Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Into the Tomb of the Lizard King - Part 6: Down the Stairs and Death by Rabbit

Previously in our story...

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber'd here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
If you pardon, we will mend:
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to 'scape the serpent's tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call;
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.

- Midsummer Night's Dream, William Shakespeare


With the stairway revealed and looming blackly into the abyss, the party continued to rest for a short while, discussing options and next steps. KelLyn crafted a simple circle in the ground to aid Lan in her efforts to heal the party's injuries. With the aid of the additional power, Lan was successfully able to bring Fife back to total health. Sadly, Osman and KelLyn were still regulated to healing at a normal pace, but they did not have any additional injuries. 

Once we had gathered our wits, and our supplies, we looked again at the black stairs. I recalled the riddle stating "...the stairs that cannot be climbed..." and guessing that every step could possibly be trapped, remarked quickly that we should check everything as thoroughly as we could before proceeding. I asked Tobias first to tell me what his night eyes could see, but his dark vision told him nothing else about the stairs. I also checked for traps, and finding none, was able to proceed slowly down to the first landing. Shalev, thinking quickly, turned around and grabbed the snake staff that he had taken from the dread paladin before following the rest of the party down. Once on the landing, we were able to see the stairway spiral down into darkness. We lit some torches and placed them in the sconces on the walls nearby to give me light to see by while I methodically and laboriously checked each step. 

The steps were oddly dust-free and looked almost new or, at the very least, rarely used. Shalev insisted that I have a rope secured around me before I ventured down, and I agreed to the safety precaution and the concern. Taking long moments and exacting concentration, I checked over each inch of every step. The first four steps proved safe to stand on, and I moved down onto them to continue my labors. The second that I breathed on the fifth step, however, the trap activated and the stairs retracted into a long slick ramp. I grabbed quickly to the security rope, and noticed as I did that I now felt a massive wave of heat rising from the area below us. Shalev and Tobias pull me back up to the main landing, and I relay the information about the ramp and the heat. Ishmael stated calmly that for heat to be felt this far up, it would need to be intense at it's source, and we all took note of this bit of information warily. 

We discussed options on how to traverse the now treacherous incline, and I offered to use the security rope to scout ahead along the ramp while KelLyn used her magic to create rudimentary stairs for the rest of the party to follow. Shalev's aptitude for being well prepared paid off once again, as he produced several extra lengths of rope to use. He and Tobias quickly tied together all of the rope until we had a coil that was about 500 feet in length, and Fife and Ishmael anchored pitons into the wall to use as anchor points. Before I made my descent into the unknown, Shalev handed me the ring he had acquired from the clerics we encountered earlier on, which KelLyn had said was enchanted to destroy fire. I noticed that wearing it did, indeed, help to mitigate the heat to a more bearable level.

KelLyn got to work creating rough stairs by destroying parts of the ramp to make footholds. I used these rough hewn steps and the ramp for balance, and the ropes to hold me steady, and managed to make it down 8 flights of the ramp until I ran out of rope. Each new section had a landing, so Shalev, KelLyn, and the rest of the party were also able to proceed only slightly behind me. I was looking for the best places to secure the ropes when I heard KelLyn begin cursing quite loudly. Cringing away from the sound, and as close to the wall as possible, I braced as much as I could against whatever spell misfire might have come my way, but thankfully nothing happened. I felt Shalev begin to pull on the rope, and I reluctantly allowed him to pull me up from the depths. When I made it up to the previous landing, I saw KelLyn still cursing, and the party's skeptical concern at her apparent inability to stop. Hearing her curse is nothing new, but I also made note of her frustrated scowl, and increasing diatribe, and mentioned that perhaps someone should just knock her out to stop it. I attempted it, but was not strong enough to do more than just irritate her. Ishmael took the advice to heart, and apologizing for what he was about to do, thumped her on the back of the skull solidly. He was not trying to injure her greatly, and apparently only managed to give her a headache. Her cursing grew more vehement, and I raised an eyebrow in curiosity at the length and scope of her more base vocabulary. We decided then to just let the curse run it's course, and since she was no longer able to cast spells, determined that I should continue scouting ahead with the ropes alone. Ishmael and Shalev brought the great coils of rope down to the 8th level of the stairway, and spent some time resecuring the pitons and anchor points into the walls. 

Once again, down into the dark and the heat I climbed, and traversed another two entire levels before I saw at last the source of the great heat. A pit of fire, about eighteen feet across, with stairs that continued down either side to solid ground below. I easily made my way over to the stairs, and found it curious that the heat was not as overwhelming as I had thought it would be this close to the pit. Once on the stairs, it was little work to make it down to solid ground again, and I let the rope pool there at the base. I took a moment to observe my surroundings, and saw a plain stone wall off to the left, and a wide open plain of rock floor off to the right. Oddly enough, I heard water, as if there were a rushing river nearby. I closed my eyes in concentration and remembered the spell that the great oak tree had taught to me on how to locate sources of water. I knew that I did not yet have the ability to do that spell in full, but thought on it at length, and decided to use what I knew of the spell to try to perform a more basic version. I was successful in the attempt, but was not able to discern more information than my senses already told me. I climbed back up to tell the rest of the party about what I had seen and heard. 

