The Twin Kingdoms


I mentioned previously that we found an efreeti willing to grant us a wish. We decided to ask for knowledge: what caused the problems with the gods, and what are the options for fixing the situation?

The efreeti told us that it’s all about the loss of Nethys. He was a core component of the world, and without him the gods require a focus – currently us – in order to see the world. But we’re not going to live forever (OR ARE WE) and when we die, that connection to the gods will die with us.

How to fix it? “The world is missing part of its foundations. They need to be replaced.” And it doesn’t help that the remaining gods are spread very thin, trying to cover too many portfolios between them.

In summary, we need to replace the missing gods, and in particular we need a new god of magic…

At this point Myrie looked at me – possibly because my hand was moving upwards – and said “NO”, quite sternly. Harsh.

I mean, it would be an honour just to be nominated, but if the world truly needs a god of magic and I should happen to be the best-qualified candidate then surely it would be my DUTY to step in, for the greater good?

Also, I want this. Just think of the library space it would allow.

Meanwhile, having finished with Acererak’s monument to dickishness, we looted everything that wasn’t nailed down and wasn’t cursed (and some of the things that were cursed) and headed back to town. I passed on the ring of fire resistance to Faye, and scored rather a nice Staff of Fire in its place. Usually I prefer less direct magics, but sometimes you just need to fling fireballs.

Alessandra has turned sixteen, which makes her legally an adult, although I still feel parentally responsible for her. She has shown a lot of interest in adventuring with us, and I suspect that if we don’t bring her along on our next outing she’ll strike out on her own, so it’s probably better to include her.

We took a couple of months in town to work on various projects and interests. Zakaroth, Besh, and I spent most of the time crafting a range of useful items, and I looked up some old books to try to find out how one goes about becoming a god. (Sadly, nobody has written a convenient guide.)

We also made trips to the Divine City to speak with our future colleagues^W^W^Wthe remaining gods and ask about the situation.

Faye went to talk to Cayden Cailean, and inevitably ended up hung over and none the wiser. Zakaroth reported to Asmodeus, and then talked to Savana, who told him that we have been chosen for a reason, and there are challenges coming up. Vall spoke with Calistria.

Myrie spoke to Desna, who told her that we had a long journey ahead of us with much time and distance. It is not guaranteed that we will survive (bah), but we are their best hope.

I visited Iomedae-as-Nethys, but our discussion was less than productive. Iomedae insisted that there is no vacancy, Nethys will return, and she is simply holding his position until he returns. I have my doubts, but there was no arguing with her.

In the meantime, I’ve established the start of a magical college and made various magical items for myself and for our companions. I was rather pleased to find that it’s possible to make some protection for myself out of the adamantine scraps we plundered from Acererak’s not-actually-a-tomb. It’s not exactly plate armour, but it will give me a little protection, and it has potential to be enchanted much more.

There are many more things I’d like to make – I have some ideas for a collapsible fortress, and for a magical kimono – but we can’t sit around in town forever, so I’ll just have to take those on the road with me.

Shiny points: 33 carried over, +1 for summary = 34.

The Demilich Is In Another Castle

(Correction to my last entry: the throne slid down into the ground, revealing stairs behind it leading UP.)

Before following those stairs, we decided to check out the north wall more closely. There were three doors spaced along the wall; the left and right shimmered with a faint blue light, and the middle with scintillating violet. All of them had sturdy brass ring-pulls, which we avoided.

Behind the right-hand door I sensed abjuration magic, and we sent in an earth elemental to kick the door down. There was a “dead body” which turned out to be a mummy, but not for very long, as Vall, Zakaroth, and Myrie shot it in the face. I tried to hit it with a flaming sphere—usually effective against such creatures—but it was curiously immune, and we found out why: it was wearing a ring of fire resistance, which I have now requisitioned.

Behind the left-hand door we found nothing of interest, just broken furniture and so forth. We decided to skip the middle door, having a strong suspicion that our quest lay past the throne.

Venturing up the stairs, I could tell we were getting close to Acererak’s sanctum because…well, let’s just say that money can’t buy taste. The place was decorated in semi-precious stone: onyx, pink marble, lapis, black marble, golden serpentine, and malachite.

(Note to self: could probably grind down the lapis and malachite for ink? Or sell? I think cannibalising the furnishings of this place may be worth more than the supposed “treasure” at the end.)

