A party of Lexa, Tahli, Merpip, Mordecai, and myself (Derg) wandered back into the fine settlement of Bruckschloss. The others had heard my earlier reports of horrid fey creatures and hoped that Merpip’s extraordinary fey-hunting skills could be put to good use. Furthermore, the previously slumbering dwarves are a prime resource for knowledge of Drochtrèdia’s history.
As we arrived in Bruckschloss proper, we were greeted by the dwarves. I lead my new allies to the barracks, where I knew my good friend Dwögar would be. Unfortunately, the slumber still weighs heavy on all the dwarves’ minds, as Dwögar could barely remember me. He was unable to remember Gil at all, which I’m sure would hurt poor Gil’s heart. Not as much as it would hurt mine, if Dwögar somehow recalled Gil but not me; but, luckily that was definitely not the case.
Dwögar’s long term memory did not fair any better. He could recall very little of his time before the slumber, which made him of limited use to us. Luckily, he informed us that we could have access to some of their records if we were to assist with a small issue that had arose.
Apparently, a duo of dwarves had been taken during routine scouting to the south. They were presumed dead, as no sign of them had been seen for several days. I knew only the most foul creatures could possibly take on not only one, but two dwarves. We quickly agreed to recover their bodies, and deal with whatever monster had caused their deaths.
We followed what I believe to be Route 6 south. It appeared to be a tunnel of dwarven make. Nice and wide, ceiling not high enough that terrifying creatures can recede into the darkness. Perfectly dimensioned. Despite this, we were nearly ambushed by a drider. Luckily Merpip has an impressive awareness of the fey, and Tahli was able determine its precise location using the Detect Poison and Disease spell, which I had very recently learned! Funny how when you think you create a spell, you always see someone else use it within a couple weeks. Especially if it was a difficult one, that you struggled with for months. “Whew that was difficult, surely no one else will be using this all willy-nilly!”, you think. Three hours later, someone you’ve never met is expertly casting it in a high-pressure situation, saving your life, while you sit there wondering why “silver” doesn’t rhyme with anything. “Gold” and “copper” do. Even “platinum”.
Anyways, this drider was terrifying. He hurled at us with a whirl of longswords and biteybites. As this was my first time seeing Merpip, Tahli, and Lexa in combat, I spent most of my time shielding blows and examining my new allies’ skillsets. The most surprising was Lexa, whose mastery of magic is so considerable that I was unable to identify a single spell that she cast. My current theory is that she is a powerful abjurist, who can conceal her spells in such a way that her enemies are wholly unprepared for what she is to deliver next. I think there is much I could learn from her.
When the drider finally lay dead, we continued down Route 4. Eventually we reached an intersection, with a powerful, stout, expertly crafted, dwarven watchtower hewn into the rockface. There was some sign of recent activity, so we decided we were not too far off the trail of the missing dwarves. We had a choice to explore westward, or downward (as we approached the intersection from the east). It is of note that we did not explore the westward path at any point of this adventure. Merpip was able to use his heart (which is where I believe rangers get their magic) to feel where the nearest fey were. They were located to the south, so we headed there to enact our revenge.
A few yards into our journey, an umber hulk made an unplanned visit. His visage was horrid, with a mere glance causing confounding fear. I could have stood there for hours, trying to figure out why this horrible creature was the way it was. Why is it vaguely furry, but only in some places? Are those another set of eyes, or is its nose in a terrible place? Three sets of mandibles? That is too much. Luckily, Mordecai told me to avert my gaze, so these questions quickly left my head.
The umber hulk had knocked many of us unconscious, but we left no one behind, and fought to the brink of death to slay this monstrosity. Mordecai tried to turn the battle with is Stag Bag, but apparently it has been re-enchanted into a Weasel Wallet. That is a Gil “improvement” if I’ve ever seen one. The weasel did fight with fervor, and I cannot fault it for its effort. Who knows if we could have survived with out the slight annoyance of a weasel in the peripheral of the umber hulks gaze.
Wounded, exhausted, and kind of hungry, we decided to camp for the night. Taking inspiration from the classic gnome play, “Weekend at Bernilian’s”, we propped up the umber hulk near the entrance to make him look like a horrifying guard.
I was strangely awoken from my slumber by Mordecai. He seems to have been yearning for the education that he has previously absconded from. I will say he was an attentive listener and tried to understand my spells to the point where he suggested minor edits. I think he has potential, and hopefully I can turn him back to the way of the book.