An argument broke out again on how to get Amit down using only the ropes, and KelLyn was still incapacitated by the cursing spell, so Ishmael offered to carve stairs. We quickly stopped his efforts though, when the force of his blows echoed through the chamber, threatening to bring the ceiling down on all of our heads. Ishmael then offered instead to just lower Amit down with a rope harness. We looked at the great cat, who was quite against the idea, and then back at Ishmael who simply shrugged his massive shoulders. I bribed the reluctant Amit with some leftover bacon pieces, and we managed to get him secured into the harness without a fight. I proceeded ahead to act as a guide, and Ishmael negligently shifted his weight and lowered Amit to the ground floor without even breaking a sweat. The rest of the party followed in short order and while they were gathering the ropes and settling back to flat ground, I returned the ring to Shalev, and continued to scout ahead a small distance. 

There was a wall of complete and total darkness ahead to the right where I heard the sounds of the rushing water. I closed my eyes and trusted my other senses, moving through the darkness about 40 feet or so before coming straight to the edge of the vast river flowing from east to west. I made my way back to the rest of the party, and they joined me through the darkness at the river's edge. A raft suddenly appeared on the river, and Shalev said that something felt wrong about it all. I recalled, again, the riddle from the tomb "...past the river of nothing..." and asked KelLyn to look through her gem of true seeing to determine if it was an illusion. 

She did so, but because she was still caught in the grip of the curse, was unable to tell us what she saw. She huffed in frustration before spouting still more obscenities, and stomped right out into the water as if it didn't exist at all. I trusted her observations, and followed her out into the water. The illusion affected me, however, and so I swam toward her instead of walking. Shalev walked up to the river's edge and, still paranoid from previous encounters, put the tip of his sword into the water to try to destroy the illusion. At the touch of the holy weapon, the illusion vanished, and KelLyn and I found ourselves in a dry river bed with pots full of a glowing green viscous liquid peppered across the area in a treacherous array. 

Shalev, thinking the pots might also be illusion, made his way slowly down into the river bed, using his sword ahead of his step to test for solid ground. He accidentally poked at one of the pots, and it shattered, spilling a wave of acid all over him. I turned to go to him as he screamed, when suddenly he was no longer there. In his place loomed a great white dragon as it launched itself into the air with a booming cry of fury and pain. I stumbled back in awe and fear, not knowing what had happened to Shalev, and completely unprepared to deal with another dragon. 

As I searched quickly to see if I could find where the curse that hit Shalev came from, arrows suddenly flew from the far sides of the cavern where the army of lizardmen who had been lying in wait revealed themselves as they focused all of their attacks on the dragon-that-was-Shalev now roaring above their heads. Tobias used his night vision to pinpoint the fortifications and campsites, spotting several glowing figures on the battlements,  and began shouting instructions at Fife to aim for those figures. Fife threw a spear, but it passed harmlessly through the glowing image and clattered to the floor. The glowing figures turned toward us, and began slowly floating in our direction, passing over top of the illusory river as if it were really there for them. 

The arrow fire from the lizardmen drew the dragon-that-was-Shalev's attention and ire, and he swooped down with a roar and a blast of frigid cold breath, freezing and destroying anything in his path. In the midst of the rampage, we saw a larger figure step out of a central tent and begin reading a scroll loudly. I saw the dragon-that-was-Shalev shudder, and guessed that the scroll was an attempt to gain some kind of control over the dragon. The dragon-that-was-Shalev shuddered again, and landed heavily in front of the larger figure, laying his head on the ground. The large figure stepped forward, drawing a flaming sword and raising it high to strike the dragon's head off. As the blade began it's deadly swing downward, the dragon abruptly turned, throwing off the effects of the control spell - if it had been affected at all - and with lethal cunning gleaming in his eyes, bit the large figure, grabbing him by the head and flinging the body skyward with a negligent twitch. The body flew into the air, and Tobias, Osman, Fife, and I all took aim and peppered the falling figure with arrows. I  heard Tobias muffle a curse, and saw that his arrow had flown wide. I turned to look at him quizzically only to see, with some amusement, that he had been holding his bow upside down. I raised an eyebrow and muffled a chuckle, and he shot me a dirty look before making up some excuse about it being a while since he held it. I decided to let it lie, and laughed quietly to myself before turning to see what else faced us. 

The dragon, now on the ground in the middle of the lizardmen's encampment, let loose a cry of absolute fury and began a savage rampage which destroyed everything in his path. Tents, fire pits, lizardmen, and whatever else may have been over there fell under the enraged dragon's onslaught as he raised up on hind legs and clapped his wings together in a buffet of wind. Spewing icy death and clawed vengance with each act, the dragon only stopped his attacks when nothing remained standing. Once he was satisfied thoroughly with the destruction wrought, the dragon-that-was-Shalev began nosing through the ruins and gathering what treasures he could find to begin hoarding.  

Osman summoned a diminutive little fairy and asked it to create target lights over the enemies across the riverbed. It drew a shining sword and zipped away, agreeing to what he had been tasked to do. The three glowing ghost figures had finally made their way across the river, and were reaching out to attack us. Osman attempted a spell to destroy them, and one of the ghosts turned to flee, leaving the other two behind. Lan also made an attempt and succeeded in driving another of the ghosts away. The remaining ghost reached out toward KelLyn to attack, but she was able to dodge out of the way, still caught up in the throes of the curse and spewing obscenities. It attacked again, this time reaching toward Tobias, but misses again. Using my sword, I attempted to attack the ghost and was able to successfully hit it, though I did no damage. Lan stepped up and made another spell attempt, and this time was able to stop the ghost in it's tracks. 