On the black marble was a key radiating overwhelming enchantment magic. Myrie picked it up with her leatherworking pliers and handed it to me, but I felt an overwhelming revulsion that stopped me from taking it, and so Zakaroth took it instead.

Up the stairs we found two great double doors of mithral, apparently worth a king’s ransom. (Sadly, as we later discovered, this was an illusion.) They were radiating abjuration magic, and we noticed that in the middle was a cup-like depression with a concave space about the same shape as the sceptre we found earlier.

Chrysta retrieved the sceptre and commanded another earth elemental to poke the gold end into the depression, and the doors swung open.

Inside that was a large room decorated in more than usually gaudy bad taste. The floor, of polished agate tiles, could have been appealing with the right furnishings, but there’s no excuse for the silvered ceiling.

At each corner of the room was a nine-foot-tall black iron sculpture of some sort of demon, each with a distinctive weapon. In the middle of the room was a granite sarcophagus inscribed “ACERERAK”, which we all agreed was so OBVIOUSLY a decoy that we ignored it, along with the two iron chests next to it. There was also a gold-filigreed bronze urn, from which billowed a thin stream of smoke.

The statues radiated powerful transmutation magic, and the iron chests radiated illusion; the entire room reeked of abjuration.

Recalling “the iron men of visage grim do more than meets the eye”, we worked to move the statues. I was annoyed to find that some of my magic didn’t work inside the room, and when Besh stepped outside to cast Bull’s Strength on Faye, the effect was damped as soon as Faye re-entered the room.

Nevertheless, Faye succeeded in pulling the statues out of the way, and under the north-west one we found a ring-pull in the floor.

Meanwhile, Chrysta had unstoppered the urn and let out the magic smoke. It coalesced into a muscular giant with horns and red skin—an efreeti? It was angry, but Zakaroth talked it down, and it agreed to grant us a wish (details to be discussed).

The ring-pull revealed a secret door underneath, leading down into a small shaft that opened to a corridor. Remembering “you’ve left, and left”, we went left, and looked closely at the left wall, where we found a small keyhole that responded to the golden key.

At that, a ten-foot section of the wall sunk into the floor to reveal a cubical room lined with adamantine—I suppose I should be glad it wasn’t velvet paintings. The room seemed empty except for a small square depression a few inches deep in the centre of the floor. In there was a keyhole, which Vall declared to be trapped. He disarmed the trap, and we tried the other key we’d found back in the ooze vat. It turned, and kept turning… and we got suspicious, stepped back once more and delegated yet again to one of our faithful earth elementals.

The earth elemental turned the key three times, and then there was a click and a loud WHOMP as the floor hit the ceiling, smashing our elemental to gravel.

(I am assured that it buffs out.)

Where the keyhole had stood, we now saw loot and a gem-encrusted skull on a stone bier. Having done my research, I took it for a demilich; we buffed up heavily and attacked it, and as expected the skull rose up into the air.

I had armed Myrie with arrows for slaying undead, but the first one did nothing but slightly chip it. At this point I recognised it as a construct—one more tedious joke from Acererak, a fake demilich.

At the same time, bones on the floor began to rise up into a ghostly figure.

Zakaroth hammered the construct with arrows, and Faye charged in to demolish it with her sword. The ghost went down soon after—all in all, a little anticlimactic—and we surveyed the remains.

After all that, it appears Acererak wasn’t there at all. He’d left a decoy behind to guard his tomb. What a massive jerk, eh? Wherever he is, I hope he’s bored and miserable.

But the gems were real, so that’s something. I ground some of them up to power a permanency spell, so I will always be able to detect magic.

And now, I hope, a breath of fresh air!

Shiny points: 36 carried over, -4 on key, +1 for summary = 33.

Pillars of the Community

After our little fracás with the juggernaut, we all experienced the familiar-but-welcome sensation that I can only describe as “ding” – I have new spells!

Merinderel felt that unpleasant muffled “ding” that one gets when hitting the magical barrier, and he and Faye made a journey to the Divine City to get that dealt with, while the rest of us enjoyed the peace and quiet and pondered how to get past the three-slotted door.

We wondered if there was some sort of key we’d missed, so we backtracked looking for secret doors (well, Vall looked for secret doors) with no success. Chrysta was obsessed with the brain-in-a-jar room, and insisted on going back to check it out. Much against my better judgement, we indulged her in this.

