have one effect we
hadn’t expected.

Rodeo turned from an ape into an enormous, coal-black dragon.

Really, that’s when the fighting started.  Alec was quick to his
feet, two knives in his hands, and he used them to stab Katarina in the
back.  Everyone stood there stunned for a moment, and then the
walls of the very cave shook as we fought back.  The dragon spat a
stream of acid that struck me and struck Bonzo, and Alec was a blur of
darts and knives and all manner of hostility.  Nigel and I were
dropping fireballs – mine sonic – and though we clearly split and
cracked the scales of the dragon, Alec was able to dance nimbly out of
the way of everything we could throw at them.  Adric summoned
forth shards of sacred light that slit the dragon’s skin open – and
again, Alec stepped between them like puddles the day after a
rain.  Badl tried to turn them both into various harmless
creatures to no effect.  Katarina tried to shoot the dragon, but
her bolts just shattered on its hide.  Her pet shadow, however,
hid in the floor underneath the dragon and popped up now and again to
grab its flesh and do whatever terrible thing it does to sap a
creature’s strength.  As Badl and Adric tried to surround Alec
with monsters they’d summoned and Rock waded in to take care of the
dragon with his own sword, we realized more and more that while we were
clearly able to best Rodeo, Alec had barely taken a scratch.

Battle raged.

For all the songs I’ve sung in one bar or another about the glories of
war and the lights that fill the sky when swords clash and armies
barrel across a field at one another, wizards at their backs summoning
the energies of other worlds to split their ranks and slay their men,
words ultimately fail the real thing, don’t they?

Eventually, Badl had pinned the dragon to the ceiling with a tree he’d
summoned from a feather, and even as the dragon managed to free itself,
Badl pointed a finger at Alec and said, “Bullfrog,” and Alec was no
more than a croaking lump on the floor.  The dragon landed around
– but, sadly, not on – him, and we drew a breath of
encouragement from the knowledge that now it was almost over. 
Though with his last act Alec had imprisoned Adric, Badl and Rock in a
cage of force, and Nigel was almost out of spells and Katarina had
found the wand of lightning to be of no more use against Alec than any
of our other tricks, Greebo was flitting through the air around the
dragon, trying one more time to land a spell that would suck the life
force from it and deliver it to me as a small down payment on what
we’re owed for having been duped into guarding a dragon and its friend
and Alec, himself, was neutralized.

That’s when Alec – the real Alec – stood up.

I do not know what he is.  Where a frog had been, now there was an
elf.  Remember how I said that the elf we’d seen in the recorded
message – Behold, young princes, the greatest victory of your people,
the recording from at least 50,000 years ago – was the elfiest elf I’d
ever seen?

Alec is that kind of elf.

When he stood up, turning back into himself, leaving behind the frog
shape Badl had given him, he wore jeweled armor and had long hair and
ears that could cut a man’s flesh with their tips.  He held a
sword in his hand, and though Adric had silenced the area around Alec
as an impediment to magic, we could see his mouth move as he shook his
sword at us.  He is angry.  His pet dragon is nearly dead,
and moments from finally dying.  His secret is out.  His
unwitting accomplices have turned on him.  We do not yet know what
his intentions may be, but with a dragon like that as his friend and
pet, it can’t honestly be good, can it? 

I do not know what is going to happen next.

Badl is trapped behind a wall of force.  Though he is a fierce
warrior and a wise druid, I do not know what he can do.  To be
honest, I do not know what most druids can do.  Badl is a reserved
sort, and he has the whiff of a fiercely independent streak about
him.  I respect this.  His ape is a gentleman, now reduced to
whimpering in a side tunnel and thanking the stars it still has its
life.  Badl is faithful to his cause, faithful to his trusted
friend, faithful to his god’s work.  His actions teach us that
there is a place in the world for everyone and everything.  I do
not want to lose that.

Nigel is angry.  Nigel, in the few days I’ve been returned to his
company, is always angry.  I should clarify that not once have I
seen him lose his temper or raise his voice, but then, he has the worst
rage of all: the kind that simmers over-long.  Ten years of
enslavement to the Drow have robbed him of what I remember as a more
carefree sense of daring.  He is still daring, make no mistake,
but he is bitter and hurt and in his short time of freedom has not
shaken the grudge that he carries from the decade he spent
underground.  I do not fault him for that.

Adric is a shining light in the world.  He has told us little of
his history despite being entirely open about his beliefs and
opinions.  A part of me has started to suspect that his past
saddens him when he dwells on it – or would if he were to do so, which
I doubt he does.  He looks always to the future, what to do next,
where we go from here.  He does not care what has gone
before.  In his eyes, every morning is a fresh chance at
greatness.  I aspire to that.

Rock is my best friend.  He is the one member of the TTC truly
left to me.  I have known him for years, fought for him and beside
him more times than I could every try to remember in that time.  I
owe him my life easily a hundred times over.  I have watched him
grow from a naive boy with a taste for the outdoors into a skilled
leader with goals and ambitions and a vision he finds worth
protecting.  I envy that.

Katarina remains a mystery to me.  I do not know her, and sense
that she does not want us to know her too well.  Katarina has
secrets and a friend made of shadows and something she wants very badly
– why else would she be here, I sometimes think, if there weren’t
something she felt she has to have that might be at the end of some road we now walk?  I sympathize with that.

I stand here and look around as Alec shakes his sword and his face
contorts with rage and his jaws flap in silent fury.  My cat is
about to kill his dragon.  I am about to try to kill him, or free
my friends, or something, I know not what.  What I know is that he
threatens us – threatens these people, and by extension, threatens
everyone I know and love.  I think of Gerhard.  We exchanged
notes this morning about the reasons why The Tomb would be an alloy of
iron and starmetal (he reports that any alloy of starmetal is weaker
than starmetal, so he doesn’t understand why anyone would
bother).  If Alec kills us all, will he find that note, hunt down
Gerhard wherever he is for fear of his knowledge of this place? 

Alec has heard us tell tales of our past exploits.  Will he hunt
down Rock’s wife?  Will he try to kill Berol, to whom I am tied in
a web of friendship and debts too complex for me to describe? 
Will he, on a lark, decide to track down all members of the TTC to slay
them in their beds before they can ever come seeking revenge?

The core belief of my religion is that beauty justifies its own
existence.  There are people in the world who think this shallow,
and I don’t spend much time talking religion with those people. 
But our dirty little secret, the thought none of us bring up around the
temples very often, is that old saw about the eye of the
beholder.  I think of these people standing here with me, frozen
for a moment in frustration and exhaustion and rage, and I think that
they are beautiful.  Sune may not have much use for all of their
exteriors, but this is beautiful in its own, weird way, isn’t it? 
We hike up and down the world, digging up secrets and seeing the past’s
past come back to haunt the now and the future, and I think it’s
beautiful in a way our scriptures do not yet address.

I think of all this and more, see Alec shaking his blade at us, his
mouth open in an angry grimace, and I think I know what I want to do
with the rest of my life.

I want to live forever.

I want to protect the world until the world, itself, ends.

We are fighting Alec.  I have no idea what’s about to happen, but
whatever it is, it’s important.  I want to stamp him out, turn
this place into a tomb not just of two dragons and an ancient elf, but
of the dangers of the past, the horrors our world must have faced and
then forgotten.  I want to draw a line in the sand and tell that
past:  you go no further.  You do not get to go beyond this
point.   Our world doesn’t need you.  Our world does
need us, though.  That’s why we’re here. (more…)