Across the riverbed, the dragon-that-was-Shalev shimmered briefly, and then the dragon was gone and Shalev remained standing where it once had been in the midst of the ruined encampment. He looked around, and nodded once before drinking a healing potion and then he wandered slowly down into the river bed to look for the flaming sword that the large figure had wielded. Once down in the riverbed, he saw the three ghost figures as well as eight more wraiths coming toward him. He moved around until they were all gathered together in one group, and then destroyed them all with an easy wave of his hand. 

It was then that the little fairy that Osman summoned appeared over Shalev's head waving his shining sword and jumping up and down, acting like a signal beacon as he had promised to do. Fife made to throw a spear towards the potential enemy, but upon seeing that it was Shalev, deliberately threw short so that the spear landed at Shalev's feet. The fairy shouted out that Fife had missed, and Osman dismissed it with thanks, setting it free instead of banishing it. It looked at him with a quick tilt of his head, and then vanished through a hole in the wall where the non-existent river once flowed. 

We made our way over to the demolished campsites on the opposite side of the riverbed, and began searching through the wreckage for additional treasures. We found: 
* 2000 gold coins
* 1000 electrum coins (ancient pre-imperial currency worth about .5 gold) 
* 1000 silver coins
* 500 platinum coins
* 500 copper coins
* a necklace worth about 400 gold

I managed to locate the flaming sword wedged into the far wall about 75 feet up. I pointed it out to Shalev, keeping a wary eye on my student, and he immediately set about trying to find a way to retrieve the weapon. Fife made a grumbling good-natured complaint about it and began trying to climb the wall to get the sword. He fell after about 10 feet, and after a few more attempts, threw his hands up in a huff. Tobias stepped forward then and also tried climbing the wall. After the first few failed attempts, Ishmael looked on with mild amusement and quipped that if a flaming sword was really what he wanted, that it might be easy enough to craft for him. Shalev took interested note of Ishmael's commentary, but still wanted to try to retrieve this one, as he was convinced that it was magical. Tobias grumbled something under his breath about epic weapons, godforsaken stone walls, and Shalev owing him a huge favor, and renewed his attempts to climb the wall for several more moments. After failing and falling again and again, he finally also gave up. Shalev, still determined, also tried, but also failed, and the sword remained buried solidly in the wall. Shalev finally asked Lan to see if she could sense if it were a magical weapon at all, but she sensed nothing special about it. Fife then threw a grappling hook up and successfully snagged the hilt of the weapon. Ishmael grabbed the rope and gave a solid yank, finally managing to free the ensconced weapon, but destroying both the sword and the grappling hook in the process. Both twisted pieces of metal fell to the ground with a clatter, and as Shalev picked up the mangled grapple, Fife grabbed the remains of the hilt of the sword and tossed them into one of the green acid pots with a satisfied sniff. Ishmael confirmed that he could repair the grappling hook by straightening the warped metal with his bare hands, and also confirmed from glancing at the hilt of the weapon as Fife carried it away, that the sword was one like those he knew how to craft. 

Shalev shrugged and apologized to everyone for the time sink, but maintained that it had been worth it to find out, as the large figure had been trying to wield the weapon against a dragon. I looked again, warily, at Shalev, searching his eyes for any remaining evidence of the dragon that had possessed him. He seemed as nonplussed as I was about it, and both he and I reacted with similar alarm when the KelLyn and Tobias nonchalantly said that the armor had been known to do that in the past. That the spirit of the dragon lived on inside the armor, and that if the wearer were seriously injured, that there was a small chance that the will of the living spirit would overtake the wearer and turn them into a dragon for as long as the spirit's will held firm. 

Shalev confirmed that he had felt the struggle against something, but had not been aware completely of his actions as the dragon. He also made a mildly irritated commentary about how that would have been useful information to know ahead of time. Tobias and KelLyn simply shrugged, and said that they weren't aware that it was a property of the armor itself until recently, and that they had only seen it happen once or twice before, so had no way of knowing if it would happen again. 

Shalev made a comment about the earthen mounds that dotted the area near the fortifications, thinking they were burial mounds, and wanted to see what was in them. I cautioned that disturbing the mounds further would likely be a very bad idea, as we did not want to risk bringing the ghosts back again. He nodded in agreement, moving away from them and saying that his brooch was out of power temporarily anyway. While he was cursed in dragon form, he had done quite a lot to damage the existing mounds anyway, and whatever treasures that might have been in them had been dug out when he had begun hoarding. 

The party rested here for a moment to regroup, and then we ventured into the triangular fortifications across the riverbed. The inner walls were covered in murals and depictions of scenes similar to those loathsome images from the temple above. There were a pair of massive bronze doors on the far wall, with no visible hinges or handles. Osman looked at the murals on the walls with great fascination, as this was apparently one of the sole reasons that he left the comforts of his home. As he studied the images, he began reciting the legends of the lizard men that matched the scenery depicted.  Shalev remembering the way the doors under the Oasis of the White Palm opened, turned to the doors and said "Open in the name of Sacatha." but the doors remained tightly closed. We listened with interest and after Osman had completed his recitations, he mentioned that Sacatha considered "the Great King" to be a part of his name and a grave insult to leave off of any address to him. Shalev turned toward the doors once again, and this time commanded "Open in the name of Sacatha the Great King." This was apparently the correct passphrase to gain entrance, because as soon as he had finished the last syllable, the doors swung open silently inwards. 