She and Zakaroth went in together, with Vall hanging on to a rope tied around Chrysta’s waist. As they got close to the brain, Chrysta started insisting that the brain was her friend – “Why do you think it’s evil?”

I am going to REMEMBER this the next time she gets all narrow-minded about my spellcasting choices.

Anyway, Vall heard this and yanked Chrysta’s rope while Zakaroth slaughtered the brain with arrows. As the brain died, Chrysta regained her senses (such as they are).

In the brain-jar room we found a magical restoration scroll, a bag of cut sapphires, and a jar with a white thing in glorpy liquid. I identified it as a “bodak’s eye”, an undead graft that can give somebody a lethal gaze attack. We agreed to destroy it, despite this being Chrysta’s preferred course of action.

Meanwhile, Merinderel mended the jar.

“It’s in one piece again, without a brain in it!” “Like Faye!”

We decided to go back to the three-slot door and try the obvious option: Chrysta summoned a small elemental and had it stick three swords into the slots. To our surprise, it opened without exploding or anything.

Behind that was a hall full of pillars (“and into the columned hall you’ll come”!). The columns were massive, and the room was dark enough that we couldn’t see the other side clearly, but there was an orange glow to the east and something indistinct to the southeast.

The door had a nasty tendency to close after a little while, leaving no perceptible opening on the inside, so Chrysta magically reshaped the stone around the hinges. It fell with a very loud bang – it seems to be solid steel, twelve inches thick! Probably worth a bit for raw materials, if we can ever get it back to town.

The pillars were radiating a lot of magic, and I was careful not to touch them, but Chrysta accidentally brushed against one and found herself floating up towards the ceiling. This was the point where we noticed that the pillars didn’t go all the way up, and as Chrysta reached the top she started drifting along to the northwest, carried by some sort of breeze.

I turned myself into an air elemental and went after her, dragging her back to the ground, to the disappointment of Zakaroth who was ready to shoot her with an arrow trailing a rope. Besh then dispelled the levitation magic.

High on the north wall I spied some alcoves, with a door between them. Without our intervention, Chrysta would probably have drifted along into one of the alcoves. I don’t know what they contain, but I assume it’s nothing good.

Being very careful not to repeat Chrysta’s mishap, we headed southeast, where we found a black dais holding an obsidian throne inlaid with silver and ivory. On the throne lay a golden crown and a sceptre with silver and cold ends; the crown and sceptre both radiated evil and very strong transmutation magic.

Before messing with the throne, we ventured over to the east side to check out the source of the glow. On the floor was a glowing orange gem, surrounded by a host of blackened skeletons.

I analysed the magic of the crown – using Mage Hand to avoid touching it myself – and figured out that it had a vision enchantment and a “stuck on the head until removed with the sceptre” enchantment. I didn’t make as much progress with the sceptre, but Faye picked it up and didn’t die.

Next we summoned an earth elemental to pick up the gem, and the elemental told us it will grant one wish. We all agreed that this would inevitably be horribly twisted, so we left it alone and returned to the throne.

Investigating more closely, we found a small silver replica of the crown set into the dais, and Vall identified a magical secret door under the throne (“the throne that’s key and keyed”). Zakaroth poked the small crown with the silver end of the sceptre, and the throne slid out, revealing a hole with stairs leading down. Yet another earth elemental reported that there were fancy stairs and keys down below. So I guess we’re heading down…

Shiny points: 34 carried over, +1 for poetry, +1 for summary = 36.

Musical Interlude

During a rest break, we got to making up songs about our current adventures. Faye went first:

Nuke, nuke, nuke the tomb!
Make the horrors go kaboom!
For if our holy quest resume
We ditch the Lich, and nuke the tomb!

Vall chimed in, calling for the stars and planets to mete out justice:

Nuke, nuke, nuke the Tomb
From orbit up above
Kill it with a fiery flame
Of righteousness and love

I contributed some lines of my own:

Nuke, nuke, nuke the tomb,
And terminate the lich
For after all these deathtrap rooms,
Payback is a bitch.

And then Vall contributed again, although there were some references in there that I didn’t recognise:

For Tomb of the Horrors
We plan a quick end
With nuking from orbit
To hell we will send

We launch it at midnight
And watch from afar
As death traps and pit falls
Turn to glass and tar

The Lich will go with it
Cleansed by righteous light
And Gygax we’ll throw on
Serves him bloody right

Fun With Grinder

We headed back to the junction and checked the south door, which turned out to be fake and trapped. After that we headed east, where Vall found a deep pit trap in front of the door. After dealing with the trap we continued through the door.