The next morning, we continued our search. To our surprise, we quickly ran into a pair of dwarves. To our greater surprise, they were alive! To our even greater surprise, they ran up and recklessly attacked us. Through some liberal application of Hold Person, as well as good old fashion roping, we were able to detain the clearly mind-affected dwarves. I identified the spell cast on them and learned that the spell would only hold in a certain range of effect. We quickly returned north to the tower, to let their minds clear.
They confirmed that they are the dwarves we are looking for, and that some horrid spider-ish creature had controlled their minds. They remembered little, so we told them to return to Bruckschloss while we deal with the mysterious enemy. Merpip once again pinpointed their location, but first Tahli wanted to take a quick sojourn at a nearby cave that was filled with refuse. No judgement.
She quickly called for my assistance to see if there was anything of value hidden there. 11 minutes of nearly vomit inducing ritual later, and I was able to cast detect magic. I located a magical ring that I knew was a Ring of Mind Shielding. A few things happened very quickly, so I may not get the order exactly right. I said “Oooo!” and placed the ring on my finger. Tahli exerted a sudden and powerful necromantic spell upon a skeleton obscured in the refuse. My new best friend says “Are those my bones?”
This slightly relates to my previous musings on the nature of magic, and how some spells seem to come easy to some while they are tremendously difficult to others. One thing I was certain of, before this very event, was that no one could accidentally cast a spell. In my opinion, that is what I saw Tahli do. There was a small glimmer of excitement when she saw the remains of Bones McKenzie (I’ll get to that), and then she cast what I would describe as a tremendously difficult spell with no effort or even recognition that she was doing anything. Necromancy is hard to deal with. It usually takes years of study to carefully control life and un-life. To impose control over a risen form takes carefully constructed spells with well-studied boundaries. Yet somehow, she just did it without trying. It was 90% impressive, 10% frustrating.
“Are those my bones?” the voice inside me proclaimed. The Ring of Mind Shielding seemed to be housing a soul. After some internal discussions, we decided that they were probably his bones, and that he was fine with them being used for whatever purpose Tahli saw fit. We also learned that his memory was not too good and he could not remember his name. I dubbed him Bones McKenzie, but he slightly prefers Kenzi. I think that is because we are such good friends, so we have nicknames for each other. He can call me Der.
Apparently, if one dies while wearing this ring, their soul may be transferred into it. This prospect excites me greatly in many ways but horrifies me in one. I would like to have this on public record:
Please, for the love of Gond, if I die and my soul goes into this ring: Do not resurrect me. I am disturbed by the possibilities of what may happen if my soul is in a ring but I am resurrect to a body. What if there are two of my souls? What does that mean about souls? What if my soul leaves the ring, but my consciousness remains? There are way too many questions. Please just take the ring and give it to someone who yearns for arcane discovery. Or a dwarf. Preferably someone who is both.
Myself, Tahli, Bones McKenzie (soul), and Bones McKenzie (skeleton) returned to the party. After some minor gasps and such, I informed them that everything is all right, and the soul that previously owned the skeleton is fully consenting to its use. With that matter behind us we continued south to get our minds taken over by spiders.
The foes we approached ended up being Neogi. Powerful mind-controllers that certainly don’t like being hit with a ton of fire on their stupid extruded faces. There was a pair of Neogi, one of which got a little over zealous, and walked into the danger zone near Merpip, Lexa, Tahli, and Bones McKenzie (skeleton). The Neogi was expected to murder a handful of people under the Hold Person spell, when suddenly dwarven torch explodes out of invisibilty. Me and Bones McKenzie (soul) had been sneaking around invisible, and unleased one of my more impressive scorching rays. The blasts distracted the Neogi enough that he could not hold on to his hold person spell, which allowed for the party to make short work of the danger zone Neogi. Mordecai made a series of impressive acrobatic displays, jumping all over the place around the remaining Neogi. I do not fully understand the Monk arts, but I am sure that he inflicted tremendous pain that was imperceptible to the untrained eye. A short time later both Neogi were slain, and any webs or egg sacks nearby were fully torched.
We returned to Bruckschloss, having earned access to their written records. Through a combination of their records and Kenzi’s memory, we found out that the blight may have something to do with why the dwarves were put into their magic slumber. We learned we have no idea who exactly cast the powerful spell keeping them alive, but that it is coming from somewhere else. The “Queen of Death” moniker did not seem to jog any memories. I know that Kenzi knows more. Hopefully his memory can return some, or we can find a way to help him remember. Either way, it is the start of a beautiful friendship.