We crept into the revealed hallway carefully to see doors to the left, to the right, and straight ahead, down short hallways. Fife and I noticed odd holes in the ceilings, and we caution that there were likely to be traps, seeing what we had already encountered. We looked again, and saw that the place where we stood was out relatively sheltered, and so Shalev asked Fife to use a grappling hook to snag the door handles on the door straight ahead of us. He noted that the hinges allowed for the door to swing toward us, and he pulled it open from a distance with the grapple. As soon as they opened, spears fell from the odd holes in the ceiling falling in a rain of deadly, poison tipped points. We all remained safely in the archway of the entrance, so were unhurt and completely unsurprised by the revealed trap. Shalev handed Fife a scrap of tapestry, and they both set about clearing a pathway down the center aisle. Fife noted that the spears were very poor quality, but the poison might be useful. 

Shalev strode down the short hallway and through the now opened doors without checking for further danger first. Luckily there did not appear to be any additional traps, and he entered the room unscathed to see it bedecked like a grand dining room. A large table stretched across the center of the room, piled high with food as if for a great feast. The utensils, plates, and goblets were all made of gold. The chair at the end of the table was a grand throne like seat, and the oddly-tiled mosaics along the walls depicted scenes of a meal time in a great hall. As Shalev stepped into the room, one of the lizard men in the mosaic suddenly stepped out into the room, greeting Shalev and welcoming him to the feast. Shalev politely declined, stating that he was waiting for the rest of his party to arrive, and the lizard man demurred and stepped back into the mosaic. Shalev stepped back into the room again, and the same Lizard man stepped out once again and offered him a goblet of wine. Shalev took the goblet, and pretended to drink though did not actually do so. He thanked the lizard man, and then seeing nothing of interest in the room, and no additional doors, retreated from the room closing the main doors behind him as he went. 

The party decided to check the left hall next, and Fife and I carefully made our way down the passageway to check for traps. As soon as we neared the door, however, the pit trap that had been concealed there triggered. I managed to dodge out of the way, but Fife fell into the gaping hole toward the pointed spikes that covered the bottom of the trap. He twisted as he fell, and managed to bring the green dragon scale shield up underneath him to help protect him from the damage of the fall. The shield held well, and stopped the fall completely protecting Fife from any injury the wicked spikes would have done, though the spikes did not penetrate the shield material, it was stuck fast to them, and could not be removed. As soon as he fell, the ceiling over the trap also began to lower to flatten the trap and smash Fife into the spikes. Shalev threw a grapple into the pit, but missed his mark, and Fife attempted to grab the rope but also missed. The ceiling continued to lower ominously, and KelLyn stepped up then, gathered her will in a massive flex of magical energy, pushing through the curse to cast a spell which allowed her to physically punch the falling stone slab and turn it into sand. Fife was buried with the sand, but not crushed, and Amit moved over to help us drag him out of the pit. We were able to get him about half way uncovered and KelLyn grabbed him and yanked him out of the sand trap completely. 

The rescue attempt exhausted all of us, and so we made a camp and rested here. Osman created goat haunches, and the watches all passed uneventfully. When we woke, Lan made an attempt to cast a spell on the still-sleeping KelLyn to try to remove the curse that had been affecting her. There was no visible effect, and as this place seemed secure for the moment, we allowed her to rest until she awoke on her own. When she finally did, the curse had lifted, and she was back to normal. I brewed a small portion of the Philospher's Tea that I had remaining from the visit with Matron and the elven city, and I offered her a mug which she accepted gratefully. 

Sipping the tea brought to mind the tree and the quest that still lay before me to deal with the corrupted elves, and attempt to resurrect the tree in a safe place. There is so much to accomplish that I still feel adrift when I consider it too deeply. I will continue to pray, to study the book, and to study my own language in search of ways to complete my goal, but I can't help but wonder how long the tree can hold out without the Maker sustaining it

After we had rested and regrouped, we continued through the doorway down the left path. As soon as we entered the room, we saw a similarly odd-tiled mosaic, this time depicting a giant lizard figure wearing a crown, leading men against a group of hill giants. We all started in alarm as a mouth opened on the ceiling and stated "Great King, live forever!" With that, the hill giants stepped out of that oddly tiled mosaic, and turned towards the party to throw rocks at us. We dodged back into the corridor, but one of the boulders bounced through and struck Osman. His armor protected him from further damage, thankfully, and Amit growled and pawed at the boulder, using his massive paws to swat the giant rock down the right hand corridor. When the rock hit the floor, it activated the pit trap there, and the ceiling crashed down like it had with Fife and I. Amit kicked dirt towards the rubble and then turned with another growl to face the hill giants with us once again. 

Fife and KelLyn immediately began working together to cast a spelled spear, aiming the deadly projectile at the closest giant's knee. KelLyn said something in Fyrewerian, and Fife threw the spear which hit successfully, and the giant howled in pain. A second giant emerged holding a skeleton in plate mail armor, likely the remains of a previous adventurer who succumbed to the perils of this place. The giant tossed the corpse into the center of the party, and then a black circle opened directly above KelLyn's head. A rod poked through the hole and a blast of light struck KelLyn in the top of her head, burning all of her hair off. She shrieked in fury and reached up to grab the offending rod, trying to pull whom-or-whatever wielded it through the hole. She missed her mark, and the rod withdrew, closing the hole behind it without a trace. 