The corridor turned and we came to a room full of silvery mist with gold streamers through it. We detected moderate evil and a strong conjuration magic present. Chrysta sent an earth elemental in to scout, and it vanished.

We couldn’t see the source of evil, but Zakaroth was able to find the approximate direction, so he did the sensible thing and showered it with arrows until the evil faded, and then tried scouting with an air elemental.

The elemental reported back that it was in a large cavern, and that it had felt confused for a spell. As it moved, it blew the mist back towards us; I felt dizzy and disoriented for a while, but it wore off soon enough.

Sad to say there was nothing of interest or value inside the room; as best we could tell it was just another trap. No doubt the confusion would have been unpleasant had we been contending with whatever it was that lived in the room, but Zakaroth’s hail of arrows put an end to that.

Having exhausted other options we backtracked to the previous intersection and went north again, past the secret door in the floor, and further north. At the end of the corridor was a pair of double doors.

These seemed different in construction to the other doors in this crypt, hinged to open in both directions. This aroused my distrust and I stood well back while we sent yet another elemental to open the door.

Our suspicions were justified. There was a loud rumbling noise and a rather attractively sculpted statue of an elephant came through the door on wheels, rolling toward us, clearly intended to crush all before it. (I didn’t check, but I assume the door behind us closed and locked at this point; it seems like the obvious thing for it to do.)

The juggernaut was wide enough to take up almost all of the corridor, which pointed to an easy way to defeat it. I dropped a wall of ice running lengthwise along the corridor, and Chrysta reinforced it with a much sturdier wall of stone. We still had enough room to move up and down the corridor as we liked, but the juggernaut had to grind through our walls to reach us. It didn’t get very far in this effort before our archers tore up its mechanisms and it crunched to a halt.

(Note to self: what would it take to build one of these? I rather like the idea of riding around on a wheeled elephant.)

After that we rested, and in our break I managed to figure out some of the secrets of fifth-level magic. They do say travel broadens the mind!

Poem considerations: is the juggernaut “what will maul”? It certainly seems to fit the bill.

Shiny points: 36 carried over, -3 for HP rerolls, +1 for summary = 34.

Jelly For Rooms

We returned to the crypt, and pushed on past the secret door that we’d found last time. Some way on we found a large room full of shelves holding jars, vials, and glass bottles full of colourful liquids. There was a large desk and two workbenches holding a mummified hand, various herbs, bones, and skulls; there were also three large vats, and supplies of pots and linen.

Our best guess was that it was a workshop for magical mummification, although the ingredients had mostly lost their potency.

The mummified hand showed signs of necromancy magic and evil; I’ve read about necromancers who create undead body parts which they graft onto themselves.

Two of the vats showed high-level transmutation magic. Chrysta sent a small water elemental in to search one, and it was attached by a gelatinous cube that had somehow been squeezed into the vat.

(Hmm, surely that would make it a gelatinous truncated cone?)

We recalled that Vall had a ring that protected against being grabbed, useful for not getting engulfed by gelatinous cubes. So Faye said “gimme the ring” and then we sang “Faye now, Faye now now, swing at this corrosion”.

She walloped the cube, and reached in to the vat to find a shiny thing, getting slightly exfoliated in the process. What she retrieved was a gold ring with a stem coming out, looking suspiciously like half a key.

From the poem, I think we’re currently somewhere around “These keys and those are most important of all, and beware of trembling hands and what will maul.” So a key seems plausible – is the mummified hand the “trembling” reference?

We sent another elemental in to check out the other two vats, and it returned with the other half of a key. I used telekinesis to join the two parts, and they fused magically into a single key, losing their magical aura.

There was yet another secret door at the southwest corner of the room, leading to a corridor with a long spike-bottomed pit. I detected magic in the latter part of the pit, which turned out to be an enchantment that created extra spikes – not only within the pit, but also on the ground past it, presumably to catch anybody flying over it. Vall disabled it and we continued on.

We found ourselves in a ninety-foot corridor ending in a dead end. Vall searched around and found a secret door on the northern wall at the corridor’s halfway point.

Through the secret door was a ten-by-ten room with a door on the other side, full of overturned and trashed furniture. The east and west walls were covered in large tapestries showing scenes of underwater life, and they radiated magic, so nobody stepped in just yet.