A third giant came to the door then, and Lan and Osman worked together to begin summoning something from the fairy world. Fife and KelLyn began once again preparing another spear/spell combo to throw. Shalev stepped forward and, drawing his layan great sword, attacked all three of the giants at once. Tobias shot the giant who was throwing the skeleton at us, and hit it in the eye. I shot the giant with the wounded knee, and though I hit successfully, I did minimal damage. Shalev's attacks did a great deal of damage to the giants, and one of them fell backwards back into the room. 

Lan and Osman completed their summon, and a swarthy figure stepped through their portal and said "Huh, well this is weird, the ceiling is back." At that point the skeleton that had been tossed towards us landed on the backpack that it wore. There was an explosion of magical energy as something in the backpack detonated in waves of fire, ice, lighting and... rabbits. Rabbits?? 

The explosions would have been enough to knock me unconscious, but I gathered my willpower to ignore the injuries long enough to drink a potion which negated any hurt I might have taken. I looked around in confusion as rabbits began to bound away in every direction, more and more and more of them until they nearly filled the room. Another black circle opened up over KelLyn's head, but she and Fife were prepared for it this time, and as soon as the wand tip emerged from the portal, Fife stabbed upwards, shattering the wand and causing another explosion of magical energy that blew up into the rapidly closing hole. 

I saw Lan converse briefly with the swarthy figure, hearing her call him by name "Puck" and then he... Puck.. sank down to his haunches and called all of the rabbits over to him, talking to them in their own chittering language. Lan then moved over to Tobias to heal him of any residual injuries, and KelLyn and Fife worked to prepare a third spelled spear. Shalev continued to dodge and attack the giants, and catches a glimpse into the room beyond to see another ten lizardmen emerge from the mosaic. 

Osman and I continued to fire arrows at the giants, and Osman was able to pinpoint his strikes to hit one of the giants in the eye. I heard that chittering language again, and turned to see the Puck-figure change into a giant brown rabbit, and all of the other rabbits also grow proportionally to the same size. The army of rabbits then sprang forward and mobbed around the corner, where we heard the sounds of a vicious fight begin. 

KelLyn said something odd in Fyrewerian, and Fife's spear suddenly doubled, as did the giant he threw it at. The spear hit successfully again, and it was apparently enough to take out both the giant and it's new double. Both collapsed with a crash, and the other two giants also fell, mortally wounded. We ran around the corner to see a room full of carnage, the rabbits having battled with the lizard men to mutual extermination. We looked up at the mosaic then to see the large lizard figure wearing the crown step out of the mosaic and throw his trident, spearing the last remaining rabbit to the wall with a cry of triumph. We answered with a cry of horror, as the rabbit twitched, and then changed back into the swarthy Puck fairy that Lan and Osman had summoned before he died with a sigh. 

.... to be continued

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Into the Tomb of the Lizard King - Part 5: A Lesson in Irony

Previously in our story...

"Sometimes, some moments, you can actually feel the universe shift. Whether it's because you're on the right path, the wrong one, or merely causing history to be written by your steps in the sands." - Cora 


"She is the one who sent you here, we want her dead." the mages said, pointing the demon prince toward KelLyn with condescending smirks of triumph.

Those smirks were short lived, however, as the warriors of the party immediately turned their attention to dealing with them personally. They began moving backwards into the billowing smoke in an attempt to use that as cover against the coming fight, but Shalev and Ishmael both engaged to prevent their escape.

The demon prince took a step forward, and apologized to KelLyn before reaching out to try and remove her heart. KelLyn quipped glibly that she was "90 percent sure she didn't need her heart anyway," and began quickly reading the Protection from Demons spell scroll that we had picked up earlier in the explorations. 

Lan and Osman began a summoning together, and Fife stepped directly between KelLyn and the demon prince, taking his role of bodyguard literally, as he threw a spear toward the mage who had spoken the order for KelLyn's death. I fired an arrow at the other mage, but missed due to the cover of the smoke, and quickly fired a second shot, this time hitting, but doing no damage. Fife's aim was, as it always is, true to mark, and the spear pinned the first mage to the floor. Shalev took the opportunity to grab the pinioned body and throw it off of the spear and away, before drawing his sword and striking the head clean off of the second mage. 

Killing the mages did not release the demon, much to the party's consternation and immediate realization that the demon was not controlled by the two that came through with him, and capricious enough to continue toward the original goal of killing KelLyn.

Near Lan and Osman, a gate began to open as a result of their combined efforts in summoning. The army of fae that it revealed took one look in to see the demon prince, looked at Lan and Osman like the two of them were out of their minds, and promptly closed the gate. Nonplussed, the two of them immediately began summoning again, not to be deterred by the setback, and seemingly oblivious to the refusal of the fae. 

Ishmael, recalling the fight with the dragon, eased his way around to flank the demon prince, and began to climb the 14 foot tall creature. Shalev moved in to attack, aiming for the demon's knees as the demon again tried for KelLyn's heart.

Fife, using the momentum and weight of the demon to his advantage, stabbed the demon's hand with the flamestrike spear. The defense was successful, and the spear actually managed to cause damage to the demon, causing him to recoil in surprise and giving KelLyn the chance to finish reading the protection spell which crumbled into dust upon completion. 

I, realizing that I would probably be more hindrance than help in this fight, moved over to search the bodies of the two mages in hopes that I might find something that would aid in banishing the demon back to it's home plane. I saw that one of the poor fools was still struggling to breathe, and quietly put him out of his misery. Searching the remains lent only a handful of miscellaneous components, however, and nothing else of real value. 

Ishmael continued his stealthy climb, and Lan and Osman finished their latest summoning, this time creating a vortex from which a strange creature emerged. It looked like a skeletal humanoid made purely of dust and rocks. At that moment, Shalev located and began reading the Banish Unholy scroll that we had found in an attempt to return the demon to it's home plane. 

KelLyn began to visibly gather her willpower in preparation of continuing with her formidable defense against the demon; and the demon, seeing that Fife was still standing between them, reached out to swat him aside. Fife made an attempt to dodge out of the way, but wasn't quite fast enough, and was thrown against the far wall and wounded. Lan tried to control the strange skeletal dust elemental that she and Osman had summoned, but failed, and the creature turned to attack them both.

Another fairy portal opened up then, a result of yet another attempt to summon from Lan and Osman. A hand reached through the new portal, handed Osman an ash wand, and then withdrew, once again closing the portal behind it. Osman looked at the wand curiously, but then realized that the dust elemental was attacking him, and turned to focus his attention on dispelling the creature. 

Shalev completed reading the Banish Unholy spell, and the demon prince screamed and turned to run out of the room, throwing Ishmael clear of his back in the process. Shalev then turned and cast a quick dispel undead at the elemental attacking Lan and Osman, causing it to collapse into a pile of filmy dust before it could reach them.

I moved over to check on Fife, who had bounced off of the far wall, and found him injured enough to require healing. I gave him one of the draughts of pure healing which was enough to get him back on his feet. KelLyn tried then to peer through the still-open portal that the mages emerged from earlier, and she saw faint figures moving on the other side. She rolled a copper piece towards the portal to see if it was two-way, but discovered that it would not allow things to pass back through. 

The demon prince peered around the corner of the doorway, said with mocking laughter "I can't believe you fell for that!" and then opened up a gate to the neutral plane in the center of the room. Lan tried to disenchant the portal, in hopes that it would collapse, but failed, and the spell rebounded into Ishmael. He shimmered for a moment, but appeared otherwise unaffected, though I heard him mutter something about feeling physically stronger. Osman also attempted to destroy the gate, but he also was unsuccessful, and he retreated toward the edge of the opposite hallway to get out of the way. 

Two wraiths emerged from the neutral gate, and Shalev moved to attack them as KelLyn worked to try closing the gate so that nothing else could come through. The demon prince laughed again and opened a second gate to a Lawful plane, and I heard Shalev curse darkly. Fife took a moment to examine the smoky gate that the mages had originally emerged from, but could not go through. 

I was keeping myself well clear of the fray, knowing that it was too tight of a space for me to really be any use. The hidden stairway to the lower levels was still to be found, and so I used my skills to try and locate it. Instead of the stairs, however, I discovered a low frame of mist on the far wall, where 4 translucent gold ravens worked to drag the bodies of the two mages we had killed through the misty portal. I silently crept closer to the misty portal, following the strange ravens, and saw three more mages through the mist, chanting and piecing the bodies of their fallen companions back together again. I carefully tried to reach through the area where I had seen the ravens pass, and discovered that I could do so without harm. There was a thick pedestal or reading stand of some sort on the mage's side of the misty opening, and I used it as cover to stay out of sight in order to give myself time to contemplate what my next actions could be. 

Osman suddenly remembered the magical lock that we had taken from the desk in the captain's quarters earlier. He took it out and tossed it towards the neutral gate, and newly forming lawful gate, and it landed on the floor in the middle of the two.  He then tried to shoot the lock with an arrow, hoping that the impact would cause the lock to explode and destroy the gates, but he missed, and the arrow skittered across the floor harmlessly. 

Ishmael stepped forward then, and with an odd look of concentration on his face, he reached out to try to push the smoky gate closed as if it were simply a door that needed to be shut. He pushed on the gate with an unbelievable strength, and the fabric of the entire universe flexed around him in a visible and nauseatingly physical ripple in reality. Everything stopped for a heartbeat, and we just stared at Ismael in awe. He kept up his attempt for another moment, completely unaware that what he was doing was normally impossible, and intently focused on his task. 

Shalev's attacks on the wraiths were unsuccessful, and he found himself unable to hit them directly with his sword. Osman failed another attempt to hit the lock, and KelLyn still worked frantically to close the gates that were forming around us.  

Two evil knights emerged from the Lawful portal, and Ishmael, seeing that his attempt to close the smoke gate wasn't working, abandoned the effort and moved over to deal with them. The demon prince, seeing that we had still not been defeated, said something uncouth and began opening a third gate, this time to the plane of fire. Lan cast a pacify spell on the wraiths, convincing them to leave Shalev alone, and KelLyn began casting a spell to try once again to destroy the gates. 

I reached again carefully through the strange mist-portal that I had discovered, and felt some papers on the reading stand. Keeping a wary eye on the chanting mages and the strange ravens, I grabbed the paper and pull it back through the portal without being detected. I looked at what I had grabbed and saw a piece of paper with an odd multidimensional writing on it. I thought it looked similar to what I had seen KelLyn working with when she used Fyrewerian, and was able to make out some part of it that said "varanuraman also known as ermaralurazar". I tucked it safely into a pocket, and then ducked out of the way just as Osman was finally able to successfully strike the magical lock with a heavy arrow. 