I used telekinesis to poke at the tapestries, and both of them dissolved into extremely nasty-looking green slime. When Vall and Zakaroth did venture in, the room began to shake violently; had somebody just walked in, no doubt the shaking would have thrown them into the “tapestries” for an unpleasant death. (Could this have been the “trembling hands”?) Instead, Vall disabled the shaking and searched the room.

There was a door in the north-east corner, and Vall found another hidden in the north-west. He also found a large number of trunks and coffers, which I opened telekinetically – just as well since they were full of snakes, but Zakaroth dealt with that. In the coffers were some gold coins and sapphires; I have forgotten what was in the trunks.

The obvious door in the north-east corner was a trap, with apparently nothing behind it, so we took the north-west one. It led to a curved passage and stairs going down, leading to a junction. There was a hidden and rather deep pit trap in the floor, which Vall disabled.

Past the intersection, the passage continued thirty feet to the east and fifty to north and to west. We tried the north direction first. At the end was a door, behind which was a blank wall which turned out to be a secret door.

(“If you find the false, you find the true” perhaps? Whatever. I’m getting well and truly fed up with this smug bastard.)

Past that was a fifty-foot corridor, with doors at the end on the right-hand wall. Just through the door, we found a secret door in the floor with a crawlway below leading to a corridor and eventually a door to the east.

The door was made of some gleaming metallic alloy with massive reinforced hinges. It had three vertical slots at waist height, each about one inch wide and three long, no obvious fit to anything we’d found. I have a feeling this is important, but perhaps we need to go back and try some of the other directions from the junction first?

Shiny points: 35 carried over, +1 for summary = 36.

Knob Goblins Nobbled

The goblins on the wall kept shooting at us (well, not me, I was behind a tree) but their numbers declined one by one as Zakaroth, Myrie, and my tentacles wore them down.

Meanwhile, inside their fortifications, Faye picked up the three hostages and flew back to meet us. The goblins had done some damage to her, but nothing fatal. Vall, being immune to my tentacles, was able to fall back on foot. Chrysta, Myrie, and Besh had more or less finished off the guards outside.

At this point, we had inflicted enough damage on the goblins that we probably could have wiped them out, but it would have been risky and unnecessary. The same fortifications which made it hard for attackers to get into their lair now stopped their warriors from getting out; the tentacles impeded their access to the exit, and I summoned a hound archon that inflicted severe punishment on the goblins while being virtually immune to their attacks.

Then, after finally taking the time to extinguish myself, I sent in a swarm of bats to harass them further, and while the archon and the bats covered our exit we took off with the hostages, passing them on to the townsfolk to look after.

Shiny points: 34 carried over, +1 for summary = 35.

Goblins' Knob

After our almost-disaster with the lich, we decided to make some more preparations before pushing further into the tomb. We headed back to town, and I spent a week making some equipment for Myrie’s benefit: a belt to improve her agility, and two arrows designed to mess up undead something proper.

Meanwhile, Faye and Merinderel worked on songs. Note to self: perhaps they could use a soundproof rehearsal room?

On our return, we found the locals in a state of distress. They told us a farmhouse had been burned out; deciding that Acererak could wait a little longer, we went off to investigate.

There was a plume of smoke still rising from the farmhouse; we found dead animals nearby, but no humans. There were a large number of footprints, and we began to suspect a goblin attack.

Following the tracks, we came to a lightly-wooded forest, and soon after our scouts saw a human body swinging from the trees. He had been stabbed and hung up, and although he was wearing boots they didn’t match any of the prints we’d seen at the farmhouse, suggesting that he might have been killed there and carried here.

Myrie continued to track. We found some clothes along the way, deliberately tied to bushes and so on, indicating that somebody wanted us to follow. All of us suspected an ambush, but we couldn’t very well abandon potential prisoners, so we continued.

The forest was getting thicker, and quite rocky. Vall scouted ahead and found a big C-shaped rock which the goblins (no surprise there) had turned into a defensive position. Inside, near the back, were a woman and two small children tied to stakes, but there were about thirty goblins defending the position – archers standing on the walls, and melee types inside the walls and in front.

We came up with a plan involving sneaking up while invisible. Unfortunately, the goblins were alert, and must have heard me. They shot at me with a fire arrow, which I did not appreciate in the slightest, and then hit me with several more. Chrysta gave me some much-appreciated healing, Zakaroth and Myrie returned fire, and I hit the goblins with my favourite Black Tentacles before ducking behind a tree; these goblins were proving significantly tougher than the ones we’d fought previously. Vall and Faye ran in to save the hostages.