The lock exploded, as hoped, with an implosion of magical energy that caused the gates to buckle, and the knights and wraiths to disappear. KelLyn's spell completed successfully, and the buckling gates were completely destroyed. As soon as the gates crashed down, I ran over to KelLyn to hand her the scrap of paper that I had filched from the pedestal in the misty room. She glanced at it curiously saying that it looked like the demon's name and that this could be most helpful, and began studying it in more detail.  While she studied, I moved back over to see what else I could find in the misty room, but found that I could no longer reach through the portal when my hand met cold stone. 

The demon prince, hearing the explosion, looked around the door frame again and blinked in surprise to see us all standing there mostly unharmed. He grumbled "well hell" and then withdrew around the corner once again opening another gate across the doorway. Tobias and Ishmael who had charged toward the demon the second he showed his face, instead found themselves amidst six red-robed figures emerging from the new portal. 

Tobias, reacting with a speedy reflex, shifted his attack toward the first of the robed figures, swinging his mace with deadly precision. The impact of the mace caused it to explode, however, sending shrapnel flying and causing minor damage to everyone within range. Ishmael shrugged off the damage from the mace, and reached out to snare one of the other robed figures in a crushing bearhug. 

Lan and Osman moved towards the rear of the room and worked together to begin, once again, summoning something from fae. Fife, seeing new targets in the robed figures, threw a spear at one of them as Ishmael, Shalev, and Tobias engaged with the others. 

The demon, hearing that we were not dying in agony as he had hoped, reached through the purple portal and began moving his arm in an obvious incantation to open yet another gate. Seeing the rest of the party otherwise occupied, I snatched up the flamestrike spear and ran over to stab the demon in the hand, hoping to disrupt his concentration. My strike was true, and the spear caused enough damage to the demon to cause him to jerk his hand upward just as he finished the incantation before withdrawing his hand with a cry of surprised pain. The portal which he had been trying to open on the floor underneath us instead opened up to a gaping, starless void in the ceiling. 

Expecting another attempt from the demon, I waited there by the new portal, poised to strike him again when he reached back through. Instead of another attack, however, the party heard the demon begin cursing vehemently against something on that side of the portal.

The demon's cry of pain, and the now cavernous hole where the ceiling once was, was enough to cause all of the other robed figures in the room to stop and stare, giving the party members the opportunity to attack them. Fife's spear hit one of the robed figures, and the spear exploded much like the mace did, sending shards everywhere, and causing enough damage to knock me unconscious. 

Tobias continued to grapple with the robed figures, moving them away from where I lay on the ground, and Shalev stepped in with a furious cry to strike all of the robed men with a flurry of attacks. Shalev's attacks were lethally accurate, and with each strike against the strange foes, he gained a little more precision and a little more of the deadly calm that he shows when he is focused so. His brooch of Ma'at began to glow visibly with gathered energy, and his strikes were the only things that were obviously doing damage to the creatures they fought. He told me later that during the attacks he felt a power stir within his sword, and felt that he would be able to access it, if he could figure out how to do so. 

Lan and Osman's summoning spell completed successfully, and again, a gate to fairy lands opened up to reveal that army of fae waiting beyond. A voice cried out that "they had already provided help, and what more could they do!" before tossing a hawthorne bush out into the room and pulling the gate shut behind them.

Shalev continued his attacks on the robed figures, his brooch glowing brighter with each successful strike, when suddenly he paused and took a step backward. His eyes narrowed in concentration, and he tilted his head to one side as he observed something only he could see. He continued this appraisal for a moment, and then grinned - much like I have seen Amit look right before he pounces - and stepped in to renew his attacks, seeming now to somehow know exactly where to hit them and how to do the most damage. 

Tobias, seeing that I was still down, ran over to pick me up and carry me out into the hallway where Lan and Osman were waiting and attempting, yet again, to summon something together. Fife ran to retrieve the flamestrike spear, and he also retreated out into the hallway. Ishmael, seeing the robed figure that he had trapped in a bearhug was no longer moving, dropped the body and grabbed for the next nearest enemy with the intent of tossing them up into the vast emptiness above us. The rest of the robed figures began to converge on Ishmael, and Shalev moved in to protect him and renew his attacks against them. 

KelLyn decided then that reading the strange scrap of paper was getting her absolutely nowhere. Throwing both her caution and her reading to the wind, she tucked the scrap into her robes and grabbed the dragon scale she had imbued with power shouting "I have had enough!" to where the demon hid behind the portal. 

There was a tremendous crashing noise, followed by what sounded like some sort of explosion behind the portal. A brass censer, incandescent with magical energy, tumbled through the portal, billowing incense smoke around the already hazy room. A huge gust of wind followed the smoking brazier, and we could hear the demon shouting in an odd language. We caught a glimpse through the faltering portal to see the demon prince engaged in a violent argument with a djinn. KelLyn's spell completed at that moment, and a beam of energy shot from her hand through the portal to strike the demon square in the chest right as the djinn also punched him in the face. 

Ishmael, who was still grappling with the robed figures, picked one of them up over his head and threw it into the void above him. As soon as the robed figure vanished through the void portal, the remaining figures shrank inward and disappeared. Shalev, now freed from his defense of Ishmael, looked into the room where the demon and the djinn fought. He moved over to the wall next to the doorway, and closed his eyes in concentration once again as he focused his will on determining the best ways to defeat the demon prince.  