Shiny points: 33 carried over, +1 for summary = 34.

Lich-y, I Scream

Well, I almost got us all killed today. But more on that in a moment.

Earlier on, we’d found an archway leading to a mist-filled room; by pressing gems on the archway we’d made the mist vanish. I wondered whether this might be the same as whatever that mist was, but on close examination, it seemed somewhat different. I detected conjuration magic in the mist, now fading – perhaps the conjuration magic had been to replace what the air elemental scattered?

We sent an earth elemental down the corridor to check what was going on. The fog seemed to be gradually thinning, but had not yet cleared when Vall went down to see what was going on, and immediately started to panic – very much out of character. Myrie held her breath, went in, and pulled him out. Since the mist was still dissipating, we waited for an hour or so until it was completely gone.

(Why did it replenish itself at first, but not later? Was it because we burned the webs?)

The panic effect was no longer giving us trouble. Vall headed back down and searched thoroughly, finding no traps, no secret corridors, and no keys.

At the bottom of the stairs was a small room containing various rotting furniture and a gilded couch on which a dead-looking humanoid lay with a crown on its head. A jade coffer lay at the foot of the couch, and near the stairs was a mace.

From the mace I detected strong conjuration magic, and from the couch strong transmutation. Chrysta scanned for undead, and to nobody’s surprise confirmed that the figure on the couch was of that ilk.

I had my suspicions here. We hadn’t reached the end of the poem, so it seemed unlikely to be Acererak himself – more likely some sort of decoy, I thought, especially given the smallness of the room. The only conjuration enchantment I could think of that would be likely found on a mace would be disruption – that is, undead-killing – which seemed awfully convenient. Also, if my understanding of Acererak’s current status was correct, he ought to be much smaller and skull-ier.

In all this I was correct, but I badly misjudged the exact nature of the threat in the room. I assumed it to be a mummy, or something of that ilk, and we prepared accordingly: Chrysta and I cast various magical enhancements on one another, we stood in the stairway with our tougher fighters in front, Chrysta and I both summoned lantern archons to assist us, and then I telekinetically picked up the mace and handed to Chrysta.

At that point, the figure on the couch sat up and boomed something about “Who disturbs the rest of Acererak?”

Then, because we had obligingly arranged ourselves in a line up the staircase, it hit all of us (give or take Vall) with a ferocious gust of cold. Merinderel fell, and Faye abandoned the front line to go to his aid; I’m not sure this was a clever tactical decision, but at the moment I’m hardly in a position to criticise her for that, and I suppose I should be glad if she’s showing some sign of taking responsibility for her entourage.

The archons were blasted out of existence – a couple of mine scored a few hits on the creature before they went – and the others engaged. Chrysta hit it with the mace, which seemed to scare it, and Vall slipped past it only to find that his rapier had little effect on it. Myrie had similar problems with her arrows, before switching to blunt-headed ones.

(Note to self: brief companions on appropriate measures against various creature types, ensure that everybody is adequately equipped with a range of options for combat.)

By this stage I realised my error; we might not be dealing with Acererak himself, but this creature was a lich of some power. I had some idea of their capabilities and was concerned that another spell might well kill us all.

Thankfully, my Halt Undead spell stopped it in its tracks – not the first time it’s saved us from serious danger – and we had time for a very quick tactical discussion and change of plans. We checked the jade coffer, thinking perhaps to find a phylactery, but there was nothing appropriate. Then Chrysta gave the mace to Vall and resumed using the hammer I’d enchanted for her – it is gratifying how fond she is of it – and I boosted Faye’s strength.

Once we were ready, Faye grabbed the lich, preventing it from casting and from defending itself against a thorough hammering from the rest of the party. Before very long it was smashed to bits.

At this point the magic mace disintegrated (the ONE decent bit of loot we’d found in this damned place) and the ceiling started coming down. We ran back towards the entrance, all the way to the secret door in the pit, and things continued to crumble around us.

This is when Chrysta’s obsession with rocks became useful. Something in the nature of the rockfall made her suspicious, and she stopped, shouting something I couldn’t catch. I realised what was going on, took rock-elemental form and melded with the wall (just in case I was wrong) and disbelieved the illusion, for indeed that’s what it was. The others took a little longer, and Merinderel made it all the way out and had to be retrieved by Vall, but eventually we regrouped.