Lan and Osman's summoning spell completed then, but there was no effect, the fairies evidently deciding that they had done quite enough. A clam did appear in front of Lan, though, and she took a moment to enjoy the delicacy humming softly and happily to herself before moving over to check on me. I was still unconscious, and so she performed a basic first aid which was enough to wake me up again. Osman shrugged and looked at the hawthorn bush tossed into the room earlier. On a whim, he picked up the bush and threw it at the portal across the doorway. KelLyn cast a dispel to also attempt to close the portal, and her spell caused the portal to begin to buckle so that when the hawthorn bush struck, both portal and bush disintegrated completely, clearing the doorway into the room beyond.

Fife, noticing that the brazier was still smoking on the floor, picked it up and began gently swinging it, watching the incense billow out of it with a somewhat dazed look on his face. We looked into the now visible chamber beyond to see the demon and the djinn locked in a massive battle of wills, gusts of wind still blasting through the doorway. Ishmael, seeing the demon so occupied, charged in to attack the demon, in an attempt to break it's concentration. His first hit did not have any visible effect, though it looked like he struck with the force of a mountain, so he swung again. 

Tobias moved in as well, swinging at the demon with his mace, and Shalev continued to concentrate on finding weaknesses in their defenses. KelLyn walked over near the demon and began tracing circles in the floor, drawing power in with each concentric ring she created. 

Still wounded, I remained by Amit, but when I moved to go back into the room with the void-ceiling, Amit rigidly remained behind, staring up into the void with clear concern. I still needed to find the hidden stairs, though, so I ventured carefully into the room to see what I could find. The further in I moved, the further away Amit creeped, edging backwards until he was against the wall on the northern end of the hallway. This was odd behavior for him, and seeing that he had backed himself into a wall, I returned to his side and tried to ease his obvious worry. 

Shalev straightened up then, and suddenly turned to Fife with a shout that should he stop swinging that censer, the djinn would kill him. Fife, wide eyed, nodded his understanding, and kept swinging the brazier in a high arc. Each complete swing of the censer made the djinn visibly more resolute, as if Fife were adding his willpower to the ongoing battle between the demon and the djinn. Ishmael continued to hit the demon prince again and again and again, but though the hits fell like hammers, they had very little visible effect. Shalev stepped forward and swung his holy avenger down towards the demon with a cry, hitting the demon's arm at the wrist and shearing off it's hand with a crackle of energy. Ishmael, seeing the new wound on the demon, began striking the stump of the arm instead. 

The demon's hand fell into the center of the circles that KelLyn was creating, and she looked at it with a smirk saying "Yep. That will do." She reached down and picked up the hand of the demon, and began drawing power the same way she had when she leached the essence of the dragon down into a single scale. Sparks began to radiate off of the circle around her from the sheer amount of power she was calling up. 

I was still over with Amit, checking the wall behind where he crouched. and I noticed that when he shifted position, the wall behind him seemed to warp. Osman created some goat parts with a spell in order to try to get Amit away from the wall, and he was successful in distracting the great cat. While Amit kept Osman busy creating food for him, I checked the wall again more carefully to reveal, at last, the hidden stairway to the lower levels. I opened the door to see a spiral staircase made of stone leading down into the darkness. I lit a torch to see what I could observe - if anything - about the stairs themselves, but could not make out much in the way of details. 

Back in the main chamber, KelLyn continued to pull power with a shower of sparks, drawing the essence of the demon down into it's severed hand.  Ishmael continued his hammering attacks on the demon's arm, and Shalev swung his holy avenger once again in an attempt to sever the demon's other hand. 

The demon and the djinn were still locked in a massive battle of wills, but the pain of it's wounds plus the added benefits to the djinn were finally enough to overpower the demon. The djinn laughed in wicked triumph and with a wave of his hand banished the demon back to it's home plane. The djinn then reached down, plucked the hand out of KelLyn's grasp, and squeezed, distilling the remaining essence of the demon down into one single scarlet gemstone which he handed back to a wide-eyed KelLyn with a "congratulations. This is what remains." 

He then turned his attentions to Fife, who was still swinging the censer. He pointed at Fife and said sternly that he would not serve him. Fife shook his head quickly, still swinging the incense, and replied that he didn't want him to. The djinn then demanded that Fife order him to go and Fife hastily agreed that he was free to go. The djinn nodded once, and then vanished, and Fife dropped the brazier - now extinguished - with a sigh of relief. KelLyn agreed to identify the brazier, and an argument broke out among the party members as to whether or not it should be left here or taken with the party. Shalev and KelLyn actually agreed with one another that the thing should be left alone, thinking that Fife or Osman might not be able to control anything that could be summoned, and that was enough to make the others pause and consider; but Lan eventually won the party over agreeing to be responsible for the relic. 

I called the party's attention to the now revealed passageway down to the lower levels, and we all agreed that we should rest here and recuperate before venturing further below. 

The demon prince is vanquished. Ironically now imprisoned within a stone that he himself gave KelLyn the power to create. KelLyn is happy, Ishmael is reveling in his newfound strength for however long it may last, and the rest of us are tired. Shalev immediately went into a meditative prayer, sitting with his sword gently placed across his knees. I know not what his goddess revealed to him during that fight, but it was profound. I can see a change in his demeanor, his confidence, and his power. He is much changed from the wayward wanderer that I encountered so long ago. I am happy to see that he is growing and learning well. 

As for what lay below us? We know that Sacatha still awaits, but beyond that, it still remains to be see what we may face. I only hope that we can continue to work together as we have, to make it out of this place alive.