Vall had picked up the coffer. Inside were six potions of mediocre healing, perhaps a thousand gold pieces’ worth of gems, a scroll with seven low-level spells, and a map that purported to show the location of a treasure several hundred miles away.

Working on the assumption that this entire “treasure” was cheap nonsense intended to insult and annoy us, I examined it closely – with Merinderel’s aid – and we confirmed that it was a high-quality forgery.

So, as suspected, the lich was merely a decoy. But the poem suggested that Acererak’s tomb lay some way beyond the pit-trap secret door, and there weren’t any other doors or rooms past that… or none that we had found.

Returning to the lich’s chamber, we found that his body had disappeared. We (mostly Vall) searched the room for secret doors, finding none, then continued to search all the way back to the pit trap. Just before the trap, on the stairs leading down, Vall found an extremely well-hidden secret door; it was sturdily built with no obvious way of opening it, but Chrysta dealt with this by reshaping the stone around it so it fell open.

Considering the next lines of the poem:

“These keys and those are most important of all” – still haven’t found them. Could be a problem.

“Beware of trembling hands and what will maul” – perhaps the lich, and the mace? Not sure.

“If you find the false you find the true” – does that mean the false Acererak? Or something else?

“And into the columned hall you’ll come” – not there yet.

Shiny points: 32 carried over, +1 for summary = 33.

The Story Of 'O'

We agreed to check out the skeleton passageway before continuing on. Vall found a secret door at the end, with a trap (of course) which he disarmed. The door mechanism was set up to drop down into the room, and we had some concerns that once in we might not be able to get out.

Chrysta summoned a small rock elemental, which swam through the stone and reported back to tell us there was a room below with three large chests in it. Next I triggered the door, since I would be able to shift into an elemental form and get back the same way if need be. As it turned out, the door was reversible, so I went back; Vall jammed it open, and we checked out the room.

It was about thirty feet by thirty, empty except for three large chests: one gold, one silver, one oak bound with bronze. The gold and oak chests both radiated strong conjuration magic.

(At this point I looked through my notes to figure out which spells might qualify as strong conjuration: mostly teleport or monster-summoning spells, neither of which seemed attractive.)

The silver chest didn’t radiate magic, and Vall found no traps on it, so I opened it telekinetically and then flew a mirror over to look into it. There was a small crystal box in the chest with a ring in it… as I had suspected!

Zakaroth picked up the box and a spray of darts peppered him and Vall – as we belatedly realised, nobody had checked the inside of the box. After the swearing stopped, Zakaroth opened the box and brought it back. He showed me the ring: faint abjuration magic, a small ring of protection.

We headed back to the chapel, where the eastern wall had a mark that might have been a letter ‘o’ or might just have been a picture of a ring. I placed the ring into the slot below, and there was a grinding noise, and a section of the wall descended into the floor. I must admit to a certain feeling of smugness – not just for interpreting this part of the riddle, but also for identifying that the clues appear to be in the order that we’re expected to navigate this mess.

Past the wall was a flight of stairs down, then a landing, then another flight of stairs, and then a set of doors with corridors, with a shallow and suspiciously non-lethal pit trap behind each door.

Faye: “Less whinging, more unhinging!”

Remembering the “Two pits along the way will be found to lead to a fortuitous fall, so check the wall”, we inspected the pits closely, and found that the wall of the third did indeed contain a secret door. This led to a narrow corridor which widened after ten feet, leading to a stairway down. The bottom of the stairway was obscured by a white cloud, and we realised we were already standing partway in the cloud, so we backed up a bit and I sent an arcane eye down to scout.

The corridor extended another forty feet, and in the thick of the fog there was a door on the south wall. Since I couldn’t open the door, I sent the eye back up to investigate the corridor continuing on past the pit with the secret door. That corridor continued some way west, then north for about 160 feet, then ended in another door, oak heavily bound with iron bands.

Having exhausted the possibilities of the eye, we returned to the mists. Chrysta sent an air elemental in, and it briefly cleared the fog with a whirlwind, but there wasn’t anything interesting on the floor. Zakaroth opened the southern door to find a stairway with lots of webs, and Chrysta sent a fire elemental down to torch them. More later…

Shiny points: 31 carried over, +1 for summary = 32.


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